VACANT THRONES (Part 2 of 4)

  1. Case 2: Thrones in Custody

Sometimes someone is on a throne merely as a custodian, until another person should come for whom the ‘custodian’ had been ‘holding brief.’  One day, God confronted Prophet Samuel with the verdict of Heaven about the king incumbent of his nation, saying, “I have rejected him from reigning over Israel” (1 Samuel 16:1).  Note the finality in the simple present tense: “I have…,” not “I will….”  In spite of that very clear notice of sack, Saul remained ‘in office’ for many more years, continuing to enjoy the respected title of “the LORD’S anointed” (1 Samuel 24:10; 26:9, 11, 16, 23), and doing such ‘right’ and ‘righteous’ things as chasing witches in the name of the God that had already declared his throne vacant, of which he probably remained willingly unaware (1 Samuel 28:9).

If the announcement from Heaven was to be believed, then Saul promptly ceased to be king, or became merely a keeper of the throne on which he still sat, the title of “King” then being only a decoration.  In other words, whereas Saul still had the office and the title, he had lost the mantle; whereas mortals still hailed him as the king, Heaven no more recognized him as one.  Only the prophet knew this, while the hyped media and the masses fooled on.

Did Saul’s kingly functions cease with the stern announcement from Heaven?  No. He still wore the crown and the robes; he still fought national battles and instituted holy decrees against evil witches.  While he publicly chased witches, he secretly consulted them – very like some politicians of our day who are the greatest secret patrons of the vices they publicly condemn (1 Samuel 28:7-10).

How long did the custody-tenure of Saul last?  It apparently lasted over three decades, although perspectives differ, but no less than eleven years.

It is told in 1 Samuel 13:1-2 that in Saul’s second year on the throne, he chose 3,000 soldiers.  The same chapter which puts the ‘date’ of those and subsequent events at about his second or third year, “when he had reigned two years,” says also in verse 14 that he was in that same season rejected by God: “But NOW [which means at once, at that time, not in the far future] thy kingdom shall not continue…”  In case that did not make sufficient sense, the ‘electoral’ prophet was instructed, three chapters later, to ‘swear in’ the replacement that had been found.  In my country, that prophet would have been called or acronymed INEC.  The ceremony took place in a secret room; not, as usual, in the public and ‘official’ stadium at Gilgal, still it was potent.

I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have [note the tense, ‘I have’ – now] provided me a king [note: a king, not a ‘representative’ or an ‘acting’ regent] among his sons (1 Samuel 16:1).

The irony: David was a king not yet on the throne; Saul was a no-king still on the throne.  In other words, not all kings are yet on their throne, and not everyone on a throne is the king there. So, the seat does not always tell the occupant, neither does the vacancy define or deny the anointed who might not yet be on the seat.

In Acts 13:21, we read that Saul reigned 40 years over Israel.  Here is my simple maths: If Saul reigned 40 years altogether, and if God rejected him in his second (or third) year, it would mean that for 40 years minus 2, which is 38 years, Saul had merely been keeping custody of the throne, until David should come on the scene, grow to be thirty years, and thus be ‘constitutionally’ old enough to take up the office.  Note that Saul was already a God-rejected, demons-possessed man in need of potent musical therapy even before David showed up in the palace with his exorcist-harp, and on the battlefield with his anti-Goliath surface-to-air granite missile with its launching pad of sling  (1 Samuel 16:1-2, 15-16).

If my maths is correct, it would mean that, for all those decades, God did not see Saul on the throne, even though blind mortals saw him there, hailed him as king, and gave him all the protocols of the seat he was merely guarding by sitting on.  Whether we take 11 years or 38 years, I ask, Is it possible to have lost the noble mandate and still be wearing the carcass title?  Is it possible to be so long without God, yet be hailed by blind mortals with the prestigious titles of the very vacancy that God has already declared? Can Earth be sometimes grossly out of touch with ‘breaking news’ from Heaven?  Does the multitude always hear what God has whispered into a prophet’s ear?  Is the media always right about the mind of God?

Two other regal characters may further fittingly illustrate the present case of thrones kept in custody: Lady Athaliah the daughter of Jezebel, and Ishbosheth the son of Saul.

  1. i) Athaliah   

Athaliah the daughter of Jezebel and Ahab violently took the throne of Judah by killing scores of her heir-apparent grandchildren after the premature deaths of her husband and then her son his successor.  Trans-generational Jezebelic witchcraft, I think.  Six years later, a proper son took the throne after the usurper had been dispatched by the same violent means she had come in.  Today, her name is not mentioned when the kings of Israel are listed.  She had only been a custodian of the throne, albeit a very wicked and bloody one (2 Kings 11:1-21).

  1. ii) Ishbosheth

Ishbosheth the son of Saul was installed on the throne by selfish and ambitious powerful political opportunists after his father’s death, but today that name is not usually cited in any proper list of the kings of Israel between Saul and David (2 Samuel 3:10).  He was a succeeding or secondary custodian to a vacant throne of which his father was the first faded keeper.

From The Preacher’s diary,
August 7, 2017. 

Continued in Part 3 

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