Samuel Addresses Israel at Inauguration of King Saul
Prophet Samuel explained the principle of separation of state and worship in his formal address at the inauguration of Saul as first king of Israel. He explained God delegated state functions and authority to government but expects every individual to relate to him directly based on the covenant. He will be God to every person that lives up to the covenant but will turn his back against those that don’t. Government is not an intermediary and does not have authority to regulate worship.
Samuel spoke to Israel at the inauguration of King Saul to explain their relationship with God in the new era that includes “a king as your leader” [1 Samuel 12:1]. He explained that hitherto God had been both God and king to them but from now on has delegated to the king the state functions and authority to perform the functions (see previous bible study under Authority of Government—Israel Asks for King). However, he remains their God and holds everyone by covenant to worship and serve him. He will be God to those that “fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart” [1 Samuel 12:24] but will turn his back to those that “persist in doing evil.” Every person including the king is individually responsible to live up to the covenant. Thus, every person has opportunity to relate to God directly. The government (king, in this case) is responsible for state functions but is not an intermediary and does not have authority in the people’s relationship with God.
Thus, Samuel defined the principle of separation of state and worship. The government has responsibility for state functions and authority to perform the functions but does not have authority to regulate worship. Instead, every person is individually responsible and free to choose a relationship with God based on his covenant (conditional promise) to be God to those that worship and serve him. Also, Samuel used the occasion to illustrate accountability of state leadership to the people by inviting public examination of his record of service before God, the new king, and all people [1 Samuel 12:3]: “Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the Lord and his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes? If I have done any of these things, I will make it right.”
We discuss Samuel’s formal handover of state functions to Saul and declaration of the principle of separation of state and worship. He performed both functions as part of his formal address during the inauguration of Saul as first king of Israel.