In The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson tells the story of Dr. Jekyll, who developed a formula that enabled him to transform temporarily into his terrifying alter ego Mr. Hyde. Eventually the Hyde personality took over completely. Today’s passage describes a transformation that was just as radical but in the opposite direction. When the Holy Spirit came upon Saul, the man who God had selected to be Israel’s first king, he was “changed into a different person” (1 Sam. 10:6).
Saul had many natural abilities that outwardly made him seem like the ideal candidate for king. He was impressively tall and the son of one of the most important men in his tribe (1 Sam. 9:2). But Scripture gives hints that Saul was also someone who lacked initiative and was prone to taking shortcuts. He is portrayed as relatively passive, someone who must be prodded to act. Later when Saul was presented to the people, he hid among the baggage (1 Sam. 10:22). Viewed in the best light, this reflected an admirable humility that Saul later abandoned. But it may also be evidence of an underlying lack of courage that made him reluctant to obey God’s calling.
What is clear is that the transformation Saul experienced did not stick. He did not always act in the power of the Spirit. Saul eventually made a series of choices that led to the departure of the Spirit (1 Sam. 16:14). Could Saul have been a better king? Yes, but only by taking God at His word and relying on the Holy Spirit to empower him. Saul seems to have had a low view of himself. But the real tragedy of Saul’s story is that he had a low view of God. As a result, Saul’s transformation was tragically short-lived.