I Samuel 11 & 12

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Today it’s a military narrative… War isn’t exactly my favorite Biblical subject, but it’s there, and so I’ve decided not to skip on over it… Tomorrow, I’m going to share a little less Text and an excerpt from a book I’ve been reading- to change things up a little…

The Ammonites were old enemies of the Israelites, alleging that Israel had taken possession of territory east of the Jordan which rightfully belonged to them. But after their defeat by Jephthah, their power was so broken that they allowed a century to pass before they ventured again to assert their claim… But venture they did…

About a month later, King Nahash of Ammon led his army against the Israelite town of Jabesh-gilead. But all the citizens of Jabesh asked for peace. “Make a treaty with us, and we will be your servants,” they pleaded. 2 “All right,” Nahash said, “but only on one condition. I will gouge out the right eye of every one of you as a disgrace to all Israel!” (I Sam 11:1-2 NLT).

Jabesh-gilead was a city on the eastern side of Jordan, in the Tribe of Manasseh. The name of the city means “hill of witnessing.”  The name of the Ammonite king, Nahash, means “bright shining serpent.”  The men of the city tried to make a peace or a covenant with the “serpent,” so to speak, and their “witness” was to be in bondage to their evil oppressors.

“Give us seven days to send messengers throughout Israel!” replied the elders of Jabesh. “If no one comes to save us, we will agree to your terms.” 4 When the messengers came to Gibeah of Saul and told the people about their plight, everyone broke into tears. 5 Saul had been plowing a field with his oxen, and when he returned to town, he asked, “What’s the matter? Why is everyone crying?” So they told him about the message from Jabesh (I Sam 11:3-5 NLT).

King Nahash held them in such contempt that he consented to their request.

Then the Spirit of God came powerfully upon Saul, and he became very angry. 7 He took two oxen and cut them into pieces and sent the messengers to carry them throughout Israel with this message: “This is what will happen to the oxen of anyone who refuses to follow Saul and Samuel into battle!” And the Lord made the people afraid of Saul’s anger, and all of them came out together as one. 8 When Saul mobilized them at Bezek, he found that there were 300,000 men from Israel and 30,000 men from Judah (I Sam 11:6-8 NLT).

When the Spirit of God came powerfully upon Saul, he became angry at the threats of Satan. The people of Israel became more afraid of Saul’s anger than they were of going into the fight against the Ammonites, so they came together behind his leadership.  I think that’s interesting…

So Saul sent the messengers back to Jabesh-gilead to say, “We will rescue you by noontime tomorrow!” There was great joy throughout the town when that message arrived! 10 The men of Jabesh then told their enemies, “Tomorrow we will come out to you, and you can do to us whatever you wish.” 11 But before dawn the next morning, Saul arrived, having divided his army into three detachments. He launched a surprise attack against the Ammonites and slaughtered them the whole morning. The remnant of their army was so badly scattered that no two of them were left together (I Sam 11:9-11 NLT).

Israel was playing for time in order to get the army together. But then in the early morning, they attacked the Ammonites and routed their army until the noontime.

Then the people exclaimed to Samuel, “Now where are those men who said, ‘Why should Saul rule over us?’ Bring them here, and we will kill them!” 13 But Saul replied, “No one will be executed today, for today the Lord has rescued Israel!” 14 Then Samuel said to the people, “Come, let us all go to Gilgal to renew the kingdom.” 15 So they all went to Gilgal, and in a solemn ceremony before the Lord they made Saul king. Then they offered peace offerings to the Lord, and Saul and all the Israelites were filled with joy (I Sam 11:12-15 NLT).

People are fickle! The Israelites went from being scared of Saul to calling out anyone who was against Saul in their camp and threatening such people with death!  And Saul’s response was one of the few times in which he acted in Righteousness.

“Gilgal” means “the reproach has rolled away.” It was very appropriate for the Kingdom of Israel to be started and accepted at Gilgal, for this was their first place of entrance into Canaan.  Here, Saul was made their first king.  But though Saul could physically accompany Samuel to this place, he really remained a stranger to it because he did not know and real and inward significance to Gilgal or the Peace Offering, which signified the Cross of Christ and the putting away of self-will.

Then Samuel addressed all Israel: “I have done as you asked and given you a king. 2 Your king is now your leader. I stand here before you—an old, gray-haired man—and my sons serve you. I have served as your leader from the time I was a boy to this very day. 3 Now testify against me in the presence of the Lord and before his anointed one. Whose ox or donkey have I stolen? Have I ever cheated any of you? Have I ever oppressed you? Have I ever taken a bribe and perverted justice? Tell me and I will make right whatever I have done wrong” (I Sam 12:1-3 NLT).

In effect, Samuel was announcing his retirement as the governing leader of the people. And, as well, he was making it known that his corrupt sons would have no more place or position.  Though his sons had perverted justice, he had been an honest judge and spiritual leader of Israel for many years.

“No,” they replied, “you have never cheated or oppressed us, and you have never taken even a single bribe.” 5 “The Lord and his anointed one are my witnesses today,” Samuel declared, “that my hands are clean.”

We are told here unambiguously that the LORD witnesses all things.

“Yes, he is a witness,” they replied. 6 “It was the Lord who appointed Moses and Aaron,” Samuel continued. “He brought your ancestors out of the land of Egypt. 7 Now stand here quietly before the Lord as I remind you of all the great things the Lord has done for you and your ancestors (I Sam 12:6-7 NLT).

If the LORD does not advance the subject, there is no real advancement.

“When the Israelites were in Egypt and cried out to the Lord, he sent Moses and Aaron to rescue them from Egypt and to bring them into this land. 9 But the people soon forgot about the Lord their God, so he handed them over to Sisera, the commander of Hazor’s army, and also to the Philistines and to the king of Moab, who fought against them. 10 “Then they cried to the Lord again and confessed, ‘We have sinned by turning away from the Lord and worshiping the images of Baal and Ashtoreth. But we will worship you and you alone if you will rescue us from our enemies.’ 11 Then the Lord sent Gideon, Bedan, Jephthah, and Samuel to save you, and you lived in safety (I Sam 12:8-11 NLT).

Samuel proceeded to give the Israelites an oral history lesson. He reminds them of how their ancestors had forgotten the LORD their God and so He handed them over to Sisera, the Philistines, and the king of Moab.  In other words, they were given over to the hand of their enemies.  The only cure for their oppressed condition was Repentance for their idol worship and the recognition that only the LORD could deliver them.  The method of deliverance was Christ—on Who the Judges were a Type—and Him Crucified.

For the preaching of the Cross is to them who perish foolishness; but unto us who are Saved it is the Power of God (I Cor 1:18 KJV).

“But when you were afraid of Nahash, the king of Ammon, you came to me and said that you wanted a king to reign over you, even though the Lord your God was already your king. 13 All right, here is the king you have chosen. You asked for him, and the Lord has granted your request. 14 “Now if you fear and worship the Lord and listen to his voice, and if you do not rebel against the Lord’s commands, then both you and your king will show that you recognize the Lord as your God. 15 But if you rebel against the Lord’s commands and refuse to listen to him, then his hand will be as heavy upon you as it was upon your ancestors (I Sam 12:12-15 NLT).

Samuel pointed out that they did not want the Almighty Arm of God to lean on, but rather the frail arm of a human being. So, God was allowing them their choice in king.  He was giving them what they demanded, even though He knew it would ultimately bring great harm.

“Now stand here and see the great thing the Lord is about to do. 17 You know that it does not rain at this time of the year during the wheat harvest. I will ask the Lord to send thunder and rain today. Then you will realize how wicked you have been in asking the Lord for a king!” 18 So Samuel called to the Lord, and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day. And all the people were terrified of the Lord and of Samuel. 19 “Pray to the Lord your God for us, or we will die!” they all said to Samuel. “For now we have added to our sins by asking for a king” (I Sam 12:16-19 NLT).

It was the Will of the LORD for Israel to ultimately have a king, but not now. David was meant to be the first king of Israel.  The thunderstorm being sent at this time of the year was Divine evidence of the just anger of God because of their rejection of Him.

“Don’t be afraid,” Samuel reassured them. “You have certainly done wrong, but make sure now that you worship the Lord with all your heart, and don’t turn your back on him. 21 Don’t go back to worshiping worthless idols that cannot help or rescue you—they are totally useless! 22 The Lord will not abandon his people, because that would dishonor his great name. For it has pleased the Lord to make you his very own people (I Sam 12:20-22 NLT).

Samuel explains to them that the answer to their sin was not discontinuing serving the LORD, but rather throwing themselves at His Feet, asking forgiveness, and continuing to serve Him “with all their hearts.” The answer was never returning to the tainting of their worship with the false worship of idols and pagan spiritualities.

“As for me, I will certainly not sin against the Lord by ending my prayers for you. And I will continue to teach you what is good and right. 24 But be sure to fear the Lord and faithfully serve him. Think of all the wonderful things he has done for you. 25 But if you continue to sin, you and your king will be swept away” (I Sam 12:23-25 NLT).

Even though Samuel was abdicating the position of governmental leader, he was not abdicating the position of spiritual leader. He would not ever end his prayers and supplications for them.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty! Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee.  Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty,  God in three persons, blessed Trinity!

Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore thee, casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea; cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee, which wert, and art, and evermore shalt be.

Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide thee, though the eye of sinful man thy glory may not see, only thou art holy; there is none beside thee, perfect in power, in love and purity.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty! All thy works shall praise thy name, in earth and sky and sea.  Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty, God in three persons, blessed Trinity. — Reginald Heber