1 Samuel 11 (NRSV)
Saul Defeats the Ammonites
About a month later, Nahash the Ammonite went up and besieged Jabesh-gilead; and all the men of Jabesh said to Nahash, “Make a treaty with us, and we will serve you.”
2But Nahash the Ammonite said to them, “On this condition I will make a treaty with you, namely that I gouge out everyone’s right eye, and thus put disgrace upon all Israel.”
Nahash made this demand for several reasons. First, it was to glorify himself by humiliating the men of this city and all of Israel. Half-blinding the men of this city would bring reproach on all Israel by making Israel look weak and unable to prevent such an atrocity. Also, it would make the men of Jabesh Gilead unable to fight effectively in battle. In hand-to-hand combat the man with one eye has less depth perception and is at a disadvantage to a man with two eyes.
3The elders of Jabesh said to him, “Give us seven days’ respite that we may send messengers through all the territory of Israel. Then, if there is no one to save us, we will give ourselves up to you.”
You could say that the men of Jabesh-gilead are in a good place, since they know two important things: they know they need to be saved, and they know they cannot save themselves.
You could also say that they are in a bad place, because in their hour of need, they have forgotten to call out to the Lord.
Psalm 27:1-3 (NIV)
The LORD is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?
When evil men advance against me
to devour my flesh,
when my enemies and my foes attack me,
they will stumble and fall.
Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then will I be confident.
4When the messengers came to Gibeah of Saul, they reported the matter in the hearing of the people; and all the people wept aloud. 5Now Saul was coming from the field behind the oxen; and Saul said, “What is the matter with the people, that they are weeping?”
DISADVANTAGE: This man is the king, and he is the last to know??
So they told him the message from the inhabitants of Jabesh.
6And the spirit of God came upon Saul in power when he heard these words, and his anger was greatly kindled.
ADVANTAGE: It was time for Saul to act like a king, and God sent his spirit upon Saul to equip him to accomplish God’s purposes.
7He took a yoke of oxen, and cut them in pieces and sent them throughout all the territory of Israel by messengers, saying, “Whoever does not come out after Saul and Samuel, so shall it be done to his oxen!” Then the dread of the Lord fell upon the people, and they came out as one. 8When he mustered them at Bezek, those from Israel were three hundred thousand, and those from Judah seventy thousand.
9They said to the messengers who had come, “Thus shall you say to the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead: ‘Tomorrow, by the time the sun is hot, you shall have deliverance.’” When the messengers came and told the inhabitants of Jabesh, they rejoiced. 10So the inhabitants of Jabesh said, “Tomorrow we will give ourselves up to you, and you may do to us whatever seems good to you.”
A little misdirection to the enemy . . .
11The next day Saul put the people in three companies.
ADVANTAGE: Saul seems to have a good military strategy here. No doubt each company had its leaders and instructions, and Saul’s plan led the Israelites to success.
At the morning watch they came into the camp and cut down the Ammonites until the heat of the day; and those who survived were scattered, so that no two of them were left together.
12The people said to Samuel, “Who is it that said, ‘Shall Saul reign over us?’ Give them to us so that we may put them to death.”
13But Saul said, “No one shall be put to death this day, for today the Lord has brought deliverance to Israel.”
ADVANTAGE: Saul is merciful to those who spoke against him — good-bye, insecurity! And Saul knows that he had not won the victory, but God.
14Samuel said to the people, “Come, let us go to Gilgal and there renew the kingship.” 15So all the people went to Gilgal, and there they made Saul king before the Lord in Gilgal. There they sacrificed offerings of well-being before the Lord, and there Saul and all the Israelites rejoiced greatly.
HERE! Let’s rejoice together and celebrate “Victory in Jesus” — Bart Millard style!
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.