Saul to the Rescue

1 Samuel 11:11
1Then 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, that I gouge out all your right eyes, and thus bring disgrace on all Israel.” 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.” 4When the messengers came to Gibeah of Saul, they reported the matter in the ears of the people, and all the people wept aloud. 5Now, behold, Saul was coming from the field behind the oxen. And Saul said, “What is wrong with the people, that they are weeping?” So they told him the news of the men of Jabesh. 6And the Spirit of God rushed upon Saul when he heard these words, and his anger was greatly kindled. 7He took a yoke of oxen and cut them in pieces and sent them throughout all the territory of Israel by the hand of the 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 man. 8When he mustered them at Bezek, the people of Israel were three hundred thousand, and the men of Judah thirty thousand. 9And they said to the messengers who had come, “Thus shall you say to the men of Jabesh-gilead: ‘Tomorrow, by the time the sun is hot, you shall have salvation.’” When the messengers came and told the men of Jabesh, they were glad. 10Therefore the men of Jabesh said, “Tomorrow we will give ourselves up to you, and you may do to us whatever seems good to you.” 11And the next day Saul put the people in three companies. And they came into the midst of the camp in the morning watch and struck down the Ammonites until the heat of the day. And those who survived were scattered, so that no two of them were left together.

Before our break for the Lenten series, we were just beginning the story of Saul, the new king of Israel. It was rather a shaky start, though, as he was heralded by some but refuted by others. Clearly, he had not yet won the hearts of the people as their leader. Now, thanks to the threats of Nahash and the Ammonites, Saul has the opportunity to prove that he is leadership material.

This seems to be a rather weird way to take over a territory, but Nahash arrives in Jabesh-gilead to tell the people he was going to conquer them. In order to avoid total destruction, the people of Jabesh-gilead make an agreement with Nahash that would afford them a week to try and gather some help from their countrymen. Why Nahash would agree to this is beyond me, but he does – with one caveat. He will put out the right eye of all the men. Nahash probably believed these seven days wouldn’t net them any help, and a week seemed like a small amount of time as opposed to a long siege against the city. So, the stage is set for Saul to act like a king – finally.

Saul’s response when he hears of the plight of Jabesh-gilead is immediate and violent. He is driving oxen when he hears of the threatened attack and stops his work to kill the oxen and divide it up into 12 pieces, sending a piece to each of the 12 Tribes. The message, in the chunk of raw ox, creates “the fear of Yahweh" in the hearts and minds of the people. Thus, Saul garners an army of over 300,000 men. This sizeable army attacks the Ammonites before they make good on their promise to do away with Jabesh-giliead. Saul wins the day and is proclaimed king by the resounding praises of the people.

So Saul is warming up slowly to the roll of king. First, he was hiding among the baggage when Samuel came looking for him, then he didn’t fight when called upon to do so. Now, he finally manages to gather together an army and look like a leader. The Spirit of God rushed upon him and enabled him to succeed. That makes me wonder if the Spirit of God ever rushes upon us today to enable our success. Or – and I believe this to be more likely – He’s already there with us, teaching and leading us in God’s direction. Every single thing God sets before us to do is empowered and enabled by His Spirit. Thus we need never fear that we are unfit for a task, for God is always able. We may not be ready, but God is and we can always rely on Him.