THE CHALLENGE 

Israel’s enemies bring their first challenge to the new king Saul.

Then Nahash the Ammonite came up, and encamped against Jabeshgilead: and all the men of Jabesh said unto Nahash, Make a covenant with us, and we will serve thee.  And Nahash the Ammonite answered them, On this condition will I make a covenant with you, that I may thrust out all your right eyes, and lay it for a reproach upon all Israel.  And the elders of Jabesh said unto him, Give us seven days’ respite, that we may send messengers unto all the coasts of Israel: and then, if there be no man to save us, we will come out to thee.  1 Samuel 11:1-3

You call that plea bargaining?  Poke my eyes out?  And the enemy let them send messengers to get help?  War was different in those days.  This was the enemy from the modern city of Amman Jordan, still an enemy of Israel at times.

Then came the messengers to Gibeah of Saul, and told the tidings in the ears of the people: and all the people lifted up their voices, and wept.  And, behold, Saul came after the herd out of the field; and Saul said, What aileth the people that they weep? And they told him the tidings of the men of Jabesh.  And the Spirit of God came upon Saul when he heard those tidings, and his anger was kindled greatly.  And he took a yoke of oxen, and hewed them in pieces, and sent them throughout all the coasts of Israel by the hands of messengers, saying, Whosoever cometh not forth after Saul and after Samuel, so shall it be done unto his oxen. And the fear of the LORD fell on the people, and they came out with one consent.   1 Samuel 11:4-7

Even Christians are expected to get angry, but not to let it lead them to sin.

Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Ephesians 4:26

Now Saul gets mad at these wimps.  He sends a bloody warning, and Israel gets the message.  The fear of the Lord and of Saul the angry king gets them motivated.  This is Saul at his best, a King and a Prophet, in communion with God and jealous for the faith.

And when he numbered them in Bezek, the children of Israel were three hundred thousand, and the men of Judah thirty thousand.  And they said unto the messengers that came, Thus shall ye say unto the men of Jabeshgilead, To morrow, by that time the sun be hot, ye shall have help. And the messengers came and shewed it to the men of Jabesh; and they were glad.  Therefore the men of Jabesh said, To morrow we will come out unto you, and ye shall do with us all that seemeth good unto you.  1 Samuel 11:8-10

With three hundred and thirty thousand friends coming, the men of Jabesh told their enemies to get their eye poking tools ready.  Saul would make sure they wouldn’t get used.

And it was so on the morrow, that Saul put the people in three companies; and they came into the midst of the host in the morning watch, and slew the Ammonites until the heat of the day: and it came to pass, that they which remained were scattered, so that two of them were not left together.  And the people said unto Samuel, Who is he that said, Shall Saul reign over us? bring the men, that we may put them to death.  And Saul said, There shall not a man be put to death this day: for to day the LORD hath wrought salvation in Israel.  Then said Samuel to the people, Come, and let us go to Gilgal, and renew the kingdom there.  And all the people went to Gilgal; and there they made Saul king before the LORD in Gilgal; and there they sacrificed sacrifices of peace offerings before the LORD; and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly.  1 Samuel 11:11-15

Saul shows mercy to the Jews who had spoken against him becoming king, giving glory to God for their victory.  Samuel led them in sacrifices to God and celebration.  Now he has another message for them.

And Samuel said unto all Israel, Behold, I have hearkened unto your voice in all that ye said unto me, and have made a king over you.  And now, behold, the king walketh before you: and I am old and grayheaded; and, behold, my sons are with you: and I have walked before you from my childhood unto this day.  Behold, here I am: witness against me before the LORD, and before his anointed: whose ox have I taken? or whose ass have I taken? or whom have I defrauded? whom have I oppressed? or of whose hand have I received any bribe to blind mine eyes therewith? and I will restore it you.  And they said, Thou hast not defrauded us, nor oppressed us, neither hast thou taken ought of any man’s hand.  And he said unto them, The LORD is witness against you, and his anointed is witness this day, that ye have not found ought in my hand. And they answered, He is witness.  1 Samuel 12:1-5

Samuel points out that he has not cheated the people in any way, and they acknowledge this fact.  He reminds them of the many times God was their deliverance. 

And Samuel said unto the people, It is the LORD that advanced Moses and Aaron, and that brought your fathers up out of the land of Egypt.  Now therefore stand still, that I may reason with you before the LORD of all the righteous acts of the LORD, which he did to you and to your fathers.  When Jacob was come into Egypt, and your fathers cried unto the LORD, then the LORD sent Moses and Aaron, which brought forth your fathers out of Egypt, and made them dwell in this place.  And when they forgat the LORD their God, he sold them into the hand of Sisera, captain of the host of Hazor, and into the hand of the Philistines, and into the hand of the king of Moab, and they fought against them.  And they cried unto the LORD, and said, We have sinned, because we have forsaken the LORD, and have served Baalim and Ashtaroth: but now deliver us out of the hand of our enemies, and we will serve thee.  And the LORD sent Jerubbaal, and Bedan, and Jephthah, and Samuel, and delivered you out of the hand of your enemies on every side, and ye dwelled safe.  1 Samuel 12:6-11

Now Samuel points out their desire for a man to be king when God had been their king.  Still God will honor them if they will still obey God.

And when ye saw that Nahash the king of the children of Ammon came against you, ye said unto me, Nay; but a king shall reign over us: when the LORD your God was your king.  Now therefore behold the king whom ye have chosen, and whom ye have desired! and, behold, the LORD hath set a king over you.  If ye will fear the LORD, and serve him, and obey his voice, and not rebel against the commandment of the LORD, then shall both ye and also the king that reigneth over you continue following the LORD your God:  But if ye will not obey the voice of the LORD, but rebel against the commandment of the LORD, then shall the hand of the LORD be against you, as it was against your fathers.  1 Samuel 12:12-15

So they could have their king as long as they still obeyed God.  If they turn, he will treat them to the hardships their fathers knew. 

Now therefore stand and see this great thing, which the LORD will do before your eyes.  Is it not wheat harvest to day? I will call unto the LORD, and he shall send thunder and rain; that ye may perceive and see that your wickedness is great, which ye have done in the sight of the LORD, in asking you a king.  So Samuel called unto the LORD; and the LORD sent thunder and rain that day: and all the people greatly feared the LORD and Samuel.  And all the people said unto Samuel, Pray for thy servants unto the LORD thy God, that we die not: for we have added unto all our sins this evil, to ask us a king.  1 Samuel 12:16-19

At this point the people realize that God has not approved their desire to be like the world around them.  Do we still seek to be like the world today?  Christian rock stars, bodybuilders, and bikers can have the hope Israel found in a tolerant God.  He was not set to destroy the people he had made his own.

And Samuel said unto the people, Fear not: ye have done all this wickedness: yet turn not aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart;  And turn ye not aside: for then should ye go after vain things, which cannot profit nor deliver; for they are vain.  For the LORD will not forsake his people for his great name’s sake: because it hath pleased the LORD to make you his people.  Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way:  Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you.  But if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed, both ye and your king.  1 Samuel 12:20-25

It will be up to Israel and their king to stay on the path now that they have made their choice.

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