Call to Worship May 30 2021

Expository Thoughts on 1 Samuel 11

“But certain worthless men said, ‘How can this one deliver us?’” (1 Sam. 10:27). When these unnamed men spoke this question, they spoke directly against God. The LORD had chosen Saul (10:24). Therefore even though Israel rejected God’s authority over them, Saul was His chosen vassal to serve His purpose in the Kingdom. God did not and does not take questioning His authority, His kingdom, and His protection of His people lightly. Chapter eleven reveals these truths in a pointed and plain manner.

Soon after Saul’s kingship was publically recognized at Mizpah, and everyone returned home, disturbing news reached Saul at Gibeah. Nahash, king of the Ammonites, was continuing a menacing march east of the Jordan and moving west, coming to Jabesh-Gilead. Nahash camped against this small group of Israelites in order to overtake them.[1] The weakness of this tribe was evident as they sought some type of treaty with Nahash, but he only desired complete submission.[2] Having your eye gouged out is only a small compromise compared to death! Nahash was so desirous to humiliate this small tribe that he gave them opportunity to seek a “deliverer.”

They sent word to Gibeah and Saul was readied by the LORD for the task of delivering His people from enslavement, oppression, and death. “Then the Spirit of God came upon Saul mightily when he heard these words, and he became very angry” (1 Sam. 11:6). It was the Spirit of the LORD who equipped Saul’s spirit toward action. Saul was once reluctant to stand up before the people, then he was equipped to go forth on behalf of the people. He led many men to battle. They attacked by night and, by God’s will, annihilated the Ammonites. The few remaining alive were scattered in retreat. God mightily defended His people. The Ammonites’ defeat was an example of the seriousness and ability of God to preserve His people. Furthermore, He reminded them of His authority and grace.

The words of those worthless men (“How can this one deliver us?”) were remembered, but forgiven. Saul could have immediately followed the sentiment of the people and put those men to death at that time. Yet he showed restraint with mercy and grace. How much mercy and grace has been shown to many sinners throughout history by God Almighty, King of the Cosmos? Through the Trinitarian work of salvation by grace alone, many sinners have been reconciled to the King by His mercy and grace. Saul spared these men due to nothing in them, but only by his mercy. His mercy was congruent with the LORD who chose him as King of Israel in that day. We must recognize it took the Spirit of God to keep Saul in line with his calling as king. The Spirit’s work kept those men alive. Otherwise, as we read later in Saul’s life, we will see what it looks like when Saul is walking according to his thoughts and purpose.

Only the Spirit of God causes weak or unsure people to act in accordance with the character of the Almighty. So, this is akin to the Spirit’s work in believers’ lives regarding sin. Once we had no desire to stand against sin. After the work of the Spirit, believers yearn to repent of sin and strive to put it death. Just as Saul was thoughtfully moved in his own spirit to mortify the enemies of God’s people, so believers are to seek to mortify sin.

Christ is the believer’s King and he laid waste to Satan, death, and hell. Sin is no longer the believer’s Nahash. The harassment of our own Ammonites and Philistines may long continue on this earth, but Christ has conquered those most fatal enemies of all. “Therefore there is now no condemnation,” according to the Apostle Paul, “for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death” (Rom. 8:1-2). May we recognize our need of the Spirit’s application of grace in our lives and His continuing work of grace according to the truth of Scripture alone. Apart from a deliverer sent by God, the Lord Jesus Christ, and His work applied to us by His Spirit, we have no hope to resist, reject, and repel the physical and spiritual Ammonites of our day. Soli Deo Gloria!

[1] Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, ed. Merril C. Tenney, (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1975-76.) 381-382. Dale Ralph Davis has some interesting remarks on the value of the Dead Sea Scrolls providing further information regarding the attacks of Nahash. Dale Ralph Davis, I Samuel: Looking on the Heart, (Christian Focus Pub., 2014.), 115-116.

[2] John Gill, Exposition of the Old & New Testaments, vol. 2, (Baptist Standard Bearer, Paris, AR., 2006.), 465.