I feel weak and vulnerable this morning, then the words of this song come to me, “By Grace I am redeemed, by Grace I am restored”, and I am reminded of the endless supply of Gods grace towards me.
“My Grace is much misunderstood and often forgotten or underestimated, yet it is always there, always surrounding you and covering all your weakness and stumbling. it is so much more than just an attitude towards you and all My children. It is a powerful force to pick you up and change your life, change your perspective on your life and your current circumstances. My grace lifts you up into the heavenly realms to bring you really close to Me so that you can grow and move on from moments of weakness and stumbling. No matter what is happening and how you feel – My grace is always constant and complete in all its power and joy”.
Now to 1 Samuel 11. In our last reading God’s choice of Saul as king is described. He is described as having an outstanding appearance but weakness, as he is hiding away during this choosing and as he returns home there are many who reject him as their new king. In chapter 11 where is he and what is he doing? He was in his fields behind his oxen, certainly not ruling the nation.
Remember that Israel at that time was more like a bunch of loose tribes living in proximity to each other. It was going to need a work of God to unite them as a nation under one king. So how does God set about this? We are introduced to Nahash the Ammorite king. His name actually means serpent or snake. and he has a diabolical plan to humiliate the people living in Jabesh.
God then specifically uses this action to mobilize Saul to start uniting the nation with a common goal. As we read on we can see how God is involved in this event. cf v 6, when Saul hears of this threat “the Spirit of God came on him and he burned with anger”. Saul then acts out a charade which results in a nationwide reaction cf v 7 b. “the terror of the Lord fell upon them and they turned out as one man”. (Just a note from the New Bible Commentary: they suggest that the figures given here and elsewhere in the Old Testament for the number of soldiers in their battles are probably not a true representation of the real numbers. The problem comes apparently from the translation of the Hebrew. What is translated as thousands can also be translated as military units. Thus 300 military units here instead of 300 000 soldiers. This seems more likely to me) It does not affect the story though.
What has ,in effect happened is that in one move God has provoked a sense of nationhood. It would take years for this to be fully realized, but this was a start. The narrative goes on with Saul accomplishing a huge victory. The writer, quite rightly tells us who should get the glory, vs 13, “this day the Lord has rescued Israel.
There is so much to learn from this chapter. Israel who had been rescued from slavery in Egypt were brought through the desert and after 40 years they invade and take over the Promised land. But all is not well, they don’t destroy all the inhabitants and slowly their nationhood disintegrates into a number of loose tribes. They have lost touch with God, each one doing as he saw fit. The Lord has not left them as lost though. Samuel is the key figure God is going to use. The people now demand that they be given a king, so that they can be even more like the tribes around them. God still has a plan for a king, but the people need to learn some things.
Now notice the cruel threat to the people from Nahash, yet from that comes a victory which unites the people to some extent, bringing them back to God and raising the profile of Saul as king. Now friends, this bears some deep thought. God does not initiate cruel situations, but He does often allow adversity and suffering in the process of accomplishing His bigger plan and His plan for each of us, hence Romans 8:28. So when everything appears wildly out of control in your life and in the world around you, remember scenes like this from Gods word.
Notice also that the action of this new king is to accomplish a rescue which God initiates and completes. Remember we have said that the line of Israel’s OT kings were leading up to the revelation of God’s ultimate King – Jesus. Here we see the main action of the new king reflecting Jesus’ main purpose when He comes. The action of rescue or salvation. So this is once again a faint reflection looking forward to the ultimate King who we all adore and serve.
Plenty to think about in this small story of an evil (Snake) ruler being used by God to accomplish His ultimate purpose. See you all again next week.