by Linda Claassen Mitchell
Trusting God: Day 1
The Spirit of God comes over Saul.
1 Samuel 11:1-3 (IEB): “About one month later (after Saul was made king), Nahash the Ammonite and his army surrounded the city of Jabesh in Gilead. All of the people of Jabesh said to Nahash, ‘Make a treaty with us, and we will serve you!’ But he answered them, ‘I will make a pact with you…on one condition; that I can gouge out the right eye of each one of you! I want to humiliate all Israel!’ The elders of Jabesh said to Nahash, ‘Leave us alone for seven days. We will send messengers throughout all the territory of Israel. If there is no one to come save us, then we will surrender to you.”
My thoughts: Aren’t these the same people who just celebrated when God made Saul their king? Their first response is to make a treaty with the enemy without even contacting their king!
1 Samuel 11:4-7 (IEB): “The messengers came to Gibeah, Saul’s hometown. When they told the people the news, the people cried loudly. They wept. And look, Saul had just finished plowing in the fields with his oxen. When he heard the people crying, he asked, ‘What is wrong with them? Why are the people crying?’ Then they told him the words of the people of Jabesh. When Saul heard these words, the Spirit of God came over him. He became very angry. So, Saul got his team of oxen, killed them, and cut them up into pieces. Then he gave those pieces of the oxen to the messengers. He ordered them to carry the pieces throughout all the land of Israel. The Messengers made this announcement to Israel: ‘This is what will happen to the Oxen of anyone who does not follow Saul and Samuel!’ This is how Yahweh shocked the people. They all came out as if they were one man!
My thoughts: The people of Israel had wandered so far away from putting their trust in God that He had to do something shocking to get their attention!
1 Samuel 11:8-9 (IEB): “Saul gathered them together at Bezek. The Israelites numbered 300,000 strong; the men from the tribe of Judah alone was 30,000! They said to the messengers who had come, ‘Tell this to the people at Jabesh-Gilead: “When the day gets hot tomorrow, you will be rescued!” So, the messengers went and reported this to the people of Jabesh. They were very happy.”
As I leave my study today, I have to ask myself “when I face trouble do I turn to God first? Or do I try to negotiate a compromise with the world like the Israelites of Jabesh tried to do with Nahash?” God wants me to trust in Him! And He is willing and able to do something shocking to get my attention!
My prayer today is one of gratitude that He gave me this example so that I might put my trust in Him in the first place, and in His plan where it belongs.
Trusting God: Day 2
The victory belongs to the Lord!
With God’s help, Saul (with Samuel’s backing) is set to rescue the people of Jabesh from Nahash the Ammonite.
1 Samuel 11:10-13 (IEB) “The people of Jabesh said to Nahash and his army, ‘Tomorrow we will come out to you, and you can do what ever you want to us.’
The next morning, Saul separated his soldiers into three companies. They broke into the Ammonite camp at dawn. And they struck down the Ammonites until the day got hot. The Ammonites who were still alive were scattered. Not even two of them remained together.
Then the people said to Samuel, ‘Who said: “Will Saul rule over us!?”? (1 Samuel 10:27). Surrender those men, and we will kill them! But Saul said, ‘No! No one will be executed today, because Yahweh has caused this deliverance in Israel today!'”
Following the scriptural reference: 1 Samuel 10:27 (IEB): ” But some troublemakers said, ‘How can this man save us!?’ They hated Saul, and they refused to bring gifts to him. However, Saul kept silent.”
My thoughts: Saul knew there were those of his own people who hated him. When Saul and his army won a decisive victory and the people wanted to celebrate his victory by killing the troublemakers in their own ranks, Saul wanted none of that! He wanted the people to focus on God who was really the one who delivered them.
1 Samuel 11:14-15 (IEB): “Then Samuel said to the people, ‘Come, let’s go to Gilgal. We will recommit ourselves to the kingdom.’ So, all the people went to Gilgal. And there, in the presence of Yahweh, the people confirmed Saul as king. They offered peace-offerings in the presence of Yahweh. And there Saul and all the men of Israel celebrated.
As I leave my study today I am reminded that if I am doing God’s will, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of me. And also; if I am not doing God’s will, but am still alive and breathing, it is not too late to recommit myself to Him. The Israelites had forgotten Yahweh, their God, but because of this great victory over their enemy, they are on the road to a right relationship with Him again.
My prayer today is one of gratitude to God for His plan for my life, for the guidance of His Word, and the grace of His forgiveness when I fail, and repent.
Trusting God: Day 3
Samuel makes a speech to the Israelites.
Saul and his soldiers had just defeated the Ammonites with Gods help, and had gone back to Gilgal to celebrate. The people confirmed Saul as king.
Samuel reminded the Israelites that he was to be trusted to tell them the truth and they agreed that he had always been honest and no one had ever found any wrong in him. He reminded them that it was Yahweh who chose Moses and Aaron, who brought them out of Egypt, and caused them to live in Canaan. He also reminded them that their ancestors had forgotten Yahweh, their God. So, he allowed them to become slaves. When they cried out for help and admitted they had sinned by abandoning Yahweh, God sent Gideon. And, he sent Barak, Jephthah, and also Samuel himself. He (God) saved them from their enemies and they lived in peace.
1 Samuel 12:12-15 (IEB): “But when you people saw Nahash, the king of the Ammonites, coming against you, you said to me, ‘No, we want a human king to rule over us!’ even though Yahweh, your God, was your King. Now, look, here is the king whom you chose, whom you clamored for! Look, Yahweh has put a human king over you. You must revere Yahweh and serve Him. You must obey His commands. You must not rebel against Yahweh’s authority. Both you and the king who is ruling over you must follow Yahweh, your God. If you do so, then it will go well with you.
But if you will not obey Yahweh and if you rebel against His authority, then the hand of Yahweh will oppose you, just as He was against your ancestors. (c)”
Following the footnotes: (c) literally “your forefathers”
Samuel wanted to be sure the people understood that it was God who chose Saul – and it was God, not Saul that who was responsible for this victory over their enemies.
1 Samuel 12:16-20 (IEB) “Now, stand still and see the great thing which Yahweh is about to do in front of your very eyes. Today, it is the time of the wheat harvest, isn’t it? (It was the dry season. It rarely rained during this time.) I will pray for Yahweh to send thunder and rain. Then you will realize what an evil thing you have done against Yahweh, when you asked for a human king for yourselves!
Then Samuel prayed to Yahweh. That same day, Yahweh did send thunder and rain. And all the people became very afraid of Yahweh and Samuel. All the people said to Samuel, ‘Pray to Yahweh, your God, for us! Don’t let us die! We have added this evil to all of our other sins when we asked for a human king for ourselves!’
Samuel answered the people, ‘Do not be afraid. It is true that you have done all this evil, but you must not turn away from following Yahweh. Serve Yahweh with all your hearts’! ”
As I leave my study today, I can’t help but make a comparison to our world today and how the people and the government have rebelled against God’s authority. My prayer today is that we as a nation will stand up and repent before it is too late.
Trusting God: Day 4
Waiting on God’s timing:
After Saul (with God’s help) defeated the Ammonites at Jabesh he sent all but 3,000 of the soldiers back to their homes. Two thousand of these soldiers were with Saul in Michmash in the mountains of Bethel, and 1,000 of them were with Jonathan (Saul’s oldest son) in Gibeah.
1 Samuel 13:3-4 (IEB): “Jonathan attacked the Philistine fort that was in Geba. And the other Philistines heard about it. Saul said, ‘Let the Hebrew people hear what has happened’. So, he told the men to blow trumpets (f) throughout all the land of Israel. All Israel heard the news: ‘Saul has attacked the Philistine fort! Now the Philistines will truly hate Israel!’ Then the Israelite army was called out to follow Saul at Gilgal. (g)”
Following the footnotes:
(f) or, “ram’s horns” (Hebrew: shofar) for the purpose of rallying supporters of the war effort. (Compare Judges 3:27; 6:34; 2 Samuel 20:1). This was the first significant act in their war for independence from the Philistines.
(g) Gilgal was about 1 1/4 miles east of Jericho. It had been the first makeshift headquarters of the Israelites after they miraculously crossed the Jordan River (Joshua 4:19-20; 10:15, 43). Also, Saul and his fellow Israelites celebrated their victory over the Ammonites at Gilgal (1 Samuel 11:14-15) there. Gilgal was located several miles from Michmash in the mountains where the Philistines were gathering their troops for battle (1 Samuel 13:5). Gilgal was down low, on a plain. It was far enough away from Michmash for Saul to mobilize his army. Yet it was close enough to Hebrew territory east of the Jordan River for Saul to appeal to his fellow Israelites for help or to seek refuge there (see 1 Samuel 13:7)
The Philistines gathered to fight and the Israelites saw that they were outnumbered and were in trouble so they hid or crossed over the Jordan River, trembling in fear.
1 Samuel 13:8-10 (IEB): “Saul waited for seven days, because that was the time set by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal right away. And Saul’s soldiers began leaving him. So Saul said, ‘Bring ME the whole burnt-offering and the peace-offering.’ Then Saul offered the whole burnt-offering. (a) Just as Saul was finished offering the burnt-offering, look, Samuel arrived! Saul went out to meet him and great him. “Samuel asked, ‘What have you done?!’
Saul answered, ‘I saw that the soldiers were abandoning me, and you did not come on time. And, the Philistines were gathering at Michmash. So I thought, ‘The Philistines will come down (b) against me at Gilgal. And I have not asked for Yahweh’s approval’. Therefore, I forced myself to offer the whole burnt-offering’!”
Following the footnotes:
(a) It was forbidden for Saul to do this; he was not Samuel, who was authorized to do so as a judge and a priest. Acting out of fear, instead of trusting God implicitly, as Gideon had done, King Saul presumptuously took matters into his own hands.
(b) Michmash was approximately 2.600 feet above Gilgal in elevation. The Philistines had the clear advantage of being on the high ground prior to a battle.
As I leave my study today I have to confess some empathy for Saul. He saw the situation disintegrating and thought he’d better do something! He tried to do the right thing (make the sacrifice) but he was not the right person to do it! And he will pay dearly for this!
My prayer today is for the faith and patience to wait on God’s timing.
Trusting God: Day 5
God responds to Saul’s decision not to wait.
1 Samuel 13:13-14 (IEB): “But Samuel said to Saul, ‘You have acted so foolishly! You have not obeyed your God Yahweh’s command that He gave to you! If you had obeyed Him, then Yahweh would have caused your dynasty to continue in Israel forever! But now, your dynasty will not last. Yahweh is searching for the kind of man He wants. (c) Yahweh has given the order that another man be a prince over His people! (d) Yahweh is doing this because you have not obeyed His command!'”
Following the footnotes:
(c) literally, “for a man according to His own heart” = David, Acts 13:22 (IEB): “After God removed Saul, He made David their king. God vouched for David: ‘David, the son of Jesse, is the man I like. He will do all the things I want him to do.'”
(d) See 1 Samuel 25:30; 2 Samuel 6:21.
1 Samuel 25:30 (IEB): Abigail tells David: “Yahweh will keep all of His promises about the good things which are in store for you. God has decreed that you will be the prince over Israel!”
2 Samuel 6:21 (IEB): Saul’s daughter Michal is berating David for his behavior: “Then David said to Michal, ‘I did it in the presence of Yahweh. He chose me, not your father! He did not choose anyone from Saul’s family. Yahweh appointed me to be the leader of His people, the Israelites. So, I’ll celebrate in the presence of Yahweh!”
1 Samuel 13:15-18 (IEB): “Then Samuel got up and left Gilgal. He went up to Gibeah in the territory of Benjamin. Saul gathered together what was still left of his army – only about 600 men.
Saul and his son Jonathan stayed in Geba (e) in the territory of Benjamin. Saul’s soldiers who were still following him stayed there, too. The Philistines camped at Michmash. Three companies of Philistine raiders went out from their camp. (f) One company turned in the direction of Ophrah, toward the land of Shual. The second company turned in the direction of Beth-Horon. And the third company turned in the direction of the boundary-line which over looked the Valley of Zeboyim, facing the desert.”
Following the footnotes:
(e) Geba and Gibeah were very close to each other. The text does not record Saul’s removal of his men from Gilgal, but the context demands that a move did occur. Saul regrouped his total military force by joining his son Jonathan at Geba to prepare for a major battle with the Philistines.
(f) The Hebrew word for “raiders” means “devastators”. It is the same word used to describe God’s destroying angel in Exodus 12:23. The task of these three Philistine detachments was to wreak as much havoc as possible in order to intimidate the subjugated Israelites.
As I leave my study today it is clear that God has written Saul out of his plan because of his lack of obedience. He clearly chose David because he would do the things that God wanted him to. My intension today is to be like David.
Trusting God: Day 6
Israel had no technology:
1 Samuel 13:19-20 (IEB): “No metal worker (a) existed in all the land of Israel because the Philistines had said, ‘The Hebrews must not make swords or spears.’ Therefore, all Israel used to go down to the Philistine metal-workers so that they could have their plows, hoes, axes, and sickles sharpened.”
Following the footnotes:
(a) or, “blacksmith”
1 Samuel 13:21 (IEB): “The Philistine metal-workers charged about one-forth of an ounce of silver (b) for sharpening plows and hoes. And they charged one-eighth of an ounce of silver (c) for sharpening picks, axes, and the metal-tipped sticks used for prodding oxen. (d)”
Following the footnotes:
(b) literally, ‘one pim’, about 8 grams of silver (= 2/3 of a shekel) in Philistine money
(c) = 1/3 of a shekel
(d ) literally, ‘three-pronged forks…and to set the goads’. When plowing the ground, the farmers needed a long, sharp point on the end of a stick to goad (that is to urge) and ox to go forward.
1 Samuel 13:22-23 (IEB): “So, when the day for battle came, the Hebrew soldiers who were with Saul and Jonathan had no swords or spears in their hands! (e) Only Saul and his son Jonathan possessed swords and spears.
The outpost group from the Philistine army had gone out to the mountain pass at Michmash (f).”
Following the footnotes:
(e) These Israelites were forced to use the only weapons that were available to them, namely bows, arrows, and slingshots. But remember, the Benjaminites were famous for the accuracy of their left-handed slingers (Judges 20:16)
(f) The Philistine garrison evidently wanted to keep the Israelites under surveillance and to prevent any surprise attack on their camp or their fellow-soldiers in that region.
Judges 20:16 (IEB): “Seven hundred of these trained soldiers were left-handed. Each of them could sling a stone at a hair and not miss!”
It is clear that the Philistines were trying to keep the Israelites under subjection by forbidding them to have swords and spears with which to fight. This was not only a physical deterrent, but was a psychological deterrent as well. But they didn’t count on Jonathan’s trust in God.
As I leave this study today, I have to ask myself if there is something I’m not attempting because the enemy has convinced me I can’t win? God expects my complete trust.