Test – Temptation or Opportunity

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When Saul heard their words, the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he burned with anger.
1 Samuel 11:6 NIV

This morning at Fight Club we talked about Saul.  In 1 Samuel 10 we see Saul the reluctant young man a head taller than anyone else and God chose him to be king.  He was so reluctant he hid among the luggage but the people found him and proclaimed him King.  After this great triumphal moment we see Saul returning to Gibeah along with some valiant men whose hearts God had touched.

Nahash the Ammonite went up and besieged Jabesh Gilead. And all the men of Jabesh said to him, “Make a treaty with us, and we will be subject to you.” But Nahash the Ammonite replied, “I will make a treaty with you only on the condition that Iu gouge out the right eye of every one of you and so bring disgrace on all Israel.” The elders of Jabesh said to him, “Give us seven days so we can send messengers throughout Israel; if no one comes to rescue us, we will surrender to you.”
1 Samuel 11:1-3 NIV

What a deal eh? Surrender or die.  Oh yeah, and if you surrender I’m going to gouge out the right eye of every one of you. Why did Nahash say this? Because in the Bronze age world your reputation as a people meant something. If he did this, the surrounding people would hear about it and be afraid of the Ammonites. Nahash was a terrorist.  He brought an army but that was just a back up plan.  His real goal was to scare the Israelis into surrendering without a fight.

At this time Israel was a loose confederation of tribes.  Over the previous centuries that had time and time again been dominated by their enemies.  Once a generation or so a Judge would rise up to deliver the people but by and large their reputation was one of weakness.

If you were there in Jabesh Gilead you knew that your options were very limited. Your small town had some fortifications but if the Ammonites attack you know that you are all going to be killed.  If you surrender you will lose an eye and become a slave but at least you will live.

Perhaps you feel like that today. Stuck between a rock and a hard place. No matter which way you turn the outcome seems grim. For the people of Jabesh Gilead this was a trial but the real focus on the trial was Saul.

But there were some scoundrels who complained, “How can this man save us?” And they scorned him and refused to bring him gifts. But Saul ignored them.
1 Samuel 10:27 NLT

These scoundrels were a test for Saul.  They represented both a temptation and an opportunity.

The temptation was to make a deal.  Try to win over these critics who felt Saul wasn’t qualified or ready to be their king.  The problem is if Saul pays attention to these critics now, he just gives them power. How long will it be before they try to manipulate him in other ways?

The opportunity for Saul is to ignore them.  Yes, ignore them.  That is exactly what he did. He trusted God to deal with these critics and the way God would deal with them is by sending Nahash the Ammonite to attack.

The critics didn’t believe that this tall young man had the grit to lead them into battle against their enemies. How does God show them that he does have what it takes? He brings an enemy to defeat.

I’m sure that Saul had doubts as well.  After all, when they tried to make him king he was hiding among the baggage. Do you suppose that when God wants to teach us something about ourselves he brings a Nahash into our lives?

Saul had been plowing a field with his oxen, and when he returned to town, he asked, “What’s the matter? Why is everyone crying?” So they told him about the message from Jabesh.
1 Samuel 11:5 NLT

Wait a minute… after he is crowned king he goes back to plowing a field with his oxen?  I don’t know about you but that doesn’t sound like a king to me. Where is the throne? Why isn’t Saul raising an army? Why isn’t he doing king stuff? Maybe because he doesn’t really see himself as king.

Then the Spirit of God came powerfully upon Saul, and he became very angry.
1 Samuel 11:6 NLT

The Spirit of God came… and Saul became very angry. Not exactly the reaction you expect from the Spirit of God is it. Maybe it is about time you and I became angry about some things. Maybe the Spirit of God want’s us to get mad enough to do something about that persistent sin in our lives. Maybe the anger is just the thing we need to move us to action.

He took two oxen and cut them into pieces and sent the messengers to carry them throughout Israel with this message: “This is what will happen to the oxen of anyone who refuses to follow Saul and Samuel into battle!” And the LORD made the people afraid of Saul’s anger, and all of them came out together as one.
1 Samuel 11:7 NLT

Saul’s Holy Spirit inspired anger gave him what he needed to take action and start acting like a king. Then look what the Lord did. He made the people afraid! Wow, didn’t see that one coming. Those critics of Saul… where are they now?  They are afraid.  Imagine that… fear and anger used by God for a good purpose. And now, all of them came out together as one.

God’s ways are so high above our ways. When we face a Nahash in our lives we cry out to the Lord and hang our head in despair.  I have a Nahash in my life.  A very rare and very painful disease that drives me to my knees every day. Do I get angry sometimes?  You bet I do.  I have learned that this disease, even this awful thing that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, even this pain is a tool in the hand of the Lord.

May you find your strength in whatever God allows in your life.
May a holy anger rise up and move you to action.
And may you find the heart of a warrior when you do.

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