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God Gives Israel a King

The Bible in Art: God Gives Israel a King     

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Verses for Consideration: I Samuel 11:1-15 (The Year is About 1043B.C.)

1 Nahashthe 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.”

2 But Nahash the Ammonite replied, “I will make a treaty with you only on the condition that I gouge out the right eye of every one of you and so bring disgrace on all Israel.”

3 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.”

4 When the messengers came to Gibeah of Saul and reported these terms to the people, they all wept aloud. 5 Just then Saul was returning from the fields, behind his oxen, and he asked, “What is wrong with everyone? Why are they weeping?” Then they repeated to him what the men of Jabesh had said.

6 When Saul heard their words, the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he burned with anger.7 He took a pair of oxen, cut them into pieces, and sent the pieces by messengers throughout Israel, proclaiming, “This is what will be done to the oxen of anyone who does not follow Saul and Samuel.” Then the terror of the Lord fell on the people, and they came out together as one. 8 When Saul mustered them at Bezek, the men of Israel numbered three hundred thousand and those of Judah thirty thousand.

9 They told the messengers who had come, “Say to the men of Jabesh Gilead, ‘By the time the sun is hot tomorrow, you will be rescued.'” When the messengers went and reported this to the men of Jabesh, they were elated. 10 They said to the Ammonites, “Tomorrow we will surrender to you, and you can do to us whatever you like.”

11 The next day Saul separated his men into three divisions; during the last watch of the night they broke into the camp of the Ammonites and slaughtered them until the heat of the day. Those who survived were scattered, so that no two of them were left together.

12 The people then said to Samuel, “Who was it that asked, ‘Shall Saul reign over us?’ Turn these men over to us so that we may put them to death.”

13 But Saul said, “No one will be put to death today, for this day the Lord has rescued Israel.”

14 Then Samuel said to the people, “Come, let us go to Gilgal and there renew the kingship.” 15 So all the people went to Gilgal and made Saul king in the presence of the Lord. There they sacrificed fellowship offerings before the Lord, and Saul and all the Israelites held a great celebration.

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One day 12-year-old Johnny announced his plans to build a go-kart. “Oh, no,” snapped Dad, remembering his own daredevil youth, “you’ll just get hurt.” Mom quickly nodded her agreement. “But Dad, I know what I’m doing, and some kids at school have them.”

“Nope! And that’s final.” But both parents only hoped that was true. After weeks of arguments, however, Johnny’s parents gave in. “All right,” conceded Dad, “go ahead and build it. But on one condition.” Johnny’s smile faded. Dad said, “I’m going to help you. If you have to have one, then it’s going to be done right, or you’ll only hurt yourself. Agreed?” Johnny’s smile returned.

The Israelites should have trusted in the Lord to give them every good blessing. But they didn’t. They felt they needed a king, a visible ruler, like the nations around them. So God obliged. Like Johnny’s dad, though, God insisted that he work out the details-choosing the right man and giving him instructions on how to rule. God chose Saul, the spitting image of a king. God blessed Saul with a great military victory that solidified his position as king.

When we insist on going our own way, God may indeed give in, even though he had something better in mind for us. If we have found this to be the case, we should realize that God will have mercy on us just as he did on Israel. Even though our situation could have been better, God will be with us and bless us.

In Christ, God has given us the very best, forgiving our sins and restoring us to the status of his own subjects. Although we stumble in our choices, we have God’s wonderful promise that in the end he will work everything for our good.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, sanctify my common sense. Humble me so that I listen to the advice of others. Be with me in all situations of life. Amen.

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Title: Saul Sacrifices the Oxen (1896)

Artist: James Tissot