Saul Confirmed in the Kingdom

1 Samuel 11  •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 9
Listen from:
(1 Sam. 11)
SAUL is now King of Israel. The distress of the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead reaches his ear. Nahash the Ammonite had encamped against this place, and the people were willing to yield submission to Nahash, but not unreasonably hesitated to go the length of having their right eyes put out, which indeed would have proved a great reproach to Israel. (The enemies of the Lord’s people ever aim at depriving them of their eyesight, and this has a voice to us. See Judges 16:2121But the Philistines took him, and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of brass; and he did grind in the prison house. (Judges 16:21); Jer. 52:1111Then he put out the eyes of Zedekiah; and the king of Babylon bound him in chains, and carried him to Babylon, and put him in prison till the day of his death. (Jeremiah 52:11); Revelation 3:1818I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. (Revelation 3:18)).
When Saul hears of the distress of the men of Jabesh at the terms imposed by Nahash, the Spirit of the Lord moves him, and taking a yoke of oxen, he hews them in pieces, sending messengers throughout the coasts of Israel, warning them that if they failed to follow the king and Samuel their cattle should be likewise cut in pieces. This threat had the desired effect. Saul is victorious, the Ammonites being completely conquered, so much so, that “two of them were not left together.” The king acts prudently in not taking credit to himself, for when the people would have put to death those who had previously treated him contemptuously, he will not sanction it, saying, “Today the Lord hath wrought salvation in Israel.” And notice that giving the Lord His place, in acting simply for His Honor and the deliverance of His people, leads to rejoicing, for “all the people went to Gilgal, and there they sacrificed sacrifices of peace offerings before the Lord; and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly” (1 Sam. 11:1515And all the people went to Gilgal; and there they made Saul king before the Lord in Gilgal; and there they sacrificed sacrifices of peace offerings before the Lord; and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly. (1 Samuel 11:15)).
The history of “Saul, the son of Kish,” however, only proves that which is always true—that whenever man is set in a place of responsibility he always fails, sooner or later, more often sooner than later.
Two short years of Saul’s reign provide the proof of this, and how he, like others, when weighed in the balances, is found wanting. “Tekel, Tekel,” is written upon the wall over against the candlestick.
As a feather will show which way the wind is blowing, so sometimes a little sentence reveals where people are. This is seen in Saul’s case. Jonathan (who, it appears to us, had more faith than his father, and acted upon that principle) had smitten the garrison of the Philistines, and Saul takes the credit of it, blowing a trumpet and saying, “Let the Hebrews hear.” For the Philistines to call God’s people “Hebrews” was all well, for they did not understand the relationship existing between God and His people, yea, moreover, He Himself calls some of the people “Hebrews” when they fell away to the Philistines (1 Sam. 14:2121Moreover the Hebrews that were with the Philistines before that time, which went up with them into the camp from the country round about, even they also turned to be with the Israelites that were with Saul and Jonathan. (1 Samuel 14:21)), but for Saul to use the expression, “Let the Hebrews hear,” tells tale. Depend upon it, Jonathan would not have used any such expression (see 1 Sam. 14:1212And the men of the garrison answered Jonathan and his armorbearer, and said, Come up to us, and we will show you a thing. And Jonathan said unto his armorbearer, Come up after me: for the Lord hath delivered them into the hand of Israel. (1 Samuel 14:12)). No, if Jonathan is a man of faith, his father is a man of sight, even if King of Israel. Jonathan in faith acts above mere forms. Saul acts in a casually formal way. He is checking here, restricting there, and by his merely religious interference constantly hindering the work of God. The flesh, even if religious, is quickly manifested) and no sooner is the kingdom established than it is practically taken away from Saul.
What does the flesh know of waiting upon God? The king should have waited till Samuel came to Gilgal, as he had been instructed to do by the prophet.
It tests us to wait. Saul was tested, and failed. Notice, too, the admission he makes in his excuse: “I have not made supplication unto the Lord: I forced myself, therefore, and offered a burnt offering.” Exactly. Religious flesh may display considerable activity, but truthfully to say with the Psalmist, “My soul, wait thou only upon God,” is unknown to it. Saul could not wait, and consequently loses the kingdom. Like the first man he is set aside, and another king is sought by the Lord, “a man after His own heart.”
We will just notice the difference between the actions of Jonathan and Saul. The former is simple and untrammelled; taking his armorbearer, he fearlessly faces the Philistines, and by a narrow way ascends a difficult path.
The faith of Jonathan expresses itself thus: “It may be the Lord will work for us, for there is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few.”
Jonathan’s action might appear to the Philistines presumptuous or audacious, and in the ease of false security, the men of the garrison say, “Come up to us, and we will show you a thing.” However, this boastfulness was but a sign to the man of faith that the Lord had delivered the enemy into his hands. When Jonathan and his armor-bearer appear, a panic ensues, and the Philistines begin to kill one another. The Hebrews (as they are called because of having taken their place with the enemy, but really never one with them—how could they be?) turned to be with the Israelites.
Jonathan, apparently, had not even heard of the curse which Saul had pronounced against those who should eat any food till the evening. To us it seems an absurd and uncalled-for restriction. Jonathan “had wrought with God,” and Saul was hindering by his religious interference. There are joys given by God to His servants who work for and with Him, of which a carnal religion knows nothing.
Saul manifests mere formality. He builds an altar, his first to the Lord, proposing to go down by night and spoil the Philistines (taking credit to himself for the quiet but effective work done by his more faithful son). The priest properly suggests the propriety of the mind of the Lord being known. His mind is not made known, evidently there is far too much unbelief in the way. He that asks of God should ask in faith, and waver not (James 1:5-75If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. 6But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. 7For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. (James 1:5‑7)). There is great need for exercise of conscience, and for heart-searching when our prayers are not answered. We often ask, but ask amiss. While if iniquity is regarded in our hearts, the Lord will not hear us (Psa. 66:18-2018If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me: 19But verily God hath heard me; he hath attended to the voice of my prayer. 20Blessed be God, which hath not turned away my prayer, nor his mercy from me. (Psalm 66:18‑20)). In all that follows we see how heartless is the religious formalist, and the want of affection and proper feeling displayed by Saul, who would have stood by and seen his own son put to death, which indeed would have taken place but for the interference of the people.
W. R. C.