Sep 24, 2017

“The King Rules” 9-24-17

I Samuel 10:27 – 11: 15, Revelation 19:11-16
September 24, 2017

As we read through the book of I Samuel, we see that there is a fair amount of words describing the process by which Saul became the first king of Israel. That process seems to have been accomplished in several stages that together cover the material of chapters 8-11 or 4 chapters of I Samuel
In chapter 8 we saw the first two steps in the process.  In step one, the Israelites asked Samuel to choose for them a King.  Samuel did not want to, and expressed his concerns to God.  In step two, God told Samuel that in wanting a king, they were rejecting God from being their king, but that Samuel was to grant their request, after warning them of all the unpleasant things that a king would do.
In step 3 Saul is introduced and God tells Samuel to look for Him.  When Saul arrived, Samuel privately anointed him to be the King of Israel.
In Step 4, Saul was publicly selected by God through Samuel to be the next king of Israel and was recognized by the 12 tribes as their king, except for a few grumblers
In Step 5, which we are looking at today, Saul confirms himself as the king by his first kingly act, gathering an army and going up against an enemy of Israel.
Our Passage for today begins with an anomaly.  You may notice that the first verse of our passage, I Samuel 10: 27 is unusually long and has two distinct subjects describing events in two different districts.
Some of you, if you were reading along in translations other than the NRSV might not have that second and largest part of verse 27 at all.
I really do not have the time this morning to explain the reasons for all this.
All I will say is that this verse reflects the differences between two different ancient Old Testament texts or translations, the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint.  If you need to know more, see me later.
Saul had been appointed king, but had returned home with some warriors, because there was no capital of Israel or a palace.
The first crisis to Israel after Saul was made king was precipitated by king Nahash, the Ammonite.  He had been attacking and harassing the Israelites who lived on the East Side of the Jordan. 
Although Israel proper is on the West Side of the Jordan, two and a half tribes had asked Moses if they could have their inheritance on land East of the Jordan that Moses had captured from people who had attacked Israel as they prepared to enter the promised land.
Nahash had been attacking Israelites on the East side of the river and gouging out the right eyes of all the men he captured before releasing them.  There were two purposes for this, it would make them less able to fight against him later, and it was seen as a humiliation.
When Nahash went up against the city of Jabesh Gilead, the Israelites asked for terms of surrender.  Nahash included the gouging out of their right eyes.
The people of Jabesh Gilead asked for a week to see if any of the Israelites on the other side of the river would come to their aid.  I suppose that Nahash agreed because he did not think the Israelites would leave the security of their settlements on the West Bank to help their brothers in the East side.
But when King Saul heard about it, he immediately decided to take action to save the tribes on the East Side of the river. 
Actually, it is a bit more complicated than that.  The Bible says that the Spirit of God came upon Saul, and that coming of the Spirit is connected to the anger of Saul.  This was not a jealous anger, or an insulted anger, this was a righteous anger that came from God.
Anger has two or more sources.  Much anger is human anger that most of us experience often.  Anger when someone does something that offends us or puts us out of our way or keeps us from doing what we want to do.  This anger can easily be too violent and last too long and be used by Satan to cause misery.
But there is a righteous anger that we should have about some of the injustices and violence and misery inflicted on people in this world.  But it too can escalate and be used for evil purposes.
In his righteous anger, King Saul called the citizens of his nation to action in an interesting and very Old Testament way.  He killed two of his oxen and sent pieces of them to the 12 tribes, calling them to come to him to take action against their enemies.  He said he would kill the oxen of anyone who would not join him, which is a crude form of a military draft, but well within the authority of a King.
370.000 men answered the call and came to him.  He sent word to the people at Jabesh Gilead that they would be rescued by afternoon the next day.
They sent a message to Nahash saying they would come out the next day so he could do with them as he wished.  The message in the Hebrew is indefinite.  It can mean “we will come out to surrender”, or “We will come out to Fight.
Then Saul divided his men into 3 divisions and marched them through the night so they arrived at the enemy camp between 2 and 6 AM.  They probably attacked from 3 directions and they routed and scattered the enemy.
Then they had a party and they gave thanks to God with offerings and worship.
But first, Saul was asked what he wanted to do with those who had previously refused to honor him as their king.  Saul did not heed the call to execute those men; he exercised restraint and forgiveness and invited them to the party.
I think we can see some principles from this passage about good, even godly leadership.
God’s leaders are to be righteously angry at those who cause their people to suffer, or threaten them.
God’s leaders are to be concerned about and protect all their people, not just those on one side of the river or “the right side of the tracks” or those who can contribute to the nation in certain ways.
God’s leaders are to direct His people into action. 
God’s leaders are to expect God’s people to follow them.
God’s leaders are to be wise, as in dividing the forces into 3 groups.
And God’s leaders are to be charitable towards those who have challenged them and refused at first to follow them.
But I think there is more here than just good advice.  Because it has to do specifically with the rights and leadership of a King.  Our nation does not have a king.  But we do.
As Christians, Jesus is our king.  He protects us from a permanent death, and has protected some of us in many other ways.  
As King, Jesus commands us.  The 10 commandments have often been thought of as the 10 suggestions, but they are commandments, to be obeyed.
Jesus’ teachings about loving our neighbors and even our enemies have sometimes been misunderstood as good advice towards getting along with others.  They are, but they are much more.  They are not just advice; they are commands from your king.
Jesus words about marriage and adultery have sometimes been mistaken as merely good advice for good relationships.  But they are commands from the king.
Our king has shown his proper demeanor towards those who rejected him.  Through his apostles, and his Bible, and his church, he has often invited those who rejected him, even those who plotted to bring about his death, to repent and allow him to be their king and savior.
But there is a note in our first lesson, from the last chapters of the last book of the bible, that there is a time coming, when such invitations will cease.
Jesus is portrayed in Revelation 19 as the great triumphant king with many crowns who will finally put an end to all those who will not be ruled by him.
So we need to be vigilant and allow ourselves to be ruled by our savior, and we need to invite those who have not accepted his rule over them to reconsider.  His patience will end.  After all, he is the King.

Pastor David Horner
Faith Presbyterian Church
West Lafayette, IN 47906