1 Samuel 11:1-6

1 Samuel 11:1-6

Sermon preached on December 7, 2008 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2008. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Last year during one of our Tuesday evening Bible Studies at St. Lawrence University, I was in the middle of my study when two students came in late. I could tell right away that they weren't there to learn anything about the Bible. I'm not sure what it was about their body language that told that to me, but it was partly the way that they sauntered in, partly from the expressions on their faces. I remember one guy had what seemed to be a mischievous smile on his face. I could tell right away that they were not going to be friendly. Not long after they sat down they started asking questions and making statements that were not normal. They were a little bit arrogant in that they started arguing with some statements I made thinking that they were winning their point—and I had to explain to them that before they came in, in the earlier part of my study, I had defined some of the terms I was using and that if they had been there for that, they would have seen that I had dealt with that already, and really didn't disagree with their point. There were a few laughs and jeers during the rest of the study and from all that I concluded that they hadn't come to the study to learn anything, but just to treat the whole thing with contempt and disdain.

That was an interesting experience. I was hoping that they would attend again as it was obvious that they needed the gospel.

I'm pretty sure that the people of Jabesh Gilead wouldn't want someone like Nahash to confront them again. Their encounter with Nahash was pretty frightening and could have had very gruesome consequences. In order to make a treaty with them he demanded that he gouge out the right eye of every one of them. It was a horrifying prospect. Even though this text may seem most remote from us, there are great truths and lesson here that we should take to heart.

The main truth that we should see from this is

the horrific evil and arrogance of some of those that are against us.

It's interesting that the name of the Ammonite king, 'Nahash', means 'serpent'. (Peter J. Leithart, A Son to Me, p. 76-77) Thus it seems that there's a spiritual aspect to this. Nahash the serpent wanted to subjugate and humiliate the people of God. He wanted to dominate them and have them serve him rather than serve God.

What we have here reminds me of what the Philistines did to Samson. Because he was a greater threat, they gouged out both of his eyes. After they did that they mocked him. In Judges 16 we read that after the Philistines subdued Samson, they had him grind in the prison. When they saw him, they would praise their god Dagon, saying,

"Our god has delivered
our enemy into our hands,
the scourge of our land
who piled it with our dead."

One day, when they were partying, they said, (16:25)

"Call Samson,
and let him entertain us."

They summoned Samson fro the prison and he was a great source of entertainment to them. They mocked him and I have no doubt that they mocked Samson's God.

This is what Nahash wanted to do to the men of Jabesh Gilead. In his great arrogance he wanted to maim and so disgrace the men of Israel. David Tsumura writes, (The First Book of Samuel, p. 305)

"Like the right hand, the right eye was considered a crucial part of the body;"

Dale Davis suggests that the gouging out of the right eye would mean, (1 Samuel, p. 116)

"never-ending subservience, for it made most men unfit for military service."

But it was more than that. Davis goes on to say that Nahash wasn't primarily interested in producing disabled veterans.

"His delight was in heaping disgrace upon Israel…"

David Tsumura says that gouging out the right eye was, (p. 305)

"a visible token of shame and humiliation."

Dale Davis writes of Nahash, (p. 116)

"it was such a thrill for him to slowly to turn the screws of humiliation on Israel. He was so sure of himself and so enjoyed watching Jabesh-gilead sweat that he consented to their frantic request to allow them to send for help—if they could get it. Nahash was having such fun with his game."

So what we should see in Nahash is an example of the world's desire to subjugate and humiliate the people of God. Nahash was very arrogant and laughed and mocked God's people in Jabesh Gilead.

Now let's put this in context. One of the things that we know from the Old Testament is that one of the things that
the other nations were to respect and honor Israel—because of their relationship to God and because of their relationship to God's laws. Israel was to be a light and a witness to the nations. We see one aspect of this in Deuteronomy 4:5-6. Moses said to the people,

"See, I have taught you decrees and laws
as the LORD my God commanded me,
so that you may follow them in the land
you are entering to take possession of it.
Observe them carefully, for this will show
your wisdom and understanding
to the nations,
who will hear about
all these decrees and say,
'Surely this great nation
is a wise and understanding people.'"

We see this again in Deuteronomy 26:18 where God told Israel that she was,

"his people, his treasured possession…"

Then Moses said to the people that God,

"has declared that he will set you
in praise, fame and honor
high above all the nations he has made
and that you will be a people holy
to the Lord your God,
as he promised."

In other words the other nations were to honor and respect Israel. They were to fear Israel and Israel's God. (Deuteronomy 2:25) Israel was to proclaim God's greatness and glory among the nations. In 2 Samuel 22:50 David said of his role as being a victorious king.

"Therefore, I will praise you,
O Lord, among the nations;
I will sing praises to your name."

Israel was show the nations something of God's power, goodness and wisdom. An example of this is in 1 Kings 4:34 where we read,

"Men of all nations came to listen
to Solomon's wisdom,
sent by all the kings of the world,
who had heard of his wisdom."

Israel was to be a light and witness to the nations. After the ark was brought to Jerusalem, David's prayer of thanks included these words, (1 Chronicles 16:24-31)

"Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous deeds among all peoples.
For great is the Lord
and most worthy of praise;
he is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the nations are idols,
but the LORD made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and joy in his dwelling place.
Ascribe to the Lord,
O families of nations,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength,
ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name.
Bring an offering and come before him;
worship the Lord
in the splendor of his holiness.
Tremble before him, all the earth!
The world is firmly established;
it cannot be moved.
Let the heavens rejoice,
let the earth be glad;
let them say among the nations,
'The Lord reigns!'
Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous deeds among all peoples."

And in Psalm 67:3-4 the Psalmist declared,

"May the peoples praise you, O God;
may all the peoples praise you.
May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you rule the peoples justly
and guide the nations of the earth."

But Nahash and others like him totally rejected that. Nahash's reaction to God's goodness to Israel was like what John spoke about Jesus being the light of the world in John 1 and 3. In John 3:19-21 John said,

"This is the verdict:
Light has come into the world,
but men loved darkness instead of light
because their deeds were evil.
Everyone who does evil hates the light,
and will not come into the light
for fear that his deeds will be exposed."

Dale Davis writes, (1 Samuel, p. 117)

"This arrogance, this hatred, never ceases. Nahash may become historical furniture, but the "Ammonite mind,' that is, to maim, destroy, and strangle God's people, is always with us."

Our text shows us the evil and the hatred that some people exhibit toward God's people. Some in the world want humiliate and ridicule Christians. They want to hurt us and render us ineffective in serving God.

The second thing we should understand about

this hostility of Nahash and the Ammonites came about because they rejected God's rule.

Nahash and the Ammonites hated the Jews because they hated God. They didn't want anything to do with God's plans, with God's laws. They were in rebellion against God.

In this regard we should call to mind Jesus' words in John 15:18,

"If the world hates you,
keep in mind that it hated me first."

Israel was a threat to Ammon. They're weren't a threat to them in the sense that Israel was going to take their land—for God forbade them from doing that. God told Israel that he was going to let them keep their land because they were descended from Lot. (Deuteronomy 2:19) But even though Israel was not a threat to them in the sense of taking their land, the Ammonites knew that they were a threat to their way of life. Righteousness had come. Israel was called to be a light to the nations. The Ammonites hated Israel because of this. In the book of Judges we read that the Ammonites repeatedly attacked Israel. They did not want God's rule set up any place on earth.

Christians, realize that you're a threat to unbelievers. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a threat to everything they hold dear. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a deadly threat to the sins that they hold dear. People want their sin and that involves hatred of Christ, of Christianity, of Christians.

People love their sin and they want to hold on to it. Have you ever wondered why so many people support abortion? Lots of people are strongly supportive of it even though it's never going to directly touch their lives. For example, many men support abortion. Yet, they're never going to want to have an abortion. Many women who are past child-bearing years support abortion and yet they're never going to have an abortion Why do these people support it so strongly? It's because people want to be free to sin in the way that they choose. Thus they support other people's choices. They love their sin and because of that they support the rights of others to sin. In that one sense there's a great fellowship among sinners. They all know that the gospel of Jesus Christ is a threat to them and they jointly hate it.

Now what does this mean for us in practical terms?

First, you Christians should recognize what you are up against.

Make no mistake about it—you're in a war, a great war in which there is no neutrality, a war in which there can be no compromise. Just as Nahash marshaled his forces to gouge out the eyes of the men of Jabesh Gilead, so today there are forces arrayed against you that are seeking to destroy you.

Don't underestimate the evil of those that are against you and the gospel of Jesus Christ in this world. You may think that we are not in any danger of being threatened like the men of Jabesh Gilead were. But don't count on it. The only thing that is standing between you and a situation like that of Jabesh Gilead is God's
common grace. Common grace is the grace that God gives to everyone. It's not saving grace. But God gives some grace to unbelievers. One aspect of that grace is that unbelievers are not as bad as they could be. But if that is removed I daresay that you would not be able to comprehend the hatred that you would see directed toward the church.

There are great evil forces directed against you and they are great and powerful. In
Daniel 10:12-14 we read about how the prince of the Persian kingdom withstood an angel sent to help Daniel. When he finally arrived to help Daniel he said,

"Do not be afraid, Daniel.
Since the first day that you set your mind
to gain understanding and
to humble yourself before your God,
your words were heard,
and I have come in response to them.
But the prince of the Persian kingdom
resisted me twenty-one days.
Then Michael, one of the chief princes,
came to help me,
because I was detained there
with the king of Persia."

A great evil spiritual being resisted the angel that was going to go to help Daniel in response to His prayers. Some (after E. J. Young) think that this Angel of the Lord send to Daniel was none other than the Lord Himself. He did not go to help Daniel until Michael, one of the archangels came to help Him. Now, if this was the Lord Himself, we are not to think of it in terms of the Lord being unable to overcome the Prince of Persia Himself—but in terms of the great power of the evil that is set against us. Keil writes that the angel of Persia is the,

"supernatural spiritual power standing behind the national gods, which we may properly call the guardian spirit of this kingdom."

Christians, don't underestimate the horror and evil of the powers that are arrayed against us. At the present time they are being held back. In 2 Thessalonians 2 we read about this. (Verses 3-10)

"Don't let anyone deceive you in any way,
for [that day will not come]
until the rebellion occurs
and the man of lawlessness is revealed,
the man doomed to destruction.
He will oppose and will exalt himself
over everything that is called God
or is worshiped,
so that he sets himself up in God's temple,
proclaiming himself to be God.
Don't you remember that
when I was with you
I used to tell you these things?
And now you know what is holding him back,
so that he may be revealed at the proper time.
For the secret power of lawlessness
is already at work;
but the one who now holds it back
will continue to do so
till he is taken out of the way.
And then the lawless one will be revealed,
whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow
with the breath of his mouth and destroy
by the splendor of his coming.
The coming of the lawless one
will be in accordance with the work
of Satan displayed in all kinds
of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders,
and in every sort of evilÖ"

The Spirit is already at work to some extent. In 1 Peter 5:8 the apostle Peter wrote,

"Be self-controlled and alert.
Your enemy the devil prowls around
like a roaring lion
looking for someone to devour."

In Ephesians 6:10-13 the apostle Paul wrote,

"For our struggle
is not against flesh and blood,
but against the rulers,
against the authorities,
against the powers of this dark world
and against the spiritual forces of evil
in the heavenly realms."

People, demons and spiritual authorities are arrayed against Christ, against us. Remember Herod's methods of trying to kill Jesus? What hatred. God was giving His greatest gift to mankind—and what was the response from Herod. In Matthew 2:16 we read,

"Then Herod, when he saw
that he had been
outwitted by the wise men,
flew into a rage.
He gave orders to massacre
all the male children
in and around Bethlehem
who were two years old and under,
in keeping with the time
he had learned from the wise men."

Christians, there is great evil arrayed against you. They want to defeat and humiliate you. To a great extent they are being held back. But that is only temporary. Be on your guard. Pray that God would continue to pour out His common grace on the world, that He would hold back the great evil one so that Jesus would be known throughout the earth as the waters cover the sea.

The second great lesson we should learn from our text is that

this ought to be a great motivation for us to be holy.

Christian, the world is watching you. I ask you, what kind of warrior are you for Christ? How do the people around you see you? Are you a warrior with an eye gouged out—looking ugly and disgraceful? If you have sin in your life that's what you look like to the world. To them you're someone who's pitiful and to be made fun of.

If a Christian sins, the world delights in it and it gives them an opportunity to gloat and to look down on Christianity. It gives the people of the world an opportunity to mock the God. In 2 Samuel 12:14 Nathan told David that by sinning with Bathsheba and sinning against Uriah,

"you have given occasion
to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme,"

That's a terrible thing to do.

Yet it happens. The world loves it when a Christian leader falls into sin. When Jim Bakker sinned the media was all over it. It was the same a couple of years ago when Ted Haggard, leader of the National Association of Evangelicals, was caught in great sexual sin. The media had a field day.

Now it may not grab national headlines when you sin, but people around you will take notice. They watch you. If they sin a pattern of sin in your life they won't have any respect for you, for Christianity or for God. The world wants us to sin. They want us to fail. They want us to be a laughing stock to them. They want us to give them an excuse for not accepting Jesus. Christians, be holy, be righteous. Be absolutely scrupulous about keeping God's commandments. Don't tolerate sin in your life. Get rid of it. Be holy.

As Paul urges us in Ephesians 6:11-13, put on the whole armor of God so that you will be able to stand when the day of evil comes.

If you're holy people will still mock. They mocked Jesus. But even though mock, deep in their hearts they know that you're righteous and that what they're doing is a sham. Even though they mock, there's no shame there. No shame at all. Rather glory is there. As the apostle Peter wrote in 1 Peter 2:12,

"Let your conduct among unbelievers
be so good that,
although they now malign you
as wrongdoers,
reflection on your good deeds
will lead them to give glory to God
on the day when he comes in judgment."

Christians, be holy. Get rid of those evil thoughts. Get rid of those little white lies. Get rid of that gossip. Get rid of that greed. Get rid of the self-centeredness. Draw close to Jesus and live in His strength.

Peter J. Leithart writes, (A Son to Me, p. 77)

"Saul had been raised to kingship as a new Adam. His first test was to be confronted by a serpent. Would he crush the head?"

What about you? Will you crush Satan's head? Will you be a light to the world?

Thirdly, for those of you who are not Christians, what this means for you is that

you should not at all be like Nahash.

Nahash was arrogant. He was supremely self-confident. He was so sure he was right. I mean, when the people of Jabesh Gilead asked him to allow them to send messengers throughout Israel to see if they could get someone to save them—he allowed it. He was so sure that he would triumph, that he would be all right.

How deceived he was. He perished. As Proverbs 16:18 says,

"Pride goes before destruction,
a haughty spirit before a fall."

Don't let that happen to you. You need Jesus. It doesn't matter how confident you are, how sure of yourself you are—you're going to be lost unless you go to Jesus.

It's interesting here that it says that after the battle, no two of the Ammonites were left together. (Verse 11) Fighting against God leads to misery and separation. Some people joke about hell and say that they won't mind going there because their friends will be there. Don't be fooled. It's not a place for fellowship. The defeat of the Ammonites shows us that. It's a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. Don't go there.