This morning, we are in chapter 10 of the Story. This chapter covers a lot of material. But, we aren’t. I hope you have read the Story... You read about Samuel’s mother...? Hannah. You read about Eli and his two sons...? Hopni and Phenas. You read about the first King who was...? Saul. Instead of attempting to cover all this material I have decided to focus on one small story. And then make one small point. The point I want to make kind of runs against the main point of chapter 10. But it is a point than I need... I suspect you need... perhaps, we all need.
Let me tell the small story, first. Then, I will make my small point.
The small story I am going to tell is the story of Jabesh-gilead. This story is found in 1 Samuel chapter 11. It begins with a bad guy named... Nahash, the Ammonite.
1 Samuel 11:1 Then Nahash the Ammonite went up and besieged Jabesh-gilead, and all the men of Jabesh said to Nahash, "Make a treaty with us, and we will serve you."
Nahash brings his army from Ammon, which is just east of Israel. His army surrounds the town of Jabesh in the area of Gilead. The people of Jabesh realize they have no chance against Nahash. So, they want to make a deal. What is interesting is what they really say is they want to cut a covenant.
This is one of the concepts we have been watching throughout the year in the Story. There are lots of covenants cut. What this usually means is a deal is made and an animal is sacrificed. The deal is sealed when an animal is cut. Thus, cutting a deal. In this case Nahash says, “Okay, we can reach an arrangement, the deal is that is what I cut... is not going to be an animal.
1 Samuel 11:2 ButNahash the Ammonite said to them, "On this condition I will make a treaty with you, that I gouge out all your right eyes, and thus bring disgrace on all Israel."
The cutting will be your right eyes. “We had in mind a sheep or a bull... something like that, not all of our right eyes... Let’s think on that a bit...”
1 Samuel 11:3 The elders of Jabesh said to Nahash the Ammonite, "Give us seven days respite that we may send messengers through all the territory of Israel. Then, if there is no one to save us, we will give ourselves up to you."
Here is the part that has just happened in the Story. A young man named Saul had just been appointed king over all Israel just in the chapter before this. The people of Israel had been afraid of Nahash the Ammonite, or someone like him. They wanted a king to be able to defend themselves against guys like Nahash the Ammonite. So, the word comes to the newly inaugurated King Saul... the first thing on your docket, as king, is to go take care of the Nahash the Ammonite situation.
There is an odd verse next... the people aren’t all that confident in their new king...
1 Samuel 11:4 When the messengers came to Gibeah of Saul, they reported the matter in the ears of the people, and all the people wept aloud.
“Come on, guys... give me a chance. I can take care of the punk, Nahash the Ammonite.
1 Samuel 11:5-7 Now, behold, Saul was coming from the field behind the oxen. And Saul said, "What is wrong with the people, that they are weeping?" So, they told him the news of the men of Jabesh. And the Spirit of God rushed upon Saul when he heard these words, and his anger was greatly kindled. He took a yoke of oxen and cut them in pieces and sent them throughout all the territory of Israel by the hand of messengers, saying, "Whoever does not come out after Saul and Samuel, so shall it be done to his oxen!" Then the dread of the LORD fell upon the people, and they came out as one man.
...quite the motivational speaker. He raises an army to deal with this... punk, Nahash the Ammonite.
1 Samuel 11:8-11, 14-15 When Saul mustered them at Bezek, the people of Israel were three hundred thousand, and the men of Judah thirty thousand. And they said to the messengers who had come, "Thus shall you say to the men of Jabesh-gilead: 'Tomorrow, by the time the sun is hot, you shall have deliverance.'" When the messengers came and told the men of Jabesh, they were glad. Therefore, the men of Jabesh said, "Tomorrow we will give ourselves up to you, and you may do to us whatever seems good to you." And the next day Saul put the people in three companies. And they came into the midst of the camp in the morning watch and struck down the Ammonites until the heat of the day. And those who survived were scattered, so that no two of them were left together. 14 Then Samuel said to the people, "Come, let us go to Gilgal and there renew the kingdom." So, all the people went to Gilgal, and there they made Saul king before the LORD in Gilgal. There they sacrificed peace offerings before the LORD, and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly.
King Saul by the power of the Spirit, won a great victory over Nahash the Ammonite! Saul was firmly established as king! So, far so good. Saul does his job and defends Israel!
In order to get to the small point, I am going to make this morning, we need to skip from the beginning of King Saul’s rule to the end of his rule. We are going to skip when...
--Saul disobeyed God by not waiting on Samuel. Saul did the priest thing himself... not a good idea.
--Saul refused to follow God’s instructions with the Amalekites. He kept the best.
--Next week, Saul will get a lot of bad press over the Goliath.
--We are not going to talk about Saul throwing a spear at David... skip that.
--Saul drives off his own son, Jonathan.
--We are going to skip Saul chasing David in and out of caves all over the country.
--We are not even going to talk about when Saul goes to the witch of Endor... yikes!
We are going to skip all this stuff that we normally remember about Saul and go to the last scene in his life. In the last scene of Saul’s life, it is not the Ammonites he is fighting but the Philistines. There is a huge battle between Israel and Philistia. Saul knows that it is his responsibility to defend his country. That’s his job. Saul fights against these invaders. But it did not go well.
1 Samuel 31:1-7 Now the Philistines fought against Israel, and the men of Israel fled before the Philistines and fell slain on Mount Gilboa. And the Philistines overtook Saul and his sons, and the Philistines struck down Jonathan... and two other sons of Saul. The battle pressed hard against Saul, and the archers found him, and he was badly wounded by the archers. Then Saul said to his armor-bearer, "Draw your sword, and thrust me through with it, lest these uncircumcised come and thrust me through, and mistreat me." But his armor-bearer would not, for he feared greatly. Therefore, Saul took his own sword and fell upon it. And when his armor-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell upon his sword and died with him. Thus, Saul died, and his three sons, and his armor-bearer, and all his men, on the same day together. And when the men of Israel who were on the other side of the valley and those beyond the Jordan saw that the men of Israel had fled and that Saul and his sons were dead, they abandoned their cities and fled. And the Philistines came and lived in them.
It was a sad day in Israel. King Saul was dead. The Philistines won. It was going to be hard on the Israelites!
But it is what happens next that is going to make my small point. It is the last verses of 1 Samuel. You will read these verses next week in chapter 11 of the Story.
1 Samuel 31:8-10 The next day, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, they found Saul and his three sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. So, they cut off his head and stripped off his armor and sent messengers throughout the land of the Philistines, to carry the good news to the house of their idols and to the people. They put his armor in the temple of Ashtaroth, and they fastened his body to the wall of Beth-shan.
Gloating over their victory the Philistines nailed Saul’s body to a wall.
The next three verses are my small point.
1 Samuel 31:11-13 But when the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, all the valiant men arose and went all night and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth-shan, and they came to Jabesh and burned them there. And they took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree in Jabesh and fasted seven days.
The people of Jabesh-gilead remembered. Sure, they knew all the stories of how Saul had failed. They knew King Saul had just failed at his job to protect them from the Philistines. But they remembered the good that Saul had done for them. They still had two eyes because Saul had saved them. The people of Jabesh-gilead choose to remember the good in Saul. They honored Saul by risking their lives to steal his body off the wall and give it a proper burial.
The small point I want to make this morning is... Look for the good in others.
“What? That’s not the point this chapter is making.” I know. But it is the point I need this morning. It is the point that you need this morning? That we need...
--It’s easy to dismiss a person by pointing at their flaws... “That person did all that, they are wrong. Forget them.” But the people of Jabesh-gilead remembered the good Saul did.
--It’s easy to write off people by listing their sins... “You know what they did, don’t you? You can’t listen to anything they say.” But the people of Jabesh-gilead honored Saul for the good he did.
--It is easy to ignore people whose brokenness is obvious... “They talk too much. They are only interested in themselves. They are weird. Just ignore them.” But the people of Jabesh-gilead fought for Saul even after his failures.
--It’s easy to give false motives to those who disagree with us. I have noticed that when I call someone “selfish”, it is when it crosses my selfishness. “They’re selfish... they don’t even consider what I want.” But the people of Jabesh-gilead remembered the good in Saul in spite of his selfishness.
This morning I am going to advocate, with my small point, the Jabesh-gilead approach to people...
--An approach to people that looks past the obviously annoying to see the good in them. Some people are annoying. Some people are difficult to love. I heard this quote recently... “I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.” If we are to be God’s love in the world... it will be for those who are annoying.
I want to be a part of a community who loves me in-spite-of my annoyingness.
--This morning I am going to advocate, with my small point, that we attempt to see the image of God in others. Each of us are created in the image of God to reflect God in the temple of creation. Instead of focusing on the glitches in others, see what they offer for God. It may be hard. In some there may be not much. But look, anyway... Instead of looking at people’s ugliness... we see people’s beauty.
I want to be a part of a community that recognizes my value rather than my glitches.
--This morning I am going to advocate, with my small point, an approach to people that understands there is no such thing as a normal person. People are a conglomeration of stuff. Perhaps you have heard this... “The only normal people you know... are the ones you don’t know very well...”
The Jabesh-gilead approach understands this, and has compassion on others, knowing we all have our “weirdness”.
I want to be a part of a community of people who knows my weirdness and still loves me.
--I want to advocate, this morning, with my small point, an approach to people that recognizes differences as differences. We tend to think of everyone as either idiots or maniacs.
~Person driving too slow in front of you is an idiot for driving way below the speed limit. Then, the person who flies past you going way to fast is a maniac.
~The person right of you politically is an idiot... for being too narrowminded. But the person left of you is a maniac for being to open.
~Anyone who disagrees with you is either an idiot, for being too careful, or a maniac, for being too reckless.
As Jabesh-gilead people we recognize our own OCD’s; our own peculiarities, so that we don’t accuse everyone else as either idiots or maniacs.
Wow, I want to be in a community who is self-aware enough to see disagreements as that.
Obviously, in my sermon this morning, I could have made a Big Point of pointing to all the mistakes King Saul’s made. I could have made a Big Point... don’t sin like King Saul... He was an idiot... or a maniac.
But I know, I know... I needed to hear about Jabesh-gilead. Because I want to be a part of a Jabesh-gilead community.
March 18, 2017
Los Alamos Church of Christ