Get Angry! (I Samuel 11:1-15)
Topic: I Samuel Passage: 1 Samuel 11:1–11:15
Crying for a King
There have been instances in which, as I'm getting to know someone, they say something like this, “Oh, my father? Well, he was a very angry man.” Or they might say, “My mother? Well, she just seems angry all the time.”
What comes to mind when you here those descriptions? Do you know someone like that? What characterizes someone who is angry like this? How is that anger seen?
Hold on to those questions and turn with me to I Samuel 11.
II. The Passage: "The Lord Has Worked Salvation" (11:1-15)
Okay, let's do a quick review of the backstory to chapter 11: Saul, a very tall, kingly looking guy from the tribe of Benjamin has just been selected by Yahweh, the God of Israel, to be the first human king over His people. But Saul's behavior in the last chapter raised some red flags about his ability to really lead the people.
The question that is still lingering as we enter chapter 11 is the question posed by some “worthless men” at the end of chapter 10. Look at chapter 10, verse 27: But some worthless fellows said, “How can this man save us?”
Let's keep that question in mind as we read.
A. The New King’s Crisis (11:1-3)
Look with me at chapter 11, verse 1-3:
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.” 2 But Nahash 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.” 3 The elders of Jabesh said to him, “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.”
Jabesh-gilead was a town on the east side of the Jordan river, north and east of where the story has been taking place up to this point. We don't know much about Nahash, but his desire to gouge out the right eye of every man was a tactic of humiliation. It also may have been a way of handicapping all the fighting men in case they ever planned to rebel.
It also seems clear that Nahash had a pretty low view of Israel as a whole. Why else would he give this town seven days to find help if he didn't think such an attempt would fail? He must have believed this kingless nation was simply too divided, and maybe too cowardly.
Now, the introduction of Jabesh-gilead here is significant in the sense that it directs us back to the disturbing story that takes place in the last three chapters of the book of Judges.
You may remember this story. When there was no king in Israel and everyone did what was right in his or her own eyes, the concubine of a Levite was brutally raped while the two stayed overnight in Gibeah (Saul’s hometown). She died hours later. The Levite, who was understandably incensed, dismembered her body into twelve pieces and sent a piece to every tribe in Israel. This gruesome tactic got the attention of the rest of the nation, and they gathered and laid waste to the tribe of Benjamin, who would not hand over the guilty men of Gibeah.
So after a number of battles, only 600 Benjamite men were left alive. And since every other tribe had sworn not to give these men any of their daughters in marriage, the nation wept because it appeared that one of the tribes in Israel would become extinct.
But at this assembly where they wept for the future of Israel, one town was absent: Jabesh-gilead. So because this town had not shown up to stand with the rest of the nation, it was decided that the town would be destroyed and the women from Jabesh-gilead should be given to the remaining Benjamites.
So with that story in mind, listen to how the story of Jabesh-gilead continues in I Samuel 11.
B. The New King’s Response (11:4-7)
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. 5 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. 6 And the Spirit of God rushed upon Saul when he heard these words, and his anger was greatly kindled. 7 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.
So given what we know from Judges chapters 19-21, we know that Jabesh Gilead is not simply any old town to Saul. His grandmother or great grandmother or great-great grandmother probably came from Jabesh-gilead. That town might be the reason he's alive; that his tribe still exists!
We could also say that given what we know about the history of Gibeah, and the men of Gibeah, there may be some question about what a man from Gibeah will do in light of this terrible news. The question of the “worthless fellows” in 10:27, the question about Saul's ability to save the people probably had something to do with Gibeah's stained reputation.
But just like in chapter 10, we once again read that the Spirit of God “rushed upon” Saul.
And the result is interesting, isn't it, especially in light of Judges 19-21. This time, it is two oxen that are dismembered and used to call the people of Israel to action. Saul is beginning to lead, isn't he (albeit, by using threats)? He calls the people to follow him, God's king, along with Samuel, God's prophet, in order to rescue their kinsmen across the Jordan.
C. The New King’s Leadership (11:8-11)
Look at what happens when the people gather; verses 8-11:
8 When he mustered them at Bezek, the people of Israel were three hundred thousand, and the men of Judah thirty thousand. 9 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. 10 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.” 11 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.
So a huge number of Israelites gathers to support Saul and rescue Jabesh-gilead. The people of Jabesh-gilead are reassured, the military strategy is established, and the attack goes so well, we're told in verse 11 that no two Ammonites were left together.
Saul has done what the worthless men of chapter 10 doubted he could do. He was chosen as the king, and now he is acting like the king.
D. The New King’s Coronation (11:12-15)
Of course, those worthless fellows of chapter 10 were not forgotten about. Look at verses 11-15 of I Samuel 11:
12 Then the people said to Samuel, “Who is it that said, ‘Shall Saul reign over us?’ Bring the men, that we may put them to death.” 13 But Saul said, “Not a man shall be put to death this day, for today the Lord has worked salvation in Israel.” 14 Then Samuel said to the people, “Come, let us go to Gilgal and there renew the kingdom.” 15 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.
What we see clearly in I Samuel 11 is Saul acting on his own initiative, without Samuel first taking the lead. He does that here as well by telling the crowd that, in spite of what some worthless men have said, today should be a day for celebrations, not executions.
And what happens next is really the official coronation of Saul as king. He was selected in the last chapter, but all the people had not yet been united behind Saul and there had not been a formal, public installation of the new king. That's what happens here. In verse 14 this is described as “renewing the kingdom”.
So overall, this is an incredibly hopeful chapter in the history of God's people. God has chosen a king in light of the people's request, and this king has done the very thing they wanted him to do: he has rescued them from their enemies. That's why the chapter ends on a high note: “and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly”.
III. Perspective: The Glove on God’s Hand
But when we step back from I Samuel 11 and consider the main point of this chapter, our perspective should shift from a celebration of A king to worship for THE king.
Listen to something interesting that we discover from the next chapter, I Samuel 12. Here's chapter 12, verse 12:
And when you saw that Nahash the king of the Ammonites came against you, you said to me, ‘No, but a king shall reign over us,’ when the Lord your God was your king. (12:12)
What this verse seems to tell us is that it was fear of Nahash the Ammonite that first led the people back in chapter 8 to ask Samuel for a king. Apparently Nahash had been threatening Israel in other ways before he seized Jabesh-gilead.
But when Nahash is finally defeated, did you hear what Saul, the very king they requested, did you hear what Saul said about his victory? Chapter 11, verse 13: But Saul said, “Not a man shall be put to death this day, for today the Lord has worked salvation in Israel.” (11:13)
So the people, trembling before Nahash, do not trust that God can rescue them, and therefore demand a human king. But when that king comes and rescues them from Nahash, he reminds them that God is actually their Savior.
Here's the main point: No matter the means He uses, God should always get the credit for every victory His people experience.
Like every judge and leader before him, Saul is simply a glove on the mighty hand of God.
Who has been God's glove in your life? Who has God used to rescue or bless or guide or support or help or encourage you? And when that person was used, did God get the credit? Every victory you experience, every blessing, comes from God...and there are so many,e very day, if we choose to see them. Therefore, we have to be a people who give thanks, right? A people of perpetual praise.
IV. Practice: Spirit-Inspired Anger
But when it comes to application this morning, I want to zoom in and camp on one verse from I Samuel 11; one sentence, really one phrase in one sentence. Look again at verse 6:
And the Spirit of God rushed upon Saul when he heard these words, and his anger was greatly kindled.
Now, I find that phrase very, very interesting. What are we to make of Saul's reaction here? Consider the following verses in light of that question:
A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression. (Proverbs 29:22)
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.” (Matthew 5:21, 22)
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. (Galatians 5:19-21)
I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling… (I Timothy 2:8)
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (James 1:19, 20)
So maybe, in light of these verses, we can simply label Saul a hothead who loses his cool when he hears about this psychopath named Nahash. Maybe God uses Saul in spite of his temper.
But notice the sequence of events in I Samuel 11:6...the Spirit of God rushed upon Saul when he heard these words, and his anger was greatly kindled.
Now remember, this is the second time the Spirit has come upon Saul. In chapter 10, verse 10 we read: and the Spirit of God rushed upon him, and he prophesied among them.
In chapter 10, the initial evidence of the Spirit's empowerment of Saul is the fact that he prophesies with the prophets. But here, it seems that the initial evidence of the Spirit's empowerment is, maybe surprisingly, burning anger.
Spirit-inspired anger? Is that really possible? Well consider that question in light of a number of other verses:
And the people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes, and when the Lord heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp. (Numbers 11:1)
Therefore the anger of the Lord was kindled against this land, bringing upon it all the curses written in this book... (Deuteronomy 29:27)
So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. (Judges 2:14)
But you, you are to be feared! Who can stand before you when once your anger is roused? (Psalm 76:7)
And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5 And he [Jesus] looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart… (Mark 3)
In light of verses like these, it's clear that anger itself is not wrong because God himself, who is perfect and pure in all His ways, does in fact, get angry. So what we see in I Samuel 11:6 is the anger of a man, but not the anger of man. The anger kindled in Saul is fueled by the Holy Spirit. It is anger that burns with the flames of holiness.
So would it be right for me, in light of this passage, in light of the Spirit's work in Saul, would it be right for me to say to you this morning...get angry?
I want to be extremely careful this morning, because I certainly don't want you to be, God doesn't want you to be, an “angry man” or “a woman whose always angry” like we talked about at the outset. I know too many people like this; too many people who, because of unforgiveness and fear and pride, are consistently angry; or their anger is always there, just below the surface, just waiting to spill out, even in extremely minor conflicts.
But listen to what the Apostle Paul tells the Christians in Ephesus: Be angry and do not sin... (Ephesians 4:26a). Paul is telling confirming here that there are times when we do need to get angry.
So what is the difference between the “anger of man” that is always condemned in God's word, and Spirit-inspired anger?
How about this for a simple distinction: Spirit-inspired anger is always kindled by a concern for the things of God, not the things of “me”.
Saul was angry, not because he was suffering, but because God's people were suffering. Saul was angry, not because he had been dishonored, but God's name was dishonored by Nahash, a pagan who wanted to bring disgrace on God's people.
But in most cases, our anger is about us, isn't it? “I'm angry because you won't listen to me. I'm angry because your not giving me what I need. I'm angry because you aren't respecting my time, or my space, or my point of view. I'm angry because that's going to cost me...because that isn't how we do things...because that's not what I wanted to hear.”
Even when we try to put a God-spin on it, we know deep down that God is not angry with that person. So how can we be? We should be angry about the things that make God angry, shouldn't we?
Every year there are 1.2 million abortions performed in this country. That’s one baby every 26 seconds. Are you angry about that? God is.
"The number of children involved in divorces and annulments stood at 6.3 per 1,000 children under 18 years of age in 1950, and 7.2 in 1960. By 1970 it had increased to 12.5; by 1975, 16.7; by 1980, the rate stood at 17.3, a 175 percent increase from 1950. Since 1972, one million American children every year have seen their parents divorce.” Are you angry about that? God is.
2 million children are forced into prostitution every year. Half of them live in Asia. Are you angry about that? God is.
62% of children surveyed say that sex on TV shows and movies influences kids to have sex when they are too young. In 2005 the most popular broadcast-network television show with kids aged 9-12 according to Nielsen stats was ABC's Desperate Housewives. Nearly half (46%) of all 15–19-year-olds in the United States have had sex at least once. Are you angry about that? God is.
From 2006 to 2008, the Mormon Church grew from 12.8 million to 13.5 million members. From 1997 to 2007, their membership outside the U.S. grew by 2.1 million people. Are you angry about the spread of a distorted gospel? God is.
Recent studies indicate that 20% of people attending evangelical churches would describe their faith as “somewhat important” or “not at all important”. Furthermore 57% of people who attend an evangelical church believe “many religions can lead to eternal life.” Are angry about that? God is.
“Research shows in Buckeye, 82 percent of youths report drinking. The average age for the first drink among kids in Buckeye is 13. Among youths, 43 percent say they drink alcohol at parties when parents are away. The average age of first drug use is 13 years old. About one out of four students in Buckeye is using prescription medications to get high.” Are you angry about that? God is.
But as angry as we should be about the devastating effects of sin that we see all around us, I believe the very first thing we need to be angry about, the primary focus of Spirit-inspired anger should be the effects of sin in our own life.
My pride. My compromise. My lust. My laziness. My fear. My selfishness. My manipulation. My judgmentalism. My unforgiveness. My hurtful words. My indifference. Are you angry about those things? Are you angry the foothold that sin has in your own heart?
It is very difficult to be genuinely angry with a righteous anger about the effects of sin outside of you if you are not first angry about the effects of sin within your own heart.
Get angry. Get angry about what sin is doing in your life and in your own household. Get angry about the destruction of sin that we see all around us. Like Nahash, sin is threatening us and people all around us every day…and like Nahash, it’s goal is to maim us.
But what happens when we do get angry like this? When we truly do experience Spirit-inspired anger? Well, just like we saw with Saul in I Samuel 11, Spirit-inspired anger in us should always drive us toward God's means of salvation.
In I Samuel 11, God’s means of salvation for Jabesh-gilead was three companies of Israelite warriors. That’s how Saul accomplished God’s deliverance.
So what should we do today? Bomb an abortion clinic? Invest our hearts and time into legislative action? Shouting matches? Stricter curfews? Harsher sentencing? Abstinence education? New FCC guidelines? Better censorship? Court-mandated counseling?
Listen, while SOME of these things have merit, Jesus did not die on the cross to encourage voter registration. Jesus did not die on the cross to fund abstinence education. He didn’t die on the cross so people would march around with signs that read, “God hates homosexuals”.
No, God’s means of deliverance is the gospel. It is the word of God and the grace of God alone that can transform hearts. For followers of Christ today, God’s appointed means of salvation is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Are you angry about the devastating effects of sin that you see all around you? Preach the gospel. Share it. Support it with your time, talents, and treasure.
Genuine, righteous anger about our own sin should not drive us toward shame or legalism or indifference or theologically-justified resignation (“Well since I never will be perfect in this life, why try?”). Spirit-inspired anger should always drive us toward the gospel.
Are you angry about the devastating effects of sin that you see in your own life? Preach the gospel to yourself. Rehearse it. Savor it. Live in light of the forgiveness and grace Jesus makes possible. Live in light of the fact that, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1). God is not angry with us if we belong to Jesus Christ. Even when we stumble, He is there to discipline and restore us in love, as a merciful Father….and all because Jesus is our righteousness…because in Jesus, God’s anger against sin is satisfied.
And as God does that work in us, he wants to use us to bring that work to others…so that marriages are transformed…so that teens are transformed…so that cult members are transformed…so that children and families are transformed…so that TV viewers are transformed…so that men and women and leaders and voters are transformed by the cross of Jesus Christ.
Will it be the “anger of man” in your life, or the anger of God? You can tell by the fruit those different kinds of anger produce. The “anger of man” leads to strife, pride, yelling, accusations, mistrust, mockery, bitterness, isolation, impatience, and unforgiveness. But the anger of God, Spirit-inspired anger always leads to love. Love. And the cross of Jesus confirms that.
Yes, God is angry about all the things we mentioned this morning, but His anger is not simply about justice. It’s also about love. And this God, who is angry about sin, is the same God who has made a way of grace for sinners because of His love. The door of mercy is open. Have you come in? Through faith? God’s word tells us that one day that door will close, and God’s anger will be poured out on this world.
But for us, now, the anger of God, Spirit-inspired anger always leads to love. Love.
Be angry and do not sin.