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Saul Steps Up! (Part 3 of 3)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
November 10, 2022 3:00 am

Saul Steps Up! (Part 3 of 3)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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November 10, 2022 3:00 am

When Saul’s kingship was proclaimed, the people found him hiding in the baggage! What caused this reluctant man to step up as king and fearlessly lead Israel into battle? On Truth For Life, Alistair Begg walks us through Saul’s radical transformation.



When the news that Saul would be king was finally public proclaimed in Israel the people found him hiding in the baggage.

So what is it that caused this reluctant young man to step up as king and to boldly lead Israel into battle? Today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg walks us through Saul's radical transformation. Saul said, What is wrong with the people that they're 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. Now, when you think about the impact of the Spirit of God and the Spirit of God rushing upon someone, in the context of Judges and 1 Samuel, of course, there are some dramatic incidents. You can think in terms of Samson and what it meant for Samson to be possessed of the Spirit in a peculiar way—amazing displays of strength. And then, of course, for Saul earlier in the narrative to have been included among the prophetic band, and for him to be saying things and doing things that made everybody ask the question, Well, what in the world has happened to Saul?

He seems different from how we knew him. And very often, when people speak about the impact of the Holy Spirit—and many of the songs that are written are peaceful songs, and understandably so—there is a sense of tranquility to them. Interestingly, there's no rushing of angels' wings here in particular, but you will notice that the impact of the Spirit of God on Saul was that his anger was greatly kindled. So it helps us to round out our understanding of the work of the Spirit of God in the life of the servant of God. We're not gonna build a doctrine on the fact that Saul was rushed by the Spirit and thereby became angry. But we do recognize the fact that his righteous response is in keeping with the response of the character of God, who opposes the proud, who gives grace to the humble, who lifts up the broken and puts up on the right feet those who are bowed down and downhearted. And so Saul is now aware of the fact that the people of God, the nation of Israel, the men of Jabez Gilead, have been intimidated and are threatened with abject humiliation. And so his anger is kindled.

And as a result of that, what we have is a dramatic and unmistakable call to war. You will notice what he does. "'Go out,' he says. He says to the messengers, thanks for letting me know, but I'd like you to go now, and I'd like you to take this little FedEx package around the community. I've just cut up my oxen here, I've divided them up into pieces, and I'd like you to go from house to house with them."

Now, when you get there, you should let them know that I want them to understand that if they don't come out and fight this vagabond, then I will do to their oxen what I have done to my oxen. So, in other words, here he is, he comes behind the oxen, he makes the discovery, he is overwhelmed by the Spirit of God, his righteous anger is kindled, and all of a sudden he's a leader. All of a sudden, he's got a strategy. He didn't have it before. He hasn't been doing anything at all, really.

Just wandering around and going home. And now here he is. Now you'll see what happens is that the dread of the Lord fell upon the people. Something must be dreadfully wrong for this man, whom we have acclaimed as king, to do this to his oxen and to send the message out that he feels very, very strongly about the fact that we are supposed to show up for battle. And so the response is very clear in verse 7, that they came out as one man. Now, we could pause on this, and we won't, and think about what happens when leadership amongst the people of God is possessed of clarity of purpose, is able to see engendered among those who are led a unity of spirit, and who is enabled by the Spirit of God to then lead from a position of humility of heart.

Saul is no longer hiding in the baggage mode. He recognizes that there is, as Ecclesiastes reminds us, a time for war and a time for peace. And once again, the messengers are on assignment. They're supposed to get out now, and they are to spend their energies in making sure that they will be able to convey to the men of Jabesh Gilead this amazing good news.

Tomorrow, by the time the sun is hot, you shall have salvation. And how masterful is the understatement at the end of verse 9? When the messengers came and told the men of Jabesh, they were glad.

They were glad. Therefore, because they were glad, because of the good news that had come, the men of Jabesh said to the archenemy and his hordes, Tomorrow we will give ourselves up to you, and you may do to us whatever seems good to you. Now, you need to go back to the very beginning of the chapter and remember that that is the kind of statement that they were making in the third verse. If there is no one to save us, we will give ourselves up to you. Now, the language in the text is somewhat variable, and it could also be translated, and we will come out and deliver ourselves to you. It could be put in a number of ways. But clearly, what you have here in this, given what we know of the background, given what we know about what is to happen, is that they're saying, Tomorrow we will come and give ourselves up to you, but under their breath they're saying, However, that's not all we're planning to do.

When you face a vicious tyrant, you don't want Chamberlain, you want Winston Churchill. And that is what they're doing here. They're skillful. They're ready.

They're thinking. They're under the leadership, and they're about to see salvation come. Having come together as one man in verse 7, it unfolds as per the plan, for Saul has put the company together, and he's operated along the lines of Gideon—when you go back and consider the battle plan in Judges—and the one man moving together in opposition to the forces of the enemies leaves a scattered—not a multitude—but a scattered force, so that at the end of verse 11, no two of them were left together. Well, that is quite remarkable, isn't it?

Incidentally, you know, if you just go back up, it's something that I missed that we shouldn't miss. The word that was given up there in 7b, halfway through 7, what Saul said is quite interesting. He said, Whoever does not come out after Saul and Samuel. Saul and Samuel.

So it's a little reminder, isn't it, of at least this, what Ecclesiastes again says, that two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work. And the story of the Bible underpins that, and so, actually, does the story of church history. Well, that then brings us to the closing words, which come from verse 12 to the end, and it brings us to the fourth statement that we were considering concerning this notion of salvation. In the aftermath of the victory, you will notice that there is an immediate call for the death of the worthless fellows. The people immediately said to Samuel, Who is it that said, Shall Saul reign over us?

Now, they're not using the exact same terminology, but what they're clearly referring to is what was our starting point back up in verse 27, because some worthless fellows said, How can this man save us? And so the fellows come to him, and they say, You know, why don't we just put them to death? It's amazing, you know, once you get a taste for killing, apparently, you decide to kill anybody you can. And so they thought it would be good.

It's also a wonderful way to apportion blame and to make one feel better about oneself. I can't but imagine that there were more worthless fellows than had actually identified themselves, and some who by their silence had joined them now find themselves suggesting that those who were the most vocal on the matter should be put to death. But Saul, you will notice, now establishes his leadership in another way. And he says, Not a man shall be put to death this day, for today the LORD has worked salvation in Israel. So now we're beginning to see that the leadership of Saul, if it's going to be any good, will be good, because it is motivated and empowered by the Holy Spirit and is under the jurisdiction of God, who is King. Although he didn't have access to Psalm 124, he would have been in tune with his message.

You remember how the psalm begins? If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, then we would have been swallowed up alive. And so Saul understands the source of their deliverance. Not a man shall be put to death this day, for today the LORD has worked salvation in Israel. Salvation came not because Israel had a king but because the King had Yahweh's Spirit. This is, if you like, an Old Testament indication of John 15. Jesus to his followers, apart from me, you can do nothing. You remember, in the early days of the Acts, when the dramatic preaching and boldness of Peter and John as representative of the others begins to take hold in Jerusalem. And Luke records for us, And when the people who were their opponents saw that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. Now, this is not an argument for being uneducated and common. That would be a foolish application of Scripture, wouldn't it? So the application would be, Don't go to school. Try and be as dumb as you can. It'll be very helpful in the kingdom.

No, that would be ridiculous. What does it point to? It points to the reality that no matter how educated you are, or no matter how uneducated you are, no matter how spectacular you appear to be or how common and ineffectual you appear to be, the unifying factor and the empowering factor is the Spirit of God himself. They perceived that they were uneducated and common men, and they marveled at their boldness, and they took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus.

The same characters who had it upside down when they'd been with Jesus after the resurrection. Lord, are you this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel? Jesus is not—we're not doing the kingdom to Israel right now.

What we're doing is evangelizing the world. But you guys don't go yet. You stay here. You stay here until the Holy Spirit of God rushes upon you. When that happens, then you go.

Until that happens, you don't go. And here, Saul is the very epitome of that reality—how we need the power and enabling of the Spirit of God to do the work of God. There'll be no murderous plot here today. No, he says, if you look, you can see what God has done. Samuel—why don't you say a few words? Verse 14, 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 the king, before the LORD in Gilgal. How many times are you gonna say Gilgal?

Why does he keep saying Gilgal? Well, we know now, don't we? It's mentioned, what, four times in this way, including the there? Six times, actually.

Maybe seven. It's emphasis. Places matter.

Places matter. And so Samuel says, Let's go there, and let's renew the kingdom. Now, we could spend a long time—which we don't have, and therefore we won't—debating the question, What kingdom are we renewing? Whose kingdom? Are we renewing Saul's kingdom, or are we renewing the king's kingdom? God's kingdom?

Well, I think we don't need to choose. Clearly, the people now are renewing their acclamation of Saul. But they are doing it, now, you will notice, in a way that hasn't been done before. There they made Saul king before Yahweh in Gilgal. This is the stage four, isn't it? Stage one, as we saw, private anointing. Stage two, personal confirmation with the signs that accompanied Saul. Stage three, the public selection. Long live the king. And now stage four, the formal installation. So in recognizing the place given to Saul, it's actually a renewal of the people's commitment to God as king, who has this day established Saul in this place—the king, namely God, that they had rejected so that they might be like the other nations.

They had been keen to reject him. But he was not about to give up on them. I'm so glad that the God who has taken hold of my life holds me so strongly in his grip that even when I may like to give up on him, he has decided not to let go of me. That's why we're here. That's why you're still in the battle.

That's why you're still running the race. He will hold me fast, now unto him who is able to keep me from falling and to present me faultless before the presence of his glory in Jesus with exceeding joy. No wonder Samuel goes on, and he says, Listen, while we're at it, let's sacrifice peace offerings before the Lord. Here they are in the place of fellowship. Here they are in the place of communion, if you like.

And what a transformation! From verse 4 to verse 15. The end of verse 4, and all the people wept aloud. And verse 15, and all the people rejoiced greatly.

There we have it. What is it that takes us from our foolish weeping to our surprising rejoicing? Well, it is ultimately only God himself. And he renews his pledge to us, as it were, even as we have the opportunity to affirm our commitment to him and to this message of salvation. If we're going to affirm our commitment to this message of salvation, then we can't lose sight of it. On one occasion Stott said, Just as the world is becoming more aware of its need, the church is becoming less assured of its mission.

And the major reason for a diminishing Christian mission, he said, is the diminishing confidence in the Christian message. If we're going to speak to people on a routine basis about the fact that Jesus is King, if we're going to tell them that the story of the Bible is the story of salvation, that it runs as a melody throughout the whole panorama of Scripture, then we have to be able to articulate it in a way that is understandable by them. We have to be unashamed in speaking about Genesis 1–11. We have to tell them that there was a real Adam and a real Eve, that they were made by God and that they were aware of the fact that they were made by God and that they knew that they'd been made for God. We have to tell them that they doubted the goodness of God, that they rejected the wisdom of God, that they rebelled against the authority of God, and as a result, they were banished from God's presence. And then we have to tell them that despite that fact, God, because of his amazing love, set about to continue to reveal himself in the creative order and in the conscience of men and women—so much so that we can say to our friends, You can run, but you can't hide.

And when our friends come back to us and say, Well, you know, I can't see any reason, no obvious, observable, believable reason. I can't really see the light that you're talking about. What do you say then? I say, Well, that's because the darkness isn't on the outside. The darkness is on the inside. The reason you can't see is because you're blind. And by nature, you don't have eyes to see, except your eyes are illuminated by the divine revelation of God by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God so as to make a person go, Whoa!

Who does that? God does that. And he does that. Despite the fact that we are indifferent, despite the fact that we are rebellious, he is amazingly gracious. We don't need to apologize for the fact of our inability to know God, to love God, to understand God, to serve God—except for the fact that he has chosen, in his immense grace, to take the initiative to redeem us and to restore us.

And he has done so throughout all of history—by his actions, by his words, and finally, in a person. Now, when you think about these things and you ponder the privilege of having had our eyes opened to see this and to believe it, then the challenge to proclaim it becomes the real issue, doesn't it? And that's a challenge that falls to all of us—not just to those of us who have any kind of public forum, but in every case. But I want to say a word that can reach beyond myself to others who share my privilege.

And instead of me saying it, let me just quote Tozer on this from an earlier era. We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish goodwill between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the media, the world of sports, or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets. And our message is not a compromise. It is an ultimatum.

If I find myself uncomfortable with that picture—not of a business model but of a battleground—then it is probably because I just don't recognize the enormity of the task and the nature of the challenge. So may God help us along those lines to think those things out. Saul's leadership was successful. When it was successful, it was because it was motivated and empowered by the Holy Spirit and under God's own rule. You're listening to Alistair Begg on Truth for Life. Our regular listeners know that our mission at Truth for Life is to teach the Bible with clarity and relevance.

We do this knowing that it is God's Spirit that works through God's Word to convert unbelievers, to establish believers, and to strengthen local churches. That's the mission you're supporting when you give a donation to Truth for Life today. And your giving not only gives this daily program along with free access to Alistair's entire teaching library to listeners in nearly every nation around the world, but your generosity also makes it possible for all the books and teaching materials we offer to be purchased from Truth for Life at our cost.

Today when you donate, we'll say thank you by inviting you to request a brand new release. It's volume 2 of Alistair's daily devotional, Truth for Life 365 Daily Devotions. Request your copy of volume 2, Alistair's new devotional, when you go online at slash donate. And take full advantage of the devotional's low price. You can buy extra copies to give as gifts. Friends and family members will benefit from the rich biblical insights they gain over the course of an entire year. Volume 2 comes in a hard cover for just $9. You'll find it online along with other highly recommended books for all ages when you go to slash gifts. I'm Bob Lapine. Why doesn't God abandon those who forget and forsake Him? We'll find out tomorrow. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-11-10 05:07:58 / 2022-11-10 05:16:52 / 9

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