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The Enemy Has Assembled in Jabesh Gilead

by Larry Lane on August 17, 2021

 

The Enemy Has Assembled in Jabesh Gilead
by Larry Lane

 

In 1 Samuel 11, Nahash the Ammonite attacked the Israeli city Jabesh Gilead. The city leaders offered to surrender and live subject to their hostile neighbors, but Nahash, not satisfied with mere victory, wanted to humiliate God’s people. “I will make a treaty with you only on the condition that I gouge out the right eye of every one of you and so bring disgrace on all Israel.” 
(I Sam. 11:2).

The Jabesh elders requested time to find help from their neighboring tribes to fight for them. Surprisingly, Nahash agreed to their request, indicating he either did not fear the rest of Israel’s fighting forces, or he doubted they would rescue Jabesh. Both may have been true, but the context supports the latter.
 
When news of Nahash’s threat and Jabesh Gilead’s request for help reached Gibeah, people throughout Gibeah wept. Why? Because they felt compassion for their brothers in Jabesh Gilead? If that were the case, would they not have come to their rescue? No, they wept because they believed they might be next and would also be subject to the cruelty of the Ammonites.
 
Gibeah was Saul’s hometown. He was fresh off a whirlwind experience of a private anointing by Samuel as Israel’s first king, an encounter with the Holy Spirit that enabled him to prophecy with a group of prophets, and then his public selection as king in the city of Mizpah. When Saul heard weeping in his city he inquired what had happened.

When he heard the report, Saul did not join in the weeping. Quite the opposite, the Spirit of God fell on him in power and “He burned with anger.” (I Sam. 11:6)

One might assume he was angry with the Ammonites. What follows next reveals the source of his divinely inspired ire. He cut to pieces two oxen and sent them with messengers threatening all Israel that if they did not assemble and follow him into battle, their oxen would be slaughtered like these two. “Then the fear of the Lord fell on the people and they came out together as one.” 
(I Sam. 11:7) Note the people did not fear Saul, rather, the fear of the Lord fell on them. A greater fear than that of the Ammonites gripped their hearts and moved them to action. The remainder of the story tells of their victory over Ammon.
 
Saul’s anger was not really his own. The Spirit of God came on him, and God’s anger was infused into Saul. Watching the tribes of Israel retreat into self-protection and pity broke God’s heart, and His anger burned. God recognized and honored their tribal differences, but He also commanded them to come together to fight for one another. Their silo-ed, fortress mentality stirred something deep within the heart of God and provoked Him to action. The tribes of Israel feared the Ammonites more than God, but when that was reversed, God brought swift victory to His people.

During this season of COVID lockdowns and increased hostility towards the Church, I have observed Christian leaders retreat into a defensive posture. Pastors, fearful of losing their congregations and finances, and seeing their corporate goals disintegrate, have circled the wagons in hopes of minimizing their losses. I served as a senior pastor for thirty years, so I sympathize with the leadership challenges this unprecedented season has brought.

But the prayer of Jesus to strive for relational unity in the Body of Christ (John 17) and Paul’s admonition that the members of the body cannot say to each other “We have no need of you,” cannot be set aside out of self-preserving fear.
 
If there was ever a time to push past our tribal differences to serve one another, it is now. More than ever before in our lifetime, we need each other. Could it be that our fear of losses in our congregation outweighs our fear of the Lord? Why else would we so easily ignore the clear teaching of Scripture? I may sound harsh, but I doubt my emotion surrounding this subject matches His.

I am not advocating for some ecumenical “kum-by-ya” reduction to the lowest common denominator. But I know by experience that we can enter into deep, supportive, sacrificial relationships with other churches without losing our tribal distinctions.

God never called us to build a great church. He said He would build His Church. His Kingdom is not measured or limited to our local church. In the coming season, we need to lock arms and actively help each other. If we turn a blind eye to the hurting church down the street from ours, the day will come when we are hurting and no one will stand with us.

It is time for the Body of Christ to repent for acting as if we do not need one another, and to show the fruit of true repentance. The enemy has assembled in Jabesh Gilead. It is time for us to stop weeping, come together in the fear of the Lord, and serve one another.

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