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Stop poking God in the eye

Lessons for today from I Samuel 11

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31 May 2011
Stop poking God in the eye

I Samuel 11 tells the fascinating story of how Israel came to be united under Saul’s kingship.  As with all Old Testament stories, God has given them to us so we can learn from them and apply the principles revealed therein. This story is no different, and even gives us invaluable insight into how the Lord views events happening in our own lifetime.

In this chapter, the Ammonites come up against Jabesh. The people of Jabesh seek terms of peace but are presented with a horrible proposition; in return for peace the Ammonites want the right to cut out the right eye of every man and bring a reproach on all Israel.

Apart from the stigma and shame attached with having a whole community’s eyesight disabled, it is also evident that the Ammonites sought to ensure that Jabesh remained immobilized, defenceless against future attacks. If the men of Jabesh could not defend themselves well with both eyes, removing the right eye would certainly ensure that even in the future they would not be able to rise to the challenge and the Ammonites could seek further sacrifices for “peace” whenever they desired.

On May 19th, 2011, the President of the USA announced a change in policy regarding his country’s position as peace broker between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Whereas previously no administration had outlined what it believed was the territorial starting position for negotiations, but had left that for the two parties to work out, President Obama stated that the pre-1967 borders should now be the basis for the renewal of talks. Areas that do not fall within these territories, such as many Israeli towns in Judea and Samaria, along with historic Jerusalem (so-called East Jerusalem), could be resolved, the President said, via land swaps.

The Group of Eight leaders, representing the most economically powerful nations on earth, were swift to endorse Obama’s position in a statement released on May 27th, 2011.

Prime Minister Netanyahu, Israel’s premier, was quick to reject this new approach since it would return Israel to a territorial position that is not defendable. Every American administration up until this one has understood that after all the wars Israel has fought to defend itself against the Arab plans for her annihilation, she requires defendable borders to live in peace and security.

Not only that, but if the pre-1967 borders are the starting point for peace, Israel faces again the shameful prospect of having to send in its own armed forces to forcibly uproot thousands of its citizens from their homes as the world watches on through the lenses of western media companies that have systematically reduced these people to dehumanized illegal settlers, and blamed them for the lack of peace in the entire region, if not the world.

Make no mistake, the Palestinians do not recognize Israel’s right to exist, and they have always sought an agreement with Israel that leaves the door open for further attacks on her sovereignty. Like the Ammonites, they offer peace in return for Israel’s shame. They will only come to an agreement if the Israelis cut out their right eye by removing their so-called settlements, and in so doing, also return to a situation where they are more vulnerable to further attacks. Unfortunately, the US President has led the way in adding considerable weight to their cause and the Israelis, like the people of Jabesh, find themselves isolated and outnumbered in this conflict.

Going back to I Samuel 11, we find that the people of Jabesh seek help and their messengers reach Saul. But, the Saul they find is not sitting in a kingly palace with thousands of troops at his command; he’s out in the field herding flocks. He had been crowned king already, but not all the people accepted his appointment and it seems as if life just went back to normal for Israel and Saul, up until this point that is.

When Saul hears the news, something remarkable happens. The Spirit of God comes upon him and he becomes extremely angry.  He hews a yoke of oxen into pieces, sends them throughout the land as warning of what will happen to the oxen of those who don’t come out to fight, and he manages to raise an army of 330,000 which goes on to demolish the Ammonites and save Jabesh. The people rally around Saul after this victory, gathering in Gilgal to renew the kingdom and make Saul king before God.

Saul clearly didn’t have the force of arms to back up his threat, but the fear of Lord fell on the people as Saul followed the Spirit’s leading and this brought forth salvation.

It’s not often that we associate the Holy Spirit with anger, or righteous indignation as some translations use. We are more accustomed to the Holy Spirit bringing peace or joy in the face of adversity. But God is clearly able to experience the emotions we humans know and when the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives, He can even impart on us His very personal feelings regarding a situation.

In Zechariah 2: 8 it says of Zion, “he who touches you touches the apple of His eye”. Your eye is the most sensitive part of your body. When the Ammonites came to Jabesh with the intent of cutting out the men’s right eyes, they didn’t realize that they had poked God in the eye, in His most sensitive area, and aroused His anger. It’s a warning to all nations that would seek to come up against Israel to dispossess her of her God-given inheritance.

In these days when the nations are out repeating the mistake of the Ammonites, the question for us is how in tune are we to the Holy Spirit? How well are we connected with God’s feelings on the issue? Are we outraged? Are we speaking up to ensure that our nations are warned as to the consequence of their actions?

Like Saul, we have been anointed, but haven’t yet received a kingdom. I Peter 2: 9 says we are a “chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation”. We don’t have physical armies under our command, but our power is in the fear of the Lord. He will bring the victory.

Isaiah 41 confirms that the Lord will deliver Israel and will destroy those who come against her. Our mission at the ICEJ has always been to speak words of comfort to Zion, to let her know that her God will surely rescue her, while also speaking a word of warning to the nations about how they treat the people of the covenant. Never has there been a time when these messages are more important.

For the sake of our own nations, we must find our voice and tell our leaders to please stop poking God in the eye.


Daryl Hedding serves as Strategic Development Director for the ICEJ.


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