Waiting can be hard. Waiting for help in a difficult situation can be harder. When you find yourself in trouble, do you wait with an anxious heart, or do you wait as one knowing you’ve already been rescued?
1 Samuel 11:1-15
Nahash the Ammonite went up and besieged Jabesh Gilead. And all the men of Jabesh said to him, “Make a treaty with us, and we will be subject to you.”
2 But Nahash the Ammonite replied, “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.”
3 The elders of Jabesh said to him, “Give us seven days so we can send messengers throughout Israel; if no one comes to rescue us, we will surrender to you.”
4 When the messengers came to Gibeah of Saul and reported these terms to the people, they all wept aloud. 5 Just then Saul was returning from the fields, behind his oxen, and he asked, “What is wrong with everyone? Why are they weeping?” Then they repeated to him what the men of Jabesh had said.
6 When Saul heard their words, the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he burned with anger. 7 He took a pair of oxen, cut them into pieces, and sent the pieces by messengers throughout Israel, proclaiming, “This is what will be done to the oxen of anyone who does not follow Saul and Samuel.” Then the terror of the Lord fell on the people, and they came out together as one. 8 When Saul mustered them at Bezek, the men of Israel numbered three hundred thousand and those of Judah thirty thousand.
9 They told the messengers who had come, “Say to the men of Jabesh Gilead, ‘By the time the sun is hot tomorrow, you will be rescued.’” When the messengers went and reported this to the men of Jabesh, they were elated. 10 They said to the Ammonites, “Tomorrow we will surrender to you, and you can do to us whatever you like.”
11 The next day Saul separated his men into three divisions; during the last watch of the night they broke into the camp of the Ammonites and slaughtered them until the heat of the day. Those who survived were scattered, so that no two of them were left together.
12 The people then said to Samuel, “Who was it that asked, ‘Shall Saul reign over us?’ Turn these men over to us so that we may put them to death.”
13 But Saul said, “No one will be put to death today, for this day the Lord has rescued Israel.”
14 Then Samuel said to the people, “Come, let us go to Gilgal and there renew the kingship.” 15 So all the people went to Gilgal and made Saul king in the presence of the Lord. There they sacrificed fellowship offerings before the Lord, and Saul and all the Israelites held a great celebration.
Recently my family found ourselves sitting on the side of a highway with an un-driveable car. Our car had fallen victim to a stray wheel bouncing along the road. The last town we’d passed was 15 minutes ago, the next town wasn’t for about 40 minutes… we were literally stranded in the middle of nowhere. And all we could do was wait for someone to rescue us.
We only had to wait less than an hour for a tow truck and a ride to the nearest town, but while we waited, we felt very vulnerable with semi-trailers, cars, 4WDs, all whizzing past at 110km/hr less than 2 meters from where we sat.
In today’s passage, we see the men of Jabesh Gilead waiting – waiting for someone to save them from the threat of the Ammonites. But unlike our hour long wait, the men of Jabesh Gilead had a whole week to wait. And unlike our wait with mobile phones connecting us to help, the men of Jabesh Gilead had no way of knowing if their messengers had reached help in time.
It is thought the distance between Jabesh Gilead and Gibeah of Saul was about 42km, or 2 days journey (4 days return). We are not told what the men of Jabesh Gilead did or thought while they waited. Were they anxious about whether the messengers would find help? Were they scared the Ammonites would go back on their word? But what is made clear in verse 13 is “… this day the Lord has rescued Israel”
In this passage we get a glimpse of God’s faithfulness – his rescue plan for his people. We, of course, can see the fullness of God’s rescue plan in Jesus’ death and resurrection. We don’t have to wait for a saviour, like the men of Jabesh Gilead – our saviour has already come. Knowing this, our waiting doesn’t have to be anxious, our waiting doesn’t need to be uncertain. We can wait with the full knowledge that God has rescued his people.
Head: Are you sure of God’s rescue plan in Jesus? Are there times when you still wait anxiously or uncertainly?
Heart: How does it feel knowing that God has already carried out his rescue plan in Jesus? How does this change how you wait?
Hands: Maybe put a note on your fridge, computer screen at work, or somewhere else prominent in your day, to remind yourself that you are already saved, so that in those times of anxiety and uncertainty, you can be reassured?
Prayer: Dear heavenly father. Thank you that you have already saved me by sending your son to die and rise again. Thank you that I no longer have to wait for salvation. Please help me in the times that I struggle with anxiety or uncertainty, to know that my salvation is sure by trusting in Jesus. Amen.
A song to listen to: Man of Sorrows
Vicki Meehan- Creek Road Presbyterian Church- Carina