A Merciful King
1 Samuel 11:11-13
(11) And it was so on the morrow, that Saul put the people in three companies; and they came into the midst of the host in the morning watch, and slew the Ammonites until the heat of the day: and it came to pass, that they which remained were scattered, so that two of them were not left together.
(12) And the people said unto Samuel, Who is he that said, Shall Saul reign over us? bring the men, that we may put them to death.
(13) And Saul said, There shall not a man be put to death this day: for to day the LORD hath wrought salvation in Israel.
It seems that Nahash the Ammonite king (1CH 19:1) had been a worry to Israel for some time and had been an underlying reason for Israel's clamor for a king (1SAM 12:12 c/w 1SAM 8:19-20). This chapter opens with Nahash laying siege to Jabesh-gilead and giving them an ultimatum (1SAM 11:1-3). The Ammonites were the descendants of Abraham's nephew, Lot, and God had charged Israel that they should not destroy them and take their land as they would the Canaanites (GEN 19:38 c/w DEU 2:19). Whereas Israel was obliged to co-exist civilly with their distant cousins from the shallow end of the Hebrew gene pool, the civility was not always reciprocal and so often is this the case with believers: "If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men" (ROM 12:18). While the spirit of fear had paralyzed the men of Jabesh-Gilead, "...the Spirit of God came upon Saul when he heard those tidings, and his anger was kindled greatly" (1SAM 11:6). Though it would abandon him later because of sin, for the present Saul had the spirit of "...power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (2TI 1:7). God thus wrought a mighty victory over the Ammonites by Saul's hand. In untempered zeal in the afterglow of this victory, some of Saul's supporters sought vengeance over his rejecters (v.12). When Samuel had first introduced Saul to Israel as their king there were some that scorned him, "...How shall this man save us? And they despised him, and brought him no presents. But he held his peace" (1SAM 10:27). But now he spoke his mind, "...There shall not a man be put to death this day: for today the LORD hath wrought salvation in Israel" (v.13). Saul could have shaken himself against his scorners and made a public example of them but Israel's king here demonstrated instead another motion of the Spirit of God, "...mercy rejoiceth against judgment" (JAM 2:13). From this account may be drawn a parallel to the day of the Lord Jesus Christ, spiritual Israel's King. There are many who similarly would wholly condemn as reprobate any who do not believe in Christ's saving power. But God's blood-bought elect Israel consists even of some with whom He has a covenant to take away their sins although they are enemies of the gospel (ROM 11:27-28). So great is His faithfulness to those He covenanted to save that Paul could say, "If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself" (2TI 2:13). In the day when our King destroys the church's enemies, His mercy and grace will, in effect, declare of His wayward elect, "There shall not a man be put to death this day: for today the LORD hath wrought salvation in Israel." How easily does the misguided zeal of God's own move them to invoke fiery consumption of any who receive not Christ: they know not what manner of spirit they are of (LUK 9:52-56).