By Doug Small
It’s so easy when we study the Bible to miss things that are really intended to teach us something, especially when they’re part of Bible history. We read through a lot of funny names and funny sounding places and think, “How does that apply to me?” But God put it there for a purpose. So let’s look at one passage and discover the meaning we never expected to be there.
“Then Nahash the Ammonite came up, and encamped against Jabesh-gilead: and all the men of Jabesh said unto Nahash, Make a covenant with us, and we will serve thee. And Nahash the Ammonite answered them, On this condition will I make a covenant with you, that I may thrust out all your right eyes, and lay it for a reproach upon all Israel. And the elders of Jabesh said unto him, Give us seven days’ respite, that we may send messengers unto all the coasts of Israel: and then, if there be no man to save us, we will come out to thee. Then came the messengers to Gibeah of Saul, and told the tidings in the ears of the people: and all the people lifted up their voices, and wept.”
(1 Samuel 11:1-4, KJV)
On the Edge
Jabesh Gilead was on the east side of the Jordan; it was on the “edge” of the Promised Land. It was a tough place, the kind of rough, dry place that we find ourselves in more often than we need to. Nahash and his men had been next to Jabesh Gilead for years, oppressing them. Jabesh Gilead had gotten tired of living with this evil presence next to them for so long that they proposed a compromise with them.
You may think that it’s amazing that they put up with this, but think about it: How long have you put up with certain sins in your life without really doing anything about them? Nahash is in reality the devil—his name means “serpent.” He will encamp in your life as long as he can. We have so many excuses to protect our “favorite” sins. We can drag our ancestors into it: “I come from fighting people, so I’ve got to fight,” or “My people drank a lot, so I have to drink a lot.” We can also try to minimize the problem: “A little pornography off the Internet never hurt anybody, so it won’t hurt me,” or “I can smoke and still be a Christian, so I’ll keep puffing to the pearly gates.”
We need to be absolutely clear however of one thing: if we give the devil place in one part of our life, sooner or later he’s going to want to take it all. If you give the devil an inch, he’ll take a mile. If you think you can get away with drinking, wait till you get drunk and wake up to realize you’ve done something you didn’t think you’d do.
A Deal With the Devil
That’s the place where the men of Jabesh Gilead found themselves when they decided that they would never be rid of Nahash and that it was time to compromise. When they approached Nahash to make a covenant with him—and by this we mean a covenant with the devil himself—Nahash makes a very serious demand; namely, that the right eye of all the men of Jabesh-Gilead be put out. This is a major demand on two levels. On the physical level the right eye was the eye which was used for war; it was, for instance, the eye which the archers used to aim their arrows. Moreover the loss of one eye means the loss of depth perspective. A nation of one-eyed people was a nation essentially defenseless, inviting Nahash to come in at a later time and finish the job of destruction he started with his “covenant.”
On the spiritual level, though, the loss of the right eye means the loss of spiritual perspective. When you lose your spiritual perspective you lose your sense of right and wrong. You can no longer see clearly and thus become open to evil. You allow yourself to be manipulated and ultimately trashed by Nahash and his allies because you cut yourself off from God’s plan and will for your life. You cannot make a deal with the devil, and you’re kidding yourself if you think you can because sooner or later he will exact a price much higher than the original “agreement.”
The Anointed to the Rescue
Even though they had been around Nahash for a long time, the men of Jebesh Gilead were jolted enough by Nahash’s proposal to at least make them stall Nahash for seven days. They finally showed some sense; they recognized the price of sin they were about to pay, that Nahash was about to humiliate and destroy them as the devil wants to do to us now. So they sent messengers to Saul who, as the anointed king of Israel, responded swiftly:
“And the Spirit of God came upon Saul when he heard those tidings, and his anger was kindled greatly. And he took a yoke of oxen, and hewed them in pieces, and sent them throughout all the coasts of Israel by the hands of messengers, saying, Whosoever cometh not forth after Saul and after Samuel, so shall it be done unto his oxen. And the fear of the LORD fell on the people, and they came out with one consent . . . 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.” (1 Samuel 11:6-8,10-11, KJV)
Saul took an ox—the basic animal of farm work and transportation in those days—and cut it up, sending it around the entire nation. What he did was the equivalent of cutting up their Mercedes and sending it around. It jolted Israel out of its comfort zone! Saul told his people he meant business; they responded by gathering together and destroying Nahash and the Ammonites and relieving Jabesh-gilead from their oppression.
As men of God, we must not make deals with the devil. It may look ok and things may not change much up front, but in the end it will destroy you when your family life is in ruins, your ministry wrecked and your relationship with God evaporated. We must also be Christians who do not define ourselves by what we do not do but by what we actually do. Finally we must leave our comfort zone and help our brothers to rid their lives of the devil and to do what God wants them to do and to be all that God wants them to be.