“Then Nahash the Ammonite came up and encamped against Jabesh Gilead; and all the men of Jabesh said to Nahash, “Make a covenant with us, and we will serve you.” And Nahash the Ammonite answered them, “On this condition I will make a covenant with you, that I may put out all your right eyes, and bring reproach on all Israel.” Then the elders of Jabesh said to him, “Hold off for seven days, that we may send messengers to all the territory of Israel. And then, if there is no one to save us, we will come out to you.” So the messengers came to Gibeah of Saul and told the news in the hearing of the people. And all the people lifted up their voices and wept. Now there was Saul, coming behind the herd from the field; and Saul said, “What troubles the people, that they weep?” And they told him the words of the men of Jabesh. Then the Spirit of God came upon Saul when he heard this news, and his anger was greatly aroused. So he took a yoke of oxen and cut them in pieces, and sent them throughout all the territory of Israel by the hands of messengers, saying, “Whoever does not go out with Saul and Samuel to battle, so it shall be done to his oxen.” And the fear of the Lord fell on the people, and they came out with one consent.” 1 Samuel 11: 1-7
The above text from 1 Samuel takes place during a time when the tribes of Gad and Reuben have been tormented by this King of the Ammonites named Nahash. If you recall, these two tribes were the ones who settled on the other side of the Jordan and chose to take the good pasture land there instead of staking a claim on the Promised Land. But, not neglecting their duties as full members of the tribe of Israel they left of their families and flock on the other side of the Jordan to fight with the rest of Israel to defeat the inhabitants of the land God had set before them, even though they knew the fighting gave their families no personal gain and it would put them in harms way.
So now fast forward to the time of 1 Samuel 11. The historian Josephus states that this King Nahash “had been grievouly oppressing the Gadites and Reubenites. He would gouge out the right eye of each of them and would not grant [them] a deliverer. No one was left across the Jordan whose right eye...had not been gouged out...[except] seven thousand men who had escaped from the Ammonites and had entered Jabesh-gilead.” Do you not think the rest of Israel knew what was going on? Was there any account in the above text to indicate they were doing anything about this injustice? Not even their newly appointed King was doing anything – he was in his field plowing with his oxen. It was not until the people cried out and the Spirit of God led Saul to generate dread in their hearts, that the nation of Israel began to rise up against this injustice and fight.
As I sat and read this story this morning, my thoughts were quickly brought to places of injustice and the more typical response we as a Christian people have in those instances. It is sad but true, but we live in a nation defined by a lot of complaining and very little action to rectify the problems we see before us. We simply turn our backs on injustices when we hear about them, or if we do put out any effort we then speak words of disgust about them, but then go back to our own lives not wanting the bad news we have heard interrupt what we have planned for our own happy futures. But listen to what the following scripture verses have to say about that type of attitude:
“For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing. And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves. Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.” 1 Thessalonians 5: 2-22
I don't know about you, but in light of all I have shared above, added to these verses here, I find it very hard to justify a lifestyle which turns its back on the injustices heard about in the world and pursues personal gain. And not only the injustices we by chance hear about, but those we are to be sobering searching out as is our calling as we watch and wait on the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.
As the scripture verses from 1 Thessalonians state, with the weapons of faith, love and salvation we are to comfort and edify one another in Christ as well as warn those who are laboring among us who are moving out of the will of God in their work for the kingdom (that is what admonish means). We are to stand up and speak out to those who are doing things against the law of the Lord. We are to bring comfort to those who have been pushed down by the injustices this world, as well as stand next to those who need someone to lean on if the weight of this world is crushing them in mind, body and/or spirit. We are to persevere with the best and the worst of this world, hoping and praying for salvation for all mankind. We are to show the world how good prevails by returning good for evil no matter what.
And as we seek to do these things, the way we stay on track is by rejoicing in the love of the Lord, by praying and keeping in communion with Jesus every moment of every day making sure all we do and say are directed by Him and are supplied by His overabundance of grace, mercy, and love for the world we live in. It is when we live in communion with the One true Judge that we are able to help in spreading the works of righteousness and justice through our land.
Finally, the warning we all must not ignore. Where the Spirit of the Lord grieves your heart you must lean into that injustice and pursue the way God is moving your heart to act out against it. Whether you are called to pray against it, comfort those who are hurt by it, speak out for those who are unable to speak for themselves in the midst of it, or be a strong pillar among a group that needs your spiritual strength to lean on, you cannot turn your back if you are to call yourself a Christian and a true follower to Christ.
The time is coming soon when Christ will return and we do not have the luxury of pursuing our own interests and seeking out happy havens in this world of evil. We must willingly put ourselves before the Lord daily and say, “Here I am Lord. Send me.” when the Lord shows us through His word and through the circumstances in our lives how we are each individually called to work as His kingdom and reign approach the coming day.
I leave you with these words of encouragement today from 2 Chronicles 32:7-8:
“Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid nor dismayed ...[for]with [man] is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles.”