11 So Nahash went after them and prepared to go to war against Jabesh Gilead. The men of Jabesh petitioned Nahash: “Make a treaty with us and we’ll serve you.”
2 Nahash said, “I’ll make a treaty with you on one condition: that every right eye among you be gouged out! I’ll humiliate every last man and woman in Israel before I’m done!”
3 The town leaders of Jabesh said, “Give us time to send messengers around Israel—seven days should do it. If no one shows up to help us, we’ll accept your terms.”
4-5 The messengers came to Saul’s place at Gibeah and told the people what was going on. As the people broke out in loud wails, Saul showed up. He was coming back from the field with his oxen.
Saul asked, “What happened? Why is everyone crying?”
And they repeated the message that had come from Jabesh.
6-7 The Spirit of God came on Saul when he heard the report and he flew into a rage. He grabbed the yoke of oxen and butchered them on the spot. He sent the messengers throughout Israel distributing the bloody pieces with this message: “Anyone who refuses to join up with Saul and Samuel, let this be the fate of his oxen!”
7-8 The terror of God seized the people, and they came out, one and all, not a laggard among them. Saul took command of the people at Bezek. There were 300,000 men from Israel, another 30,000 from Judah.
9-11 Saul instructed the messengers, “Tell this to the folk in Jabesh Gilead: ‘Help is on the way. Expect it by noon tomorrow.’”
The messengers set straight off and delivered their message. Elated, the people of Jabesh Gilead sent word to Nahash: “Tomorrow we’ll give ourselves up. You can deal with us on your terms.” Long before dawn the next day, Saul had strategically placed his army in three groups. At first light they broke into the enemy camp and slaughtered Ammonites until noon. Those who were left ran for their lives, scattering every which way.
12 The people came to Samuel then and said, “Where are those men who said, ‘Saul is not fit to rule over us’? Hand them over. We’ll kill them!”
13-14 But Saul said, “Nobody is going to be executed this day. This is the day God saved Israel! Come, let’s go to Gilgal and there reconsecrate the kingship.”
15 They all trooped out to Gilgal. Before God, they crowned Saul king at Gilgal. And there they worshiped, sacrificing peace offerings. Saul and all Israel celebrated magnificently.
9 1-5 At the same time, you need to know that I carry with me at all times a huge sorrow. It’s an enormous pain deep within me, and I’m never free of it. I’m not exaggerating—Christ and the Holy Spirit are my witnesses. It’s the Israelites . . . If there were any way I could be cursed by the Messiah so they could be blessed by him, I’d do it in a minute. They’re my family. I grew up with them. They had everything going for them—family, glory, covenants, revelation, worship, promises, to say nothing of being the race that produced the Messiah, the Christ, who is God over everything, always. Oh, yes!
6-9 Don’t suppose for a moment, though, that God’s Word has malfunctioned in some way or other. The problem goes back a long way. From the outset, not all Israelites of the flesh were Israelites of the spirit. It wasn’t Abraham’s sperm that gave identity here, but God’s promise. Remember how it was put: “Your family will be defined by Isaac”? That means that Israelite identity was never racially determined by sexual transmission, but it was God-determined by promise. Remember that promise, “When I come back next year at this time, Sarah will have a son”?
10-13 And that’s not the only time. To Rebecca, also, a promise was made that took priority over genetics. When she became pregnant by our one-of-a-kind ancestor, Isaac, and her babies were still innocent in the womb—incapable of good or bad—she received a special assurance from God. What God did in this case made it perfectly plain that his purpose is not a hit-or-miss thing dependent on what we do or don’t do, but a sure thing determined by his decision, flowing steadily from his initiative. God told Rebecca, “The firstborn of your twins will take second place.” Later that was turned into a stark epigram: “I loved Jacob; I hated Esau.”
14-18 Is that grounds for complaining that God is unfair? Not so fast, please. God told Moses, “I’m in charge of mercy. I’m in charge of compassion.” Compassion doesn’t originate in our bleeding hearts or moral sweat, but in God’s mercy. The same point was made when God said to Pharaoh, “I picked you as a bit player in this drama of my salvation power.” All we’re saying is that God has the first word, initiating the action in which we play our part for better or worse.
19 Are you going to object, “So how can God blame us for anything since he’s in charge of everything? If the big decisions are already made, what say do we have in it?”
20-33 Who in the world do you think you are to second-guess God? Do you for one moment suppose any of us knows enough to call God into question? Clay doesn’t talk back to the fingers that mold it, saying, “Why did you shape me like this?” Isn’t it obvious that a potter has a perfect right to shape one lump of clay into a vase for holding flowers and another into a pot for cooking beans? If God needs one style of pottery especially designed to show his angry displeasure and another style carefully crafted to show his glorious goodness, isn’t that all right? Either or both happens to Jews, but it also happens to the other people. Hosea put it well:
I’ll call nobodies and make them somebodies;
I’ll call the unloved and make them beloved.
In the place where they yelled out, “You’re nobody!”
they’re calling you “God’s living children.”
Isaiah maintained this same emphasis:
If each grain of sand on the seashore were numbered
and the sum labeled “chosen of God,”
They’d be numbers still, not names;
salvation comes by personal selection.
God doesn’t count us; he calls us by name.
Arithmetic is not his focus.
Isaiah had looked ahead and spoken the truth:
If our powerful God
had not provided us a legacy of living children,
We would have ended up like ghost towns,
like Sodom and Gomorrah.
How can we sum this up? All those people who didn’t seem interested in what God was doing actually embraced what God was doing as he straightened out their lives. And Israel, who seemed so interested in reading and talking about what God was doing, missed it. How could they miss it? Because instead of trusting God, they took over. They were absorbed in what they themselves were doing. They were so absorbed in their “God projects” that they didn’t notice God right in front of them, like a huge rock in the middle of the road. And so they stumbled into him and went sprawling. Isaiah (again!) gives us the metaphor for pulling this together:
Careful! I’ve put a huge stone on the road to Mount Zion,
a stone you can’t get around.
But the stone is me! If you’re looking for me,
you’ll find me on the way, not in the way.
48 1-10 The Message on Moab from God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel:
“Doom to Nebo! Leveled to the ground!
Kiriathaim demeaned and defeated,
The mighty fortress reduced to a molehill,
Moab’s glory—dust and ashes.
Conspirators plot Heshbon’s doom:
‘Come, let’s wipe Moab off the map.’
The city of Madmen will be struck mute,
as killing follows killing.
Listen! A cry out of Horonaim:
‘Disaster—doom and more doom!’
Moab will be shattered.
Her cries will be heard clear down in Zoar.
Up the ascent of Luhith
And down the descent from Horonaim,
cries of loss and devastation.
Oh, run for your lives! Get out while you can!
Survive by your wits in the wild!
You trusted in thick walls and big money, yes?
But it won’t help you now.
Your big god Chemosh will be hauled off,
his priests and managers with him.
A wrecker will wreck every city.
Not a city will survive.
The valley fields will be ruined,
the plateau pastures destroyed, just as I told you.
Cover the land of Moab with salt.
Make sure nothing ever grows here again.
Her towns will all be ghost towns.
Nobody will ever live here again.
Sloppy work in God’s name is cursed,
and cursed all halfhearted use of the sword.
11-17 “Moab has always taken it easy—
lazy as a dog in the sun,
Never had to work for a living,
never faced any trouble,
Never had to grow up,
never once worked up a sweat.
But those days are a thing of the past.
I’ll put him to work at hard labor.
That will wake him up to the world of hard knocks.
That will smash his illusions.
Moab will be as ashamed of god Chemosh
as Israel was ashamed of her Bethel calf-gods,
the calf-gods she thought were so great.
For how long do you think you’ll be saying, ‘We’re tough.
We can beat anyone anywhere’?
The destruction of Moab has already begun.
Her choice young soldiers are lying dead right now.”
The King’s Decree—
his full name, God-of-the-Angel-Armies.
“Yes. Moab’s doom is on countdown,
disaster targeted and launched.
Weep for Moab, friends and neighbors,
all who know how famous he’s been.
Lament, ‘His mighty scepter snapped in two like a toothpick,
that magnificent royal staff!’
18-20 “Come down from your high horse, pampered beauty of Dibon.
Sit in dog dung.
The destroyer of Moab will come against you.
He’ll wreck your safe, secure houses.
Stand on the roadside,
pampered women of Aroer.
Interview the refugees who are running away.
Ask them, ‘What’s happened? And why?’
Moab will be an embarrassing memory, nothing left of the place.
Wail and weep your eyes out!
Tell the bad news along the Arnon river.
Tell the world that Moab is no more.
21-24 “My judgment will come to the plateau cities: on Holon, Jahzah, and Mephaath; on Dibon, Nebo, and Beth-diblathaim; on Kiriathaim, Beth-gamul, and Beth-meon; on Kerioth, Bozrah, and all the cities of Moab, far and near.
25 “Moab’s link to power is severed.
Moab’s arm is broken.” God’s Decree.
26-27 “Turn Moab into a drunken lush, drunk on the wine of my wrath, a dung-faced drunk, filling the country with vomit—Moab a falling-down drunk, a joke in bad taste. Wasn’t it you, Moab, who made crude jokes over Israel? And when they were caught in bad company, didn’t you cluck and gossip and snicker?
28 “Leave town! Leave! Look for a home in the cliffs,
you who grew up in Moab.
Try living like a dove
who nests high in the river gorge.
29-33 “We’ve all heard of Moab’s pride,
that legendary pride,
The strutting, bullying, puffed-up pride,
the insufferable arrogance.
I know”—God’s Decree—“his rooster-crowing pride,
the inflated claims, the sheer nothingness of Moab.
But I will weep for Moab,
yes, I will mourn for the people of Moab.
I will even mourn for the people of Kir-heres.
I’ll weep for the grapevines of Sibmah
and join Jazer in her weeping—
Grapevines that once reached the Dead Sea
with tendrils as far as Jazer.
Your summer fruit and your bursting grapes
will be looted by brutal plunderers,
Lush Moab stripped
of song and laughter.
And yes, I’ll shut down the winepresses,
stop all the shouts and hurrahs of harvest.
34 “Heshbon and Elealeh will cry out, and the people in Jahaz will hear the cries. They will hear them all the way from Zoar to Horonaim and Eglath-shelishiyah. Even the waters of Nimrim will be dried up.
35 “I will put a stop in Moab”—God’s Decree—“to all hiking to the high places to offer burnt sacrifices to the gods.
36 “My heart moans for Moab, for the men of Kir-heres, like soft flute sounds carried by the wind. They’ve lost it all. They’ve got nothing.
37 “Everywhere you look are signs of mourning:
heads shaved, beards cut,
Hands scratched and bleeding,
clothes ripped and torn.
38 “In every house in Moab there’ll be loud lamentation, on every street in Moab, loud lamentation. As with a pottery jug that no one wants, I’ll smash Moab to bits.” God’s Decree.
39 “Moab ruined!
Moab shamed and ashamed to be seen!
Moab a cruel joke!
The stark horror of Moab!”
* * *
40-42 God’s verdict on Moab. Indeed!
“Look! An eagle is about to swoop down
and spread its wings over Moab.
The towns will be captured,
the fortresses taken.
Brave warriors will double up in pain, helpless to fight,
like a woman giving birth to a baby.
There’ll be nothing left of Moab, nothing at all,
because of his defiant arrogance against me.
43-44 “Terror and pit and trap
are what you have facing you, Moab.” God’s Decree.
“A man running in terror
will fall into a trap.
A man climbing out of a pit
will be caught in a trap.
This is my agenda for Moab
on doomsday.” God’s Decree.
45-47 “On the outskirts of Heshbon,
refugees will pull up short, worn out.
Fire will flame high from Heshbon,
a firestorm raging from the capital of Sihon’s kingdom.
It will burn off Moab’s eyebrows,
will scorch the skull of the braggarts.
That’s all for you, Moab!
You worshipers of Chemosh will be finished off!
Your sons will be trucked off to prison camps;
your daughters will be herded into exile.
But yet there’s a day that’s coming
when I’ll put things right in Moab.
“For now, that’s the judgment on Moab.”
25 1-2 My head is high, God, held high;
I’m looking to you, God;
No hangdog skulking for me.
3 I’ve thrown in my lot with you;
You won’t embarrass me, will you?
Or let my enemies get the best of me?
Don’t embarrass any of us
Who went out on a limb for you.
It’s the traitors who should be humiliated.
4 Show me how you work, God;
School me in your ways.
5 Take me by the hand;
Lead me down the path of truth.
You are my Savior, aren’t you?
6 Mark the milestones of your mercy and love, God;
Rebuild the ancient landmarks!
7 Forget that I sowed wild oats;
Mark me with your sign of love.
Plan only the best for me, God!
8 God is fair and just;
He corrects the misdirected,
Sends them in the right direction.
9 He gives the rejects his hand,
And leads them step-by-step.
10 From now on every road you travel
Will take you to God.
Follow the Covenant signs;
Read the charted directions.
11 Keep up your reputation, God;
Forgive my bad life;
It’s been a very bad life.
12 My question: What are God-worshipers like?
Your answer: Arrows aimed at God’s bull’s-eye.
13 They settle down in a promising place;
Their kids inherit a prosperous farm.
14 God-friendship is for God-worshipers;
They are the ones he confides in.
15 If I keep my eyes on God,
I won’t trip over my own feet.
16 Look at me and help me!
I’m all alone and in big trouble.
17 My heart and mind are fighting each other;
Call a truce to this civil war.
18 Take a hard look at my life of hard labor,
Then lift this ton of sin.
19 Do you see how many people
Have it in for me?
How viciously they hate me?
20 Keep watch over me and keep me out of trouble;
Don’t let me down when I run to you.
21 Use all your skill to put me together;
I wait to see your finished product.
22 God, give your people a break
From this run of bad luck.