They said to the messengers who had come, ‘Thus you shall say to the men of Jabesh-gilead, ‘Tomorrow, by the time the sun is hot, you will have deliverance.’’ (1 Samuel 11:9)
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it’s been pretty hot the last few weeks. Of course, that’s meant to be a bit of a joke. It would be hard to not notice how hot it has been. It’s so hot that it’s a good time to pull out all of those “It’s so hot” jokes:
It’s so hot that all the bread in the store is toast!
It’s so hot that the cows are giving evaporated milk!
It’s so hot that the birds have to use potholders to pull worms out of the ground!
It’s so hot that you can make INSTANT sun tea!
It’s so hot that your car overheats before you drive it!
It’s so hot that even white collar workers are red necks.
Okay, I got that out of my system. But, it is hot. You may have noticed it’s gotten a little hot in our nation and the world as well. Republicans, Democrats, and political pundits going at it like a pay-per-view UFC fight, Twitter trends, #NeverHillary, #NeverTrump, he said, she said, focus groups, polling numbers, email hacks, protests. Mix in what has become an almost daily occurrence of terrorist attacks and you have a nation that feels like it’s sitting on a powder keg with a very short fuse, and everybody’s got a match in their hands! Honestly, in a weird sort of way, America has become its own reality TV show. In the midst of all of this “heat” what are Christians to do? First:
Remember who’s in charge:
The context for the verse above was this, a guy named Nahash brought an army up and surrounded and besieged the city of Jabesh-gilead. The people of the city were fearful for their lives. So, they met with Nahash, asking for a peace treaty, and promising that they would serve Nahash in return. Basically they were ready to surrender.
Nahash’s response probably didn’t thrill them because in v.2 it says: But Nahash the Ammonite said to them, ‘I will make it with you on this condition, that I will gouge out the right eye of every one of you, thus I will make it a reproach on all Israel.’ (1 Samuel 11:2)
Basically Nahash said to them: “I’ll give you peace, but I’m going to take a piece of you first. Not a very promising future, and plenty of reason to be afraid. When Saul heard about what was happening over in Jabesh-gilead he got a little hot under the collar:
Now behold, Saul was coming from the field behind the oxen, and he said, ‘What is the matter with the people that they weep?’ So they related to him the words of the men of Jabesh. Then the Spirit of God came upon Saul mightily when he heard these words, and he became very angry. He took a yoke of oxen and cut them in pieces, and sent them throughout the territory of Israel by the hand of messengers, saying, ‘Whoever does not come out after Saul and after Samuel, so shall it be done to his oxen.’ Then the dread of the Lord fell on the people, and they came out as one man. He numbered them in Bezek; and the sons of Israel were 300,000, and the men of Judah 30,000. They said to the messengers who had come, ‘Thus you shall say to the men of Jabesh-gilead, ‘Tomorrow, by the time the sun is hot, you will have deliverance.’’ So the messengers went and told the men of Jabesh; and they were glad. (1 Samuel 11:5-9)
“And they were glad.” That may well be one of the great understatements in all the Bible. I’ll bet they were glad! Up to this point they were looking at one of two outcomes, annihilation, or eye-hilation! “Um, yes Nahash, we’ll take what’s behind curtain number three – Divine liberation!
Listen to Me, you who already live out what is true and right, who treasure My instruction within your hearts: don’t be afraid of people’s scorn. Don’t let their dismissive criticism, bitter anger, or hatred get you down. (Isaiah 51:7 TVT)
The truth is God has not vacated His throne, and He is still large and in charge. In the midst of the seeming chaos and uncertainty of this world, remember: Some trust in chariots, others in horses, but we trust the Lord our God. (Psalm 20:7)
Remember your charge:
Remembering that God is in charge, and trusting in Him doesn’t necessarily mean we can sit back and twittle our thumbs until Jesus comes. In the story in 1 Samuel God used Saul, a guy who turned out not to be very godly, by the way, to stir the people’s heart’s to action. You and I are called to be salt and light in this world; to go to war with the forces of darkness. The battle is not ours, it’s the Lord’s. But, we are also the Lord’s, and He uses us in the battle. So, what is our responsibility in this battle, particularly in our American context? This may not be an exhaustive list, but it’s a good place to start. First:
Voice – When I say to the wicked, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to warn the wicked from his wicked way that he may live, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. (Ezekiel 3:18)
That doesn’t mean we speak arrogantly, or self-righteously, but we have a responsibility before God to speak truthfully into people’s lives, and into the life of our nation. We have to be willing to say what is right and what is wrong, what is righteous and what is sin, based on God’s standard, not the world’s.
People may reject it. They may scoff at it. They may hate you for it, but our love for God, and love for men and women created in God’s image, should motivate us to speak up for righteousness, and warn of God’s wrath on wickedness. It should embolden us to speak of God’s grace and the forgiveness that is found at the cross. Second:
Value – You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its salty taste, it cannot be made salty again. It is good for nothing, except to be thrown out and walked on. You are the light that gives light to the world. A city that is built on a hill cannot be hidden. And people don’t hide a light under a bowl. They put it on a lampstand so the light shines for all the people in the house. In the same way, you should be a light for other people. Live so that they will see the good things you do and will praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:13-16 NCV)
There is an old saying: “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” There is a lot of truth in that statement. We are, as the Apostle Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 5:20, “ambassadors for Christ.” We are His representatives in this decaying, dark world. We have to show people what the love of God looks like, by loving people, even people that we don’t agree with. We have to show them why following God is better than anything the world has to offer. We have to show them the value of godliness, and we can’t do that sitting in our pews. (Or, soft auditorium seats in our case) We have to be the hands and feet of Jesus, so that, even if people don’t agree with us, they won’t be able to deny our love and concern for them, and the good we are doing in God’s world. (By the way, we’re picking up trash on Westgate Saturday morning. I’m just saying.) Finally:
Vote – First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
We happen to have the privilege of being born into a country where we the people elect those in high position in our nation. Most nations and peoples of the world throughout history have not had this right. It is a precious thing. It is a right that men and women have fought and died to procure and protect.
With this privilege comes the responsibility to try to elect men and women that, from what we can know about them, have the greatest potential to bring the greatest amount of righteousness to our nation, and to our world. Honestly, concerns like economic prosperity and even our precious second amendment, take a backseat to decisions that impact the moral fabric of our nation. The reason is simple, it is our morality, not our prosperity that is of greatest concern to our God, because righteousness and holiness best reflects the character of God, and provides the greatest opportunity for every life, including those still inside the womb, to be treated fairly.
Our nation has had godly leaders, and our nation has had ungodly leaders. Our responsibility is to be involved in the process. For some that may mean becoming one of those leaders, getting involved in the political process. For all of us though, it should mean that we vote for the greatest potential for righteousness in our nation, and that we pray for those in authority over us, whether we agree with them or not.
It’s probably going to get even hotter in the days ahead, and I’m not talking about the weather necessarily. There is a lot riding on this election, maybe as much as any election in our lifetime. This is an opportunity for followers of Jesus to show the world that we can stand up for what we believe is biblically right, and we can do it without slandering others and without lying. We can show love to each other, and to the world around us. Now that’s pretty cool.
Dr. J. Clay Stevens is Lead Pastor of Cross Culture Church in Raleigh, NC. He is author of the book I Get It! Discovering How To Really live In The Promises Of God. His life mission statement is: "To take people from where they are to where God wants them to be."