Growing with God: A daily devotional with Tonia Slimm.
1 Samuel 31:11-13 (NIV)
When the people of Jabesh Gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, all their valiant men marched through the night to Beth Shan. They took down the bodies of Saul and his sons from the wall of Beth Shan and went to Jabesh, where they burned them. Then they took their bones and buried them under a tamarisk tree at Jabesh, and they fasted seven days.
1 Samuel 31:11-13(MSG)
The people of Jabesh Gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul. Their valiant men sprang into action. They traveled all night, took the corpses of Saul and his three sons from the wall at Beth Shan, and carried them back to Jabesh and burned off the flesh. They then buried the bones under the tamarisk tree in Jabesh and fasted in mourning for seven days.
“When the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, all the brave men stood and walked all night, and they took the bodies of Saul and his sons from the wall of Beth-shan, and they came to Jabesh and cremated them there. They took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree at Jabesh, and fasted [as a sign of mourning and respect] for seven days.” -AMPLIFIED
Saul and his sons have been killed in battle against the Philistines. Saul’s army has fled in fear. In fact, “When the people of Israel who were on the other side of the valley, and even those beyond the Jordan River, learned that the Israelite army had been defeated and heard that Saul and his sons were dead, they left their cities and fled. Then the Philistines came and lived in them.” -1 Samuel 31:7 (VOICE)
Scripture tells us that the day after their deaths, when the Philistines had come back to loot the bodies, they stumbled upon Saul and his sons and they did something horrific. “They cut off Saul’s head, stripped his body of his weapons, and sent messengers with the good news to the temples and to the people throughout Philistia. They put Saul’s armor in the temple of Astarte and nailed his body to the wall at Beth-shan.” -1 Samuel 31:9-10 (VOICE)
The Philistines not only desecrated Saul’s body by removing his head, but they nailed his body and the bodies of his sons to the wall at Beth Shan. Now, we may wonder how it was possible for news to travel so quickly, but somehow news got back to Israel. In fact, it made its way to Jabesh-gilead, the village that Saul had rescued from an attack led by Nahash the Ammonite; way back in chapter 11. This act of kindness extended to the people of this village was about to be repaid by a thoughtful expression of their gratitude to their fallen king.
When the news had reached the ears of the people of Jabesh-gilead, and they heard how terribly the body of their fallen king had been treated, these courageous men decided that they needed to do something about this horrible situation. We are told that these valiant group of men marched through the night to retrieve their king’s body, and the bodies of his sons, in order to give them a respectable burial.
We are told that these men retrieved the remains and did something that is NOT a norm for the people of Israel; they burned the bodies. Why would they do such a thing after traveling so far to retrieve them? They were worried that the Philistines would dig up the bones once again and further insult them. So these men took drastic measures in order to protect the honor of their king.
The men retrieved the bodies and carried them back to Jabesh-gilead in order to bury them. There, under a tamarisk tree, they reverently laid their king and his sons. The people of Jabesh-gilead then fasted seven days in mourning for their king. All of this was a gesture of appreciation and respect for their now passed king.
These men went out of their way to show respect to their king. Saul had helped them in their hour of need and in return they helped him. Saul was not the best king, he had disobeyed God, neglected his duties to chase after his son-in-law, battled evil spirits and let his pride dictate how he lived his life. But God had placed him as King of Israel and he still deserved respect and honor.
David too showed respect for the Lord’s anointed one. Time and time again, when Saul was pursuing him, he had opportunity to kill Saul, but he understood the need to respect the man that God had placed in authority.
The Apostle Paul warns us that we too need to show respect to whatever government rules over us. “Be a good citizen. All governments are under God. Insofar as there is peace and order, it’s God’s order. So live responsibly as a citizen. If you’re irresponsible to the state, then you’re irresponsible with God, and God will hold you responsible. Duly constituted authorities are only a threat if you’re trying to get by with something. Decent citizens should have nothing to fear.” -Romans 13:1-3 (MSG)
The Apostle Peter also had something to say about respecting authority. “Make the Master proud of you by being good citizens. Respect the authorities, whatever their level; they are God’s emissaries for keeping order. It is God’s will that by doing good, you might cure the ignorance of the fools who think you’re a danger to society. Exercise your freedom by serving God, not by breaking the rules. Treat everyone you meet with dignity. Love your spiritual family. Revere God. Respect the government.” -1 Peter 2:13-17 (MSG)
We would do well to respect the authority that has been placed over each of us as well. This does not mean that we agree with everything that the authority says or does, but it does mean that we should be showing them honor and respect. For ultimately it is God who has allowed them to be placed in authority over us. Pray for them! They have a difficult job and they need it!
Lord, help me to be respectful of those whom you have placed in authority over me. They may not be perfect and they may do things that I do not agree with, but you have placed them in authority. I pray that you will bless these men and women who lead us. Give them wisdom in making decisions that affect so many; they have a great responsibility. God, allow your Holy Spirit to lead and guide.