All the Valiant Men Arose (1 Samuel 31:8-13)

“And it came to pass on the morrow, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his three sons fallen in mount Gilboa.  And they cut off his head, and stripped off his armour, and sent into the land of the Philistines round about, to publish it in the house of their idols, and among the people.  And they put his armour in the house of Ashtaroth: and they fastened his body to the wall of Bethshan.  And when the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead heard of that which the Philistines had done to Saul; All the valiant men arose, and went all night, and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Bethshan, and came to Jabesh, and burnt them there.  And they took their bones, and buried them under a tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days.”

     Jabeshgilead stands out early on in Israel’s history in the Promised Land.  And there would be a connection between Saul and Jabeshgilead that took place before he was ever born.  Years before the reign of Saul, a rebellion took place in Israel.  In the book of Judges and chapter nineteen, we find a heinous crime has taken place in the territory of Benjamin among the inhabitants of Gibeah.  All of Israel is called together in chapter twenty to meet out justice.  The tribe of Benjamin is asked to turn in the guilty to the authorities for judgment.  The tribe, however, refuses to do so.  What follows is a long and bloody series of battles that leaves over sixty-five thousand men dead and the entire tribe of Benjamin decimated except for six hundred men. 

      The rest of the tribes wept before the Lord and asked Him what to do about this now nearly extinct tribe.  You see, the tribes had taken a vow not to gives their daughters to Benjamin to marry.  There were no women left of Benjamin and the remaining men were holed up in a cave.  Two hundred of the daughters of Shiloh were whisked away by the men of Benjamin in a prearranged setup.  But what would become of the other four hundred men?  The decision was made to destroy whichever city that had not sent anyone to the battle, save alive four hundred virgins, and give them to the tribe of Benjamin for wives.  There was just one city that did not send anyone to the battle.  That city was Jabeshgilead.  The tribe of Benjamin was rebuilt over time and two-thirds of the mothers of Benjamin were of Jabeshgilead. 

      Fast-forwarding through time, we come to 1 Samuel chapter eleven.  This is the beginning of Saul’s reign, the first king of Israel who happened to be of the tribe of Benjamin and from the region of Gibeah.  This is where we find a much deeper connection between Saul and Jabeshgilead.  You see, men are rarely valiant unless they are inspired to it.  Whether it is on the physical battlefield or on the spiritual battlefield, we are generally inspired to courage. 

      We are moved to fight for what is right because we watched someone else fight for what is right.  We are valiant because someone else was valiant for us.  It always has been, but in the day we live especially, the need is great for valiant Christians in the church and in the fight for the truth of the Gospel.  Let’s look at some things from God’s Word that will help us be valiant for Christ.  The first thing I’d like you to see is…

I.  The Memory of the Victory. In chapter eleven, forty years before the valiant men arise; we find the city of Jabeshgilead under siege by the Ammonites.  The Ammonites were marauders.  Under the leadership of Nahash, they encamped against a solitary city in Israel.  Saul had just been anointed king, but Israel was still just a loose confederation at this point.  The land was very easily invaded as there was little nationally organized defense.  Jabeshgilead finds itself in a doomed condition.  I can almost see those old men amongst the valiant as they prepare to assault Beth-shan and get Saul’s body back.  Maybe they stood still and went back in their minds’ eye to when they had not felt so valiant.  Perhaps they thought back to the day when their city was on the brink of destruction.  Most everyone can go back to a low point in their life.  Perhaps it was before you got saved or maybe it was afterward, but you can remember a time when you felt like there was no way out.  Maybe it seemed as if no matter what you did, things were going to end badly.  That’s where Jabeshgilead was when the Ammonites surrounded the city.  It seemed that no matter what they did, there would be…
A.  A Reproach on Israel. If they surrendered to the Ammonites, it would bring shame not just to Jabeshgilead but to all of Israel.  More so, it would bring reproach upon the name of God.  If they fought, they would be slaughtered fairly quickly and still there would be a reproach because of an easy victory for the Ammonites.  Our decisions always affect more than just us.  There are others to consider.  Truthfully, if all Israel had been right with God including Jabeshgilead than perhaps the situation would not have been as dire in the first place.
1.  The Fear-filled Decision. Jabeshgilead was surrounded by an unbeatable foe.  What should they do?  How could they get out of this?  One small city versus an army?  What could be done?  Christians everywhere often look at the battle of living for God, or the battle against the world for their children, or the battle for holiness in the church, or the battle for souls and think that there’s nothing that can be done.  The men of Jabeshgilead decided it would be better to capitulate than die.  O that God’s people would decide that it is would be better to die than capitulate.  Some battles are always worth fighting.
2.  Facing Desperation. Jabeshgilead was between a rock and a hard place.  Nahash said that he would accept them as his servants only if he thrust out their right eye first.  This meant more than just simple servitude.  The soldier of ancient times generally held his shield in his left hand.  It blocked his view from that eye.  Without the right eye, a soldier would be blind in battle.  This meant no possibility of ever rising up against their masters.  Sometimes that’s where we seem to be…facing a desperate situation with no way out.  They needed a deliverer, and so do we.  We need our champion, the Lord Jesus Christ to take up our cause and give us victory.
B.  A Response from the Indignant. Complacency is the Christian’s worst enemy.  Complacency says we can’t do anything about it.  If we believe we can’t do anything about it, then we won’t do anything about it!  Complacency stops the forward momentum of the Christian life.  Where there is complacency there is no growth.  God can turn the tide against evil, but God’s people must rise, deal with their own sin, and not stand by idly.  Decide that you will not go silently into the night, that you will live for God and stand against sin.
1.  A Failed Determination. When Israel heard about the dire situation of Jabeshgilead, they wept.  There doesn’t seem to be a call to action amongst the people.  At some point we have to realize it is not enough to be upset about sin.  It’s not enough to bemoan it.  Yes, we might be upset, but lest we act, it amounts to a waste.  There must be a turning point where we say enough is enough and act.  We must go to the battle.  And this battle is for the souls of men.
2.  A Fiery Demand. So often, the whole won’t act until the one does.  Saul came in out of the field.  He found the people weeping but did not know the reason.  When he found out the reason, his reaction was different than that of the people.  The Spirit of God came upon him, and in righteous anger he spurred a people to take up the fight for a righteous cause.  Saul fought for a city.  What will we fight for?  Will we fight for our city?  Will we fight for our state, our country, our world?  The stakes are much greater than ever before.  What will we do?
II.  The Motive of the Valiant. What makes valiant men arise?  What makes ordinary men become valiant men?  What changed in the hearts of these men to make them hazard their lives for a man that was already dead?  What makes the soldiers that guard the tomb of the Unknown Soldier keep their post in a hurricane when they’ve been ordered to leave?  Saul’s death occurred forty years after his rescue of Jabeshgilead.  Many of those valiant men may never have even met Saul.  Why would they do what they did?  What motivates you?  As a Christian, why do you do what you do?  How far does that motivation take you?  How far are you willing to go for Christ?
A.  A Matter of Honor. For the valiant men, it was a matter of honor.  Saul was their hero and the king of Israel.  His position and his feats demanded that such action be taken.  Not even his body deserved this kind of treatment.  They remembered Saul’s sacrifice.  They remembered his loyalty.  They remembered how far he went to rescue their city.  They owed everything to Saul.  And let me say this, we owe all to Jesus Christ.  Should there be a limit on how far we will go for Him?
1.  An Unforgettable Defeat. Saul’s last battle was a resounding defeat.  His heart was hardened. He had no help from God.  His forces were routed.  He and three of his sons died on the battlefield.  Saul resorted to taking his own life.  Israel was on the run.  With the bodies of Saul and sons in the hands of the Philistines, the moral of Israel would beyond repair.  It was the men of Jabeshgilead that decided not to let it get any worse.
2.  An Unwarranted Desecration. The Philistines cut off the heads of Saul and his sons.  They put their armor in the temple of their false god.  The armor, the identifying items of the king of Jehovah’s people was placed in an idol’s temple after being paraded through their cities.  Then they fastened the bodies to the wall of Beth-shan.  It was the wall that faced the land of Israel for all of God’s people to see.
B.  A Moment of Heroism. What if your life amounted to one pivotal moment?  What if there was only one thing you’d be known for?  Would you seize the moment?  What if there was just one opportunity that you have to make a difference for Christ?  Well, we are presented with not just one opportunity.  Every day is an opportunity to impact this world for Christ.  Why not have a moment of heroism every day and reach a world for Christ?
1.  An Unusual Defiance. This moment of heroism greatly differed from the track record of Jabeshgilead.  Up to this point, we don’t see much in the way of a warrior spirit in these men.  They wouldn’t come to the fight against Benjamin.  They wouldn’t defend themselves against Ammon.  They don’t seem to be at the battle against the Philistines.  But this time it was personal.  Nothing becomes powerful until it is personal.  Take the cause of Christ to heart.
2.  An Unflappable Devotion. This is devotion that sees beyond a man’s faults.  This is devotion that moves you to do what you would not normally do.  It’s not easy to inspire men to this kind of devotion.  Saul rescued a city and won the hearts of two generations.  Christ has rescued our souls from eternity in hell, and He has no faults.  He has no failures.  How much more devotion should He receive?
III.  The Memorial by the Vigilant. Then all the valiant men arose.  Jabeshgilead was, archeologists believe, about twelve miles from the Philistine city of Beth-shan.  It was far enough to be a long journey when you’re in a hurry, but close enough to infuriate the men who had come to revere Saul as their hero.  The valiant men arose and went all night to reach that wall.  They went all night with a determination that the men of that city had never known before.  They went all night with one goal in mind.  They desired the proper respect for Saul.  They desired to make good on what Saul had taught them.  They existed because Saul committed himself to their fight.  Now, they were following through on that example, and that was a far greater memorial than giving his body a proper burial.  We’ve had so many that have gone before and paved the way for us.  So many have lived and died for Jesus Christ.  We are encompassed about by so great a cloud of witnesses.  So many took the time to make a difference for Christ in our lives.  May that we be a people who make a memorial unto them by following through on what they have taught us, and then making a difference for Christ in the life of someone else.
A.  The Worth of a Name. “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold.”  Saul’s name meant something to the men of Jabeshgilead.  They knew his name would still mean something to his family and to many in Israel.  They couldn’t stand the idea of men of Beth-shan laughing about the king of Israel’s body hanging on their wall.  Saul made many ruinous decisions, but he earned a good name with Jabeshgilead.  They were determined to protect it from the likes of the Philistines. 
1.  A Loyal Tribute. It was a sad thing that it was only the men of Jabeshgilead and not all of Israel that took back those bodies.  The life Saul lived after he delivered Jabeshgilead tarnished the memory others had of him.  It weakened his effectiveness.  It destroyed his ability to inspire.  The legacy we leave behind us in not left in buildings or events.  It’s left in people.  Saul had a long list of sins and mistakes.  At least from his influence, he left some valiant men behind, but what could his influence have been like?
2.  A Loving Tenderness. The valiant men of Jabeshgilead weren’t the only ones to memorialize Saul.  David had served under Saul, had learned from Saul, and remained loyal to him even after Saul’s death.  He mourned for Saul and his sons.  He thanked Jabeshgilead.  Years later he took those bones and buried them in the tomb of Saul’s father.  Saul had done some terrible things to David and to others.  We are going to fail people.  We are going to hurt people.  But what will we be remembered more for, the help or for the hurt? 
B.  The Worship of a Name. It would be a big stretch to make Saul a type of Christ here, but I would be remiss if I did not point our attention back to Christ.  Truly, the greatest battle and the greatest deliverance that ever took place happened on the cross of Calvary.  The cross is the greatest memorial in history.
1.  A Living Testament.  The cross is not just a memorial of death.  It is a memorial to everlasting life.  It is a memorial to what God can do in a life.  We are a living testament of the victory Christ has won.  We are a living memorial of His victory over sin, death, the grave, and hell. 

2.  A Lasting Triumph. Jabeshgilead is gone now.  We are only approximately sure of its location.  Saul’s bones and that of his sons have long since turned to dust.  But we have a living Savior, a living Victor, and a living Deliverer that sits at the right hand of the Father and will one day have final and lasting triumph and rule forever.