1 Samuel 11: Let Us Go to Gilgal

I Samuel 11:  Let Us Go to Gilgal

When a change in leadership occurs, the leader will be tested by his enemies both from outside and inside. We read in the last verse of I Samuel 10, there was those in Israel who despised King Saul and questioned his ability: “How can this man save us?”   George W. Bush had been president less than 9 months when the terrorist struck down the Twin Towers, attacked our Pentagon and were on their way to take down the White House before they were stopped.

All through history we see leaders tested, we see nations tested. Israel had asked for a king like the other nations so they would have one leader who could unite the people and thus face their enemies. Even though God as Israel’s King had shown Himself mighty on behalf of the nation of Israel in delivering them from Egypt with a mighty hand, the people wanted to trust the created, rather than the Creator. God gave them Saul as their king. 

In today’s lesson we see King Saul face his first test as King.  The attack occurs against Jabesh Gilead which was located about 50 miles from Saul’s home.  The Ammonites are led by a man named, Nahash.  Nahash in Hebrew means “snake.”  The Ammonites are related to the Israelites. In Genesis 19, we read the what happened with Lot and his family when they fled Sodom and Gomorrah.  Seeking safety in a cave, Lot’s daughters conspired to get their father drunk and lie with him as a way of preserving the family line. The result was two sons, Moab, father of the Moabites, and Ben-Ammi, father of the Ammonites. These two nations would become bitter enemies of Abraham’s descendants.

Nahash surrounds the city and then makes an offer to negotiate surrender. One of his provisions for surrender is each man must have his right eye gouged out. This crippling punishment would render their men ineffective as archers and swordsmen. Nahash would subdue the city without killing anyone and obtain all their wealth and enslave the people at the same time.  Paul said, ‘the one to whom you present yourself slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death or of obedience leading to righteousness. 

The people of Jabesh ask for seven days delay, in hope of seeking help. Word comes to Saul and we read in verse 6: “The Spirit of God came upon Saul when he heard this news, and his anger was greatly aroused. “  Saul took his team of oxen and cut them into pieces and sent them throughout the all the territory of Israel. Here was his message to Israel: join me in battle or the same will happen to you.  Notice also Saul links himself with Samuel.


“And the fear of the Lord fell on the people, and they came out with one consent.”  We will see King Saul mobilize an army of 330,000 men. He then shows his ability to wage war as he divides his forces in three companies and attacked the Ammonites in the mid-morning watch and killed Ammonites until the heat of the day.  Saul recognizes the Lord’s role in their victory and his first test as king is successful. As we will see in this study in days to come, Saul will become more prideful and abusive. Interesting Paul, the great apostle was named Saul and in his natural abilities, talent and intelligence, he was proud of his accomplishments and grew even more abusive toward Christians.


“The Samuel said to the people, “Come let us go to Gilgal and renew the kingdom there.” So let’s return to Gilgal to renew the kingdom.   Renew as a verb means to resume an activity after an interruption; to restore or refresh.

So let’s return to the story of Gilgal and its significance.

Did you notice in today’s story in verse seven, the “fear of the Lord fell on the people, and they came out with one consent.”  Does it seem to you today, there is no fear of God in our country? Does it seem to you other countries have ceased to fear America? But let me ask you an even more personal question:  do you fear God’s judgment of your sins? Do you presume to sin as a believer, because you presume God will not judge your sins?

Let us go back to the story of Joshua in his new role as leader of Israel. Here is his first test:  lead the people of Israel across the Jordan River and take the Promised Land. Now the God who parted the Red Sea would have no problem parting the Jordan River.

Let’s look at the steps of preparation necessary before God would give His people victory in Canaan. Canaan is the Promised Land.  It is a land flowing with milk and honey and grapes so large a cluster had to be carried on a staff by two men. It is a picture of the abundant, spirit-filled life Jesus came to give us. The physical and external in this story of Gilgal represent the steps we must take to experience the Spirit-filled, Spirit-led abundant Promised Land Life. We will see entering the Promised Land took place as they did what God commanded, without question, one step at a time. 

Now let’s look at the overall picture of what was about to happen after 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. Here was the situation:  their revered leader Moses had died and the appointment of Joshua as their new leader. He immediately is told by God to take them into the Promised Land. Think about their concerns and realize they are the same concerns we face when God calls us to do something for Him which get us out of our comfort zone.

1.     God sometimes asks us to go where we have never been before.

2.     God leads the way; He always goes before us.

3.     Faith sometimes requires you get your feet wet. After all if you want to walk on the water, you have to get out of the boat of your comfort zone.

4.     God’s best always comes through faith.

In Joshua 3 we read the leaders went through the camp and gave people instructions:

“When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests who are the Levites, carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. Then you will know the way to go since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about 1000 yards between you and the ark.” Give God room and time to work, especially when you are going somewhere you have never been before.  Jesus said: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”  You will never know the way to go in life, until you know the Truth.

Joshua 3: 15 tells us: “Now the Jordan is at flood stage during the harvest.” Be ready for this- when you determine to trust and obey and step out in faith on God’s Word, the enemy will come in like a flood. As soon as they took the first step into the river, the waters backed up and they passed through on dry land.

Joshua 5 tells us the effect on the enemies of God’s people:  “ Now when the Amorite kings west of the Jordan and all the Canaanite kings along the coast heard about how the Lord had dried up the Jordan before the Israelites crossed over, their hearts melted and they no longer had the courage to face the Israelites. “

Now what happens next makes no sense in terms of preparing for a battle. God instructed Joshua to have all the men circumcised. We read the generation born in the wilderness had not been circumcised. Circumcision was the physical sign which had been a sign of the covenant God made with Abraham. It marked them as God’s people. It also is a picture of cutting off the flesh, our old nature.   For the nation of Israel it was a renewal of their commitment. This was a test of faith. To voluntarily put themselves in a physical condition where they could not defend themselves much less go into battle after this surgical procedure.  If these people were doing what was right in their own eyes, this would not have ever been done. They have decided to follow the Lord, no turning back, no turning back.

After this they celebrate the Passover. This would include telling of the Passover Story and how God delivered them from Egypt with a mighty hand and led them every step of the way. The Passover story reminded them of the goodness of the Lord, of His faithfulness and of His Might, Power, and Mercy.

“Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or our enemy? Neither, he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come. Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant? The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground and Joshua did so. “  Remember God told Joshua He would be with him like he was with Moses.  Here is an encounter much like the encounter of Moses with God at the burning bush where he was commissioned by the God to lead His people out.

Now God will commission Joshua to lead His people into the Promise Land. For we get in the Promised Land, the same way we got out of Egypt, by grace through faith.

Here are the steps of preparation:

1.     Renewal of your commitment to the Lord. Renewal means to refresh, to re-energize, restore. The Promised Land is a picture of the Spirit-filled life. We realize this is a continuous process for the believer. We are prone to sin, it is important for renewal and refreshing and refilling to be a part of our practice as we seek to live lives which reflect the glory of God. Renewing our minds is a very important part of this process: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing or your mind. The you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.”( Romans 12: 2)  Remember you are in the service of the Lord. You are His soldier, His servant- awaiting His orders. In return He has promised to provide you with everything you need.  In days gone by, we used to see a decision by believers in the church we called “re-dedication”.  It was a coming forward to acknowledge they had wandered away and wanted to renew their fellowship with God. Renewal of one’s commitment.

2.     Remember God’s goodness.  The celebration of Passover was a time of remembrance and re-telling of the story of the Passover and how God was faithful to save them with a mighty hand and lead them out of Egypt.  When faced with difficult times, remember what He has done for you in the past. He saved my life. He gave me hope when I was hopeless. He got me sober and removed the desire to drink. He has given me so much and is always faithful. He has never forsaken me. Looking back I can see how faithful He has been to me.

3.     God told Joshua I will be with you like I was with Moses. And He has told us He will be with us and never forsake us. He has sent His Holy Spirit, the third, and co-equal person of the Trinity to indwell me and seal me.  He is the earnest deposit, His guarantee of my inheritance.  In Deut. 11:20, 21 God instruct them to: “ Write them ( His commands) on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that the days of your children may be many in the land that the Lord swore to give to your forefathers, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.”

God knows we need times of renewal and refreshing. Here we see in the story of Gilgal- the steps – 1. Renewal, refreshing a time of rededication; 2. Remembering God’s goodness and faithfulness and 3. Realizing He will never leave us or forsake us.

Here is how it starts.

1.     Sit down. Everyone probably has their favorite chair, or spot on a sofa where they sit down to rest at day’s end. What we need to see is this where we start, not end in our serving the Lord. We start from a position of rest, seated in Christ Jesus in heaven. God raised the Resurrected Lord up to heaven and seated Him at His right hand. “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. “ ( Ephesians 2: 6) When Jesus said, “It is Finished!”  He was telling the world, I have done everything that needed to be done. I have completed the task. He did all the work. This was God’s principle from the very start. God created Adam on the sixth day. He rested on the seventh day. So Adam’s first day of his new life was a day of rest. God had done everything. It was finished. Mankind must first enter God’s rest of completed, perfect work before they can take up the work God has for man. God has completed the work of redemption. We enter into it by grace through faith and that not of ourselves; it is a gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast. We are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works which He has ordained we walk in.

2.     Next step- Walk after we sit.  When Paul talks about our “walk”, he is talking about how we live life. He told us not to walk in the flesh, but in the Spirit.  We are to walk in the light as He is in the light.

3.     Finally we stand. Sit- walk- stand.  We stand in battle. Stand means this our possession our inheritance in which we stand. This means the victory has already been won. We do not fight FOR victory; we fight FROM victory- Victory in Jesus!

I visualize that cluster of grapes so large it took two men to carry it and realize they were getting a glimpse back then and as they tasted those grapes a foretaste of glory divine.

Blessed Assurance – Jesus is Mine! Oh what a foretaste of glory divine! Heir of salvation, purchase of God. Born of His Spirit, washed in His Blood.  Perfect submission, all is at rest. I in my Savior, happy and blest, watching and waiting, looking above. Filled with His goodness, lost in His love. This is story, this is my song. Praising my Savior all the day long.

Are you at rest? Are you happy and blest? Are you watching and waiting and looking above? Are you filled with His goodness and lost in His Love?

If not- then you need to go to Gilgal and be refreshed. Let us go to Gilgal and renew the kingdom of God!