The Signs of the Times


July 27, 1882

The Inauguration at Gilgal


Saul had been chosen by God and acknowledged by the nation as king of Israel; yet he made no attempt to maintain his right to the throne. In his home among the uplands of Benjamin he quietly occupied himself in the duties of a husbandman, and left the establishment of his authority entirely to the hand of God. It was not to be long deferred. Soon after his election, the Ammonites, under their king, Nahash, invaded the disputed territory east of the Jordan, and threatened the large and powerful city of Jabesh-gilead. The inhabitants endeavored to secure terms of peace by offering to become tributary to the Ammonites. But the barbarous and cruel king refused to spare them, except on condition that he might put out the right eye of every one of them, that they might remain as so many living monuments of his power. ST July 27, 1882, par. 1

The people of the besieged city begged a respite of seven days for deliberation, hoping that during this time the tribes on the west side of the river might be summoned to their deliverance. The Ammonites consented, reasoning that if the matter were thus made public it would greatly increase the honor of their expected triumph. ST July 27, 1882, par. 2

Swift messengers spread the tidings through Israel, creating wide-spread terror and consternation. Saul, returning with his herds from the field, heard the loud wail that told of some great calamity. He said, “What aileth the people that they weep?” When the shameful story was repeated, all his dormant powers were roused, and he stood up as a hero and a king. “The Spirit of God came upon him,” as on Samson, and “he took a yoke of oxen, and hewed them in pieces, and sent them throughout all the coasts of Israel by the hands of messengers, saying, Whosoever cometh not forth after Saul and after Samuel, so shall it be done unto his oxen.” ST July 27, 1882, par. 3

All Israel obeyed. Three hundred and thirty thousand men gathered on the plain of Bezek, under the command of Saul. Messengers were immediately sent to apprise the people of Jabesh-gilead that they might expect help on the morrow, the very day on which they were to yield up their eyes to the Ammonites. ST July 27, 1882, par. 4

By marching all night, the king appeared with his army before Jabesh-gilead in the morning. He then divided his force into three companies, which approached the camp of the Ammonites upon different sides, and making a sudden and vigorous attack, completely routed them, with great slaughter. Those who escaped were so scattered that no two could be found together. ST July 27, 1882, par. 5

By the king's promptitude and energy upon this occasion, as well as his bravery and military skill, the people were far more strongly influenced in his favor than they had been by the Lord's appointment, Samuel's anointing, or his own prepossessing appearance. They now, by universal acclamation, greeted him as their king, attributing all the honor of the victory to human skill, and forgetting that without God's special blessing all their efforts would have been in vain. ST July 27, 1882, par. 6

In their enthusiasm, some proposed to put to death those who had at first refused to submit to the new sovereign. But the king interfered, saying, “There shall not a man be put to death this day; for today the Lord hath wrought salvation in Israel.” Here Saul gave evidence of the great change which had taken place in his character. Instead of taking honor to himself, he gave the glory to God, to whom it rightfully belonged. Instead of showing a desire for revenge, as would have been natural, he manifested a spirit of compassion and forgiveness. This is unmistakable evidence that the grace of God dwells in the heart. ST July 27, 1882, par. 7

Samuel now proposed that the people go to Gilgal, and there solemnly confirm the kingdom to Saul, all opposition to his authority seeming now to have ceased. This was done, with great rejoicing, and abundant sacrifices of thanksgiving. ST July 27, 1882, par. 8

Gilgal was memorable as the place of Israel's first encampment in the promised land. Here Joshua set up the pillar of twelve stones to commemorate the miraculous passage of the Jordan; here the manna ceased; here circumcision was renewed; here the people kept the first passover after their wanderings; here the Captain of the Lord's host appeared. From this place they marched to the overthrow of Jericho and the conquest of Ai. Here Achan met the direful penalty of his sin, and here was made that unwise treaty with the Gibeonites which punished Israel's neglect to ask counsel of God. Upon this plain, so rich in thrilling associations, stood Samuel and Saul; and when the shouts of welcome to the king had died away, the aged prophet spoke to the people his parting words as ruler of the nation. ST July 27, 1882, par. 9

Lest the blessings granted to Israel should lead them to justify all their proceedings, Samuel took this occasion to admonish them that their course had been most displeasing to God. He also vindicated his own conduct and the purity of his administration. He called upon the people to cite one instance of fraud, oppression, or corruption, while he alone was their judge: ST July 27, 1882, par. 10

“Behold, I have hearkened unto your voice in all that ye said to me, and have made a king over you. And now, behold, the king walketh before you; and I am old and gray-headed; and behold, my sons are with you; and I have walked before you from my childhood unto this day. Behold, here I am: witness against me before the Lord, and before his anointed: whose ox have I taken? or whose ass have I taken? or whom have I defrauded? whom have I oppressed? or of whose hand have I received any bribe, to blind mine eyes therewith? and I will restore it to you.” ST July 27, 1882, par. 11

Without one dissenting voice, the people replied, “Thou hast not defrauded us, nor oppressed us, neither hast thou taken aught of any man's hand.” ST July 27, 1882, par. 12

Samuel had a higher object than merely to justify his own course. He had previously endeavored to set forth the principles which should govern both the king and the people, and he now desired to present before them an instructive example. From childhood, he had borne responsibilities in the work of God, and during his long life, one object had been ever before him,—the glory of God and the highest good of Israel. This had been apparent to the whole nation, and all now bore testimony to his integrity and faithfulness. ST July 27, 1882, par. 13

The honor accorded him who is concluding his work is of far more worth than the applause and congratulations which those receive who are just entering upon their duties, and who have yet to be tested. One may easily lay off his burdens, when even the enemies of truth acknowledge his fidelity. But how many of our great men close their official labors in disgrace, because they have sacrificed principle for gain or honor. The desire to be popular, the temptations of wealth or ease, lead them astray. Men who connive at sin may appear to prosper; they may triumph because their undertakings seem crowned with success; but God's eye is upon these proud boasters. He will reward them as their works have been. The greatest outward prosperity cannot bring happiness to those who are not at peace with God or with themselves. ST July 27, 1882, par. 14

It may at times be necessary for the servant of God to vindicate his own character, and to defend his course, that the Lord's name may be glorified, and the truth be not reproached. Let all who are treated with neglect or injustice, follow the example of Samuel, taking care not to make self prominent, but to maintain the honor of God. Let the injured one, instead of dwelling upon the wrongs which he has suffered, show the people how they have wounded Christ in the person of his servant. Many hearts would thus be led to humiliation and repentance, when if personal feelings were aroused, they would be as hard as stone. ST July 27, 1882, par. 15

Unless men constantly cherish mercy, compassion, and love, Satan will encourage a fault-finding, selfish spirit which will crowd these precious graces out of the soul. Those who have toiled long and unselfishly in the cause of God, should not be surprised if they are at last set aside. Many a man through whom God has wrought to achieve great results, whose influence has been felt east and west, north and south, is at last rewarded with neglect or cruel contempt. Ingratitude is natural to the unrenewed heart. No man is faultless, and many are ready to find some excuse for condemning or reproaching the one who has served them unselfishly. They forget that they themselves may be guilty of sins far more offensive in the sight of God than those of which they accuse his worn, wearied, and perplexed servant. ST July 27, 1882, par. 16

It seems to us strangely inconsistent and almost incredible that a man of Samuel's sterling virtue, integrity, and devotion could have been set aside for one who was wholly untried, and who had been well-nigh a stranger to God's cause and to his people. Yet we see the same course often repeated. The chosen of God, who might long have continued in his service, doing the good that they desired to do, are prevented because mercy, love, and gratitude are excluded from the hearts of their brethren. When the faithful laborers are no longer permitted to hold a leading position, let them instruct those who will appreciate their efforts. Let them do all the good they can do in any capacity. They have not received their commission from men, but from God. It is he who has given them their work. If they are shut out from all other avenues of usefulness, they can pray. They have proved the Lord again and again; they are familiar with his word, and can claim his promises. God hears their intercessions. ST July 27, 1882, par. 17

We should learn to honor those whom God honors. Those who have toiled long and unselfishly for his cause should be ever treated with respect and tenderness, even though it may be evident that they cannot perform the work which they once could, or, that they sometimes err in judgment. Notwithstanding their imperfections, these very men may be far more useful in the work of God, than those who would criticise and reject them. All have defects of character. All need the help of God every hour, or they will decidedly fail. ST July 27, 1882, par. 18

Samuel rehearsed to Israel the leading events in their past history, the wonderful manifestations of divine power, and the evidence of his favor in establishing them as his peculiar people. He reminded them of their transgressions in departing from God, and seeking to imitate the example of surrounding nations; he pointed to the judgments which had been visited upon them for their sins, and the gracious deliverances which their repentance had secured. All their calamities had been brought upon them by rebellion against God. Their prosperity was secured by obedience. Yet when threatened by their enemies, they had not made God their trust, but had demanded a king to stand at the head of their armies. Samuel had sought to encourage them to rely upon their Divine Helper, and had even volunteered to lead them out to battle himself; but they had obstinately rejected his proposition. ST July 27, 1882, par. 19

Now the Lord had granted their desire, and set a king over them; yet their prosperity would still depend upon their obedience to God. Notwithstanding their sin, the Lord would pardon and bless them if they would from this time manifest true repentance and fidelity. “But,” said the prophet, “if ye will not obey the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then shall the hand of the Lord be against you, as it was against your fathers.” ST July 27, 1882, par. 20

As a proof of the truth of his words, and also as evidence of the Lord's displeasure, Samuel called down thunder and rain from heaven. It being the time of wheat harvest, when the air is usually serene and mild, the people were greatly terrified at this manifestation, and they confessed their sin, and entreated the prophet's prayers in their behalf. They now saw that God had greatly honored the man whom they had rejected; and they felt for the time being that they had made a great mistake in their opposition to the Lord's wise arrangement. ST July 27, 1882, par. 21

Samuel did not leave the people in a state of discouragement. He knew that this would prevent all effort for a better life. They would look upon God as unforgiving and severe, and thus would be exposed to manifold temptations. Such is not the character of our gracious God. He is merciful and forgiving, ever willing and anxious to show favor to his people when they will hear and obey his voice. Said the prophet, “Fear not; ye have done all this wickedness; yet turn not aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart; and turn not ye aside; for then should ye go after vain things, which cannot profit nor deliver; for they are vain. For the Lord will not forsake his people.” Samuel also assured the people of his continued intercession in their behalf, and also of his services as judge and teacher. He ended his address with the warning, “But if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed, both ye and your king.” ST July 27, 1882, par. 22

Samuel's life of purity and unselfish devotion to God's cause, was itself a perpetual rebuke both to scheming, self-serving priests and elders and to the proud, sensual congregation of Israel. Although he assumed no pomp and encouraged no display, his labors bore the signet of Heaven. He was honored by the world's Redeemer, under whose guidance he ruled the Hebrew nation. But the people became weary of his piety and devotion, despised his humble authority, and rejected him for a man who should rule them as a king. ST July 27, 1882, par. 23

In the character of Samuel we see reflected the likeness of Christ. The spotless purity of our Saviour's life provoked the wrath of Satan. That life was the light of the world, and revealed the hidden depravity in the hearts of men. It was the holiness of Christ that stirred up against him the fiercest passions of profligate professors of godliness. ST July 27, 1882, par. 24

Christ came not with the wealth and honors of earth, yet the works which he wrought showed him to possess a greater power than that of any human prince. The Jews looked for a Messiah who should break the oppressor's yoke, yet they cherished the sins which had bound it upon their necks. They would not bear Christ's fearless rebuke of their vices. The loveliness of a character in which benevolence, purity, and holiness reigned supreme, which entertained no hatred except for sin, they despised. Had Christ cloaked their sins and applauded their piety, they would have accepted him as their king. They hated him because he waged war with pride, injustice, lust, and hypocrisy. ST July 27, 1882, par. 25

Thus it has been in every age of the world. The light from Heaven brings condemnation upon all who refuse to walk in it. It is the duty of every Christian to maintain the honor of God by his own unselfish, spotless life, and fearlessly to condemn sin in all its forms. Satan will make strong efforts to sweep from the earth those who uphold purity and piety. But a stronger than he draws nigh to the believing, trusting soul, and measures weapons with the prince of darkness. In every age there have been faithful men to stand as God's witnesses in the earth. The present is a time of darkness and feebleness to the church; but this is because they are not united to Christ. The moral palsy upon professed Christians need not exist. They may have the vigor of perpetual youth, if they will put away their idols, and serve God with an undivided heart. ST July 27, 1882, par. 26

“All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” The natural heart is as strongly opposed to God now, as in the days of Samuel or of Christ. When rebuked by the example of those who hate sin, hypocrites will become agents of Satan to harass and persecute the faithful. “But,” says the apostle, “what can harm you if ye be followers of that which is good?” Such have through faith been adopted into God's family; they will become more than conquerors through Him who hath loved them. ST July 27, 1882, par. 27