1 Samuel 11:11-13
And it was so on the morrow, that Saul put the people in three companies; and they came into the middle of the host in the morning watch…
Self-control, promptitude, courage, capacity, ascription of praise to God, forbearance towards men, these are all exhibited by the young king. Alas, that from such heights he fell!
I. SELF-CONTROL. Though hailed as king at Mizpah, Saul was in no haste to assume regal state. He resumed his country life at Gibeah, waiting till the Lord should call him forth in some emergency to take command of the army of Israel. In this he followed the example of the judges, who, so to speak, won their spurs before they wore them - first wrought some deliverance for their country, and then assumed the government.
II. PROMPTITUDE. News of the doom which threatened the town of Jabesh reached Saul as he returned home from the field, following his oxen with a farmer's slow and heavy step. In a moment he was another man, no more a seeker of asses, or a follower of oxen; but a leader of men, prompt and resolute. And such energy did he show that in a few days he had rallied a large army to his standard.
III. COURAGE AND CAPACITY. Saul had no time to train or discipline his forces, but he managed to gain an advantage for them. He lulled the enemy to security, and then, surprising their camp by night, fell on them with impetuous fury. So completely were they dispersed that, as the graphic historian says, "two of them were not left together."
IV. ASCRIPTION OF PRAISE TO GOD. After the victory Saul showed no disposition to vain boasting. Nothing could be better than his Te Deum laudamus - "Today Jehovah hath wrought salvation in Israel."
V. FORBEARANCE TOWARDS MEN. Saul was urged by the exultant people to put to death those who had opposed his elevation; but he would not have the lustre of his victory darkened by such a deed of vengeance, and, not only ruling his own spirit well, but checking the intolerance of others, he said, "There shall not a man be put to death this day." Yet from this moral elevation Saul miserably fell. He who seemed to be the rising hope of Israel became one of the most hapless and tragical personages in all his nation's history. He who showed at first patience and self-control became a restless, jealous king. His great fault was wilfulness, leading to the most foolish impatience, and wretched envy. He who executed his first military exploit so skilfully, and with such complete success, became notorious for his failures. And, at last, he who had shown such fearless readiness to set upon the Ammonites was afraid to encounter the Philistines (1 Samuel 28:5). Not that his natural courage had died out of him, but the sustaining faith in God was gone. "God is departed from me, and answereth me no more." He who was so averse to shed the blood of disaffected subjects shed the blood of many faithful men, as of the priests of the Lord, and hurled the javelin from his own hand again and again at the worthiest of all his subjects, hating him without a cause.
1. The true character of a man will show itself. No veil will cover it; no prudential consideration can bind it. Sooner or later it will have its way.
2. The higher the promise of virtue, the greater the momentum of him who falls from his integrity, the farther he goes into evil.
3. The path of the wilful and proud is one of waning light and thickening darkness; but "the path of the just is as the shining light, which shines more and more until the perfect day." - F.
Parallel VersesKJV: And it was so on the morrow, that Saul put the people in three companies; and they came into the midst of the host in the morning watch, and slew the Ammonites until the heat of the day: and it came to pass, that they which remained were scattered, so that two of them were not left together.
WEB: It was so on the next day, that Saul put the people in three companies; and they came into the midst of the camp in the morning watch, and struck the Ammonites until the heat of the day: and it happened, that those who remained were scattered, so that no two of them were left together.