May 24, 2017
Loyalty is a virtue that often gets dumped in the trash when life gets tough. When king Saul was killed in battle, the Philistines stripped his body of its armor, decapitated him, and hung his body on the wall of Beth Shan (1 Samuel 31). Doing so was not only thumbing their noses at their defeated enemies; it was also a warning to others not to mess with the Philistines. Remember, Saul stood head and shoulders above most men of the day. The decapitated body of a such a mighty man hanging on the city wall would certainly have had a significant intimidation factor.
But the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead heard of this desecration and decided to do something about it. This would have been a risky business; an early morning raid against a fortified city after an all-night expedition was far from a guaranteed success. What would make them risk such a raid just to retrieve a corpse?
It turns out, they had memory. Years before when Saul was not even yet a king, Jabesh Gilead had been attacked and besieged by a certain Nahash the Ammonite. The citizens tried to sue for peace, but were rebuffed by his demand that he would agree on the condition that everyone submit to having his right eye gouged out. Maiming of this sort not only served to humiliate them; it also ensured that none of them would ever be able to rebel against his subjugation of them, since the right eye was the sighting eye of any archers. The people of Jabesh Gilead asked for time to seek aid from their Hebrew allies. Believing that such aid would not be forthcoming from such a as yet disorganized rabble of tribes, Nahash agreed.
Saul was able to rally Israel, and his attack upon Nahash was devastating. He had been anointed king by Samuel, but it was his rescue of the citizens of this city that catapulted him to royalty. In recognition of Saul's leadership, the people officially made him king in Gilgal.
That was some forty years before, but Jabesh Gilead didn't forget. Remembering Saul's rescue of them, they returned the favor. Gratitude is the most fertile soil for loyalty.
Over the years, we've had people who were there for us when life was tough. Friends who took the bullet meant for us, who faced the brunt of undeserved anger simply because they chose to stand by our side. They walked in when everyone else was walking out. This I cannot and will not forget. Loyalty begets loyalty, and I would literally give my life for them because I owe my life to them. Thank you. Every day I thank God for you.