There are three important lessons for us to learn from the story of Saul’s first battle as the new king king of Israel (1 Samuel 11).
In verses 1-4, there is an illustration of the challenge that faces God’s people. The threat of the Ammonites is a vivid illustration of spiritual warfare that we face from the powers of darkness. Satan knows that he cannot remove salvation from God’s people. But that does not mean he sees no point in attacking them. He will aim to weaken them. What he wants Christians to do is compromise with the temptations he puts in their way. He will attempt to destroy their spiritual vision. This is what happened to believers that Peter describes in 2 Peter 1:9. In that chapter Peter has described the way of Christian progress, and then says that if a believer does not make such progress, he ‘is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins’. The devil had prevented the person developing spiritually and that person became ineffective spiritually.
Then in verses 5-11 we read about an example of the difference made when a person is under the control of the Spirit. The experience of Saul illustrates the difference the presence of the Holy Spirit makes in a person’s life. Although every Christian has the Holy Spirit indwelling him, this does not mean that his power is available automatically. If a Christian by his sins has grieved the Spirit, he will not experience progress until he repents of that sin. We need God’s power for a wide variety of reasons and purposes. The power of God is not something distinct from the presence of the Holy Spirit; rather it is the Holy Spirit working effectively.
There is also an important lesson here for those who are leaders of God’s people. Before they lead Christians into a new enterprise these leaders must possess power from the Spirit. When they are in a proper spiritual state, the Lord will put the fear of God into those who follow them. The proof that leaders are receiving the Spirit’s guidance will be evidenced by the same details that were seen in Saul: jealousy for God’s cause, harmony in the people, strategy regarding what to do and victory when it is done.
The third lesson from this passage emulates Samuel’s response to the victory by Israel. He saw it as an opportunity for re-dedication. This is the appropriate response to progress in the Christian life whether it is fresh understandings of Bible passages, answers to prayer, victory over temptation, or the sense of the presence of the Lord. Yet they are not opportunities to sit back and imagine we have arrived, rather they are occasions for repentance and fresh dedication.