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1 Samuel 12:1-12:25
Key Verse: 12:22

Today, we are resuming our study of 1 Samuel after a 4-week hiatus. So far we have studied about Hannah, a woman of prayer; God’s call to Samuel; the ark of God and the glory; Spiritual revival at Mizpah; and Samuel anointing Saul king over Israel. Today’s passage is about Samuel’s farewell speech. The farewell speech of Samuel includes his clean personal life, brief history of Israel, how to live as God’s people, God’s help for the Israelites to realize their sin of asking for a king, God’s love and hope for them, Samuel’s promise to pray, and his clear warning for them. In this we see an example of a spiritual leader who truly loved God and his people. In this study we may especially think of God’s love and how to live as his people and grow to be spiritual leaders in this generation.

First, Samuel, leader of Israel and her history (1-11). Look at verses 1 and 2. “Samuel said to all Israel, ‘I have listened to everything you said to me and have set a king over you. Now you have a king as your leader. As for me, I am old and gray, and my sons are here with you. I have been your leader from my youth and until this day.” As we studied, Samuel received God’s calling when he was a boy. God called him to be a prophet of the LORD. God revealed himself to Samuel through his word and Samuel’s word came to all Israel. In chapter 7, Samuel led the Israelites to have spiritual revival. He told them very clearly, “If you are returning to the LORD with all your hearts, then rid yourself of the foreign gods and Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the LORD and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” So the Israelites put away their Baals and Ashtoreths, and served the LORD only. (Baal was the god of agriculture, representing security; Ashtoreth, the goddess of love and sex, representing sexual immorality.) Then Samuel led them to assemble at Mizpah and held a national prayer meeting in fasting and repentance. While they were having this holy assembly, the Philistines came to attack them. At this the people asked Samuel to cry out to the LORD on Israel’s behalf. When Samuel did so, God answered him and fought for the Israelites with thunder from heaven, giving them a great victory. Then Samuel set a stone between Mizpah and Shen, and named it Ebnezer, saying, “Thus far has the LORD helped us.” In his old age when the people asked for a king to lead them like other nations, this displeased Samuel and also God, for this was rejecting God and his servant. However, when God told him to listen to them, he wholeheartedly obeyed this direction. As God chose Saul, Samuel treated Saul with great honour, giving him special food and dining with him. Samuel had an intimate talk with him on the roof of his house, and anointed him privately and then publicly. When the people were not sure of Saul’s leadership for Saul had hid himself among the baggage at the time of the public anointing, Samuel helped the people have assurance in God’s choice, saying, “Do you see the man the LORD has chosen? There is no one like him among all the people.” And Samuel explained to the people the regulations of the kingship. He wrote them down on a scroll and deposited it before the LORD. There were still some trouble makers who despised Saul, but Samuel confirmed Saul’s kingship.

In this way Samuel had been the leader of his people from his youth until that day. Then he said in verse 3. “Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the LORD and his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes? If I have done any of these, I will make it right.” We might wonder why such a great man as Samuel who did such great works talked about these small things at his farewell speech. One thing we can say is that this shows his clear conscience before God. He said these things not just to defend himself for any possible accusation, but more than that, to have nothing to do with any hint of being blamed so that, as we will soon see, he could lead his people to repentance. He made it clear saying, “The LORD is witness against you, and also his anointed is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand.”

Now Samuel takes positive steps to help them. Look at verses 6 and 7. “Then Samuel said to the people, ‘It is the LORD who appointed Moses and Aaron and brought your forefathers up out of Egypt. Now then stand here, because I am going to confront you with evidence before the LORD as to all the righteous acts performed by the LORD for you and your fathers.” First of all, he reminded them of the LORD who had brought their forefathers up out of Egypt through Moses and Aaron whom the LORD had appointed. And in this farewell speech he did not just want to be nice to them, but even confronted them with clear evidences of all the righteous acts of God. At this point Samuel was not merely like a kind-hearted old man with gray hair. Rather he was like a spiritual fighter. It is because he loved them before God.

Now Samuel tells them the story of a concise history of Israel. Look at verses 8-11. “After Jacob entered Egypt, they cried to the LORD for help, and the LORD sent Moses and Aaron, who brought your forefathers out of Egypt and settled them in this place.” Again, Samuel mentioned the names, Moses and Aaron. Why? For it is important for them to know that although there had been no king in Israel, God had raised his servants through whom God worked for his people. Samuel continued, “But they forgot the LORD their God; so he told them into the hand of Sisera, the commander of the army of Hazor, and into the hands of the Philistines and the king of Moab, who fought against them. They cried out to the LORD and said, ‘We have sinned; we have forsaken the LORD and served the Baals and the Ashtoreths. But now deliver us from the hands of our enemies, and we will serve you.’ Then the LORD sent Jerub-Baal, Barak, Jephthah and Samuel, and he delivered you from the hands of your enemies on every side, so that you lived securely.” Samuel started telling the history of Israel from their forefathers and reached to them, who were present. As they cried out to the LORD for deliverance, the LORD sent his servants one by one without fail until he sent Samuel, and they could live securely at that time. God’s grace and mercy was evident to them. In order to let the Israelites know this grace of God Samuel gave them this history education.

In our life of faith, having a sense of God’s history is very important. Without a sense of God’s history we become self-centred, short-sighted and short-lived, blind to see the work of God going on. God’s history has been flowing until now. Yesterday, God established a family of God between Ian and Jemmie. We could think of the grace of our Lord Jesus upon each of them: Ian became a disciple of Jesus from a restless wanderer; Jemmie, the Lord’s servant from a faithful daughter to her parents in strong human ties with no true life. The Lord established this couple as a house church in this community of God under the blessings of many servants of God. It is truly a blessing to live securely in the streams of God’s history for his gospel work in this country and for world mission purpose. We pray for raising 12 house churches by 2020 so that we can build up God’s work and history for Canada to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation in the generations to come.

Second, God’s unchanging kingship and love (12-25). Samuel’s farewell speech continues. Look at verses 12-15. “But when you saw that Nahash king of the Ammonites was moving against you, you said to me, ‘No, we want a king to rule over us—even though the Lord your God was your king. Now here is the king you have chosen, the one you asked for; see, the LORD has set a king over you.” And then he said sternly, “If you fear the LORD and serve and obey him and do not rebel against his commands, and if both you and the king who reigns over you follow the LORD your God—good! But if you do not obey the LORD, and if you rebel against his commands, his hand will be against you, as it was against your fathers.” Here we see that when God allowed them a king, it did not meant that they were free from obeying and serving God. They had a human king who reigned over them, but the unchanging truth is that God is still King over all. So both the human king and his people are to fear the LORD their God and serve and obey him and keep his commands. Samuel made it very clear here in his farewell speech. That God is King is the main theme of 1 Samuel and also a key teaching of the whole Bible. As we studied in Revelation 4, John saw a throne in heaven. This throne is the highest throne over all earthly thrones. Those who ignore this heavenly throne and thus oppose the one sitting on it perish. In history it has been true on a national level and also individually. His hand will be against all those who do not obey him, as it had been. This is the nature of his kingship. This is also true in Christ Jesus. When we confess that “you are the Christ of God”, we denounce our own kingship and egocentrism, but deeply recognize his kingship in our hearts and lives. This is the reason Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Lk 9:23)

Now how did Samuel further to help them? Look at verses 16-18. “Now then, stand still and see this great thing the LORD is about to do before your eyes. Is it not wheat harvest now? I will call upon the LORD to send thunder and rain. And you will realize what an evil thing you did in the eyes of the LORD when you asked for a king. Then Samuel called upon the LORD, and that same day the LORD sent thunder and rain. So all the people stood in awe of the LORD and of Samuel.” Now Samuel helped the people to resolve their past unsolved sin problem before God, realizing what an evil thing they did in the eyes of the LORD when they asked for a king. Samuel did so, by bringing them in the presence of God so that they might have the fear of God. This sin problem had to be solved so that their relationship with God would be restored. We sense that Samuel had been praying and waiting for this right time to lead them to repentance.

Then what was the result? In verse 19, “The people all said to Samuel, ‘Pray to the LORD your Go for your servants so that we will not die, for we have added to all our other sins the evil of asking for a king.” Samuel’s farewell message bore the good fruit in them. They recognized their sin of doing such an evil thing to reject God and ask for a human king, and repented.

At this Samuel gave them the message of encouragement and hope. He replied, “Do not be afraid. You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart. Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless.” And then Samuel said, “For the sake of his great name the LORD will not reject his people, because the LORD was pleased to make you his own.” What an encouraging and hopeful message! Who is the LORD? The LORD is the creator of heaven and earth. He is the sovereign Lord and King. Also, the LORD God made the Garden of Eden. He is the God of love and salvation. In Hannah’s song of prayer, she said, “There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no other besides you; there is no Rock like our God” (1 Sam 2:2). And Isaiah 45:5-6 says, “I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God…from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting people may know there is none besides me. I am the LORD, and there is no other.” The name LORD is truly great. In this passage the LORD is mentioned 28 times, the LORD, the LORD, the LORD, in the presence of the LORD, before the LORD, in the eyes of the LORD, the LORD their God, the Lord your God, etc. Samuel’s farewell speech is full of LORD. Here in verse 22, “For the sake of his great name the LORD will not reject his people, because the LORD was pleased to make you his own.”

Deuteronomy 7:7, 8 says, “The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because he loved you and kept the oath he swore to our forefathers…” Regardless of their human conditions, the LORD made the Israelites his own according to his promise to Abraham because of his love. He will not reject his people for the sake of his great name, the LORD. Finally the LORD sent his son Jesus into this world to save sinners. As for us we have become his own in Christ Jesus. Apostle Paul expressed this grace of God in Ephesians 1:4,5 “For he chose us in him (Christ) before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.” And as we studied in Revelation, Christ Jesus with his blood purchased us for God (5:9). What an unfathomable grace it is that we have become his own! He will not reject his people, his own, for his love endures forever. In John 13:1, Jesus loved his disciples, his own to the end. He also said to his disciples in Matthew 28:20, “I will be with you to the ends of the age.” Now sitting at the right hand of God, he is interceding for us (Ro 8:34; Heb 7:25). This is our confidence as we live in this world. From time to time we feel trivial and insignificant in this world. We repeat up and downs in our Christian life due to our sins and weaknesses. And what we are and do seem to be too small. But he is taking hold of us with his unchanging love in his faithfulness as we live in this troublesome world. Apostle Paul said in Philippians 3:12, “…I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus told of me.” Because God’s love in Christ Jesus we can come to him with a repentant heart each time. In this love of God we cannot let our unsolved sin problem remain in us. In this love we can obey and serve him faithfully with all our heart.

Look at verse 23. “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you.” Samuel was really a good shepherd. He not only led the people to repentance and to the unchanging love of God, but also he committed to keep praying for them, without fail, before God and to the end of his life. And he said, “I will teach you the way that is good and right.” Yet, his farewell speech ends with the warning, because of his love for them: “But be sure to fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you. Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will be swept away.”

Thank God for his precious words in this Samuel’s farewell speech. He was truly a servant of the LORD, who loved the LORD God and truly cared for his people as a good shepherd. Thank God for his unchanging ever-faithful love for his people through his Son Jesus Christ. May we be rooted in his love, and in this love of the LORD may we not carry any unsolved life problem but turn to him in repentance at each time and obey him and serve him faithfully with all our heart living in the streams of God’s history. May God raise spiritual leaders and shepherds for God’s flock like Samuel in U of T campus pioneering work.

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