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THE ISRAELITES’ REJECTION OF SAMUEL REPROVED
1 Samuel 12:16-23. Now therefore stand and see this great thing, which the Lord will do before your eyes. Is it not wheat harvest to-day? I will call unto the Lord, and he shall send thunder and rain; that ye may perceive and see that your wickedness is great, which ye have done in the sight of the Lord, in asking you a king. So Samuel called unto the Lord; and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day: and all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel. And all the people said unto Samuel, Pray for thy servants unto to Lord thy God, that we die not: for we have added unto all our sins this evil, to ask us a king. And Samuel said unto the people, 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 ye not 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 for his great name’s sake: because it hath pleased the Lord to make you his people. Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you.
THERE is scarcely any more curious part of sacred history than that which relates to the appointment of Saul to the throne of Israel. He was a man of noble stature, but of a low family. His father’s asses had strayed, and he went with a servant three days in search of them. His provisions were exhausted; and he thought of returning home, lest his father should begin to be anxious about him. His servant understanding that they were not far from the abode of Samuel, whom they supposed to be a kind of magician, and capable of informing them where the asses were, proposed that they should call upon him, and seek that information at his hands: but having no money left to pay this magician for his trouble, they were discouraged; having no idea that he would give his advice without a fee. The servant however said he had the fourth part of a shekel (about seven-pence of our money) left, and that they would offer him that. Accordingly they went; and were informed that the asses were found. But Saul had further information, that quite astonished him. The people of Israel had requested Samuel to appoint a king over them; and God, on being applied to by Samuel, directed him to comply with their request; and told him moreover, that this very Saul was the person whom he should appoint. Accordingly he told Saul what God had ordained; and gave him several signs whereby he should know infallibly that the matter was of God: and then convoked the people, and drew lots before the Lord; and Saul was the person on whom the lot fell. Saul, through modesty, hid himself; but God disclosed to Samuel the place where he was hid: and Samuel sent for him, and committed to him the charge of the kingdom, for which God then fitted him by some special gifts.
Were we to judge only from that part of the history to which we have already alluded, we should suppose that this change in the constitution of Israel was pleasing to God: but Samuel, by divine command, declared the contrary, and condemned the people with great severity. This is related in the words of our text; from whence we shall be led to notice,
The sin committed—
The Israelites desired to change the form of their government, and to have a king appointed over them—
[For this desire they had many specious reasons. Samuel was now old, and incapable of supporting the fatigues of government: he had therefore delegated a large portion of his authority to his sons, who, alas! were far from walking in his steps, or executing aright the trust reposed in them. This was assigned as one reason for their request [Note: 1 Samuel 8:1-5.]. But though this would have justified a request for Samuel’s interposition to reprove, or even to depose, them, it was by no means a sufficient reason for them to seek an extinction of that form of government which God himself had appointed, and a substitution of another in its stead.
They were now also alarmed with the menaces of Nahash, king of the Ammonites, who was preparing to invade them [Note: 1 Samuel 12:12.]: and they wished to have the power of their government vested in the hands of one who should be able to protect them. But they needed not an arm of flesh, whilst they had Jehovah for their king: and if Jehovah had not delivered them according to their desire, it was owing to themselves, who by their sins had forfeited his protection. They therefore should have made this an occasion of humiliation and of turning unto God, and not an occasion of desiring another king in the place of God.
Besides, they wished to be in this respect like the nations around them [Note: 1 Samuel 8:19; 1 Samuel 20:0; 1 Samuel 20:0.], forgetting that a Theocracy was their highest honour, and most distinguished privilege.]
This desire of theirs was exceeding sinful—
[It was, in the first place, an act of great folly; for they enjoyed all the benefits of kingly government, without any of its expenses or of the evils generally arising out of it [Note: 1 Samuel 8:9-18.] — — — In the next place, it was a mark of base ingratitude towards Samuel, who had spent his whole life in their service: and in this view Samuel could not but feel it, and complain of it. Yet so heavenly was his mind, that instead of resenting it, he committed it to God in prayer; and never complained of it till after the appointment of a king had been ratifed and confirmed Then indeed he appealed to them, whether he had not conducted himself towards them with the most unblemished integrity [Note: 1 Samuel 12:2-5.] — — — But past services were of little account with persons so infatuated and self-willed as that people were at this time. But further, it was also a direct and open rejection of God himself. This was the construction which God himself put upon it [Note: 1 Samuel 8:7.]. And how little he deserved this treatment at their hands, Samuel shewed them, by recounting to them the mercies which he had vouchsafed unto their nation, from its first existence even to that day [Note: 1 Samuel 10:17-19; 1 Samuel 12:7-11.].
But they were deaf to every statement that he could make, and insensible to every feeling that should have actuated their minds: for who can convince those who are determined not to be convinced? “Nay; but we will [Note: 1 Samuel 8:19; 1 Samuel 12:12.],” is but a poor answer from those who are taught what God willeth. It is indeed the answer of sinners in general: but all who make such a reply, will hear of it again from God himself.]
What we are to think of their conduct, will further appear from,
The reproof administered—
Such wickedness as this could not pass unreproved. Samuel therefore “solemnly protested against them,” as God had commanded [Note: 1 Samuel 8:9.]; and then proceeded to deal with them in that way which he conceived to be most conducive to their amendment:
He desired a judgment from God, with a view to their humiliation—
[There was not at that time any appearance of a storm, nor was the wheat harvest a season when storms often occurred. But he requested of God to manifest his displeasure by a sudden tempest: and immediately the thunders rolled, the rain descended in torrents, and the indignation of the Lord was clearly shewn; insomuch that “the people greatly feared both the Lord and Samuel.” Thus was the desired effect produced: the people saw that they had sinned; and entreated the intercession of Samuel, that they might not be punished according to their deserts. How different is the voice of God from that of man! that will convince the most obstinate, and soften the most obdurate: and, sooner or later, they who will not yield to the remonstrances of God’s servants, shall be spoken to in a way which they can neither gainsay nor resist.]
He proclaimed mercy from God with a view to their encouragement—
[There was nothing vindictive in the conduct of Samuel: he lamented that the people should act so wickedly, and that God should be so dishonoured; but he willingly sacrificed his own interests, and cheerfully resigned the power which had been committed to him. He saw how agitated the people were; and gladly embraced the opportunity of pouring balm into their wounds. He bade them “not fear;” for though they had sinned greatly, God would not utterly cast them off; and though there was nothing in them to induce him to shew mercy, he would be merciful to them “for his great name’s sake.” It was not for any merit of theirs that God had ever made them his people, but purely of his own sovereign will and pleasure: and, to shew them “the immutability of his counsel,” he would still continue his favours to them, notwithstanding this great transgression. They must however turn unto him, and cleave unto him, and no longer look unto the creature for deliverance; for on no other terms would he acknowledge them as his people, or vouchsafe unto them the blessings which he had reserved for them. As far as depended on himself, Samuel assured them, that he would harbour no resentment for the indignity offered him, but would continue to pray for them to his dying hour. Thus admirably did he temper severity with kindness, and soften fidelity with love.]
By way of improvement, let us beware lest there be amongst us also any who reject God—
[If the rejection of Samuel was a rejection of God, what must a rejection of CHRIST be? and yet, how many are there who say of him, “We will not have this man to reign over us [Note: Luke 19:14.]!” Yes, though expostulated with, and warned with all fidelity, how many persist in this awful determination! They say in effect to their minister, “As for the word that thou hast spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we will not hearken unto thee [Note: Jeremiah 44:16.].” To disregard the voice of his faithful ministers may appear a small thing; but it is not really so; for Jesus identifies himself with his servants; “He that receiveth you, receiveth me; and he that receiveth me, receiveth him that sent me [Note: Matthew 10:40.].” Beware then, Brethren, how you presume to set aside the authority of Christ, or to place a rival upon his throne. God may give you your own way; but it will be a curse to you, and not a blessing. Woe be unto you indeed, if you provoke God to “choose your delusions [Note: Isaiah 66:4.].” He says of Israel, “I gave them a king in mine anger, and took him away in my wrath [Note: Hosea 13:11.];” as you know he did, in a miserable and disgraceful manner [Note: 1 Samuel 31:3-10.]. Beware lest such be the termination of your ways also, and lest you “be given up to believe a lie, as a prelude to your final condemnation [Note: 2 These. 2:11, 12.].” The direction of God to you is clear; “O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in ME is thy help: I will be thy King [Note: Hosea 13:9-10.].” Let this counsel be welcomed by you; and your submission to his government shall ere long be followed by a participation of his glory.]
DEVOTION TO GOD URGED FROM A SENSE OF GRATITUDE
1 Samuel 12:23-24. I will teach you the good and the right way: only fear the Lord, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you.
A ZEAL for the honour of God, and a concern for the welfare of men’s souls, are the most striking features of a spiritual mind; and, when truly felt, will swallow up all selfish considerations, and take occasion, even from injuries received, to display their energy towards those who have injured us. This disposition was manifested in no small degree by the Prophet Samuel, who, having long been the teacher, the governor, and the deliverer of Israel, was deposed, though not by force, yet by the unanimous wishes of his nation, who desired to have a king after the manner of the surrounding nations. Instead of expressing any resentment against them for this indignity, he only inquired of them whether they could charge him with any mal-administration, and then assured them of a continued interest in his prayers, and exhorted them to serve the Lord with their whole hearts.
His words will naturally lead us to consider,
The duty here inculcated—
All, who believe the existence of God, acknowledge that he is worthy to be feared and served: but when our duty to him is practically enforced, too many cry out against it as the offspring of superstition and the parent of fanaticism.
Let us mark then with precision what our duty is—
[To fear God, is, to regulate our conduct by the unerring standard of his word, avoiding carefully every thing which may displease him, and doing with diligence whatever is pleasing in his sight. But this must be done “in truth:” it is not a feigned obedience that will suffice: hypocritical services, however specious, must be odious to God: “He requireth truth in our inward parts:” and though “he will not be extreme to mark” our unavoidable infirmities, he will fearfully resent every instance of dissimulation: “He cannot be deceived, and will not be mocked:” to be accepted of him, we must be “Israelites indeed, and without guile.” Moreover, our services must be, not like the constrained obedience of a slave, but the willing expressions of filial regard; they must be done “with all our heart.” If, like “Amaziah, we did that which was materially right in the sight of the Lord, yet not with a perfect heart,” it would be of no avail [Note: 2 Chronicles 25:2.]: we must, like Hezckiah, “do it with all our heart” if we would “prosper [Note: 2 Chronicles 31:20-21.].” Nothing must be deemed too hard to do, or too great to suffer, that God may be glorified. David’s direction to Solomon to “serve the God of his father with a perfect heart and a willing mind,” completely expresses the nature of our duty as it is inculcated in the text [Note: 1 Chronicles 28:9.].]
Let us next observe the importance of this duty—
[In the text it is said to be a right, and good, and necessary way; and not only in comparison of other ways, but to the exclusion of all others. They indeed, who most faithfully enforce the practice of this duty, are often reproached as deceivers, that would impose upon weak minds, and lead astray the ignorant and unwary. The example of the world is urged in opposition to them as a better standard of right and wrong than the Holy Scriptures. Nevertheless we must insist with Samuel that this way is “right;” “the broad road” of sin and self-indulgence leads men to destruction; and “the narrow path alone of holiness and self-denial leadeth unto life [Note: Matthew 7:13-14.].” Nor is this way merely despised, as erroneous; it is also reprobated, as pernicious; and both they who teach it and they who follow it, are often deemed the very bane of society. While the drunkard and the whoremonger are respected, and excused, “he that departeth from evil is considered as a prey [Note: Isaiah 59:15.],” which all are at liberty to hunt and devour. But the testimony of Samuel, confirmed as it is by numberless other passages of Holy Writ, is sufficient to outweigh all that the blind votaries of sin and Satan can bring against religion. It is most assuredly, not only the right, but the “good” way; and though other ways may be more pleasing to flesh and blood, there is not any so productive of happiness, so perfective of our nature, or so conducive to the welfare of society.
Many, who feel convinced that fervent piety is both right and good, yet will not be persuaded that it is necessary. They acknowledge perhaps that ministers, and others who are detached from worldly engagements, should cultivate the fear of God: but a just attention to divine things seems to them incompatible with their own peculiar state and calling. Let none however imagine that any lawful calling is an impediment to religion: Adam even in Paradise had work assigned him by God himself, as being no less subservient to the welfare of his soul than to the health of his body [Note: Genesis 2:15.]. The truth is, that religion is “the one thing needful;” nor though, like Samuel or David, we had a kingdom to govern, could we plead any exemption on account of the multiplicity or importance of our engagements. The word of God to every living creature is, “Fear God, and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man [Note: Ecclesiastes 12:13.].”]
That while we acknowledge our duty we may also be led to practise it, let us consider,
The argument with which it is enforced—
The Jews were singularly indebted to God for their deliverance from Egypt, their preservation in the wilderness, their investiture in the promised land, and the many wonderful interpositions of the Deity on their behalf in the time of their Judges. But waving any further mention of them, let us call to mind the mercies vouchsafed to us:
[Numberless are the blessings which every individual amongst us has received; as are those also, which are conferred upon the nation at large. But on the present occasion it will be proper to contemplate rather the privileges we enjoy in our corporate capacity [Note: If this were the subject of a Commemoration Sermon, the peculiar privileges that are enjoyed should here be stated: but if of a Thanksgiving, the special occasions for thankfulness should here be opened.] — — — And should not these operate as inducements to fidelity and diligence in the service of our God? Does not every favour bestowed upon us address us, as it were, in the words of Samuel, “Only fear the Lord? Does it not bind us also, according to the ability and opportunities afforded us, to teach others “the good and the right way?” Instead then of making our situation an occasion for carnality, or an excuse for lukewarmness, let us endeavour to “render to the Lord according to the benefits he has conferred upon us.”]
[As the most signal mercies imparted to the Jewish nation were typical of far richer benefits reserved for the Christian Church, we should but ill consult the scope of the text, and still less the advancement of our eternal interests, if we should omit to mention our obligations to God for spiritual blessings. “Consider” then that stupendous act of mercy, the gift of God’s dear Son: consider that he was given up to death, even the accursed death of the cross, for us sinners, for the recovery of our souls from death and hell, and for the restoration of them to the divine favour; how unfathomable the mystery! how incomprehensible the love! The terms too upon which God will accept sinners; how easy, how simple, how suited to our lost and helpless nature! We have only to “believe in Christ, and we shall be saved [Note: Acts 16:31.].” Can any thing be more encouraging; or lay us under greater obligations to obedience? Consider farther, the benefits we receive by believing: we are instantly brought into the family of God; we enjoy sweet “fellowship with the Father and the Son;” we have the sting of death taken away; and we have an eternal inheritance in heaven: shall all this love have no constraining influence? shall it not cause us to present ourselves as living sacrifices to God, that we may both live to him who died for us, and glorify God with our bodies and our spirits which are his [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:14; Romans 12:1; 1 Corinthians 6:20.]? Yes; such were the sentiments of an inspired Apostle; nor can any rational being controvert or doubt such self-evident deductions. Let us then apply them in confirmation of the text, and fix them on our minds as motives to serve God with all our hearts. Let us put away that worldliness and sensuality, which are the bane and curse of our souls. Let us discard formality, that blinding, that deluding sin. Let us also abhor hypocrisy, that basest of all sins. Let us serve our God, not with a few outward ceremonies, but with the inward devotion of our hearts [Note: 1 John 3:18.]. Let us not study how we may contract our regards to him into the smallest possible space; but how we may glorify his name, and advance his interests. And while we thus cultivate the fear of him in our own hearts, let us, with Samuel, labour to the utmost, that he may be feared and served by all around us [Note: Here, if it were judged proper, the connexion of our piety with the prosperity of the nation, as marked in the words following the text, might be urged as an additional, though inferior, motive to zeal and diligence.].]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 12". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany