I Samuel 12

 

 

SAMUEL’S EXHORTATION TO THE PEOPLE AT GILGAL

 

This speech of Samuel is not to be regarded as a farewell address made upon his

resignation of his office; for though a new power had been introduced, and

Samuel’s sons excluded from the succession, yet it was only gradually that

a change was made in his own position. He was still judge (ch. 7:15),

and on extraordinary occasions came forward with decisive

authority (ch. 15:33). But as Saul gathered men of war round

him (ch. 14:52), the moral power possessed by Samuel would be

overshadowed by the physical force which was at Saul’s command. But no

formal change was made. It had been the weakness of the office of the

judges that their power was irregular, and exercised fitfully on special

occasions. Such a power must fall into abeyance in the presence of the

regular authority of a king surrounded by armed men. Without any direct

deposition, therefore, or even still retaining the form of his office, Samuel

would henceforward chiefly act as the prophet, and Saul as Jehovah’s king.

The address divides itself into three parts:

 

1. The testimony to Samuel’s integrity as judge (vs. 1-5).

2. The reproof of the people for their disobedience and ingratitude (vs. 6-17).

3. The Divine testimony to Samuel’s uprightness and teaching (vs. 18-25).

 

 

SAMUEL’S INTEGRITY (vs. 1-5)

 

 

1 “And Samuel said unto all Israel, Behold, I have hearkened unto

your voice in all that ye said unto me, and have made a king over you.”

I have hearkened unto your voice. See ch.8:7, 9, 22.

 

2 “And now, behold, the king walketh before you: and I am old and gray

headed; and, behold, my sons are with you: and I have walked before you

from my childhood unto this day.”  The king walketh before you. I.e. you have

now one to protect and lead the nation, whereas my business was to raise its

religious and moral life. The metaphor is taken from the position of the shepherd

in the East, where he goes before his flock to guide and guard them. On this

account the word shepherd or pastor is used in the Bible of the temporal

ruler (Jeremiah 2:8; 23:4, etc.), and not, as with us, of the spiritual

guide. My sons are with you. This is no mere confirmation of the fact just

stated that he was old, but a direct challenge of their dissatisfaction with

his sons’ conduct, as far at least as concerns any connivance on his part, or

support of them in their covetousness. Samuel says, You know all about

my sons; I do not profess to be ignorant that charges have been brought

against them. Give full weight to them, and to everything said against them

and me, and then give judgment.

 

 

Piety in Old Age (v. 2)

 

“Old and grey headed.” On speaking of himself as “old and grey headed,”

Samuel immediately afterwards made reference to his childhood. “I have

walked before you from my childhood unto this day.” He loved to linger

(as old men are wont) over his early days; and in his case there was every

reason for doing so, for they were surpassingly pure and beautiful. One of

the chief lessons of his life is that a well spent childhood and youth

conduces greatly to a happy and honored age. Consider him as an eminent

illustration of piety in old age.

 

  • OLD AGE IS PRESUMPTIVE OF PIETY, inasmuch as:

 

Ø      Piety prevents indulgence in vices that tend to shorten life. How many

are brought by such vices to a premature grave! When, therefore, we see

an old man we naturally infer that he has been a good man, nor can there

be any doubt that he has exercised much self-control. Samuel was a

Nazarite.

 

Ø      It has a direct tendency to prolong life by producing healthful virtues.

“The fear of the Lord prolongeth days” (Proverbs 10:27).

 

Ø      It has the promise of many days. “With long life will I satisfy him”

(Psalm 91:16). “Even to old age I am; and even to hoar hairs will I

carry you” (Isaiah 46:4). “A good old age” (Genesis 15:15). “Thou

shalt come to thy grave in a full age, like as a shock of corn cometh in

his season” (Job 5:26).

 

Ø      It is commonly associated with long life. There are, doubtless,

exceptions, the causes of which are not far to seek, but this is the rule.

 

  • OLD AGE IS MADE HONOURABLE BY PIETY, because of:

 

Ø      Its maintaining the respect which is naturally felt for the aged. Among

the Spartans, when a hoary headed man entered their assemblies, they all

immediately rose, and remained standing till he had taken his place; and it

is enjoined in the law of Moses: “Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head,

and honor the face of the old man” (Leviticus 19:32). (This is not the sin that

is dooming America, but it is symptomatic of our condition, when you analyze

the lack of respect by the young people of for their elders.  CY – 2016)

But this injunction assumes the possession of godliness, without which old

age neither deserves nor receives appropriate reverence.

 

Ø      The beauty and perfection of character which it develops. There is

beauty in the fresh springing corn, but there is still greater beauty in “the

full corn in the ear,” bending under its golden burden. A good old man,

matured in character by long growth, and abounding in “the fruit of the

Spirit,” is one of the noblest sights on earth. He is a king amongst men.

“The hoary head is a crown of glory if it be found in the way of

righteousness” (Proverbs 16:31; 20:29).

 

Ø      The conflicts and perils that have been passed. “An old disciple”

(Acts 21:16), or “such an one as Paul the aged” (Philemon 1:9), is like a

veteran soldier bearing on him the scars of many a hard fought battle, and

wearing the honors conferred by a grateful country. He is like a giant of

the forest, standing erect when the storm has laid his companions in the dust.

 

Ø      The good that has been done in past time, and lives to bear witness to

the doer, and “praise her in the gates.” (Proverbs 31:31)  We value the

young for the good they may hereafter effect, the old for the good they

have already accomplished. “Them that honor me I will honour.” 

(ch. 2:30)

 

  • OLD AGE IS RENDERED USEFUL BY PIETY, for thereby it:

 

Ø      Furnishes a convincing evidence of the truth and power of religion.

When faith survives doubts, temptations, difficulties, its very existence is

an argument for the reality of that which is believed, a proof of the

practicability of a religious life, and a commendation of its unspeakable worth.

 

Ø      Sets forth an impressive example of the spirit of religion:

 

o        humility,

o        trustfulness,

o        calmness,

o        patience,

o        resignation,

o        cheerfulness (Genesis 48:21; Deuteronomy 33:1; Joshua 14:10,12;   

23:14; II Samuel 19:32).

 

3. Bears valuable testimony for God, and continues in prayer and labor on

behalf of men. “They shall still bring forth fruit in old age,” etc. (Psalm

92:14-15; 71:14,17-18). Although some services are no longer possible,

others, often more valuable, may, and ought to, be rendered till the close of

life.

 

4. Affords wise counsel to the younger and less experienced. Wisdom is

proverbially associated with age. Those who have seen and heard much of

the world, and had long experience of life, may be expected to know more

than those who are just starting out in their course. Their judgment is less

influenced by passion and impulse; they look at things in a clearer light, and

in a calmer frame of mind, and are more likely to perceive the truth

concerning them.

 

“Whose ripe experience doth attain

To somewhat of prophetic strain.”

 

Much of the inspired wisdom of the Scriptures is based upon the sanctified

experience of the aged. “Moreover I will endeavor that ye may be able

after my decease to have these things always in remembrance” (II Peter

1:15, 12-14; I Peter 5:1, 5). “My little children, let us not love in word,

neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth” (I John 3:18). “Little

children, love one another.”

 

  • OLD AGE IS GREATLY COMFORTED BY PIETY. It has its

drawbacks and troubles. Bodily infirmities increase, the mental powers lose

their vigor, and friends become fewer (Ecclesiastes 12). It is also liable to

moral failings, such as irritability, fretfulness, despondency, and excessive

carefulness, which need to be guarded against.

 

“When I consider in my mind, I find four causes why old age is thought

miserable:

o       one, that it calls us away from the transactions of affairs;

o       the second, that it renders the body more feeble;

o       the third, that it deprives us of almost all pleasures; and

o       the fourth, that it is not very far from death”

(Cicero ‘on Old Age ‘).

 

But notwithstanding such things, it has, “with godliness,” abundant

compensations, consisting of:

 

Ø      Pleasant recollections of the past, especially of the Divine benefits that

have been received. “Surely I will remember thy wonders of old”

(Psalm 77:11).

 

Ø      Wide observation of the works and ways of God. “I have been young,

and now am old, yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his

seed begging bread.” (Psalm 37:25).

 

Ø      Inward support and consolation derived from communion with God.

“Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by

day” (II Corinthians 4:16). “The glory of the old age of the godly

consists in this, that while the faculties for the sensible no less than mental

enjoyments gradually decline, and the hearth of life gets thus deprived of its

fuel, the blessings of godliness not only continue to refresh the soul in old

age, but are not until then most thoroughly enjoyed. The sun of piety rises

the warmer in proportion as the sun of life declines.”

 

Ø      Bright prospects of the heavenly home“a house not made with

hands,” the vision of God, perpetual youth, reunion with parted friends,

perfect and endless blessedness. As the world of light draws near, some of

its rays seem to shine through the crevices of the earthly tabernacle that is

falling into decay (Genesis 49:18; Luke 2:29-30).

 

“The state in which I am now is so delightful, that the nearer I approach

to death, I seem, as it were, to get sight of land; and at length, after a long

voyage, to be getting into the harbor. O glorious day!  when I shall depart

to that Divine company and assemblage of spirits, and quit this troubled

and polluted scene”

(Cicero).

 

“If the mere conception of the reunion of good men in a future state infused

a momentary rapture into the mind of Tully; if an airy speculation — for

there is reason to fear it had little hold on his convictions — could inspire

him with such delight, what may we be expected to feel who are assured

of such an event by the true sayings of God” (R. Hall). “I have a desire

to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better” (Philippians 1:23;

II Timothy 4:6-8)

 

Let us live in such a way that if we are blessed with old age, that we will be

honored and happy!

 

3 “Behold, here I am: witness against me before the LORD, and

before His anointed: whose ox have I taken? or whose ass have I

taken? or whom have I defrauded? whom have I oppressed? or of

whose hand have I received any bribe to blind mine eyes therewith?

and I will restore it you.  4 And they said, Thou hast not defrauded us,

nor oppressed us, neither hast thou taken ought of any man’s hand.

5 And he said unto them, The LORD is witness against you, and His

anointed is witness this day, that ye have not found ought in my

hand. And they answered, He is witness.” Witness against me. Literally,

“answer,” as in a court of justice to the formal question of the judge.

His anointed. I.e. the king (see on ch. 2:10, 35; 10:1). Whose ox,... whose ass?

See on ch. 8:16. Of whose hand have I received any bribe to blind mine

eyes therewith? Bribe should be rendered ransom. Literally it signifies a

covering, and was used of money given by a guilty person to induce the

judge to close or “blind his eyes,” and not see his sin. It does not mean,

therefore, any bribe, but only that given to buy off a guilty person. Such

persons are generally powerful men who have oppressed and wronged

others; and the knowledge that they can cover their offence by sharing their

gains with the judge is to this day in the East the most fruitful source of

bad government. (How unlike God’s judgment!  At the judgment there will

be many eyes opened when they compare God’s righteous judgment with

what they got away with in the world!  CY – 2016)  The people all bear witness

to Samuel’s uprightness, nor is there any contradiction between this and their

desire to have a king. His internal administration was just and righteous, but

they were oppressed by the nations round them, and needed a leader in war.

And in Samuel’s sons they had men, not vicious or licentious, but too fond

of money, and so neither fit to be their generals in war nor their judges in peace.

We gather from ch. 22:2 that though Saul proved a competent leader in

war, he was not successful in the government of the country in peace.

 

 

Character a Power (vs. 1-5)

 

The facts are:

 

1. Samuel reminds the people that he:

(a) has carried out their wishes in setting a king over them,

(b) is now a very old man, and

(c) has spent the whole of his life among them.

 

2. He appeals to God in asserting that the whole of his official life has been

free from self-seeking.

 

3. The people freely admit that his public conduct has been honest,

considerate, and free from greed.

 

The meaning of Samuel’s reference to himself is to be sought not in egotism,

but in a desire to find a basis for his intended argument and appeal. The actual

weight of counsel depends not on the abstract wisdom of the language used,

but on the readiness of the hearers to give heed to the speaker and their

conviction of his integrity of purpose. Samuel appeals to character in order to

secure moral power in argument. He availed himself of the privilege of

honored age.

 

·         CHARACTER IS A GROWTH. A human being is mutable in purpose

and disposition, and time is requisite in order to insure fixity of either.

Character lies in determinateness, permanent fixity. Morally it is the form,

style, and expression the life eventually assumes. It remains a long

unsettled question as to what determinateness some men’s nature is to

come. In so far as instability itself is an undesirable quality, its presence is

the sign of permanent badness. But even in the absence of instability, men

suspend their judgment of their fellow men because all good qualities in

them are regarded as only tentatively established in the soul. The true

progress of a life is secured when holiness of disposition becomes so

gradually master of every faculty as to be the distinctive, invariable mark of

the man. Obviously, this character is a passing of an inner silent force into

all the avenues of thought, feeling, and action, repeating its self-manifestations

in these day by day, till those who know the individual are

compeled to see that such is the natural, fixed, reliable style of his life.

 

·         THE CONDITIONS OF ITS POWER ARE TWOFOLD — one in the

individual himself, and the other in observers.

 

Ø      Constancy and steadiness of growth is one condition. It is this which

creates a belief that the man is true. There is a strong belief that

fluctuations in conduct and opinion are signs of either weakness or actual

badness. Those who watch the steady, early growth of a doubtful plant,

and observe how by the action of a powerful law it at length assumes a

given type of leaf and bud, know then what they have in sight, and treat it

accordingly. So a quiet advance in goodness is essential to the acquisition

of power in character.

 

Ø      The existence in observers of a sense of right is another condition. The

power which a holy, consistent character has over all grades of men implies

that there is something in them which, in virtue of its own nature, pays

homage to goodness. Men know and inwardly revere the right. In this

moral necessity of judgment we have a clue to the deference often paid by

bad men to the good; the uneasiness of the vile and unjust in presence of

purity; and the strong hold which the holy gospel of Christ has secretly

over even the most daring of its opponents.

 

·         THE POWER OF CHARACTER IS SOMETIMES DEVELOPED

BY UNUSUAL CIRCUMSTANCES. It may exist as the result of a

growing, unconscious influence over observers. Neither party may be

aware of its real force. Many a man exercises more power on society than

either he or others contemplate. The degree to which the present condition

of the world is owing to this silent, unconscious influence of holy,

consistent characters is beyond all conception. The fact should be a

comfort to those whose lives seem to be barren of usefulness because no

great deeds are chronicled. But now and then events transpire which bring

out the depth of reverence and respect cherished for, it may be, an ordinary

quiet Christian man.

 

·         IT IS ALLOWABLE TO USE CHARACTER AS A MEANS OF

URGING IMPORTANT CLAIMS. Samuel was right in referring to his

long consistent life. He could honestly, and without self-glorying, speak of

his having never enriched himself by his office. He was within the limits of

modesty in claiming some credit for consistency, for his object was to

enforce the claims of God. Thus the Apostle Paul referred to his manner of

life, his self-denying labors, in order to win among Corinthians attention

to the message he delivered, and counteract the insinuations of false

brethren (II Corinthians 11). There are occasions when a pastor, a teacher,

and parent may fitly refer to their general character as furnishing a reason

for attention to their appeals.

 

·         PRACTICAL LESSONS:

 

Ø      It is of supreme importance to be well established in strong religious

principles early in life; roots set in virgin soil strike deep and thrive steadily.

 

Ø      We should watch carefully against tendencies to instability, and at the

same time not think over much about what men think of us.

 

Ø      No man who is ambitious to obtain power of character will get it: it

comes to those who are concerned to be good rather than to have the

power which goodness conifers.

 

Ø      We honor God when we pay honor to those who bear His image.

 

Ø      The quality of holy self-sacrifice is that in official persons which most

impresses observers, and should, after the Saviour’s example, be

cultivated by all persons in things small and great.

 

 

Integrity in Public Office (vs. 3-5)

 

“Behold, here I am: witness against me before the Lord.” It is a noble thing

for a man in any position of life, but especially in exalted, public, and

responsible office, to “do justly and love mercy” as well as to “walk

humbly with his God” (Micah 6:8); to continue for many years in the fulfilment

of his duty with strictest integrity and unselfish devotion to the public good. Of

this Samuel was an illustrious pattern. Concerning integrity in public office,

observe that:

 

  • It is generally, and not improperly, EXPECTED, because of —

 

Ø      The superior knowledge which one who fills such an office is assumed

to possess (Ezra 7:25).

 

Ø      The important trust which is reposed in him. “Moreover, it is required in

stewards that a man be found faithful” (I Corinthians 4:2).

 

Ø      The powerful influence which he exerts over others, for good or evil

(Proverbs 29:2).

 

  • It is beset by numerous TEMPTATIONS, such as —

 

Ø      To prefer his ease and pleasure to laborious and self-denying duty

(Romans 12:8).

 

Ø      To use his power for the enrichment of himself and his family, to the

disregard of the general welfare, and even by means of extortion,

fraud, and oppression (Acts 16:22; 24:26).

 

Ø      To seek the praise of men more than the praise of God, and to yield to

the evil wishes of the multitude for the sake of personal advantage

(John 19:13).

 

  • It lies open to public CRITICISM, for —

 

Ø      The conduct of a public man cannot be wholly hidden from view.

 

Ø      His responsible position invites men, and gives them a certain right, to

judge concerning the course he pursues; and, in many instances, his actions

directly affect their persons, property, or reputation.

 

Ø      As it is impossible to restrain their criticism, so it is, on the whole,

beneficial that it should be exercised as a salutary restraint upon those

“who are in authority.” Happy is he in whom “none occasion nor fault can

be found, forasmuch as he is faithful” (Daniel 6:4).

 

  • It is NOT ALWAYS DULY APPRECIATED, but is sometimes despised

and suspected.

 

Ø      The reasons of the conduct of one in public office are not always fully

understood, nor the difficulties of his position properly considered, nor the

motives of his actions rightly interpreted.

 

Ø      Evil doers, to whom he is “a terror,” may be expected to hate and speak

ill of him. “What evil have I done?” said Aristides, when told that he had

everyone’s good word.

 

Ø      Men are apt to be envious of those who are exalted above them, and to

forget their past services if they do not favor the gratification of the

present popular feeling. Samuel’ was not the only judge who experienced

ingratitude. “Neither showed they kindness to the house of Jerubbaal,

namely, Gideon, according to all the goodness which he showed unto

Israel(Judges 8:35).

 

  • It sometimes requires to be openly VINDICATED, for the sake of:

 

Ø      Personal character and reputation. “I have not taken one ass from them,

neither have I hurt one of them” (Numbers 16:5).

 

Ø      Truth, and righteousness, and the honor of God. How often, on this

account, did the Apostle Paul vindicate himself, in his epistles, from the

accusations that were made against him!

 

Ø      The welfare of the people themselves, on whom misrepresentation and

unfounded suspicions exert an injurious influence.

 

  • It is certain, sooner or later, to be FULLY RECOGNISED.

 

Ø      Time and circumstances bring real worth to the light.

 

Ø      There is in men a sense of truth and justice which constrains them to

acknowledge and honor the good.

 

God takes care of the reputation of those who take care of His honor.

There comes a “resurrection of reputations.” The judgment of one

generation concerning public men is often reversed by the next. “There is

nothing hidden that shall not be made manifest.”   (Luke 12:2)  “And the

righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance.”

 

 

SAMUEL’S REPROOF OF THE PEOPLE (vs. 6-17)

 

6 “And Samuel said unto the people, It is the LORD that advanced

Moses and Aaron, and that brought your fathers up out of the land

of Egypt.”  It is Jehovah that, etc. In the Hebrew Jehovah is put

absolutely, without any government, and the Septuagint rightly supplies is

witness. Samuel had said, “Jehovah is witness against you;” the people in

answer shouted the last word, “Witness” (see end of v. 5, where He is is

supplied). Then Samuel solemnly repeats Jehovah s name, saying, “Even

Jehovah that advanced Moses and Aaron.” This rapid interchange of words

brings the whole scene vividly before us, whereas nothing could be tamer

than the Authorized Version. Out of the land of Egypt. Samuel begins with this

as the first act of Jehovah as Israel’s King; for the theocracy began with the

deliverance from Egypt.

 

7 “Now therefore stand still, that I may reason with you before the LORD of

all the righteous acts of the LORD, which He did to you and to your fathers.

8 When Jacob was come into Egypt, and your fathers cried unto the

LORD, then the LORD sent Moses and Aaron, which brought

forth your fathers out of Egypt, and made them dwell in this place.”

Stand still. Literally, station yourselves, take your places, stand forth (see

ch. 10:23). That I may reason with you.  Literally, “that I may deal as judge,”

i.e. that with all the authority of my office I may declare that Jehovah has acted

justly by you, and that you have dealt unjustly with Him. Righteous acts. The margin,

benefits, is wrong. Samuel vindicates God’s dealings with them against the charge of

His having failed to protect them implied in their demand for a king.

 

 

9 “And when they forgat the LORD their God, He sold them into the

hand of Sisera, captain of the host of Hazor, and into the hand of

the Philistines, and into the hand of the king of Moab, and they

fought against them.”  When they forgat Jehovah their God. The theocracy,

as we have seen (ch. 10:18), was a moral government, under which

idolatry and the immorality attendant upon it, as being rebellion, were

punished by Jehovah’s withdrawing His protection, and the consequent

subjection of the nation to foreign rule. It was the repeated sin, therefore,

of the people which made Israel’s history so checkered. Sisera

(Judges 4:2), the Philistines (ibid. ch. 3:31), and Eglon, king of Moab,

(ibid. v. 12),  are mentioned as three of the earlier oppressors of Israel, but

are given here in the reverse order to that found in the Book of Judges.

 

10 “And they cried unto the LORD, and said, We have sinned, because

we have forsaken the LORD, and have served Baalim and

Ashtaroth: but now deliver us out of the hand of our enemies, and

we will serve thee.” We have served [the] Baalim and [the] Ashtaroth. I.e.

the numerous Baals and Astartes, which were worshipped under various titles

by the heathen. For though representing the same power, each people had

their own epithets for their own particular personification of the god (see

on ch. 7:4).

 

11 “And the LORD sent Jerubbaal, and Bedan, and Jephthah, and Samuel,

and delivered you out of the hand of your enemies on every side, and ye

dwelled safe.”  Bedan. Numerous ingenious explanations of this name have

been given, but the only probable account is that Bedan is a misreading for

Barak. The two names are very similar in the Hebrew, and the two most

ancient versions, the Septuagint and the Syriac, actually have Barak. And

Samuel. This is even more puzzling than Bedan. We cannot suppose that

Samuel, who hitherto had confined himself to the old deliverances, would

thus suddenly introduce his own name. In mentioning only them he had

avoided everything that would grate upon the ears of the people, but this

would look like giving way to personal vexation. Some, therefore, would

read Samson; but this, though found in the Syriac, is supported by no other

version. Possibly some scribe, mindful of Samuel’s recent achievement at

Mizpah, wrote his name in the margin, whence it was admitted into the

text. And ye dwelled safe. Literally, “in confidence,” in security. With sin

came danger and unquiet; upon repentance, not only was their country free

from danger, but their minds were at rest.

 

12 “And when ye saw that Nahash the king of the children of Ammon

came against you, ye said unto me, Nay; but a king shall reign over

us: when the LORD your God was your king.”

Nahash the king of the children of Ammon. This makes it

probable that there had been threats of war, and even incursions into the

Israelite territory, by Nahash before his attack on Jabesh-Gilead. We thus,

too, should be able to account for the rancor displayed in his wish so to

treat the men of that town as to make them a reproach to all Israel; for his

hatred of Israel may have grown in intensity in the course of a harassing

war, or he may have learned to despise a people incapable of offering a

regular resistance. At all events, Samuel describes Nahash as giving the

final impetus to the desire of the nation for a king. When Jehovah your

God was your king. See Judges 8:23.

 

 

Doctrine in History (vs. 8-12)

 

This is an important chapter in the history of Israel. In it are set forth

certain truths of universal import, which are also illustrated, though less

distinctly, in the history of other nations. They are such as follows:

 

  • THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD (v. 8). “It hath pleased the Lord to

make you His people” (v. 22). Of His own free and gracious will, always

founded in perfect wisdom, He raises up a people from the lowest

condition, confers upon them special blessings and privileges, and exalts

them to the most eminent place among the nations of the earth

(Deuteronomy 32:8; Acts 17:26-27). As it was with Israel, so has

it been with other peoples. His right so to deal with men cannot be

questioned, His power therein is manifested, His undeserved goodness

should be acknowledged, and the gifts bestowed employed not for selfish

ends, but for HIS GLORY and the welfare of mankind.

 

  • THE SINFULNESS OF MEN. “They forgat the Lord their God” (v. 9).

So constantly and universally have men departed from God and

goodness as to make it evident that there is in human nature an inherited

tendency to sin. “It is that tendency to sinful passions or unlawful

propensities which is perceived in man whenever objects of desire are

placed before him, and laws laid upon him.” As often as God in His great

goodness has exalted him to honor, so often has he fallen away from his

service; and left to himself, without the continual help of Divine grace, his

course is DOWNWARD!   “In times past the Divine nature flourished in men,

but at length, being mixed with mortal custom, it fell into ruin; hence an

inundation of evils in the race” (Plato). “There is nothing in the whole

earth that does not prove either the misery of man or the compassion of

God; either his powerlessness without, or his power with God” (Pascal).

 

  • THE CERTAINTY OF RETRIBUTION. “He sold them into the hand

of Sisera,” etc. (v. 9).

 

“The sword of Heaven is not in haste to smite,

Nor yet doth linger, save unto his seeming

Who, in desire or fear, doth look for it.” —

(Dante, ‘Par.’ 22.).

 

“Morning by morning doth he bring his judgment to light; he faileth not”

(Zephaniah 3:5). “History is a voice forever sounding across the

centuries the laws of right and wrong. Opinions alter, manners change,

creeds rise and fall, but THE MORAL LAW IS WRITTEN ON THE

TABLES OF ETERNITY!  For every false word or unrighteous deed,

for cruelty and oppression, for lust or vanity, the price has to be paid at last;

not always by the chief offenders, but paid by some one. Justice and truth

alone endure and live. Injustice and falsehood may be long lived, but

DOOMSDAY COMES at last to them as in French revolutions and other

terrible woes” (Froude, ‘Short Studies’).

 

  • THE BENEFICENCE OF SUFFERING. “And they cried unto the

Lord, and said, We have sinned,” etc. (v. 10). Underneath what is in

itself an evil, and a result of the violation of law, physical or moral, there is

ever working a Divine power which makes it the means of convincing men

of sin, turning them from it, and improving their character and condition. A

state of deepest humiliation often precedes one of highest honor. It is only

those who refuse to submit to discipline (Job 36:10) and harden

themselves in iniquity that sink into hopeless ruin.

 

  • THE EFFICACY OF PRAYER. “And the Lord sent…and delivered

you,” etc. (v. 11). “Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and He

delivered them out of their distresses” (Psalm 107:6,13,19,28). As it

was with Israel throughout their history, so has it been with others, even

those who have had but little knowledge of “the Hearer of prayer.”

 

“In even savage bosoms

There are longings, yearnings strivings

For the good they comprehend not,

And the feeble hands and helpless,

Groping blindly in the darkness,

Touch God’s right hand in that darkness,

And are lifted up and strengthened”

(‘The Song of Hiawatha’).

 

  • THE PREVALENCE OF MEDIATION. “Then the Lord sent Moses

and Aaron” (v. 8). “And the Lord sent Jerubbaal, and Bedan, and

Jephthah, and Samuel” (v. 11). He sent help by men specially raised up

and appointed, and deliverance came through their labors, conflicts, and

sufferings. One people also has been often made the medium of blessing to

others. And herein we see a shadowing forth of the work of the great

Mediator and Deliverer, and (in an inferior manner) of His people on behalf

of the world.

 

  • THE INCREASE OF RESPONSIBILITY on the part of those who

have had the experience of former generations to profit by, and who have

received higher privileges than they (vs. 12, 19). “Now all these things

were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are

come.” (I Corinthians 10:11). “Two things we ought to learn from history:

one, that we are not in ourselves superior to our fathers; another, that we

are shamefully and monstrously inferior to them if we do not advance

beyond them” (Froude).

 

13 “Now therefore behold the king whom ye have chosen, and whom

ye have desired! and, behold, the LORD hath set a king over you.”

We have here the two sides of the transaction.  The people had desired a king,

chosen and appointed by themselves, to represent the nation in temporal matters;

Jehovah gave them a king to represent Himself, with authority coming from God,

and limited by God.  Most, too, of the kings of Judah were as truly representatives

of Jehovah as any of the judges had been, and David even more so. Desired is rather

“demanded,” “required.” They had done much more than desire a king.

 

14 “ If ye will fear the LORD, and serve Him, and obey His voice, and not rebel

against the commandment of the LORD, then shall both ye and  also the king

that reigneth over you continue following the LORD your God:”

If ye will fear, etc. This verse, like Luke 19:42, is left unfinished, and we must

supply well, as in Exodus 32:32. For the verse cannot be translated as in the

Authorized Version, but is as follows: “If ye will fear Jehovah, and serve Him,

and obey His voice, and not rebel against the commandment (Hebrew, the mouth)

of Jehovah, and if both ye and the king that reigneth over you will follow

Jehovah your God, it shall be well.” Samuel piles up one upon another the

conditions of their happiness, and then from the depth of his emotion breaks off,

leaving the blessed consequences of their obedience unsaid. “To follow Jehovah”

implies willing and active service as His attendants, going with Him where He will,

and being ever ready to obey His voice.

 

15 “But if ye will not obey the voice of the LORD, but rebel against the

commandment of the LORD, then shall the hand of the LORD be against

you, as it was against your fathers.”  Against you, as it was against your fathers.

The Hebrew has “against you and your fathers,” and so the Vulgate, for which the

Septuagint reads, “against you and your king,” as in v. 25. The text is probably

corrupt, and to make sense requires the insertion of some such words as those

given in the Authorized Version, with which the Syriac also agrees.

 

 

The Immutable Condition of Well Being (vs. 6-15)

 

The facts are:

 

1. Samuel, having shown his right to be heard, calls on the people to

hearken to his argument.

 

2. He refers to historic instances to show that trouble always came with

unfaithfulness to God, and prosperity with a return to fidelity.

 

3. He reminds them that their desire for a king implied distrust of God.

 

4. Recognizing the new order of things, he insists that the adversity or

prosperity of the nation rested where it always had — on their own

disobedience or obedience to God.

 

Samuel, having gained a respectful hearing, proceeds to urge his argument

with the view to convince Israel that constant obedience to God will be in

future, on their part, the only rational conduct. The principles involved

are universal, and they imply what some have recklessly denied or

questioned, namely, the essential reasonableness of religion. Changing the

historic allusions for corresponding facts in modern experience, the identical

argument could be urged with equal force upon many who fain would escape

the yoke of Christ as being inconsistent with the claims of human reason.

 

·         CONFORMITY TO THE WILL OF GOD IS THE SUPREME

CONDITION OF WELL BEING. Israel would, as a people, dwell in

safety, be rich, prosperous, and, in fact, realize all the best ends of national

existence, in proportion as they obeyed the Lord God. The interactions of

material agencies, and the habits of irrational beings, in so far as they flow

from necessary physiological laws, are conformed to the Divine will. The

possession by man of moral freedom renders it possible for him to be

resolutely and knowingly out of accord with the same. The will of God is

variously expressed, though always one. In external nature, in constitution

of mind, in moral relations, in social laws, in Scripture there are

harmonious expressions of will varying according to the subject matter and

occasions. It being in the power of man, as free, to conform in feeling, in

purpose, and actual outward movement of will to what God reveals of

Himself, perfect life, personal, social, and national, lies in that conformity,

and that alone. The continuous act of obedience is conformity. Observing

physical, mental, and moral laws in every detail of life; acting in harmony

with the revealed requirements of repentance and effort after holiness;

constant exercise of faith in Christ as the revealed means of the highest

spiritual life — this course of action is a fulfilment of the conditions of

blessedness, the prelude to final likeness to Christ.

 

·         THAT SUCH CONFORMITY IS THE CONDITION OF WELL

BEING IS A TRUTH ATTESTED BY HISTORY. It could be shown by

independent lines of proof that religion, as consisting in true conformity to

God’s will, is essentially reasonable, and that, conversely, sinful men are

most irrational. But Samuel knows human nature, and, therefore, he deals

with the concrete facts of history, and points out how the past records of

Israel’s national life establish his contention. GOD gave them freedom from

Egypt by Moses and Aaron. Disobedience and neglect entailed subjection

to Sisera and the Philistines. A return to God brought deliverance once

more. Therefore history connected prosperity with due recognition of God,

adversity with disobedience. Every sinful nation and individual is deluded

by fallacy. There is induced, by the blinding effect of moral corruption on

the intellect, a belief that the miseries endured are not connected with

moral causes. But a fair induction of the facts of public and private life will

demonstrate Samuel’s position, that when the soul of the nation has been

true to God it has enjoyed the truest prosperity. The very prosperity of

fools is in the long run their destruction, The merriment of the impious, like

the brilliant glare of a rocket, yields to a more conspicuous reverse. Pious

men may not in some instances be equal, in power and general social

usefulness, to men not pious; yet, given men of equal natural abilities, the

pious will do more and better than the not pious. Every day life is full of

cases in which men, by conforming to the gospel law of repentance and

faith, at once place themselves and their homes in a new and better relation

to all material and mental laws; and rise from poverty, disease, ignorance,

and shame to comfort, health, fair attainments, and honor. A nation of

true Christians would be a model to the world in all excellence and

acquisitions and happiness.

 

·         ALL ATTEMPTS TO EVADE THE CONDITION OF WELL

BEING ARE FRUITLESS. Samuel’s reference to Israel’s desire for a

king, in connection with his argument and closing appeal, evidently means

that the people were under the delusive impression that their troubles and

dangers were in some way associated with the external form of government

under which they had hitherto lived. But Samuel points out the sin involved

in this thought — it was distrust of God’s all-sufficiency; and he also

indicates that the attempted substitution of a form of government for the

practice of righteousness is utterly vain. Human nature is constant in its

self-revelations. This attempted substitution of what is formal and outward

for what is moral and inward is of common occurrence. Nations often cry

out for changes of form of government when the real need is a change in

DISPOSITION and CONDUCT.  (outward change is no sure cure for

the inward unrighteousness).  Nominal Christians present an outward,

and, in emergencies, a more elaborate, form of worship in place of the

sacrifice of the penitent and contrite heart. It is hard to learn the lessons

of history; but all its testimony confirms what could be, a priori, shown to

be true — that however good external arrangements may be per se, they are

as fruitless to secure a nation’s highest good, a Church’s truest prosperity,

and an individual’s most vigorous and joyous piety, in the absence of a

faithful conformity to the whole will of God, as was Israel’s acquisition of

a king fruitless to insure, apart from righteousness of life, safety from

danger and internal prosperity. “Abide in me.” “For without me ye can do

nothing.” (John 15:4-5)

 

·         THE TRUTH THUS VINDICATED CAN BE VERIFIED IN SPITE

OF PAST SINS AND ERRORS. Samuel admits the existence of the king

as a fact, though having its origin in sin and folly. He does not cut Israel off

from the hope of proving the truth of his contention, that well being

depends on conformity to the will of God. Under their new and, as he

thinks, unjustifiable arrangements they may, if they will, verify the

correctness of his teaching; and hence the urgent appeal. The sins and

errors of men in the past have had the natural effect of placing them in

disadvantageous circumstances for the fullest development of piety. Even

in so called Christian countries the social arrangements and customs, the

habits of thought, the methods and principles of commerce, the form and

spirit of legislation, and the attitude of class toward class, are the

expression of the faults as well as of the virtues of our ancestors. They to

that extent impede the full expression of the gospel spirit. The same holds

good of antecedents in private and Church life. Nevertheless, God gives to

nations, Churches, and individuals opportunities for testing the value of

conformity to His will, and each may prove its sufficiency by new acts of

obedience. Here we have a philosophy of life which each may

experimentally establish.

 

16 “Now therefore stand and see this great thing, which the LORD will

do before your eyes.” Stand. Better stand forth, as in v. 7; take your places in

solemn order.

 

17 “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.”  Wheat harvest. Barley was fit for reaping at the Passover,

and wheat at Pentecost, i.e. between the middle of May and the middle of

June. Jerome, on Amos 4:7, testifies that during his long residence in

Palestine he had never seen rain there during June and July; but Conder

(‘Handbook of Bible,’ p. 221), says, “Storms still occur occasionally in

harvest time.” He shall send thunder. Hebrew, voices, and so in v. 18

(see ch. 2:10; 7:9).

 

 

    DIVINE TESTIMONY TO SAMUEL’S INTEGRITY (vs. 18-25)

 

 

18 “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.”

Jehovah sent thunder and rain. Rain in Palestine falls

usually only at the autumnal and vernal equinox, and though thunder

storms are not unknown at other times, yet, by the general testimony of

travelers, they are very rare. Naturally, therefore, this storm deeply

impressed the minds of the people. Though not in itself miraculous, the

circumstances made it so.

 

19 “And all the people said unto Samuel, Pray for thy servants unto the

LORD thy God, that we die not: for we have added unto all our

sins this evil, to ask us a king.”  Pray for thy servants. On Samuel’s

mediatorial office see ch. 7:5, 8.

 

20 “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;”  Ye have done all this wickedness.

The ye is emphatic, and to give its force we should translate, “Ye have

indeed done all this evil.” From following Jehovah. See on v. 15.

 

21 “And turn ye not aside: for then should ye go after vain things,

which cannot profit nor deliver; for they are vain.”

For then should ye go after vain things. The word for is

omitted in all the ancient versions, and the sense is complete without it:

“And turn ye not aside after tohu,” the word used in Genesis 1:2, and

there translated “without form.” It means anything empty, void, and so is

often used, as here, for “an idol,” because, as Paul says, “an idol is

nothing in the world” (I Corinthians 8:4). So Isaiah (Isaiah 44:9)

calls the makers of idols vanity, Hebrew, tohu, i.e. empty people, with no

sense in them. The word is used again at the end of the verse — which

idols cannot profit nor deliver; for they are tohu, emptiness.

 

22 “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.”

For His great name’s sake. Though Samuel in v. 14 had

described their well being as dependent upon their own conduct, yet in a

higher light it depended upon God’s will. He had chosen Israel not for its

own sake (Deuteronomy 7:7-8), but for a special purpose, to minister

to the Divine plan for the redemption of all mankind, and so, though

individuals might sin to their own ruin, and the nation bring upon itself

severe chastisements, yet it must continue according to the tenor of God’s

promises (see on ch. 2:30), and through weal and woe discharge

the duty imposed upon it.

 

23 “Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the LORD

in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the

right way:”   God forbid, Hebrew, “Far be it from me.” That I should

sin... in ceasing to pray for you. In no character of the Old Testament

does this duty of intercessory prayer stand forward so prominently as in

Samuel (see v. 19); nor does he rest content with this, but adds, I will

teach you the good and the right way. This was a far higher office than

that of ruler; and not only was Samuel earnest in discharging this prophetic

office of teaching, but he made provision for a supply of teachers and

preachers for all future time by founding the schools of the prophets.

 

 

Intercessory prayer (v. 23)

 

“God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you.

“I bless God,” said Mr. Flavel, the Puritan, on the death of his father, “for a

religious and tender father, who often poured out his soul to God for me; and

this stock of prayers I esteem the fairest inheritance on earth.” And another

eminent man said that he “set a greater worth upon the intercessions of the good

than upon all the wealth of the Indies.” The people of Israel esteemed the

prayers of Samuel on their behalf in like manner. They had experience of

their amazing power and worth (ch.  7:8-9); they were in great

need of them; they appear to have thought that he might cease to offer

them on account of their past treatment of him, and they entreated him,

saying, “Pray for thy servants,” etc. (v. 19). His reply was, “Moreover as

for me, God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray

for you.”  Every true Christian, as “a priest unto God,” an intercessor

with God for his fellow men, ought to adopt this language as his own. It

expresses:

 

  • AN ACKNOWLEDGED OBLIGATION, which:

 

Ø      Arises out of the fact that it is one of the principal means of doing good

to others — obtaining invaluable blessings for them. Of the fact there can

be no doubt (James 5:16). Why it should have been ordained as such a

means we cannot fully tell; but it is plainly in accordance with the intimate

relationship and mutual dependence of men; teaches them to feel a deeper

interest in each other, and puts signal honor upon eminent piety. The

principle of mediation pervades all things, human and Divine.

 

Ø      Is an essential part of the duty of love which we owe to others; the

force of the obligation being determined by the nearness of their

relationship, and the extent of their claims upon our love and service,

our kindred and friends, our country, mankind.

 

Ø      Is often expressly enjoined in the word of God. “Pray one for another”

(Luke 11:5-10; I Timothy 2:1). “If any man see his brother sin a sin

which is not unto death, he shall ask (of God), and he shall give him life

for them that sin not unto death” (I John 5:16).

 

Ø      Is inculcated by the example of the best men — Abraham, Moses, Job

(Job 42:8,10), Samuel and all the prophets; above all, by the example

of our Lord Himself, who has prayed for us all, and through whose

intercession we present our prayers and hope for their acceptance.

 

  • A POSSIBLE OMISSION. Intercessory prayer may cease to be

offered. It is sometimes omitted from:

 

Ø      Want of consideration of others; the worth of their souls, their lost

condition, the love of God to them, the ransom that has been given for

them. Attention is so absorbed in other objects that they are uncared for.

The more we think of them, the more we shall feel and pray for them.

“Love for souls as souls is not a passion of earthly growth. It is a holy fire

from heaven. But how can we have it; how can it be begotten in our hard

hearts? The only true method is to draw near to them, and to look at them

— to look on them in the light of reason and revelation, of immortality and

of God” (C. Morris).

 

Ø      Deficiency of love and desire for their salvation.

 

Ø      Unbelief.

 

Ø      Delay in the fulfilment of our requests, and apparent denial of them. But

remember that sincere prayer is never offered in vain, and “pray without

ceasing.” (I Thessalonians 5:17)  God knows best when and how to

answer our petitions.

 

  • A DEPRECATED SIN. “God forbid that I should” (far be it from me

to) “sin against the Lord,” etc. The sin of its omission is spoken of in direct

relation to Him, and consists in:

 

Ø      Disregarding His benevolent designs concerning others. “The Lord will

not forsake his people,” etc. (v. 22) If He loves them and seeks their

welfare, we should do the same.

 

Ø      Disobeying His declared will concerning ourselves. He has not only

commanded us to intercede for others, but the very position in which He

has placed us is a plain indication of his will. Ye who remember Jehovah,

leave yourselves no rest, and “give Him no rest,” etc. (Isaiah 62:6-7).

 

Ø      Burying in the earth the greatest talent that He has entrusted to us.

(Matthew 25:24-29)

 

Ø      Grieving the Holy Spirit, who is ever inciting those in whom He dwells

to “cry unto God day and night.” (Luke 18:7)  “Quench not the Spirit.

(I Thessalonians 5:17)  Whilst the devout should be urged by these

considerations to “continue instant in prayer”  (Romans 121:12),

others should remember that it is possible to place an improper reliance on

the intercessions of the good, especially in expecting to obtain benefit from

their prayers whilst they neglect to pray for themselves or walk in “the

good and right way.” 

 

24 “Only fear the LORD, and serve Him in truth with all your heart: for

consider how great things He hath done for you.  25 But if ye shall still do

wickedly, ye shall be consumed, both ye and your king.”

For consider, etc. Samuel concludes his address by appealing

to the mighty deeds wrought in old time by Jehovah for His people;

literally, it is, “For consider how grandly He hath wrought with you.”

 

 

The Good Man’s Weapons (v. 23)

 

There was a vein of misgiving evident in the words of Samuel. Perhaps the

new king and his triumphant soldiers ascribed it to the timorousness of old

age; but the seer looked further into the future than they, and if he felt

bound to warn them of the danger they would incur by rebelling against the

commandment of the Lord, he gave them at the same time an assurance

that he would do all in his power to preserve them from such wickedness

and its inevitable consequences. The man of God could never forget Israel.

But what could he do in old age for this intractable people? The reins of

government had been taken out of his hands; and it had never been his

duty, now less than ever, to go out to battle. What remained for him to do?

Must he not let king and people take their own course — sow as they

pleased, and then reap what they sowed? Nay. Samuel would not, under a

plea of helplessness, withdraw himself from all care for Israel’s future.

There remained to him the two greatest weapons for moral effect:

 

o       prayer and

o       teaching.

 

The one points to God in heaven, the other to men on the

earth. Such are a prophet’s weapons, and they are mightier than a king’s

scepter or a warrior’s sword. That the intellectual and the moral are the

highest forms of greatness and usefulness is a truth which has established

itself throughout all history. The most illustrious and influential of the

Hebrew race were the prophets. Moses, Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah,

Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, none of the kings compare with these, except David

and Solomon, and they because they had qualities resembling those of the

prophets — the one of them a poet, and the other a sage. In like manner

the greatest of the Greeks were not their warriors or rulers, but such as

Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle — the men who thought and who taught.

That unique and ancient people, the Chinese, regard as by far their most

important man the sage Confucius. Their most powerful emperors have

been comparatively little men. Our modem nations too have had their

characters molded by their thinkers and teachers far more than by their

princes and soldiers; and a nation’s character makes its history as much as

its history shapes its character. There is a supreme illustration of this truth.

Unspeakably the greatest effect ever produced by one personality on the

human race has been exerted by THE MAN CHRIST JESUS!   The widest,

deepest,and most beneficial influence has issued from Him; and He began that

mighty movement, which has outlasted many governments, and shows no

symptom of weakness or decay, by the very instruments or weapons which

were named and used by the prophet Samuel, viz., prayer and instruction.

Jesus prayed; Jesus taught. How weak in comparison were the men of the

sword — Herod, and Pontius Pilate, and Pilate’s imperial master at Rome!

Jesus had no worldly title, and used no carnal weapon. If He was a king, it

was to bear witness to the truth. The weapons by which He overcame were

these — He prayed, and so prevailed with God; He taught, and so prevailed

with men. In the same manner He continues to animate and strengthen the

Church. He makes continual intercession in heaven; and by the abiding of

His words and the living guidance of His Spirit He gives continual

instruction on earth. In the very beginning of the Church the apostles

showed their deep appreciation of this truth, and refused to be drawn aside

from that way of highest usefulness which their Master had shown to them.

They would concentrate their energies on moral and spiritual work. “We

will give ourselves to the word of God and to prayer.” (Acts 6:4)  Paul was of

the same mind in his apostolate. He relied on weapons “not carnal, but mighty

through God.” (II Corinthians 10:4)  He foresaw, and it is evident from the

writings of Peter and John that they too in old age foreboded, evil days, as Samuel

did in his declining years; but those apostles knew no better course to recommend

to the faithful than that which Samuel followed — to pray always, and to

teach sound doctrine. Evil might come, even apostasy might ensue; but the

elect would be proved and purified, and after troubled days the kingdom

would ultimately be set up in “the sure mercies of David,” and the

confusion of the time of Saul would be past forever. No emphasis is laid on

rite or ceremony. Samuel was a priest, and lived in a dispensation of

religion which gave great scope for ritual. But we are left to assume that

the rites prescribed through Moses were observed at this period. We hear

wonderfully little about them. Samuel was intent on teaching that “to obey

is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” (ch. 15:22)

How weak and puerile to lay the stress of our religion on the observance of ritual,

or the performances of a priesthood! The way to make and keep a people

Christian is not to sing masses for them, or multiply altar ceremonies and

celebrations, but to pray, and to “teach the good and the right way,” of

obedience to conscience and to God. Whoso (like David – Acts 13:36) would serve

his own generation well, let him pray, and let him by example, and persuasive

speech or writing, preach righteousness. These are the good man’s

weapons, and these through God are mighty. Mischief may go on, as Saul

went on to distress the people of God; but prayer and teaching quietly

counteract the mischief, and prepare the way for a revival of piety and the

reign of the “King of kings and Lord of lords.”

 

 

The Outward Sign (vs. 16-25)

The facts are:

 

1. Samuel, to confirm his argument, calls for thunder and rain during the

    wheat harvest, thus imperiling their property.

 

2. The people, awed by the event, entreat for his intercession.

 

3. Samuel encourages hope on the ground of God’s mercy, and promises

    to pray for and instruct them.

 

4. He makes a final appeal, setting forth the blessed and sad alternative

consequences.

 

Samuel knew well with whom he had to deal; and, therefore, besides securing a

deferential hearing in virtue of age and character, and enforcing the reasonableness

of conformity to God’s will, he now calls attention to a display of Divine power in

a form suggestive of the material disasters that may come if they should, by

disobedience, come into collision with that power. Men soon feel the force of an

argument that touches their property. The natural force of his previous statements

would compel the assent of reason, and secure the echo of conscience. But in

morally weak men the clear light of reason is apt to become eclipsed by the

uprising of willful desires, and the voice of conscience dies away amid the

clamors of passion. It was, therefore, great kindness, an act of beautiful,

Divine consideration, to introduce another means of insuring the

impressment of the lessons conveyed.

 

·         OUTWARD SIGNS ARE HELPFUL TO RELIGION. Manifestations

of God’s presence and power in impressive forms, in some instances

miraculous, are aids to faith and practice. There is a modern tendency to

dispute this. Even some Christian apologists speak of the miraculous

events recorded in Scripture as rather a hindrance than an aid to faith. The

difficulty proceeds from a defective comprehension of all the facts that

enter into a consideration of the question. No doubt moral truth is its own

witness; no doubt reason recognizes what lies within the range of her

vision. The whole sum of truth we have in Christ, and in the records

associated with His name, enables us to say, “This is the Son of God.” The

personal experience of the man who is one in life with Christ is superior to

all “external evidences.” But obviously all this applies to men in the full

light of Christian truth, and can have no appreciable bearing on the gradual

education of the world by a chosen nation, through “here a little and there

a little” (Isaiah 28:10), as men were morally and intellectually fit to receive

it. Observe more specifically:

 

Ø      General education by outward signs is universal. By education we mean

development of the entire nature, rational and moral We have to regulate

life and unfold its capabilities by means other than the mere subjective

effect of what is perceived and appreciated as rational or moral.

 

o        In childhood the mind accepts truth on external authority. Its

movements, its receptivity, and its resistance to certain influences

are often determined by the appearance of an external power, which

either awakens fear or insures unquestioning submission.

 

o        In mature life we are influenced not by subjective truth alone, but by

external authority in form of testimony on matters of importance. This

testimony has sometimes sufficient force to compel conduct against

inclination, and create fear as determinant in action. Also in

government the exercise of external power insures on the part of

many a respect in practice for moral truth which otherwise would not

exist.

 

o        In the formation of opinion we are constantly looking out for an

external confirmation. That is, we do not live intellectually even by

the sheer light that is within. In so far as external confirmations are

necessary for some of our opinions, we are dependent on powers

outside us for the direction our own thought, and, consequently,

conduct, will take. That these powers, human it may be, do not act

suddenly and miraculously is not to the point, for the principle

contended for is education by outward signs.

 

Ø      Spiritual education of men by appropriate outward signs is a fact

recognized throughout all time. The three means, irrespective of

inspiration of the heart by the Holy Spirit, of spiritual education —

presentation of truth to the moral perception, the convincing of the

judgment by reasons, and the suggestive power of outward signs — are

found in the whole course of history, from the day when Adam’s

conscience recognized the moral force of the Divine command because

Divine, appreciated the argument of life or death as the alternative of

obedience or disobedience, and looked on the “tree” as a visible sign of a

power worthy to be feared, unto the latest observance of the Lord’s

Supper, affording an outward sign of a power merciful in its almightiness.

 

o        The entire dispensation covered by the Old and New Testament was

characterized by the outward sign in a miraculous manner. Abraham

desired to know by some means that he should inherit the land

(Genesis 15:8), and the sign was given. Moses had granted to him a

sign of his delegation (Exodus 4:1-5). The blackness and darkness

around Sinai were visible demonstrations to inspire the too rash

people with becoming awe. Signs and wonders were one means by

which Nicodemus recognised the “Teacher come from God”

(John 3:1-2). The excision of the miraculous element may be

consistent for those who exclude God from direct action in the

education of mankind, but it is an illogical act when

done by believers in a personal “living God.” The Bible is

a very consistent book.

 

o        In so far as the Bible record is an education of mankind, it, containing

a faithful account of the visible signs of the past, causes those signs to

be a formative influence still. The visible manifestations during the

ages covered by Biblical records not only made people then know and

feel the reality of God’s presence and power to a degree that otherwise

would not have been possible, but they cause the “ends of the earth”

to be more thoroughly convinced of it. It takes much effort to shake

men out of their indifference to the Unseen, to strengthen faith in an

ever ruling Power. The Bible comes to the aid of our reason and

conscience, and by these recorded facts helps us to live as though

we saw Him who is invisible. Those who object to the reality of

miracles in the past because, forsooth, similar do not occur now,

and are not needed, forget how much of their present faith in

God is due to the combination of these ancient miracles with the

spiritual element that abides. We may have a spiritual appreciation

of the truth of Christianity which amply satisfies us; but that spiritual

Christianity so appreciated is impossible apart from the stupendous

“outward sign” of an Incarnation and Resurrection.

 

o        The facts consequent on the establishment of Christianity are outward

signs which continue to furnish aid to faith. The indirect result, in the

continued existence of the Jews as an essentially separate people, is

impressive. The direct effects, in the salvation of souls, the pure,

elevating spirit, and the social ameliorations naturally flowing

from Christianity, are signs and wonders which indicate the

mighty power of God.

 

Ø      Spiritual education by outward signs is very reasonable. This will be

admitted so far as relates to our children, and also the formation of

character by outward signs of power that are not miraculous. Therefore the

controversy is limited to the reasonableness of the outward miraculous

signs related in the Bible. Here observe, those who admit that the

Incarnation, “God manifest in the flesh” (I Timothy 3:16) was a reality,

and not a figure of speech, have conceded the principle; and if it was the

Divine intention by this miracle to save men in Christ, where is the difficulty

of admitting that by miracle God wrought the way for Christ, and educated

the world for the event? If the escape is sought in the supposed number of

miracles in Old Testament times, then who is to tell God how many He

shall work? Where do wisdom and propriety begin and end? Let any one

try and settle what and how often God shall work. Moreover, it is all a

delusion as to the vast number of miracles. Genesis covers at least 2800

years, and yet not over twenty-two miracles, or strictly open manifestations,

are recorded during that period, giving an average of one in 127 years.

Further, what more reasonable than, e.g., this of the “thunder”? The

people have had the truth, and reason has been appealed to; but they are

weak, as history proves. God is the supreme Power, but they evidently

need to be impressed, so that the lessons just given may abide. Fear thus

produced will act with consciousness of moral truth and force of reason,

and consequently it is an act of great mercy to render them this additional

aid, just as it is an act of kindness to enforce lessons on children by an

authority which they can appreciate.

 

·         THERE ARE SPECIAL ENCOURAGEMENTS TO CONFORMITY

TO GOD’S WILL set forth by His prophets, justified by reason and

conscience, and supported by outward signs. It is instructive to note how

God’s methods have respect to the whole man. Moral obligation is placed

before the conscience (vs. 13-15), reason is appealed to (vs. 7-11), fear

of disobedience is aroused by outward sign of supreme power, and now the

hopes of the soul are to be sustained by appropriate considerations. Would

that men who sneer at the Old Testament records had the heart to study its

spiritual teaching! They would see how beautifully the terrible and the mild

blend to meet the needs of the real man. The encouragement is threefold.

 

Ø      An assurance of God’s great mercy. “Fear not.” He “will not forsake His

people. This “fear not” comes to the sinful soul still. It came with the

angels’ song over the plains of Bethlehem; it was heard by the “little

flock;” and the conscience smitten jailor heard the same. God “hath not

forsaken” mankind. Not for what virtue He sees in perverse, ungrateful

men, but “for His own sake” he saves the penitent. As Israel had “for His

own sake” been made His people, with prospective reference to the

introduction of the Messiah and the future education of the world, so in the

redemption wrought by Christ every man on earth is embraced in a

covenant of mercy, sealed with the “blood that cleanseth from all sin.” To

know that God is merciful and gracious, that all His terrible displays of

power are in love, this brings cheer to the entire race of man. If only

despisers of the gospel knew the richness of its mercy for all men, they

would surely not seek to hinder its acceptance by this sorrowing world.

 

Ø      The prayer and sympathy of the faithful. Samuel assures Israel that he

will bear them on his heart. His affection for them and his spiritual duty to

them were such that not to continue to pray would be sin (v. 23). This

encouragement has every one who is called on to conform to the will of

God. The Church pleads “for all men.” The penitent and struggling are

especially on the heart of God’s faithful children. In thousands of homes

daily prayer is made for persons never seen and unknown by name.

 

Ø      Continuous instruction. As long as Samuel lived he would teach them

“the good and the right way.” No doubt, like the Apostle Peter, he would

also devise means so that they should have his wise words “after” his

“decease.” It requires “line upon line, precept upon precept,” to keep men

in the safe and blessed pathway; and how fully is this secured to us in the

“lively oracles”! By the written word, by the suggestions of the Holy Spirit,

by the wise counsel of friends, God teaches us the way in which we should

go. We are not left to wander at our will, or to follow the contradictory

voices of men. There is “a sure word of prophecy which shineth as a light

in a dark place.”  (II Peter 1:19)

 

 

Samuel’s Admonitions to Israel (vs. 1-25)

 

1. The occasion of his admonitions was the full recognition of the first king

of Israel -by the national assembly, and his retirement from the more active

duties of his office as judge. He was not mortified at parting with power,

nor did he wish to reverse the change which had been effected. He

cheerfully acquiesced in the will of God, and cordially united with the

people in giving honor to the “Lord’s anointed” (vs. 3, 5). Yet he might

not allow them to suppose that there was nothing blameworthy in their

desire for a king, as they were apt to do, or enter upon their new career in

perilous self-complacency, without warning them of the rocks ahead. He

spoke not merely as judge, but also as a prophet and “faithful priest” (v. 19).

 

2. The form which they assumed is varied. They consist generally of a

dialogue between him and the elders; partly of an apology, or defense of

his official conduct; partly of a narration of the dealings of God with

Israel; and partly of exhortations, warnings, and promises closely

connected together. The whole may be conceived of as a judicial scene

occurring before the invisible Judge, in which Samuel, having vindicated

himself as against the people, sets forth their sin against God, who Himself

confirms His words in the thunderstorm (Job 38:1), which leads them to

confess their transgression and seek the intercession of the prophet, who

consoles and admonishes them, and assures them of his continued help.

The language is direct and rugged and full of force.

 

3. The main subject is the course of sinful perversity which Israel had

pursued in desiring a king; the chief aim to produce a humble and penitent

state of mind, and lead to the maintenance of a proper relation to the

invisible King. His former words may be compared (ch. 3:11-14;

7:3-6; 8:10-18; 10:17-19); also the words of Moses (Numbers 16:25-30;

Deuteronomy 29.), and of Joshua (Joshua 24.). He speaks of their

course as:

 

  • ADOPTED WITHOUT SUFFICIENT REASON (vs. 3-6) in the light

of his just administration. He sets himself, as it were, before the tribunal of

the invisible Judge, and before the king, — himself, “old and grey headed,”

on the one hand, Israel on the other, — and seeks an open vindication (as

public men are often under the necessity of doing); not, however, so much

from regard to his own dignity as to their welfare and the honor of God.

We have here:

 

Ø      A challenge, on the part of Samuel, to bear witness against him.

“Behold, here I am,” etc. (v. 3). It is a common temptation for men in

authority and power to use their position for selfish and unjust purposes,

such as:

 

o        appropriating wrongfully what belongs to others,

o        defrauding them of what is their due,

o        oppressing the poor and weak, and

o        perverting the proper course of justice, especially in the case of

the rich and strong, for the sake of “a gift” or bribe.

 

How have these evils prevailed in every age! But Samuel had consciously

wronged no one, and if any can show that he has done so, he stands ready

to make restitution (Luke 19:8). His conscience is “as the noontide

clear.” “No doubt he found himself guilty before God of many private

infirmities; but for his public carriage he appeals to men. A man’s heart can

best judge of himself; others can best judge of his actions. Happy is that

man that can be acquitted by himself in private, in public by others, by God

in both” (Hall).

 

Ø      A testimony, on the part of the elders, to his integrity (v. 4); ready,

explicit, and with one voice. It is almost impossible for men in public office

to be faithful without making enemies. If Samuel had any, they now

nowhere appear; and his character shines forth “as the sun when he goeth

forth in his might” (Judges 5:31).

 

Ø      An invocation, on the part of both, to the Lord and His anointed to

confirm the testimony (v. 5); thereby making it more solemn and

memorable. Why, then, seeing his government was so unblamable, did they

wish to set it aside? Their testimony to him was a sentence of

condemnation on themselves for their inconsideration, ingratitude, and

discontent. The force of the testimony was increased by his further

invocation of the Lord as He who had “appointed Moses and Aaron, and

brought their fathers out of the land of Egypt” (v. 6). As the appointed

and faithful leader of Israel, even as they, no other was necessary, and his

rejection was the rejection of the Lord. With this he passes on to speak of

their course as:

 

  • MARKED BY AGGRAVATED TRANSGRESSION (vs. 7-12) in

the light of the righteous dealings of God in past time. “Now therefore

stand forth,” etc. (v. 7). He and they now change places; he becomes

their accuser, and reasons or contends with them (in order to convict them

of sin) “concerning the righteous acts of Jehovah,” who had acted justly in

His covenant relation with them throughout their whole history, faithfully

fulfilled His promises, inflicted punishment only when it was deserved, and

bestowed upon them the greatest benefits (Ezekiel 33:17; Micah 6:2).

These acts include:

 

Ø      A wonderful deliverance (v. 8) from a crushing oppression, in

compassion to the cry of the needy, through the instrumentality of men

raised up for the purpose, with “a mighty hand and an outstretched arm,”

and completed in their possession of the land of promise. This deliverance

is always regarded as the foundation of their history. “History was born in

that night in which Moses, with the law of God, moral and spiritual, in his

heart, led the people of Israel out of Egypt” (Bunsen).

 

Ø      Repeated chastisements (v. 9), rendered necessary by forgetfulness of

God, varied (the Canaanites, the Philistines, the Moabites), and with a view

to their moral improvement. “Notice here Samuel’s prudence in reproof.

 

o        By his reproof of their ancestors he prepares their minds to receive

reproof;

o        he shows that their ingratitude is old, and so worse, and they should

take care that it grow no stronger;

o        he chooses a very mild word, ‘forget,’ to express their offence” (Pool).

 

Ø      Continued help (vs. 10-11), through penitence and prayer, by means

of successive saviours,”Jerubbaal (Gideon), Sedan (Barak), Jephthah,

Samuel (ch. 7:10; referring to himself in the third person,

because now speaking as the advocate of Jehovah), — against their

“enemies on every side,” and in their safe preservation unto the present

time. “And ye dwelled safe.” But what return did they make for all his

benefits? As soon as they saw the threatening attitude of Nahash (v. 12),

they forgot the lessons of the past, lost their confidence in God, trusted in

an arm of flesh, and recklessly and persistently demanded a king, virtually

rejecting the Lord as their king. Former experience of the goodness and

severity of God greatly aggravates present transgression (v. 19).

 

  • INVOLVING PERILOUS RESPONSIBILITY (vs. 13-15) in the

light of present circumstances. “Now therefore behold the king whom ye

have chosen,” etc. Although they had taken the initiative in the matter, he

had reserved to himself the authority of appointing him, and abides the

supreme Ruler over both people and king (v. 12). In the new order of

things:

 

Ø      They are specially liable to forget this primary truth, and to trust in

man, and hence he impresses upon them once and again the fact that “the

Lord God is their king.” No earthly monarch can release them from their

responsibility to Him, and no human help can save them apart from Him.

“It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes”

(Psalm 118:9).

 

Ø      They can prosper only by being faithful to Him. “If ye will fear the

Lord,” etc., it will be well with you and your king. But:

 

Ø      If unfaithful, they will expose themselves to HEAVY JUDGMENTS,

 as their fathers had done before them. Wherein, then, have they improved

their condition? What a perilous course have they entered upon! And how

can they hope to avoid its consequences except by profound humiliation,

and SEEKING THE LORD “with full purpose of heart”?

 

  • NECESSITATING SINCERE REPENTANCE (vs. 16-18) in the

light of approaching judgment. “Now therefore stand and see this great

thing,” etc. Hitherto the words of Samuel appear to have produced little

effect; something further was necessary that they might not be spoken in

vain; and, in response to his prayer, the thunder crashed above the heads of

the great assembly, and the rain fell in torrents around them — things

“incomprehensible to a Hebrew” in time of harvest. The miraculous sign:

 

Ø      Corroborates the word of truth as well as the Divine commission of Him

who uttered it, and confirms the testimony borne to His integrity. The voice

of the supreme Judge answers the appeal which had been made to Him (v. 5),

and there is “an end of all controversy” (Hebrews 6:16).

 

Ø      Is significant of the Divine displeasure at their sin, and of terrible

judgments (Exodus 9:28). “Hereby the Lord showed His power, and the

people their foolishness in not being contented to have such a mighty God

for their protector, who could with thunder and rain fight for them against

their enemies, as He did for Israel against the host of Pharaoh, and not long

before this against the Philistines. And, beside, it appeared with what small

reason they should be weary of Samuel’s government, who by his prayer

could fetch down rain and thunder from heaven” (Willet). “God had

granted their desire; but upon them and their king’s bearing toward the

Lord, not upon the fact that they had now a king, would the future of

Israel depend; and this truth, so difficult for them to learn, God would, as it

were, prove before them in a symbol. Did they think it unlikely, nay, well

nigh impossible, to fail in their present circumstances? God would bring the

unlikely and seemingly incredible to pass in a manner patent to all. Was it

not the time of wheat harvest, when in the East not a cloud darkens the

clear sky? God would send thunder and rain to convince them, by making

the unlikely real, of the folly and sin of their thoughts in demanding a king”

(Edersheim).

 

3. Is designed to effect a moral end, in filling them with salutary fear. “That

ye may perceive that your wickedness is great” (v. 17). And it is not in

vain; for “all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel” (v. 18), thus

solemnly avouched to be His prophet. God is never at a loss for means to

accomplish His purposes, and goes beyond His usual method of operations

when the occasion demands it. The end of His dealings with men is to bring

them to repentance and make them holy.

 

  • NOT EXCLUDING CONSOLATION AND HOPE (vs. 19-25) in

the light of the great name and merciful purposes of God. By means of

repentance and faith men place themselves within the circle where the

“consuming fire” of Divine wrath (Romans 1:18; Hebrews 12:29) is

transformed into the genial beams of Divine grace; and “He is faithful

and just to forgive us our sins” (I John 1:9). We have here:

 

Ø      A description of a penitent people (v. 19), overwhelmed with fear,

freely and fully confessing their sin, rendering honor where they had

formerly shown ingratitude and disrespect, and seeking Divine mercy in the

way in which they had reason to believe it might be obtained.

 

Ø      An exhortation to an amended course of life (vs. 20-21).

 

o        A consoling word. “Fear not.”

o        A reminding and humbling word. “Ye have done all this wickedness.”

o        A restraining word. “Turn not aside from following the Lord” (as ye

have done in your distrust and self-will).

o        A directive word. “But serve the Lord with all your heart” (in faith,

and love, and entire consecration).

o        A warning word. “And turn ye not aside” (from God to any false

object of trust, idols).

o        An instructive word. “For they are vain” (utterly empty and

disappointing).

 

Ø      An assurance of mercy and grace (v. 22), resting on:

 

o        His relationship. They are still “His people.”

o        His name — His revelations of power and salvation to His people,

and His honor and glory before all the nations.

o        His good will. “Because” (He will not forsake His people, because)

“it hath pleased the Lord to make you His people.” Whatever

benefits He has conferred have proceeded from His pure benevolence,

and are a pledge of further benefits (Jeremiah 31:3). HIS FREE

AND UNMERITED LOVE is the sinner’s chief hope.

 

Ø      A promise of continued aid, on the part of Samuel, in intercession and

instruction (v. 23). “In this he sets a glorious example to all rulers,

showing them that they should not be led astray by the ingratitude of their

subordinates or subjects, and give up on that account all interest in their

welfare; but should further persevere all the more in their anxiety for them.”

 

Ø      A final admonition to steadfast obedience (vs. 24-25), without which

both people and king will be overwhelmed in destruction. In keeping with

the tone which pervades these admonitions, and as in foresight of coming

evils, they end with a warning.

 

 

The Good and Right Way (v. 24)

 

“Only fear the Lord,” etc. Samuel assured the people that (as a priest) he

would continue to pray for them, and (as a prophet) to show them the way

of happiness and righteousness (Acts 7:4). Of this way the text may be

taken as a further explanation, and gives:

 

  • ITS DESCRIPTION.

 

Ø      Filial reverence.Fear not” (be not terrified — vs. 17-18, 20); but fear

(with a lowly, affectionate, trustful reverence.), implying a knowledge of

God’s character and saving purposes, in so far as He has revealed them to

men; in our case, of Him who is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

(John 14:6)

 

Ø      Practical obedience. “And serve Him.” Recognize yourselves as

servants, His servants, and act accordingly. “Fear God, and keep his

commandments” (the practical expression of the principle): “for this is the

whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). The two may not be disjoined

(Joshua 24:14; Psalm 2:11). “The life of service is work; the work

of a Christian is obedience to the law of God” (Hall).

 

Ø      Thorough sincerity and whole heartedness. “In truth, with all your

heart.” Do not suppose that it is sufficient to render an outward and formal

service; or a partial service, in which the love of idols may be united with

the love of God. “Serve Him only” (ch. 7:3). “God will put up

with many things in the human heart; but there is one thing he will not put

up with in it — a second place. He who offers God a second place offers

him no place; and he who makes religion his first object makes it his whole

object” (Ruskin).

 

  • ITS NECESSITY. “Only.” You must walk in it, whatever else you do;

for it is only by doing so that you can:

 

Ø      Avoid walking in the evil and wrong way. The “vision of life” which the

great Teacher saw and described contained only two ways, the broad and

the narrow, and there is no other.  (Matthew 7:13-14)

 

Ø      Escape the destructive consequences of that way. You have already

entered on a perilous course, only (in order that you may escape the end to

which it naturally conducts), “fear the Lord,” etc. “If ye still do wickedly,

ye shall be consumed, both you and your king” (v. 25). “The way of

transgressors is hard.” (Proverbs 13:15) “it leadeth to destruction.”

 

Ø      Receive, and continue to receive, the blessings that have been

promised. “The Lord will not forsake His people,” only (in order that you

may enjoy His favor), “fear,” etc. “I will pray for you, and teach you,”

only (in order that you may be really benefited thereby), “fear,” etc.

(Jeremiah 6:16; Isaiah 1:19-20).  (A very bad characteristic of a society

without God is that they exhibit “there is no fear of  God in their eyes.”

Romans 3:18 – CY – 2016)

 

  • ITS INCENTIVE. “For consider how great things He hath done for

you.” The motive here is not fear of punishment, nor hope of reward, nor

even the sense of right, but gratitude and love.

 

Ø      What benefits; so great, so numerous, so long continued — temporal

and spiritual (vs. 6-11).

 

Ø      Toward you, in comparison with others (v. 22).

 

Ø      He hath wrought. HE and no other; freely and graciously. “Free love is

that which has never been deserved, which has never been desired, and

which never can be requited.” “We have known and believed the love that

God hath to us. God is love” (I John 4:16). But in order that His love

may be perceived and its influence felt, in awakening love, we must

consider, fix attention upon it, especially as manifested in “His unspeakable

gift” (II Corinthians 9:15). Our responsibility in regard to “salvation” depends

directly on the power we possess of directing attention to Divine truth, and

considering it with a real and earnest desire to KNOW IT AND LIVE

ACCORDING TO IT and by this means, as ice is melted by the sunbeams,

so the heart is softened, renewed, and sanctified by the Spirit of truth.

The plea of God is “O that they were wise; that they understood this,

that they would consider their latter end!” (Deuteronomy 32:29)

 

 

 

 

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