Description / Transcription
We come this morning to the end of our summer series on the life and ministry of Samuel. I invite you to turn in your Bibles to 1 Samuel chapter 12. Rather than reading the whole chapter at the beginning, we’ll move through this scene by scene and read the verses as come to them.
To set the stage, Samuel is old. How old? Well, just older than you, I’m sure. The people have asked for a king. We’ve seen that, and Samuel now is graciously stepping aside. He is literally now a king-maker and he will sometimes be the consultant, first for Saul then for David, but before he’s done with his official public ministry as the leader of Israel, the judge, he’s going to utter his longest recorded speech. It’s one of those great parting speeches in the Bible, ones like we have from Joshua or Moses or David. It’s part farewell, part warning, part blessing, part covenant renewal.
Now as I said last week, we wouldn’t have to end the series on Samuel right here. There are two more significant events in Samuel’s life. In chapter 15 his role in the rejection of Saul, and then in chapter 16 in his anointing David to be king. But I’ve decided to end the series here because this farewell speech marks the end of his public ministry officially as the leader in Israel.
We can divide this speech into four sections. One – Samuel’s innocence. Two – the Lord’s righteousness. Three – the people’ challenge. And four – a final reply. That will be our outline as we move through each of these sections.
We’ll look at the first one, which we find in verses 1 through 5. We can call this theme, Samuel’s innocence. We read in verse 1:
“And Samuel said to all Israel, “Behold, I have obeyed your voice in all that you have said to me and have made a king over you. And now, behold, the king walks before you, and I am old and gray.”
Now incidentally, you don’t have to be old to be gray.
““I’m old and gray and behold, my sons are with you. I have walked before you from my youth until this day. Here I am; testify against me before the Lord and before his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Or whose donkey have I taken? Or whom have I defrauded? Whom have I oppressed? Or from whose hand have I taken a bribe to blind my eyes with it? Testify against me and I will restore it to you.” They said, “You have not defrauded us or oppressed us or taken anything from any man’s hand.” And he said to them, “The Lord is witness against you, and his anointed is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand.” And they said, “He is witness.””
There are people in the world who never admit a mistake. They don’t acknowledge sin, they don’t take their faults seriously, they don’t repent. That’s one sort of danger. But there are also people who have the opposite problem. If there are those who never admit a mistake, there are some people who will never dare to admit that they did something right. And perhaps it’s possible, and I hate to say it, but maybe particularly in Reformed churches, it is possible that we think to be a mature Christian means we constantly downgrade ourselves, and the spiritual way to talk is as if we are constant spiritual failures. “I never go anything right, I’m always a failure,” that magnifies the grace of God.
Well, of course, there is a sense we saw last Sunday evening, from 2 Corinthians 4: We have this treasure in jars of clay. So yes, we’re humble, we take a posture of humility. And yet did you notice what Samuel says here at the end of his life in ministry? He’s not claiming perfection. He isn’t arguing for justification by works. There’s no hint of arrogance or pride. We can get so nervous with texts in the Bible where someone is asserting their righteousness and we think we have warning signs, oh, no, this is about to be justification by works. This is legalism.
But that’s clearly not what Samuel is doing. He’s simply an old man reaching the end of his days and he says, “Haven’t I been faithful? Not perfect, not sinless, not meriting justification, but haven’t I been faithful? Haven’t I been a good judge? Am I not innocent of wrongdoing before you?”
Now Samuel is not raising this issue so that he can pat himself on the back or have them pat on his back. “Well, enough of talking about me, why don’t you talk about me,” that’s not what Samuel is doing. He is simply asking the question, “Have I perverted justice?” and there’s a reason for this. Remember, they have asked for a king, and implicit in asking for a king is not only the rejection of the Lord as their king, but the rejection of Samuel as their leader.
And so before he exits the scene, he wants to present before them. “Now I’m giving you the king you asked for, but let me establish before you once and for all: Have I failed you? Is that the reason?” He doesn’t want some future historian to say, “And then Israel needed a king because Samuel was such a terrible judge.” That’s not the case.
In fact, he’s marshaling his innocence that he might remind the people because he fears that there will come a time that they won’t listen to the king and they will follow hard after their own desires and wander from God and he wants to establish before them “I served faithfully. Do you have anything against me as your judge?”
And they say no. They bear witness. And they bring the Lord’s anointed, Saul, the new king, to bear witness. “You have not defrauded us, you have not oppressed us, you have not taken anything from us.”
Oppression is a word that we hear a lot today, and it is a serious sin. And what the sin entails is quite a bit more straightforward than the way we sometimes, or some people would have us, understand oppression. Oppression in the Bible involves one or more of the following: Cheating, swindling, stealing, lying, withholding justice for the sake of a bribe or some other kind of favoritism.
Samuel has not done any of that. Samuel has fulfilled the most fundamental requirement of a judge. You think, “What would you say is the most fundamental requirement of a judge?” Impartiality. Throughout the Old Testament, the Singular task of a judge is to apply the law of God equally to everyone. This means no favoritism to the rich and to the powerful, those who can give you a bribe to pervert the eyes of justice.
But it also means, we read in Exodus and elsewhere, that you don’t show favoritism to the poor. You don’t side with men because they’re men. You don’t side with women because they’re women. There is no special treatment for your clan, your tribe, your people group, equal treatment under the law.
Deuteronomy 16. We find God’s instructions for the judges and the officers in every town in Israel, and surely this was the sort of banner that was meant to wave over Samuel’s ministry. Quote: “You shall not pervert justice.”
Okay. What does justice look like? It continues.
“You shall not show partiality. You shall not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise, subverts the cause of the righteous. Justice and only justice you shall follow that you may live and inherit the land that the Lord your God is giving you.”
So it’s just worth noting here in parentheses, because this is such an important topic in our culture. What is the nature of justice, that this biblical definition, especially as it pertains to those who would have to make judgments over the people, the biblical definition of justice here is rather straightforward: Treat people fairly. You don’t treat people better, you don’t treat people worse, because of where they’re from, or that they have, or what they look like, or because the color of their skin, or whether they’re men or women, or whether they’re old or young, or rich or poor, or whether they seem to be on your team or on the other team.
Justice means giving to people their due.
Samuel says, “I have not defrauded. I’ve not been bribed. I’ve not stolen from you. I’ve not cheated. I’ve not swindled.”
And don’t miss the larger point. Samuel says, “I’ve done my job. Not perfect, not sinless, but faithful.”
And you just need to be reminded of this from time to time, because I’ve said this before, there is a way for preachers to preach to you so that everything lands on you as if you are failing in every way as a Christian. And there’s a temptation as a preacher, because that feels like, “oh, man, preacher was really getting me today.” But if you walk out every Sunday and you think, “I’m not good at anything. I’m failing in every area of my spiritual life, but praise God, I’m forgiven,” that’s not the way the Bible talks about us.
It is possible, not to merit your justification, but it is possible to live a faithful, Christian life. A life that pleases God. Well done, good and faithful servant.
I hope that however many years the Lord gives me to minister His Word that when I am done I can stand before you and say, “Have I not rightly handled the Word of God? Did I not study hard? Did I not pray for you? Did I not lead with integrity?”
If you’re a doctor or a nurse, hopefully you can say, “Did I not seek your health? Your well-being? Did I not sacrifice of myself and my comfort for you?”
If you’re a teacher, perhaps, “Did I not come prepared? Was I not there to answer your questions?”
Parents, “Was I not there to take care of you? To pray for you before you went to sleep? To teach you about Jesus?”
Or if you’re in business, that you would say at the end of your career, “I cheated no one. I did not swindle. I did not put my desire for a sale or a bigger profit ahead of what was right and good for people.”
To be a judge in Israel was to be in a position of great power, and we are reminded again and again, it is possible to abuse great power. It is also necessary to have men of integrity using that power for good. And Samuel says, “I did not make myself rich by unlawful means. I could not be bought.” That’s why he goes through the list: “I don’t have any of your oxen, do I? I don’t have any of your donkeys.”
Because the idea was, if you want a good verdict from me as judge, then I’m gonna need a little something on the side. I’m gonna need a little something through the back door.
Or he would say, “If you don’t give me what I stand in need of, then I know how to pull the levers of power and you’re going to be out of luck.” He said, “I didn’t do any of that. I always chose being right over being rich.”
Can each of us say the same thing? I always choose being right over being rich.
Or, maybe you don’t really care about money. Or maybe you don’t have access to money. I heard Tedd Tripp one time say that he and his wife when they were first married, they used to think that they didn’t care anything about money, and then they realized later no, they just didn’t have any of it. Later, you know, they grow up and have other jobs and realize oh, okay, I do care about money.
But maybe you say, “I don’t care about money.” Well, then, let me ask you this: Do you always choose the right thing? That is, the right thing according to God’s Word, what you are to believe, what you are to say, who you are to be. Do you always choose the right thing over being liked? Over being popular with the crowd?
Some people who cannot be bought with money can be purchased with popularity, or with comfort, or with ease, or with status. The godly leader is willing to have his example stand before others with scrutiny, just like Samuel.
He begins this speech with a statement of his innocence before them. He was faithful.
Here’s the second part of his speech. We can call it the Lord’s righteousness. Look at verse 6.
“And Samuel said to the people, “The Lord is witness, who appointed Moses and Aaron and brought your fathers up out of the land of Egypt. Now therefore stand still that I may plead with you before the Lord concerning all the righteous deeds of the Lord that He performed for you and for your fathers. When Jacob went into Egypt, and the Egyptians oppressed them, then your fathers cried out to the Lord and the Lord sent Moses and Aaron, who brought your fathers out of Egypt and made them dwell in this place. But they forgot the Lord their God. And he sold them into the hand of Sisera, commander of the army of Hazor, and into the hand of the Philistines, and into the hand of the king of Moab. And they fought against them. And they cried out to the Lord and said, ‘We have sinned, because we have forsaken the Lord and have served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. But now deliver us out of the hand of our enemies, that we may serve you.’ And the Lord sent Jerubbaal,” that’s Gideon, “and Barak and Jephthah and Samuel and delivered you out of the hand of your enemies on every side, and you lived in safety. And when you saw that Nahash the king of the Ammonites came against you, you said to me, ‘No, but a king shall reign over us,’ when the Lord your God was your king.”
You see what Samuel is doing. In the first part of the speech he establishes his innocence, now he is establishing the Lord’s innocence. He is building his case once again that the people were wrong to ask for a king. He’s saying, “You had no reason to reject me,” that’s verses 1 through 5, “you had no reason to reject me as your judge,” and now verses 6 through 12, “more importantly, you had no reason to reject the Lord as your king.”
And so in brief space he recounts the Lord’s righteous deeds before him. Notice he lists six deliverers: Moses, Aaron, Jerubbaal (that’s Gideon), Barak, Jephthah, and Samuel. And that’s just a smattering to say, “These deliverers the Lord brought into your midst to save you.”
He lists six deliverers, he lists five nations: Egypt, Hazor, the Philistines, Moab, the Ammonites.
And do you see the argument that he’s building? Like a good lawyer, he’s litigating, prosecuting the case against the Israelites. He says, “Remember you went to Egypt. There was famine, you went to Egypt, you were oppressed by Pharaoh. And what happened? You cried out to God and He saved you. But then what happened? You forgot Me, and I gave you over to someone else. But then when you were oppressed by that nation, again you cried out to Me, and what happened? I saved you.”
This is the history of God’s people writ large. You’re tormented, you’re oppressed, you cry out to Me, I hear you in the time of your great need, and I save you. You praise the lord, we’re saved. You forget it. I hand you over again until finally you come to your senses and you cry out.
But you notice the conclusion of this brief retelling of their history. Verse 12. He says, “Look, this happened over and over again. Remember? Remember? You freaked out with the Egyptians and the Philistines and everybody and what happened every single time? You called out to Me, and I saved you.”
But then here comes Nahash, the king of the Ammonites, and this time you didn’t cry out that I would save you, you cried out for an earthly king. In other words, you forgot. You forgot your own history. I fight for you, but you need to trust me. After all of those times, all of those repetitions, oppression, cry out, salvation; oppression, cry out, salvation. Why didn’t you do it again? You forgot your own history, that I’m for you not against you.
And lest we’re too quick to judge Israel, we have to admit that we forget our own history. I do. We forget so quickly. Perhaps you’re in the midst of some completely chaotic moment in your life and you think what in the world is going on, and you forgot that you also had a season of suffering and chaos five years ago and you thought there’s no way I’m coming out of that, and the Lord put the pieces together. But now you’ve forgotten.
Or you forgot how ten years ago, or maybe ten months ago, when you thought you really knew it all, and now you’ve gotten a little older, a little wiser, and you realize, wow, I was, I did not know what I was doing and praise God that He didn’t give me all the things I asked for.
Have you forgotten the blessings of friends or family or health or job or favorable circumstances or safety? It happens over and over. It’s human nature. When we suffer, we forget. When we are afraid, we forget.
I was just thinking of The Silver Chair, one of the volumes in The Chronicles of Narnia. You remember Jill and Eustace are set out on their journey, their adventure, and as they go out, Aslan tells Jill you need to look for these and remember these four signs, and you’re to repeat them over and over again, don’t forget the four signs. And at first she’s good to remind herself, and so to pass the test when each of those signs appear, okay, what am I supposed to do in this moment? But as the journey continues, they get distracted, they feel a sense of false security, and they forget the signs. They become lazy, distracted, forgetful.
I remember years ago when reading that and everything within me just wanted to scream out, “Just remember the signs, oh, no, this is going to be really bad. Just do your job and remember the signs.”
And then later we read from Puddleglum in the story, Aslan didn’t tell Jill what would happen. He only told her what to do. And so it is often, God doesn’t tell us what’s going to happen, He doesn’t tell us the future before it gets there, but He does tell us what to do, and He wants us to remember the signs.
The central question the Lord asks to Israel is the question He asks to us: Do you trust Me?
Yes, there is the problem of evil, which philosophers and theologians as a mental problem, as an existential problem, can never quite solve, and yet biblically at least one of the answers to the problem of evil, to suffering in your life, to frustration, to temptation, to struggle, is that simple question: Do you trust Me?
That’s why the Lord in the whirlwind didn’t tell Job everything he wanted to know. No one suffered more than Job, and God didn’t say, “Okay, Job, really good questions. I got five points to make with you. I’m going to explain how all of this fits together.” He didn’t explain how it all fits together. What He did was remind Job who he was talking to, and how great God is. Because the thing that Job needed most in that moment of temptation and suffering was not to see how it all would pan out and how it all came together and all the loose ends would be tied up, but to know that he still had a God and that God was on his side and that God was on the throne.
Can you trust Me, Job? Can you trust Me, Israelites? Can you trust Me, men and women and children of Christ Covenant? Would you cry out to God? Isn’t that the lesion from Israel’s history? Cry out to God. Whether you were to look at your life and see absolutely mind-boggling fear and danger, the likes of which we’re seeing on the TV screen in Afghanistan, or whether your concerns right now are much more ordinary.
Isn’t it good news that God did not say, “Cast some of your cares on Me,” or “just cast the really big cares on Me”? Cast all of your cares. Are you absolutely worn out from work? From cancer? From treatments? From potty training? Cast your cares upon the Lord. Trust Him, turn to Him, ask Him. The Lord will honor a heart like that. Do not forget your own history and the Lord’s faithfulness.
So part one of the speech, Samuel’s saying, “I’ve been faithful.” Part two, the Lord’s been faithful.
Here’s the third part of the speech. We can call it the people’s challenge. Not the challenge they give, but the challenge presented to them. We pick up reading at verse 13.
““And now behold the king whom you have chosen, for whom you have asked; behold, the Lord has set a king over you. If you will fear the Lord and serve Him and obey His voice and not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, and if both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God, it will be well. But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then the hand of the Lord will be against you and your king. Now therefore stand still and see this great thing that the Lord will do before your eyes. Is it not wheat harvest today? I will call upon the Lord, that he may send thunder and rain. And you shall know and see that your wickedness is great, which you have done in the sight of the Lord, in asking for yourselves a king.” So Samuel called upon the Lord, and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day, and all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel.”
We know the Lord is gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love. And notice what Samuel says to the people in verse 14. He says, in essence, “You wanted a king, you got a king. You shouldn’t have asked for a king, but you did and you got one. And yet, I’m telling you if you go on from this point and fear the Lord and obey Him and stop this rebellious spirit, things can still go well for you.” Do you see that at the end of verse 14? It will be well.
Don’t miss this. This is really good news for us. God does not say to us, “If you make one wrong decision, whoo, the rest of your life is absolutely going to be a royal mess. No return.”
He could have said that. He would have been just to say that. But isn’t it good news that He didn’t? Yeah, you asked for a king. Bad move. You made a mistake. You sinned. There are consequences for your sin. But He does not say, “You know what? Throw away your life, I’m moving on to some other people. You’ve made a royal mess of it. Nothing good can come from your life because you made this mistake.”
No. He says, “Okay, put that behind us. It’s done. Now I’m telling you, do the right thing. Obey, fear the Lord, and things can still go well for you.”
You don’t have to be defined by the dumb decisions you make when you’re young and immature, or when you’re older and immature. We aren’t always saved from the consequences of our decisions. Israel was going to get a king. They had to live with that. But praise God, He does not say your life is now a waste and don’t let the door of judgment hit you on the way out. He says, “You made a mistake, admit it, okay, good, now let’s start doing things the right way, because you can still have a good life in front of you. I’m not done with you.”
And God says that to you. You still have a choice in this life.
We live in a day where one of the subtle lies of the enemy working through our culture is to tell you over and over again you really don’t have any personal choice or moral agency. You’re simply the product of everything around you. Whatever bad thing has happened to you, you can’t help but be the way that you are. Or whatever sort of mistakes you’ve made, that’s just set into motion and everything else is just in a mechanical sense determined before you.
Now of course we believe ultimately in God’s sovereignty, even over our decisions, but Samuel says clearly here to the people, “You made a bad decision, put it behind you. Now you have the opportunity to start making good decisions. You can obey Me. Asking for a king was a bad idea, and I’ve given what you wanted, but I still want to bless you.”
Now just to make the point clear, and so they don’t forget, Samuel calls on the Lord to send a thunderstorm. The point about the wheat harvest is because that was in May and June during the dry season. You do your harvest for wheat during the dry season. So this would have been unusual. You don’t have massive rain showers and thunderstorms during the dry season. So there’s no mistaking this was from the Lord. It’s a reminder that they have done a wicked thing in asking for a king.
Now why does Samuel call for the storm? Wasn’t he just trying to encourage them by saying, “Look, you can live a life that’s still pleasing to God, but now be very afraid.” No, that’s not what he’s doing. Because he understands if you are going to live a life that’s pleasing to God, the only way you’re going to do it is if you have a proper fear of the Lord. That’s what got you into this mess in the first place. You feared the king of the Ammonites more than you feared the Lord your God.
So this thunderstorm is a mercy to the people. Remember your God, remember your God, not some little king of the Ammonites, is Lord over the universe, Lord over the weather, Lord over the cosmos, and so if you’re going to get this right moving forward, you need to fear the Lord your God.
So it’s a warning, but it’s a grace. The Lord is on the side of all those who walk in faith and repentance, and the best way to walk on that path is to have a healthy fear of the Lord. If you are walking on a cable across two skyscrapers, I’ve watched documentaries of these people who do this sort of thing, and it won’t be a surprise to you that parents and spouses were not in favor of this line of work. But if you are to do that, no one has to tell you “be careful,” you understand to your right and to the left the very grave dangers of approaching your walk casually.
And in the same say, we ought to have uppermost in our minds this fear of the Lord.
And here Samuel is graciously giving them a reminder, but hopefully we have it so deeply rooted in our hearts to know, to keep us walking on the straight and narrow.
Most of you know the proverb, the most famous proverb perhaps, “What is the beginning of wisdom? It is the fear of the Lord.”
And if we have become in so many ways a profoundly foolish people in this country, it is because there is no fear of God before our eyes. That’s what keeps you, makes you wise.
So you haven’t ruined your life, but you need to fear the Lord to walk in the way that will please Him.
And here’s the final section. Verse 19. We can call it a final reply, it’s a reply both to Samuel and then Samuel back to the people.
“All the people said to Samuel, “Pray for your servants to the Lord your God, that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil, to ask for ourselves a king.” And Samuel said to the people, “Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. For the Lord will not forsake His people, for His great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for Himself. Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way. Only fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things He has done for you. But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king.””
What an amazing section. Verse 19, the people come to Samuel and we can’t see an x-ray into their hearts. They at least express regret, “We shouldn’t have done this thing.” Is it real repentance? Well, that will take time, but there’s a sincerity for sure. They recognize something of the Lord’s holiness. After this thunderstorm during the wheat harvest, they realize once again our God is not to be trifled with, “Samuel, would you pray for us, ’cause if you don’t pray for us we’re going to die.”
This is a change. Remember, in asking for a king they rejected not only the Lord but Samuel. So this is a profound change because in essence when they said, “Thanks, Samuel, but not thanks, we’ll take a king, not you. No offense, of course, we like you and all.” “None taken.”
But now they’ve come to see this man Samuel truly is sent from the Lord and we need his help, to pray for us. They admit their sin. And notice Samuel’s response in verse 20. It’s fascinating. You notice the two parts of this sentence in verse 20: Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. You think about it. We wouldn’t put those two things together. And your English teacher wants you to notice there’s a semicolon there because it’s two sentences that could stand together as independent sentences. That’s why it’s a semicolon, not a comma.
We would not put these two things together in a sentence, would we? We would expect him to say, “Do not be afraid, for I love you.” Or, “You ought to be afraid for you have done all this evil.” But he puts together, “Don’t be afraid” and “You’ve done what is evil.’
So look at each of those. Start with the second part, “you have done all this evil.” Samuel doesn’t pull any punches. He doesn’t pretend that they have not sinned.
I fear that if someone had come to us and said, “Well, pray for us, I’ve added to all my other sins this great evil of asking for a king.” So often we want to talk people down, “No, don’t be hard on yourself. We all make mistakes. I’m not saying that you did a great evil, I’m just saying we can do better next time.”
Samuel doesn’t do any of that. He says, “You’re right. What you did was a sin. It was a great evil.” He doesn’t blame other people, “Well, you know, you’re not really a bad person, you just had a bad day, or you were born that way or a bad childhood,” or something. He says, “No, no, you’re right. You sinned. You made a mistake.” But that’s not all he says. At the front half, he says, the first thing he says, “Don’t be afraid. Okay, there’s sin in your life, you feel terrible about it.”
We should feel terrible for sin. There’s misplaced shame and there’s well-placed shame. But you don’t stay there in that shame. Don’t be afraid.
This is what happens throughout the Bible with the prophets, Hosea, Amos, Micah, they have woe, they have judgment because of unfaithfulness, but at the end there’s mercy. God wounds so that He may heal. After you sin, don’t be afraid.
So this is the secret to the Christian life. How do you do this? To fear God but don’t be afraid? Aren’t those the same words? Well, obviously there’s a right kind of fear and there’s a bad kind of fear. And the simplest way to understand it is you ought to have the fear of the Lord that drives you to God, not fear that pulls you away from God.
So fear Him lest you sin, but when you sin, don’t be afraid and add to your sin the sin of thinking that if you just distance yourself from God enough, some of you do that. If I just stay away, if I just make myself feel miserable, if I just pretend not to be noticed, then eventually I’ve sort of done my own penance. That’s not what God wants.
Don’t be afraid. Don’t sin.
We try to cover ourselves in justifications and excuses or we hide from the Lord like Adam and Eve or we try to make fig leaves of self-righteousness for ourselves. We must get both of these things: Do not be afraid; you have sinned.
And there are two kinds of people. People who can’t see their sin and people who can’t see anything but their sin. Some of you need the Holy Spirit to really get in your face, because it has been a long time since you ever really repented of something, since you ever really went before the Lord and said, “I have sinned.” It’s been a long time. Maybe years since you ever really apologized to someone in your life and said you know what, “I was wrong. I’m sorry.” And you knee the Holy Spirit to shine like a giant flashlight into your heart.
And then there are others of you. You don’t have any problem feeling bad about your sin. No one needs to make you feel guilty. You feel that all the time. No one needs to convince you of your failings, your wickedness. You need to hear the word, “Do not be afraid. You’ve sinned, you’re sorry, let’s move on, let’s change.”
You see what happens in verses 20 and 21. That’s essentially Samuel’s message. Okay, you sinned, not good, but don’t be afraid, and now don’t turn aside from following the Lord.
God is not interested in making you feel miserable for the rest of your life for your sin. He’s interested in you turning away from your sin and turning to him. Look at the encouragement in verse 22: The Lord will not forsake His people. Keep walking with Him when you stumble. Get up. He will help you. Why will He help you? For His own name’s sake. You’re His people, His treasured possession. You bear the name of Christ. He chose you, He saved you, He will keep you, He will change you.
And then look at Samuel’s reply in verse 23. I could preach an entire sermon just on verse 23: “Far be it from me that I should sin by ceasing to pray for you.”
Now that doesn’t mean that every person in your life that you don’t pray for, it’s a sin. You can’t pray for everyone. But it was in particular his responsibility as the leader of Israel to pray for them. Perhaps it would be a fair application to think it would be a sin if I as your pastor would cease to pray for you. I have a list of names that Barry, my assistant, gives me and try to go through the directory and I know a lot of you and I’m sorry I don’t know all of you, I won’t do Bilbo’s speech, and I don’t like half of you, half is my whatever the speech is, no, but I take seriously, I have that list and he gives it to me on Thursday and I have a time carved out to pray for you.
Do you pray for your children? Husbands, God has given you the awesome responsibility to be the head of your household and you are charged with the sanctification, not only of your life but of your wife and of your children. Are you praying for them?
Samuel says, “I will certainly pray for you. Far be it from me that I would cease to instruct you. I will continue to teach you what is right and what is good.”
And he finishes in verse 24 with these final commands. One, fear the Lord. Two, serve Him faithfully with all your heart. And three, consider what great things He has done for you.
Brothers and sisters, are you on the lookout for God’s kindness to you? Or are you on the lookout for any sort of wrong, any sort of rankling, any sort of injustice you think the Lord has done to you?
You know the line from Come Thou Fount, “tune my heart to sing Thy grace.” Get the right tune. Think about, you take a bow and you put it over the strings, the strings of your heart, how are the strings tuned? If they’re out of tune, no matter how skilled you are with the bow, not matter what God does, if your heart is out of tune, He pulls that across and it’s screeching, no matter what He does to you, you look at it, it’s bitterness, it’s complaining, it’s why has someone had it better than me, it’s jealousy, it’s murmuring, it’s grumbling.
But when your heart is tuned to sing His praise, even the hard circumstances, even the bitter providences of life, when that bow comes across the strings of your heart, you say, “My, what great things the Lord has done for me.”
Have you forgotten, have I forgotten, all of the good things God has done?
I’ll tell you, to my own embarrassment, how many times I, you know, some of you have been to our house. We have a lovely house. It’s a big house. We’ve got a lot of people in it. It’s just a lot to take care of a house with, you know, some of you got back from Windy Gap, we live Windy Gap all the time. We just have that. So to my own shame how often I, “Uhh, it’s just chaos and there’s messes in the corner and there’s things and there’s ’cause children make messes and ahhhh.”
You know, we have had this happen a number of times. Someone will come, an Amazon truck. They probably have someone just for the DeYoung house, I think. We looked and the last three months and we had 63 orders, so just, we’re terrible. An Amazon truck and Instacart, Grubhub or whatever, you have all these things that come to your door. We’ve had it more than once the person delivering says, “Wow, wish I lived in a place like this. This is a great house.” You know what I should think even before that? I have a house. I have a place to live, whether you have a house, an apartment, whatever. You have a place to live.
We happen to have beautiful oak trees and brick and also sorts… How many wonderful, beautiful places are there in this part of the city? And how often my heart is not tuned to sing God’s praise, but out of tune to forget all of the wonderful things that He has done for me, for you. Consider what the Lord has done.
The stories some of you learned as a kid about creation, Abraham, Isaac, Exodus, Jericho, Samson, David, Goliath, Elijah, Elisha, a virgin birth, the miracles, the apostles, the resurrection. God did that and He’s still at work. He’s still at work in your life. Do you think He’s not strong enough to change you? Do you think He’s not good enough to help you? Repent, turn. God will not turn away. And He may just have more blessing for you than you have dared to ask or imagine. Consider, as you look upon the cross, consider what great things God has done for you.
Let’s pray. Father in heaven, You have surely done good to us, and so we give You the glory for all the great things You have done and we lift our voice and give You praise. In Jesus’ name. Amen.