The Gracious Faithfulness of God
1 Samuel 12:1–25
1st & 2nd Samuel Lesson #044
March 8, 2016
“Our Father, we are thankful for this opportunity to come together this evening and to focus on Your Word, to be reminded of Your grace, Your faithfulness, Your goodness to us, all the many ways in which You provide for us, far beyond anything that we deserve. So often we continue to commit sins. We continue to be rebellious and disobedient in areas where we are just stubborn and refusing to walk with You. Yet You are faithful. You are good to us. You bless us, not because of who we are, but of what Christ did for us on the Cross.
Father, we see this illustrated time and again in the Old Testament with Israel—that despite their disobedience, despite their idolatry, despite their continued stubbornness, nevertheless, You were gracious to them. You were always faithful to Your covenant. Father, we rely on Your faithfulness, Your goodness, and Your grace. We trust that You will continue to deal with us on the basis of Your grace. We pray that we will come to a better understanding of that this evening. In Christ’s name. Amen.”
We are in 1 Samuel 12 tonight. Last week we looked at the story of the snake vs. the messiah, so to speak. The snake is the actual meaning of the name for Nahash, the Ammonite. In that battle Saul, who is the Lord’s anointed, is the mashiach, the Lord’s anointed king for Israel. He is God’s choice to be king. It is very clear that God has chosen Saul to be that king. He has worked to provide evidence, clear external objectifiable evidence that he is the one who God has chosen.
One part of that external evidence is that Saul functioned as the messiah and delivered Israel from the onslaughts of this horrible, vicious, violent Ammonite king.
That is, as I pointed out, one of many pictures that we have throughout Scripture of how ultimately the seed of the serpent will be defeated by the Seed of the woman.
The Seed of the woman is the Messiah, the Mashiach, the Anointed One of God, who is Jesus, who defeated Satan strategically at the Cross. He will complete that defeat when He returns at the battle of Armageddon. At that time He will throw Satan into the abyss for 1,000 years as He establishes His kingdom.
There are a lot of parallels, pictures, and analogies that we see. Some of them rise to the level of types. Some of them are just patterns that the Holy Spirit brings out historically and records for us in the Scripture. As we have seen this, we have come to this section at the end 1 Samuel 11, where once again Samuel confirms that Saul is God’s choice. They have a public recognition of this and coronation at a place called Gilgal.
I know that we have all seen this many times. As we look at the slide we see the title for tonight’s lesson, the focal part of this chapter.
This is a lawsuit that Samuel is bringing against Israel, an indictment. It is a legally structured indictment against Israel. The focal point is that despite Israel’s unfaithfulness, despite their disobedience that will continue into the future, God, as He has been in the past, will continue to be faithful to them. God will bring discipline into the life of Israel, but the only hope of surviving is to re-orient to the plan of God.
The focal point of this chapter, as we look at it, is to focus on the grace of God and His continued faithfulness to Israel despite the fact that they are disobedient. That is what grace is.
Grace is the undeserved favor of God to fallen creatures that are disobedient.
We have seen the structure again and again. In 1 Samuel 1–7 the focus is on Samuel. We see the desire expressed in 1 Samuel 8 by Israel that they want to have a king. This is an important reminder. This is a rejection.
1 Samuel 8 is really the backdrop for 1 Samuel 12. The focal point in 1 Samuel 8 is that they want to have a king like all the other nations. They have rejected Samuel as a leader. They have rejected his sons following him as leaders. Ultimately, as God says:
- They have not rejected Samuel.
- They have rejected God.
- They do not want to follow divine viewpoint.
- They do not want to trust the Lord.
- They do not want to be obedient.
This is the pattern that we are going to see again and again and again in Israel. In fact, if you take the time to read Jeremiah, Jeremiah is a great book right now for this nation, because as you read Jeremiah you are often reminded of this country and what this nation is going through.
Time and time again in Jeremiah you have the leaders of Israel, leaders of different groups coming to Jeremiah. They say for him to tell them what God wants them to do and we will do it. We love the Lord. We will do it.
It is such a reminder of politicians and people today. In fact, I had a conversation with somebody even today, and they were talking about somebody they knew. They loved the Lord. They go to their umpty-dump church, this and that and the other thing.
Of course, I always say, if you love the Lord why are you going to that crappy little church? Why are not you getting the Word of God? Why are you not doing the Word of God? Because that is what Scripture says.
That is what happens in Jeremiah. Time and again these leaders come to Jeremiah saying: “tell us what God wants us to do, and we will do whatever He wants to do. We love the Lord.” Jeremiah says the Lord says to do this. They say, we are not going to do it! We are not! We will not do it! Not at all!
I see evidence of that all the time in this culture. We see people who want the façade of religion, the façade of piety. They go and want to “feel good” at church. They sing the songs. They go through the rituals. They go through everything that makes them feel good about themselves, because they have constructed a little idol—that as long as they worship that little idol in their head, then they are going to feel good about themselves.
But it has nothing to do with the Bible or loving the Lord or doing what the Lord wants to do.
This is so typical of Israel. We are going to see it again and again in Samuel with Israel, but we are also going to see it in the coming chapters with Saul, because right now Saul has been riding a really good wave. Everything is going his way. God has chosen him to be king. Many positive things have happened. God has blessed him in the previous chapters.
But the problem with Saul is the problem we see repeated again and again and again throughout Israel. We see it in Jeremiah. We see it in the church again and again.
And that is that the people do not want to be obedient. They want to do it their own way. We see the rise of Saul in 1 Samuel 8–15:
- 1 Samuel 8 is Israel’s choice. They want to have a king.
- 1 Samuel 9–10 focus on God’s choice of Saul as the first king.
- 1 Samuel 11 is the final evidence that he is God’s chosen king.
- 1 Samuel 12 is going to be the transition of power. The change of command ceremony from Samuel to Saul. After this Saul will be the king.
- In 1 Samuel 13 it is not long before things start going downhill. We see Saul becoming disobedient. He disobeys God and tries to function as a priest and offer a sacrifice. What happens? God brings discipline on Him. God says that if you would have obeyed me, I would have blessed you, and your descendants would sit on the throne. But because you have not obeyed Me, you are going to lose the throne. You will not have a dynasty. Your son will not sit on the throne.
There is divine judgment there. That is a foreshadowing of what happens to a greater degree in 1 Samuel 15.
In 1 Samuel 16 God has Samuel anoint David. We see the rise of David.
The location for this event is the red dot in the middle of the map. That is Gilgal. Gilgal is a significant site in Israel’s history. It is on par with what happens at Mount Sinai. I pointed this out last time.
You have a couple of events that take place in Israel’s history:
At Mount Sinai God gave the Law. Then when the conquest generation crossed the Jordan, they gathered at Gilgal. They reconfirmed the Covenant with Moses there for their generation. That was about 1406 BC.
It is now roughly 1050 BC. This is about 350 years later. They are going to bring sacrifices before the Lord. They are going to accept and recognize Saul as their king. Gilgal is a significant site.
Two or three times in the coming chapters we are going to see a return of Saul and his army to Gilgal, this significant site.
At the end of 1 Samuel 11 we are told in 1 Samuel 11:15, “So all the people went to Gilgal, and there they made Saul king before the Lord in Gilgal ...”
I have “they made” underlined. They are making Saul the king, not outside of God’s will, but it is God’s permissive will. He has allowed them this, recognizing their disobedience, recognizing their stubbornness. God has allowed them to go with their plan. He has authorized Samuel to anoint Saul to be their king.
“There they are making sacrifices of peace offerings before the Lord …”
This always speaks of reconciliation with the Lord and fellowship with the Lord. “And there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly.”
They are having a huge celebration. This is a remarkable time. It is the first time you have seen this kind of event in Israel’s history, the crowning of a king. And everybody is excited. Then Samuel is going to take the stage. You have to sense the tone: What is the tone? What is the atmosphere?
It is like the 4th of July for everyone. They are excited. Samuel’s speech is not a 4th of July speech. It is not going to be a “feel good” speech. It is one of his longest speeches that are recorded. In fact, in 1 Samuel 11 there is a dialog that takes place between Samuel and the people.
There are three lengthy statements of Saul that are recorded here. One of these is the longest statement that he makes recorded in Samuel. Three of his six longest statements are in Samuel, and the longest one is in Samuel. This is a reconfirmation. That is what Saul is going to do.
God has anointed Saul, but you have to pay attention to what he says after the “but.” In 1 Samuel 9–10 we have seen how God selected Saul. He directed Samuel to anoint Saul. He has given both private and public confirmations of His choice of Saul to be king. There is no doubt that God has acquiesced and authorized Saul to be king. That is important. This is the historical confirmation of Saul to be king, and the authorized beginning of the office of king in Israel.
There is one other king that was anointed in Israel. That was Gideon’s son, Abimelech. God did not authorized him but they still crowned him king in Shechem.
Samuel is going to take the stage here. We need to understand what he is doing. In 1 Samuel 12 he is going to exercise his full potential as a prophet.
The role of the prophet was someone who represented God to the people. A priest represents the people to God. The priest is the one who would come on behalf of the people to bring sacrifices in the tabernacle and the temple, but a prophet is one who represents God to the people.
Often people think of a prophet simply as someone who foretells the future. But when the prophet is foretelling the future, it is usually in relationship to either promised judgment or promised blessing. That is where the future comes in. Everything that the prophet says, whether we are talking about the early prophets, such as Elijah or Elisha, or we are talking about the later prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and The Twelve.
Whenever the prophets are speaking, it is always from the vantage point of the Mosaic Law, because God predicted and promised in the Mosaic Law that there would be a series of blessings for Israel if they were obedient.
That is the first part of Leviticus 26, about the first 14 verses. The rest of Leviticus 26 lists five series or cycles of discipline that God is going to bring upon Israel. The most severe is to remove them from the land.
- It involves famine and disease and increasing intensification of famine and disease.
- Military defeat and military occupation.
- Economic disaster.
- Agricultural disaster.
- Until it gets to the point where Israel is overrun and destroyed by a foreign power.
- The people are removed from the land. That is in the 5th cycle of discipline.
Deuteronomy 28–30 repeats in a more summarized fashion those same patterns. When the prophet comes up, he is grounded on those passages. He is addressing the people. He functions like the Attorney General of the United States in the sense that he is bringing an indictment and announcing a punishment for the people.
- He represents God.
- He is indicting them for their disobedience to the Law.
- He will announce what that judgment is going to be.
- He is the representative of the Lord of Hosts, the Lord of the Armies, the King of Israel.
- He brings this charge against the nation.
This kind of format is used in Hebrew to describe the framework. It is called a riv, a riv format. The Hebrew word riv means to contend with someone. This is God contending with His people because they have broken covenant with Him. They have violated the covenant.
What we see in a riv format usually is a format that focuses on how:
- God has been faithful to the covenant.
- The people have been disobedient or unfaithful to the covenant.
- God is going to be faithful to the covenant in bringing judgment or discipline upon them, because that is part of the covenant that God promised.
- In the end the people will turn back to God and eventually God will restore Israel to the land.
Those are the things that we often see as different elements that are within these announcements. Sometimes there is more of that. Sometimes there is less of that. This is one of those critical passages of Scripture that define Israel’s spiritual failure before God.
This is really the change of leadership ceremony between changing the command from Samuel to Saul.
In order to understand 1 Samuel 12, a little bit of background on covenants:
There are a couple of different covenant forms that were used in the Old Testament in terms of their literary structure. These were taken from the normal ways in which contracts and covenants were written at that time, which I think have ultimately had their pattern in God’s original covenant with man in the Garden.
I think it is always God first—man second.
As God entered into a covenant with Adam at the Creation, the Creation Covenant, He modified it at the Fall (Genesis 3). Those elements became a pattern or a frame of reference for human contracts.
What we see is that the Mosaic Law follows a pattern that is called the suzerain vassal treaty form.
In the suzerain vassal treaty form you would have a great king, the king of an empire, who would enter into a contract or a covenant with a client king that he has defeated. He basically would enter into a covenant and say:
- If you will do these things, usually having to do with providing border security (something the United States does not know anything about anymore) for the empire, then the great king will honor him by doing certain things for them.
- If they fail, then the great king will lower the boom.
This is the pattern for the Mosaic Law, these blessings and cursings. Israel is viewed as God’s ultimate vassal nation because of this particular covenant. What God is saying in the covenant is, “because I have done these great things for you …”
The great thing that He is talking about usually is God’s bringing Israel out of slavery in Egypt. “Because I have done this for you, because I have redeemed you, then this is how I expect you to live and how I expect you to do.”
Notice that the pattern here shows that the Mosaic Law cannot be about salvation because God “saves” Israel first, then gives them the Mosaic Law and tells them how to live. He is not giving them the Law first and saying, this is how you live, and then I will redeem you. Redemption comes first, but a redeemed people are supposed to live a certain way. They have certain obligations and certain responsibilities. If they live in obedience to those responsibilities, then God is going to bless them.
There are certain things that we see. I have a list of five elements here that we see in a typical riv format:
1. There is a call to witnesses.
There is a statement usually in the beginning, in the introduction, where witnesses are called to witness this kind of condemnation or indictment. It is public and it is a legal framework. We have a call to witnesses, and we see that in 1 Samuel 12 as Samuel calls upon the nation to stand as a witness in terms of his behavior and God’s behavior.
2. What we see is there is an introductory summary of the case.
That is what we see in the 1 Samuel 12:1–12. There is an introductory summary of the situation as it currently stands in Israel.
3. Since the focal point of this indictment is coming from the Supreme Court of Heaven, it is coming from God as the King of Israel, there is a recital of how God has been good to Israel.
The prophet will rehearse. Sometimes more of a summary fashion, sometimes more of a detailed fashion, but the prophet will remind Israel how God has been good to them in the past, in spite of the fact that they have been disobedient.
4. This element that we will see in 1 Samuel 12:14–19 is that there is an accusation. There is a formal indictment against the nation that accuses them of violating the contract in some form.
5. The conclusion is the announcement of a judgment upon the nation for their disobedience.
At the end of this there is also a solution to the problem that is offered by Samuel beginning in 1 Samuel 12:19, where the people call upon Samuel to pray for them:
- That they will not die.
- That God will not destroy them for all the evil they have done in asking for a king.
Samuel tells them not to fear and to turn back to the Lord. Even though there will be discipline, only by turning back to the Lord will they be able to survive and go forward as a nation. This is the essence of this indictment against Israel.
It begins in 1 Samuel 12:1:“Now Samuel said to all Israel: ‘Indeed I have heeded your voice in all that you have said to me, and have made a king over you.’ ” In this statement Samuel begins to rehearse the current situation, and also to set up what the indictment is all about:
1. Samuel gives an assessment of the current situation that he is the one who has made a king over them. He is going to make it clear in this indictment that if this goes south, if this goes badly, if this falls apart, if Saul does not turn out well, it is not going to be his fault. It is not going to be God’s fault. He and God are not to be held responsible for any failures on Saul’s part, because ultimately the responsibility for asking for a king and having a king belongs to the people.
2. Samuel reminds them that they are the responsible ones. He says, “I have heeded your voice.” This is a reminder of divine institution #1, individual responsibility. The responsibility is with the people. They have chosen a king. The choice that they make is going to be for good or for bad, but it is their responsibility.
Those are very sobering words for an election year—that this nation is going to make a decision as to who is going to govern.
We have been making poor decisions. But poor decisions come from a people who have weak souls, who are focused on the wrong thing. We get the leaders that we desire. I think that we have a trajectory. It does not matter what party the President is if we have got a trajectory in this nation. Since the mid-50s we have been on a downhill trajectory.
It does not matter which party. Both parties are consumed with human viewpoint and have been dominated by leaders who have appointed a lot of bureaucrats: bureaucrats, who are not concerned about the will of the people basically, in my opinion, run the country, but they are concerned about preserving their jobs. They are concerned about preserving their power and their position.
Ultimately I do not think it makes any difference. Until there is a heart change on the part of the people, we are going to continue to have leaders that reflect that kind of moral instability, moral relativism, and the lack of moral courage.
These leaders are not serving the country. They are serving themselves. That is going to continue. Even if we were to elect someone who was the absolute best, we still have to have a total infrastructure. One person cannot change the rotting infrastructure of an apostate nation. That will not resolve the problem. It may alleviate it for a little while. It may be able to put a few Band-Aids on some problems, but the only thing that is going to turn this nation around is the spiritual solution, where people turn back to God.
That was the kind of situation that Israel faced. In this statement, when Samuel says, “I have heeded your voice.” He is reminding them that they are responsible. It is a reflection of the first divine institution. He is not passing the buck here.
This is not a situation like Adam back in Genesis 3, where after he ate of the fruit and God says, well, who told you to? Adam says it was the woman who You gave me. In one concise statement he manages to blame both the woman and God for his failure. Just like a politician. It is not my fault.
Saul is going to give us a good parallel for that when we get into 1 Samuel 13. But Samuel is not passing the buck. He is making clear that he is following the will of the people. God has authorized this in His permissive will.
They (Yahweh and Samuel) are saying, “Okay, this is what you want?”
We are going to give it to you. You are going to reap the consequences because of your decision. He is making it clear that he is not the one responsible. That is not what He wanted. God is not responsible. That is not His idea or will. It is their responsibility so that when the divine discipline comes, it is their responsibility. It is the result of their decision. Saul is making it clear that he is not to be blamed, and God is not to be blamed.
The basic indictment is that Israel has completely rejected God’s leadership. They have rejected what God has provided for them. They want to do it their own way—even though God has delivered them again and again and again.
In this context it is important to realize God just delivered them again. He is going to rehearse this in a minute. Just like He did in all the different cycles in the period of the judges, God delivered them once again from Nahash.
But once again it does not stick. The people are not falling down in worship and obedience before God, and the degree that they do it will not last.
3. A third thing Samuel reminds them of is really a throwback to what he had said in 1 Samuel 8. He is going to remind them that he had already warned them about what would happen with a king.
A reminder of that is in this whole context. What is important is what is underlined. When Samuel warns Israel about what the king is going to do, notice what he says:
1 Samuel 8:11, “And he said, ‘This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemen, and some will run before his harlots. 1 Samuel 8:12, “ ‘He will appoint captains over his thousands and captains over his fifties, will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots.
1 Samuel 8:13, “ ‘He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers.
1 Samuel 8:14, “ ‘And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants.
1 Samuel 8:15, “ ‘He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants.
1 Samuel 8:16, “ ‘And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work.
1 Samuel 8:17, “ ‘He will take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants.’ ”
Six times he says that Israel will get a king and “he will take” and “he will take” and “he will take” and “he will take” and “he will take” and “he will take.”
That is what a strong powerful central government does. That is why this country set up things differently in our Constitution:
- to avoid having a strong central government
- to give power that was not delegated to the federal government, that was not specifically given to the federal government, all other powers were to go to the states
This is why the 10th Amendment is so important. It is ignored. This again is another travesty showing how, not only this government and this administration, but the ones preceding it, have consistently ignored the 10th Amendment. They ought to be tried. They ought to be brought up, because each Congressman, President, and Supreme Court Justice, is sworn to defend the Constitution of the United States.
What they end up doing is changing it, not according to the rules of the Constitution, but according to either judicial fiat or through executive action. We have become a lawless people just like Israel. We are going to reap the same consequences because the internal rot that comes from moral relativism and spiritual failure ends up destroying everything in a culture.
And that is eventually what we will see happen under Saul. Samuel reminds them of the warning that he gave initially.
4. Samuel is going to remind them of his own integrity.
1 Samuel 12:2, “And now here is the king walking before you; and I am old and gray headed, and look, my sons are with you.”
Samuel’s sons are there in the audience.
“I have walked before you from my childhood to this day.”
You have known me. Since I was a child and my mother, Hannah, dropped me off at the tabernacle. I grew up serving in the tabernacle under the tutelage of Eli. You have known me. You have been aware of who I was. My life has been an open book. Samuel is reminding them of his own integrity.
Notice in 1 Samuel 1:3 there is an implied contrast with the sons of Eli. Samuel says: “Here I am. Witness against me before the Lord and before His anointed.”
Interesting phraseology. His anointed here is Saul. Saul is the mashiach, the anointed one. Samuel says: “Whose ox have I taken, or whose donkey have I taken, or whom have I cheated?”
Who did that? Hophni and Phinehas. They were the ones that people would come to and bring their sacrifices. They would take extra and would cook it and take their food. They were also guilty of seducing the women who were serving in the tabernacle, making them into temple prostitutes, as it were. They were paganizing the tabernacle worship in Israel.
Samuel says: “Whom have I oppressed or from whose hand have I received any bribe with which to blind my eyes?”
The sons of Eli did that. They took bribes. Samuel is emphasizing his own integrity. I am blameless before God. If anybody can bring a charge, if I have done any of this, “I will restore it to you.” He has called upon them to be a witness. This is a legal aspect to this kind of lawsuit.
The Israelites’ response is what?
This is their legal testimony. They are taking the stand. They have been asked to confirm this. They take the stand, whether this is the elders of Israel, or a corporate response, we do not know. They say in 1 Samuel 12:4, “And they said, ‘You have not cheated us or oppressed us, nor have you taken anything from any man’s hand.’ ”
Now you have sworn this. We have another witness. This is the Lord, and the Lord has confirmed this in 1 Samuel 12:5: “Then 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 answered, ‘He is witness.’ ”
Under the principle of the Mosaic Law there needed to be a confirmation of anything with two or more witnesses. You have two witnesses. You have the:
- Lord as witness and
- Saul, God’s anointed, is a witness against you this day.
- They answer, “He is witness.”
They affirm. It is clearly dialogue. There is no pressure put on them. They recognize that this is a fact, that Samuel is absolutely blameless. This sets up the legal basis for what is going to take place.
So starting in 1 Samuel 12:6 Samuel is going to shift from showing that he is blameless, to the fact that the Lord is blameless. In 1 Samuel 12:6–12 he is emphasizing God’s faithfulness to Israel, God’s faithfulness to His Covenant, even though Israel has not been faithful.
In 1 Samuel 12:6 it says, “So Samuel said to the people, ‘It is the Lord Yahweh.’ ”
Notice that Samuel uses the name Yahweh, the sacred Tetragrammaton, which emphasizes God as the Covenant God of Israel.
This is the foundational event for Israel. This is when God called out Abraham to establish a new people. But when God brought Israel out of Egypt it was to establish a new nation. This is the foundational event in the creation of the nation of Israel. He states that. Samuel goes back a little further to remind them of what God has done.
1 Samuel 12:7, “Now therefore, take your stand (NASB), that I may reason with you before the Lord concerning all the righteous acts of the Lord which He did to you and your fathers.”
- Samuel starts off reminding Israel about what God has done. Then in 1 Samuel 12:7 he reminds them that they are to “take your stand.” That is the New American Standard translation. The New King James translation says, “Stand still”, but the NASB is a better translation. It is basically saying, “Take the stand.” You are now under the indictment.
This is a legal position. Take a stand that I may reason with you. The idea there is that I may make a case. I am going to structure my indictment against you.
You take the stand and I am going to indict you before the Lord. It is going to be in reference to all the righteous acts of the Lord.
What Samuel is going to do is list what God has done in His righteousness and His faithfulness to Israel. It will be contrasted to Israel’s failure and Israel’s disobedience. He is using strong courtroom language, strong legal language here.
Then he is going to remind them of God’s consistent faithfulness in disciplining them and in following the Covenant. He will remind them also of their failure and their past discipline from God.
Samuel’s point is that they cannot blame him for what will happen with Saul. They cannot blame God for what will happen with Saul.
- A second thing that is going on here, that is being accomplished, is Samuel is reminding them that part of God’s grace includes divine discipline. God disciplines His children whom He loves. Part of that love is discipline, and that he is going to remind them that God delivered them over or sold them into the hands of these enemies. That is all part of God’s discipline.
In 1 Samuel 12:8, Samuel reminds Israel of their background going back to Moses and Aaron. He said, “When Jacob had gone into Egypt, and your fathers cried out to the Lord, then the Lord sent Moses and Aaron, who brought your fathers out of Egypt and made them dwell in this place.”
Samuel begins to set this pattern. What is the pattern?
- The Israelites are disobedient.
- They get put in a bind.
- They cry out to the Lord.
- The Lord is going to hear them and deliver them.
- They are going to desert the Lord again.
- God is going to discipline them.
- They are going to cry out.
- God is going to deliver them.
This pattern is especially pronounced during the period of the judges, where you have:
- Israel’s disobedience
- Israel’s discipline
- Then Israel’s deliverance
You see that cycle going on again and again.
1 Samuel 12:9, “And when they forgot the Lord their God,”
- Samuel skips over the conquest generation. He goes directly into the period of the judges. It is interesting here, if you are paying attention, that Samuel says “when they forgot the Lord their God. He sold them into the hand of Sisera …”
Sisera was the Canaanite king of Hazor. For those of you have been to Israel, Hazor is north of the Sea of Galilee off of the northern tip.
Sisera had a large chariot army. He had a large cavalry, armored cavalry. He kept the Israelites in the Valley of Esdraelon under control through his cavalry, his chariot corps.
Now who is the deliverer there? Who delivers Israel from the hand of Sisera and Jabin? Deborah and Barak. But that does not happen until Judges 4–5.
- The second episode that Samuel mentions is he sold them “into the hand of the Philistines …” When did that occur?
It is one verse as the end of Judges 3, Shamgar. Shamgar is raised up as the judge to deliver them from the oppression of the Philistines. This is just a small incursion.
- The third episode is that Israel is delivered “into the hand of the king of Moab.” What was his name? Eglon, when lefty killed fatty in the outhouse.
Do y’all remember that in Judges?
What Samuel does is he lists these first three episodes in the book of Judges, but he lists them in reverse order. I do not know why he does that. It is just a reminder. Samuel focuses on those first three.
In each case he says: 1 Samuel 12:10, “Then they cried out to the Lord, and said, ‘We have sinned, because we have forsaken the Lord and served the Baals and Ashtoreths; but now deliver us from the hand of our enemies, and we will serve You.’ ”
What had happened in each case is that the Israelites had turned to idols. Later on we are going to see that this indictment says do not turn to the empty and vain things. That is constantly a way that idols are described.
That is what we do all the time. We turn to empty vain details of life. We are looking for stability and comfort and security from the details of life: How much money is in the bank? How much money is in the 401K? Owning a home. Owning a car. Living in the right address, right subdivision, whatever … But we put our security, just like the rich young ruler, in the ephemeral details of life rather than in the hand of God.
After they had done that and have fallen prey to God’s discipline, then they would cry out to God: “deliver us from the hand of our enemies, and we will serve You.”
I cannot help but think that Samuel is drawing a parallel because this is exactly what happened. We studied this in 1 Samuel 11—that the men of Jabesh-Gilead are crying out to God to send someone to deliver them.
Samuel goes on and reminds them of how God delivered them. How He brought this deliverance to them.
Samuel says, “And the Lord sent Jerubbaal (another name for Gideon), Bedan (another name for Barak, who was Deborah’s general), Jephthah, and Samuel ...”
Samuel has progressed beyond the first three groups that oppressed Israel, with the exception of Barak, and Samuel is looking at the last three deliverers. And by mentioning each incident, he is reminding them of the whole episode: “And the Lord sent Jerubbaal, Bedan, Jephthah, and Samuel, and delivered you out of the hand of your enemies on every side; and you dwelt in safety.”
Notice he does not say Samson. He says Samuel because Samson did not deliver them. It is Samuel who ultimately delivers them from the oppression of the Philistines. But that oppression has now come back, as we will see in the 1 Samuel 13.
In 1 Samuel 12:12 Samuel says, “And when you saw that Nahash 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.”
Samuel makes it very clear—you rejected God as king, and you turned to a human viewpoint solution for your problems. You are not trusting in the Lord. Their focal point is somehow having a king like all the other nations is going to solve our problems.
This is what constantly happens in history. We can see this describing the church over the last 200 years—how again and again and again the church gets away from the truth of Scripture. It turns to every human-viewpoint solution, whether it is science, knowledge, sociology, psychology, advertising, and the whole approach to various tools that are used through advertising to build the church.
I had a friend of mine whom I taught Greek to in my living room here in Houston about 30 years or more ago. Later he went to Dallas Seminary. He ran the Sunday School class at the church I was pastoring in Irving. Then he came back to Houston and was very involved with the College of Biblical Studies (CBS). At that time CBS was really growing and expanding. He and the President were taking it outside the Bible churches to a lot of Baptist churches. They were expanding CBS.
One time we sat down, and he said, “Robby, you just wouldn’t believe it. We probably have the finest education, the top 100th of a percent of educated Christians of all of history. With what we have with a Masters of Theology from Dallas Seminary, we probably know more than anybody else in all of history. But we cannot build a church. We cannot go out.”
You get these Baptists, they come out of a seminary, they are taught how to organize and administer and how to put people together and how to do everything. They can go out and build a church of 1,000 people in a couple of years. All we do is teach the Bible. We have 50, 75, 100 people there. That illustrates a difference.
Harry Leafe, who ordained me, told me one time, “Robby, anybody can build a big organization in the power of the flesh. Anyone can do it through human-viewpoint technique.”
You see people who go out and start businesses and start Fortune 500 and Fortune 100 companies all the time in the energy of the flesh. If you know the right kinds of tools you can do it in the flesh.
But you have to make sure that whatever you are doing in ministry that it is God the Holy Spirit that is building that ministry, not you and your effort.
Most ministries that you will see that people think are so great are because they have all the trappings that we look to. Like the rich young ruler, they have money. They have a lot of young people there. They have a lot of power and prestige and big buildings and lots of acreage.
But they are not teaching the Word. They are not fulfilling the mission that God gave the church. They have built it in their own power and not on the power of the Word.
This is the trap that Israel fell into. They wanted to have a king like everybody else—we are going to do it according to human-viewpoint standard, and not according to divine-viewpoint standards.
When I went back into the pastorate in 1998 and went to Preston City, I had this pressure from deacons and elders in three different churches where I had worked, that somehow it is the pastor’s job to build the church. And I said this congregation understands that that is not the pastor’s job. The pastor’s job is to feed the flock, as Jesus told Peter, “Feed My sheep.” Jesus said, “I will build the church.”
I said, “I am not going to worry about how many people show up and how many people do not show up, because I want people who come to the church to come for one reason—they want to listen to the Bible.”
“They want to learn the Bible, and they want to listen to me teach the Bible. If they do not want to come listen to me teach the Bible, then I do not want them. They do not want me. I will go back and find something else to do with my life.”
If the Lord has gifted me to be a pastor, then what I am going to do is teach the Word. God is going to provide the hearers or not, but I am going to do what the Scripture says to do.
That is what our attitude should be. That does not mean that we do not tell people about the church, that you do not witness, that you do not talk to people.
One of the great things that I have noticed, and you see it on Facebook, people hear a good Bible class from their pastor, and they post links on their Facebook page. They are excited about what they are learning.
I think back to when I was a teenager and going to church. The church that I grew up in, which many of you know, really exploded in the late 50s and 60s because people came to church and were so excited about what they were learning. They were going home and they were telling everybody they knew. They were grabbing them and saying “You’ve got to go to Bible class with me tonight.”
That is the power of God the Holy Spirit. That is not a gimmick. That is not doing it according to human-viewpoint standards, but this is what Israel was selling out to, these human-viewpoint standards.
1 Samuel 12:13 is going back and picking up what Samuel said in 1 Samuel 12:2. Notice in verse 2 Samuel says, “And now here is the king, walking before you.”
He picks up on that thought in verse 13. Samuel says, “Now therefore, here is the king whom you have chosen and whom you have desired. And take note, the Lord has set a king over you.”
Samuel is emphasizing their personal responsibility. But this is not the indictment. It is in one sense, but he recognizes that this is valid because God authorized it. “And take note, the Lord has set a king over you.” God has established this ruler.
Starting in 1 Samuel 12:14 we are going to see what the responsibilities are going to be on the people. We read, “If you fear the Lord and serve Him and obey His voice, and do not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then both you and the king who reigns over you will continue following the Lord your God.”
What is Samuel talking about? This is a reflection of those blessing paragraphs in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28, “If you obey the Lord.” If you look at these words:
- “fear the Lord”
- “serve Him”
- “obey His voice”
- “do not rebel against the Lord”
These are the terms that are in the Mosaic Law, in the Covenant that God is calling them to “hear.” It is interesting. When God says “hear the Word” or “listen to Me” He does not mean have you auditory nerves stimulated where somebody just understands the basic dictionary meaning of the words and can summarize what has been said.
When God says “listen to Me” He means “obey Me,” “do what I say.”
If God says “you have not listened to Me” He does not mean that you did not physically hear it. He said you did not do what He said to do.
“Hearing” and “listening” mean “obeying” or the negative, “not obeying.”
I am going to give you three example passages:
- Deuteronomy 6:3, “O Israel, you should listen and be careful to do it, that it may be well with you and that you may multiply greatly, just as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.” Moses is saying to “listen and be careful to do it.” Hear, pay attention to the Law.
One of the things that I taught when we were in the early part of Matthew, and we have a passage in Luke, is that “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and favor with God and man.”
It basically summarized Jesus’ training before He goes back to Jerusalem with His parents when He is bar mitzvahed—that Jesus was trained as a normal male child in a normal Jewish home. That means that by the time He was 12 years old He had memorized the Old Testament in Hebrew. That was normal.
I have said that for many years, but I did not connect the dots. I was listening to a former professor of mine the other day, a recording. He took it to the next step. That was true of every other male in Israel when Jesus walked on the earth.
What did I say at the beginning? Jesus had a normal Jewish boy’s upbringing. That meant every other male boy in Israel had that same training. That was normative in Israel. That does not mean that every single one had a perfect memory and memorized everything, but that was the standard.
Everyone had to know the Word of God. Everybody memorized it, every bit of it. Every word. They could sit down and start at 1 Samuel and recite it all the way through to the end of 2 Samuel without stopping.
We have such a low expectation of Christians. You memorize the 64 verses in the Navigators’ Topical Memory System. Oh! Wow! What an accomplishment!
In previous generations there were many people who memorized many books in the New Testament, if not the whole New Testament and much of the Old Testament. That was expected. They did not have television and Facebook and e-mail and all these other things to distract them.
When you memorize Scripture, it enhances your own memory. Most of us may be beyond the point of really accomplishing great memory feats like that, but if you start your children and your grandchildren like that, when they are just starting to learn how to talk, those verses that they memorize, those books of the Bible that they memorize before they are 10 years old will never leave them.
I have memorized Luke 2 and Matthew 2 almost every year for the last five or six years related to Christmas. The next September rolls around and it is gone. I do not even remember this.
But all of those verses I grew up memorizing, going to Camp Peniel, memorizing all those verses in the Navigator’s Topical Memory System, many other verses, several chapters, I could sit down, and if I review those a little bit they come back.
Verses that I have not thought about in a while, they will just come back to me. The Holy Spirit will bring them to my mind.
It is so important when children are young to have that high standard of education.
That is what Moses is talking about here. That is the example that is laid down in the Law. It is to learn these things, to know them.
- Deuteronomy 12:28, “Be careful to listen to all these words which I command you, in order that it may be well with you and your sons after you forever, for you will be doing what is good and right in the sight of the Lord your God.”
We are to listen to obey—not just listen because I went to Bible class Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday this week … I did my bit.
No. We have politicians that are like that. We have two groups of politicians. We have one kind of politician that is seriously involved in the church.
We have two kinds—the good kind and the bad kind.
We have got one former President, probably the second to worst President we have ever had, but there is no doubt that from an early age he was involved in church. He teaches Sunday School. That is part of who he is. He has a liberal brand of Christianity. His theology is not biblical, but that is his deeply held religious convictions. Nobody can doubt that.
Then we have a man running this time, Ted Cruz. He grew up going to the private school at Second Baptist here in Houston. He has been in the church and grown up in the church and has been involved in Christian activities and Bible studies since he was a young boy. This does not have anything to do with politics.
We have other politicians that, whenever they run for office, all of a sudden they have to dust off their Bible. They pull it out. They talk about some things that they do not get right. They embarrass themselves because they are trying to cloak their activities in some façade of religiosity and piety.
But what the Mosaic Law is talking about is that this needs to be built into your soul.
- Deuteronomy 27:10, “You shall therefore obey the Lord your God, and do His commandments and His statutes which I command you today.” That is what the background is to 1 Samuel 12:14—if you fear the Lord—if you are obedient.
Remember, the fear of the Lord in Proverbs is the beginning of wisdom and the beginning of knowledge. Samuel is going to build on it from there.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to study these things this evening, and be reminded that we are to be faithful to You. That is a challenge. Even when we are not faithful, You are faithful. You are gracious to us beyond anything that we can ever imagine. You deal with us not on the basis of our failures, but on the basis of Your grace and Your character.
Father, we are thankful that we have You to come to. We thank You for the forgiveness of sin that we have, and the fact that even though we are all sinners and we are all failures in many, many different ways, we are victors in Jesus Christ, and as we walk by the Spirit we can increase as overcomers in our day to day living. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”