Bible · Culture · Culture & Society

The Story of Samuel’s Farewell Speech

AN EXPOSITION OF FIRST SAMUEL 12

     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.

Samul (heard of God), was the son of Hannah and a prophet of God. In his old age he appointed his wicked sons to be judges of Israel, only to have them rejected by the people. The people demanded a king instead. They wanted to move from a theocracy to a monarchy. After prayerful consideration, and receiving specific instruction from the Lord, Samuel told the people that God would give the nation a king of His own choosing.

After the deed was done, Samuel’s power over the people diminished, though, in the sunset years of his life he was still a powerful spiritual figure. Samuel had grown old and gray in the service of Israel. Now, he had a farewell speech he wanted the nation to hear. Gathering the people before him, Samuel spoke.

     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.

     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.

In the sunset years of his life, a primary concern on Samuel’s heart is that he had lived a life of integrity, and asked the people to verify that truth. As Samuel reviewed his own life, his conscience was good before God. He wanted to affirm the fact that he had not exploited the people of God. He had not become rich in spiritual service. Samuel had taken no value ox from anyone, or ass. He had defrauded no one. He had never oppressed a person with his position of authority. He had never taken a bribe. If anyone could prove otherwise, Samuel was ready to make restitution.

It is good to have a clear conscience. It is good to live life without regrets. It is good to live a holy life before the LORD, and before His anointed, a reference to king Saul.

Many people have regrets. Many people live quiet lives of desperation.

Jesus said to the woman at the well, ‘Go call thy husband.” To another he may say, “Go call thy wife, whom thou hast wronged.” To another, “Go call thy child, whom thou hast neglected.” To another, “Go call thy father and mother.” To another he says, “Go bring thy bank book.” To another, “Go call the record of that business transaction.” To another, “Go call that slander which you uttered against another’s name.” To another, “Go call that hatred, or enmity which you treasure up in your heart.” To another, “Go call that secret habit which stains, and defiles thy soul.” The dark shadow that a guilty conscience casts upon the soul because of evil done, because of sin, is a shadow which man is not able to lift. Only God in Christ can lift that shadow, and He will.

     4 And they said, Thou hast not defrauded us, nor oppressed us, neither hast thou taken ought of any man’s hand.

The people of Israel considered the words of Samuel, and vindicated what he had to say. Samuel had lived a holy and exemplary life before the people. He had not exploited the ministry for personal gain. He had not abused his holy office as the last of the Judges of Israel.

     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.

Samuel wanted to confirm his exalted state of righteousness with an oath. To that end he called upon the LORD to be a witness. The people again agreed saying, “The LORD is witness.”

     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 was necessary for Samuel to establish his personal righteousness, because he was about to say something difficult to the nation of Israel. First, he had to establish his right to speak. It is possible for a person to have the right message, but they might be the wrong messenger. When the right message is placed in the mouth of a wrong messenger, people will react against the messenger, and a false issue is created which will dilute, or divert attention from what needs to be heard. There are common folk expressions that reflect this concept, such as, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Or, “That is the [iron] pot calling the [copper] kettle black.” Samuel established his right to speak to Israel, and to make specific points.

The first truth Samuel wanted Israel to remember was that it was the LORD that appointed Moses and Aaron. A principle is established. A person’s appointment is ultimately in the hands of the LORD. If the LORD does not promote a person, that person is not promoted. A person may scheme to achieve a certain position, or status in life but the truth remains, if the LORD does not advance a person, that person is not promoted. There will be nothing but trouble that ensues.

The second truth Samuel calls upon Israel to remember is that it was the LORD that brought the Exodus Generation up out of the land of Egypt. No human effort, or leader, could have accomplished what the LORD did. The hand of God in human history must be established.

By way of application, America is an exceptional nation, because, in a time when the rights of European kings was affirmed to give, or take away an individual’s life, liberty, and property, the writers of the Declaration of Independence affirmed that, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

     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.

In order to amplify his thoughts, Samuel focused the attention of the people by commanding them to “stand still,” so that he could reason with them before the LORD. The command to “stand still,” is an expression used by Moses (Ex. 14:13), Joshua (Josh. 3:8), Samuel (1 Sam. 12:7), and by God Himself (Job 37:14).

The purpose of the command is to focus attention with a view to listening and reasoning together. When a person’s attention is distracted, it is hard to concentrate, to listen, and therefore to have a rational dialogue. God is a God of reason. God is a God of mystery, but without rational thought, words, and life itself, it is meaningless.

So much of modern discourse is unreasonable reflected in sycophant music, meaningless rap lyrics, and the vile, and profanity laced comments found on all forms of Social Media. In contrast, God is a God of reason.

Samuel wanted to remind the people of how reasonable it once was to have had a theocracy, since it was the LORD who performed mighty miracles on behalf of His people. Samuel recounted why God began to act on behalf of Israel.

     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.

     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.

The reference to Sisera is a little surprising in context, because this event occurred about 200 years after Israel entered into the Land of Canaan. Historically, Sisera was a soldier in the Canaanite army of Jabin, who waged war with the Israelites for 20 years, using 900 chariots of iron (Judg. 4:2-3). The larger point, is that Samuel reminds the nation that God once disciplined Israel when they turned from Him. The LORD caused one military defeat after another.

     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.

The purpose for the Israel’s military defeats, from a divine perspective, was to cause the people to repent. And they did. After being saturated with sin, the people said, “We have sinned.” Then, they were specific in their confession saying, “We have forskaken the LORD, and have served Baalim and Ashtaroth.”

Once sin is honestly confessed, the heart can renew petition God for grace and mercy. Israel prayed, and said, “O LORD, deliver us now out of the hand of our enemies, and we will serve thee.”

After gospel repentance, the people promised to be good, to do better, to forsake all idols, and to serve the LORD.

      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.

Responding to the pleas of Israel, the LORD sent Jerubbaal (Gideon), Bedan (Barak), Jephthah, and Samuel, to deliver the nation from their enemies and to Judge the people.

     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.

The Judges served Israel well, until the days of Nahash. Nahash was the king of the Ammonites, who besieged Jabesh-­gilead in Israel. He offered to spare the city if the leadership would allow his soldiers to punch out the right eye of the people. It was this cruel suggestion that brought forth the appearance of Saul, who united the tribes of Israel to resist. Saul was a man of the people’s choosing. He was a man whom the people desired to have rule over them. Ultimately, Saul was a man, whom the LORD had set as a king over Israel. A principle is established.

It is God who rules the nations of the world. It is the LORD who establishes one kingdom, and destroys another.

     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.

In the person of Saul, the free will of men, and the sovereignty of God merge.

     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:

It is at this precise point that Samuel places before Israel the provisions of a Covenant. Notice the three provisions of a formal covenant in the ancient world.

Part I:            The Contracting Parties                      Israel and the LORD
Part II: A promise, or promises                                  Blessing for gospel obedience
Part III: A condition                                                         Discipline for gospel disobedience
Part IV: A confirmation of the Covenant            The miracle of rain

     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.

     16 Now therefore stand and see this great thing, which the LORD will do before your eyes.

To confirm the Covenant, Samuel promised Israel the miracle of rain during the wheat harvest.

     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.

It is unusual for rain to be found in Palestine during wheat harvest, which occurs in the latter part of May and June. By predicting rain at this time, Samuel was providing evidence that he spoke by the voice of God.

In grace, in order to confirm His covenant with Israel, God would send unusual rain. However, the reign itself would confirm, not only God’s grace, but Israel’s wickedness by asking for a king, in order to move the nation from a theocracy, to a monarchy.

It is a form of divine spiritual alchemy, that in grace, there can be judgment, and in judgment there can be grace.

      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.

The result of the unusual rainfall is that the people “feared the LORD”. They also feared His servant, Samuel. Terrified that the thunder, lightning, and torrential rainfall would destroy them, the people pled with Samuel to intercede with the LORD on their behalf, and stay His hand.

     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.

Finally, the people understood. They had sinned by asking for a king. They had sinned in moving from a theocracy to a monarchy. And while it was good that the people confessed their sin, the consequences of their choice would remain. The monarchy would remain an established institution until the Messiah was born, king of the Jews.

     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;

     21 And turn ye not aside: for then should ye go after vain things, which cannot profit nor deliver; for they are vain.

    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.

     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:

     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.

The closing verses of 1 Samuel 12 simply reaffirms the Covenant provisions so that the chapter ends in hope, with a strong word of warning not to forsake the LORD.

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