1 Samuel 12 The Prophet’s Sermon

The people of Israel in Samuel’s day had failed. In their passion for a King, the Israelites had rejected their only king – the Lord God Jehovah.

1 Samuel Chapter 12 begins with Samuel’s Sermon to Israel at Gilgal. We noticed last time that Gilgal was a significant location for Israel – because it was here that the nation gathered and encamped at the beginning of the conquest of Canaan.

We can see 3 things from the Chapter tonight. The first is this –

1. Samuel’s faithfulness to preach the truth v 1 - 15

It was a happy time for Israel. They had just been successful in battle and vanquished Nahash the Ammonite and his warriors. Victory was pleasant after a long period of Philistine oppression. They had won the battle with their new King at their head. He had shown remarkable leadership, rallying the troops and relieving the siege at Jabesh. They had every reason to rejoice as the last verse of Chapter 11 says

– Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly.

There was nothing wrong with rejoicing – but Samuel was obliged to bring them all back down to earth again.

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.

This begins to sound like a farewell address from Samuel to the Israelites. But it is not. It is true that they now had a King as their head of State. He would increasingly take the centre stage. But Samuel was to continue to exercise priestly and prophetic functions – and would still have some function as a judge. In fact Samuel will still be around in 1 Samuel until Chapter 25.

Samuel’s words here are a sermon – of Warning. The people were obliged to listen even though they may have thought that he was bringing some dampness to the party!

He begins by remarking that he had listened to the people’s request and had given them a king. It had not been his own decision – but he had received sanction from the Lord God Himself. It is clear that Samuel had some personal reservations about Saul – misgivings that would indeed later be shown to be right.

2 And now, behold, the king walketh before you: and I am old and grayheaded; and, behold, my sons are with you: and I have walked before you from my childhood unto this day.

It is almost as if Samuel is inviting Israel to try him – as in a court of Law.

He traces his history. They all know about his coming to the temple brought by Hannah his mother. His sons were amongst them and could be called as witnesses.

So he calls on Israel to testify to his leadership.

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.

Who have I oppressed, crushed, stolen from, accepted backhanders from? Who have I swindled? Tell me and I will repay everything!

The people, acting as judge and jury vindicates the defendant, Samuel completely. There was no defect in his character whatsoever.

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.

Having established his lack of guilt it is Samuel’s turn to prosecute. Who is the accused now?

It is the nation of Israel.

Sermon Introduction.

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. 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.

Who was faithful to His promises? It was the Lord God Jehovah Himself. Despite the nation now being unified under the new King, Samuel still wanted to rebuke the nation for ignoring and rejecting what God had done, without a king.

Sermon 1st Point.

Let me remind you all, says Samuel, of all the righteous acts of the Lord God. You and your fathers have much to be grateful for. Remember your history.

From the earliest days God preserved your family – the family of Jacob – by sending Joseph ahead into Egypt.

Then when the nation was oppressed after 4 centuries in Egypt, Jehovah heard your cries for relief. Then He raised up Moses and Aaron and brought deliverance from that terrible bondage through them and their courageous ministry before Pharaoh.

It was the same during the period of the judges. Those cycles of rebellion, oppression by enemies, cries for help to God and then deliverance through God appointed judges. The Lord God sent these judges to rescue His people even though they had rebelled. He sent Jerubbaal – Gideon; Bedan – whom most commentators think was another name for Barak; there was Jephthah and finally Samuel. Whomever was needed – God sent.

Before the people begin to yawn in the history lesson – because they have heard it all before – Samuel addresses the current situation.

Sermon 2nd Point.

Samuel emphasises Jehovah’s righteous acts in the past because Israel was now in danger of forgetting the past. Nahash had come and threatened them. It was a serious situation. If he had succeeded at Jabesh then the whole of Israel would have been in danger.

What did we notice last time? Israel in danger – yes.

But was there any cry for help to Jehovah? Oh there was plenty of weeping – but no cry to God! Instead the demand for a King! No seeking for deliverance through the mighty God who had delivered before! No – things are different now – we have a King to lead us and deliver us! They appealed to a king – but it was not the right one! Their help, they assumed, was not in the faithful and proven by history arm of Jehovah – but in the new form of government.

Sermon Conclusion

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.

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:

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.

They now had a King.

They also had alternatives – both king and people. They could all live faithfully under the word of the Lord God – verse 14 – and know His blessing OR

They could suffer justly under God’s hand – v 15.

But the true application in this sermon was

v 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.

This was unbelief. Or rather wrong belief. They chose to believe in their king – rather than the King of Heaven.

Are we in danger of pointing the finger at Israel and say that we would not be guilty like them? We do not need to face an enemy like the Ammonites to slip into a quiet attitude of Israel type UNBELIEF.

Think of a life crisis that you have faced. Did you call it THE LAST STRAW? Did you exclaim that things can’t get any worse than they are now? Did you quietly think in your mind “This situation is impossible. Surly God cannot do anything about this situation. Surely he has no provision for me in all this. What a mess!”

Have you thought like this? In a silent, private low key sort of way? I say it gently – that is Israelite unbelief! It is faithlessness.

We need to learn from Israel’s faithlessness and think in the opposite way.

That God has not stopped being God. He never ceases to be the Omniscient God seeing everything and every situation.

God has not stopped being the Omnipotent God – the God of all power able to do exceeding abundantly.

He has not stopped being the loving and compassionate God who cares about difficulties and suffering.

He has not stopped being the God who has promised in His Son the Lord Jesus Christ to be with you always even to the end of the age.

He is still the God to whom you can call –

Call unto me and I will answer thee and show thee great and mighty things that thou knowest not! Jeremiah 33 v 3

Israel did not learn this – or rather they forgot who God was. They preferred to call on a man to help them – a human King. Let us call first on OUR King the Lord Jesus Christ.

After the sermon came a spectacular occurrence!

2. Signs from Heaven and the Fear that they brought v 16 - 19

Samuel gave no time to Israel to respond to his words. Perhaps if he had given them opportunity they would have found something religious to say.

Have you found yourself in a situation with a friend and you want to press a point home. The argument is full of logic and common sense. There are no loopholes in your case and to you it is absolutely convincing. The other person has no choice but to accept your point of view. But then you find that your case fails to convince the other person at all. You do not get through to him.

Samuel had this dilemma. He could lay down his argument with all the proofs, and wisdom and reason – but that would not necessarily get through to the people. There was a thick barrier in their thinking.

So verbal truth needed a visual aid to get through to the people.

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

What great thing, Samuel? What is going to happen to us? Samuel replies –

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.

How topical for us my friends! Thunder and rain, wind and mighty tempests – Psalm 29 events – called down by Samuel to get through to Israel.

What was so special about a thunderstorm? Don’t they happen in Palestine? Yes they do – but not in Summer – when the harvest is about to be gathered in.

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 people knew at once that this was no natural phenomenon. It was no MERE thunder and rain. This was the dry season – May June in their calendar. It NEVER rained in these months. No – this was a supernatural sign from God – to get through to His people.

What did the storm signify?

God was saying something like this “You are about to gather that important crop of wheat in your harvest. It is vitally important that the weather be calm and still. But I want you to know that I have power to send thunder and rain to easily ruin your crop that you have been so carefully tending for all these months. I can bring devastation within an hour. You need to know how completely you are in my hands.”

God wished to show Israel that He meant what He said when He spoke to Moses in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. In both chapters God told Israel that when they came into the land, if they did not obey God’s commandments there would be consequences. They were covenant curses, lively threats of a living God who had the power to impose them at any time – even and unlikely time. It showed in a devastating way what God really thought about Israel’s asking for a King.

So Israel greatly feared. The message did get home! V 18.

DRD says that “only when God’s people see their sin from His perspective is there hope that they will turn from it.”

What an insight that is! And we need to apply this to ourselves as 21st Century believers. God can get through to us too, sometimes through fear. Fearing God’s wrath should lead us to repentance. If there is a reason for us to tremble then we ought to tremble. Neither any of us as individual Christians, nor the church itself, should be above truthful terror! If God grants us a sight of our own sinfulness and of His displeasure, we can be sure that He does not do it merely to see us tremble – but to see us tremble and restored! Think about Colossians 3 for a moment. In that chapter we find these 2 verses –

5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:

6 For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: Paul was doing the same. Unless you mortify your members which sin, God’s wrath is on your case! Which means we cannot treat sin lightly.

In 1 Samuel 12 there is both the

kindness and the severity of God.

We read that in Romans 11 v 22 this morning. The Lord God uses fear to motivate us to faithfulness. As we shall sing in a few moments ‘sTwas grace that taught my heart to fear! How kind the Lord is to care enough about us that He does not shrink from stimulating fear; and He does not fail to show His love and mercy to His beloved people. Let us not wait for the Lord to show signs to us from heaven – let us repent before they even come!

So finally –

3. Serve the Lord – by Grace v 20 – 25.

We can tell just how merciful God is when we hear through His servant what He has to say when His people DO eventually come to see how ugly their rebellion has been.

1 Samuel 12 v 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.

Many parents can remember how it was when a child had to be punished. There were tears (sometimes on both sides) and a period of sorrow. But then there is the sweetness of contrition on the child’s part, forgiveness on the parent’s part and a reconciliation and restoration of loving harmony.

Here God has brought Israel to see their guilt – and then tells them not to be afraid. They should serve the Lord with all their hearts from now on. They should resist the temptation to back to other gods which are useless – vain – worth nothing. How gracious God is. When His people stray and rebel yet He still loves them and does much to bring them back to Him. And as v 22 says

He has been pleased to make you His people. And Jehovah never abandons the commitments that He makes.

Can we take the necessary comfort from this my friends? Do we have skeletons in our cupboards? Are there things which we wish we had never done, words that we had never said? And are we tempted sometimes to go back and wallow in our guilt? Do we relive the tragic mistake that we made, perhaps that soured our lives for a time? The Lord God tells us not to make ourselves miserable by bringing to memory our rebellion. We are not to rewind the tape of our lives and go over the whole messy episode – as if misery is part of atonement! We take God at His word –

Isaiah 43 v 25 I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.

Micah 7 v 19 He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.

Jeremiah 31 v 34 for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

God will not forsake us my friends.

But what He wants with us as He wanted with Israel is this. We must see our great evil (v 16 – 19) and yet we must see God’s great faithfulness (v 20, 25). His forgiving love and faithfulness keeps us from despair. It is not only by grace alone that we BECOME God’s people – but it is by grace alone that REMAIN His people.

So the godly man Samuel now shows us how he was prepared not to give up on Israel either. If God, the rejected God, refuses to forsake His people, how can His rejected servant do so either? Hear what Samuel says in these closing verses –

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.

Samuel still has a function in Israel, even though they have chosen a King. He will be an intercessor – will not cease to pray for you and a teacher of the good and right way. He was to be a Priest and prophet. Who would pray as a priest and teach as a Prophet.

My friends we have a far greater man than Samuel in both these offices. We have a Man in the glory who is praying for us. We have a Man of Calvary who died for us. We have a man who is the Word made flesh who teaches us day after day. His Name is the Lord Jesus Christ and we need Him as much as Israel needed Samuel and much more. The church of today must stifle her arrogance in looking back at Israel and assuming that it was only Israel that is an unfaithful people. We have our own share of unfaithfulness. And we only stand because there is a Man standing in the breach for us before God. Our prophet/teacher calls us to take His yoke upon us and learn of Him. Our intercessor is constantly at the throne on our behalf praying and pleading before the throne for us as we live these weak and faltering lives.

Hebrews 7 v 24 But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. 25 Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.

May we learn of Him our dear saviour and trust Him in every circumstance – and never defect to the world or other gods as Israel did.