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Take Your Stand (1 Samuel 12)

    Today we’ll look at the last public address Samuel makes. We’ve seen through the passages we’ve studied in 1 Samuel that at this point, Samuel is old and one of the factors in the people deciding they wanted a king was because of Samuel’s advanced age. The people knew he wouldn’t be able to lead them as their judge much longer. God chose a king: Saul. He’s been affirmed by the people. All that’s left to do is to give one final speech, one final warning and farewell to the people. He’s in good company, too. We saw Moses and Joshua do the same thing when they were about to die. Now, Samuel isn’t going to die yet, but after this address to the people, he does fade away from public service. He still works behind the scenes though, as one who regularly hears from God, to guide Israel when having a king goes south.
    We’re going to be in 1 Samuel 12 today, and Samuel starts his farewell speech by reminding Israel that he has been a good leader to them, that even in appointing them a king, which he didn’t want to do, he has always done what they have asked of him. He asks them in verse 3, to bear witness against him before the Lord and the anointed king. What he’s asking them to do is to examine his life and see if he can be found to be good and trustworthy.
    Samuel says this, “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? I will restore it to you.” (v. 3).
    If you’re taking notes in your bulletin this morning, you’ll see that OPPRESSED is your first blank. Samuel, is trying to build a case for himself, to have the authority to say to the people one more thing that he desperately hopes they will listen to. So when he asks, “whose ox have I taken, whom have I defrauded, whom have I oppressed or taken a bribe from,” he’s reminding them that he has always treated them well. He’s always done what was right, not only by them, but in the Lord’s eyes as well. He’s reminding them that he had never given them any reason not to trust him. He led them for many many years, from the time he was a young boy to the moment they decided they wanted a king in his old age. Samuel has always done right.
    The people agree in verses 4-5 that Samuel has always treated them well. Samuel has always done right. Samuel has never wronged them. Samuel has earned the right to speak plainly, boldly, to them, regardless of what he might need to say.
    It’s the same sort of tactic that Paul used on numerous occasions, talking to different churches, writing letters to them. He would start by saying, “Look, you know me. You know my heart and my deeds. You know that I was the one who spoke the truth to you about Christ and saw you come to faith in Jesus.” That was always with the purpose of reminding the people of the truth they had accepted, and the love that Paul had for them.
    And then he would move on to the hard stuff. He would say, “You know, you started off great, but now I’m really disappointed because I’ve heard that you have quarrels and arguments between you.”
    That’s what Samuel is doing here. After he reminded them of their trust for him, and how he has always done what was right, he moves on to the hard stuff.
    Here’s the hard stuff:
    Israel’s history of forgetting the God who had set them free.
    1 Samuel 12:9 says that they forgot the Lord their God.
    They forgot all that God had done for them.
    Why is that hard stuff? You might ask. Why is it hard to be reminded of your past if it’s no longer an issue? It’s not, unless the past is still relevant.
    This is hard stuff because Israel was still forgetting the Lord their God. Look at 1 Samuel 12:12, “When you saw that Nahash the king of the sons of Ammon came against you, you said to me, ‘No, but a king shall reign over us,’ although the Lord your God was your king.”
    They were still forgetting the Lord their God. He reminded them of their past as a way of telling them that their past was still their present reality. Their sinful attitude toward God had not changed. He was warning them not to continue in that attitude.
    Samuel gives them a prescription for their attitude as well, a way to help them keep from repeating their history of forgetting the Lord their God. Look at verse 14, “If you will fear the Lord and serve Him, and listen to His voice and not rebel against the command of the Lord, then both you and also the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God.”
    We have four blanks in that verse because I want this verse to stick with us. FEAR, SERVE, LISTEN, and REBEL, are our four blanks for this verse. “If you will fear the Lord and serve Him, and listen to His voice and not rebel against the command of the Lord, then both you and also the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God.”
    That’s what Samuel tells them to do in order to remember that the Lord is their God. He says, do these things and you and the king who is over you will follow God. Do these things, and you won’t repeat history. Do these things, and you won’t forget the Lord your God.
    Okay.
    Let’s look at each of these things.
    The Fear of the Lord. What does that mean? Are we to be afraid of God, the way we’re afraid of death, or public speaking? The Hebrew word can be translated that way, yes, but more often than not, when we’re speaking about the Fear of the Lord, we’re talking about a translation that means to honor, or to revere, or to hold in awe.
    For the Israelites at this time, fear of the Lord was of the highest importance. Remember that Samuel reminded them that they chose a king when God was already their king. Think about people like kings for a moment. Kings, presidents, good leaders in any community. We honor them, don’t we? We revere them, and hold them in high regard. So when the people chose to have a king appointed over them, they took the honor, reverence, and awe that should have been placed on God, and they placed it on their king, Saul. Samuel warned them that this would be a problem.
    Anytime that we hold a leader in higher regard than God, that’s idolatry. It doesn’t matter how good that leader is, it doesn’t matter if they profess Christ or not, it doesn’t matter. If we give leaders the honor, reverence, and awe that is due to God and God alone, that’s wrong. Samuel was urging the people to make sure to give God the honor that is His alone.
    Serve the Lord is the next one. What does that mean? There’s a lot of descriptions in the Bible of the relationship between God and His people as a master/servant relationship. Unfortunately, that’s been misunderstood, especially in recent years. This is not a master/slave relationship. God does not have us in bonds. He is not a puppet-master pulling our strings.
    The relationship that is described throughout scripture as a master/servant relationship, is rather one of a generous, kind, loving master whose servants choose to serve because of the goodness He has shown them and the love He has for them. They could choose to serve someone else, to work for someone else, but why would they when He treats them so well? He cares for their every need, they never want for anything, and they are compensated well for their work. Why would they leave?
    That’s the master/servant relationship described in the Bible when we hear those buzz words, words like: serve, master, servant.
    So, when we hear that we should serve the Lord, what that means is that we do what God asks us. Not because we’re obligated, not because we have to, but because we have experienced His great love, kindness, and goodness, and we know that He has our best in mind. So we do as He asks, because we know He is acting for our ultimate good. Serve the Lord. Do as He has asked.
    Listen to His voice is the third thing that Samuel tells the people to do. This is a little easier to explain and understand. In order to listen to His voice, we must know how to hear His voice. How is that? His Word. This is His voice. This is His Word and His Words. If we want to listen to His voice, we would be wise to start with Scripture.
    But, the Bible is not the only way the Lord speaks, is it? He speaks through other people, we know this for certain. He spoke through Samuel, Moses, Joshua, Abraham, so many others throughout history. He still speaks through people, doesn’t He? If I have done my job right, if I have prepared properly through time spent with Him in prayer and in His Word, if I have listened to Him, then He will use me to speak to you this morning!
    He speaks through our brothers and sisters to us. He speaks through those who are in fellowship with Him.
    He speaks in the silence, too, especially if He knows we’re listening. This is why prayer is so vitally important to those who claim a relationship with God, and why prayer must be so much more than just a list of things we want God to do. Prayer must involve long periods of silence so we can listen to what He is speaking to us. If we don’t listen, we won’t hear His voice.
    The fourth thing Samuel tells them to do is to not rebel against the command of the Lord. That is anything that the Lord has commanded, the people are to do. To obey is better than to give sacrifices, right? Those who love Him will obey His commands, right? It’s simple, what Samuel is urging the people to do is to not act in sin toward the Lord. Don’t rebel against Him. Don’t go against what He has said. That is the very definition of sin that we use as Nazarenes, that sin is a willful disobedience of a known law of God. Samuel is telling them not to sin.
    Do these things, and you will follow God and the king over you will follow God.
    This prescription Samuel gave the people to not forget the Lord their God is the same prescription we have. We might have it worded a little differently for us, for us as New Testament Christians, it sounds like this, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. And love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-38). The words are a little different, but when you really look at what it means to do this, it’s the same as what Samuel told the Israelites, “If you will fear the Lord and serve Him, and listen to His voice and not rebel against the command of the Lord, then you will follow the Lord your God.”
    Then, Samuel told them something that caught me off guard this week, 1 Samuel 12:16, “Even now, take your stand and see this great thing which the Lord will do before your eyes.”
    Those are the last three blanks in your bulletin, TAKE YOUR STAND.
    I was caught off guard by the words “even now.” If you read on a little bit, you’ll see why Samuel was saying that to them. I want you to look at verse 20, “Samuel said to the people, “Do not fear. (Why would they fear? Usually when you’re confronted with something you’ve done wrong, you’re fearful of the consequences…) You have committed all this evil, yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart.”
    The “even now” in verse 16 is talking about the state of the nation. He says, “even now”, even while you have committed evil, even while you are still in the act of not following the Lord, even while you are persisting in sinning against God, even while you have a wrong…action, word, thought, attitude.
    It’s not too late.
    It’s not too late to repent of that wrong attitude. That wrong thought. That wrong action. Those wrong words. It’s not too late.
    Even now, take your stand.
    Even now, take your stand.
    And what is the promise that goes with that? “Even now, take your stand and see this great thing which the Lord will do before your eyes.”
    I don’t know about you, but I want to see the great things the Lord will do before my eyes. I want to see them. I want to see Him move. I want to see Him change things, but that great thing starts with me taking my stand.
    Samuel’s final words of encouragement to the people echo in my ears. 1 Samuel 12:24, “Only fear the Lord and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you.” He has done great things. He has more yet that He wants to do. Even now, take your stand, and see this great thing which the Lord will do before your eyes.

If there ever was a week to answer the questions that I ask every week, this would be the week. I urge you, as one who has hopefully earned the privilege of getting to ask you to do hard things, please, answer these questions.
1. If you asked the question Samuel asks in verse 3 of your closest friends and family, what would the answer be?

2. Verse 20 indicates that even if we have done evil, it is never too late to serve the Lord. Even if we have done what is wrong, the right thing to do is to not turn from the Lord. Is there anything in your life (actions, words, even thoughts/attitudes) that are wrong right now? What can you do to right those wrongs?

3. What things might God be calling you to take a stand on in order to see the Lord do great things through that stand?

 

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