The Patience of God.
1 Samuel 11-12, Romans 8
And Samuel said to the people, “Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart.And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself.” – 1 Samuel 12:20-22 ESV
The people got what they wanted: Their very own king. In 1 Samuel 12, Saul is officially anointed king of Israel, and Samuel gives his retirement speech. He resigns as the final judge of Israel, but before he disappears into the sunset, he leaves the people with one final word. First of all, he made them testify as to the integrity of his character and ministry. He had not defrauded anyone. He had not taken advantage of his role as judge or attempted to profit personally from it. There had been no bribes taken or any hints of impropriety on his part. Which gave Samuel the permission to address the people bluntly and honestly about their spiritual condition. “Your wickedness is great, which you have done in the sight of the Lord, in asking for yourselves a king” (1 Samuel 12:17 ESV). And he confirmed his words by calling on God to send rain and thunder right in the middle of the wheat harvest. The people had followed in the footsteps of their ancestors, having forgotten God and all that He had done for them over the years. When faced with possible war with the Ammonites, rather than turn to God, they had demanded, “‘No, but a king shall reign over us,’ when the Lord your God was your king” (1 Samuel 12:12 ESV).
What does this passage reveal about God?
But in spite of their sinful actions, God was ready to forgive them and to continue leading and providing for them. But Samuel reminds them that they were going to have to fear, serve, and obey Him. They were going to have to stop rebelling against His commands. Not only them, but their new king as well. He would be immune to or exempt from God’s commands. Samuel told them, “If both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God, it will be well” (1 Samuel 12:14 ESV). God was still willing to bless them, in spite of them. But they would have to faithfully serve Him and honor Him as God. “Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself” (1 Samuel 12:20-22 ESV). God would not forsake them. But they had to stop turning after “empty things” – those worthless, vacuous replacements for God. Samuel warned them that heir habit of coming up with God-replacements was going to have to stop. But the reality would be that this condition would continue for generations to come, ultimately ending with their defeat at the hands of their enemies and their exile into foreign lands as captives. But God would still not forsake them. He would still prove faithful to them.
What does this passage reveal about man?
Mankind is inherently unfaithful. Our sin natures make it impossible for us to do even what we want to do. And obedience to God doesn’t come naturally to any of us. The Israelites could not keep the Law of God, no matter how much they vowed to do so. Their flesh just wasn’t up to the task. So, Paul tells us, “God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:3-4 ESV). God did for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves. He provided a way for men to be made right with Him that was not dependent upon their own sinful flesh, because if left to the Law and our own capacity to keep it, we would all fall short. God sent His Son to live the life He had required of all men. Jesus came in the form of human flesh and lived in perfect obedience to the Law of God. He was faithul and obedient, even to the point of death. He did everything that God the Father required of Him. And it was His perfect obedience to the will of God that allowed Him to offer Himself as the sinless sacrifice on man’s behalf. He took our place and our punishment, so that we might receive His righteousness. His blood covered our sin. His sacrifice atoned for our unrighteousness. God sent His Son to die on our behalf and to accomplish for us what we could never have done for ourselves. All because He loved us.
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
I am no different or better than the Israelites. Without Christ I would be just as prone to faithlessness and rebellion against God, no matter how much I might want to live differently and obediently. My flesh just doesn’t have what it takes to do what God demands. But because of what Jesus has done, I have been made right with God. And as Paul so aptly puts it, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, now will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32 ESV). God is for me. That is an amazing thought. And His Son sits at His right hand making intercession for me. On top of that, no matter what I may face in this life, whether it be trials, troubles, pain, sorrow, persecution, danger, hunger or even death itself, I will never find myself separated from the love of God. Because it is not based on my ability to live perfectly or sinlessly. He will never forsake me. I am His adopted child and an heir to His kingdom. So while life may throw all kinds of curves my way, they are never an indication that I have fallen out of God’s favor. I am His and He has my future fully secured. And while I know I will fail Him in this lifetime, He will never forsake me. He is a patient, loving, gracious, merciful God. And my response should be exactly what Samuel required of the people of Israel. “Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you” (1 Samuel 12:24 ESV)
Father, thank You for your incredible patience and love for me. I did not deserve Your grace and mercy. I could not have earned Your favor any more than the Israelites did. But You sent Your Son to pay for my sins and die in my place. You provided a way for me to be made right with You that I could never have done on my own. You showed me patience and You continue to do so as I struggle with obedience and faithfulness every day of my life. Help me to fear You and serve You faithfully with all my heart, and to never forget all the great things You have done for me. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men