This is the second of my three farewell sermons, in which I want to use the words of Samuel by which he addresses his final words to the nation of Israel. Again I remind you that I am not Samuel, and you are not Israel. But there are abiding and useful principles here which we want to explore for our benefit.
1. SOME BACKGROUND TO 1 SAMUEL 12
Samuel was effectively the last Judge of Israel. He follows the book of Judges. In his days Israel was looking for a king (1 Samuel 8). Despite many warnings from Samuel concerning the manners and the ways of kings, and despite the fact that Israel actually had God as their King ( for she was a theocratic nation), they insisted on having flesh and blood to rule over them, and so Israel receives their first king in the person of Saul (1 Samuel 9 & 10). Initial reviews on Saul are wonderful, until he loses the plot.
2. 12:1 A LESSON IN BIBLICAL LEADERSHIP
12:1 “And Samuel said
to all Israel, "Behold,
I have obeyed your voice in all that you have said to me and have made a king
over you”. Let’s try to understand this. If kings were dangerous
to Israel’s existence, why did Samuel give into them now? The answer is found
in 8:19-22. It was actually God who handed
Israel over to her own desires. Sometimes we just have to learn the hard way. And
the problem is actually not with wanting a king. The problem is that kings are
sinners, and people are sinners. Sinful kings can easily become manipulative
and abusive and sinful people can easily become lazy and non-involved, allowing
their kings to take over their lives. Kings take away our need to lean heavily
Let me apply this immediately. The
church under the headship of her king, the Lord Jesus is designed to function
as a body, as each member participates according to their spiritual gifts and
abilities (1 Cor.12, Rom.12:3-8). To
the church under the headship of Christ belongs the work of ministry (Eph. 4:12). That was exactly the way
Israel was designed to function under the leadership of God. The function of OT/
NT leaders was never to take away or substitute the responsibility of the work
of ministry from the people, but to teach, lead and encourage God’s people toward the exercise
of their duty. Pastors/ elders are not given to do the work of the ministry.
They participate in the work of the ministry by equipping the saints.
Again, what is the problem with leaders and what is the problem with the people? The leaders very easily take over the work in a power grabbing fashion, and the people easily become laid back and lazy. They like to pay someone to do the work for them. The problem with the leader is that if he doesn’t keep himself sanctified and under the rule of Christ, he begins to feel a sense of entitlement and of inflated self- importance. That would become Saul’s problem very soon. And it would lead to his eventual disqualification. Knowing this, and despite his reservations Samuel appointed Israel's first human king by God’s permission.
3. 12:2- 5 NOT SO WITH SAMUEL…
We are not going to engage in a study of the differing leadership
styles of Saul and Samuel. All that
needs to be said is that Samuel’s leadership style most closely reflects that
which Jesus taught us about servant leadership.
Israel was not to be the king’s possession. It was not to be Saul’s
or Samuel’s possession. Israel was God’s people, and as such they were not to
be abused – least of all economically (see Samuel’s warning again in 8:10-18). The same is true for the New Testament
church. Applying this once again to the NT this does not mean that the church
should not (even generously) reward those servant leaders that labour in the
Word (2 Tim 5:17,18). Sadly, many
Namibian churches are sinning against the Lord by not providing an adequate
living stipend for their pastors. Having said that we must insist that pastors
are not there to enrich themselves. That is the other side of the sad story as
it relates to the current phenomenon of abusive prosperity teachers. The kings of
Israel quickly became very opulent and self- entitled, but you could not say
this about Samuel.
As I lay down this calling, I am calling you to judge me in this
matter (12:3ff). I have not used my
position to enrich myself. The generous stipend that you have given me lately
was substantially used to buy a home. That is my husbandly duty to my wife. I
have not hoarded money. I have given to others in need. I have spent much of
the stipend in one way or the other on this ministry… and with deep joy. I am
not walking out here as a wealthy man.
Furthermore I also assure you, that as much as I know, I have not
wanted to seek glory for myself. I have not laboured for your recognition or
your praise. I was thankful when I received your encouragement, but I carried
on even when I did not feel encouraged, knowing that our ultimate reward shall
come from God.
I also have not wanted to hold on to my position. I am laying down my work for these reasons
my work among
you, as a pastor is done. I have given what I could.
it is now time
for a sustained sabbatical, and if God keeps me healthy, I wish to continue in a
ministry that is more focussed on my
I have worked
myself out of a job. God has supplied new leaders - and you need to use them, and I must get out of the way
for them to do that. That doesn’t mean that I cease to exist. It simply means
that I exist in a different capacity. It is interesting to note that although Samuel closes with this
farewell speech, we still hear of him in
other contexts, until we finally we hear of his death in 1
Samuel is a study in integrity. Our ethics are driven by personal beliefs and values. Our morals are expressed in the
way in which we live our lives. Integrity is when our ethics are
proven by our morals - when what we say we believe is matched by how we live
I trust that I have lived with the integrity of an imperfect man
In 12:4-5 we note the people’s response… The people confirm Samuel’s
integrity and in addition Samuel calls on God to confirm his testimony. We know that Samuel wasn’t a perfect man. But
he had integrity, and I trust that this is true for you and me.
And now we want to consider that which undergirds Samuel’s faithfulness: God’s faithfulness!
4. 12:6-18 GOD’S FAITHFULNESS AND A CHALLENGE TO ISRAEL NOT TO BE UNFAITHFUL.
In this passage we hear overtones of Joshua. The closing words of
both these leaders include a strong exhortation to the people to stay faithful.
Their history shows,
Israel’s frequent unfaithfulness
12:6-11 Samuel, by means of a
survey, from the Exodus from Egypt, to
Israel’s entrance into the promised land
shows them again and again how Israel fell into the routine of slavery /idolatry and delivery as God
delivered them both, up to their enemies, and from
their enemies by sending
deliverers (Judges) time and again in response to the people’s desperate
prayers. The LORD sent Jerubbaal (Gideon) and Barak (Bedan)
and Jephthah and Samuel…, and you lived in safety (12:11). The point is that Israel was delivered time and again by God their King. The
deliverers were God’s instruments. And yet despite God’s interventions, “they forgot the Lord their God” –
breaking the first and most important requirement of the Sinai covenant— (12:9;
cf. Deut. 8:11).
But God did not forget Israel, nor His covenant with Israel. Even in the handing over of His
people, God loved His people.
12:12 Israel’s unfaithful
response to God: “And when you saw
that Nahash the 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. For Samuel this became the next level of rebellion
against God! Israel forgot that God
their King had delivered them from the hand of the Philistines in 1Sam.7. They forgot their own history
in the book of the Judges. They were determined to have a human king to reign
over them. Samuel saw this as a betrayal, but God bore with His people’s choice
and said in 12:13-14, “And now
behold the king whom you have chosen, for whom you have asked; behold, the LORD
has set a king over you. 14 If you will fear the LORD and serve
him and obey his voice and not rebel against the commandment
of the LORD, and if both you and the
king who reigns over you will follow the LORD your God, it will be well. There are 4 conditions, 3 positive and 1 negative
- fear God, serve God, obey God, and do
not rebel against God. All would be well if king and people hold on to
God. If not – see 12:15.
Moses had warned the first
generation of Israel who had been delivered from bondage in Egypt - “But it shall come about, if you do not obey
the LORD your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes with
which I charge you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake
you (Deut.28:16-68). Joshua gave a similar warning to the second generation who had entered the
promised land - “If you forsake the LORD
and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you after
He has done good to you.” (Josh
Baptist Church , I can only say this to you: Keep your hearts attached to the
King of the church. Love Him, serve Him. Worship Him. Don’t substitute anything
or anyone for Christ. Learn from Samuel. Learn from the failures of Israel, and
learn from the failures of the church. Paul rebuked the Corinthian Christians
for being man-centred (1Cor. 1:11-13).
Focus sharply on the Lord Jesus. Keep your soul under His word, and hold your
leaders accountable to preach the Word to you. In that process, keep your
Sundays for God, pray always, and expect God to work and to authenticate
Himself (12:16-18). Samuel is telling Israel to prepare
themselves to see a sign from the LORD, which would authenticate the warning he
had just given them. Rain during the wheat harvest (late May to early June) was unusual,
and yet the Lord sent the rain and thunder to authenticate Samuel's words to
the people. The mark of a true prophet in the biblical sense of that word is
seen in God’s authentication of his words.
12:19 Seeing this authentication of Samuel’s words, the people suddenly realise that their asking for a human king was a great sin against God. In that sense, their response is good, because it amounts to a confession of their sin. Again one is reminded of the spiritual depth of Samuel’s ministry. His ministry was rooted in a sincere and consistent prayer life. This fact was clearly recognized by the people in 1 Sam 12:19. Samuel’s prayer footprint is clearly seen in 1 Sam.12:23; cf. 1 Sam.7:5ff; 1 Sam 8:6ff. Samuel did not consider prayer an option to be exercised at convenient moments. It was essential and integral to His ministry. While I am no Samuel, I have been in prayer for you, and I have regularly called you to be faithful in prayer.
5. 12:20-25 A REVELATION OF SAMUEL’S PASTORAL HEART
people see and process the reality of Samuel’s pastoral ministry to
them we find that…
their fear. They are not in danger of imminent destruction (12:20a).
Samuel does not gloss
over their sin. What they had done was serious (12:20b)
Samuel warns them
not to turn aside from God's commandments (12:21a).
The best preventative to keep from turning aside is to serve the LORD with all
He tells them
not to trust in empty things that cannot
them that God will not forsake His
He assures them of his ongoing personal prayer
for them (12:23)
He exhorts them
again to cling to God with all their hearts (22:24).
He warns them
These are the marks of a biblical ministry. I trust that you have had a taste of this.
The ministry that you will most benefit from is a ministry that speaks
for God and which loves people. In that order, and never the other way around!
duty has been to lead you into the arms of the Great Shepherd.
( Heb. hinneh; Gr. LXX idou
= aorist imperative)
10:42-45; Matt 20:25-28 ; John 13:12-17
; Phil. 2:5-8
 Bedan is not mentioned in the book of
Judges, suggesting the possibility there were other judges in that 300 year
period. There is another possibility that this was a copyist's error because
the Septuagint and Arabic versions both have the name for Barak (Jud. 4) cf. ESV
and NIV versions. Samuel is the last judge. God used him to deliver Israel so that "the Philistines were subdued and they
did not come anymore within the border of Israel. And the hand of the LORD was
against the Philistines all the days of Samuel." (1Sam. 7:13ff).