Now here is the king you have chosen, the one you requested. Behold, the king whom the LORD has placed over you.
1 Samuel 12:8-12. (GILGAL.)
1. THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD (ver. 8). "It hath pleased the Lord to make you his people" (ver. 22). Of his own free and gracious will, always founded in perfect wisdom, he raises up a people from the lowest condition, confers upon them special blessings and privileges, and exalts them to the most eminent place among the nations of the earth (Deuteronomy 32:8; Acts 17:26, 27). As it was with Israel, so has it been with other peoples. His right so to deal with men cannot be questioned, his power therein is manifested, his undeserved goodness should be acknowledged, and the gifts bestowed employed not for selfish ends, but for his glory and the welfare of mankind.
II. THE SINFULNESS OF MEN. "They forgat the Lord their God" (ver. 9). So constantly and universally have men departed from God and goodness as to make it evident that there is in human nature an inherited tendency to sin. "It is that tendency to sinful passions or unlawful propensities which is perceived in man whenever objects of desire are placed before him, and laws laid upon him." As often as God in his great goodness has exalted him to honour, so often has he fallen away from his service; and left to himself, without the continual help of Divine grace, his course is downward. "In times past the Divine nature flourished in men, but at length, being mixed with mortal custom, it fell into ruin; hence an inundation of evils in the race" (Plato. See other testimonies quoted by Bushnell in 'Nature and the Supernatural'). "There is nothing in the whole earth that does not prove either the misery of man or the compassion of God; either his powerlessness without, or his power with God" (Pascal).
III. THE CERTAINTY OF RETRIBUTION. "He sold them into the hand of Sisera," etc. (ver. 9).
"The sword of Heaven is not in haste to smite,
IV. THE BENEFICENCE OF SUFFERING. "And they cried unto the Lord, and said, We have sinned," etc. (ver. 10). Underneath what is in itself an evil, and a result of the violation of law, physical or moral, there is ever working a Divine power which makes it the means of convincing men of sin, turning them from it, and improving their character and condition. A state of deepest humiliation often precedes one of highest honour. It is only those who refuse to submit to discipline (Job 36:10) and harden themselves in iniquity that sink into hopeless ruin.
V. THE EFFICACY OF PRAYER. "And the Lord sent...and delivered you," etc. (ver. 11). "Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses" (Psalm 107:6, 13, 19, 28). As it was with Israel throughout their history, so has it been with others, even those who have had but little knowledge of "the Hearer of prayer."
"In even savage bosoms
VI. THE PREVALENCE OF MEDIATION. "Then the Lord sent Moses and Aaron" (ver. 8). "And the Lord sent Jerubbaal, and Bedan, and Jephthah, and Samuel" (ver. 11). He sent help by men specially raised up and appointed, and deliverance came through their labours, conflicts, and sufferings. One people also has been often made the medium of blessing to others. And herein we see a shadowing forth of the work of the great Mediator and Deliverer, and (in an inferior manner) of his people on behalf of the world.
VII. THE INCREASE OF RESPONSIBILITY on the part of those who have had the experience of former generations to profit by, and who have received higher privileges than they (vers. 12, 19). "Now all these things were written for our admonition," etc. (1 Corinthians 10:11). "Two things we ought to learn from history: one, that we are not in ourselves superior to our fathers; another, that we are shamefully and monstrously inferior to them if we do not advance beyond them" (Froude). - D.
Now, therefore, behold the king whom ye have chosen.
Monday Club Sermon.I. One could hardly fail to note what is here taught respecting THE CONDITION OF TRUE PROSPERITY. Samuel plainly tells people that, in gaining their desire, they had not made sure of blessing. It still remained that they must fear and serve the Lord. Refusing to do this, His hand would be against them. In early times, when man was in his childhood, it was needful that God should make Himself and His will known chiefly through temporal blessings. To fidelity He promised present benefit; against transgression he denounced present ills. Now, it is clear that God does not deal with us in just this way. From the first He sought to lead a sinning race out; into the knowledge and enjoyment of a larger life. He would lead them on to see that there is a better than merely outward and earthly good. Less and less, therefore, did be connect temporal prosperity with obedience. Here, then, is the true good; in the smile of God, communion with Him, His present keeping and guidance, and heirship to an inheritance spiritual and eternal. This, with just such admixture of earthly honour and treasure as seems to God best, is true prosperity. When God would greatly bless, it is in ways like these. Does it need, now, to be greatly insisted that this is conditioned, still and forever, on the fear of God and faithful keeping of His commands? There are those who seem not to see it. Many, apparently, imagine that the present and future smile and favour of God come alike to all; not in gracious offer only, but in actual possession. They rather resent the suggestion that it can make any essential difference. But this is practical atheism — call it by whatever pleasing name we will. Then there is a class who seem to fancy that the requirement of obedience as a condition of present and future good is done away, for us at least, by the gospel promise of gratuitous pardon and free grace. This, too, is a fatal mistake. The seemingly two ways, of Samuel and of Christ, are not two, but one. Never was an Old Testament saint saved by the merit of his works. He, too, came into God's spiritual household by undeserving favour. But he did not come bringing disobedience and self-will along with him. He came to love, trust, serve, and obey. So does the returning soul now come. And, coming with any other spirit, God cannot give him approving welcome. Now and forever, here and hereafter, true blessing is conditioned upon our walking in God's way.
II. It will repay us to note the light which this Scripture sheds upon THE USE OF WONDERS AND SIGNS. To confirm the words he had spoken, Samuel makes his appeal to God. He asks a sign from heaven, and his request is granted: "The Lord sent thunder and rain that day." Robinson, in his Palestine, says: "In ordinary seasons, from the cessation of the showers in spring until their commencement in October and November, rain never falls and the sky is usually serene." , whose home was in that land, tells us, "I have never seen rain in Judea in the end of June or in July." The fulfilment of Samuel's prediction was thus a wonder and a sign. Now, supposing there is sufficient need of them, nothing is more natural than expectation of such signs from heaven. But that wonders and signs may be at any particular time probable there must be an adequate occasion for them. The end to be accomplished must be worthy, and other and ordinary means inadequate to it. It must be clear that the signs will do what the ordinary means can not. There was such adequate occasion when the book of Revelation was incomplete. It is not certain that there is now, at any time with us, a similar need; and our Saviour, whose wonders were so many and so stupendous, declared that, in response to idle curiosity or unbelieving demand, "no sign shall be given." Of such, "They have Moses and the prophets, the written gospel and the Divine spirit; if they hear not them, neither would they be persuaded though One rose from the dead."
III. It is worth our while to note briefly the hint we here have of THE REAL ESTIMATE IS WHICH THE WORLDLY MAN HOLDS THE UNGODLY. Upon the latter the former sometimes turns his back with not a little seeming scorn. So, in a measure, Israel had done with Samuel. They wanted a more stately rule. But now, no sooner is the sense of their sin and of God's ready resources of judgment brought home to them than they are glad to get, as we say, under His wing.
IV. In this scripture there are impressive reminders of THE GREAT AND MULTIPLIED INCENTIVES WHICH WANDERERS HAVE TO RETURN TO GOD. Why does Samuel remind the people that right relations with God are the condition of true prosperity, save that he may persuade them to return to Him? And why does he make use of the startling sign from heaven but to the same end? What an array of incentives! Surely, if we fail to find God and the blessing He would bestow, the fault cannot be that of Him who sets before us motives so numerous and so great.
V. There is an important intimation running all through these words as to WHAT IT IS WHICH MAKES ONE TRULY AND SAVINGLY RELIGIOUS. Upon this point there would seem to be among men a great and strange variety of opinions. Some seem to suppose that religion mainly consists in knowing and holding the truth, or in soundness of intellectual belief; others have thought that he is a sufficiently religious person who reads his Bible, and says his prayers, and goes to his church, and pays his share for its support; there are those who make chief account of warm and ardent religious emotions, and think it enough to delight in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs; just now there is a considerable class who would have us understand that religion is summed up in what is termed a good life — in practical reverence for honesty, charity, truth, neighbourly kindness, and kindred virtues. But now the thought which underlies all of Samuel's words is different from anything here named, What he implies is that true, acceptable, saving religion consists in a right personal relation to a personal God. This does not mean that any one of the things enumerated is worthless, unimportant. Each is an important help to it, or expression or fruit of it. But never are they anywhere in the Scripture set forth as the very thing itself; as that central reality whence all its deep blessedness flows, and in which its reasonableness consists. He is a truly religious man who is in a right personal relation to a personal God.
VI. This address, as a whole, gives us a pleasing glimpse of THE BEAUTY AND POWER OF UNSELFISH PIETY. His own were the hands that anointed his successor. To those who have cast him off he pledges his unceasing prayers and gives his cheerful help. In all this there was rare magnanimity. Some good men have fallen greatly below it. Have we not heard of Gospel ministers who, when rightly or wrongly dismissed from their charge, have spoken harsh words and gone out with a resentful spirit? and of Sunday school superintendents, chief singers, and other helpers, who, because another has been put in their place or because disparaging words have been spoken concerning them, have altogether withdrawn from Christian work? This is simply because to step down and out from a place of influence and honour, to see the crown of favour transferred to the head of another, is never easy. To do it patiently takes great grace. Yet it is not impossible. We have witnessed it in ministers and church officials, who have proved just as constant and ardent in the ranks as at the head; in following as when they led. The beauty of such a spirit never fails of recognition. Such men are everywhere beloved.
(Monday Club Sermon.)
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