1 Samuel 12:3-5. (GILGAL.)
I. It is generally, and not improperly, EXPECTED, because of -
1. The superior knowledge which one who fills such an office is assumed to possess (Ezra 7:25).
2. The important trust which is reposed in him. "Moreover, it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful" (1 Corinthians 4:2).
3. The powerful influence which he exerts over others, for good or evil (Proverbs 29:2).
II. It is beset by numerous TEMPTATIONS, such as -
1. To prefer his ease and pleasure to laborious and self-denying duty (Romans 12:8).
3. To seek the praise of men more than the praise of God, and to yield to the evil wishes of the multitude for the sake of personal advantage (John 19:13).
III. It lies open to public CRITICISM, for -
1. The conduct of a public man cannot be wholly hidden from view.
2. His responsible position invites men, and gives them a certain right, to judge concerning the course he pursues; and, in many instances, his actions directly affect their persons, property, or reputation.
3. As it is impossible to restrain their criticism, so it is, on the whole, beneficial that it should be exercised as a salutary restraint upon those "who are in authority." Happy is he in whom "none occasion nor fault can be found, forasmuch as he is faithful" (Daniel 6:4).
IV. It is NOT always duly APPRECIATED, but is sometimes despised and suspected.
1. The reasons of the conduct of one in public office are not always fully understood, nor the difficulties of his position properly considered, nor the motives of his actions rightly interpreted.
2. Evil doers, to whom he is "a terror," may be expected to hate and speak ill of him. "What evil have I done?" said Aristides, when told that he had everyone's good word.
3. Men are apt to be envious of those who are exalted above them, and to forget their past services if they do not favour the gratification of the present popular feeling. Samuel' was not the only judge who experienced ingratitude. "Neither showed they kindness to the house of Jerubbaal, namely, Gideon, according to all the goodness which he showed unto Israel" (Judges 8:35).
V. It sometimes requires to be openly VINDICATED, for the sake of -
1. Personal character and reputation. "I have not taken one ass from them, neither have I hurt one of them" (Numbers 16:5).
2. Truth, and righteousness, and the honour of God. How often, on this account, did the Apostle Paul vindicate himself, in his epistles, from the accusations that were made against him!
3. The welfare of the people themselves, on whom misrepresentation and unfounded suspicions exert an injurious influence.
VI. It is certain, sooner or later, to be fully RECOGNISED.
1. Time and circumstances bring real worth to the light.
2. There is in men a sense of truth and justice which constrains them to acknowledge and honour the good.
3. God takes care of the reputation of those who take care of his honour. There comes a "resurrection of reputations." The judgment of one generation concerning public men is often reversed by the next. "There is nothing hidden that shall not be made manifest." "And the righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance." - D.
And Samuel maid unto the people.
1. First, he brings out the fundamental fact of their history. Its grand feature was this: "It is the Lord who advanced Moses and Aaron, and brought your fathers up out of the land of Egypt." The fact could not be disputed — their existence as a people and their settlement in Canaan were due to the special mercy of the Lord. And yet there was a want of cordiality on the part of the people in acknowledging it. They were partly at least blind to its surpassing lustre. "How strange it is," Richard Baxter says in substance somewhere, "that men can see beauty in so many things — in the flowers, in the sky, in the sun — and yet be blind to the highest beauty of all. the fountain and essence of all beauty, the beauty of the Lord!" Having emphatically laid down the fundamental fact in the history of Israel, Samuel next proceeds to reason upon it. The reasoning rests on two classes of facts: the first, that whenever the people forsook God they had been brought into trouble; the second, that whenever they repented and cried to God. He delivered them out of their trouble. Now, what, was it that had recently occurred? They had had trouble from the Ammonites. Now, from what Samuel says here, it would appear that this annoyance from the Ammonites was the immediate occasion of the people wishing to have a king. Here let us observe what their natural course would have been, in accordance with former precedent. It would have been to cry to the Lord to deliver them from the Ammonites. But instead of that, they asked Samuel to give them a king, that he might deliver them. You see from this what cause Samuel had to charge them with rejecting God for their King. You see at the same time how much forbearance God exercised in allowing Samuel to grant their request.
2. Samuel is specially concerned to press on the people; and this he does in the remaining verses (vers. 13-25), that they were to remember that their having a king in no serene and in no degree exempted them from their moral and spiritual obligations to God. He would show them there and then, under their very ayes, what agencies of destruction God held in His hand, and how easily He could bring these to bear on them and on their property. Oh, what folly it was to offer an affront to the great God, who had such complete control over "fire and hail, anew and vapours, stormy wind fulfilling His word"! What blindness to think they could in any respect be better with another king! Thus it is that in their times of trial God's people in all ages have been brought to feel their entire dependence on Him.
3. But now, the humble and contrite spirit having been shown by the people, see how Samuel hastens to comfort and reassure them. Now that they have begun to fear, he can say to them, "Fear not." Now that they have shown themselves alive to the evils of God's displeasure, they are assured that there is a clear way of escape from these evils. Samuel, moreover, reminds them that it was not they that had chosen God; it was God that had chosen them. "The Lord will not forsake His people, for His great name's sake, because it hath pleased the Lord to make you His people." This was a great ground of comfort for Israel.
4. Once more, in answer to the people's request that he would intercede for them, Samuel is very earnest. "God forbid that I should sin again it the Lord in ceasing to pray for you." The great emphasis with which he says this shows how much his heart is in it. "What should I do, if I had not the privilege of intercessory prayer for you?" There is a wonderful revelation of love to the people here. "I bless God," said Mr. Flavel, one of the best and sweetest of the old Puritan divines, on the death of his father — "I bless God for a religious and tender father, who often poured out his soul to God for me; and this stock of prayers I esteem the fairest inheritance on earth." How many a man has been deeply impressed even by the very thought that someone was praying for him! "Is it not strange," he has said to himself, "that he should pray for me far more than I pray for myself? What can induce him to take such an interest in me?" Every Christian ought to think much of intercessory prayer, and practise it greatly. Think how Moses interceded for the whole nation after the golden calf, and it was spared. Think how Daniel interceded for his companions in Babylon, and the spirit was revealed to him. Think how Elijah interceded for the widow, and her son was restored to life. Think how Paul constantly interceded for all his Churches, and how their growth and spiritual prosperity evinced that his prayer was not in vain.
(W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)
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