And the LORD said to Samuel, "Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected Me as their king.
are determines our relation to surrounding objects. And beneficial changes wrought within are followed by similar changes in the world without. "In prayer we make the nearest approaches unto God, and lie open to the influences of Heaven. Then it is that the Sun of righteousness doth visit us with his directest rays, and dissipateth our darkness, and imprinteth his image on our souls" (Scougal).
"Speak to him, thou, for he hears, and spirit with spirit can meet.
1. Relief for a burdened heart. It is often a great relief to tell our trouble to an earthly friend; much more is it to pour it forth into the bosom of God. "No other God but the God of the Bible is heart to heart" (Niebuhr). "They went and told Jesus" (Matthew 14:12).
2. Sympathy under bitter disappointment. Samuel seemed to have "laboured in vain and spent his strength for nought." But God sanctioned his work, identified himself with him, shared his disappointment, and took his burden on himself. In rejecting his faithful servants men reject the Lord. "Why persecutest thou me?" (Acts 9:5). He sympathises with them (Hebrews 4:5); and one smile of his more than compensates for apparent failure and the frowns of the whole world. "By degrees two thoughts calmed him. The first was the feeling of identification with God's cause. The other element of consolation was the Divine sympathy. Atheism and revolution here, as elsewhere, went hand in hand. We do not know how this sentence was impressed by the infinite mind on Samuel's mind; all we know is, he had a conviction that God was a fellow sufferer" (Robertson).
3. Guidance in great perplexity. The will of the Lord, it may be, is at first hidden or obscure, but in fellowship with him the mists and clouds that prevent our seeing it are cleared away, the sun shines forth, and our way is made plain. We see "the light of this world" (John 11:9). "The vocation of man is the sun in the heavens of his life." "The secret of the Lord" (the counsel or advice, such as a man gives to his friend) "is with them that fear him" (Psalm 25:14). God tells his secrets only to his friends. "The meek will he guide in judgment: the meek will he teach his way" (Psalm 25:9). "He will guide you into all the truth" (John 16:13).
4. Submission to the supreme will. That will is always wisest and best; it cannot be altered or made to bend to ours; and one of the chief benefits of prayer is that thereby we receive grace which disposes us to accept humbly and cheerfully what at first appears evil in our sight. We are made of one mind with God.
5. Strength for painful duty. It may be to "protest solemnly" (ver. 9) against the course resolved upon by others, to alter our own course and expose ourselves to the charge of inconsistency, to face opposition, danger, and death. But, God never appoints us a duty without giving us strength to perform it. Habitual prayer constantly confers decision on the wavering, and energy on the listless, and calmness on the excitable, and disinterestedness on the selfish" (Liddon).
6. Composure amidst general excitement. Whilst the elders clamour, "Nay; but we will have a king over us," Samuel is unmoved. He calmly listens to their decision, takes it back to God in secret prayer, and then comes forth and says, "Go ye every man to his own city." "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee" (Isaiah 26:3). Hurricanes revolve around a centre of perfect calm. Outside the charmed circle the tempest may rage furiously; within it all is peace. Such is the heart and mind kept (garrisoned) by the peace of God (Philippians 4:7).
7. Confidence in a glorious future. "The Lord will not forsake his people for his great name's sake" (1 Samuel 12:22). He works out his purposes by unexpected methods, overrules human perversity, and makes the wrath of man to praise him (Psalm 76:10). "What will the end he?" it was said at a time of great and general anxiety to an eminent servant of God (Dr. A. Clarke), who replied, with a beaming countenance, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." - D.
Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee.
I. WE SHALL HAVE TO BEGIN WITH A FAIR AND DETAILED EXPOSITION OF THE NARRATIVE AS IT MEETS US.
1. This verse, besides its bearing upon our main point, contains a valuable lesson of its own: Rejecting Divine Providence is rejecting Divine government and forfeiting Divine favour. There is no sense in a declaration that we accept God's law in general, but reserve the right to practical freedom in reference to particulars. "The end of all civil government," says an ancient thinker, writing for our times as wisely as for his own, "is to live well according to the Divine pleasure." We are surely Christians, but in general, you know; not quite so particular as we might be, possibly, but with a decided respect for religion always. Now this will not do; Jesus Christ, is everything to a man, or He is nothing. In all human history there has never been a fitter leader to command our loyalty or to win our love. We have been told that the ancient Persian kings used to elect, for the education and training of their princes, the four best men in the kingdom — the justest man, the wisest man, the bravest man, and the most temperate man — so that each new sovereign might have the highest advantages, and come to the regal throne best fitted to rule over the people. Christ is the Prince of a kingdom that, is supreme in the universe. When the Providences of God summon us to follow Jesus as our Lord, to reject Him is also to reject the Lord that made us, and defy Him when He is most our friend.
2. You must bear in mind, also, as this narrative proceeds, that wilful disobedience, continuously repeated, becomes settled rebellion. The reply which Samuel received reminded him that this was not a new case of sudden refusal of the Divine sovereignty. That nation had actually got into the habit of it. They had never shown anything more commendable since they came up out of the land of Pharaoh; they proved an awkward and ungainly people when Moses was trying to manage them in the wilderness. When one throws off God's beneficent restraints, it is surprising to see how awfully wicked he can be as in a moment of rapid demoralisation. Things apparently innocent are made the baleful occasion, sometimes even the instrument, of violent outbreak in vice. it is one of the intense severities of Montaigne to say of these atheistic people that "they infect innocent matter with their own venom." Some sceptics like to do this in their reckless arguments. They force natural science, always loyal and reverent to the Creator of the universe, to speak a lie and bring false testimony against God. It is the deliberate counting out of Divine government which puts this universe in such a false position. The only effective manner in which to deal with such a dangerous experience is found in letting it have its own way until it shall be weary and worn with its follies and be ready to return penitently to God.
3. So now we come to the point that we started to reach. Human prayers are sometimes granted with a Divine protest. Solemn moment is that in which God gives to any man or nation in judgment what was asked of Him in petulance and pride! Now let us understand that circumstances may erect; a foreordained fact into a responsible sin, for which those who are the actors are to be held accountable in the end. The Lord said these malcontents in Israel might have their wish, and yet he charges on them the guilt the transaction involved. Furthermore, this very demand of the people had been foreseen and publicly predicted three hundred years before. And yet this whole proceeding was now wrong; it was premature and hasty, and it was conducted without reference to the over-ruling will of Jehovah. God's Providence does not constrain any man's iniquity. Foreordination has nothing to do with free will. Those elders were doing their own behest, not God's; and they suffered for it.
II. We turn now from this story to THE ONE PRINCIPLE IT SO VIVIDLY ILLUSTRATES. It is worth our while to press a valuable admonition like that which is given here. We are told to let our hearts go forth in prayer continually unto God, and God will grant us our desires. But here we learn that not even the answers we obtain are to be trusted always. What does this mean in real experience?
1. It means that all petitions are to be offered, and all desires are to be pressed, according to the Lord's will before our will. If we thrust ourselves forward, Divine Providence will frequently hedge up the way. If now we urge on, sometimes the barrier is seen to move quietly away; then we can have our request if we continue to press it. But is this safe or wise? that is the sober question. It is the creature erecting itself against the supreme judgment of its Creator and taking its case into its own hands. When a man is intelligent, and his conscience tells him that God is not exactly granting, but only permitting, his prayer, is it best for him to persevere in it in the confident hope that courage will carry him through into safety?
2. And for another thing, this declaration means that under protest God grants a Christian's prayer, the answer will be a positive discipline rather than a blessing.
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
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