1 Samuel 12:1-5
And Samuel said to all Israel, Behold, I have listened to your voice in all that you said to me, and have made a king over you.…
The scene explains itself. In olden times, meetings of this kind were held in the open air. In earlier French history, the warriors used to meet in the month of May, and the king was carried round on a shield, to receive their homage. When our king Alfred divided the country into "hundreds," he directed the heads of families to meet together at fixed seasons, the muster place being sometimes round a well-known tree, and there is in existence to this day such a tree, which gave its name to the hundred or wapen-take. And in the Isle of Man the farmers of the island meet once a year in the open air to transact business, to this very day. Israel in this chapter is met together in the same way. They are under a bright eastern sky, the young king stands before them — a fine figure to behold; perhaps the handsomest man of his time — and by his side stands an old man, hoary, and grey-headed. We must now leave all the rest, and think only of this grey-headed old man.
I. THE PUBLIC MAN'S INFLUENCE AND TEMPTATIONS. Samuel spent about fifty years in a public life like this. Consider the influence he would necessarily acquire. If he has become known for being a sound thinker, competent to advise and willing to do so, men never mention his name without respect. They will go and ask him for opinions on matters that it seems almost impertinent to trouble him with. He seems only to live to assist others. Every house is open to him, and he carries many matters of importance without opposition. With such influence, consider what will be his temptations! If he has given a decision favourable to a man. and that man, out of gratitude, sends him a handsome present, how tempting it will be to receive it. In going the round of his sessions he would probably receive hospitality from some of the richer men about; it would be his due. Now, suppose one of these richer men who had entertained him handsomely came into court, how tempting it would be to listen to him a little more favourably! What opportunities, too, he has to benefit his family. A man in such a position has sometimes disagreeable things to do. If he decides one way, he may make a powerful man his enemy. That enemy may annoy him much, may libel his character and torment him terribly. The temptation will then be to get rid of such a tormentor, by oppressing him and putting him down.
II. FIDELITY TO TRUST. We are all in some places of trust. No man lives for himself alone. It is a very great mistake for any man to suppose that he has no influence. Who is more respected by any right-minded man than an honourable servant of standing character? I don't know anyone more entitled to sympathy and kindness than those who have grown hoary and grey in service. Well, then, you that are men and women in the prime of life, whatever be your occupation, put this model before you, this speech of Samuel's.
III. THE JOY OF A PURE CONSCIENCE. Children and young people, in this life of Samuel there is nothing that you cannot do in your way. Say to yourselves every day as you begin, "I am determined, God being my helper, to be so faithful in all that I do, that no man shall charge me with wronging him." You will fail sometimes, and be grieved at your failure. Yet be not discouraged, but persevere, and you may, if spared to be old and grey-headed, totter down the aisle of your church, or the streets of your village or town, with the consciousness of clean hands. There is no joy unmixed in this world. In his old age Samuel could have applied to himself the words of our great dramatist: — Tho' I look old, I'm lusty; For never in my youth did I woo the means of debility. Therefore mine age is as a lusty winter — Frosty, yet kindly. Let me be your servant. I'll do the service of a younger man. But no! the appeal had not its right effect. His countrymen were not grateful to him, as they ought to have been; they wanted this young king — something new — and the old man in his old age was to be forgotten. We must be prepared to be misunderstood — to find even a friend, who ought to know better, grow cool. But, firm in our upright course, we must fall back on the approbation of a pure conscience. A man need not skulk and hang his head if his conscience tells him that he has nothing to be ashamed of; rather will it whisper to him peace amidst the gloom that might dishearten him.
(H. Hiley, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And Samuel said unto all Israel, Behold, I have hearkened unto your voice in all that ye said unto me, and have made a king over you.