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 closing years in the life of Samuel, the last and greatest of the judges, witnessed a transition in the method of governing the nation of Israel from the theocracy to the monarchy. By the wise, unselfish action of Samuel, this transition, which might have involved grave national controversy and bloodshed, was peaceably made. Samuel's work was, therefore, as a ruler, transferred to Saul; and though he continued for some years to exercise the functions of prophet, administrative duties passed into other hands. This address is a fine example of ancient Hebrew eloquence, and it manifestly appealed to the conscience and heart of the audience addressed. It touched upon three important points.
I. VINDICATION OF PERSONAL CHARACTER AND ADMINISTRATION. In his splendid review what facts emerged that should commend the retiring leader to the gratitude and appreciation of the nation he had sought to serve?
1. His loyalty to the national request for a king. We know how acutely he had felt his supersession of himself, and how he had directed his prayer to God in respect of it; but he had waived his own strong objection, and had dutifully assisted in the appointment of the divinely selected monarch.
2. His long and blameless life. High position magnifies every human quality, heightens every excellency, and blackens every blot of human character. But Samuel's long career furnished no fault on which the most acute enquiry could fasten, no deviation from the right path that the sternest rectitude could condemn. What a magnificent challenge.
3. His upright administration. Samuel challenged the people on the question of his "official life," as well as on his personal character. His public duties had been as free from exaction and oppression as his private life from moral taint. Nothing is more common, it is said, in Eastern lands, even down to this day, than oppression and exaction on the part of rulers and public men having charge of the government and taxation of the people.
II. DEFENCE OF GOD'S PREVIOUS GOVERNMENT OF ISRAEL. Note: —
1. The principle of this government. The theocracy, under which Israel had so long lived and prospered, meant the supreme and recognised sovereignty of God. By the test of experience, the test of practical results on the national life, the theocracy had its amplest vindication. Under it the nation had enjoyed signal prosperity.
2. The agency by which administered. This unique method of national government was carried on by specially selected rulers, appointed as the exigencies of the times demanded. God raised up men — great men — to meet emergencies of national life as they arose.
3. The law by which controlled. This law was the nation's loyalty to God. When the nation was true to its best traditions, true to the faith and worship of the living God, true to the sublime morality of the Ten Commandments, God's benediction rested upon them, and national prosperity followed. In this memorable address Samuel referred also to: —
III. THE CONDITIONS OF CONTINUED NATIONAL PROSPERITY.
1. Changed political conditions do not change moral or religious obligations. King or no king, God's claim on the worship and service of Israel could not be abrogated or diminished. Amid all the changes of their national life, that was the one thing that was changeless. A new king on the throne, or a new form of government of the realm, did not and could not alter that. What is morally wrong cannot be politically right. What is wrong in England is wrong in India. If it is wrong to break the Sabbath at home, it is wrong to break it abroad. Christianity knows no geographical limits in the scope of its message, or the authority of its claims. Public opinion may change and vary, but it ought not, and must not, override the higher and more authoritative law of God.
2. Righteousness exalteth a nation. John Ruskin, in the opening paragraph of his "Stones of Venice," tells us that "Since the first dominion of men was asserted over the ocean, three thrones, of mark beyond all others, have been set upon its sands: the thrones of Tyre, Venice, and England. Of the first of these great powers only the memory remains; of the second, the ruin; the third, which inherits their greatness, if it forget their example, may be led through prouder eminence to less pitied destruction." No lesson is more urgently needed in our time than this. Vice means weakness and decay; virtue, devotion, humanity — these mean strength and permanence. The conditions of national prosperity, then, are clear and uniform. They are reverence for sacred things, obedience to the law of God in personal, social, and national affairs alike, consideration for others, and unselfish service to promote their interests and welfare.
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.