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.…
Israel was in the position of a boat which has been borne downs a swift stream into the very suction of the rapids. The best would be that she should be put back; but if it be too late for this, then the best is that there should be in her a strong arm and a steady eye to keep her head straight. And thus it was with Israel. She plunged down the fail madly, rashly, wickedly; but under Samuel's control, steadily. This part of the chapter we arrange in two branches: —
I. SAMUEL'S CONDUCT AFTER THE MORTIFICATION OF HIS OWN REJECTION. The people having accepted Saul as their king, had been dismissed, and Samuel was left alone, but his feelings were very different from those which he had in that other moment of solitude, when he had dismissed the delegates of the people. That struggle was past. He was now calm. The first moment was a terrible one. It was one of those periods in human life when the whole meaning of life is perplexed, its aims and hopes frustrated; when a man is down upon his face and gust after gust sweeps desolately over his spirit. Samuel was there to feel all the ideas that naturally suggest themselves in such hours — the instability of human affection — the nothingness of the highest earthly aims. But by degrees, two thoughts calmed him. The first was the feeling of identification with God's cause. "They have not rejected thee, but they have rejected Me." The other element of consolation was the Divine sympathy. If they had been rebellious to their ruler, they had also been disloyal to Jehovah. 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. The many-coloured phases of human feeling all find themselves reflected in the lights and shadows of ever-varying sensitiveness which the different sentences of His conversation exhibit. Be your tone of feeling what it may, whether you are poor or rich, gay or sad — in society or alone — adored, loved, betrayed, misunderstood, despised — weigh well His words first, by thinking what they mean, and you will become aware that one heart in space throbs in conscious harmony with yours. In its degree, that was Samuel's support. Next, Samuel's cheerful way of submitting to his fate is to be observed. Another prophet, when his prediction was nullified, built himself a booth and sat beneath it, fretting in sullen pride, to see the end of Nineveh. Samuel might have done this; he might have withdrawn himself in offended dignity from public life, watched the impotent attempts of the people to guide themselves, and seen dynasty after dynasty fall with secret pleasure. Very different is his conduct. He addresses himself like a man to the exigencies of the moment. Now remark in all this, the healthy, vigorous tone of Samuel's religion. This man, the greatest and wisest then alive, thought this the great thing to live for — to establish a kingdom of God on earth — to transform his own country into a kingdom of God. It is worthwhile to see how he set about it. From first to last it was in a practical, real way — by activity in every department of life. Now he is deposed: but he has duties still. He has a king to look for, public festivals to superintend, a public feast to preside over; and later on we shall find him becoming the teacher of a school. All this was a religion for life. His spirituality was no fanciful, shadowy thing; the kingdom of God to him was to be in this world, and we know no surer sign of enfeebled religion than the disposition to separate religion from life and life duties. Listen: What is secularity or worldliness? Meddling with worldly things? or meddling with a worldly spirit? We brand political existence and thought with the name "worldly" — we stigmatise first one department of life and then another as secular; and so religion becomes a pale, unreal thing, which must end, if we are only true to our principles, in the cloister. Religion becomes feeble, and the world, deserted and proscribed, becomes infidel.
II. SAMUEL'S TREATMENT OF HIS SUCCESSOR, AFTER HIS OWN REJECTION, IS REMARKABLE. It was characterised by two things — courtesy and generosity. When he saw the man who was to be his successor, he invited him to the entertainment. This is politeness; what we allude to is a very different thing, however, from that mere system of etiquette and conventionalisms in which small minds find their very being, to observe which accurately is life, and to transgress which is sin. Courtesy is not confined to the high bred; often theirs is but the artistic imitation of courtesy. The peasant who rises to put before you his only chair, while he sits upon the oaken chest, is a polite man. Motive determines everything. Something still more beautiful marks Samuel's generosity. The man who stood before him was a Successful rival. One who had been his inferior now was to supersede him. And Samuel lends him a helping hand — gracefully assists him to rise above him, entertains him, recommends him to the people. It is very touching. Samuel and the people did the game thing — they made Saul king. But the people did it by drawing down Samuel nearer to themselves. Samuel did it by elevating Saul above himself. One was the spirit of revolution, the other was the spirit of the Gospel. In our own day it specially behoves us to try the spirits, whether they be of God. The reality and the counterfeit, as in this case, are singularly like each other. Three spirits make their voices heard, in a cry for Freedom, for Brotherhood, for human Equality. And we must not forget, these names are hallowed by the very Gospel itself. Unless we realise them we have no Gospel kingdom. Distinguish, however, well the reality from the baser alloy. The spirit, which longs for freedom puts forth a righteous claim; for it is written, "If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." Brotherhood — the Gospel promises brotherhood also — "One is your master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren." Equality — Yes. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bond, nor free." This is the grand Federation, Brotherhood, Emancipation of the human raze. Now the world's spirit aims at bringing all this about by drawing others down to the level on which each one stands. The Christian spirit secures equality by raising up. The man that is less wise, less good than I — I am to raise up to my level in these things. Yes, and in social position too, if he be fit for it. I am to be glad to see him rise above me, as generously as Samuel saw Saul. And if we could but all work in this generous rivalry, our rent and bleeding country, sick at heart, gangrened with an exclusiveness, which narrows our sympathies and corrupts our hearts, might be all that the most patriotic love would have her. Once more there is suggested to us the thought that Samuel was now growing old. They might forget Samuel — they might crowd round his successor — but Samuel's work could not be forgotten; years after he was quiet and silent, under ground, his courts in Bethel and Mizpeh would form the precedents and the germs of the national jurisprudence. A very pregnant lesson. Life passes, work is permanent. It is all going — fleeting and withering. Youth goes. Mind decays. That which is done remains. Deeds never die.
(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)
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.