1 Samuel 12:3-5
Behold, here I am: witness against me before the LORD, and before his anointed: whose ox have I taken? or whose donkey have I taken?…
There are two great aspects of human character — that which is manifest to the all-seeing eye of God, and that which is seen by men, — both of which are of great importance to every one. It is too common to attend chiefly to the opinion of men, and many who obtain respect from their contemporaries are devoid of the favour of God. But all those who live in the fear of the Most High, seek to maintain a constant character among men. From such motives as these some of the most notable personages of Holy Scripture, ere they laid down their offices, or slept with their fathers, reviewed their whole public career before the people, and challenged accusation if any wrong were manifest. Thus Moses, in the last of his books, gives the retrospect which be spake to the children of Israel, and in which we find this solemn appeal, "I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing." Thus also his illustrious successor. Joshua, finished his public life, and left Israel under a solemn obligation to continue in the way wherein he had led them. Thus also St. Paul, when he was about to part with the Ephesian elders, recapitulated his self-denying labours, declared that he was free from the blood of all men, charged them to keep the faith, and received from their tears and affectionate embraces testimony to his zeal for God and his love to them. He had spent his manhood in a struggle to reform the Church and rekindle patriotism. He referred to his sons to show that he claimed no hereditary right to rule, and no indulgence to their guilt. He would not screen them. He was too much concerned for the glory of God and the good of Israel, to permit any personal or relative matter to stand in the way of righteous judgment. No Roman Brutus could feel more self-denial in his patriotism than Samuel in that love for truth and justice which the fear of God imparted to his character. He would not wish respect for him to hide the scandal which his sons had caused. Eli had his family wrecked by neglect of discipline. We are not told that Samuel sinned after the same manner, nor can we suppose it. We have reason to hope that his sons improved under his correction, for we find the next generation among the most godly of their day. Haman, one of the chief singers, and himself the author of some psalms of very deep spiritual experience, was the grandson of Samuel. Samuel was a most notable example, and he was preserved throughout a long period of gross corruption and religious backsliding. Obadiah was another, and the grace of God flourished in his soul, and led to sacrifice for the Lord's sake, though he lived in Ahab's godless household and near the wicked Jezebel. Joseph did so, and he was enabled to be faithful amidst temptations to lust, in prison, and in a place of dignity among an idolatrous people. It is good to make an early choice. The course in which it leads you brings no regrets because of your decision. If you would not be afraid of the scrutiny and condemnation of the world, when about to leave it, you must begin and act upon the principle of maintaining a good conscience, and of doing to others as ye would that they should do to you. This was Samuel's aim, and hence his spotless reputation. His life is both an example and a rebuke.
1. It is an example. To stand forth and make so successful an appeal must have presented to Saul an illustrious example of personal excellence, and of public probity. He thus saw that it was possible to live in high places, and be a righteous man; to administer the state, and retain integrity; to direct the concerns of millions, and receive their spontaneous and unanimous approval — truths which few governors have ever found. He saw that what had been done by one man might be done again by another. Such a specimen of fidelity could not fail to impress his mind. It taught him what the people would expect, and what he should do. It had been well for Saul had he followed so beautiful and righteous an example. Samuel was also an example to the whole people. If there be anything which can recommend the religion of the Bible, surely a consistent example of its living union with an active and public life ought to do so. This we have in a most striking form before us in Samuel. It declares that godliness never blunts, but sharpens the intellect; never destroys, but regulates studies or business; never hinders, but promotes well-being; never narrows, but expands benevolence. "Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that Which is to come."
2. It is a rebuke.
Parallel VersesKJV: Behold, here I am: witness against me before the LORD, and before his anointed: whose ox have I taken? or whose ass have I taken? or whom have I defrauded? whom have I oppressed? or of whose hand have I received any bribe to blind mine eyes therewith? and I will restore it you.
WEB: Here I am. Witness against me before Yahweh, and before his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I defrauded? Whom have I oppressed? Of whose hand have I taken a ransom to blind my eyes therewith? I will restore it to you."