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?…
I. THE PUBLIC SCENES OF A NOBLE LIFE. A man's life of outward relationships naturally divides into three parts, but there are not fresh and interesting scenes in each part of every man's life. There were in Samuel's. Take
1. Samuel's relation to the social life of his childhood. Eli's rule was weak. It has been beautifully said that in this case the ivy supported the feeble tottering wall — the child Samuel was the stay of aged Eli. Samuel was the only one there who was in real harmony with God's holy house. He was a living witness in the world for God, even as a child.
2. Samuel's relation to the social life of his manhood. Judges were in part patriotic deliverers and in part civil rulers. In Samuel's life there is one great military scene, that with which the word "Ebenezer" is associated; but his chief work was magistracy and moral influence. In his time the nation was outgrowing the mode of government by temporary and uncertain judgeships; the way was preparing for fixed and hereditary rulers. We may think of him as saying with King Arthur —
"The old order changeth, yielding place to new,
And God fulfils Himself in many ways,
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world."
3. Samuel's relation to the social life of his older age. Then came the demand for a hereditary sovereign. And this demand Samuel had to meet, and the Divine response to it he was called to arrange. The position as viewed by Samuel was this, — If Israel was to be a common nation, developing an ordinary civilisation, it would be better for them to have a king, a court, a stated army, and national alliances. But if Israel was to be a special nation, called of God to the supremely high, honourable, unique work of conserving for the world the foundation truths of the Divine revelation, they must be willing to give up what men call civilisation, and keep the separateness and directness of the Divine rule, the theocracy. Alas! they were weak in faith in those days. They chose the lesser good. Samuel became the prophet of the new kingdom; and prophets — or persons in direct relations with Jehovah — were specially needed when the hereditary idea of kingship was destroying the prevailing idea of immediacy of Divine rule.
II. THE PRIVATE SOURCES OF THE NOBILITY OF THIS LIFE. We note in Samuel —
1. A pure and beautiful childhood. There have been cases in which men of power have come up out of a wild and wayward childhood — Augustine, Loyola, John Newton, etc. But these are exceptions The rule is, that the world's great benefactors grew out of a lovely, gracious, and godly childhood.
2. The spirit of self-abnegation.
3. Force of character. Illustrated in his later interviews with Saul; in the severity of his carrying out the Jehovah-judgment on Agag; in the influence he gained with the people; and in the scene at his death.
4. Power of prevailing prayer. He was preeminently an interceder.
5. Continuity of goodness — the usual feature marking the life of men whose conversion is a growth rather than a sudden change. The quietly converted usually have a patient, persistent influence for good, along with breadth of view, and readiness to see truth and goodness in others. Samuel's great power lay in this direction. In Samuel's case we have this supremely beautiful thing, a whole life for God.
(R. Tuck, B. A.)
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."