Samuel asks them if they can accuse him of something. Why does he ask that? He has listed in 1 Samuel 8 what kind of king their king will be, what he will ask of them (1Sam 8:11-1711He said, “This will be the procedure of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and place [them] for himself in his chariots and among his horsemen and they will run before his chariots.12He will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and of fifties, and [some] to do his plowing and to reap his harvest and to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots.13He will also take your daughters for perfumers and cooks and bakers.14He will take the best of your fields and your vineyards and your olive groves and give [them] to his servants.15He will take a tenth of your seed and of your vineyards and give to his officers and to his servants.16He will also take your male servants and your female servants and your best young men and your donkeys and use [them] for his work.17He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his servants.). Now he asks, as it were: “Have I been so? Are you better off now? Will you king be so?” Samuel has walked in humility and subservience, Saul will walk in self-will and self-enforcement.
When he speaks these words, he brings himself and the whole people “into the presence of the LORD”. That makes it a serious event. The questions he asks must touch the hearts and conscience of the people. He also speaks his words in the presence of “His anointed”, that is Saul.
The servant puts himself entirely at the service of God’s people, without asking anything of them, or even giving the impression of being profit-seeking and seeking self-enrichment. Similar words as here from Samuel we also hear from Nehemiah (Neh 5:1515But the former governors who were before me laid burdens on the people and took from them bread and wine besides forty shekels of silver; even their servants domineered the people. But I did not do so because of the fear of God.) and Paul (Acts 20:33-3433I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothes.34You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my [own] needs and to the men who were with me.). How important it is for a servant to be able to say that. It is about giving oneself away for the people and not taking anything from them. It is about giving. True service has clean hands. Has there ever been a Head of State or Minister in any part of the world who was able to say so when he resigned and to count on the general agreement of the whole people?
Samuel asks for evidence whether he has taken someone’s ox or donkey. We can apply this spiritually. We steal someone’s ox when we offer God the sacrifice of the thanks of our lips for what He gave in the Lord Jesus, but use the words of another person, that is to say, parrot others. It seems beautiful, but is not his own. Words can be stolen (Jer 23:3030Therefore behold, I am against the prophets,” declares the LORD, “who steal My words from each other.). We can make the same application when it comes to taking someone’s donkey. The donkey is the animal of service. We can demand a service that is due to another person. This is a way Paul has kept far from himself (2Cor 10:1313But we will not boast beyond [our] measure, but within the measure of the sphere which God apportioned to us as a measure, to reach even as far as you.).
The other things that Samuel asks the people to accuse him of, can also be applied in this way. Oppression means to impose the law on another, to take away his freedom in Christ (cf. Gal 5:11It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.; cf. Isa 58:66“Is this not the fast which I choose,
To loosen the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the bands of the yoke,
And to let the oppressed go free
And break every yoke?
). Taking a gift means giving preferential treatment. Then we turn a blind eye to evil. Accepting a gift can also be done by opening up for flattery. Whoever flatters us, we may like and we will favor.
Of all the things Samuel mentions, the people must admit that there is nothing wrong with him in this respect. He has not been hard on them, has recognized each in the dignity that fits and has never adopted anything that would make him lose his independence. Samuel confirms their affirmation and so do the people.
The testimony of our neighbors and especially the testimony of our own conscience, that we have lived honestly and sincerely in our place and vocation, will encourage us if we are scorned. Demétrius is a happy man, because he “has received a [good] testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself” (3Jn 1:1212Demetrius has received a [good] testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself; and we add our testimony, and you know that our testimony is true.).