1 Samuel
1-2 Samuel Announces His Resignation 3-5 Selflessness of Samuel 6-11 Righteous Deeds of the LORD 12-15 Call to Serve the LORD 16-18 A Great Wickedness 19 The People Ask for Prayer 20-22 The LORD Shall Not Leave His People 23 Samuel Continues to Pray for the People 24-25 Last Admonitions
Samuel Announces His Resignation

1Then Samuel said to all Israel, “Behold, I have listened to your voice in all that you said to me and I have appointed a king over you. 2Now, here is the king walking before you, but I am old and gray, and behold my sons are with you. And I have walked before you from my youth even to this day.

The people are still in Gilgal (1Sam 11:1414Then Samuel said to the people, “Come and let us go to Gilgal and renew the kingdom there.”). There Samuel gives his farewell speech. Saul has become king and has already acted as such and does not go back to his cattle. Samuel’s task is over and he steps back. That does not mean that he is without work, but this will continue to take place in silence. That’s how it goes with older believers. They withdrew more from the public service, but the task to pray remains (verse 2323Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you; but I will instruct you in the good and right way.).

Samuel addresses the people for the last time. He also wants with his speech to prevent the people from accusing him afterwards of having given them a king. He has appointed him, but it is at their request. Man is always inclined to blame others. This has been the case since Adam and Eve.

Samuel points out their king to the people. He says of himself that his time is up. He only says of his sons that they are with them. He mentions it as fact, as a neutral matter, without value judgement. This remark about his sons may also mean that he has deposed them again and that they are back as ordinary citizens among the people.

He can say of himself that he has gone before them, something he does not say of his sons. Now Saul will go out for them. But what is a great difference between the leading of Samuel and the leading of Saul? Samuel can say that from his youth he did this in full loyalty to the LORD. They know him from a long stay among them, in which he has always served them. Of Saul the people know nothing yet. They only judge him by his appearance, because he still has to prove everything.

Saul, who is already king, has yet to prove himself, while David has already done so before he becomes king.

Selflessness of Samuel

3Here I am; bear witness against me before the LORD and His anointed. Whose ox have I taken, or whose donkey have I taken, or whom have I defrauded? Whom have I oppressed, or from whose hand have I taken a bribe to blind my eyes with it? I will restore [it] to you.” 4They said, “You have not defrauded us or oppressed us or taken anything from any man’s hand.” 5He said to them, “The LORD is witness against you, and His anointed is witness this day that you have found nothing in my hand.” And they said, “[He is] witness.”

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.).

Righteous Deeds of the LORD

6Then Samuel said to the people, “It is the LORD who appointed Moses and Aaron and who brought your fathers up from the land of Egypt. 7So now, take your stand, that I may plead with you before the LORD concerning all the righteous acts of the LORD which He did for you and your fathers. 8When Jacob went into Egypt and your fathers cried out to the LORD, then the LORD sent Moses and Aaron who brought your fathers out of Egypt and settled them in this place. 9But they forgot the LORD their God, so He sold them into the hand of Sisera, captain of the army of Hazor, and into the hand of the Philistines and into the hand of the king of Moab, and they fought against them. 10They cried out to the LORD and said, ‘We have sinned because we have forsaken the LORD and have served the Baals and the Ashtaroth; but now deliver us from the hands of our enemies, and we will serve You.’ 11Then the LORD sent Jerubbaal and Bedan and Jephthah and Samuel, and delivered you from the hands of your enemies all around, so that you lived in security.

After Samuel was declared completely righteous in his actions by the people, he did not begin to blame them for their stupidity in deposing him. He seeks only the honor of God. Therefore he gives an overview of what they have experienced with God and God with them.

To bring the people to a deeper knowledge of their sin Samuel emphasizes what the LORD has done for them. It is He who called Moses and Aaron, and it is He who delivered their fathers from Egypt by them. If therefore the LORD did this then, and He is now present as a Witness at the declaration of Samuel’s selflessness and impartiality, then the people have seriously sinned by now coveting a king themselves. In the person of Samuel they have rejected the LORD their God (1Sam 8:77The LORD said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them.), Who has given them leaders.

Samuel is the last judge and the first prophet (Acts 13:20b20After these things He gave [them] judges until Samuel the prophet.). It is the conclusion of an old and the beginning of a new era. He devotes his last words to the righteous deeds of the LORD for His people. He tells them the cause of their misery and the way to be delivered from it. With “all the righteous acts of the LORD” He means all the benefits which the LORD has bestowed on His people. These deeds are the result of His faithfulness to His covenant. On that account He has fulfilled His promises to His people.

The first righteous acts of the LORD that Samuel mentions are the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt and their bringing into the land of Canaan. That is what the LORD did through Moses and Aaron. Moses and Aaron have delivered the people from Egypt, but they have not become king. They have been God’s instruments to carry out His will. And when God calls Moses “king in Jeshurun” (Deu 33:5a5“And He was king in Jeshurun,
When the heads of the people were gathered,
The tribes of Israel together.
), He does so Himself and not the people.

Samuel then shows the reaction of the people to the blessings of God. He starts with “but” (verse 99But they forgot the LORD their God, so He sold them into the hand of Sisera, captain of the army of Hazor, and into the hand of the Philistines and into the hand of the king of Moab, and they fought against them.). This indicates a contradiction on the part of the people. The people have always responded with unfaithfulness to the blessings of God. Because of the unfaithfulness of the people, their forsaken of the LORD, He has surrendered them into the power of the enemy. Over time, they have then discovered that these enemies are hard masters and have begun to cry out to the LORD. And always He has answered and given salvation. Thus hath the LORD been their liberator from Egypt till now.

The righteous deeds of the LORD are evident both from the fact that He had to surrender them into the hands of enemies because of their waste from Him and from the deliverance of the people from the hands of their enemies. These deeds can be found in the book of Judges. Samuel refers to some events in that book.

It shows that God always uses whomever He wants. He is sovereign. Samuel acknowledges that he is only one of several. God can redeem by whomever He wills, also by one or more. None of these saviors has become king. Gideon even explicitly refused it if asked (Jdg 8:22-2322Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, both you and your son, also your son’s son, for you have delivered us from the hand of Midian.”23But Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the LORD shall rule over you.”).

Call to Serve the LORD

12When you saw that Nahash the king of the sons of Ammon came against you, you said to me, ‘No, but a king shall reign over us,’ although the LORD your God [was] your king. 13Now therefore, here is the king whom you have chosen, whom you have asked for, and behold, the LORD has set a king over you. 14If you will fear the LORD and serve Him, and listen to His voice and not rebel against the command of the LORD, then both you and also the king who reigns over you will follow the LORD your God. 15If you will not listen to the voice of the LORD, but rebel against the command of the LORD, then the hand of the LORD will be against you, [as it] was against your fathers.

Here Samuel exposes the true reason of the people in their desire for a king. The direct threat of Nahash has made the desire rise in them for a visible leader, as is the case with the peoples around them. At the same time Samuel speaks to their conscience when he speaks of the LORD as their King.

He points the people to their choice, and to the LORD Who accepted it, and gave them the king they asked for. In the deeds of His people God carries out His counsels. Man can’t understand that. The fact that God uses the deeds of man does not make man any less responsible. Only God can explain this. It is wrong that the people have made that choice and rejected God, while God achieves His goal through it (cf. Acts 2:2323this [Man], delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put [Him] to death.).

Samuel has relieved his heart. He has presented to the people their past and their choice in the present. Now he speaks about the future (verses 14-1514If you will fear the LORD and serve Him, and listen to His voice and not rebel against the command of the LORD, then both you and also the king who reigns over you will follow the LORD your God.15If you will not listen to the voice of the LORD, but rebel against the command of the LORD, then the hand of the LORD will be against you, [as it] was against your fathers.). He no longer speaks about Saul, but to the people as well as to Saul. If both the people and Saul are obedient, they will experience God’s blessing despite their failures in the past and the present. But if they turn away from Him, His hand will be against them. God always remains faithful to Himself, both in blessing and in discipline.

A Great Wickedness

16Even now, take your stand and see this great thing which the LORD will do before your eyes. 17Is it not the wheat harvest today? I will call to the LORD, that He may send thunder and rain. Then you will know and see that your wickedness is great which you have done in the sight of the LORD by asking for yourselves a king.” 18So Samuel called to the LORD, and the LORD sent thunder and rain that day; and all the people greatly feared the LORD and Samuel.

Samuel emphasizes his words with a special deed, bringing him to the level of Moses and Elijah. It is not the rainy season, hence the reference to the wheat harvest, the time when it rains least. That it will now rain with thunders, is a miracle. This miracle must show the people that they have done evil.

Samuel, by his miracle, places the full responsibility of the wrong choice of the people on their shoulders, as Moses did. There is also the thunder with Moses with the result that the people are afraid. The people fear the impressive majesty of the LORD. They also fear Samuel because they understand how much power from God he has.

The People Ask for Prayer

19Then all the people said to Samuel, “Pray for your servants to the LORD your God, so that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins [this] evil by asking for ourselves a king.”

The people ask Samuel to pray for them. They never asked their king Saul for anything like that. When conscience is touched, the prayers of God-fearing people are sought. Moses was also an intercessor for the people, as was Elijah. These were the men who knew God and loved the people. They had a special relationship to heaven, as if they could dispose of it, but they acted with the knowledge of heaven. David, Solomon, and Hezekiah also prayed for the people. Nowhere do we read that Saul prayed, neither for himself nor for the people.

Even before Saul has failed, the people come to the recognition that they have sinned. But God knows them and keeps them to their choice.

The LORD Shall Not Leave His People

20Samuel said to the people, “Do not fear. You have committed all this evil, yet do not turn aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart. 21You must not turn aside, for [then you would] go after futile things which can not profit or deliver, because they are futile. 22For the LORD will not abandon His people on account of His great name, because the LORD has been pleased to make you a people for Himself.

Samuel reassures the people. He takes nothing away from their wrong choice and tells them that they have done evil, but he also tells them the way out. There is always a way back and God will never definitively give up His people. Samuel emphasizes the great danger of futile idols. They are things of nothing. They benefit nothing.

Opposite to that is the guarantee of the LORD Who will not leave His people. He does not stay with His people because of their faithfulness, for they are an unfaithful people. He stays with His people because of His own great Name. He pleased to make these people His people. Therefore He will never leave them forever, but will take care of them.

Samuel Continues to Pray for the People

23Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you; but I will instruct you in the good and right way.

In Scripture we have no indication whatsoever that Saul prayed. A true servant of the Lord carries God’s people on his heart, invisible, in prayer. Samuel interceded for the people until the end of his life. Jeremiah recalls this hundreds of years later (Jer 15:1a1Then the LORD said to me, “Even though Moses and Samuel were to stand before Me, My heart would not be with this people; send them away from My presence and let them go!). God can only bless us by virtue of the intercession, unknown to us, of the unknown many who know His thoughts about His people.

There remains for the people a “good and right way”, despite the crooked way that Saul will go. Samuel will teach them that way, that God’s will may be done. He says that as long as he is with them, he will show them what the real serving of God is. It is the way of happiness and to heaven. It is the right way – there is nothing bad in it. It is the right or straight road – there is no twist in it.

This example of Samuel is a wonderful example for all leaders, that they do not have to turn away from those they serve when these become unfaithful. They should not give up their interest and commitment to their wellbeing, but work for them with all the more perseverance.

Last Admonitions

24Only fear the LORD and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you. 25But if you still do wickedly, both you and your king will be swept away.”

Samuel indicates how they can secure the blessing of the LORD. That is to be faithful to the LORD, to fear Him, that is to know Him, and to have respect for Him, and to honor Him. Let them serve Him and consider themselves His servants. He calls upon them to always be honest and sincere and to always do the work of obedience with love, not out of mere duty.

There are countless reasons to serve the LORD out of love. They and we only need to look at all the great deeds He has done in our lives. Look at the history of our fathers, look at our own lives. See how God has repeatedly intervened for our benefit in power, mercy, grace, goodness, and truth. Does He not overload us daily with His favors?

Samuel ends his penetrating speech with a final serious warning both to the people and to Saul. After all he has explained, the people and Saul can no longer be excused if they do evil. Then they do it against their better judgment, and the LORD can do nothing but sweep them away.

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