Samuel has just finished reaffirming Saul as king. Now he addresses the people on his own and God’s behalf. He is stepping back. The people MUST follow the Lord or they and their king will be swept away.
My bible titles this section “Samuel’s Farewell Address” (ESV Study Bible). This is the last time he addresses all of Israel as a group but not the last time he is seen or heard from. He will attempt to guide Saul in his new role, including telling him that he has lost God’s favor and a new man would be king. He will also anoint David as king in secret. During ALL of this time though he will pray for Israel and be ready to share the word of the Lord when called to do so. “Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and right way” (verse 23). This will become Samuel’s new primary role.
The day of rejoicing at the reaffirmation of Saul as king has been long. Samuel and the Levites worked long and hard completing the peace offerings. Samuel feels his age today but there is one more task that he needs to do before he can rest.
Samuel washes his hands for the last time today then goes to stand before the people. They are broken up in groups eating of the sacrifice and talking with friends and family. Samuel approaches Saul. “Saul, I have need of the people’s attention one more time. Stand with me before the people and before the Lord.”
“As you command my lord.” Saul recognizes Samuel’s authority as directly from God and he wouldn’t think of challenging it.
Saul and Samuel stand in the place where Samuel reaffirmed Saul’s leadership. After only a moment those closest to them notice them standing there. Without the need of even a word a ripple of attention and quiet passes through the whole congregation. All eyes are turned to the pair standing before them. When all is quiet Samuel begins to speak.
“Behold, I have obeyed your voice in all that you have said to me and have made a king over you.” Samuel gestures with his right arm to indicate Saul. “And now, behold, the king walks before you, and I am old and gray; and behold, my sons are with you.” Samuel points out his two sons who sit in the group nearest to him. All eyes follow his hands as he does so.
Samuel takes a deep breath. “I have walked before you from my youth until this day. Here I am.” Samuel spreads his arms wide as if to offers himself to the people. “Testify against me before the Lord and before his anointed.” He pauses again. “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? Testify against me and I will restore it to you” (verses 1-3).
The people looked around for a moment. They had known Samuel all his life. He had a spotless reputation and character. He was truly a man of God. None would find fault in him. From the crowd came many voices in agreement. “You have not defrauded us or oppressed us of taken anything from any man’s hand” (verse 4).
Samuel nods. He takes in all the people as he speaks. “The Lord is witness against you, and his anointed is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand” (verse 5a).
The people chorus, “He is witness” (verse 5b) in affirmation of Samuel’s charge.
Samuel is not done. His hand is not the only one he wants to address. He points heavenward, “The Lord is witness, who appointed Moses and Aaron and brought your fathers up out of the land of Egypt. Now therefore stand still that I may plead with you before the Lord concerning all the righteous deeds of the Lord that He performed for you and your fathers.” Samuel’s arm traveled the crowd as he made this statement so the people would KNOW that he is indeed addressing each and every one of them.
“When Jacob went into Egypt, and the Egyptians oppressed them, then your fathers cried out to the Lord and the Lord sent Moses and Aaron, who brought your fathers out of Egypt and made them dwell in this place.” Samuel stops and raises a hand as if in warning. “But they forgot the Lord their God.” Samuel pauses again for the weight of his statement to sink in. “And He sold them into the hands of Sisera, commander of the army of Hazor, and into the hand of the Philistines, and into the hand of the king of Moab.” Sadness is evident on Samuel’s face as he recounts the instruments of God’s judgement against Israel.
Determination now colors Samuel’s face as he turns the story to the people’s return to the Lord. “And they fought against them. And they 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 out of the hand of our enemies, that we may serve you.’”
Another pause marks Samuel’s speech as he prepares to list the names of those the Lord has sent to deliver His salvation. And the Lord sent Jerubbaal and Barak and Jephthah and Samuel and delivered you out of the hand of your enemies on every side, and you lived in safety.”
Samuel’s face now takes on a stern look; one tinged in accusation. “And when you saw that Nahash the king of the Ammointes came against you, you said to me, ‘No, but a king shall reign over us,’” Samuel’s voice rises in intensity, “when the Lord your God was you king.” Samuel’s arm again indicates Saul as he continues. “And now behold the king whom you have chosen, for whom you have asked; behold, the Lord has set a king over you” (verses 6-13).
Samuel waits for all this to take root in the hearts of those listening this day before he continues. Finally he continues with the most important part of his message. “IF you will fear the Lord and serve Him and obey His voice and not rebel against the commandments of the Lord, and if BOTH you and the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your god, it will be well.” Samuel pauses again to make eye contact. “But if you will NOT obey the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandments of the Lord, then the hand of the Lord will be against you and your king.”
Samuel pauses yet again to ensure he has everyone’s attention. “Now therefore stand still and see this great thing that the Lord will do before your eyes.” Excitement ripples through the crowd. Samuel is promising a sign! What could it be?
“Is it not wheat harvest today?” The people nod indicating that it is indeed the time of wheat harvest. Of course Samuel knows this so what could he be planning?
“I will call upon the Lord that He may send thunder and rain, And you shall know and see that your wickedness is great, which you have done in the sight of the Lord, in asking for yourselves a king” (verses 14-17). Samuel’s voice rose is volume and fervor as he proclaimed the people’s guilt against the Lord.
He then speaks directly to the Lord. “Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; show Your people a sign from Heaven and testify against them for their wickedness in demanding a king for themselves when You were already their king. Demonstrate Your anger at their sin that they may KNOW Your heart in this matter.
Immediately thunder rumbled so loud the people felt it in their bones. The heavens opened up and rain began to pour forth. The thunder and rain continued until the people were terrified and called out to Samuel, “Pray for your servants to the Lord your God, that we may not die!” They knew their sin was the cause of this. “For we have added to all our sins this evil, to ask for ourselves a king.” True repentance and sorrow filled the people’s words.
Samuel raised his arm towards Heaven and the rain and thunder stopped. “Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet to NOT turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. An do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty.”
Compassion for the people is now clearly evident on Samuel’s face as he continues. “For the Lord will not forsake His people, for His great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for Himself.” Samuel’s face adopts a look of sincerity. “Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and right way. Only fear the Lord and serve him with ALL your heart. For consider what great things He has done for you.”
Samuel fixes them one last time with a stern look. “But if you STILL do wickedly, you SHALL be swept away, both you AND your king” (verses 18-25). (Emphasis in all verses added by me.)
Silence covered the crowd at the end of Samuel’s address. Not even the birds of the air stirred until Samuel sat back down in his seat. Conversation remained reserved for the rest of the meal and also as people broke up and made their way back to their own homes. This was certainly a somber way to end a day of rejoicing.
The people would have much to ponder tonight. The Lord had allowed their request for a king even though He did not approve of it. Now they and their king must recommit to following Him or they would be no more! They each had a part in the direction of their nation. Individually and corporately, the Lord God held them accountable.
We ALL have a part to play in God’s Kingdom; both individually and corporately. God calls each of us to live by His words; to love Him and serve Him above all else and to love our brothers as ourselves. He also calls us to live as His body; working together in harmony. We are to care about more than just ourselves. Be balanced in His calling. When we each start with a right personal relationship with Him the corporate relationship is healthier.
Father God, I want to keep YOU as King and Lord in my life. I never want to put something or someone else in You place. I know I haven’t always met this standard as I too have sinned in this area. I want to recommit to You today to walk in Your ways. You know that I don’t have a lot of tangible interaction with the body of Christ as my husband’s health keeps us pretty isolated. I want to make sure though Lord that what I share electronically is YOUR will and YOUR words. If EVER I’m out of line or miss the mark PLEASE tell me! Have my brothers and sisters in Christ stand up and speak back to me. Let me hear You through their words.
Thank You Holy Spirit for letting me ‘watch’ Samuel as he spoke to the people that day. Let his message sink deep in my heart too. It is for me as much as it was for them.