LESSON 5 - 1 Sam. 12:12-22 - MAKE US A KING , LIKE ALL THE NATIONS
INTRODUCTION: Last week, in 1 Sam. 8:4-9, 19-22, we came into the story of Samuel at a time when he was becoming advanced in years and his leadership was noticeably weaker. Added to that, his two sons, appointed as judges in southern Judah, had turned out to be dishonest and unprincipled men. Because of this, the elders of Israel, all prominent leaders in their communities, banded together to demand that Samuel appoint "a king to judge us like all the nations" (8:6). Samuel was displeased by their actions, not only because it reflected poorly on him, but more to the point that he feared such a move would cause Israel to lose its status as a distinct people, a theocratic nation set apart by God who was, in effect, their king. When Samuel prayed to the LORD for guidance, God directed him to "listen to the voice of the people" (8:7), with the implication that God, instead of judging or punishing them, was willing to comply with their request. God told Samuel that the people weren't rejecting him but in truth were rejecting God as their king. Then, as directed by God, Samuel met with these elders and advised them of all the negative consequences they could expect from a human king. But despite this warning, the people "refused to listen" (8:19) and reiterated their demand for a human king. In response to this, God ordered Samuel "to listen to their voice and appoint a king for them" (8:22). This would become a dramatic turning point in the history in Israel: They would never again be a theocratic kingdom of priests under the ultimate kingship and protection of YHWH, their LORD GOD.
This week, in 1 Sam. 12:12-22, we'll cover the anointing, installation, and confirmation of Saul as the first human king of Israel. We skip chapters 9, 10, and 11, which introduce Saul, whom God revealed to Samuel as His choice for king (1 Sam. 9:15-16). According to 1 Sam. 9:1-2, Saul, was described as a man from the tribe of Benjamin of godly character, about 30 years old whose appearance presented the very image of what people thought a king should look like: tall, dark, and handsome, and with a commanding personality. He was married and already had a young son named Jonathan who would later become David's closest companion. 1 Sam. 9:22-10:1-16 reports that, per God's command, Samuel went to the land of Benjamin to find Saul, where he secretly anointed him as Israel's king and gave him very exact instructions about preparing himself for the next step of the confirmation process. 1 Sam. 10:17-24 describes a meeting called by Samuel of all the elders of Israel in Mizpah (see map) which, by tribe and clan, approved Saul as king by a system of casting lots (it's obvious from this that God foreknew who the people would choose). Actual confirmation as king came when "the Spirit of God rushed upon Saul" (1 Sam. 11:6a). Through all of this we see that Saul received both spiritual and human confirmation in order to be accepted as Israel's first human king. In his first act as king, 1 Sam. 11:1-12 reports that Saul led an army that totally annihilated a numerically superior Ammonite army. As the final step of the process, we come into today's lesson just as Samuel has called for a meeting at Gilgal (see map) for all the people, in effect a national election, to gather and to reaffirm and "renew the kingdom" with Saul as their king. Scholars estimate this occurred in 1021 B.C, over 600 years before democracy existed in Greece.
Read 1 Sam. 12: 12-15 - THE COVENANT REVISITED
12 But when you saw that Nahash the king of the sons of Ammon was coming against you, you said to me, 'No, but a king shall reign over us!' Yet the LORD your God was your king. 13 And now, behold, the king whom you have chosen, whom you have asked for, and behold, the LORD has put a king over you. 14 If 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 the king who reigns over you will follow the LORD your God. 15 But if you do 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, even as it was against your fathers.
v. 12: "But when you saw that Nahash the king of the sons of Ammon was coming against you, you said to me, 'No, but a king shall reign over us!' Yet the LORD your God was your king." - The Ammonite threat had been one of the chief factors that provoked the people of Israel to demand a king in the first place; but, Samuel scornfully reminds them that by making this demand they had, in fact, rejected their LORD (YHWH) as king, who had faithfully delivered them from enemies in the past.
v. 13: "And now, behold, the king whom you have chosen, whom you have asked for, and behold, the LORD has put a king over you." - Here, we have two sides of the transaction: (1) the people wanted a king to be chosen and appointed by themselves (or so they thought); however, God makes it clear that He gave them a king to represent Himself (not them), with said king's authority coming from and limited by Him-solely.
v. 14: "If 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 the king who reigns over you will follow the LORD your God." - This is a conditional "if" which reveals that despite everything that has just transpired in making Saul their king, that the "LORD" has by no means been factored out of the equation: Only if they continue to "fear" Him, "listen" to Him, and "not rebel" against him, i.e., keep their side of the Covenant. Though left unsaid, it leaves the strong implication that if they do all these things, then and only then, will life go well for them in the kingdom of Israel.
v. 15: "But if you do 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, even as it was against your fathers." - Samuel delivers the reminder that they are still the people of God, for good or ill. Despite the fact that they had chosen a human king, they were still required to trust God and view this king as an instrument of God's rule. Bottom line: Nothing had changed in the covenant relationship between God and Israel.
APPLICATION 1: When people place all their faith and trust in human government, they are, in effect, rebelling against God's sovereign authority. This was true for the Israelites 3000+ years ago and is true of all the nations today. In America, we've seen our nation turn away from God to a secular human culture that is a direct insult to God's moral standards. In fact, the whole world today seems to be opposed to God and His standards. Jesus Himself predicted this (Matt. 24:36-44).
Read 1 Sam. 12:16-18 - A SIGN DELIVERED
16 Even now, take your stand and see this great thing which the LORD is going to do before your eyes. 17 Is it not the wheat harvest today? I will call to the LORD, that He will 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." 18 So Samuel called to the LORD, and the LORD sent thunder and rain that day; and all the people greatly feared the LORD and Samuel.
v. 16: "Even now, take your stand and see this great thing which the LORD is going to do before your eyes." - Samuel, acting as God's herald, prepares to show them something that only God can do-not Samuel, not Saul, nor any other human, but only God Almighty (El Shaddai), lest they forget. Men-even prophets and kings-have power only to the extent God chooses to work through them. And by doing this, God would not only demonstrate both His existence and power, but also validate the truthfulness and gravity of Samuel's words.
v. 17a: "Is it not the wheat harvest today?" - The wheat harvest in Canaan typically occurred between May and June. Rainfall during this season was scarce, and when it did come, it was was just light showers without any lightning or thunder.
v. 17b: "I will call to the LORD, that He will send thunder and rain." - By calling on the LORD to bring-in a severe thunderstorm, Samuel intended to leave no doubt in the minds of these Israelites that God is displeased with them because of their desire to have an earthly king to rule over them.
v. 18a: "So Samuel called to the LORD, and the LORD sent thunder and rain that day;" - Straight out of nowhere God swept over them with a crashing thunderstorm accompanied by a deluge of rainfall. We've all seen such storms, but we had time to hear and see them coming. This one, however, apparently materialized over and around these people all at once, catching them totally by surprise.
v. 18b: "and all the people greatly feared the LORD and Samuel. - This phrase has a double meaning: (1) Being out in the open as they were, the sheer force of the storm itself terrorized them; (2) but more than this, they feared it as a sign of God's righteous anger against them, and they feared Samuel because God endowed him with the capacity to call-down God's incredible power on them.
APPLICATION 2: Human rulers can only exercise power to the extent that God chooses to work through them. Human rulers have no inherent power of their own. By producing a thunderstorm out of nowhere at Samuel's request, God conclusively demonstrated the truth that God controls all power, and that no human can exercise any power unless God chooses to allow it. And al human attempts to do things their own way-apart from God-represents rebellion against God.
Read 1 Sam. 12:19-22 - GOD'S MERCY AND GRACE
19 Then all the people said to Samuel, "Pray to the LORD your God for your servants, so that we do not die; for we have added to all our sins this evil, by asking for ourselves a king." 20 Samuel 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. 21 Indeed, you must not turn aside, for then you would go after useless things which cannot benefit or save, because they are useless. 22 For 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.
v. 19a: "Then all the people said to Samuel, "Pray to the LORD your God for your servants, so that we do not die;" - The people fear that the LORD is so angry with them over their sin (i.e., rejecting God as their king) that He might just wipe them off the face of the earth. So, they begged Samuel to intercede for them, to plead for God's mercy.
v. 19b: "for we have added to all our sins this evil, by asking for ourselves a king." - This is the people's confession-that they admitted their sin against their LORD by asking for a king.
v. 20a: "Samuel said to the people, "Do not fear. You have committed all this evil," - There is no question that they sinned: their decision to reject God in favor of a human king was a great evil.
v. 20b: "yet do not turn aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart." - Yet, the LORD will forgive them, as He has many times over in the past. In response to His mercy, God expects them to turn away from sin and follow Him-specifically, to keep their Covenant with Him by serving and loving Him "with all your heart" (i.e., your whole person inside and out).
v. 21: "Indeed, you must not turn aside, for then you would go after useless things which cannot benefit or save, because they are useless." - The term "go after" could be translated to worship and "useless things" refers to the things of this world rather than the things of God. It could pertain to worthless idols, which God truly hates, but also could relate to sinful desires for wealth, status, and power. The people had wanted a king to provide these things on a human level, and they got one.
v. 22: "For 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." - God had not chosen Israel because they deserved it but "on account of His great name." In fact, He had chosen them for a special purpose-to administer a Divine Plan for the redemption of all mankind. Although God's blessings (or curses) depended on their obedience (Deut. 11:26-28), on a higher level, it depended on God's will for the nation. Although Israel has ceased to exist as a theocracy, we know from the Bible that God has a plan to restore them in the end-times (Ezek. 34-37; Dan. 9; and Rev. 11 and 12).
APPLICATION 3: God's mercy is never deserved. In today's text, God did not choose Israel because they deserved it but extended it to them by grace "on account of His great name"-in order to glorify Himself. God chose them even before time began for a special purpose-to administer God's Divine Plan for the redemption of all mankind. Although God's blessings (or curses) depended on their obedience (Deut. 11:26-28), on a higher level, it depended on God's sovereign will for the nation. Although Israel has ceased to exist as a theocratic kingdom, we know from the Bible that God has a plan to restore them in the end-times (Ezek. 34-37; Dan. 9; and Rev. 11 and 12).