Introduction: Samuel previously anointed Saul as king. The elders had also previously ratified Saul as king. Saul then demonstrated God’s anointing by defeating the Ammonites. Here, Samuel confirmed Saul as king before all of Israel. Samuel would continue to advice Saul and later help select his replacement David. Yet, in his old age, Samuel’s public ministry as Israel’s last judge was coming to an end. Here, he gave a farewell address. From his public farewell address, God reveals seven lessons for every believer on how to stay on your walk with Him. These include: (1) integrity as His witness, (2) faithfulness to God, (3) trusting in God, (4) obedience to His Word, (5) mercy and forgiveness, (6) intercessory prayer, and (7) fearing God.
First, Samuel challenged anyone to make charges against him before he gave his final public counsel. None was able to do so. Thus, the people could trust Samuel’s message. From this, God reveals that He wants you to walk with integrity and holiness as His witness to others so that they will trust your message. Second, Samuel reminded the Jews that God had been their true deliverer since the time He freed them in Egypt. Yet, each time that God delivered them, the Jews turned from Him. From this, God reveals that He wants you to be faithful because He is faithful to you. Third, the Jews demanded a human king because they were not content with God as their King. From this, God reveals that He wants you to place your trust in Him, not in mankind or in government. Fourth, out of mercy and grace, God did not strike down the Jews for rejecting Him as their King. Instead, He made a conditional promise to protect the Jews if both they and their king obeyed Him. From this, God reveals that He wants you to be obedient to His Word. Fifth, the people then received God’s mercy and grace by repenting of their sins. From this, God reveals that He wants you to be merciful and forgiving as He is to you. Sixth, as an intercessor, Samuel promised to pray for the people’s sins and teach them. From this, God reveals that He wants you to pray as an intercessor for His people and teach them His Word. Finally, to stay holy, Samuel warned the Jews that they also needed to fear God. From this, God reveals that He wants you to fear Him by hating evil to enjoy His full protections and blessings.
Samuel put himself on trial to demonstrate that he was a trustworthy witness. Before giving his final words of counsel to Israel, Samuel first put himself on trial so that the Jews would take seriously the warnings that he would soon give them. “1 Then 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. 2 Now, 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. 3 Here 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.’ 4 They said, ‘You have not defrauded us or oppressed us or taken anything from any man’s hand.’ 5 He 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.’” (1 Sam. 12:1-5). Samuel knew that a king was not what Israel needed. Yet, he appointed a king because he was obedient to God’s command that he give the people what they wanted. “Now then, listen to their voice; however, you shall solemnly warn them and tell them of the procedure of the king who will reign over them.” (1 Sam. 8:9). Samuel’s public role would soon end. Yet, God previously prophesized that he would continue to walk before God’s anointed: ‘“But I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest who will do according to what is in My heart and in My soul; and I will build him an enduring house, and he will walk before My anointed always.”’ (1 Sam. 2:35). Thus, God would speak words of wisdom through him to Israel’s first and second king.
Many of God’s leaders had integrity in their walk so that you could trust His message. The Bible is clear that everyone is a sinner. “Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.” (Ecc. 7:20; Ro. 3:23). This includes Samuel. He was forced to remove his corrupt sons as judges (1 Sam. 8:1-5). He turned a blind eye to his sons’ sins when he appointed them as judges. Yet, Samuel still walked with integrity. At his own trial, the people could not level any corruption charges against him. He had walked blameless since the days of his youth (1 Sam. 12:2). He also demonstrated himself to be God’s prophet because his words always came to pass. “Thus Samuel grew and the LORD was with him and let none of his words fail.” (1 Sam. 3:19). Moses also professed to God at the time of Korah’s rebellion that he had walked with integrity as His appointed leader. ‘“I have not taken a single donkey from them, nor have I done harm to any of them.”’ (Nu. 16:15(b)). Paul also repeatedly stated that he had walked with integrity before God’s people. “I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothes.” (Acts 20:33). “Or else let these men themselves tell what misdeed they found when I stood before the Council,” (Acts 24:20). Jesus also walked in integrity as a blameless witness so that you would believe in Him. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor. 5:21). Because the prophets and Jesus lived with integrity, we can also trust the message that God conveyed through them. “But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,” (Ro. 3:21).
Walk before others as a blameless witness for Christ. God also wants you to walk with integrity so that you can be His witness to others. When He affirmed His covenant with Abraham, He told him to walk blamelessly before Him. “‘I am God Almighty; walk before Me, and be blameless.”’ (Gen. 17:1(b)). Job and Noah were also at times “blameless” in their walks. (Job 1:1; Gen. 6:9). God also wants you to walk blameless before Him and others. “You shall be blameless before the LORD your God.” (Dt. 18:13). “You shall not distort justice; you shall not be partial, and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous.” (Dt. 16:19; 24:17; Ex. 18:21; 23:8). This exhortation also exists in the New Testament. “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48). “because it is written, ‘you shall be holy, for I am holy.’” (1 Pet. 1:16; Lev. 11:44-45). You are called upon to fairly represent the light of Jesus to others in your walk (Matt. 5:14). Is your light an example for others to follow? Or, are you repelling others?
Restore those you have harmed. Samuel offered to restore anyone that he might have wronged. ‘“I will restore it to you.”’ (1 Sam. 12:3). This was not an act of false humility. Instead, Samuel was restating a central principal of God’s Law. If someone steals from another, God requires that the victim be restored. “If what he stole is actually found alive in his possession, whether an ox or a donkey or a sheep, he shall pay double.” (Ex. 22:4). “If a man gives his neighbor money or goods to keep for him and it is stolen from the man’s house, if the thief is caught, he shall pay double.” (Ex. 22:7). If you have hurt someone else, have you restored your victim. Saying you are sorry is not enough.
Believers are without excuse if they ignore God’s Word. After prevailing in his trial, Samuel proclaimed that the Jews would be without excuse if they then ignored his warnings (1 Sam. 12:5). The witnesses included God’s anointed. This referred to Saul, who was God’s anointed king (1 Sam. 10:1). Thus, both lay person and king were equally on notice that they had no excuse if they failed to obey God. His authority is clear and undeniable even in creation. “so that they are without excuse.” (Ro. 1:20(b)).
God alone delivered His people from bondage in Egypt. After the Jews defeated the Ammonites in battle, Samuel reminded them that God had always been their true deliverer since the time He freed them in Egypt. “6 Then 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. 7 So 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. 8 When 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.” (1 Sam. 12:6-8). God is faithful to His promises and to hears His people’s cries for help.
God is faithful to deliver His people. Moses also told the people never to forget that God was their true deliverer: “Moses said to the people, ‘Remember this day in which you went out from Egypt, from the house of slavery; for by a powerful hand the LORD brought you out from this place. And nothing leavened shall be eaten.”’ (Ex. 13:3). “And it shall serve as a sign to you on your hand, and as a reminder on your forehead, that the law of the LORD may be in your mouth; for with a powerful hand the LORD brought you out of Egypt.” (Ex. 13:9). God later affirmed this because the people were prone to forget. “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” (Ex. 20:2). “Indeed, I brought you up from the land of Egypt and ransomed you from the house of slavery, and I sent before you Moses, Aaron and Miriam.” (Micah 6:4). “Therefore You delivered them into the hand of their oppressors who oppressed them, but when they cried to You in the time of their distress, You heard from heaven, and according to Your great compassion You gave them deliverers who delivered them from the hand of their oppressors.” (Neh. 9:27; Acts 13:30). Israel, however, would repeatedly forget their deliverer and return to their sins.
Although God was faithful to His people, His people were not. After each of God’s victories for His people, the people forgot Him. “9 But 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. 10 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 from the hands of our enemies, and we will serve You.’ 11 Then 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.” (1 Sam. 12:9-11). The judge or deliverer Gideon also went by the name “Jerubbaal”. (Jdgs. 6:32; 7:1). A judge or deliverer by the name “Bedan” is not recorded in the book of Judges. Yet, the Septuagint records this to be another spelling for the judge or deliverer named Barak (Jdgs. 4:6). With each of God’s judges, the Jews returned to their sins each time God delivered them: “16 Then the Lord raised up judges who delivered them from the hands of those who plundered them. 17 Yet they did not listen to their judges, for they played the harlot after other gods and bowed themselves down to them. They turned aside quickly from the way in which their fathers had walked in obeying the commandments of the Lord; they did not do as their fathers. 18 When the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge and delivered them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed and afflicted them. 19 But it came about when the judge died, that they would turn back and act more corruptly than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them and bow down to them; they did not abandon their practices or their stubborn ways.” (Jdgs. 2:16-19). Because the Jews did not learn from their deliverance, their idolatry continued until they were deported hundreds of years later. “They have turned back to the iniquities of their ancestors who refused to hear My words, and they have gone after other gods to serve them; the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken My covenant which I made with their fathers.” (Jer. 11:10; 2 Chr. 7:22; 1 Kgs. 14:9). ‘“They bend their tongue like their bow; lies and not truth prevail in the land; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they do not know Me,’ declares the LORD.” (Jer. 9:3). Even some of the kings, like King Ahaziah, engaged in this idolatry: “So he served Baal and worshiped him and provoked the LORD God of Israel to anger, according to all that his father had done.” (1 Kgs. 22:53). Unlike these wayward people, God calls upon you to stay faithful to Him when He delivers you.
Be faithful because God is faithful to you. In response to God’s faithfulness, He wants you to be faithful as well. “for we walk by faith, not by sight—” (2 Cor. 5:7). “A faithful man will abound with blessings, . . .” (Prov. 28:20(a)). “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” (1 Tim. 1:5). “but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.” (1 Tim. 3:9). The lesson from the Jews is that believers are most frequently tempted to abandon their faith in times of plenty and in peace. When times are good, have you stayed faithful?
The people rejected God as their king to demand a human king like the pagan nations. The Jews demanded a human king because they were not content with God as their King. “12 When 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.” (1 Sam. 12:12). The Jews looked around them and thought that a pagan king could better ensure their security against someone like the Ammonite King Nahash (1 Sam. 11). They wanted a king “that we also may be like all the nations, that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” (1 Sam. 8:20). Yet, God was the Jews’ one true king. “The LORD shall reign forever and ever.” (Ex. 15:18). “The LORD is King forever and ever; . . .” (Ps. 10:16(a)). “The LORD sat as King at the flood; yes, the LORD sits as King forever.” (Ps. 29:10). “But the LORD is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King.” (Jer. 10:10(a)). God only allowed for earthy kings because the people lacked the patience to wait for the Messiah (Dt. 17:14-15). The Jews sinned by seeing their oppression in secular terms and looking for a secular solution. “The Israelites of Samuel’s day fail to discern that their problems (the oppression they experience from the neighboring nations) is of divine origin, and that it is divine discipline as a result (and corrective) of their sin. The Israelites of Samuel’s day see their subjection to foreign powers as the result of inadequate leadership. God exposes the real problem as sin.” (Robert Deffinbaugh, 8. Renewing the Kingdom (1 Sam. 11:14-12:25)).
Trust in God and not in human leaders. Believers are warned to trust in God and not in human leaders. This includes placing your faith in any government. “Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.” (Ps. 146:3). “It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.” (Ps. 118:9). “O give us help against the adversary, for deliverance by man is in vain.” (Ps. 60:11). God’s righteousness and His desire that you lean on Him will appear foolish to the world. “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor. 1:18). “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” (1 Cor. 2:14). “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Prov. 3:5). Have you placed your trust in mankind?
Obey God and His mighty hand will protect you. Out of mercy and grace, God did not strike down the Jews for rejecting Him as their King. Instead, He made a conditional promise to protect the Jews if they and their king obeyed Him. “13 Now therefore, here is the king whom you have chosen, whom you have asked for, and behold, the Lord has set 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 also the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God. 15 If 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.” (1 Sam. 13:13-15). God gave the Jews the leader that they wanted. “I gave you a king in My anger and took him away in My wrath.” (Hos. 13:11). Even though it was not part of God’s plan, the Jews could continue to enjoy His protection if the kings and people obeyed Him. Unfortunately, Saul refused to follow God not long after these warnings. ‘“I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me and has not carried out My commands.’ And Samuel was distressed and cried out to the LORD all night.” (1 Sam. 15:11).
Submit to Spirit-led leadership. God expects order. He commands that we submit to His appointed leaders. “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.” (Ro. 13:1-2). Rebellion to God is no better than witchcraft (1 Sam. 15:23). His leaders are His “avengers” against injustice (Rom. 13:4). They also are supposed to “watch out for your souls.” (Heb. 13:17). First, you submit to Him through His Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:14), His Word (2 Tim. 3:16), and His church leadership (Matt. 18:17-20; Heb. 13:17). Second, you submit to Him through your civil authorities (1 Pet. 2:13-14; Rom. 13:1-2). Third, you submit to His family order (Eph. 5:22-25; 6:10). Only when your authorities refuse to follow His Word can you ignore them (Acts. 4:19). Both the leaders and the people are commanded to obey Jesus’ Word and His Commandments. Jesus is the great “I AM” who gave Moses the Ten Commandments (Ex. 3:14; Jo. 8:58). Although you are no longer judged under the Law, Jesus reveals that you show your love for Him when you keep His Commandments voluntarily: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (Jo. 14:15, 21; 1 Jo. 5:3; 2 Jo. 1:6). “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” (Jo. 15:10). “[I]f you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” (Matt. 19:17). Whether you keep His Commandments out of love (and not obligation) is also the test regarding whether you “know” Him: “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.” (1 Jo. 2:3). If your leaders are following God’s Word, are you submitting to them? If they are rebelling, are you praying for them?
God showed mercy and grace when the Jews repented. God then confirmed Samuel’s warning with a sign to allow the people to know that he was God’s messenger. The people then received God’s mercy and grace by repenting of their sins. ‘“16 Even now, take your stand and see this great thing which the Lord will do before your eyes. 17 Is 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.’ 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.’ 19 Then 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. 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 You must not turn aside, for then you would go after futile things which can not profit or deliver, because they are futile. “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.” (1 Sam. 12:16-22). The thunder and rain confirmed Samuel’s prophetic role for two reasons. First, it happened immediately after he called for it. Second, it happened during the harvest season, which was the wrong time of year for these things. Samuel previously told the Jews that God would forgive them if they abandoned their idols. “Then Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, ‘If you return to the LORD with all your heart, remove the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your hearts to the LORD and serve Him alone; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines.”’ (1 Sam. 7:3). Here, God showed His mercy and grace when the Jews confessed their sins (1 Sam. 12:19). “And rend your heart and not your garments. Now return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and relenting of evil.” (Joel 2:13). Are you giving God the opportunity to deliver you from your sins by repenting and changing your behavior? If He has delivered you, are you helping others?
God will not dishonored His holy name. Samuel was clear that God did not forgive the Jews because of their merit. Instead, God did not want to dishonor His name by failing to fulfill His promises to the Jews. “22 For the Lord will not abandon His people on account of His great name,” (1 Sam 12:22). Moses also frequently appealed to God’s desire not to have His name profaned by wiping out the Jews for their sins. This in turn would nullify His prior promises to them. “Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, ‘With evil intent He brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your burning anger and change Your mind about doing harm to Your people.” (Ex. 32:12; Dt. 9:28). Joshua also urged God not to destroy the Jews and allow non-believers to profane His holy name: ‘“9 For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it, and they will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will You do for Your great name?’” (Josh. 7:9). God will not allow His people to be permanently defeated because it would defame the belief of some in His ability to keep His promises: “For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act; for how can My name be profaned? And My glory I will not give to another.” (Is. 48:11). Thus, no one should boast he or she deserved to be forgiven. Forgiveness comes from God’s underserved mercy and grace. If you are grateful for His mercy and grace, how have you show it? If you continue to sin, you have taken it for granted.
Be merciful as God has shown mercy to you. Just as God shows you mercy, He wants you to show mercy to others. “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Lk. 6:36). “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned.” (Lk. 6:37). “Do not judge so that you will not be judged.” (Matt. 7:1). “But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.” (Ro. 14:10). “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Cor. 5:10). Are you merciful to your enemies?
Forgive others as God forgave you. Just as God forgave you, you are called upon to forgive others: “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” (Matt. 6:14). “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Eph. 4:32.) “bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.” (Col. 3:13). “A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, And it is his glory to overlook a transgression.” (Prov. 19:11). “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.” (Lev. 19:18). “Do not say, ‘I will repay evil’; wait for the LORD, and He will save you.” (Prov. 20:22). “Do not say, ‘Thus I shall do to him as he has done to me; I will render to the man according to his work.’” (Prov. 24:29). “But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” (Matt. 5:39; Lk. 6:29). “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men.” (Ro. 12:17). “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘vengeance is mine, I will repay’ says the Lord.” (Ro. 12:19). Have you forgiven the people who have insulted and offended you?
Samuel offers to pray as an intercessor but warns the people not to turn from God. As an intercessor, Samuel promised to continue to pray for the people’s sins. “23 Moreover, 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.” (1 Sam. 12:23). “This statement of Samuel makes it plain: it is a sin for a leader of God's people to stop praying for them. It is the most basic of his duties as a leader. If it is sin to stop praying, how much worse must it be to even fail to start praying!” (David Guzik on 1 Sam. 12).
Pray as an intercessor for God’s people. God spared the Jewish nation in response to Moses’ prayers after they made the golden calf (Ex. 32:11-14). He again spared the Jews in response to Moses’ prayers after they rebelled at the edge of the Promised Land (Nu. 14:18-22). He again spared the Jews in response to the prayers of Moses and Aaron after Korah, 250 men of renown, and then the 14,700 rebelled (Nu. 16:21-24). He yet again spared the Jews because of Samuel’s prayers. The apostles also continually prayed for others. “. . . I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day,” (2 Tim. 1:3). “. . . we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,” (Col. 1:9). “do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers;” (Eph. 1:16). “as we night and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face, . . .” (1 Thess. 3:10). You are part of Jesus’ holy priesthood (1 Pet. 2:5, 9; Rev. 1:6). As His appointed priest, you too have the power of intercessory prayer. Yet, it doesn’t work if you lack faith. “But he must ask in faith without any doubting, . . .” (Jam. 1:6). Are you earnestly praying and fasting in His name for the nations to repent and be forgiven?
Teach others to follow the right path. In addition to praying for the Jews, Samuel also promised that he would “instruct [them] in the good and right way.” (1 Sam. 12:23). God instructed the Jews to teach their children His Commandments. “You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” (Dt. 6:7; 11:19; 31:12-13; Prov. 22:6; 78:4-6). The apostles saw that they had a duty to both pray and teach. “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” (Acts 6:4). Believers today are also called upon to be teachers. “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.” (Heb. 5:12). Yet, it’s hard to teach the Word if you do not know it well. Are you studying and teaching God’s Word to others?
Samuel’s warning to fear God. Finally, to stay holy, Samuel warned the Jews that they also needed to fear God. “24 Only fear the Lord and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you. 25 But if you still do wickedly, both you and your king will be swept away.’” (1 Sam. 12:24-25). Saul would soon turn against God because he did not fear Him. As a result, both he and Israel would suffer.
Fear God by hating evil. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Prov. 9:10; Ps. 111:10). This does not mean that you should live in fear of God’s wrath. Instead, fearing God is defined as hating evil. “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; . . .” (Prov. 8:13(a)). If you tolerate or embrace things that the Bible defines as evil or unholy, you do not have a fear of God.
Samuel’s warning that ongoing rebellion would lead to the Jews’ exile. Moses warned that violating God’s Covenant would cause the Jews to lose God’s hedge of protection and become defeated in battle. “The LORD shall cause you to be defeated before your enemies; you will go out one way against them, but you will flee seven ways before them, and you will be an example of terror to all the kingdoms of the earth.” (Dt. 28:25). Each time the Jews turned from God, they lost in battle as He promised (e.g., 1 Sam. 4:2, 10; 2 Sam. 18:17; 2 Kgs. 14:12; 2 Chr. 25:22). These defeats would culminate in Samuel’s prophesy of their exile: “both you and your king will be swept away.” (1 Sam. 12:35). This prophesy would ultimately come to pass: “And you will, even of yourself, let go of your inheritance that I gave you; and I will make you serve your enemies in the land which you do not know; for you have kindled a fire in My anger which will burn forever.” (Jer. 17:4; Lam. 5:2; 1 Chron. 9:1; 2 Chron. 36:20; Dan. 1:1-7).
A nation that refuses to return to God will also experience His progressive discipline. Military defeats and exile were not God’s only tools for disciplining a people who failed to fear Him. In the Torah, He outlined 40 progressively more severe “curses” that He would use to bring a rebellious nation back to Him. These included: (1) resistance / opposition (Dt. 28:16); (2) scarcity (Dt. 28:17); (3) infertility (Dt. 28:18); (4) failure (Dt. 28:19); (5) rebuke (Dt. 28:20); (6) hardships (Dt. 28:21); (7) illness (Dt. 28:22); (8) drought (Dt. 28:23-24); (9) defeat (Dt. 28:25); (10) fear (Dt. 28:26-27); (11) disease (Dt. 28:28); (12) confusion (Dt. 28:28-29); (13) stolen spouses (Dt. 28:30(a)); (14) stolen property (Dt. 28:30(b)-31, 33(a)); (15) stolen children (Dt. 28:32); (16) oppression (Dt. 28:33(b)); (17) mental illness (Dt. 28:34); (18) sores and lost beauty (Dt. 28:35); (19) idolatry (Dt. 28:36); (20) being vilified (Dt. 28:37); (21) insect plagues (Dt. 28:38-39); (22) a seared conscience (Dt. 28:40); (23) enslaved youth (the second curse against children) (Dt. 28:41); (24) barren lands (Dt. 28:42); (25) indebtedness (Dt. 28:43-44); (26) destruction (Dt. 28:45-6); (27) captivity (Dt. 28:47(a)); (28) suffering (Dt. 28:47(b)); (29) invasion (Dt. 28:49-50); (30) pillaging (Dt. 28:51); (31) being besieged (Dt. 28:52); (32) self-destruction (Dt. 28:53); (33) husbands turning on their wives (Dt. 28:54-55); (34) wives turning on their husbands (Dt. 28:56-57); (35) unending plagues (Dt. 28:58-59(a)); (36) unending diseases (Dt. 28:59(b)-60); (37) other calamities (Dt. 28:61); (38) population collapse (Dt. 28:62-63); (39) exile (Dt. 28:64); and (40) despair (Dt. 28:65-68). The western world has also enjoyed great prosperity even as it turns from God and embraces what God calls evil. It should not interpret its prosperity as a blessing. It is instead the calm before the storm of His discipline.
God disciplines out of love. God did not discipline or exile the Jews out of anger. Instead, He disciplined them out of love to change their behavior. “For whom the LORD loves He reproves, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.” (Prov. 3:12; Heb. 12:6; Dt. 8:5). “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.” (Rev. 3:19). Has His discipline caused you to repent and return to Him?