Tuesday, November 27, 2012

XCII - I Samuel 12 - Samuel's Farewell Address

In the last post Saul had been officially proclaimed king and had assumed the office.  Therefore, a new era was rapidly ushered in and began a new chapter in Israel's History.  Some of the older customs would yield to the new order.  One of these customs affected Samuel's role as judge.  When a king began to rule, the office of judge no longer would be needed, and therefore would be "phased out".  For the most part the authority that a judge had would be turned over to the king.  As a result of this, Samuel felt that the transition would directly effect his every-day duties, plus the people's perception of him.  Remember that Samuel was the first prophet in generations, and many people would have been reluctant to give him up as their leader.  Therefore, he spoke to the issue, which brings us to chapter 12.

Samuel opened his address to the nation by recounting recent developments.  (This was a common practice, as seen in many addresses in the Scripture.)  Notice the tone in verse 1.  Samuel reminds them that having a king was their idea and he yielded to their wishes, even though he knew it was not the right thing to do.  In vss 2-5 Samuel wants them to affirm their thoughts toward him as a man.  He openly asks them if they had any occasion against him.  An occasion being any reason to question his character:  Have I stolen anything from any of you?  Have I cheated anyone?  Have I ever accepted a bribe.  If anyone thinks I have, please say so now and I will make it right.  {I'm not certain what brought on this rather strange line of questioning.  There must have been some murmuring against Samuel, and he wanted to place his character out in the open so as to put any question to rest.  Also, I know that as one gets older and reflects on his life, these things become more important, especially when integrity has been a priority that has carried cost with it.}  He, as was custom to those times, had the people state aloud that they did not have any of those issues with Samuel.  Then in verse 5 he affirms it to make it official.

Then starting in vs 6 Samuel shifts to giving an overview of Israel's History, which we've seen countless times.  {The people of Israel were in constant need of this, but it seems it hardly ever did much good.}  Notice in vs 7 that he says he is going to confront them with evidence.  Samuel then proceeds with recounting Jacob entering Egypt, them turned into slaves and God rescues them.  Samuel goes on to remind them of the cruel Sisera and the Philistines.  Again the oppressed Israelites cried out to the Lord and He rescued them again with the likes of Gideon, Barak, Jephthah, and finaly Samuel himself.  Then in verse 12 Samuel again reminds them that they are the ones who wanted a king.  He also reminds them that God should have been considered their King and they needed no more than Him.  He goes on to tell them that if they and the king will follow and obey God that everything will be alright.  He again emphasizes the dire consequences of foresaking God and the Law.  He even called on them to be obedient to their new king.  As we've seen so many times before, the Israelites are reminded of the stark difference between obeying and disobeying God.  Briefly, to obey God means peace and prosperity, and ultimately, happiness.  In contrast, to disobey means they will suffer failing crops, invasion, captivity, and slavery to other nations, war which they will lose, death, and ultimately misery.  So simple.  And then of course Samuel emphasizes that the worst thing they can do is worship other gods.  How many times have we seen this.

In vs 16 Samuel tells them that he will ask God to send a miracle for them to witness.  To demonstrate the power of God, Samuel reminded them that this was not the rainy season.  {Israel normally had early rains and late rains followed by a long dry season, which worked well because rain during harvest hinders the harvest to the point that the crops' quality is harmed and the harvest is never quite complete, as the rains forces much of the harvest to remain in the field.}  The late rains had already passed.  But Samuel said he would call on God as evidence that his message was true.  In response to his prayer there was a violent thunderstorm, and the people were struck with terror.  (I'm sure this was no normal thunderstorm.  Try to imagine.)  The thunderstorm in answer to Samuel's prayer proved to the people that God approved of what Samuael was saying and that they had indeed sinned.  The crowd's response in verse 19 was loud and clear.  The people finally realized that asking for a king was an act of rejecting God.

Be sure to read this short chapter.  This final address by Samuel was forceful, pointed, and yet filled with compassion and concern for his audience.  Samuel was an extraordinary man.  Note the very last verse (25), "Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will perish."

Next post  -  Saul's Success and Failure

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