1 Samuel 12
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
1 Samuel 12:1-25. (GILGAL.)

1. The occasion of his admonitions was the full recognition of the first king of Israel -by the national assembly, and his retirement from the more active duties of his office as judge. He was not mortified at parting with power, nor did he wish to reverse the change which had been effected. He cheerfully acquiesced in the will of God, and cordially united with the people in giving honour to the" Lord's anointed" (vers. 3, 5). Yet he might not allow them to suppose that there was nothing blameworthy in their desire for a king, as they were apt to do, or enter upon their new career in perilous self-complacency, without warning them of the rocks ahead. He spoke not merely as judge, but also as a prophet and "faithful priest" (ver. 19).

2. The form which they assumed is varied. They consist generally of a dialogue between him and the elders; partly of an apology, or defence of his official conduct; partly of a narration of the dealings of God with Israel; and partly of exhortations, warnings, and promises closely connected together. The whole may be conceived of as a judicial scene occurring before the invisible Judge, in which Samuel, having vindicated himself as against the people, sets forth their sin against God, who himself confirms his words in the thunderstorm (Job 38:1), which leads them to confess their transgression and seek the intercession of the prophet, who consoles and admonishes them, and assures them of his continued help. The language is direct and rugged and full of force.

3. The main subject is the course of sinful perversity which Israel had pursued in desiring a king; the chief aim to produce a humble and penitent state of mind, and lead to the maintenance of a proper relation to the invisible King. His former words may be compared (1 Samuel 3:11-14; 1 Samuel 7:3-6; 1 Samuel 8:10-18; 1 Samuel 10:17-19); also the words of Moses (Numbers 16:25-30; Deuteronomy 29.), and of Joshua (Joshua 24.). He speaks of their course as -

I. ADOPTED WITHOUT SUFFICIENT REASON (vers. 3-6) in the light of his just administration. He sets himself, as it were, before the tribunal of the invisible Judge, and before the king, - himself, "old and grey headed," on the one hand, Israel on the other, - and seeks an open vindication (as public men are often under the necessity of doing); not, however, so much from regard to his own dignity as to their welfare and the honour of God. We have here -

1. A challenge, on the part of Samuel, to bear witness against him. "Behold, here I am," etc. (ver. 3). It is a common temptation for men in authority and power to use their position for selfish and unjust purposes, such as

(1) appropriating wrongfully what belongs to others,

(2) defrauding them of what is their due,

(3) oppressing the poor and weak, and

(4) perverting the proper course of justice, especially in the case of the rich and strong, for the sake of "a gift" or bribe.

How have these evils prevailed in every age! But Samuel had consciously wronged no one, and if any can show that he has done so, he stands ready to make restitution (Luke 19:8). His conscience is "as the noontide clear." "No doubt he found himself guilty before God of many private infirmities; but for his public carriage he appeals to men. A man's heart can best judge of himself; others can best judge of his actions. Happy is that man that can be acquitted by himself in private, in public by others, by God in both" (Hall).

2. A testimony, on the part of the elders, to his integrity (ver. 4); ready, explicit, and with one voice. It is almost impossible for men in public office to be faithful without making enemies. If Samuel had any, they now nowhere appear; and his character shines forth "as the sun when he goeth forth in his might" (Judges 5:31).

3. An invocation, on the part of both, to the Lord and his anointed to confirm the testimony (ver. 5); thereby making it more solemn and memorable. Why, then, seeing his government was so unblamable, did they wish to set it aside? Their testimony to him was a sentence of condemnation on themselves for their inconsideration, ingratitude, and discontent. The force of the testimony was increased by his further invocation of the Lord as he who had "appointed Moses and Aaron, and brought their fathers out of the land of Egypt" (ver. 6). As the appointed and faithful leader of Israel, even as they, no other was necessary, and his rejection was the rejection of the Lord. With this he passes on to speak of their course as -

II. MARKED BY AGGRAVATED TRANSGRESSION (vers. 7-12) in the light of the righteous dealings of God in past time. "Now therefore stand forth," etc. (ver. 7). He and they now change places; he becomes their accuser, and reasons or contends with them (in order to convict them of sin) "concerning the righteous acts of Jehovah," who had acted justly in his covenant relation with them throughout their whole history, faithfully fulfilled his promises, inflicted punishment only when it was deserved, and bestowed upon them the greatest benefits (Ezekiel 33:17; Micah 6:2). These acts include -

1. A wonderful deliverance (ver. 8) from a crushing oppression, in compassion to the cry of the needy, through the instrumentality of men raised up for the purpose, with "a mighty hand and an outstretched arm," and completed in their possession of the land of promise. This deliverance is always regarded as the foundation of their history. "History was born in that night in which Moses, with the law of God, moral and spiritual, in his heart, led the people of Israel out of Egypt" (Bunsen).

2. Repeated chastisements (ver. 9), rendered necessary by forgetfulness of God, varied (the Canaanites, the Philistines, the Moabites), and with a view to their moral improvement. "Notice here Samuel's prudence in reproof.

(1) By his reproof of their ancestors he prepares their minds to receive reproof;

(2) he shows that their ingratitude is old, and so worse, and they should take care that it grow no stronger;

(3) he chooses a very mild word, 'forget,' to express their offence" (Pool).

3. Continued help (vers. 10, 11), through penitence and prayer, by means of successive "saviours," - Jerubbaal (Gideon), Sedan (Barak), Jephthah, Samuel (1 Samuel 7:10; referring to himself in the third person, because now speaking as the advocate of Jehovah), - against their "enemies on every side," and in their safe preservation unto the present time. "And ye dwelled safe." But what return did they make for all his benefits? As soon as they saw the threatening attitude of Nahash (ver. 12), they forgot the lessons of the past, lost their confidence in God, trusted in an arm of flesh, and recklessly and persistently demanded a king, virtually rejecting the Lord as their king. Former experience of the goodness and severity of God greatly aggravates present transgression (ver. 19).

III. INVOLVING PERILOUS RESPONSIBILITY (vers. 13-15) in the light of present circumstances. "Now therefore behold the king whom ye have chosen," etc. Although they had taken the initiative in the matter, he had reserved to himself the authority of appointing him, and abides the supreme Ruler over both people and king (ver. 12). In the new order of things -

1. They are specially liable to forget this primary truth, and to trust in man, and hence he impresses upon them once and again the fact that "the Lord God is their king." No earthly monarch can release them from their responsibility to him, and no human help can save them apart from him. "It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes" (Psalm 118:9).

2. They can prosper only by being faithful to him. "If ye will fear the Lord," etc., it will be well with you and your king. But -

3. If unfaithful, they will expose themselves to heavy judgments, as their fathers had done before them. Wherein, then, have they improved their condition? What a perilous course have they entered upon! And how can they hope to avoid its consequences except by profound humiliation, and seeking the Lord "with full purpose of heart"?

IV. NECESSITATING SINCERE REPENTANCE (vers. 16-18) in the light of approaching judgment. "Now therefore stand and see this great thing," etc. Hitherto the words of Samuel appear to have produced little effect; something further was necessary that they might not be spoken in vain; and, in response to his prayer, the thunder crashed above the heads of the great assembly, and the rain fell in torrents around them - things "incomprehensible to a Hebrew" in time of harvest. The miraculous sign -

1. Corroborates the word of truth as well as the Divine commission of him who uttered it, and confirms the testimony borne to his integrity. The voice of the supreme Judge answers the appeal which had been made to him (ver. 5), and there is "an end of all controversy" (Hebrews 6:16).

2. Is significant of the Divine displeasure at their sin, and of terrible judgments (Exodus 9:28). "Hereby the Lord showed his power, and the people their foolishness in not being contented to have such a mighty God for their protector, who could with thunder and rain fight for them against their enemies, as he did for Israel against the host of Pharaoh, and not long before this against the Philistines. And, beside, it appeared with what small reason they should be weary of Samuel's government, who by his prayer could fetch down rain and thunder from heaven" (Willet). "God had granted their desire; but upon them and their king's bearing toward the Lord, not upon the fact that they had now a king, would the future of Israel depend; and this truth, so difficult for them to learn, God would, as it were, prove before them in a symbol. Did they think it unlikely, nay, well nigh impossible, to fail in their present circumstances? God would bring the unlikely and seemingly incredible to pass in a manner patent to all. Was it not the time of wheat harvest, when in the East not a cloud darkens the clear sky? God would send thunder and rain to convince them, by making the unlikely real, of the folly and sin of their thoughts in demanding a king" (Edersheim).

3. Is designed to effect a moral end, in filling them with salutary fear. "That ye may perceive that your wickedness is great" (ver. 17). And it is not in vain; for "all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel" (ver. 18), thus solemnly avouched to be his prophet. God is never at a loss for means to accomplish his purposes, and goes beyond his usual method of operations when the occasion demands it. The end of his dealings with men is to bring them to repentance and make them holy.

V. NOT EXCLUDING CONSOLATION AND HOPE (vers. 19-25) in the light of the great name and merciful purposes of God. By means of repentance and faith men place themselves within the circle where the "consuming fire" of Divine wrath (Romans 1:18; Hebrews 12:29) is transformed into the genial beams of Divine grace; and "he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins" (1 John 1:9). We have here -

1. A description of a penitent people (ver. 19), overwhelmed with fear, freely and fully confessing their sin, rendering honour where they had formerly shown ingratitude and disrespect, and seeking Divine mercy in the way in which they had reason to believe it might be obtained.

2. An exhortation to an amended course of life (vers. 20, 21).

(1) A consoling word. "Fear not."

(2) A reminding and humbling word. "Ye have done all this wickedness."

(3) A restraining word. "Turn not aside from following the Lord" (as ye have done in your distrust and self-will).

(4) A directive word. "But serve the Lord with all your heart" (in faith, and love, and entire consecration).

(5) A warning word. "And turn ye not aside" (from God to any false object of trust, idols).

(6) An instructive word. '" For they are vain" (utterly empty and disappointing).

3. An assurance of mercy and grace (ver. 22), resting on -

(1) His relationship. They are still "his people."

(2) His name - his revelations of power and salvation to his people, and his honour and glory before all the nations.

(3) His good will. "Because" (he will not forsake his people, because) "it hath pleased the Lord to make you his people." Whatever benefits he has conferred have proceeded from his pure benevolence, and are a pledge of further benefits (Jeremiah 31:3). His free and unmerited love is the sinner's chief hope.

4. A promise of continued aid, on the part of Samuel, in intercession and instruction (ver. 23). "In this he sets a glorious example to all rulers, showing them that they should not be led astray by the ingratitude of their subordinates or subjects, and give up on that account all interest in their welfare; but should further persevere all the more in their anxiety for them."

5. A final admonition to steadfast obedience (vers. 24, 25), without which both people and king will be overwhelmed in destruction. In keeping with the tone which pervades these admonitions, and as in foresight of coming evils, they end with a warning. - D.

1 Samuel 12:2. (GILGAL.)
Old and grey headed. On speaking of himself as "old and grey headed," Samuel immediately afterwards made reference to his childhood. "I have walked before you from my childhood unto this day." He loved to linger (as old men are wont) over his early days; and in his case there was every reason for doing so, for they were surpassingly pure and beautiful. One of the chief lessons of his life is that a well spent childhood and youth conduces greatly to a happy and honoured age. Consider him as an eminent illustration of piety in old age.


1. Piety prevents indulgence in vices that tend to shorten life. How many are brought by such vices to a premature grave! When, therefore, we see an old man we naturally infer that he has been a good man, nor can there be any doubt that he has exercised much self-control. Samuel was a Nazarite.

2. It has a direct tendency to prolong life by producing healthful virtues. The fear of the Lord prolongeth days "(Proverbs 10:27).

3. It has the promise of many days. "With long life will I satisfy him" (Psalm 91:16). "Even to old age I am; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you" (Isaiah 46:4). "A good old age" (Genesis 15:15). "Thou shalt come to thy grave in a full age, like as a shock of corn cometh in his season" (Job 5:26).

4. It is commonly associated with long life. There are, doubtless, exceptions, the causes of which are not far to seek, but this is the rule.


1. Its maintaining the respect which is naturally felt for the aged. Among the Spartans, when a hoary headed man entered their assemblies, they all immediately rose, and remained standing till he had taken his place; and it is enjoined in the law of Moses: "Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man" (Leviticus 19:32). But this injunction assumes the possession of godliness, without which old ago neither deserves nor receives appropriate reverence.

2. The beauty and perfection of character which it develops. There is beauty in the fresh springing corn, but there is still greater beauty in "the full corn in the ear," bending under its golden burden. A good old man, matured in character by long growth, and abounding in "the fruit of the Spirit," is one of the noblest sights on earth. He is a king amongst men. "The hoary head is a crown of glory if it be found in the way of righteousness" (Proverbs 16:31; Proverbs 20:29).

3. The conflicts and perils that have been passed. "An old disciple" (Acts 21:16), or "such an one as Paul the aged" (Philemon 1:9), is like a veteran soldier bearing on him the scars of many a hard fought battle, and wearing the honours conferred by a grateful country. He is like a giant of the forest, standing erect when the storm has laid his companions in the dust.

4. The good that has been done in past time, and lives to bear witness to the doer, and "praise him in the gates." We value the young for the good they may hereafter effect, the old for the good they have already accomplished. "Them that honour me I will honour."


1. Furnishes a convincing evidence of the truth and power of religion. When faith survives doubts, temptations, difficulties, its very existence is an argument for the reality of that which is believed, a proof of the practicability of a religious life, and a commendation of its unspeakable worth.

2. Sets forth an impressive example of the spirit of religion - humility, trustfulness, calmness, patience, resignation, Cheerfulness (Genesis 48:21; Deuteronomy 33:1; Joshua 14:10, 12; Joshua 23:14; 2 Samuel 19:32).

3. Bears valuable testimony for God, and continues in prayer and labour on behalf of men. "They shall still bring forth fruit in old age," etc. (Psalm 92:14, 15; Psalm 71:14, 17, 18). Although some services are no longer possible, others, often more valuable, may, and ought to, be rendered till the close of life.

4. Affords wise counsel to the younger and less experienced. Wisdom is proverbially associated with age. Those who have seen and heard much of the world, and had long experience of life, may be expected to know more than those who are just starting out in their course. Their judgment is less influenced by passion and impulse; they look at things in a clearer light, and in a calmer frame of mind, and are more likely to perceive the truth concerning them.

"Whose ripe experience doth attain
To somewhat of prophetic strain." Much of the inspired wisdom of the Scriptures is based upon the sanctified experience of the aged. "Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance" (2 Peter 1:15, 12-14; 1 Peter 5:1, 5). "My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth" (1 John 3:18). "Little children, love one another."

IV. OLD AGE IS GREATLY COMFORTED BY PIETY. It has its drawbacks and troubles. Bodily infirmities increase, the mental powers lose their vigour, and friends become fewer (Ecclesiastes 12.). It is also liable to moral failings, such as irritability, fretfulness, despondency, and excessive carefulness, which need to be guarded against. "When I consider in my mind, I find four causes why old age is thought miserable: one, that it calls us away from the transactions of affairs; the second, that it renders the body more feeble; the third, that it deprives us of almost all pleasures; the fourth, that it is not very far from death" (Cicero 'on Old Age '). But notwithstanding such things, it has, "with godliness," abundant compensations, consisting of -

1. Pleasant recollections of the past, especially of the Divine benefits that have been received. "Surely I will remember thy wonders of old" (Psalm 77:11).

2. Wide observation of the works and ways of God. "I have been young, and now am old," etc. (Psalm 37:25).

3. Inward support and consolation derived from communion with God. "Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day" (2 Corinthians 4:16). "The glory of the old age of the godly consists in this, that while the faculties for the sensible no less than mental enjoyments gradually decline, and the hearth of life gets thus deprived of its fuel, the blessings of godliness not only continue to refresh the soul in old age, but are not until then most thoroughly enjoyed. The sun of piety rises the warmer in proportion as the sun of life declines."

4. Bright prospects of the heavenly home - "a house not made with hands," the vision of God, perpetual youth, reunion with parted friends, perfect and endless blessedness. As the world of light draws near, some of its rays seem to shine through the crevices of the earthly tabernacle that is falling into decay (Genesis 49:18; Luke 2:29, 30). "The state in which I am now is so delightful, that the nearer I approach to death, I seem, as it were, to get sight of land; and at length, after a long voyage, to be getting into the harbour. O glorious day I when I shall depart to that Divine company and assemblage of spirits, and quit this troubled and polluted scene" (Cicero). "If the mere conception of the reunion of good men in a future state infused a momentary rapture into the mind of Tully; if an airy speculation - for there is reason to fear it had little hold on his convictions - could inspire him with such delight, what may we be expected to feel who are assured of such an event by the true sayings of God" (R. Hall). "I have a desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better" (Philippians 1:23; 2 Timothy 4:6-8) Observations: -

1. Let us be thankful for the consolations of religion in "the time of old age."

2. Let the aged cherish the dispositions by which it is made beautiful and useful.

3. Let the young honour the aged, and not forsake "the counsel of the old men" (1 Kings 12:8).

4. Let them also remember that they will grow old, and so live that they may then be honoured and happy. - D.

1 Samuel 12:3-5. (GILGAL.)
Behold, here I am: witness against me before the Lord. It is a noble thing for a man in any position of life, but especially in exalted, public, and responsible office, to "do justly and love mercy" as well as to "walk humbly with his God;" to continue for many years in the fulfilment of his duty with strictest integrity and unselfish devotion to the public good. Of this Samuel was an illustrious pattern. Concerning integrity in public office, observe that -

I. It is generally, and not improperly, EXPECTED, because of -

1. The superior knowledge which one who fills such an office is assumed to possess (Ezra 7:25).

2. The important trust which is reposed in him. "Moreover, it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful" (1 Corinthians 4:2).

3. The powerful influence which he exerts over others, for good or evil (Proverbs 29:2).

II. It is beset by numerous TEMPTATIONS, such as -

1. To prefer his ease and pleasure to laborious and self-denying duty (Romans 12:8).

2. To use his power for the enrichment of himself and his family, to the disregard of the general welfare, and even by means of extortion, fraud, and oppression (Acts 16:22; Acts 24:26).

3. To seek the praise of men more than the praise of God, and to yield to the evil wishes of the multitude for the sake of personal advantage (John 19:13).

III. It lies open to public CRITICISM, for -

1. The conduct of a public man cannot be wholly hidden from view.

2. His responsible position invites men, and gives them a certain right, to judge concerning the course he pursues; and, in many instances, his actions directly affect their persons, property, or reputation.

3. As it is impossible to restrain their criticism, so it is, on the whole, beneficial that it should be exercised as a salutary restraint upon those "who are in authority." Happy is he in whom "none occasion nor fault can be found, forasmuch as he is faithful" (Daniel 6:4).

IV. It is NOT always duly APPRECIATED, but is sometimes despised and suspected.

1. The reasons of the conduct of one in public office are not always fully understood, nor the difficulties of his position properly considered, nor the motives of his actions rightly interpreted.

2. Evil doers, to whom he is "a terror," may be expected to hate and speak ill of him. "What evil have I done?" said Aristides, when told that he had everyone's good word.

3. Men are apt to be envious of those who are exalted above them, and to forget their past services if they do not favour the gratification of the present popular feeling. Samuel' was not the only judge who experienced ingratitude. "Neither showed they kindness to the house of Jerubbaal, namely, Gideon, according to all the goodness which he showed unto Israel" (Judges 8:35).

V. It sometimes requires to be openly VINDICATED, for the sake of -

1. Personal character and reputation. "I have not taken one ass from them, neither have I hurt one of them" (Numbers 16:5).

2. Truth, and righteousness, and the honour of God. How often, on this account, did the Apostle Paul vindicate himself, in his epistles, from the accusations that were made against him!

3. The welfare of the people themselves, on whom misrepresentation and unfounded suspicions exert an injurious influence.

VI. It is certain, sooner or later, to be fully RECOGNISED.

1. Time and circumstances bring real worth to the light.

2. There is in men a sense of truth and justice which constrains them to acknowledge and honour the good.

3. God takes care of the reputation of those who take care of his honour. There comes a "resurrection of reputations." The judgment of one generation concerning public men is often reversed by the next. "There is nothing hidden that shall not be made manifest." "And the righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance." - D.

1 Samuel 12:8-12. (GILGAL.)
This is an important chapter in the history of Israel. In it are set forth certain truths of universal import, which are also illustrated, though less distinctly, in the history of other nations. They are such as follows: -

1. THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD (ver. 8). "It hath pleased the Lord to make you his people" (ver. 22). Of his own free and gracious will, always founded in perfect wisdom, he raises up a people from the lowest condition, confers upon them special blessings and privileges, and exalts them to the most eminent place among the nations of the earth (Deuteronomy 32:8; Acts 17:26, 27). As it was with Israel, so has it been with other peoples. His right so to deal with men cannot be questioned, his power therein is manifested, his undeserved goodness should be acknowledged, and the gifts bestowed employed not for selfish ends, but for his glory and the welfare of mankind.

II. THE SINFULNESS OF MEN. "They forgat the Lord their God" (ver. 9). So constantly and universally have men departed from God and goodness as to make it evident that there is in human nature an inherited tendency to sin. "It is that tendency to sinful passions or unlawful propensities which is perceived in man whenever objects of desire are placed before him, and laws laid upon him." As often as God in his great goodness has exalted him to honour, so often has he fallen away from his service; and left to himself, without the continual help of Divine grace, his course is downward. "In times past the Divine nature flourished in men, but at length, being mixed with mortal custom, it fell into ruin; hence an inundation of evils in the race" (Plato. See other testimonies quoted by Bushnell in 'Nature and the Supernatural'). "There is nothing in the whole earth that does not prove either the misery of man or the compassion of God; either his powerlessness without, or his power with God" (Pascal).

III. THE CERTAINTY OF RETRIBUTION. "He sold them into the hand of Sisera," etc. (ver. 9).

"The sword of Heaven is not in haste to smite,
Nor yet doth linger, save unto his seeming
Who, in desire or fear, doth look for it." -

(Dante, 'Par.' 22.) Morning by morning doth he bring his judgment to light; he faileth not (Zephaniah 3:5). "History is a voice forever sounding across the centuries the laws of right and wrong. Opinions alter, manners change, creeds rise and fall, but the moral law is written on the tablets of eternity. For every false word or unrighteous deed, for cruelty and oppression, for lust or vanity, the price has to be paid at last; not always by the chief offenders, but paid by some one. Justice and truth alone endure and live. Injustice and falsehood may be long lived, but doomsday comes at last to them in French revolutions and other terrible woes" (Froude, 'Short Studies').

IV. THE BENEFICENCE OF SUFFERING. "And they cried unto the Lord, and said, We have sinned," etc. (ver. 10). Underneath what is in itself an evil, and a result of the violation of law, physical or moral, there is ever working a Divine power which makes it the means of convincing men of sin, turning them from it, and improving their character and condition. A state of deepest humiliation often precedes one of highest honour. It is only those who refuse to submit to discipline (Job 36:10) and harden themselves in iniquity that sink into hopeless ruin.

V. THE EFFICACY OF PRAYER. "And the Lord sent...and delivered you," etc. (ver. 11). "Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses" (Psalm 107:6, 13, 19, 28). As it was with Israel throughout their history, so has it been with others, even those who have had but little knowledge of "the Hearer of prayer."

"In even savage bosoms
There are longings, yearnings strivings
For the good they comprehend not,
And the feeble hands and helpless,
Groping blindly in the darkness,
Touch God's right hand in that darkness,
And are lifted up and strengthened"

(The Song of Hiawatha')

VI. THE PREVALENCE OF MEDIATION. "Then the Lord sent Moses and Aaron" (ver. 8). "And the Lord sent Jerubbaal, and Bedan, and Jephthah, and Samuel" (ver. 11). He sent help by men specially raised up and appointed, and deliverance came through their labours, conflicts, and sufferings. One people also has been often made the medium of blessing to others. And herein we see a shadowing forth of the work of the great Mediator and Deliverer, and (in an inferior manner) of his people on behalf of the world.

VII. THE INCREASE OF RESPONSIBILITY on the part of those who have had the experience of former generations to profit by, and who have received higher privileges than they (vers. 12, 19). "Now all these things were written for our admonition," etc. (1 Corinthians 10:11). "Two things we ought to learn from history: one, that we are not in ourselves superior to our fathers; another, that we are shamefully and monstrously inferior to them if we do not advance beyond them" (Froude). - D.

1 Samuel 12:23. (GILGAL.)
God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you. - I bless God," said Mr. Flavel, the Puritan, on the death of his father, "for a religious and tender father, who often poured out his soul to God for me; and this stock of prayers I esteem the fairest inheritance on earth." And another eminent man said that he "set a greater worth upon the intercessions of the good than upon all the wealth of the Indies." The people of Israel esteemed the prayers of Samuel on their behalf in like manner. They had experience . of their amazing power and worth (1 Samuel 7:8, 9); they were in great need of them; they appear to have thought that he might cease to offer them on account of their past treatment of him, and they entreated him, saying, "Pray for thy servants," etc. (ver. 19). His reply was, "Moreover as for me," etc. Every true Christian, as "a priest unto God," an intercessor with God for his fellow men, ought to adopt this language as his own. It expresses -


1. Arises out of the fact that it is one of the principal means of doing good to others - obtaining invaluable blessings for them. Of the fact there can be no doubt (James 5:16). Why it should have been ordained as such a means we cannot fully tell; but it is plainly in accordance with the intimate relationship and mutual dependence of men; teaches them to feel a deeper interest in each other, and puts signal honour upon eminent piety. The principle of mediation pervades all things, human and Divine.

2. Is an essential part of the duty of love which we owe to others; the force of the obligation being determined by the nearness of their relationship, and the extent of their claims upon our love and service - our kindred and friends, our country, mankind.

3. Is often expressly enjoined in the word of God. "Pray one for another" (Luke 11:5; 1 Timothy 2:1). "If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask (of God), and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death" (1 John 5:16).

4. Is inculcated by the example of the best men - Abraham, Moses, Job (Job 42:8, 10), Samuel and all the prophets; above all, by the example of our Lord himself, who has prayed for us all, and through whose intercession we present our prayers and hope for their acceptance.

II. A POSSIBLE OMISSION. Intercessory prayer may cease to be offered. It is sometimes omitted from -

1. Want of consideration of others; the worth of their souls, their lost condition, the love of God to them, the ransom that has been given for them. Attention is so absorbed in other objects that they are uncared for. The more we think of them, the more we shall feel and pray for them. "Love for souls as souls is not a passion of earthly growth. It is a holy fire from heaven. But bow can we have it; how can it be begotten in our hard hearts? The only true method is to draw near to them, and to look at them - to look on them in the light of reason and revelation, of immortality and of God" (C. Morris).

2. Deficiency of love and desire for their salvation.

3. Unbelief.

4. Delay in the fulfilment of our requests, and apparent denial of them. But remember that sincere prayer is never offered in vain, and "pray without ceasing." God knows best when and how to answer our petitions.

III. A DEPRECATED SIN. "God forbid that I should" (far be it from me to) "sin against the Lord," etc. The sin of its omission is spoken of in direct relation to him, and consists in -

1. Disregarding his benevolent designs concerning others. "The Lord will not forsake his people," etc. (ver. 22) If he loves them and seeks their welfare, we should do the same.

2. Disobeying his declared will concerning ourselves. He has not only commanded us to intercede for others, but the very position in which he has placed us is a plain indication of his will. "Ye who remember Jehovah, leave yourselves no rest, and give him no rest," etc. (Isaiah 62:6, 7).

3. Burying in the earth the greatest talent that he has intrusted to us.

4. Grieving the Holy Spirit, who is ever inciting those in whom he dwells to "cry unto God day and night." "Quench not the Spirit. Whilst the devout should be urged by these considerations to "continue instant in prayer," others should remember that it is possible to place an improper reliance on the intercessions of the good, especially in expecting to obtain benefit from their prayers whilst they neglect to pray for themselves or walk in "the good and right way." - D.

There was a vein of misgiving evident in the words of Samuel. Perhaps the new king and his triumphant soldiers ascribed it to the timorousness of old age; but the seer looked further into the future than they, and if he felt bound to warn them of the danger they would incur by rebelling against the commandment of the Lord, he gave them at the same time an assurance that he would do all in his power to preserve them from such wickedness and its inevitable consequences. The man of God could never forget Israel. But what could he do in old age for this intractable people? The reins of government had been taken out of his hands; and it had never been his duty, now less than ever, to go out to battle. What remained for him to do? Must he not let king and people take their own course - sow as they pleased, and then reap what they sowed? Nay. Samuel would not, under a plea of helplessness, withdraw himself from all care for Israel's future. There remained to him the two greatest weapons for moral effect - prayer and teaching. The one points to God in heaven, the other to men on the earth. Such are a prophet's weapons, and they are mightier than a king's sceptre or a warrior's sword. That the intellectual and the moral are the highest forms of greatness and usefulness is a truth which has established itself throughout all history. The most illustrious and influential of the Hebrew race were the prophets. Moses, Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, none of the kings compare with these, except David and Solomon, and they because they had qualities resembling those of the prophets - the one of them a poet, and the other a sage. In like manner the greatest of the Greeks were not their warriors or rulers, but such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle - the men who thought and who taught. That unique and ancient people, the Chinese, regard as by far their most important man the sage Confucius. Their most powerful emperors have been comparatively little men. Our modern nations too have had their characters moulded by their thinkers and teachers far more than by their princes and soldiers; and a nation's character makes its history as much as its history shapes its character. There is a supreme illustration of this truth. Unspeakably the greatest effect ever produced by one personality on the human race has been exerted by the man Christ Jesus. The widest, deepest, and most beneficial influence has issued from him; and he began that mighty movement, which has outlasted many governments, and shows no symptom of weakness or decay, by the very instruments or weapons which were named and used by the prophet Samuel, viz., prayer and instruction. Jesus prayed; Jesus taught. How weak in comparison were the men of the sword - Herod, and Pontius Pilate, and Pilate's imperial master at Rome I Jesus had no worldly title, and used no carnal weapon. If he was a king, it was to bear witness to the truth. The weapons by which he overcame were these - he prayed, and so prevailed with God; he taught, and so prevailed with men. In the same manner he continues to animate and strengthen the Church. He makes continual intercession in heaven; and by the abiding of his words and the living guidance of his Spirit he gives continual instruction on earth. In the very beginning of the Church the apostles showed their deep appreciation of this truth, and refused to be drawn aside from that way of highest usefulness which their Master had shown to them. They would concentrate their energies on moral and spiritual work. "We will give ourselves to the word of God and to prayer." Paul was of the same mind in his apostolate. He relied on weapons "not carnal, but mighty through God." He foresaw, and it is evident from the writings of Peter and John that they too in old age foreboded, evil days, as Samuel did in his declining years; but those apostles knew no better course to recommend to the faithful than that which Samuel followed - to pray always, and to teach sound doctrine. Evil might come, even apostasy might ensue; but the elect would be proved and purified, and after troubled days the kingdom would ultimately be set up in "the sure mercies of David," and the confusion of the time of Saul would be past forever. No emphasis is laid on rite or ceremony. Samuel was a priest, and lived in a dispensation of religion which gave great scope for ritual. But we are left to assume that the rites prescribed through Moses were observed at this period. We hear wonderfully little about them. Samuel was intent on teaching that "to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams." How weak and puerile to lay the stress of our religion on the observance of ritual, or the performances of a priesthood! The way to make and keep a people Christian is not to sing masses for them, or multiply altar ceremonies and celebrations, but to pray, and to "teach the good and the right way," of obedience to conscience and to God. Whoso would serve his own generation well, let him pray, and let him by example, and persuasive speech or writing, preach righteousness. These are the good man's weapons, and these through God are mighty. Mischief may go on, as Saul went on to distress the people of God; but prayer and teaching quietly counteract the mischief, and prepare the way for a revival of piety and the reign of the "King of kings and Lord of lords." - F.

1 Samuel 12:24. (GILGAL.)
Only fear the Lord, etc. Samuel assured the people that (as a priest) he would continue to pray for them, and (as a prophet) to show them the way of happiness and righteousness (Acts 7:4). Of this way the text may be taken as a further explanation, and gives -


1. Filial reverence. Fear not (be not terrified - vers. 17, 18, 20); but fear (with a lowly, affectionate, trustful reverence.), implying a knowledge of his character and saving purposes, in so far as he has revealed them to men; in our case, of him who is "the Way, the Truth, and the Life."

2. Practical obedience. "And serve him." Recognise yourselves as servants, his servants, and act accordingly. "Fear God, and keep his commandments" (the practical expression of the principle): "for this is the whole of man" (Ecclesiastes 12:13). The two may not be disjoined (Joshua 24:14; Psalm 2:11). "The life of service is work; the work of a Christian is obedience to the law of God" (Hall).

3. Thorough sincerity and whole heartedness. "In truth, with all your heart." Do not suppose that it is sufficient to render an outward and formal service; or a partial service, in which the love of idols may be united with the love of God. "Serve him only" (1 Samuel 7:3). "God will put up with many things in the human heart; but there is one thing he will not put up with in it - a second place. He who offers God a second place offers him no place; and he who makes religion his first object makes it his whole object" (Ruskin).

II. ITS NECESSITY. "Only." You must walk in it, whatever else you do; for it is only by doing so that you can -

1. Avoid walking in the evil and wrong way. The "vision of life" which the great Teacher saw and described contained only two ways, the broad and the narrow, and there is no other.

2. Escape the destructive consequences of that way. You have already entered on a perilous course, only (in order that you may escape the end to which it naturally conducts), "fear the Lord," etc. "If ye still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed, both you and your king" (ver. 25). "The way of transgressors is hard." "it leadeth to destruction."

3. Receive, and continue to receive, the blessings that have been promised. "The Lord will not forsake his people," only (in order that you may enjoy his favour), "fear," etc. "I will pray for you, and teach you," only (in order that you may be really benefited thereby), "fear," etc. (Jeremiah 6:16; Isaiah 1:19).

III. ITS INCENTIVE. "For consider how great things he hath done for you." The motive here is not fear of punishment, nor hope of reward, nor even the sense of right, but gratitude and love.

1. What benefits; so great, so numerous, so long continued - temporal and spiritual (vers. 6-11).

2. Toward you, in comparison with others (ver. 22).

3. He hath wrought. He, and no other; freely and graciously. "Free love is that which has never been deserved, which has never been desired, and which never can be requited." "We have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love" (1 John 4:17). But in order that his love may be perceived and its influence felt, in awakening love, we must consider, fix attention upon it, especially as manifested in "his unspeakable gift" (1 John 4:10). Our responsibility in regard to "salvation" depends directly on the power we possess of directing attention to Divine truth, and considering it with a real and earnest desire to know it, and live according to it; and by this means, as ice is melted by the sunbeams, so the heart is softened, renewed, and sanctified by the Spirit of truth. "O that they would consider!" - D.

The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database.
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