1 Sam 12:1-25 – Samuel’s Farewell Address

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1Sam 12:1-2

  1. In the previous chapter, the new king Saul won an important victory over the Ammonites, a victory that won Saul the confidence of the people. This means that from now on the people will consider King Saul to be the leader of Israel, and not the prophet Samuel as before. To make this transition as smooth as possible, Samuel now makes this speech, whereupon he intends to step down from the leadership role and hand it over to Saul instead.
  2. Even though Samuel stepped down from official leadership, he continued to be some kind of leader, or “judge” as it is often called in this part of Israel’s history (1 Sam 7:15).
    1. A man of God who has been called by God does not abruptly end his calling even if someone else formally takes over the leadership role. If you have received a gift from God that you are actively using in church work, for example, that does not mean that God is withdrawing His gift from you just because someone else gets your job. You can and should continue to be a blessing through the gift God has given you for as long as you are able (Rom 11:29).
    1. Like John the Baptist, Samuel steps back from his leadership position when he sees God raising up a new leader. In this, a leader needs to be humble and seek God’s will and plan for his life. We should not cling to a position for selfish reasons, but be open to the fact that God wants to lead us into something new from time to time (John 3:30).
  3. The fact that Israel had a king was actually against both Samuel’s and God’s will, and Samuel now wants to make this clear to the people. God agreed to this wish and chose Saul, but this worthy wish originally came from Israel itself.
  4. The book of Samuel is very much a handbook on the subject of leadership and Samuel is undoubtedly one of the main role models in the book. But why is it that Samuel sometimes actually goes against both his own will and God’s when he lets the people have their way? Isn’t that a sign of bad leadership? Well, it’s possible, at least humanly speaking. But Samuel does this because his primary loyalty is to God, and if God says something, Samuel obeys God’s will. Samuel can do this because he lives in a close relationship with God.
    1. In the same way, Christian leaders today should strive for a close relationship with God. It is not always the case that the best human decision is the one that God wants us to make, and so it is important to seek God’s will in important matters.
  5. When Samuel realized that he was getting old, he made his sons “judges” and successors to Samuel (1 Sam8). However, the sons were not as good leaders as Samuel, so the people did not want them as leaders and instead demanded a king.
    1. It was great of Samuel to listen to the wishes of the people even when they clashed with his own sons. Now Samuel’s sons were in the midst of the rest of the people, i.e. no longer leaders.  
  6. Since his youth, Samuel has been a man of God and a good leader of God’s people Israel. What a joy it is to look back on your life at an old age and see that you were able to run the whole race, that you persevered and were faithful to God all your life!
    1. I have a feeling that our society today is very transient and it’s often hard to imagine going into something that lasts for years, let alone a lifetime! The great challenge for us today is to embrace Samuel’s lifelong perspective, to have the attitude that one should serve God all one’s life and be faithful to him even unto death. This is no easy task, but if we take one day at a time and focus on Jesus, the rest should work itself out as we go along.
  7. In James’ letter we read that: “My brothers, not many should become teachers. For you know that we shall be judged more severely.” (James 3:1).
    1. It is not always easy to be a Christian leader, and one should be well aware of that. Anyone who seeks leadership out of a desire for power or attention will not last a lifetime as a leader. As a Christian leader, it is important to teach correctly from the whole Bible, but also to live according to the Bible’s teachings. As a leader, you are constantly in the eye of everyone, and it is often obvious quite quickly if you have become a leader for selfish reasons.
    1. As a congregation, it is important to choose leaders according to the right criteria. One must be careful not to go solely by appearances, i.e. speaking skills, singing qualities, gender, age, degree, etc. This is not always unimportant, but the most important thing is to go by the potential leader’s inner character, faith, prayer life, morals, etc. No one is perfect, but it is important to go through all these aspects when choosing a leader for something as important as God’s own church.

1Sam 12:3

  1. Can you imagine the Swedish Prime Minister asking the people of Sweden a similar question?
  2. It’s not that Samuel is now trying to boast about how good a leader he has been, but he wants to make it absolutely clear to everyone that he is not handing over a mess to Saul. Israel’s leadership, thanks to Samuel, is in good order and if Saul just continues in Samuel’s footsteps, he has every chance of doing a good job.
  3. Every Christian leader should strive to be able, at the end of his life, to be publicly examined in this way, with honour intact. How many would de facto pass this kind of scrutiny I do not know, but we should all strive for it.
  4. In Old Testament Israel, one was anointed king in much the same way as one is “crowned” king in Europe.
    1. In this case, being anointed with oil is a symbolic outward act that demonstrates what the Holy Spirit is doing inwardly. Saul was anointed with oil on the outside (1 Sam 10:1), but was also anointed by the Holy Spirit on the inside (1 Sam 10:10).
    1. When God gives someone a mission, he also gives the power needed for the task at hand. When Saul becomes king over Israel, he also receives the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish the great task.

1Sam 12:4

  1. The people agree with Samuel’s words, Samuel has not treated them wrong in any way but has been a good leader.
  2. If Saul or the people should at any time later blame any of Israel’s problems on Samuel, then this statement will testify against them. 

1Sam 12:7

  1. If you compare the history of Israel with the history of Sweden, the Swedish history is very focused on wars and kings, while Israel’s is more about how God helps his people. Sure, the Old Testament also contains a lot of war, but the focus is not on the genius of the kings but on their relationship with God. When the OT describes a war, it is usually not the war itself that is the focus, but the relationship of the people involved to God.
    1. In the same way, when we look back on our own lives or on the history of the church, we too should remember and pay attention to “the righteous deeds of the Lord”, rather than to what we ourselves have accomplished. Often the Lord’s story is far more positive than our own story.
  2. Now that Saul has recently won a mighty victory over the Ammonites, it is important for the people to understand that it was not really a human achievement but that it was God who won the victory for Saul, a realization that Saul has made in the past (1 Sam 11:13).
    1. I think all of us humans have a tendency to want to praise a person for something that God has done. So what Samuel does is very good, he stops for a moment and lets the people think, and in doing so he invites them to give glory to God and not to men.
    1. Every time we worship and sing praises to God, we give glory to God for the salvation he has given us through the death of Jesus on the cross. Worshiping God is a good way to shift the focus from man to God.

1Sam 12:8

  1. Samuel reminds the people of Israel of the first of the Lord’s righteous deeds, namely, that God has brought them out of the slavery of Egypt and into the Promised Land.
    1. It is also important for us today to remind ourselves from time to time that God has brought us out of the slavery of sin and into the kingdom of God. Personally, I think the Eucharist is a good time to remember this.

1Sam 12:9

  1. It may be difficult to understand, but the second righteous act is that God “sold” the people of Israel to Sisera, the Philistines and the Moabites. Because Israel forgot the Lord, God allowed this misery in order for them to realize their foolishness and return to God.
    1. It is often easier to accept the first “righteous act”, that God saved Israel from Egyptian slavery, than it is to accept the second, that God can actually allow misery if the people are rebellious.
      1. People in general often enjoy hearing a sermon about God’s love, but have a harder time accepting a sermon about God’s wrath. But it is important to understand that we human beings are indeed sinful creatures, and even though God has freed us from the bondage of sin with Jesus’ death on the cross, we still sometimes continue to sin, and we need to repent of this. Sometimes, therefore, it is good to hear about God’s wrath, so that we understand what God actually thinks about sin in our lives. Now, fortunately, God is a gracious and merciful God, who shows us patience and love time and time again, but that does not take away from the fact that God wants us to repent of all sin in our lives.
    1. Even today, God can lead us into difficulties that have some kind of purpose, such as that we need to repent or that God wants to make us stronger in our faith in some way. The fact that God sometimes lets us go through difficulties does not mean that it is some form of God’s “punishment”, because Jesus has already died for all our sins. However, God can let us go through difficulties that will ultimately bring us closer to God. Personally, I have gone through many such difficulties and I have always considered myself lucky to be so loved by God that He “corrects” me.

1Sam 12:10-11

  1. “Baal” was a Canaanite fertility god and the name can be translated as “lord”.
    1. Baal worship was a recurring problem for the people of Israel who were tempted by the idolatry of the surrounding nations.
  2. “Astarte” was a fertility goddess of the Phoenicians and the other peoples around Israel.
    1. The people of Israel probably prayed to these gods for good weather so that they would have good harvests and so that they would have good love lives. Income and love are probably what people today struggle to achieve as well. Of course, there is nothing wrong with wishing for a good income and someone to marry, but one should not seek help with this from the wrong direction. God has the power to give us what we need and there is no need whatsoever to ask any idol for help with this.
  3. The third of the “righteous acts of the Lord” was that once Israel cried out to God, confessed their sin and humbled themselves, God also sent salvation.
    1. In the same way, we can be sure that if we cry out to God, confess our sin and humble ourselves, God will save us too!
    1. No matter how unrighteous we humans are, God is still righteous. Even if we humans sin and turn away from God, God continues to be good and loving to us and if we turn back, he forgives us.
  4. Samuel’s mention of Jerubbaal, Bedan, Jephthah and himself shows us that God is not dependent on human leaders, but can raise up a new leader at any time. God is not dependent on us, we are dependent on him.

1Sam 12:12

  1. As Israel enters a new stage and becomes a monarchy, it is important to remember all that God has done in the past.
    1. When was the last time you reflected on all that God has done in your life? This is something to remind yourself of from time to time so that you don’t forget all the good God has done.
  2. Samuel is also careful to point out that this transition to monarchy is actually negative for Israel and had its origins in Israel’s desire to be like all the other peoples around, instead of God’s chosen people (1 Sam 8:5).
  3. When Israel asked for a king, they rejected God as king, but God did not reject Israel, He continued to lead them.

1Sam 12:13

  1. It is hard to escape Samuel’s irritation at the people’s desire for a king: “the king whom you have chosen, whom you asked for”.
    1. Israel wanted a king for worldly reasons, and that’s what upset both Samuel and God. Israel wanted to be like all the other nations around them, instead of gratefully recognizing that they are God’s chosen people and that he is their king.
      1. We should also learn from this today. We who believe in Jesus are God’s people and we have Jesus as Lord, King and Saviour. When we confessed Jesus as our Lord, he saved us from this world and allowed us to enter the kingdom of God.
      1. Belonging to the kingdom of God automatically means that one has left the kingdom of the world. In other words, to be jealous of all that belongs to the world is a return to something worse and something that one has hopefully left behind and put behind.
      1. I think it’s important to try to look at everything in your life from the perspective that you now belong to the kingdom of God and not the kingdom of the world. For example, you handle your money, your relationships and your time differently in the kingdom of God than in the kingdom of the world. We should not be jealous of the world’s selfishness, lust for power and deprivation, but instead live patiently according to the principles of God’s kingdom.
    1. Saul had all the “worldly attributes” the people wanted. He is described as “a stately young man. No one among the children of Israel was more handsome than he. He was head and shoulders above all the people.” (1 Sam 9:2).
      1. Israel wanted a king “as all nations have” (1 Sam 8:5), and now they got just that. This king Israel had asked for themselves according to worldly desires, and now they got what they wanted. Eventually, God would give them a king “after his own heart” (1 Sam 13:14), namely King David.
      1. From this we can learn that we should beware of “worldly desires” and of wanting to be like “everyone else”. We Christians are not like everyone else and we should focus on trying to do God’s will.
    1. Probably Samuel hoped that Israel would eventually realize its mistake and learn from it.
      1. In the same way, we should learn from all the mistakes we make. Even if we do something against God’s will, there is always grace and opportunity for repentance.

1Sam 12:14-15

  1. Samuel gives the people a choice; either you serve the Lord or you are rebellious. Israel had been rebellious in the past when they wanted a king, yet God now offers them a way forward.
    1. Even if we deviate from God’s plan, it doesn’t mean that everything is finished. There is always hope for reconciliation and a fresh start. Instead of digging ourselves into our past sin, it’s good if we are reconciled with God so we can move on. God can forgive even the worst sinner, it’s never too late.
    1. For example, in our youth we may feel worldly desires for a love relationship with someone who is not a Christian, and this is not to be recommended, but it is quite possible that God will actually give us what we ask for. Then, after a while, when we realize that perhaps it was not a good idea to get together with someone who did not share the Christian faith and ask God for wisdom, it is quite possible that he will help the relationship in some way, rather than calling for a breakup (Rom 8:28).
  2. Of course, it would have been best if Israel had never asked for a worldly king, but now they have one, and God wants to make the best of the situation.
    1. Even if you have made wrong decisions in the past and sinned against God, it does not mean that your life is over. Turn to God for guidance and he will show you what to do.

1Sam 12:16

  1. God will now confirm what Samuel has said through a miracle. Unfortunately, this shows how far away from God the people really were. Had they been close to God, they would have been satisfied with the words of the prophet Samuel, but unfortunately a miracle is the only thing that will make them understand the gravity of the moment.
    1. To long only for miracles but to be uninterested in the Word of God shows an immaturity in Christian development. Miracles are good, but it is far more important to base one’s faith on the Word of God than on miracles, signs and experiences.
      1. Moreover, a skilled manipulator can easily make it look like he is performing miracles and thus deceiving a congregation, but it is much more difficult to manipulate God’s Word. After all, most people today have their own Bibles that they can read and thus form their own opinions about what is right and wrong.
    1. As we draw closer to God and come to know him, the Word will become more and more important to us. Miracles will always be a wonderful manifestation of God’s love, but it is the Word that is central and important.

1Sam 12:17

  1. It did not rain in Israel during the wheat harvest, so this thunderstorm was certainly unexpected! The fact that the thunder came when Samuel asked for it made the people realize their sin.
    1. The rain also served as a warning to Israel. Rain during the time of the wheat harvest could easily destroy the entire harvest and now the people realized that God has the power to destroy their entire harvest if they turn away from Him again.
    1. Israel had problems with the fact that they sometimes began to worship the weather god Baal, but here God shows that it is really the Lord who has power over the rain, not Baal.
  2. Why didn’t God do this sign for Israel before they had Saul as king? Then maybe they would have realized their mistake before it was too late?
    1. First, God often lets us go our own way, even when he knows it’s wrong. We humans are not God’s robots that he controls down to the last detail.
    1. Secondly, our mistakes hopefully lead us to really understand how foolishly we have acted in the past. Of course, it is not wrong to obey God even when we don’t really understand why, but it is better to obey God when we really understand why we should do it.
  3. This thunder that convicted God’s people of their sin can be likened to the Holy Spirit and the inner conviction of sin that only he can give us.
    1. It would be best if we read God’s Word about what is right and wrong and then lived accordingly, but often that is not the reality. Often it takes the Holy Spirit to convict us with some kind of spiritual experience for us to realize that we have sinned (John 16:8).
    1. Personally, I have experience of a friend pointing out a sin in my life which led to me getting really angry and scolding him, saying that he should mind his own business! I certainly wasn’t going to change just because some so called pious person said I was doing wrong! But after a few weeks, the Holy Spirit convinced me that what I was doing was actually wrong and I quit right away! Unfortunately, we humans often work like this, it’s not enough for the prophet Samuel or some pious friend to tell us that we are doing wrong, we only understand it when God convinces us of it in our inner being.

1Sam 12:18

  1. The people should have known that God has the power to make it thunder and rain, yet they were surprised and seized with fear before this power. It is often easier to believe in God’s miracles in theory, but not in practice.

1Sam 12:19

  1. There’s not much you can do about what’s already happened, other than repent and ask for forgiveness, but you can always choose how to deal with the future.
  2. Israel realizes here its need for prayer. Unfortunately, I think it’s very human to want to pray only when you have big problems that you can’t solve yourself. If we learned to pray even when we don’t have problems, then maybe we wouldn’t have so many problems. 
    1. When we encounter God, the natural reaction is often to want to pray more. If you want to live a life close to God, prayer is an essential ingredient.
  3. Finally, Israel realizes its mistake and confesses its sin. The problem, however, is that they now have Saul as their king and there’s not much they can do about it. Had they realized this earlier, when Samuel first warned them, they would have avoided the problems they were going to have with Saul. Fortunately, God will still guide them if they choose to follow God.
    1. In the same way, we should pay attention when God’s word is preached or a pious man or woman of God points out something we are doing wrong. If we listen in good time, we may avoid many of the problems that can arise. But even if we defy God and go our own way, there is the possibility of turning back to God for help in dealing with the situation.
  4. We can’t do much about yesterday, and we don’t know much about the future, but what we do know is that we can serve God today!

1Sam 12:21

  1. Often it takes a lifetime of mistakes and repentance before we realise that it is only with God that we can find help and deliverance. My advice is to start walking that path now, devoutly following God and obeying his command to love God with all your heart and your fellow man as yourself (Mark 12:29-30). Then you won’t have to go through a lot of unnecessary trouble.
    1. It is always good to listen to people who have lived a sinful life talk about their conversion to Jesus, but perhaps it is even better to listen to those who have lived a pious life and rather draw inspiration from them. Unfortunately, we don’t highlight these people as often because their life story is not considered as “exciting”.

1Sam 12:22

  1. Although Israel has sinned against God, God loves His chosen people and will not abandon them.
    1. This is very important to remember if we ever walk away from the Lord! Even if we have rejected God, He has not rejected us! God loves us more than we can understand and He always offers us His love, no matter how gross our sin against Him has been.
    1. This love can only be compared to the love a parent feels for his child. No matter how much foolishness a child invents, the parent will always love his child, it is impossible to do anything else. It is hardly a coincidence that Jesus calls God our Father.
  2. Our salvation is not of our own making. We have in no way earned salvation. We have been saved because of the Lord’s decision, because he has freely chosen to give us his salvation.

1Sam 12:23

  1. With Saul now stepping in as political leader of Israel, Samuel is stepping back from that role, but he is not stepping back from the spiritual influence he has always had. Samuel will continue to pray for Israel and teach them the right way.
    1. In the same way, we should look at ourselves, for example, when we grow old and no longer have the energy to be as involved in the Church, we can continue to pray for the younger ones and guide them by being good role models.
    2. Anyone who is any kind of leader in God’s church should learn from Samuel and make it a habit to pray for those they are called to lead.
    3. Even though Samuel was annoyed and disappointed with his people, he was still going to continue praying for them.

1Sam 12:24

  1. Samuel wants the people to serve God because of the “great things” he has done with them. In other words, don’t serve God because you want him to do great things for you, but serve God because he HAS done great things for you. God has saved you and given you a new life and that is reason enough to serve him.

1Sam 12:25

  1. Despite this clear warning, Israel turned away from God with the result that God dislocated the 10 northern tribes and sent the tribe of Judah into exile in Babylon, which can be read more about in the books of Kings and the prophets.
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