1 Samuel 12

This chapter shows that even though Samuel failed with his children – evidently he was not the father he should have been, 8:3-5 – he still had great power with the Lord. This shows that the Lord uses who he will, when he will and however he will. Only the Lord can explain how he can use people who fall so short of his standards, e.g., Samuel, but we do know what he does is consistent with his holiness.

Samuel now quietly quits public life, as he turns over the government to Saul.

Vv. 1-5

V. 1, I have harkened unto your voice in all that ye said unto me... I wonder if this may be a reason his sons went to the devil. He put the "ministry" before the family. Though he had the "ministry" first, upon obtaining a wife, his priorities should have changed. How many pastors have built a "good work for the Lord," yet lost their families because they only worked with their families as they had time. I was caught in that trap for many years: "You spend all your time and energy for the Lord, and he will take care of your family," was a super fallacy in the "super church" movement when I was in it. And probably is still there.

V. 2, my sons are with you. MH sais here that Samuel offered the boys to justice under the new king. Clarke sais this shows that Samuel had deprived them of their public duties, and lowered them to the level of the average people.

I believe that chapter 8 tells us Samuel was disappointed that the people refused the boys. Or could it be that Samuel refused to face the facts about his boys, though he knew they were wicked, and wondered why they would not follow their leadership. How like Christians today – we refuse to face the facts about our children, and then deal with them.

From my childhood. Samuel served the Lord from the earliest time of his life, as every child should:

Ecclesiastes 12:1 Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;
Lamentations 3:27 It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.

V. 3, this sounds like Paul at the end of his ministry. He reminded the people that he had a clear conscience, as every "public" person should be able to do. However, his kids were just the apposite. He reminds them:

1) God brought them out of Egypt.
2) God delivered them from their oppressors when they repented.
3) God caused them to dwell safely.
4) Then the people still rejected the Lord, and asked for a king.

Behold, here I am, witness against me... This is unlike what was promised under a king – under a king, there would be plenty to witness against. The judges were godly men who called the people back to godliness, which was probably a problem for the people. The natural man would much rather have an ungodly person in authority, which relieves them of godly living.


Samuel reminds them that they had no legitimate cause for setting him aside for a king; they did it out of selfish and wilful desire.
Samuel protects his good name. There are times to speak up in "self-defense" of one's good name. Samuel did.
Samuel points out that he has left a good example to follow.
Samuel submits himself to the Lord's anointed, Saul, v. 3. Thus he establishes Saul's authority as the final authority in the nation.
Samuel lists several sins that he is free of: theft, fraud, oppression of others. In other words, he did not use his government of the people for any personal gain. He operated open and above board in all things. He did not misuse his power to do any wrong.

V. 5, Samuel called heaven and earth as witness to his integrity, and the people had to agree that he had served before them in a perfect manner.

The testimony of our neighbors that we have lived honestly is one of the most valuable things we have.

Vv. 6-15 (This is better developed in a mail out, White House.)

The normal person would be upset that the people reject a just and righteous rule, Samuel's. However, rather than rebuke the people for the rejection, he urges them to continue in their duties toward God and his word.

V. 6, Samuel reminds them that the Lord is the one who advanced Moses and Aaron, and who brought the people up out of Egypt.

V. 7, stand still, and let me reason with you. The work of ministers is to reason with people, not only to exhort and direct, but to persuade, to convince men's judgments, and so to gain their wills and affections. (MH)

Isaiah 1:18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

Acts 24:25 And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.

Samuel reasons of the righteous acts of God, both past and present:

V. 8, when the people cried out to God, he sent Moses and Aaron, who brought them to their present good land, Canaan.

V. 9, in the land, they forgot the Lord, and the Lord sold them into the hands of their many enemies. And he was righteous when he did so.

Vv. 10, 11, they cried again to the Lord and confessed their sins, and the Lord raised up judges, who delivered them out of the hands of their enemies. Their enemies were on every side, yet they dwelt safely in the land.

V. 12, despite the many deliverance by the mighty hand of God from their many distressing situations, they lusted after a king so they could be like the pagans. In doing so, they rebelled against their legitimate King, the Lord who had delivered them these many times from their enemies.

V. 13, Samuel reminds them of the king whom they chose, and that the Lord established him (because he is what they wanted).

V. 14, though they chose this king in rejection of the kingship of the Lord, they can still have God's blessings upon them, IF they will fear the Lord – that is, serve him, obey his voice and keep his commandments.

V. 15, But if ye will not obey... The purpose of Samuel's reasoning is to remind them of their fathers errors and deliverance, showing them that they cannot avoid the results of righteousness or sin no matter how hard they try.


First, v. 14 is worded strangely – it says that those who fear the Lord and desire to serve him and obey his voice without rebellion against him, they will continue to follow the Lord. In other words, the Lord will keep faithful to himself those who sincerely fear him and want to serve him. Thus one does not keep himself, but the Lord keeps those who sincerely want to follow him.

V. 14, reminds us that SALVATION IS OF THE LORD, and we can add, It is all of the Lord. Even in the Old Testament, we find grace abounding. It was the Lord who gave Abraham both the call and the power to follow his word. V. 14 seems to say that man's free will decides to follow the Lord, and then the Lord enables him to do that. However, we also know that no man has it in himself to desire to follow the Lord (Ps. 14), so the desire to seek after the Lord must also be from the Lord, even in the Old Testament.

Second, Samuel tells them that though they are now under a human king after their own choosing in rejection of the Lord, the same conditions still apply. Deuteronomy chapters 28 and 29 apply no matter what kind of government the people are under.

In other words, though the people desired a king as the pagans around them had, they could not live as the pagans did.

Did these people think they could avoid God's judgment if they chose a king other than the Lord? Samuel makes it very clear that having a man as their king will NOT free them from obeying the word of God for their blessings and curses. The human king could not stand between them and the Lord, and protect them from the results of their disobedience against their rightful king.

Their choice of a king did not relieve them of their responsibility to obey God and his word, his commandments. Their prosperity in the land and under a king still depended upon their obedience to God and his law-word – v. 15, IF YOU WILL and IF YOU WILL NOT...

Third, note where Samuel places the responsibility for God's blessings upon the nation – upon the people. Thus a king (human, civil ruler) could not exempt them from the commandments of God. Civil laws cannot override God's laws.

In other words, God's blessings upon a nation is dependant upon the people's relationship to the Lord and his commandments, not upon the "king's" relationship to the Lord.

(June 8, 2000, in hospital.)

Vv. 16-25

We have two main points in this section:

First, vv. 16-19, Samuel convinces the people of their great wickedness in the sight of te Lord in asking for a king. Though there had been a great victory under their new king, that did not change the fact that they sinned in asking for a king. The storm in the unusual time of harvest showed the people that the victory was not God's approval on their request.

Note: though we may "prosper" in the way of wickedness, that prosperity does not mean God has changed his mind nor that we should think more favorably of it. In other words, prosperity is not necessarily God's stamp of approval upon an action. Though God gave a great victory under Saul, that did not mean their sin of asking for a king was any less.

Second, vv. 20-25, though they sinned in their desire for a king, if they will follow the Lord, they can still have his blessings upon them.

Note: though we may get out of the right and lawful way of God (take the wrong fork at a critical point in our lives, e.g., marry the "wrong" person), we can still have God's blessings upon us if we will be obedient to his word from that point on.

Vv. 16-19, Samuel calls down fearful thunder and rain upon the people at a most unusual and a very bad time of the year (harvest), showing God's displeasure over their sin. Certainly, God just gave a great victory, but that did not change the fact of their sin. The fearful storm clearly sent by God reinforces God's disapproval of what they did.

V. 16, stand and see. In v. 7, Samuel said, Stand still that I may reason with you. Now he sais Stand and see.

Note: if we will not stand still and let the Lord reason with us, if the Lord cannot reason with us, then we will stand still when we see the results of our sin. It is far better to let the Lord teach us from his word than to be taught from his voice and hand of judgment. This terrible storm in the time of harvest was not a pleasant thing to see, nor was it easy on the pocket book.

It is far better to hear the reasonings of the Lord from his word (the still small voice), than to have to see the hand of the Lord. Too bad we cannot be taught from his word rather than from his hand of power.

The thunder and rain proved that Samuel was indeed speaking for the Lord when he tried to reason with them.

V. 18, Samuel prayed, and the Lord answered him out of heaven.

Note: God, at a moment's notice, can send his answer to prayer – he can change the clear sky to storm, and he can change the storm to a clear sky, both literally and in our lives:

There is a limit to affliction. God sends it, and removes it. Do you sigh and say, "When will the end be?" Let us quietly wait and patiently endure the will of the Lord till He cometh. Our Father takes away the rod when His design in using it is fully served.
If the affliction is sent for testing us, that our graces may glorify God, it will end with the Lord has made us bear witness to His praise.
We would not wish the affliction to depart until God has gotten out of us all the honor which we can possibly yield Him. There may be today "a great calm." Who knows how soon those raging billows will give place to a sea of glass, and the sea birds sit on the gentle waves?
After long tribulation, the flail is hung up, and the wheat rests in the garner. We may, before many hours are past, be just as happy as now were are sorrowful.
It is not hard for the Lord to turn night into day. He that sends the clouds can as easily clear the skies. Let us be of good cheer. It is better farther on. Let us sing Hallelujah by anticipation.—C.H. Spurgeon.
The great Husbandman is not always threshing. Trial is only for a season. The showers soon pass. Weeping may terry only for the few hours of the short summer night; it must be gone at daybreak. Our light affliction is but for a moment. Trial is for a purpose, "If needs be."
The very fact of trial proves that there is something in us very precious to or Lord; else He would not spend so much pains and time on us. Christ would not test us if He did not see the precious ore of faith mingled in the rocky matrix of our nature; and it is to bring this out into purity and beauty that He forces us through the fiery ordeal.
Be patient, O sufferer! The result will more than compensate for al our trials, when we see how they wrought out the far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. To have one word of God's commendation; to be honored before the holy angels; to be glorified in Christ, so as to be better able to flash His glory on Himself–ah! That will be more than repay for all. – Tried by Fire. (From Streams in the Desert, 2/14.)

Note: Samuel still had his prayers answered, though he may have failed as a father. The Lord hears and answers prayer for his Son's sake and for his great name's sake, not for any righteousness on our own.

The Lord thundered upon the Philistines in his displeasure (7:10), and now he thunders upon his own people in his displeasure.

Whey do we think we can ignore the Lord and follow after the manner of the heathen (the asked for a king like the pagans around then), yet avoid the Lord's actions against paganism?

What foolishness to desire a king to save them rather than the Lord God when they knew that the Lord could and would thunder out of heaven against their enemies (he had in the past, Jud. 5:20; see also Ps. 18:6ff). So now they, rather than the pagans, inherit the thunder. Could their king command the heavens as could their prophet by prayer? (MH)

V. 18, Samuel's actions startled the people, causing them to admit, we have sinned in asking for a king.

V. 19, but they did not repent, for they did not "send the king back." Rather they ask that Samuel pray for them. Did they want to continue to prosper in their sin?

Note: most of us will not own up to sin just from the word of God – Samuel reasoned with them. Rather, it takes some serious thunders from heaven to make us admit to our evil deeds. Moreover, Samuel did not extract this confession from them before they chose a king; he did not want to make it appear that he was forcing himself or his boys upon the people. (MH)

Observe that they asked Samuel to pray to HIS God for them:

... Now they see their need of him whom awhile ago they slighted. Thus many that will not have Christ to reign over them would yet be glad to have him intercede for them, to turn away the wrath of God. And the time may come when those that have despised and ridiculed praying people will value their prayers, and desire a share in them. (MH)

Vv. 20-25,

Second, vv. 20-25, Samuel tells then that though they sinned in their desire for a king, if they will follow the Lord, they can still have his blessings upon them. Two points:

First, even in our wrong decisions, we can still have the Lord's blessings, if we will follow his word.

Second, we must follow the Lord regardless of the "king." They did not. God's people do the same today. The warning is to follow the Lord regardless of which direction human leadership gods, but most people do not.

V. 20, fear not... The terrors of the Lord should "frighten" people to serve the Lord, not "frighten" them away from the Lord.

Vv. 20, 21, twice Samuel tells them turn not aside from following the Lord, warning them against turning to the gods of the heathens around them. They had asked for a king like the surrounding nations, and they had a victory under their king. So Samuel continually reminds them that the victory under Saul did not mean God's approval of Saul, nor that they could depart from following the Lord. The victory under Saul would be very tempting to say that God now approved their sin, and they could go even further away from God.

The idols are broken cisterns:

Jeremiah 2:13 For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me {t} the fountain of living waters, [and] hewed out for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.

(t) Signifying that when men forsake God's word, which is the fountain of life, they reject God himself, and so fall to their own inventions, and vain confidence, and procure to themselves destruction, #Jon 2:8, Zec 10:2. (Geneva)

The Old Testament calls the idols broken cisterns – that is, they offer something they cannot produce, nor can they hold the water of life. Peter calls the false teachers, those who operate under the name of Christ yet have not the truth, wells without water, clouds that offer rain for a thirsty land, but have none:

2 Peter 2:10 But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities. 11 Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord. 12 But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption; 13 And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you; 14 Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children: 15 Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; 16 But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man's voice forbad the madness of the prophet. 17 These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever. 18 For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error. 19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage. 20 For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. 21 For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.

I have dealt with Peter's words elsewhere, so I will not again here. But I will say that Peter's warning is obviously based upon Jeremiah's, for both warn against God's people seeking after wells that have no water – that is, they follow after teachers who, in the name of the Lord, sound good, yet have very little if any of the water of life in them or in their messages. Furthermore, both Peter and Jeremiah speak with amazement that God's people would rather have "fluff & stuff" than they would have the meat of God's word, a sad fact that I have found to be true. When I try to really get into serious teaching, people who have been Christians for years, "chock."

And turn ye not aside... Thus the natural tendency is to turn aside from the serious words of the Lord that require commitment to an easy believeism that requires little or no effort on the individual's part.

V. 22, Samuel's purpose is to confirm the people in their religion, and he does this with a fear not:

"despair not, fear not with amazement, the weather will clear up after the storm. Fear not; for, though God will frown upon his people, yet he will not forsake them (#1Sa 12:22) for his great name's sake; do not you forsake him then." (MH)

There is an end to the storm, though we may not see it. We can rejoice in the end results after the storm passes. (See Streams in the Desert quote above.)

Fear not, though the Lord may frown and thunder upon his people for their sins, he will not forsake them, for they are still his people.
V. 22 presents us with three unknowable, yet foundational, doctrines which cannot be comprehend with our finite mind – Divine Sovereignty, Sovereign Election and the Divine Perseverance of the Saints:

For the LORD will not forsake his people for his great name's sake: because it hath pleased the LORD to make you his people.

First, the Lord is the one who makes his people his people. Second, the Lord is the one who keeps his people his people. Though they many times sin and come short of his glory, he will not forsake them, for his great name is at stake. And third, the reason he makes them his people – because it hath pleased him to make them so; that is to say, Divine Sovereignty chose to make certain people his saints while overlooking other people, leaving them in their sins.

Every transgression in the covenant, though it displease the Lord, yet does not throw us out of covenant, and therefore God's just rebukes must not drive us from our hope in his mercy. The fixedness of God's choice is owing to the freeness of it; we may therefore hope he will not forsake his people, because it has pleased him to make them his people. Had he chosen them for their good merits, we might fear he would cast them off for their bad merits; but, choosing them for his name's sake, for his name's sake he will not leave them. (MH)

I suppose the third point is the most difficult for the natural man to accept, for it must be accepted by faith – why does God chose some while leaving others behind?

V. 23, they desire him to pray for them, v. 19, and Samuel assures them he will. The natural inclination would have been to tell the people to go ask the king whom they desired so greatly to pray for them – that is, kind of rub their noses in what they did. But Samuel assures them he will continue to pray without ceasing for them despite the fact they rejected him. In fact, he sais it would be sin to allow personal feelings to interfere with sincerely praying for them.

Note, It is a sin against God not to pray for the Israel of God, especially for those of them that are under our charge: and good men are afraid of the guilt of omissions. (MH)

Note how easy it is to allow personal feelings to inter in; someone "rejects" us or does us wrong, we are tempted to no longer pray for them.

Though they rejected him, he still cares for them as he assures them he will continue to teach them the good and right way, v. 23.

Note: the minister's responsibility is not only to pray for the Israel of God, but it includes teaching them the good and right way. Then they are responsible for what they do with that teaching. It is sin on the minister's part not to teach, and it is sin on the people's part not to heed and do the right way.

Samuel concludes this charge to the people:

24 Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you. 25 But if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed, both ye and your king.

1) Only fear the Lord:

Job 28:28 And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.
Psalms 111:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.

Fear of the Lord departs from evil, and follows his commandments.

2) Serve him in truth with all your heart:

Mark 12:30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.

3) Consider how great things he hath done for you.

Samuel warns them not to forget what God has done for them; it was not the king who did the great things, but God.

If nothing else, gratitude for God's past mercies should bind us to serve him only, and not the heathen gods around us.

Note that past memories of God's goodness should lead us to righteous living.

4) ye shall be consumed.

He ends with a negative reminder – if they do wickedly, they will be consumed. God only does righteous acts, and judgment against sin is righteous, v. 7. He did them good in bringing them out of Egypt, and he will also do righteously in consuming them for their evil.

5) if ye do wickedly, both you and your king will be consumed.

Note that Samuel did not say that if your king does wickedly you will be consumed; rather, he said if you do wickedly. He places the responsibility squarely on the people – a nation falls not because of wicked leaders but because of wicked people.

A favorite theme today is that America is going to the devil because of wickedness in high places, and there is plenty of it. But the word of God is clear – America is going to the devil because of wickedness in low places:

if ye do wickedly, both you and your king (civil rulers) will be consumed.

Of course, blaming the leaders for the nation's ills relieves the ones doing the blame from their feedings of guilt before God. And people will pay good money to hear someone justify blaming the wickedness in high places for the consumption of our nation.

V. 25 is almost identical with vv. 14, 15. The word of God is firm:

1) The people are responsible to follow the Lord whether or not the civil rulers follow the Lord.
2) Though they sinned in asking for the king, they can still have God's blessings if they will follow the word of the Lord.
3) The success of a nation before the Lord depends upon the people, not on the leaders.

No doubt Solomon was referring to vv. 24, 25 when he said,

13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. (Ecc. 12.)

June 14, 2000, St E.