Samuel is nearing the end of his life by the time you read 1 Samuel 12. He gives a speech to all of Israel and there are several chilling statements that force us to consider our own spiritual standing. Samuel seeks the counsel of the Lord and asks Him on behalf of the people for an earthly king. God had established the Judges to rule them rather than a king which was typical for the time period. God grants their request, even though this kind of leadership was bound for failure. He handed Israel their shovel, and they began to dig. Here are some of Samuel’s final words.
“Then Samuel called on the Lord, and that same day the Lord sent thunder and rain. So all the people stood in awe of the Lord and of Samuel. The people all said to Samuel, “Pray to the Lord your God for your servants so that we will not die, for we have added to all our other sins the evil of asking for a king.”“Do not be afraid,” Samuel replied. “You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless.For the sake of his great name the Lord will not reject his people, because the Lord was pleased to make you his own. As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right.But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you. Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will perish” (18-25).
Here are five quick observations and practical truths based on Samuel’s speech.
We should never let our previous sins hold us back from pressing forward. Samuel tells the children of Israel not to let the evil in their recent past keep them down— but he doesn’t pretend as if they hadn’t sinned against God.
Samuel reminds the people that God is quick to forgive.
It’s interesting that Samuel says that his failure to pray for God’s people would be a sinful thing for him to do.
Samuel tells the people to fear the Lord AND remember what He’s done for them. God could have wiped them out. He clearly had the ability as he demonstrated His power over nature in the beginning of this section.
It was true for the children of Israel and it’s true for us today. If we persist in doing evil, we will perish.
The Old Testament is filled with relevant applications for us today. Let’s learn from the past, and like Samuel said— let’s not let our past failures keep us from moving forward.
There are several prophets whose writings, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, make up part of the Old Testament canon. We often refer to them as the Major Prophets (Isaiah-Daniel) and the Minor Prophets (Hosea-Malachi). In addition, there is a biblical sense in which the remaining Old Testament writers would be rightly called prophets (from Moses to Samuel, but also including those who lived thereafter as they wrote by inspiration). Then, there are prophets whose labors are recorded by these writing prophets. Some we know very well: Elijah, Elisha, and Micaiah, for example. But, there are others whose works either take up less space in the inspired canon or whose work is lesser known. Let us look more deeply at some of these other, more unsung heroes, starting with the prophet Gad.
Nothing is said about where Gad is from, but it’s an educated guess to say it might be the tribe of Gad or perhaps he was from the Valley of Gad (cf. 2 Sam. 24:5). However, without that fact disclosed, that’s a mere conjecture. We do not know when he began his work as prophet, but the first mention of him is during Saul’s relentless hunt for David (1 Sam. 22:5).
He is referred to as “David’s seer,” sometimes alongside Nathan his prophet and Samuel his seer (1 Chron. 29:29; 2 Chron. 29:25). He was quite a versatile man of God, a fact succinctly and well put by J.R. Dummalow: “He became the king’s seer after David was king (2S 24:11); he rebuked David for the sin of numbering Israel; and after David’s death, he wrote a history of that monarch’s reign (1C 29:29)” (193). So, he had the courage to rebuke the king when it was warranted, though his loyalty to him seems very clear. He appears to have been God’s man most of all.
His work was respected. When he told David to leave the stronghold, David did it (1 Sam. 22:5). David pleaded with Gad after the king had sinned (2 Sam. 24:14). He listened to Gad’s instructions for how to show fruits of repentance (2 Sam. 24:18ff). The respect was not derived from his wealth, power, education, looks, or worldly influence. The text does not even mention them. It was the work and the way Gad conducted it. So, the respect people have for us should come from the same place it did for Gad. We shouldn’t have to command or demand it. As we follow God faithfully, others will follow us (cf. 1 Cor. 11:1).
His work was God-ordained. Gad’s authority derived from its source. He spoke in the name of the Lord (1 Chron. 21:19). He spoke with a “thus says the Lord” (1 Chron. 21:11). He spoke, “just as the Lord had commanded” (2 Sam. 24:19). God’s messengers’ clout and credibility is intrinsically connected to its God-ordained nature!
His work was versatile. He helped to strengthen the worship of God’s people (2 Chron. 29:25). He preached (2 Sam. 24:19). He ministered (2 Sam. 24:11ff). He wrote (1 Chron. 29:29). He was multi-talented, and he used his resources to God’s glory. That’s the challenge for us today (cf. Mat. 25:14-30), to use all God gives us to promote His work.