Almighty God, Your greatness demands my highest praise. Your love deserves my complete dedication. I offer them to You now.
Read 1 SAMUEL 12
Samuel said to all Israel, “I have listened to everything you said to me and have set a king over you. 2 Now you have a king as your leader. As for me, I am old and gray, and my sons are here with you. I have been your leader from my youth until this day. 3 Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the Lord and his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes? If I have done any of these things, I will make it right.”
4 “You have not cheated or oppressed us,” they replied. “You have not taken anything from anyone’s hand.”
5 Samuel said to them, “The Lord is witness against you, and also his anointed is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand.”
“He is witness,” they said.
6 Then Samuel said to the people, “It is the Lord who appointed Moses and Aaron and brought your ancestors up out of Egypt. 7 Now then, stand here, because I am going to confront you with evidence before the Lord as to all the righteous acts performed by the Lord for you and your ancestors.
8 “After Jacob entered Egypt, they cried to the Lord for help, and the Lord sent Moses and Aaron, who brought your ancestors out of Egypt and settled them in this place.
9 “But they forgot the Lord their God; so he sold them into the hand of Sisera, the commander of the army of Hazor, and into the hands of the Philistines and the king of Moab, who fought against them. 10 They cried out to the Lord and said, ‘We have sinned; we have forsaken the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtoreths. But now deliver us from the hands of our enemies, and we will serve you.’ 11 Then the Lord sent Jerub-Baal, Barak, Jephthah and Samuel, and he delivered you from the hands of your enemies all around you, so that you lived in safety.
12 “But when you saw that Nahash king of the Ammonites was moving against you, you said to me, ‘No, we want a king to rule over us’—even though the Lord your God was your king. 13 Now here is the king you have chosen, the one you asked for; see, the Lord has set a king over you. 14 If you fear the Lord and serve and obey him and do not rebel against his commands, and if both you and the king who reigns over you follow the Lord your God—good! 15 But if you do not obey the Lord, and if you rebel against his commands, his hand will be against you, as it was against your ancestors.
16 “Now then, stand still and see this great thing the Lord is about to do before your eyes! 17 Is it not wheat harvest now? I will call on the Lord to send thunder and rain. And you will realize what an evil thing you did in the eyes of the Lord when you asked for a king.”
18 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.
19 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.”
20 “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. 21 Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless. 22 For the sake of his great name the Lord will not reject his people, because the Lord was pleased to make you his own. 23 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. 24 But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you. 25 Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will perish.”
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Begin your time by closing your eyes and being silent for a minute or so. As you do so, imagine that you are being filled with the Holy Spirit.
Leadership transitions can be tricky for any church or ministry, especially when they involve a longtime leader. That’s what we are witnessing in this passage: Samuel is handing the baton to Saul. So let’s take a closer look to see if there are some transition principles that can help us today.
The first thing we notice is Samuel’s sense of vulnerability, maybe a new feeling for him. Leading Israel has been his life's work but now he knows it’s done (2). Perhaps that explains the first part of his farewell message (3); he bluntly challenges the people to affirm his integrity. Even the strongest leaders need validation when they step down. In the second half of his message we notice Samuel’s sense of responsibility. Speaking with his old authority he gives an overview of history (something longtime leaders do well) and spells out the blessing-or- curse choice that we often see in the Old Testament (e.g., Deut. 11:26–32). His hope is that they’ll “fear the Lord and serve and obey him” (14).
What do we make of Samuel’s call for divine thunder in verse 18? Was he still hurt and offended that they had passed him over for second-best, a king: “See, I was right”—bam, boom? I don’t think that’s it—take another look at verse 12. Apparently when the people were threatened by Nahash they panicked and demanded a new leader. That was a big mistake, because in so doing they rejected the Lord (1 Sam. 8:7). There are many layers to a leadership transition; memories of the past, emotions of letting go, hope for the future. Sometimes there is also corporate sin that must be addressed before a group can move on. That’s what Samuel was really driving at in his farewell message (20–25), and it became his final act of spiritual leadership.
Think of the people in your church or fellowship. If you had to give them a farewell message, what would you say?
Lord, as I think back over times of ministry, I thank You for shared joys, successes and friendships that have blessed relationships. Raise up others to take over leadership roles.