Obedience Comes First
Lord of time and space, I’m here at this time and place. Continue Your work in me through the Holy Spirit.
Read 1 Samuel 12:1-25
Scripture taken from the THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, NIV Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Moral character enables a person to speak with authority. Samuel had his moral character publicly confirmed (1-5) and was then able to unleash a stern, prophetic warning (6-25). What we are gives us credibility when we speak.
How common it is to believe that a new structure and/or a new leader will solve problems in a nation–and in a local church! Samuel’s speech helps us to reflect on our own priorities and their motivation. It recalls various elements from chapters 1-11 as it addresses the present and looks ahead. Throughout his long leadership, as the people testify, Samuel has modeled what God desires: he has not “taken” (3; contrast 8:11-17). From Moses onwards, God repeatedly performed “righteous acts” (7; acts of putting right, often deliverance), although the people then “forgot” him. Asking for a king was yet another “sin,” an “evil” (19). What is the way forward, for God has now given them a king (13)?
Samuel’s charge shows how the new kingship can be integrated into the covenant relationship that already exists between Yahweh and Israel. He focuses on the central issue: a matter between “you” (“all Israel”) (1), “the people” (6), “you and the king” (14), “all the people” (18) and “the Lord” (32 times in the chapter). The priority is covenantal allegiance, worshiping him alone and following his commands “with all your heart” (20,24). In a blunt turn of phrase, Samuel warned: “idols … can do you no good, nor can they rescue you” (21). Despite their sin, the Lord remains bound to his people “for the sake of his great name” (22; Exod. 32:11-14; Ezek. 36:22, 23) and so Samuel, too, will not give up, as he guarantees prayer (23).
The history of kingship, from Saul on, was turbulent–as has been the history of the church. We have been reading about kingship, but the climax is about God and people. God’s priority is still that all give him undivided loyalty, doing what “is good and right” (23).
Reflect on the observation that the New Testament has little about church structures and office-bearers, but much about the life and behavior of congregations.
Father, I realize I am not perfect, but I long to be moving forward on the pathway of spiritual growth. May my belief and behavior be consistent with each other.
Click here to sign up to receive the EXTRAs via email each quarter.