Only Fear the Lord
1 Samuel 12
1 Samuel 12:24 (NKJV) Only fear the Lord, and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you.
When Samuel was old, he made his sons judges over Israel. The elders of the nation then gathered together and came to Samuel and said,
1 Samuel 8:5 (NKJV) Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.
We know that this was not the real reason. God said,
1 Samuel 8:7 (NKJV) Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.
They did not want God to rule over them. We see more of the reason behind their demand for a king when Samuel said to them,
1 Samuel 12:12 (NKJV) And when you saw that Nahash king of the Ammonites came against you, you said to me, ‘No, but a king shall reign over us.’
Here we have four reasons they desired a king.
- Samuel was old.
- Samuel’s sons were not like Samuel.
- They did not want God to reign over them.
- They were being threatened on their eastern border.
Today, we come to chapter twelve of 1 Samuel. Saul has been king of Israel for a while, and now, the nation gathered at Gilgal to hold a coronation. Samuel gave the speech at the event. His speech was also his farewell address as he stepped down. In this speech, he addresses the four reasons the people gave for wanting a king.
As Samuel begins his speech, he brings up the first two reasons the elders gave for requesting a king. He said:
1 Samuel 12:1–2 (NKJV) 1Indeed I have heeded your voice in all that you said to me, and have made a king over you. 2And now here is the king, walking before you; and I am old and grayheaded, and look, my sons are with you. I have walked before you from my childhood to this day.
“I am old and grayheaded, and look, my sons are with you.”
The elders had said, “Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways.” (1 Samuel 8:5) And this is where Samuel starts. He addresses their concern by reminding them of the years of his service. He states:
1 Samuel 12:2–3 (NKJV) 2I have walked before you from my childhood to this day. 3Here I am. Witness against me before the Lord and before His anointed: Whose ox have I taken, or whose donkey have I taken, or whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed, or from whose hand have I received any bribe with which to blind my eyes? I will restore it to you.
Samuel’s first point is the integrity with which he governed for his entire life. As God’s chosen leader, he ruled with impartial fairness and honesty. Even concerning his sons, he was fair. Notice in verse two, he says, “...my sons are with you.” This word “with” is also translated as “among.” Let me quote to you from Gill’s commentary on the Bible. Although I could quote from others, I chose this one as representative. Gill says:
...and, behold, my sons are with you; as private persons in the condition of subjects, making no pretension to government; and if they had committed anything criminal, they were open to the law, and might be charged, and tried, and treated according to their deserts.
My opinion and the opinion of some scholars is that Samuel dealt with his sons’ wicked behavior. He was not like Eli, who let his sons go unchecked. But in offering to make restitution for any wrongs committed, we can assume that Samuel did the same concerning his sons’ crimes. He asks the Israelites twice to bear witness to his integrity, and twice they give witness. Their statement is:
1 Samuel 12:4 (NKJV) You have not cheated us or oppressed us, nor have you taken anything from any man’s hand.
This establishes that Samuel’s government was good.
Having established the nature of his government, Samuel reminds them of how God chose Moses as a deliverer for the nation. His shows that when the people called upon the Lord to deliver them, God provided a deliverer. The greatest example of God’s deliverance was Moses leading the children of Israel out of Egypt. Samuel establishes that God’s reign was good. Reminding them of God’s deliverance, Samuel pointed out their unfaithfulness to God. He said:
1 Samuel 12:9–11 (NKJV) 9And when they forgot the Lord their God, He sold them into the hand of Sisera, commander of the army of Hazor, into the hand of the Philistines, and into the hand of the king of Moab; and they fought against them. 10Then they cried out to the Lord, and said, ‘We have sinned, because we have forsaken the Lord and served the Baals and Ashtoreths; but now deliver us from the hand of our enemies, and we will serve You.’ 11And the Lord sent Jerubbaal, Bedan, Jephthah, and Samuel, and delivered you out of the hand of your enemies on every side; and you dwelt in safety.
The people forgot the Lord their God. They fell away and did not walk in His ways or obey His commands. Their rebellion was the source of the constant attacks and harassment from their enemies. The oppression and troubles they experienced were of their own making. However, they thought that a king would deliver them from their enemies, but Samuel showed them that a king would not change the fact that the Lord was their God. He tells them:
1 Samuel 12:14–15 (NKJV) 14If you fear the Lord and serve Him and obey His voice, and do not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then both you and the king who reigns over you will continue following the Lord your God. 15However, if you do not obey the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then the hand of the Lord will be against you, as it was against your fathers.
Samuel assures them that their well-being still depended upon their obedience to the Lord. The people did not understand that insisting on a king to reign over them was a rejection of God. So Samuel gave them a demonstration of God’s control over their destiny as a nation. He called upon the Lord, and God sent thunder and rain that destroyed the wheat harvest.
When they saw such a great display of raw power, the people were terrified. Then they said:
1 Samuel 12:19 (NKJV) Pray for your servants to the Lord your God, that we may not die; for we have added to all our sins the evil of asking a king for ourselves.
Samuel reassured them that it was not the Lord’s intention to destroy them. Samuel gives a critical piece of information in his answer. He says:
1 Samuel 12:22 (NKJV) ...it has pleased the Lord to make you His people.
In all the years of the people of Israel turning away from and rejecting the Lord, He never withdrew His love. He disciplined them as a father disciplines the child he loves, but He never abandoned them. Through Samuel, God warned them not to turn away. He warned them for their good and for their protection. He said,
1 Samuel 12:21–22 (NKJV) 21And do not turn aside; for then you would go after empty things which cannot profit or deliver, for they are nothing. 22For the Lord will not forsake His people.
Turning away from the Lord is inevitably turning to empty things. These things cannot profit or deliver. Meaning, profit, and value cannot exist apart from the Lord. As the writer of Ecclesiastes said, “Meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless.” (Ecclesiastes 12:8)
Samuel closes his address by repeating his advice from the middle of his speech. His repetition gives emphasis to the point. He says:
1 Samuel 12:24–25 (NKJV) 24Only fear the Lord, and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you. 25But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king.
Samuel’s counsel has two parts: 1) fear the Lord, 2) do not turn away. These are his entire message.
The Proverbs teach us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. It is the fool that says in his heart, “There is no God.” Romans 3:18 tells us that this is the problem in the heart of every person.
Romans 3:18 (NKJV) There is no fear of God before their eyes.
Saying, “There is no God,” is a very foolish position, and Samuel clues us in on why this is foolish when he says, “But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king.”
The history of the nation of Israel serves as an example of this truth. The things with which we replace God are empty and cannot profit or deliver. The children of Israel thought a king would bring prosperity (profit) and would deliver them. (1 Samuel 12:21-22) But God warned them that they were looking to the wrong thing to get their needs met. Their provider and protector had always been and always would be God.
Jesus taught in a parable; if one is foolish enough to build his house on sand, then when storms come, the house will be swept away. Storms will come. We can be sure of it. If we are foolish enough to build our house on sand, we will suffer loss.
God set before Israel and before the world a choice between blessing and cursing. If we fear God and obey Him, we will be truly blessed. But if we reject God and go our own way, we will be swept away.
God is not being vindictive in this. Consider the results of man going his own way. Murder, war, disease, and all manner of evil exist in the world today. So much evil exists that people question how God can let it go on. But He will not let it go on forever. God cannot bless us when we go our own way because our way is destructive. Fearing God, acknowledging God, and obeying God are the very beginning and foundation of knowledge and wisdom.
Friend, if you are looking to anything other than God for profit and for deliverance, you are in great danger. Some look to doctors. Some look to work and industry. Some look to family, and others look to the government. Some look to the church. All these things are meaningless and cannot profit or deliver us. We must look to God for profit and deliverance. Look at what happened to Israel. Consider what happened to that nation. God gave us their history as an example.
Compared to the value of knowing Christ Jesus, our Lord, all the world has to offer is worthless. Consider what God has done in the past. He has given us life and breath and every good thing. He has provided a way of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He stands ready and willing to forgive all our sins and accept us as His children. Has He ever treated any of us unfairly or with contempt? Has He ever wronged any of us? If not, then why do we refuse to humble ourselves before Him?