Samuel Teaches on Repentance
Read: 1 Samuel 12:1-25
There are many beautiful truths those of us who belong to Jesus embrace. Words like justification, sanctification and glorification are merely a few of them. Any of these could fill pages were we to plumb their depths. Even scratching the surface of these wonders that are ours to enjoy would be profitable now.
However, for today, what if we look at a biblical picture of repentance, a subject that is as rich as the previously mentioned truths. Thankfully, Israel's last judge Samuel, has painted a beautiful portrait of repentance for us with his words, and there is precious truth about the Lord tucked into these 25 verses that are recorded for us in 1 Samuel 12. First, let's be reminded of a bit of background before looking at this occasion of Israel's repentance.
When the time was right, the Lord brought His people out of their bondage in Egypt. His power was on display for everyone to see. Not only did He part the Sea so His people could cross on dry land, but the Holy One of Israel also caused the Sea to totally swallow up Pharaoh and all those who were with him. If this weren't enough, their Savior also miraculously sustained them for 40 years. He provided them with special food each day and water that gushed forth out of a rock on two separate occasions. Imagine it. He met the needs of more than 1,000,000 people. They had no earthly king because God was their Sovereign. When their Redeemer gave them amazing victories upon their arrival in the land He had promised them, they still had no earthly king who led them into battle. God went ahead of them and surrounded them, helping them defeat nations that were often stronger than they were.
Even so, in spite of everything the Lord had done on their behalf, in the book of Judges, we read that God's chosen people often copied the behavior and customs of other nations. They even served false gods. When this occurred, the Lord allowed strong nations to oppress them; yet, when they cried out to Him, deliverance would come through one of the judges that their wonderful king raised up. No wonder Samuel the prophet was displeased when the people demanded an earthly king. The Lord told him that the people had not rejected him. No, they had rejected the Lord Who had so faithfully cared for them, 1 Samuel 8:6-8. Even so, God showed Himself to be gracious by giving Israel victory over King Nahash, a cruel adversary. Their God showed Himself faithful even when His people had spurned Him. It is at this point when Israel's new king had been anointed and Israel had been victorious over her enemy, that Samuel confronted the people in 1 Samuel 12.
After assuring the people that he had been a faithful judge toward them, 1 Samuel 12:1-5, Samuel began to lay out his teaching. I love how the prophet reminded the people of God's faithfulness. After all, He was the One who had both sent and empowered Moses and Aaron in order to secure their deliverance out of Egypt. It was God Who, even when Israel had been unfaithful and had once again, begun to serve other gods, listened to their cries for help when they were oppressed by other nations, 1 Samuel 12:6-11.
At that point in time, they promised to obey Him. Yet, in 1 Samuel 12:12, Samuel reminded the people that their fear of King Nahash caused them to ask for an earthly king, even though God had faithfully occupied that special position for them. It was not God's best for them, but He gave them what they requested. In 1 Samuel 12:16-19, Samuel used a divine intervention from God so His people could truly see their sin and how wicked it was. In order to repent, the people needed to see the scope of their sin; so, the prophet asked God to send a miraculous display of rain at a time when it wouldn't ordinarily occur. God showed His power, and the eyes of the people were opened. They had asked for an earthly king, having forgotten the awesome power that the Lord had. They saw how sinful that request had been, and they were very afraid of both Samuel and the Lord!
I love Samuel's reaction to their trepidation. He didn't minimize their sin or gloss over it. Instead, he told them to worship and obey the Lord, 1 Samuel 12:20-21. They must not turn their back on the Holy One again as they had previously done. Beginning that very day, their lives were to be marked by obedience, rather than idolatry. In 1 Samuel 12:22-23, the prophet reminded his people of the faithfulness of God. How comforting it must have been to be reassured by the truth that God would continue to honor His promises. In spite of the lack of faith that continued to mark the lives of God's people, God would never forsake them because the trustworthiness of His Name was at stake.
We have passed over a nugget of truth found in 1 Samuel 12:19 that shows the repentance of God's people. They asked for prayer. Yes, they were frightened, but rather than turning away from God, they saw their need and wanted Samuel to keep praying for them. Repentance brought to the forefront the evil of sin, the holiness and faithfulness of God and their need for prayer. Again, I love Samuel's response. He would never stop praying for his people or fail to teach them the right things to do, 1 Samuel 12:23. Samuel had one more help for the people in verse 24. It involved their thinking. They should think about all of the wonderful things the Lord had done on their behalf. What a good way to help them walk close to the Lord as they remembered His faithfulness.
What a reminder that repentance is so much more than a simple "I'm sorry." Instead, it produces a deeper hatred of sin, love for the Lord and His faithfulness and the knowledge that we need the prayers of our brothers and sisters. How does repentance look? Samuel is glad we asked.