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A People for Himself

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
November 11, 2022 3:00 am

A People for Himself

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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November 11, 2022 3:00 am

The Bible records many stories about the Lord’s people repeatedly rebelling against Him. Why didn’t God abandon those who forgot and forsook Him? Learn the answer on Truth For Life as Alistair Begg examines Samuel the prophet’s warning to Israel.



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The Bible records many stories about how God's people repeatedly rebelled against him.

So the question comes up, why doesn't God abandon those who forget and forsake him? Well, we'll find out today on Truth for Life as we examine Samuel's warning to Israel. Alistair Begg is teaching from 1 Samuel chapter 12. Well, we've been following Samuel from the very time of his conception all the way up until today. Hannah had asked for him. God gave him to Hannah.

She in turn then lent him back to the Lord. And as we arrive at this twelfth chapter, he tells us in verse 2 that he is now old and gray. At the end of chapter 11, Saul has been made king in this sort of stage four element of his kingship before the Lord at Gilgal. And so the focus is inevitably shifting, and Samuel is recognizing now that the role that he has played as a judge is about to change. And so, in light of that, he essentially sets out the state of the union, as it were, at what is a pivotal moment of transition. I actually think it's helpful—and you may choose to see it in these terms or not, this is not a main or a plain thing—but I think it is more than likely that chapter 12 is providing the detail of what is given to us as a summary at the end of chapter 11. At the end of chapter 11, and he was there made king before the Lord in Gilgal, and they had come there to renew the kingdom.

And I think that chapter 12 actually probably provides the wider framework of what was summarized for us at the end of 11. With that said, Samuel then uses this transition time, first as an opportunity to establish, if you like, his legacy. It's more than just being about Samuel, as I'll say in a moment, but it is certainly that. He has enjoyed a privileged position, and he has walked before the Lord—as he puts it here, I have walked before the Lord, before you, from my youth until this day. There's something about being able to say that, that I have had the privilege, he's able to recount, of God's faithfulness and goodness. And he wants to make sure that the people understand this. And so notice what he tells us. Verse 1, "'Behold, I have obeyed your voice.'" He's talking to the people. He says, "'You're the ones that asked for a king, and I did what you said.'" And he says, "'And you should look now, and behold, the king walks before you.'"

He's got all of his future in front of him, as it were—limited, as we're going to discover it was—but he's got it all in front of him. And I have more behind me than I've got in front of me, because I'm old and I'm gray. And again, I have done what I've done, and you will notice also that my sons are with you. They're not with me, as it were. We have rehearsed that before.

They're part of the community. Life is unfolding. Now, what he's then doing is he's putting himself in the dock, and he's essentially saying, You could come forward now and testify in terms of the integrity of my leadership. And so he says, You should just check and see whether I have taken anybody's ox, whether I took somebody's donkey, whether I defrauded anybody, or whether I oppressed anybody.

In other words, he says, I'm going to stand here, and you can have a conversation with one another and determine whether my leadership has been marked by bribery and by self-promotion. Now, you perhaps recall that when he introduced the possibility of a king back in chapter 8—I think it is—he said to them, If the king ends up on the wrong side of the equation, then he'll be on the take. If you remember that at all, he says, He'll take your donkeys, he'll take your daughters, he'll take your young men, he'll take, take, take. And now he says to them, I didn't do that, did I?

I didn't take, take, take. And they said, Fine, we agree. The LORD is witness. You have not defrauded us, verse 4, you have not oppressed us, you have not taken anything from any man's hand. And so he is vindicated.

Now, here's the thing. This is not just about Samuel in terms of his character. It is true of his character. But it's about Samuel in terms of his leadership and of the leadership that was entrusted to him. And in some measure, in light of what follows now, he's actually saying to the people, Testify to the fact that this old style of leadership was really pretty good.

And so they're actually saying, Yeah, yeah, actually it was. Because he's really setting them up so that his vindication leads to their condemnation. And so we move from his legacy to something of a summary of Israel's history, which you will notice there begins in verse 6. And so Samuel said to the people, Now the LORD is witness.

He moves into, if you like, the prosecutor's role rather than being the defendant. The LORD is witness. And what I want to do is ask you to stand still, verse 7, that I may plead with you before the LORD concerning all the righteous deeds of the LORD that he performed for you and for your fathers. I want you to think about how immensely good God has been to you as you survey history. In order that, the contrast between the reliability of God and the fickleness of the people of God may be unmistakable—the reason I want you to stand still and reflect on these things. He's going to do it again before the chapter ends, down in verse 24.

Consider what great things he has done for you. It is the consideration of the immensity of God's goodness that shows up the poverty of the people's response. What he is pointing out is the recurring pattern amongst the people of God, and it goes like this. They found themselves in bondage. They cried out to God in their difficulty. The LORD provided a deliverer and set them free. They promptly, then, got themselves right back into bondage. They cried out to Yahweh for a deliverer.

He sent another deliverer and got them free, and they promptly went right back into bondage again. You can read this, the whole story of the book of Judges. And in that line, you have these individuals that he mentions here.

Jerabell and Barak and Jephthah, and even—he includes himself—Samuel. Now, what had happened was, in verse 9, that they forgot the LORD their God. Remember the Bible says, Remember your Creator in the days of your youth. It doesn't mean remember that there is a Creator.

It means to dwell upon, to get down underneath the reality of the Godness of God, if you like. And they forgot that. It's actually that they chose to forget it. It was inconvenient for them to consider God in all of his holiness and all of his might. And so they deliberately turned their back on him, despite the fact that they'd been warned. In Deuteronomy and chapter 8, on a couple of occasions, Moses says to the people, Take care, lest you forget the LORD your God.

It's very straightforward. Now, I wouldn't want to sit in judgment on them. Do you ever choose to forget the LORD? In the face of temptation, are we going to go down the pathway of his kingship, or are we going to look for another way to maneuver the circumstances? They forgot him, and then in verse 10 they forsook him. They're prepared to acknowledge that in verse 10, because we have forsaken the LORD, and we have served the Baals. So the appeal was, if we stick with this Yahweh God, we're stuck with those commandments.

Those commandments appear to be very limiting. It doesn't seem… We're not having fun like all of these surrounding nations are having fun. They seem to have parties all the time, and we have, like, a prayer time, and then the fellow who prays, then he preaches, and then he prays, then he preaches. I mean, there's nothing much going on. There's a lot of fun ways we could do this. And so they said, Yeah.

Why don't we do that? Now, the wonder of it is this—and this is surely the point in it all—that God did not abandon them. He didn't abandon them. And what happens is that every time, in his mercy, he deals with them drastically. In fact, it says there in the text that they cried out to the LORD because he had sold them into the hand of the enemy.

Why? In order that they might seek him. Because they weren't seeking him. They were forgetting him. They were forsaking him. So this gives the lie to the idea that, you know, if you're really, truly engaged in things, then everything will be going very, very wonderfully well.

No, in actual fact, not necessarily so. Now, what God is doing is he's showing himself to be righteous—righteous in his dealings with him. That's verse 7. I want to declare before you all the righteous deeds the LORD has performed for you and for your fathers.

You're not thinking when you do this. They forgot him. They forsook him. They forgot the righteous deeds. But God didn't abandon them.

He doesn't. And in verse 13, the history comes right up to date with Nahash, a bad man, the king of the Ammonites. And what he's pointing out here in verse 12 is that Nahash, when he shows up, causes the people to break their pattern.

Their pattern was bondage, cry, deliverance, sent from Yahweh. Now they find themselves confronted by Nahash, and look what it says in the text. And when Nahash came, you said to me, No, but a king shall reign over us.

We're not gonna cry out to Yahweh for a deliverer. We've got our own plan. We've got a king. So instead of crying out to the Lord as they had done before, in the form of the judges, they decide on a new kind of leadership, a monarchy will be the answer. And, fascinatingly, you will remember at the beginning of chapter 11, they were even prepared to take Nahash as their king. Isn't that what they said? And all the men of Jabesh said to Nahash, Make a treaty with us, and we will serve you.

Incredible, isn't it? They must have forgotten the Lord—that they would have Nahash as their king. Now, when you consider this—and consider it we must—you realize that the point that he's making is, You said, No, but a king shall reign over us when the Lord your God was your king. When the Lord your God was your king. So he says, Look, here's your king, the one you chose, the one that's been said over you. He's tall, he's handsome, he was good against the Ammonites, but he's not the Lord your God.

Is there any way that this can possibly work? Well, yes. Verse 14. If you will fear the Lord and serve him and obey his voice and not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, and if that is true of both you and the king who reigns over you, if the two of you, all of you, will follow the Lord your God, it will be well. We can't stop here, but incidentally, this is the only way any political structure ultimately works, no matter what it is in the entire universe. Because it's underneath the sovereign authority of Almighty God, who is the King of the universe. If you will submit to the King of the universe, then you'll be amazed at how things can unfold.

If you refuse to do that, then no matter what structure you put in place is bound for disintegration. So he says, Yes, you can go forward in this way, but—verse 15—if you will 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 and your king. So, why don't you stand still? He likes telling people to stand still.

Now, therefore, stand still because you're gonna see something really spectacular. That's my paraphrase of verse 16. And then he says, Is it not the wheat harvest today? You can imagine people looking at one another, going, Yeah, it is. But what's that? What does that have to do with anything? Well, it has to do with the fact that in the wheat harvest, it was an arid time, it was a dry time, it wasn't a thunder and a lightning time, it wasn't the rainy season.

And so he says, What I'm going to do is I'm going to ask God, now that I've spoken to you, you have heard audibly from God, now I'm going to ask God to demonstrate visually before you with a sign just how displeased he is with what you've done. And so, what then happens is kind of the equivalent of twelve inches of snow in downtown Miami on the second of June. Right? It just doesn't happen. And that's the point. Stand still and watch this.

If you go this route, all will be well. If you don't… This is a critical juncture in the history of Israel. They're teetering, as it were, on the abyss. And Samuel called upon the Lord, the Lord sent thunder and rain that day, and all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Incidentally, the Bible is not shy in talking about the place of the fear of God moving men and women to repentance. The Bible isn't shy about it.

We needn't be either. And as a result of the fearfulness, they ask for Samuel's intervention on their behalf. Notice verse 19, that all the people said to Samuel, Pray for your servants to the LORD your God. If you go back to 1 Samuel 7, they had said to him there, Cry out to the LORD our God. Here they say, Pray for your servants to the LORD your God. And you see what has happened here? They have now begun to distance themselves from Yahweh. They recognize it. If he is really our God, if he's really our King, if he's really the one that we serve, what in the world are we doing here?

And it is an answer to these longings that the kingdom will be renewed. On what basis can Samuel begin his response in verse 20 with the line, Do not be afraid? How can they not be afraid?

On what basis can fear be dealt with? He's not encouraging them for a moment to believe that somehow or another, Hey, listen, it doesn't really matter. I spoke with God, and he said, It's okay. The fact that you have rebelled against him in this way, that you're foolish and you're wicked, it doesn't matter.

He overlooks these things. No, it's not that at all. Do not be afraid. You've done this evil.

We're not gonna say it isn't evil. But don't turn aside. Don't turn aside. And here's the key, verse 22. For the LORD, Yahweh, will not forsake his people for his great namesake, because it has pleased the LORD to make you a people for himself. In other words, God is not the author of unfinished business.

He completes what he begins. He will not allow his purposes for his people to be thwarted even by their foolish rebellion. His grace is greater than all their sin and all our sin.

The future of the people of God here in 1 Samuel 12 and the future of the people of God throughout the nations of the world this morning rests on the reliability of God—that God has purposed from all of eternity to put together a people that are his very own. And the issue there is not ethnicity. It is not race.

It is not gender. It is grace. It is the fact that God is a covenant-establishing God and a covenant-keeping God. It is grace that brings us in. It is grace that keeps us in. It is grace that will take us home. God is concerned about his name and about his reputation. And he's so concerned that he won't allow his purposes to be destroyed by the wickedness of his people. Now, that ought to be a huge encouragement.

It ought to be a huge encouragement at a very personal level. When we are tempted this morning as individuals to allow our past sins to define us, when we are tempted to conclude and say things that are not uncommon in terminology—well, you know, I can't change. There is no hope for me. That's the lie of the devil. Ralph Davis has a wonderful little section where he says, Don't think that the quote's grand mistake that has disfigured your life is the first disastrous sin that God has seen. The LORD will not forsake his people for his great name's sake, because it has pleased the LORD to make you a people for himself. So, Samuel has confronted them with their evil.

They have repented, and so they must move on. What does the devil say to us? The devil says, Well, you should probably review some of your mess.

He says, Why don't you relive some of your mess? But God says, No, move on. It's not that their obedience, then, establishes this covenant relationship with God, but it is that our obedience allows us to enjoy the relationship with God. There's no peace, there's no joy, there's no thrill like walking in God's will. And the imperatives that are then pervasive through the balance of this text, I'm gonna have to leave you to consider them on your own. Verse 20. Do not turn aside. Serve the LORD with all your heart. 21. Don't reach for empty things.

They can't deliver. Verse 24. Fear the LORD, serve him faithfully.

Consider what the great things he's done for you. And Samuel says, And my ongoing ministry will continue as prophet and intercessor. And insofar as I fulfill this role, then both the people and the king will submit to God's good and great rule. I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you.

I will instruct you in the good and the right way. That's why I say that it is his farewell address in one respect, but actually he's vital, and he's going to be seen to be vital. He still has a role to play. He's going to play the role of the prophet and of the intercessor. You say, Well, what has this all got to do with us today?

Well, you just fast-forward. If you keep in mind again that the Bible is the story of God's purpose from all of eternity, that it focuses ultimately in Jesus. The kingdom comes in Jesus. The role of the prophet and the king and the priest are fulfilled in Jesus. He is the king before whom we bow. He is the real king. He's the prophet who speaks to us the very Word of God. He is the priest who intercedes for us. And when we ponder that, we realize how foolish and wicked it is for us to turn aside to empty things that can't profit and can't deliver. That's the message. Even in our rebellion, God does not abandon his people.

You're listening to Alistair Begg on Truth for Life. Let me ask you, do you have teenagers in your family? If you do, you're probably aware that anxiety and depression are at epidemic levels among so many young people.

In fact, a third of the teens in our nation deal with these kinds of issues. And that's the reason why we've chosen to make available two books written by a pastor, a PhD, and a counselor, David Murray. One book is for parents, the other is for teens, and both of them explore the causes of depression and anxiety to help find a path forward. One of the books is titled, Why Is My Teenager Feeling This Way? It'll help you as a parent gain a deeper understanding of the emotions your child is experiencing. David Murray also explains how you can become a compassionate coach to your troubled teen.

The other book, Why Am I Feeling This Way? is written for teenagers. It helps them better understand the triggers for their anxiety, and it introduces them to a toolkit of remedies, including prayer, that over time can begin to offer relief. If your family or someone you know is struggling with these issues, we want to recommend these two books to you. They're available for purchase at our cost of just $10 for both books. You'll find them on our website at truthforlife.org. And while you're online, don't forget to request a copy of Alistair's book, Truth for Life, 365 Daily Devotions, Volume 2. This brand new book follows the format of Volume 1, which was released late last year. You can view a sample and request your copy when you give online at truthforlife.org slash donate. I'm Bob Lapine. Hope you have a great weekend and are able to worship with your church this weekend. Join us Monday as we'll discover how quickly disobedience can lead to a hopeless situation. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-11-19 04:30:30 / 2022-11-19 04:39:24 / 9

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