Stepping On Life’s Scale

This morning, the text presents us with a summary of Israel’s recent history up to this point and of 1 Samuel chapters 1-11. It has taken us 23 weeks to get to chapter 12, and those of us who have been committed to coming and sitting under the explicit word of God in the order that God has given it for our good have invested 23 hours (ish) into receiving and applying God’s word as written in 1 Samuel. I have dedicated between 460 and 920 hours of my year to be sure that I am presenting God’s word in 1 Samuel to you correctly and applying it rightly. So, when we consider a text that summarizes the previous 23 weeks of our time together as a church family, we get to celebrate our time together learning from God’s explicit word because the text today reminds us of where we have been.

Since this text summarizes the previous 23 weeks we have spent in 1 Samuel, the sermon today must be 23 hours long and has required 920 hours of preparation in order to teach. Or, we may simply go binge the previous 23 sermons at home for a refresher. The sermon will not, in fact, be 23 hours long this morning. Instead of taking the time to re-explain the text leading up to this point, this morning’s sermon will be more reflective and less technical. We have seen the Holy Spirit defeat the Ammonites by transforming Saul into another man. Saul has been confirmed as king before both God and people. There is great worship by way of peace offering and prophetic singing. The people have gathered at Gilgal to hear Samuel speak and to have the kingdom renewed.

1 Samuel 12:1-13

Then Samuel said to all Israel, “Behold, I have listened to your voice in all that you said to me and I have appointed a king over you. Now, here is the king walking before you, but I am old and gray, and behold my sons are with you. And I have walked before you from my youth even to this day. Here I am; bear witness against me before the Lord and His anointed. Whose ox have I taken, or whose donkey have I taken, or whom have I defrauded? Whom have I oppressed, or from whose hand have I taken a bribe to blind my eyes with it? I will restore it to you.”

They said, “You have not defrauded us or oppressed us or taken anything from any man’s hand.”

He said to them, “The Lord is witness against you, and His anointed is witness this day that you have found nothing in my hand.” And they said, “He is witness.”

Then Samuel said to the people, “It is the Lord who appointed Moses and Aaron and who brought your fathers up from the land of Egypt. So now, take your stand, that I may plead with you before the Lord concerning all the righteous acts of the Lord which He did for you and your fathers. When Jacob went into Egypt and your fathers cried out to the Lord, then the Lord sent Moses and Aaron who brought your fathers out of Egypt and settled them in this place. But they forgot the Lord their God, so He sold them into the hand of Sisera, captain of the army of Hazor, and into the hand of the Philistines and into the hand of the king of Moab, and they fought against them. They cried out to the Lord and said, ‘We have sinned because we have forsaken the Lord and have served the Baals and the Ashtaroth; but now deliver us from the hands of our enemies, and we will serve You.’ Then the Lord sent Jerubbaal and Bedan and Jephthah and Samuel, and delivered you from the hands of your enemies all around, so that you lived in security. When you saw that Nahash the king of the sons of Ammon came against you, you said to me, ‘No, but a king shall reign over us,’ although the Lord your God was your king. Now therefore, here is the king whom you have chosen, whom you have asked for, and behold, the Lord has set a king over you.

God’s faithfulness

In this text, Samuel opens his speech by calling the people as a witness against him, reminding the congregation that his sons are among the people and no longer serving as judges. We see Samuel’s appeal in verses 2b-5:

“…And I have walked before you from my youth even to this day. Here I am; bear witness against me before the Lord and His anointed. Whose ox have I taken, or whose donkey have I taken, or whom have I defrauded? Whom have I oppressed, or from whose hand have I taken a bribe to blind my eyes with it? I will restore it to you.”

They said, “You have not defrauded us or oppressed us or taken anything from any man’s hand.”

He said to them, “The Lord is witness against you, and His anointed is witness this day that you have found nothing in my hand.” And they said, “He is witness.”

We remember God’s word in chapter 3, verse 35. God stated that He would raise up a faithful priest who would do according to what was in God’s heart and soul. In this part of the story, we see that God had, so far, fulfilled His own word. The people have nothing against Samuel. His words have been true, and he has not done wrong to the people of Israel. In verse 6, Samuel continues to tell the people about how God has ben faithful through the centuries, recounting Israel’s brief history and summarizing the previous 11 chapters of 1 Samuel. In verse 7, we learn that Samuel is doing this to remind the people of what God had done. God is the one to be glorified and exalted, not Samuel. According to Samuel, God is the one responsible for Samuel’s faithfulness in his prophetic ministry.

In contrast to God’s faithfulness, Samuel recounts the rebellion of Israel against God (v. 9-12). Even after the people verbally repented, they returned to their sin and idolatry again and again. Even in asking for a king and rejecting God as their king, the people were rebellious idolaters. In verse 13, Samuel says that it is because of their idolatry this new king, Saul, who is a Benjamite and who will be a ravenous wolf, has been set as king over the people by God.

So, the key point of this text is the single point that the previous 11 chapters of 1 Samuel have made very clear. God is faithful even when His people are rebellious idolaters. He provides according to His own will for the eternal and everlasting good of His own people. That is what we have seen in the text on a weekly basis as we have walked through 1 Samuel.

That was a quick 23 hours. We made it through this text. It was difficult and intricate and profound, I know. The text will sometimes do this for us as we walk through. God provides these moments of reminder. God repeats key points of His story over and over again throughout His story. It is as if God doesn’t want us to miss anything. It’s like He knows how little of the sermon we remember from the previous week(s). So, He takes the time to place reminders in His own text for our good. We do well not to skip or glaze over the repetitive parts of Scripture. We take the God-given opportunity to reflect and recall.

For our reflection

The thing about walking through Scripture is that each sermon is as long as it needs to be in order to correctly explain and rightly apply the text. We don’t want to extrude a text and read into it more than is there to read. We also don’t want to waste our time making applications to which the text doesn’t really apply. The application of this text is simple. Even in the midst of our rebellion and idolatry, whether intentional or unintentional, God is faithful and is working all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. That is the promise we can rest in. God has proven this by the things He has done throughout history.

As we think about the amount of time we have invested in sitting under God’s instruction together from week-to-week, we see our question for reflection. Why are we here? What are we investing in as we spend our time together? Why does any person choose to attend the church that he or she chooses to attend? Why does any person choose to invest their time in things other than the church meeting?

For us, the answer is simple. We are here together to invest our time in hearing the explicit word of God as He has prepared it for us. We want it properly explained by someone who has poured his time and energy into getting it correct. That is exactly what we commit ourselves to here at The Church at Sunsites. It’s why we walk through the text and desire a preacher who spends hours and hours in prayer and preparation. We want a healthy meal when we step into the church gathering. This is what sustains us and keeps us healthy. We need someone to bring it to the table. We need to realize that we don’t benefit if we don’t actually eat. If we are not receiving and consuming this full-course, well-rounded meal when we come to the gathering, we are not being sustained in a healthy way. Some people go to church because they get junk-food. Junk food tastes good. Some people go because they feel like they need to be on a diet. You know as well as I do that most “diets” are really unhealthy for people because they eliminate nutrients that the body needs. Some people don’t participate with the church because they feel like they can prepare better meals at home. When we think about majority, popular Christianity, I think people really can prepare better meals at home. When we have a church body that really treasures the correct teaching and right application of God’s word and treasures a pastor who dedicates his life to study and prayer, not merely giving a speech and making sure people want to come to church, the meals are filling and we notice a difference as we weigh our lives together. Today, the text presents us with an opportunity to weigh our lives in response to the previous 23 weeks. Over the past year, how has God’s word transformed your understanding? How has it affected your heart? How has it effected your action? Are you invested in a church body where you are growing spiritually, understanding God’s word more, and being changed from the inside out? Have you fallen in love with God’s explicit word? Are we eating the meal prepared for us, or does it merely sit there where we can smell it?

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