Compassion

Don’t Turn Back! | My Journey

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“Don’t look back!” We often recognize the importance of moving ahead, leaving the past behind. Samuel challenges the Israelites to not turn back to their sin, but to follow God faithfully!

Scripture:       

1 Samuel, chapters 11-12; 1 Chronicles, chapter 1; 2 Corinthians, chapter 11

1 Samuel 12:18-25 (CEB):

Samuel called upon the Lord, and God sent thunder and rain on that very day. Then all the people were in awe of the Lord and Samuel. All of them said to Samuel, “Please pray for us, your servants, to the Lord your God so we don’t die because we have added to our many sins the evil of asking for a king.”

But Samuel answered the people, “Don’t be afraid. Yes, you’ve done all this evil; just don’t turn back from following the Lord. Serve the Lord with all your heart. Don’t turn aside to follow useless idols that can’t help you or save you. They’re absolutely useless! For the sake of his reputation, the Lord won’t abandon his people, because the Lord has decided to make you his very own people. But me? I would never sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. I will teach you what is good and right. Just fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. Look at what great things he has done for you! But if you continue to do evil, then both you and your king will be destroyed.”

Observations: “Don’t Turn Back”

Saul Becomes King

Yesterday, we saw how the people of Israel clamored for Samuel to give them a king (“The More Things Change…”). “It seemed very bad to Samuel” (1 Samuel 8:6), because God was their King. But they didn’t want to listen; they wanted a king so they could be like the nations around them. And God told Samuel to give them a king. So God led Samuel to Saul, and Samuel anointed Saul as the first king of Israel.

But not everyone in Israel approved of Saul: “But some despicable people said, ‘How can this man save us?’” (1 Samuel 10:27). So when Saul led Israel to victory over the Ammonites, some of the people called for the execution of those who had opposed Saul. But Saul refused: “No one will be executed because today the Lord has saved Israel” (1 Samuel 11:13). So everyone rejoiced, and Saul was officially crowned as king in a ceremony at Gilgal (11:15).

That set the stage for Samuel’s farewell address, which we find in chapter 12. Samuel starts by asking the people to confirm that no one had any claims or charges to make against him. When they did so, Samuel said, “The Lord and his anointed one are witnesses against you today that you haven’t found anything in my possession” (12:5).

Samuel’s Farewell Address

When the people agreed with that statement, Samuel began his address.  He reminded them that the Lord was his witness – the Lord who appointed Moses and Aaron to lead them out of Egypt. Samuel recounted the times that the people rebelled against God, and how they suffered oppression as a result. He basically walks through the book of Judges with them: “he handed them over to Sisera, the commander of Hazor’s army, and to the Philistines, and to the Moabite king, all of whom fought against them” (12:9).  Yet when they cried out to God, he delivered them time and time again.

But now, when they faced the threat of the Ammonites, they wanted a king!  “But the Lord your God was already your king!” (12:12). And even though he had warned them before how a king would treat them, Samuel now challenges them: “If you will fear the Lord, worship him, obey him, and not rebel against the Lord’s command, and if both you and the king who rules over you follow the Lord your God – all will be well” (12:13-14).

Don’t Turn Back

After Samuel challenges the people in this way, he calls upon God to confirm what he has said by sending thunder and rain upon the land. He notes that it is the time of the wheat harvest (12:17) – a time when thunder and rain was very rare. But God sent thunder and rain on that very day. And that’s when the people finally realized what they had done. “Please pray for us, your servants, to the Lord your God so we don’t die because we have added to our many sins the evil of asking for a king.”

I love Samuel’s response! “Don’t be afraid. Yes, you’ve done all this evil; just don’t turn back from following the Lord.” God was willing to forgive them and move forward – so long as they continued to serve him. Samuel didn’t minimize their past sins. He didn’t excuse their desire for a king, and he didn’t try to pass it off as “what God wanted.” He focused their attention on the present: don’t turn back!

Application – Don’t Turn Back!

We really need to grasp what Scripture is teaching us here. God’s forgiveness does not mean that our sins were “not that bad.” Sin is bad! All sin is bad! But when God forgives, he blots our sin out. “I will put my Instructions within them and engrave them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. They will no longer need to teach each other to say, ‘Know the Lord!’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord; for I will forgive their wrongdoing and never again remember their sins” (Jeremiah 31:33-34).

So if God has committed to never again remember our sins, we need to leave them behind as well. Don’t turn back from following the Lord. Serve the Lord with all your heart…Just fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart.” Satan loves to try to focus our attention on the past, to convince us that our sins have disqualified us from God’s kingdom.  No! But we must turn away from our sin, and turn toward God. God calls us to follow him faithfully and obediently.

If we do that, God will be with us, and will lead us to his eternal kingdom. But if we don’t, disaster awaits! “If you will fear the Lord, worship him, obey him, and not rebel against the Lord’s command, and if you and the king who rules over you follow the Lord your God – all will be well. But if you don’t obey the Lord and rebel against the Lord’s command, then the Lord’s power will go against you and your king to destroy you” (12:14-15).

Prayer:

Father, many times we have sought a “king” – an earthly leader – when we should have sought You. Forgive us for thinking that anyone other than You could truly lead us. Thank you for the promise of your forgiveness.  Help us each day to remember: don’t turn back! When we acknowledge you, you will direct our paths (Proverbs 3:6).  Amen.

 





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Written by: OchriO

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