Followers of Jesus are called to be holy, just as God is holy. The last thing we want to do is to “add to our sin”!
1 Samuel, chapters 11-12; 1 Chronicles, chapter 1; 2 Corinthians, chapter 11
“Now if you fear and worship the Lord and listen to his voice, and if you do not rebel against the Lord’s commands, then both you and your king will show that you recognize the Lord as your God. But if you rebel against the Lord’s commands and refuse to listen to him, then his hand will be heavy upon you as it was upon your ancestors. Now stand here and see the great thing the Lord is about to do. You know that it does not rain at this time of year during the wheat harvest. I will ask the Lord to send thunder and rain today. Then you will realize how wicked you have been in asking the Lord for a king!”
So Samuel called to the Lord, and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day. And all the people were terrified of the Lord and of Samuel. “Pray to the Lord your God for us, or we will die!” they all said to Samuel. “For now we have added to our sins by asking for a king.”
“Don’t be afraid,” Samuel reassured them. “You have certainly done wrong, but make sure now that you worship the Lord with all your heart, and don’t turn your back on him. Don’t go back to worshiping worthless idols that cannot help or rescue you – they are totally useless! The Lord will not abandon his people, because that would dishonor his great name. For it has pleased the Lord to make you his very own people. As for me, I will certainly not sin against the Lord by ending my prayers for you. And I will continue to teach you what is good and right. But be sure to fear the Lord and faithfully serve him. Think of all the wonderful things he has done for you. But if you continue to sin, you and your king will be swept away.”
Tucked away in the story of the transition from Samuel to Saul is this story of God sending thunder and rain. He did not send it because the land was in a drought, as he later did in Elijah’s time. This time he sent it to confirm the truth of what Samuel told the people: that they had sinned by asking for a king. As we’ve seen in the chapters leading up to this passage, God had been the King of Israel. From the time of Moses up until Samuel’s day, God was their King. God appointed human leaders to rule – and to deliver the people – but God remained their King.
Now, they had asked for a king: “Give us a king to judge us like all the other nations have” (1 Samuel 8:5b). Samuel was upset, but God reminded him that the people were rejecting God, not Samuel. Even though God had led them faithfully, they continued to rebel against him and turn to the gods and the ways of the nations around them. So now, as Samuel transitions into retirement, he makes sure that the people understand exactly what they had done.
And they did understand! Of course, it took the miraculous thunder and rain from heaven during the normally dry wheat harvest to confirm it, but they understood. “Pray to the Lord your God for us, or we will die!” It’s always sad to me when I read that some Israelite says, “Pray to the Lord your God,” because the Lord was to be the God of all Israel. But there was at least a smidgen of recognition and repentance in that statement. “We have added to our sins by asking for a king.”
Samuel reassured them: “The Lord will not abandon his people, because that would dishonor his great name.” Yes, you’ve sinned; asking for a king wasn’t the first sin, but you’re right that you’ve added to your sins. But God won’t abandon you!
But Israel had a responsibility to honor God in response to God’s faithfulness to them. Samuel said, “You have certainly done wrong, but make sure now that you worship the Lord with all your heart, and don’t turn your back on him.” Samuel needed to remind them of this, because that’s exactly what their pattern had been. God would deliver them, they would pledge to follow God, and then they would turn away. I’m sure Samuel hoped that this time it would be different.
At the end of his remarks, Samuel commits to continue to minister to the people, even though he would no longer be their “leader.” “As for me, I will not sin against the Lord by ending my prayers for you. And I will continue to teach you what is good and right.” The people had asked Samuel to pray for them, and he promised that he would. He would also continue to show them what it means to fear the Lord and faithfully serve him. In addition, he gave them one last caution: “But if you continue to sin, you and your king will be swept away.”
It’s a bit sad that Samuel would need to warn them of this, but their history certainly called for a warning. And it’s also sad that it didn’t take long for their king to turn away from God – but that’s a story for another day. The important thing to remember is that the Lord will not abandon his people – but they certainly could, and did, abandon Him.
I think today God is reminding us that although he won’t abandon us, he won’t force us to stay committed to him. It is too easy for us to hear that God won’t abandon us, and think that means that what we do doesn’t matter. It does. Samuel’s challenge to the people is a challenge to us. If you continue to sin, you’ll be swept away.
But God is also reminding us that he gives us people, like Samuel, to pray for us and teach us. Our call is to recognize those people and listen to them! As Paul reminded us in 2 Corinthians 4 (a passage I reflected on last week), “We don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5). God puts those people in our lives; we should thank him by listening to them – and to Him!
Father, thank you for reminding us that you are our king. No matter who the leaders of our government may be, our trust is not in them, but in you. You may not send thunder and rain to confirm a spiritual leader, but your Holy Spirit leads us in the truth. Your Spirit bears witness with our spirits (Romans 8:16), and we can recognize the Spirit’s presence in others. Help us to trust those who demonstrate that they are serving you. Help us to not continue to sin, but to walk in your way each day. Amen.
Written by: Rick Rice