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by Rosco Brong

The Fear of God
I Samuel 12:13-25

Last in a line of judges and first in a line of prophets, Samuel was God's chosen spokesman to Israel in his day. Moreover, it was Samuel who anointed Saul as Israel's first king, and later anointed David to be Saul's successor.

Questions about forms of government in this world are less important than the submission of all human rulers and their subjects to the higher government of God. A God-fearing people can be happy and blessed under a poor government; people who have not learned to fear God cannot long be happy even under the best of human rulers.

But in the long run people generally get the kind of government they deserve. The less they fear God the more they are governed by the fear of men, and the more they fear God the less they are afflicted by the fear of tyrants.

Our lesson affords a glimpse at Samuel's efforts to teach Israel to fear God more than an earthly king in order to enjoy the continued blessings of God.

Outline follows:

1. Distinction, I Samuel 12:13-15.
a. Fearful request, 13.
b. Fearful relation, 14.
c. Fearful rejection, 15.
2. Disobedience, I Samuel 12:16-19.
a. Fearful conduct, 16-17.
b. Fearful conviction, 18.
c. Fearful confession, 19.
3. Discernment, I Samuel 2:20-22.
a. Faithful perseverance, 20.
b. Faithful perception, 21.
c. Faithful preservation, 22.
4. Discipline, I Samuel 12:23-25.
a. Faithful guide, 23.
b. Faithful gratitude, 24.
c. Faithful God, 25.


DISTINCTION, I Samuel 12:13-15.
Israel was chosen to be a peculiar people of God, distinct from all the nations of the earth, under the special care and protection of the one true God. As it is stated in the New Testament, these chosen people of the Old Testament had an advantage over the Gentiles "much every way," but "chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God" [Romans 3:1-2].

Fearful Request, 13.
Context makes it plain that Israel's desire for an earthly king was extremely displeasing to God. Some centuries later the prophet Hosea recorded the divine judgment upon Israel's fearful request for a king:

"O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help. I will be thy king: where is any other that may save thee in all thy cities? and thy judges of whom thou saidst, Give me a king and princes? I gave thee a king in mine anger, and took him away in my wrath" [Hosea 13:9-11.]

Fearful Relation, 14.
Note that eventually a people and their rulers, even when those rulers are kings and dictators, tend to be of the same general character. It is true that the good or bad example of a king may raise or lower the moral tone of his people; but it is true also that the character of a nation will influence the character of its king, and this is the truth emphasized here:

"If ye will fear the Lord, and serve him . . . then shall both ye and also the king that reigneth over you continue following the Lord your God."

Private citizens therefore have their own responsibility before God, and cannot escape that responsibility by trying to shift it to their rulers.

Fearful Rejection, 15.
Even God's chosen people could (and did) reject the commandments of God so that He withdrew His protection from them and delivered them into the hands of their enemies. So it had been with the fathers of earlier generations; so it would be again. And, we may add, so it is still, "for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receivetth" [Hebrews 12: 6].

DISOBEDIENCE, I Samuel 12:16-19.
General principles must be given particular application to be of much use. Most people profess to be against sin in general, and especially against other people's sins. But what we need is to recognize our own acts of disobedience to God.

Fearful Conduct, 16-17.
Do we need an unseasonable thunder shower to tell us that we have sinned? Such signs are needed only by people who do not believe God's Word. It is hard to say which is worse, disobeying the commandments of God or refusing to acknowledge that such disobedience is wicked. Let us pray with David that God may keep us from presumptuous sins [Psalms 19:13].

Fearfu1 Conviction, 18.
"Thunder and rain" brought fearful conviction to Israel, so that "all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel." Let us rather receive conviction from the warnings of God's Word and from the gentle rain of His Spirit in our hearts.

Fearful Confession, 19.
So strong was their sense of guilt that the people dared not to refer to Jehovah as their God, but rather begged Samuel, "Pray for thy servants unto Jehovah thy God, that we die not." It may be good to ask someone else to pray for us, but it is better when we learn to pray for ourselves.

At least the confession here seemed to be sincere, springing from a genuine fear of God. This was no grudging admission of a slight error, mixed with a lie of excuses, but rather a free confession of fact: "We have added unto all our sins this evil, to ask us a king."

DISCERNMENT, I Samuel 12:20-22.
Yet the Israelites were still God's people, though at the moment they feared to claim Him as their God. Samuel had the spiritual discernment to know that "God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew" [Romans 11:2]. Too many "Christians" lack this discernment, imagining that they lose their "salvation" every time they sin. A salvation that can be so easily lost is no salvation worth having.

Faithful Perseverance, 20.
"Fear not." They had needed to fear, because they had "done all this wickedness;" but now that they had confessed their sin they should "turn not aside from following the Lord," but rather should consecrate their hearts in faithful perseverance in His service.

Faithful Perception, 21.
To turn aside, to continue in backsliding, to fail to persevere, would mean to "go after vain things, which cannot profit nor deliver; for they are vain." Genuine children of God have at least this much faithful perception of truth: salvation can be found only in God through His Son; there is no spiritual sense in turning anywhere else [John 6:68].

Faithful Preservation, 22.
"It hath pleased the Lord to make you his people" -- if this is true of us, if we really are His people, then we can be sure that He will preserve us forever [Psalms 37:28]. He does not change His mind; He will not forsake those whom He has chosen: to do so would be a disgrace to His great and holy name.

DISCIPLINE, I Samuel 12:23-25.
Life in this world, for the child of God, is a time for learning how to live as God's children ought to live. Disciples must be disciplined. Israel as a nation has had a hard time learning and still is not right with God. Individual believers, whether Jews or Gentiles, have less time to learn their lessons.

Faithful Guide, 23.
Samuel was a more faithful guide that the ritualist who imagines that prayer can substitute for knowledge, faith, and works. "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" -- but not everything! Yes indeed, Samuel would continue to pray for the people; he would be sinning against the Lord if he failed to do so. But they needed more than his prayers. "I will teach you the good and the right way."

Faithful Gratitude, 24.
Even though they should not fear the judgment of sudden death [verses 19-20], the people should still "fear the Lord" so as truly to devote themselves to His service. And the most compelling motivation for this service should be found in considering "how great things he hath done for you."

Faithful God, 25.
When all is said and done, God must be faithful to His Word, whether we will be faithful or not. If His promises of blessing and salvation are sure to be fulfilled, so like-wise are His warnings of judgment. Israel found it so in history; individual believers find it so in personal experience.

CONCLUSION [Job 28:28]
It hardly seems necessary to comment. The man who does not fear his Creator and Judge is not wise; the man who continues in evil does not understand that the wages of sin is death.

[From Ashland Avenue Baptist paper, September 27, 1974, pp. 2-3. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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