1 Samuel 12 v1-25 Ever Changing World by Roger Whipp
We live in an ever rapidly changing world. Although many changes have been beneficial such as advancement in technology and health care just to name a few, some negative changes are the amount of violence and crime that takes place. I can remember when a murder anywhere in the country made the front page headlines, now many don’t even get a mention. Last year nearly a thousand young people were stabbed or shot in London alone! We have also become very much a consumer society. As a kid I remember mum taking me on her frequent visit to the corner shop, no super markets in those days or EU regulations about best before or sell by dates. The shopkeeper would observe and sniff such things as bacon, cheese or fish, and he would test biscuits by breaking them in half. If they were stale they lost their crunch and just bent! Clothes and furniture was only replaced when it wore out not just went out of fashion!
Two old men in a retirement village were sitting in the reading room and one said to the other, ”How do you really feel? I mean, you’re 72 years old, how do you honestly feel?” ”Honestly, I feel like a new born baby. I’ve got no hair, no teeth, and I just wet myself.”
In our reading from Samuel, although at not such a pace of knots, things were also changing. Samuel by his own admission was past his best before date, he was feeling his age and was worn out. He had served God and his country as a leader from a child and did it well, certainly one of the better leaders called Judges in this period of the Israelite’s history. However there was discontentment in the camp. People wanted to be like other nations who were ruled by kings. Their faith in an invisible God, even though Samuel reminded them how great his provision had been, was waning, they wanted a human figure head, someone with apparent power and might, someone to exert a more dominant and aggressive status. Please note here that Samuel although past his best before date was not past his use by date! He was still of use for God, he was instrumental in choosing both the first king Saul and David. Likewise although we might slow up there is no retirement for Christians. It saddens me when some churches seem to put a downer on the elderly. OK I accept sometimes some may be stuck in a rut and resist the movement of the Holy Spirit but we must never generalize. I often wonder how much we appreciate the work our Mother’s Union do much behind the scenes. Their commitment is second to none, and sometimes more reliable than some younger elements in the church, even if not so fast or steady on their feet! Did you know that at the recent Church Family Retro Disco fund raising event the majority who bothered to support it were senior citizens!
Although numerous times in the Old Testament we are told God is a jealous God, thankfully he is also a humble God. Even though what the Israelite’s were asking for, a human king to lead them, was against the grain, God allowed kingship into the structure of the theocracy (God’s kingdom). However we must never forget that there will always be consequences when we drift from God, when we sin, when we place other god’s before the one and only true God. This includes materialistic gods! As Martin rightly pointed out last week God offers life in all it’s fullness but we must never place more importance on anything over our relationship with God. As my Life Application Study Bible also points out, the wheat harvest mentioned in verse 17 normally occurred near the end of the dry season during May and June. Since rain rarely fell during this period a great thunderstorm was considered a miraculous event. It was not a beneficial miracle, however, because rain during the wheat harvest could damage the crops and cause them to rot quickly. This unusual occurrence showed God’s displeasure with Israel’s demand for a king. I took the liberty and asked for the reading to be extended because there is a very important point in the last few verses. Like God, Samuel could not condone their demand for a king. However he promised to still pray for them in their hour of need as the rain and thunder lashed them. I don’t know about you but I don’t always find it easy to pray for those who deliberately go against God’s perfect plan for mankind! There is a great temptation to adopt the attitude of the saying, ‘you made your bed now lay on it’ We may disagree with someone but Samuel indicates that it would also be a sin not to pray for them. However like him we too have a responsibility to instruct people in the way God wants us to live our lives.
In the beginning of our reading it might sound is if Samuel is blowing his own trumpet, placing himself on a pedestal, but no, what he was doing was laying down the sort of example that Saul the newly appointed king should follow. He had to have integrity, faithfulness and loyalty.
As part of my Christian studies course I had to study all the Old Testament kings, although it was far from the most exciting part of my course work, it did highlight the fact that not many of the kings were a patch on Samuel and some of the other Judges, if fact most of them were terrible and very ungodly! There were only a handful who were anywhere near Godly or to the standard set by Samuel! The phrase âbe careful what you wish forâ comes to mind!
I guess all of us struggle with some scriptures. Certainly one passage for me is Romans 13 which tells us that all those placed in governing authorities, areas of leadership, are placed there by God and we should submit to their authority! Although in most countries things have gone full circle and now presidents, premiers or prime ministers have ousted monarchies, I often wish our Queen was given back control when I think of some of the ungodly decision making, corruption and scandal of many successive governments here in the uk and abroad! Although without sounding disrespectful, she is probably past her best before date, I believe she is a Christian in the true sense and certainly still used by God, especially when you listen to some of her Christmas messages. Sadly nowadays often ignored in our more secular society. How dare they delay the Coronation Street Christmas Special by 10 minutes!
I’m not suggesting God got it wrong in Romans and we ignore this instruction but apart from his written word he gave us all brains, OK some have more than others but God also gave us the Holy Spirit to guide us. Use Him in conjunction with your brains and scripture before submitting to someone’s authority. I don’t think God would want us to follow such leaders as Hitler or The president Kim Jung un of North Korea!!
So what other implications are there in today’s reading for us today? When I first read the given passage for today I wondered how I could make even a short sermon from it, especially on the theme the pulpit. However I soon discovered that there are many not obvious key points we need to consider, time doesn’t permit me to expand on them all.
Two elderly ladies had been friends since their 30’s. Now in their 80’s, they still got together a couple of times a week to play cards. One day they were playing gin rummy and one of them said, “You know, we’ve been friends for many years and, please don’t get mad, but for the life of me, I can’t remember your name. Please tell me what it is.” Her friend glared at her. She continued to glare and stare at her for at least three minutes. Finally, she said, “How soon do you need to know?”
Whether we are young or old many Christians suffer memory loss! Like the Israelite’s we too often forget what God has done for us in the past, when this should be an encouragement for our future. First and foremost we need to place our reliance on God, as other leaders can and do let us down.
Do we let the secular way of doing things influence our behaviour which can conflict with the way God wants us to conduct our lives? There is a modern day tendency for Christians to become part of the pick and mix brigade. Like a child would pick out sweets that went down well, do we only follow scripture that goes down well in our ever changing world, leaving behind the most challenging bits that we consider no longer relevant or too challenging? OK I accept some of the old Jewish Laws mentioned in such books as Leviticus were appropriate at the time as they wandered through the desert and are not applicable as we live in England the green and pleasant land as once called. But we too like those in our reading, will be standing on dangerous ground if we pick and mix scripture and will encounter the wrath of God! On the other side of the coin be careful not to dismiss something because it’s not mentioned in The Bible. For an example, I am staggered by the amount of Christians, including intellectuals and academics who deny the existence of such things as dinosaurs because there is no mention in the Bible. Neither is there mention of Black Widow Spiders but you would’nt deny their existence, especially if bitten by one! Can we really deny the fossil evidence? To do so would rightly make us look foolish. I hope you see the point I’m making, scientific facts and scripture can co-exist. Some of the world’s greatest scientist are Christians. Remember Galileo Galilei, often known as Galileo, an Italian physicist, mathematician, engineer, astronomer, and philosopher who played a major role in the scientific revolution in the 17th Century. He was dealt harshly by the church for daring to mention the earth and other planets revolved around the sun. Now an undisputed fact!
Dismiss any age discrimination from the church, remember Samuel served God well both as a child in the temple and in old age. None of us are past our use by date! Or too young to be used in God’s service!
Let me conclude with the words of the last two verses of our reading that all of need to digest and obey including me: But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart, consider what great things he has done for you. Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will be swept away. Amen
Ever Changing World 1 Sam 12 v1-25