Although Samuel never ceased to judge Israel throughout the rest of his lifetime, yet his official work in that capacity had now come to an end with the anointing of Saul as king. Accordingly, Samuel gave a solemn and public account of his administration, calling the Lord to be a witness of what passed between himself and the people. This was done at Gilgal, after Saul had been publicly established as king, and after sacrifices of peace-offerings had been made to the Lord.
This closing address of the Prophet-Judge to the assembled multitudes at Gilgal is a model of candor, simplicity, and patriotism. He first appealed to his long and faithful services to his people, and the blamelessness of his life – even from his childhood. But, as a faithful servant of the Lord, Samuel went further than that; he briefly reviewed the manifold mercies and wonderful deliverances with which Israel had been favored, from the days of Moses until his own time. He wished to bring the people to repentance for their great sin in the manner wherein they had demanded a king. And so, one by one, he recalled to them the “righteous doings” of Jehovah in the fulfillment of His Covenant-promises in the past. And then, in contrast to the Lord’s never-failing help, Samuel pointed to the people’s unbelief. Being unmindful of what God had done in the past, and distrustful of what He would do now, they had – upon the approach of serious danger – virtually said concerning the Lord’s leadership, “Nay, but a king shall reign over us.” And God had granted their desire. The work of ministers is to reason with people – not only to exhort and direct them; but also to persuade and convince them, thereby gaining their wills and affections. Thus Samuel reasoned with the Israelites of the righteous acts of the Lord. From this, let us remember that the best method to seek confidence from the Lord for future blessings is to make mention at His throne of grace about how He has blessed us and worked on our behalf in the past!
Samuel warned the people that disobedience would certainly be their ruin. He made it clear that the future blessing of Israel did not depend upon the fact that they now had a king; rather, it depended upon obedience to the Lord, on the part of themselves and their king. And this truth – which was so difficult for them to learn – was now about to be proved to them (so to speak) in a symbol. They thought it unlikely – even almost impossible – to fail in their present circumstances! But the Lord was going to bring an unlikely and seemingly incredible thing to pass, in a manner that would be obvious to all! This was the time of wheat-harvest in Israel (lasting from the middle of May to the middle of June), when not a cloud darkens the clear sky. But God would send thunder and rain among them; and by making these unlikely circumstances become a reality, He would thereby convince them of the folly and ingratitude of their thoughts in desiring a king to save them – promising themselves more from an arm of flesh, than from the arm of God or the power of prayer. The occurrence of a thunderstorm at this time of the year – coming, as it did, at the call of the aged prophet – would be too startlingly unusual to be viewed as anything other than a Divine authentication of Samuel’s words.
The prophet’s prayer was answered; and the thunder and rain – phenomena almost unknown in harvest-time – struck terror and remorse into the hearts of the people, who begged for Samuel’s intercessions on their behalf. He told them to lay aside their fears; and he assured them that – notwithstanding the sin they had committed – they might still serve the Lord and enjoy His favor, even under the altered conditions of their national life. He told them that the Lord would not fail in His faithfulness to His Covenant and promises. Samuel also touchingly added that he himself would continue to instruct them in “the good and the right way,” although he would no longer act as their acknowledged leader; and his earnest prayers for their well-being would not cease, as long as he lived. Herein Samuel stands as a picture of our Lord Jesus, Who never ceases to make intercession for us before His Father’s throne in heaven! Samuel reminded the people that they were bound in gratitude to serve God, considering the great things that He had done for them; and that they were also bound in their own best interests to serve Him, considering what He would do against them if they continued to do wickedly. Thus, as a faithful watchman, Samuel gave the people warning, and so delivered his own soul. If we consider the great things that the Lord has done for us – especially in the great work of redemption – we will not lack either motives or encouragement to serve Him!
Thus the assembly parted – the people to their homes; Saul to the work of the kingdom which lay in his hands; and Samuel to the far more trying and difficult duty of faithfully representing and executing the will of God, as His appointed messenger in the land. And with those memorable words, the official career of Samuel was brought to a close; and with it came the end of the epoch of the Judges of Israel.
Lord God, we thank You for Your grace, mercy, and lovingkindness that You show to us, in forever remaining faithful to Your Covenant-promises – even in those times when we foolish promise ourselves security in an arm of flesh. Amen.
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