1 Samuel 12:8-15 Learning from Past Mistakes
1 Samuel 12:8-15
8 When Jacob went into Egypt, and the Egyptians oppressed them, then your fathers cried out to the Lord and the Lord sent Moses and Aaron, who brought your fathers out of Egypt and made them dwell in this place. 9 But they forgot the Lord their God. And he sold them into the hand of Sisera, commander of the army of Hazor, and into the hand of the Philistines, and into the hand of the king of Moab. And they fought against them. 10 And they cried out to the Lord and said, ‘We have sinned, because we have forsaken the Lord and have served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. But now deliver us out of the hand of our enemies, that we may serve you.’ 11 And the Lord sent Jerubbaal and Barak and Jephthah and Samuel and delivered you out of the hand of your enemies on every side, and you lived in safety. 12 And when you saw that Nahash the king of the Ammonites came against you, you said to me, ‘No, but a king shall reign over us,’ when the Lord your God was your king. 13 And now behold the king whom you have chosen, for whom you have asked; behold, the Lord has set a king over you. 14 If you will fear the Lord and serve him and obey his voice and not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, and if both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God, it will be well. 15 But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then the hand of the Lord will be against you and your king.
After Samuel and the people have established a more united Israel under Saul, he proceeded to relinquish his role as judge of Israel. It has been a year since Saul was crowned and the days of the judges and theocracy (God as king) are coming to an end. Samuel addressed the people with a message of warnings and admonishments as his final words before he steps down as the last of the judges of Israel. He called the people to learn from their past mistakes and not to forget the Lord as they enter into a new age of human kings. The tendency of man is to test God’s patience and the validity of His commandment by disobeying Him. It is better to learn from the pure wisdom of God’s word than from His loving discipline.
But they forgot the Lord their God – Samuel wanted the people to understand the mercies of God against the backdrop of their cyclical rebellion against Him. They often forgot the Lord their God: they became oblivious of God and ignored His commandments in times of peace. Disobedience and sin in no uncertain terms brings discipline in the form of oppression by foreign nations. But whenever they repented of their evil ways and put away their idols, God never fails to restore and prosper them. Samuel reminded them of the time when the Egyptians oppressed them and made them slaves and how God heard their cries and brought them into Canaan. He recounted their disobedience under the judges Jerubbaal (Gideon) and Barak and Jephthah and Samuel. Next, he pointed out Nahash, the Ammonite menace, that is when they took occasion to request for a human king and rejected God as their King.
And if both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God, it will be well – Even though the people rejected God’s rule by requesting for a human king, they are still subject to the rule of God. God in meekness acceded to their request and He will continue to prosper and protect them from their enemies. However, if they disobey His commandment, God’s hand will be against them and their king.
- Times of prosperity should remind us of what we have done right and continue in doing them – It is fallen human nature to forget the ways of righteousness in times of prosperity. Times of peace and prosperity are the result of generations of hard work based on a righteous values system. History tells us that a nation starts to go into decline once it reaches a state of prosperity and plenty. People just could not continue in the virtues and values system that got them there in the first place. The generations of nation builders differ to a large extent with subsequent generations who prefer to live off the goodness of the land rather than to continue building on it. People who rose from the ranks of the corporate ladder understood the temptation of changing one’s attitude towards work and fellow workers as he gets promoted through the ranks. They stop displaying the virtues that got them promoted in the first place.
- Man cannot escape the rule of God in their lives no matter how powerful he may be – It is human nature to think that he is above the law once he becomes successful. The Israelites seek to be independent of God’s rule by asking for a human king. Little did they expect that after they have gotten their king, they continued to be subject to God’s universal law and commandment. We must remember that God will always be the supreme and sovereign Ruler even though man may not see Him. People who are in positions of power are apt to trivialize the law and circumvent it for their own purposes. Paul says,
There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God. Romans 2:9-11.
God is always the sovereign Judge and Ruler of all nations regardless of their religious heritage and political structures and all will be judged according to God’s law. Therefore, the more we grow in authority and influence, the more we must be careful to revere God and to walk in His ways.
- It is less costly to learn from the wisdom of the Word than from our own mistakes – Man has a tendency not to take wisdom seriously until they are in utter ruin and disgrace. Proverbs 5:13-14 say,
Oh, why didn’t I listen to my teachers? Why didn’t I pay attention to my instructors? I have come to the brink of utter ruin, and now I must face public disgrace.
Hence, Samuel admonished the people, “… and if both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God, it will be well.” If people would just take God’s commandment seriously and obey Him, then there will be peace and prosperity generations after generations. Otherwise, there would be bad times through which people will learn to obey the hard way. It is so much better if we learn from the pure wisdom of the Word than from His loving discipline.
- What are the hard lessons that you have learned in the past? Are there some commandments that you are still not fully convinced of its validity? If there are, perhaps you could talk to people who have learned it the hard way.
- What are the things that you have done rightly that prospered you and got you where you are today? Write it down and reinforce those behaviors that are constructive towards growth and prosperity.
Dear Lord, I thank you for saving me from my stubbornness and prevented me from utter ruin. I open my heart to learn from your word and conform to your virtues. I put off self-centered living, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. Fill me with your Spirit so that I can live freely and abundantly in your ways. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.