In this time of national and world crisis, it is essential to keep our focus on God and His Word. As we do that, we can move from fear and worry to faith and peace in our lives. Our message series Prophetic Living is very appropriate for our current situation. Prophetic living is living a life that acts and speaks according to the truth of God’s Word, not giving in to the attacks of the enemy. In this series, we’re looking at the life the prophet Samuel. Samuel lived in times of crisis and the attacks of enemies. It was a time of spiritual lethargy. Yet, Samuel did not give in to the spirit of the age. He lived a live of faith, not fear. He lived a life that was counterculture, a live of integrity. Today our message is entitled “Importance of Integrity.
Our society’s condition is similar to the time of Samuel, many people are far from God. Currently we are under attack, not from a physical enemy, but from a viral enemy, the disease COVID-19. If you haven’t seen it, I would encourage you to watch last week’s message “Coronavirus – Faith not Fear.” It is available on our website, lifechurchstlouis.org or our Facebook page or YouTube channel. Today, we’re going to learn some lessons from the life of Samuel about how to live prophetically in difficult circumstances
Philippians 2:14-16a (ESV) Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life …
I think we could say we should do everything without grumbling or worrying. God wants us to be different from our culture, so shine as lights in a dark world and to base our lives on God’s Word. Today, we’re going to look at 1 Samuel 12, so let’s catch up on what’s been going on in Samuel’s life. Samuel has been the prophet, judge and leader of Israel for many years. He is now growing older and people of Israel are demanding a king, to be like the other nations. This was not God’s will, yet God gave Samuel permission to anoint King Saul as their leader.
In 1 Samuel 12, Samuel gives his farewell address as he hands civil leadership over to King Saul. As we study Samuel’s words, we can learn wisdom on how to live prophetically in our day and in our time of crisis. We will learn how to grow in faith as we let our lights shine in a dark world that needs to find hope in Jesus Christ.
1 Samuel 12:1-2 (ESV) And Samuel said to all Israel, “Behold, I have obeyed your voice in all that you have said to me and have made a king over you. And now, behold, the king walks before you, and I am old and gray; and behold, my sons are with you. I have walked before you from my youth until this day.
Samuel begins his farewell address by acknowledging that he has spent his entire life serving the people of Israel that God had made him responsible for. He has transitioned his leadership to the new king, King Saul who was now their civil leader. Samuel’s role as spiritual leader, however, was not over, as we’ll see in future messages. Samuel had lived with integrity, serving the Lord and the people his whole life.
1 Samuel 12:3a (ESV) Here I am; testify against me before the LORD and before his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Or whose donkey have I taken? Or whom have I defrauded?
Samuel then asked the people before whom he was speaking, whether he had treated anyone unfairly. Had he taken things from them that were theirs? Had he cheated anyone? Had he done anything in his leadership that was not for the best of others? What an amazing series of questions. Samuel was not aware of anything that he had done unfairly and now he was asking the nation if there was any area where he had failed.
1 Samuel 12:3b-4 (ESV) Whom have I oppressed? Or from whose hand have I taken a bribe to blind my eyes with it? Testify against me and I will restore it to you.” They said, “You have not defrauded us or oppressed us or taken anything from any man’s hand.”
Samuel goes on to assert that he had not oppressed or treated anyone unkindly. He had never taken a bribe to treat some people unjustly. With thousands of people before him, surely someone would have something to say about his whole life? Yet, the response of the people was that indeed, Samuel had lived a life of integrity. A life of treating others fairly and kindly in every way. In a nation that had not been walking with God, Samuel stood out as a light in the midst of darkness.
How can we live lives of integrity, in our nation that is spirally away from God? We have faced that challenge for years, but now in this time of crisis, the challenge is greater. To treat others fairly is to respect and honor the leadership that God has put into our country. To follow the guidelines that have been set forth to combat this virus. Those who are young and healthy with little risk, need to take consideration of how their behavior could impact those who are at greater risk if they do not follow guidelines.
As a church that is part of the Assemblies of God, both we and the denomination are committed to following all government guidelines to demonstrate God’s love for our neighbors, even as we honor God by obeying the authorities. Finally, we should ask God how we could reach out and help those around us, both within our church family and without. Both acts and words of kindness would demonstrate God’s love in this crisis.
As a church, we will continue to function to spread God’s Word through message and prayer. We will look for new ways to meet together and reach others as well. May God use this time of crisis to draw others to Himself.
1 Samuel 12:7 (ESV) Now therefore stand still that I may plead with you before the LORD concerning all the righteous deeds of the LORD that he performed for you and for your fathers.
In the next section of his address, Samuel calls the people back to God, he pleads with them to get right with God and not stray from Him. He asks the people to consider how God has acted in the past and how they have responded. Everything that God has done for them is righteous and just. Yet the people had a history of straying from God, so Samuel needed to …
1 Samuel 12:8-9 (ESV) 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. But they forgot the LORD their God. And he sold them into the hand of … the Philistines … And they fought against them.
Next, Samuel talks about a recurring pattern throughout Israel’s history. He begins with the example of Israel being oppressed as slaves in Egypt. The people’s response was good as they created out to the Lord for deliverance. God answered their prayers, brought them out of Egypt and eventually brought them into the Promised Land. But, the people forgot about the Lord and began to worship other gods. The result was that God’s judgement fell on them and they began to be oppressed by the Philistines. So the cycle of attack, crying out to God, deliverance followed by forgetting God and renewed attacks continued. Samuel was giving the people words of correction, calling for repentance to avoid the cycle of God’s judgement coming again.
1 Samuel 12:14-15 (ESV) 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. 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.
Rather than rebelling against the Lord and forgetting Him, the people were to fear, serve and obey the Lord. If they did, it would be well with them. If they disobeyed and rebelled, the judgement of the Lord would come upon them once again. Samuel was calling others to put their faith in and obey the Lord.
In this time of crisis, it is important that our church continue to call others to God. We will continue to have online messages on a weekly basis at our normal service time of 10am on Sunday. We encourage you to watch the messages on Facebook where we can interact via the comment section. After the message, our plans are to have a Facebook live session with Pastor Dan where you can ask questions or give prayer requests that we can pray for. As you share these online meetings with others, we can continue to reach out. We are also exploring ways to video conference small group Bible studies or prayer meetings. We will be communicating these opportunities within the next week.
As individuals, each of us should look to keep in touch and encourage others in our families, our church family and other friends that we have. We can communicate with phone, email, text, Facetime, Facebook and other ways safely. I believe that this time of crisis is a great opportunity to bring hope and God’s truth to a fearful and hurting world as we …
1 Samuel 12:16 (ESV) Now therefore stand still and see this great thing that the LORD will do before your eyes.
As we live with integrity, call others to God, we must trust in God’s faithfulness. God is sovereign, nothing happens that is outside of His control. God can and will work good from everything that happens as we put our trust in Him. Samuel knew that the people needed to see a demonstration of God’s greatness. They needed to be reminded that …
1 Samuel 12:17-18 (ESV) Is it not wheat harvest today? I will call upon the LORD, that he may send thunder and rain. And you shall know and see that your wickedness is great, which you have done in the sight of the LORD, in asking for yourselves a king.” So Samuel called upon the LORD, and the LORD sent thunder and rain that day, and all the people greatly feared the LORD and Samuel.
In the time of harvest in Israel, rain was very unlikely and even more unlikely that someone could predict it. Samuel a prophet of great faith prophesied that he would call and the Lord and the Lord would immediately send thunder and rain to demonstrate His power. Samuel then prayed, God sent thunder and rain and the people feared God and His prophet Samuel. Samuel again called the people to
1 Samuel 12:20-21 (ESV) And Samuel said to the people, “Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart. And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty.
One does not need to be afraid of God’s judgment if you are serving the Lord with all your heart. What is the alternative to serving God wholeheartedly? It is turning aside to empty things, which are idols of all sorts. In this crisis, God is showing the emptiness of idols such as health, life, money, stock accounts and others. Only God can deliver from the attacks of the enemy for those who understand that …
1 Samuel 12:22 (ESV) For the LORD will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the LORD to make you a people for himself.
Not only does God have great power, He also has great love. He won’t leave or forsake His people. His people today are those who have put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. Even when God brings judgement, He always gives people an opportunity to repent and receive His forgiveness and grace. Those who are walking with God must show His love to others and …
1 Samuel 12:23 (ESV) Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way.
Samuel knew that his responsibility was to pray for others in need. In fact, it would be a sin against the Lord not to pray for others. Praying for others is not an option for the believer, it is a command of the Lord. To disobey and neglect to pray for others is a sin. So, in closing Samuel vowed to pray for the people and to continue to instruct them in the way they should go.
So, in the closing portion of Samuel’s farewell address, we learn that in times of transition, in times of crisis, we can depend on God’s great power and love. Our responsibility is to serve God wholeheartedly and to pray for those in need. In this unprecedented time of social distancing, let’s pray for one another in the church family and for those outside. Ask God how you should stay in communication with the tools we have today: phone calls, email, texts, Facebook, Facetime and so on. As a church, we’ll also be looking at some other ways that we can stay connected for the season the we can’t meet in person. But most of all, let’s trust in God’s faithfulness, power and love.
Through His Word, God is speaking to us in this time of crisis to live with integrity, call others to God and to trust in His faithfulness. I’m convinced that God is going to work good out of this crisis, both for each of our families, for our church family and for our nation. Let’s pray that God would use these difficult times to turn people’s hearts to Himself.