Pastor Peter Walther
October 13, 2013
21st Sunday after Pentecost
1 Samuel 12:20-24
Consider What Great Things!
I’m sorry to do this. I’m sorry to bring this all back up again. This might stir up some emotions. But, aren’t government shut downs the worst! It’s the only thing that’s on the news. It’s like the new go-to conversation. Instead of, “How's the weather?” It’s “So, how’s that government shutdown treating you?” It’s almost comical how this news is handled. But, we still get caught up in it. Maybe, we get a little worried about what will happen to our country, to our family, to us. And we begin to play the blame game like everyone else. “Well, it’s probably that political party’s fault.” “No! It’s that person’s fault!” “If only we had this person in charge!” Or “if that political party was in charge we would’t be in this mess!”
Interestingly, when we look at our lesson, the nation of Israel was saying some of the same things and was also going through some changes in government. From the beginning of time, God’s Old Testament people lived under one basic form of government, a theocracy. In other words, God was the nation’s king and the nation’s ruler. He was the nation’s legislator, giving laws to live by. He held everyone accountable for obeying all the religious and social laws set in place. And then on top of it all, He led his nation into battle, often to victory with some type of miraculous intervention.
But a critical point had been reached in the history of the Israel nation. The people were demanding God that they be given a visible and human king like all the other nations, which was completely contrary to the purpose and will of God. Nevertheless, God chose a king for his people. And, as we learn from some of the sections of Scripture before our text, we see that Saul was chosen to be the king of Israel. And what a king he started out to be! In his first military campaign, he led Israel to an incredible victory!
Samuel, who was one of the nation’s prophets at this time, was getting older and was retiring. He had seen everything that the nation was going through, and had gone through. This demand of the nation to have a visible leader just seemed to floor Samuel! He couldn’t believe that the nation of Israel was demanding this! And now, Samuel’s legitimate concern was this: Would Israel now see this military victory, that Saul had, as evidence of God’s blessing? Would they give God the glory? Or, would they view this victory as a human achievement without any help from God? Would they view this as the victory of Saul? Samuel anticipated this question. He saw the potential to misdirect the recognition. He saw how easy it could be for the people to completely forget about God and make it all about the human leader. But Samuel directs the eyes of the nation back to where the source of all their blessing really came from, which was from God. He reminds his people to CONSIDER all the wonderful and the great things God had done for their nation. And the English word “consider” makes it seem like they had to think about it...the Hebrew word here is simply “see what God has done.” You don’t even have to think, just Open your eyes! This was the God who was always with them. This was the God who protected and cared for them.
However, he was also reminding them that their insistent demand for a king, though God granted it, was still an evil request because it was premature and wrongly motivated. In calling for a king, Israel in effect rejected God’s direct rule, and denied the unique heritage of being a theocracy. A visible king or a visible leader might seem to make more sense to our human logic. We probably would have agreed with the Israelites to “get with the times” and have a visible leader to, you know, fight the visible enemies. But the Israel nation was completely ignorant and short minded. A visible king or leader? Come on Israel! Get with the program! Remember the nation’s history! God had always given his people human leaders. God had appointed Moses and Aaron, who brought this people’s forefathers out of Egypt. Later, Israel had suffered oppression from human enemies. But, oppression had come only when the people turned away from God. When Israel turned back to God, the Lord sent the leaders known as Judges. Through leaders like these, God won military victories for His people. But as Samuel reminded the nation, it wasn’t the kings or leaders who held sway in the battles, but it was the Lord God who controlled all things. And, God’s blessing would come only as a result of the whole nation obeying the Lord. The form of government really made no difference, because God was the important part of the equation, not a visible king or leader.
So Samuel tries to wake up to this half asleep nation of Israel! He boldly states that they should fear God with their whole heart. As the Catechism tells us "we are to fear and love God." Fear is not always bad. However, there is also the fear of God we do not want to deal with. That is, we should fear living as though God doesn’t exist, as though His commandments aren’t real. When we give in to our feelings of anger, or greed, or lust, or rage, we are living as if we don’t believe in God or believe that we need one. When we lie about someone, or seek revenge, or gossip, at that moment, we are rejecting God and his word, maybe not knowingly. But usually we think, I’d rather just do it my way, or the way that everyone else is doing.
“But everyone else has a king!” That excuse of the Israelites becomes our excuse. Well, everyone else is doing it. This can be just as dangerous to our souls as saying I don’t believe in God. Slowly the devil works. Soon, the idea of marriage is considered an old fashioned idea, and living together before marriage is completely normal. Soon, the language and the profanities coming out of our mouths become completely normal. Well because, let’s be honest, even TV shows say those words. It can be a slippery slope. And we can look at our society and say how terrible its getting. Throughout history, human beings have assumed that if only a society might devise the right form of government, that society would get better and there would be peace. The problem isn’t the society that we live in, or the government that can’t get its act together, or the TV we watch, but it is in ourselves. Sin corrupts us all, and because of sin no form of human government can promise justice or peace. Because of sin, we are lost. Just like Israel was in a sense rejecting the Lord as their king, we attempt to kick him off his throne every time we sinfully reject his Word and his ways as if our wisdom and our ways are better. Yes, just like the Israelites we have rejected God time and time again. In reality God has every right to reject us. The time for excuses is over. The time for justifying our sin is done. Now is the time to live in the fear of a holy God who hates sin and who condemns sin.
We are to fear our God. But we are also to understand that He is indeed merciful and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. In spite of all that the nation of Israel went through, God never rejected his people. He promised them that they would be his people and that even though they asked for a king, he would still be with them. In God’s great love and mercy, God didn’t reject us. This seems absurd, doesn’t it? Did I do something that changed his mind? Not even close. Why doesn’t God reject us? Because he rejected his Son in our place. God rejected him and punished him for our sins. We are not forsaken souls, doomed to an eternity in hell. We are forgiven sinners, covered in the blood of the Lamb, at peace with our God now and forever. Because of the great things God has done for us, we have nothing to fear. For the Christian, there is not a dreaded fear of death and punishment, but rather our fear of God is respect and awe of who He is and what he has done for us.
What happened with the one leper who we heard about in our Gospel lesson? That one leper was healed and still came back out of his way to give an offering to Jesus. But, he couldn’t offer any money or food. He offered Jesus praise. You’ve been made God’s child. Your life has been changed. God’s grace is evident in your life. So what do we give to a God who already has all things? All we can do is come before our God humbly and give him thanks! During the course of your day, find the times when you can show God thanks. It might not be much, but it’s there. Our offerings that we bring forth might be small, but they’re there. We can give thanks to God in a variety of ways! In thanksgiving for everything that God has done for us, we need to devote and prioritize our time to gathering together and hearing God’s Word. We set aside time for in-depth study of his saving Word. We take a few quiet moments to sit with an open Bible or read a devotion. There we are reminded of why we give thanks to God in the first place.
Finally, in our lives of thanksgiving, we should remember to devote ourselves to a healthy prayer life. Look at Samuel speaking of the importance of prayer. Samuel pledged to remember the people in his prayers. He knew that in his retirement there was no greater service he could render his people. Many people today feel helpless to assist others in their time of need. Many shut-ins and elderly wonder what they can do to serve their Savior. The example of Samuel interceding with God, and praying on behalf of his people provides the answer.
God truly has blessed us. When we see what God has done for us not only physically but spiritually, we have a different perspective on life. While we may have a legitimate concerns like what will happen with our future or the future of our government for that matter, we know that God has always been with us and that he will continue to always be with us. I see that, and I consider truly how great God is to me. I want to fear God with my whole heart. I want to remember what God has done for me and I want to thank God!
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.