A People for Himself
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A People for Himself

1 Samuel 12:1-25  (ID: 3377)

Stepping down from his leadership role, Samuel warned Israel that in demanding a king, they’d actually rejected God. While they’d sinned greatly, though, Samuel assured the people that the Lord would not forsake them. Examining Samuel’s testimony of his legacy, Israel’s history, and God’s reliability, Alistair Begg reminds us that instead of reaching for empty things that cannot deliver, we should fear the Lord, serve Him, and be thankful. Whatever evil we’ve done, God’s grace is greater, and He will complete what He’s begun.


Sermon Transcript:

I’m going to read from the Bible, in 1 Samuel and in chapter 12. And I invite you to follow along as I read from the first verse:

“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. 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? 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.’ And he said to them, ‘The Lord is witness against you, and his anointed is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand.’ And they said, ‘He is witness.’

“And Samuel said to the people, ‘The Lord is witness, who appointed Moses and Aaron and brought your fathers up out of the land of Egypt. 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. 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 Sisera, [the] 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. 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.” 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. 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. And now behold the king whom you have chosen, for whom you have asked; behold, the Lord has set a king over you. 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. Now therefore stand still and see this great thing that the Lord will do before your eyes. 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[’ve] 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.

“And all the people said to Samuel, ‘Pray for your servants to the Lord your God, that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil, to ask for ourselves a king.’ And Samuel said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid; [for] you have done …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. 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. 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. Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you. But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king.’”

Amen.

These words come from your mouth. You are the living God. You have spoken them. We pray now that the Spirit of God will illumine the page to us, deal with the blindness that is endemic in our own minds, and open our eyes to behold wonderful things in your Word.[1] For we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Well, we’ve been following Samuel from the very time of his conception all the way up until today. Hannah had asked for him. God gave him to Hannah. She in turn then lent him back to the Lord. And as we arrive at this twelfth chapter, he tells us in verse 2 that he is now “old and gray.” The inevitability of life is that you will end up, if you live long enough, old and gray. You may not ever get to be gray. You may have no hairs to be gray. We can’t tell. But we recognize that in the normal routine of things, as the writer of Ecclesiastes says, “For everything there is a season,” and there is “a time” to every purpose, or to “every matter under heaven.”[2] And it is this to which Samuel is referring. At the end of chapter 11, Saul has been made king, in the sort of stage-four element of his kingship, before the Lord at Gilgal. And so, the focus is inevitably shifting, and Samuel is recognizing now that the role that he has played as a judge is about to change.

And so, in light of that, he essentially sets out the state of the union, as it were, at what is a pivotal moment of transition. I actually think it’s helpful, and you may choose to see it in these terms or not—this is not a main or a plain thing—but I think it is more than likely that chapter 12 is providing the detail of what is given to us as a summary at the end of chapter 11. At the end of chapter 11: “And [he was there] made … king before the Lord in Gilgal,”[3] and they had come there to “renew the kingdom,”[4] and I think that chapter 12 actually probably provides the wider framework of what was summarized for us at the end of 11.

With that said, Samuel then uses this transition time first as an opportunity to establish, if you like, his legacy. It’s more than just being about Samuel, as I will say in a moment, but it is certainly that. He has enjoyed a privileged position, and he has walked before the Lord, as he puts it here: “I have walked [before the Lord,] before you from my youth until this day.” There’s something about being able to say that: that “I have had the privilege,” he’s able to recount, “of God’s faithfulness and goodness.” And he wants to make sure that the people understand this.

It’s a bit along the lines of what happens when you eventually get to the end of the day, and somebody will provide some kind of eulogy for you. There is a difference, which David Brooks pointed out masterfully in his book The Road to Character, between what he refers to as résumé virtues and eulogy virtues.[5] The résumé virtues have to do with the skills and strategies that we manage to secure and convey as a means of success in our careers, whereas the eulogy virtues are usually the ones that are talked about at one’s funeral. And as people always say, no son ever stood at the funeral and said, “I’m glad my father went to the office as often as he did.” They usually say, “I’m glad that he rode bikes with me” whenever it was. There is a big difference.

And I think if you look carefully at this, it would appear that Samuel is focusing very much on the latter rather than the former. And so, notice what he tells us. Verse 1: “Behold, I have obeyed your voice.” He’s talking to the people. He says, “You’re the ones that asked for a king, and I did what you said.” And he says, “And you should look now, and behold, the king walks before you. He’s got all of his future in front of him, as it were”—limited as we’re going to discover it was, but he’s got it all in front of him—“and I have more behind me than I’ve got in front of me, because I’m old and I’m gray. And again, I have done what I’ve done, and you will notice also that my sons are with you. They’re not with me, as it were.” We have rehearsed that before. They’re part of the community. Life is unfolding.

Now, what he’s then doing is he’s putting himself in the dock, and he’s essentially saying, “You could come forward now and testify in terms of the integrity of my leadership.” Leadership is very vulnerable, isn’t it? When you work—whether it’s in front of a classroom, or work in front of a lab or an industry or wherever it might be, certainly in political or pastoral leadership—there’s an immense vulnerability that attaches to it, because you are before the scrutiny of people, and you are routinely under the spotlight. Whether one seeks it or not, it is inevitably there. And that’s one of the reasons, I think, that James, in speaking in pastoral terms, says, “Probably not a good idea for people to put up their hands and say, ‘I’d like to be a teacher of a church,’ because, after all, you’ll be judged with greater strictness.”[6] So it takes place in the presence of God and before the congregation, and therefore, it’s not to be entered upon, as we say in the wedding service, lightly or carelessly, but thoughtfully with reverence for God and with due consideration of the purposes for which it was established by God.

And so he says, “You should just check and see whether I have taken anybody’s ox, whether I took somebody’s donkey, whether I defrauded anybody, or whether I oppressed anybody.” In other words, he says, “I’m going to stand here, and you can have a conversation with one another and determine whether my leadership has been marked by bribery and by self-promotion.”

Now, you perhaps recall that when he introduced the possibility of a king back in chapter 8, I think it is, he said to them, “If the king ends up on the wrong side of the equation, then he’ll be on the take.” If you remember that at all, he says, “He’ll take your donkeys, he’ll take your daughters, he’ll take your young men, he’ll take, take, take.”[7] And now he says to them, “I didn’t do that, did I? I didn’t take, take, take.” And they said, “Fine. We agree. The Lord is witness. You have not defrauded us,” verse 4. “You’ve not oppressed us. You have not taken anything from any man’s hand.” And so he is vindicated. And he says, “Well, let me just put it to you one final time. Before God as our witness, before his anointed—that is, the king—you haven’t found anything in my hand, have you?” And they said, “No, absolutely not.”

Now, here’s the thing. This is not just about Samuel in terms of his character. It is true of his character. But it’s about Samuel in terms of his leadership and of the leadership that was entrusted to him. And in some measure, in light of what follows now, he’s actually saying to the people, “Testify to the fact that this old style of leadership was really pretty good, huh?” And so they’re actually saying, “Yeah, actually it was.” Because he’s really setting ’em up, so that his vindication leads to their condemnation.

And so we move from his legacy to something of a summary of Israel’s history, which you will notice there begins in verse 6. And so Samuel said to the people, “Now, the Lord is witness”—he moves into, if you like, the prosecutor’s role rather than being the defendant—“the Lord is witness, and what I want to do is ask you to stand still,” verse 7, “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. I want you to think about how immensely good God has been to you as you survey history, in order that the contrast between the reliability of God and the fickleness of the people of God may be unmistakable. The reason I want you to stand still and reflect on these things…” He’s going to do it again before the chapter ends, down in verse 24: “Consider what great things he has done for you.” It is the consideration of the immensity of God’s goodness that shows up the poverty of the people’s response.

Now, I’m not going to delve deeply into this. I’m going to trust you to do some of your own homework. It will become pretty obvious to you where you can find this material. His starting point is with the exodus, all right? The people were in Egypt, and God granted deliverance through Moses and Aaron. He says, “However, not too long after that, they found themselves oppressed once again, because they forgot the Lord,” verse 9, “and he sold them into the hand of Sisera.”

It’s an inevitable process: forget the Lord, forget his commandments, forget his goodness, begin to think about yourself a lot, begin to commandeer your own designs and desires, and before any one of us knows it, we will forsake the Lord.

The important thing to get from this is straightforward, and you can see it if you read Judges. What he is pointing out is the recurring pattern amongst the people of God, and it goes like this: they found themselves in bondage, they cried out to God in their difficulty, the Lord provided a deliverer and set them free. They promptly, then, got themselves right back into bondage, they cried out to Yahweh for a deliverer, he sent another deliverer and got them free, and they promptly went right back into bondage again. You can read this. It’s the whole story of the book of Judges. And in that line, you have these individuals that he mentions here: Jerubbaal and Barak and Jephthah, and even he includes himself, Samuel.

Now, what had happened was, in verse 9, that “they forgot the Lord their God.” Remember, the Bible says, “Remember … your Creator in the days of your youth.”[8] It doesn’t mean “Remember that there is a Creator.” It means to dwell upon, to get down underneath the reality of the “Godness” of God, if you like. And they forgot that. It’s actually that they chose to forget it. It was inconvenient for them to consider God in all of his holiness and all of his might. And so they deliberately turned their back on him, despite the fact that they’d been warned. In Deuteronomy and chapter 8, on a couple of occasions, Moses says to the people, “Take care lest you forget the Lord your God.”[9] It’s very straightforward.

Now, I wouldn’t want to sit in judgment on them. Do you ever choose to forget the Lord? In the face of temptation, are we going to go down the pathway of his kingship, or are we gonna look for another way to maneuver the circumstances? They forgot him, and then in verse 10, they forsook him. They’re prepared to acknowledge that in verse 10: “because we have forsaken the Lord and [we] have served the Baals.”

It’s an inevitable process, let me tell you: forget the Lord, forget his commandments, forget his goodness, begin to think about yourself a lot, begin to commandeer your own designs and desires, and before any one of us knows it, we will forsake the Lord. There is an inevitability to it. And so it is that he tells them, “That’s exactly how you ended up following the Baals and the Ashtaroths”—in other words, going after foreign gods; seductive gods, admittedly, but depraved gods, and in both cases largely marked by one ongoing feature, which remains true throughout all the generations of time. If you think about the corruption within the framework of Christianity per se—evangelical Christianity as a subset of that—you realize that although we may not have actual Baals and actual Ashtaroths, what that offered to those who would submit to it was a lifestyle of depraved sexual indulgence.

So, the appeal was “If we stick with this Yahweh God, we’re stuck with those commandments. Those commandments appear to be very limiting. It doesn’t seem… We’re not having fun like all of these surrounding nations are having fun. They seem to have parties all the time, and we have, like, a prayer time, and then the fellow who prays, and then he preaches, and then he prays, then he preaches. I mean, there’s nothing much going on. There’s a lot of fun ways we could do this.” And so they said, “Yeah, why don’t we do that?”

Now, the wonder of it is this—and this is surely the point in it all: that God did not abandon them. He didn’t abandon them. And what happens is that every time, in his mercy, he deals with them drastically—in fact, it says there in the text that “they cried out to the Lord” because he had “sold them into the hand” of the enemy. He “sold them into the hand” of the enemy. Why? In order that they might seek him! Because they weren’t seeking him. They were forgetting him. They were forsaking him. So this gives the lie to the idea that, you know, if you’re really, truly engaged in things, then everything will be going very, very wonderfully well. No, in actual fact, not necessarily so.

Now, what is God is doing is he’s showing himself to be righteous—righteous in his dealings with them. That’s verse 7: “I want to declare before you all the righteous deeds the Lord has performed for you and for your fathers. You’re not thinking when you do this. You’re not thinking!”

This is the significance, incidentally, of baptism. Whenever I deviate from path, whenever I seek to slip out from underneath the jurisdiction of God as my almighty King, I am not thinking. I am not thinking. Think of what God has done for me. Think about the fact that he has buried me in baptism, he has raised me to newness of life;[10] I am no longer the person I once was; I have been made a member of a community that will last forever. What in the world am I doing here? Why am I thinking like this? Why am I going to deviate from course?

They forgot him. They forsook him. They forgot the righteous deeds. But God didn’t abandon them. He doesn’t.

And in verse 13, the history comes right up to date with Nahash. Those of you who were around last week know about Nahash—a bad man, the king of the Ammonites. And what he’s pointing out here in verse 12 is that Nahash, when he shows up, causes the people to break their pattern. Their pattern was bondage, cry, deliverance sent from Yahweh. Now they find themselves confronted by Nahash, and look what it says in the text: “And when Nahash came, you said to me, ‘No, but a king shall reign over us. We’re not gonna cry out to Yahweh for a deliverer. We got our own plan. We’ve got a king.’”

Now, I can’t delay on this, but those of you who are alert—which reduces the number considerably—those of you who are alert will remember that in chapter 8, the dynamic which gives rise to the request for a king is the age of Samuel, remember? Samuel—they came to Samuel and said, “You are old, and your boys are not cutting it.”[11] Here in chapter [12], Samuel says, “It was when you saw Nahash, the king of the Ammonites, that you said, ‘We want a king.’” How do we deal with that? I think the way to deal with it is to see both things happening simultaneously.

The chronology is difficult in Samuel, as we pointed out already. But if you think about the fact that 1 Samuel 11 basically covers a week—because, remember, Nahash came, and they said, “Give us a week to try and figure something out”—and that’s concluded. So Nahash is at his business. He’s only introduced to us at the beginning of 11, but for sure he’s present back in chapter 8. Again, this is not a main and plain thing. But it seems to me that it is possible for us to say both things happened simultaneously—namely, Samuel was getting old, the people were getting restless; Nahash came, stirred the whole thing up, and in that case, they said, “No, we’re gonna have a king.”

So instead of crying out to the Lord as they had done before in the form of the judges, they decide on a new kind of leadership: a monarchy will be the answer. And fascinatingly, you will remember at the beginning of chapter 11, they were even prepared to take Nahash as their king. Isn’t that what they said? “And all the men of Jabesh said to Nahash, ‘Make a treaty with us, and we will serve you.’”[12] Incredible, isn’t it? They must have forgotten the Lord, that they would have Nahash as their king.

Now, when you consider this—and consider it we must—you realize that the point that he’s making is “You said …, ‘No, but a king shall reign over us,’ when the Lord your God was your king.” “When the Lord your God was your king.” So he says, “Look, here’s your king, the one you chose, the one that’s been set over you. He’s tall, he’s handsome, he was good against the Ammonites, but he’s not the Lord your God.” Is there any way that this can possibly work? Well, yes! Verse 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 that is true of both you and the king who reigns over you—if the two of you, all of you, will follow the Lord your God—it will be well.”

We can’t stop here, but incidentally, this is the only way any political structure ultimately works, no matter what it is in the entire universe. Because it’s underneath the sovereign authority of Almighty God, who is the King of the universe. If you will submit to the King of the universe, then you’ll be amazed at how things can unfold. If you refuse to do that, then no matter what structure you put in place, it’s bound for disintegration. So he says, “Yes, you can go forward in this way.” “But,” verse 15, “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.” So. “Why don’t you stand still?” He likes telling people to stand still: “Now therefore stand still, because you’re gonna see something really spectacular.” That’s my paraphrase of verse 16.

And then he says, “Is it not the wheat harvest today?” You can imagine people looking at one another, going, “Yeah, it is, but what does that have to do with anything?” Well, it has to do with the fact that in the wheat harvest, it was an arid time; it was a dry time. It wasn’t a thunder and a lightning time. It wasn’t the rainy season. And so he says, “What I’m going to do is I’m going to ask God—now that I’ve spoken to you, you have heard audibly from God—now I’m gonna ask God to demonstrate visually before you, with a sign, just how displeased he is with what you’ve done.” And so, what then happens is kind of the equivalent of twelve inches of snow in downtown Miami on the second of June. Right? It just doesn’t happen. And that’s the point: “Stand still and watch this. If you go this route, all will be well. If you don’t…”

This is a critical juncture in the history of Israel. They’re teetering, as it were, on the abyss. And “Samuel called upon the Lord, … the Lord sent thunder and rain that day, and all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel.”

I remember as a boy in Scotland, in school—it made me think of it just this now—that every so often, on a pretty nice afternoon in school, all of a sudden the darkness descended, the lights had to be turned on, and there’s a dreadful darkness that became pervasive in the middle of the afternoon as a huge storm came in. And there was always some little boy at the back who would say—you could hear him whispering—“It’s the end of the world. It’s the end of the world.” Well, it was gonna be the end of the world for these people if they didn’t pay attention. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”[13] Incidentally, the Bible is not shy in talking about the place of the fear of God moving men and women to repentance. The Bible isn’t shy about it; we needn’t be either.

And as a result of the fearfulness, they ask for Samuel’s intervention on their behalf. Notice verse 19: “And all the people said to Samuel, ‘Pray for your servants to the Lord your God.’” If you go back to 1 Samuel 7, they had said to him there, “Cry out to the Lord our God.”[14] Here they say, “Pray for your servants to the Lord your God.” You see what has happened here? They have now began to distance themselves from Yahweh. They recognize it: “If he is really our God, if he is really our King, if he is really the one that we serve, what in the world are we doing here?” And it is in answer to these longings that the kingdom will be renewed.

God is a covenant-establishing God and a covenant-keeping God. It is grace that brings us in. It is grace that keeps us in. It is grace that will take us home.

Well, time is gone, but I’ll just say a word, then, concerning that—concerning how all that then may be enjoyed is grounded in the reliability of God. On what basis can Samuel begin his response in verse 20 with the line “Do not be afraid”? “Do not be afraid.” He just said, “I’m gonna ask God to do something so dramatic that you’ll be afraid.” And then they’re afraid, and then he says, “Don’t be afraid.” How can they not be afraid? On what basis can fear be dealt with? He’s not encouraging them for a moment to believe that somehow or another, “Hey, listen, it doesn’t really matter. I spoke with God, and he said it’s okay—the fact that you have rebelled against him in this way, that you’re foolish and you’re wicked. It doesn’t matter. He overlooks these things.” No, it’s not that at all. “Do not be afraid. You’ve done this evil. We’re not gonna say it isn’t evil. But don’t turn aside. Don’t turn aside.” And here’s the key, verse 22: “For the Lord,” Yahweh, “will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself.”

In other words, God is not the author of unfinished business. He completes what he begins. He will not allow his purposes for his people to be thwarted, even by their foolish rebellion. His grace is greater than all their sin, and all our sin. The future of the people of God here in 1 Samuel 12 and the future of the people of God throughout the nations of the world this morning rests on the reliability of God—that God has purposed from all of eternity to put together a people that are his very own. And the issue there is not ethnicity, it is not race, it is not gender; it is grace. It is the fact that God is a covenant-establishing God and a covenant-keeping God. It is grace that brings us in. It is grace that keeps us in. It is grace that will take us home. When Paul writes of this to the Philippians, you remember, classically he says, “[Being confident] of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”[15] God is concerned about his name and about his reputation. And he’s so concerned that he won’t allow his purposes to be destroyed by the wickedness of his people.

Now, that ought to be a huge encouragement. It ought to be a huge encouragement at a very personal level. When we are tempted this morning, as individuals, to allow our past sins to define us, when we are tempted to conclude and say things that are not uncommon in terminology—“Well, you know, I can’t change; there is no hope for me”—that’s the lie of the devil.

Ralph Davis has a wonderful little section where he says, “Don’t think that the ‘grand mistake’ that has disfigured your life is the first disastrous sin [that] God has seen.”[16] Don’t think you can silence verse 22. Because God can make it blink at you in neon if he must: “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.”

So, Samuel has confronted them with their evil, they have repented, and so they must move on. “Move on.” That’s what the cop says at Hopkins, isn’t it, when you’re trying to wait for your mother-in-law, and he taps you on the window? He always says, “Move on. Move on.” You have to go around again. “You can’t… Move on.” Well, that’s what Samuel is saying here.

What does the devil say to us? The devil says, “Well, you should probably review some of your mess.” He says, “Why don’t you relive some of your mess? Why don’t you go back in the garbage cans and dig out some of that stuff that confronts you with your fear and your wickedness and your failure and your rebellion?” That’s what he says. But God says, “No. Move on.”

It’s not that their obedience then establishes this covenant relationship with God, but it is that our obedience allows us to enjoy the relationship with God. There’s no peace, there’s no joy, there’s no thrill like walking in God’s will. And the imperatives that are then pervasive through the balance of this text, I’m gonna have to leave you to consider them on your own. Verse 20: “Do not turn aside, … serve the Lord with all your heart.” Twenty-one: “Don’t reach for empty things; they can’t deliver.” Verse 24: “Fear the Lord, … serve him faithfully …. Consider what great things he[’s] done for you.”

And Samuel says, “And my ongoing ministry will continue as prophet and intercessor. And insofar as I fulfill this role, then both the people and the king will submit to God’s good and great rule. I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you. I will instruct you in the good and the right way.” That’s why I say that it is his farewell address in one respect, but actually, he’s vital, and he’s going to be seen to be vital. He still has a role to play. He’s going to play the role of the prophet and of the intercessor.

You say, “Well, what has this all got to do with us today?” Well, you just fast-forward. If you keep in mind again that the Bible is the story of God’s purpose from all of eternity, that it focuses ultimately in Jesus, that the kingdom comes in Jesus, that the role of the prophet and the king and the priest are fulfilled in Jesus—he is the King before whom we bow, he is the real King, he’s the Prophet who speaks to us the very word of God, he is the Priest who intercedes for us—and when we ponder that, we realize how foolish and wicked it is for us to turn aside to empty things that can’t profit and can’t deliver.

Robert Burns in one of his poems, he says,

But pleasures are like poppies spread,
You seize the flow’r, [the] bloom is shed;
[And] like [a snowflake] in the river,
[One] moment [here]—then [gone] forever.[17]

Do not—do not—forsake the King for empty stuff that can’t deliver. That’s the message.

Let us pray:

Thank you, Father, that ultimately, when we read the Bible, we find ourselves chasing forward again and again until we realize,

By grace, I am redeemed,
By grace, I am restored.
And now I freely walk
Into the arms of Christ my Lord.[18]

Thank you that this morning, in all of the various political structures of our world, we are able to declare that Jesus Christ is King. And then, Lord, help us to live underneath his kingly rule. For we pray in his name. Amen.


[1] See Psalm 119:18.

[2] Ecclesiastes 3:1 (ESV).

[3] 1 Samuel 11:15 (ESV).

[4] 1 Samuel 11:14 (ESV).

[5] David Brooks, The Road to Character (New York: Random House, 2015), xi.

[6] James 3:1 (paraphrased).

[7] 1 Samuel 8:11–18 (paraphrased).

[8] Ecclesiastes 12:1 (ESV).

[9] Deuteronomy 8:11 (ESV).

[10] See Romans 6:4.

[11] 1 Samuel 8:5 (paraphrased).

[12] 1 Samuel 11:1 (ESV).

[13] Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 9:10 (ESV).

[14] 1 Samuel 7:8 (ESV). Emphasis added.

[15] Philippians 1:6 (ESV).

[16] Dale Ralph Davis, 1 Samuel: Looking on the Heart (Fearn, Great Britain: Christian Focus, 2000), 129.

[17] Robert Burns, “Tam o’ Shanter” (1790).

[18] Niki Shepherd, Jonny Robinson, and Rich Thompson, “Grace” (2016).

Copyright © 2021, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.