Elon, North Carolina
If you go to different churches, you will hear very different types of sermons. What you will hear in a black church is different from what you will hear in a white church. What you will hear in a Baptist church is very different from what you will hear in a charismatic church. Preaching styles are very different. Some preachers shout and scream. Some spit on you. Some are so quiet that you fall instantly to sleep.
Today, we get to see what kind of a preacher Samuel was. Samuel was not just a prophet; he was a preacher. Samuel was the spiritual leader of the nation and he delivers a sermon in this chapter. What kind of a preacher was he?
There are a lot of different types of preachers in churches today. How many of them preach like Samuel? What did he preach like? We will find out today but first we need to get some background. Without the background, the chapter will not make much sense.
I Samuel is a book about two people. It is a book about two leaders. One was prophet/priest/judge and one was a king. The first part of the book is about Samuel. The second part of the book is about Saul.
In I Samuel 11, Saul was inaugurated as the first king of Israel. In I Samuel 12, Samuel resigned resigns from the job. It is a chapter dealing with a transition of power. It is about the changing of the guard. Samuel is out and Saul is in.
Samuel is now an old man. He is elderly. He has led the nation since he was you and now he is old. He is old and grey haired (I Samuel 12:2). As Saul becomes the first king, Samuel resigns. He steps aside.
Some people are too proud to step down when it is time. Samuel knew when it was time to step down. Someone else was selected to replace him but he does not resign as prophet. He resigns as judge. His ministry is not over. He still has some things to do. He will go on to anoint the next king, but he resigns as judge. He will still function as a prophet.
As Samuel officially steps down, he gives a speech. He gives a resignation speech. He gives a farewell speech. Many people who are old and who retire, give a speech but Samuel’s speech was a little different. This speech was not for a company but for a whole nation. He was speaking to “all Israel” (I Samuel 12:1).
Most retirement speeches are lighthearted and funny. They are positive and upbeat. Samuel’s speech is not all positive. It is not lighthearted. It is dead serious. It is bold. It is direct. It is confrontational. It is in-your-face.
This was more than a speech. It was a sermon. It starts out as a conversation between Samuel and the nation but turns into a sermon. I want to look at this sermon practically. If people were to preach like Samuel today, how would they do it?
1) Be Transparent
He was also completely transparent. He was passionate. He was fiery. He spoke from his heart. He spoke from his own experience, but he also didn’t have a bunch of secrets. He didn’t try to hide anything. He was open about his life.
Samuel said to all Israel, “I have listened to everything you said to me and have set a king over you. 2 Now you have a king as your leader. As for me, I am old and gray, and my sons are here with you. I have been your leader from my youth until this day. 3 Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the Lord and his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes? If I have done any of these things, I will make it right.” (I Samuel 12:1-3 NIV).
Many preachers are fake. They get all worked up, ranting and raving but they are just a bunch of hot air. They today stand up in the pulpit and rail against sin but are complete hypocrites. They are guilty of the same sins they preach against. Samuel didn’t do that. He had integrity. He had personal integrity.
He was a man of character. He was a man of honor. He was a man of faithfulness. Samuel was an old man at this time, and he begins to look back on his life.
He reflects back on his life. It is something all of us should do at some point. Samuel walked with God from his youth. He did not walk with God as a child and then rebel from God as a teenager and live in the world for a while like many do today.
He was faithful to God all of his life. He was not selfish. He was not greedy. He was not covetous. He was not materialistic. He didn’t get rich off of the people or take anything from them. He did not rip anyone off or use the job just to enrich himself. In fact, he even challenges the people to testify against him (I Samuel 12:3). He challenges them to try to find anything against him. Who does that today?
Samuel was blameless. There was a lot they could say to criticize his two sons but they had no word of criticism for him but Samuel was not perfect, so he said, “If I have done anything wrong, I will make it right” (I Samuel 12:3). Few have that kind of integrity. There is another man in the Bible known for being blameless. It is Daniel.
At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find NO CORRUPTION in him, because he was trustworthy and NEITHER CORRUPT NOR NEGLIGENT. (Daniel 6:4 NIV)
Daniel was blameless and what was unusual about him was that he was a politician. He worked for the Babylonian government. It is even rarer to find politicians with this kind of integrity and transparency. His enemies looked for things against him but could not find any. We do not have too many political candidates running for office like Daniel.
Many of them are not known for their personal integrity, honesty or character. Most of them have some skeletons in their closet. In fact, some have gone so far as to say that character does not matter. That is what Bill Clinton said when people began looking at his life.
We need more people like Daniel and Samuel. We need more leaders like Daniel and Samuel. We need more pastors like Samuel. Samuel was transparent. Good leaders should be completely transparent. Some pastors have cheated people.
Some have oppressed people. Some have hurt people. Some have done it in church. They have ruled the church like dictators and tyrants and when they have been confronted about it, cover it up or they deny it. They don’t acknowledge their sin and they don’t try to make it right. They justify it.
2) Be biblical
This sermon was biblical. Samuel bases what he says on Scripture. The biggest problem with modern preaching today is that much of it is not biblical. Some Christians sit in some churches for years and do not know what the Word says, it is never preached from the pulpit.
Samuel bases his sermon on Scripture. It is biblical history. He bases it on history, but it is not secular history. It is not just a dry history lesson that you might get in school.
Then Samuel said to the people, “It is the Lord who appointed Moses and Aaron and brought your ancestors up out of Egypt. 7 Now then, stand here, because I am going to confront you with evidence before the Lord as to all the righteous acts performed by the Lord for you and your ancestors.
8 “After Jacob entered Egypt, they cried to the Lord for help, and the Lord sent Moses and Aaron, who brought your ancestors out of Egypt and settled them in this place.
9 “But they forgot the Lord their God; so he sold them into the hand of Sisera, the commander of the army of Hazor, and into the hands of the Philistines and the king of Moab, who fought against them. 10 They cried out to the Lord and said, ‘We have sinned; we have forsaken the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtoreths. But now deliver us from the hands of our enemies, and we will serve you.’ 11 Then the Lord sent Jerub-Baal, Barak, Jephthah and Samuel, and he delivered you from the hands of your enemies all around you, so that you lived in safety.
12 “But when you saw that Nahash king of the Ammonites was moving against you, you said to me, ‘No, we want a king to rule over us’—even though the Lord your God was your king. (I Samuel 12:6-12 NIV)
In this sermon, Samuel gives a history of the nation from the beginning all the way up to the current day. He begins with the Exodus and goes all the way to the time of Nahash the Ammonite. That was a current event. It just happened in I Samuel 11. Samuel does not just teach history; he teaches biblical history. He does not just teach history for history’s sake. He uses history for a spiritual purpose.
Sermons that are effective have to be based on Scripture. Not all preachers today preach the Word. Some get into the pulpit and just tell stories or jokes. Some just preach politics. Some preach modern philosophy or political correctness. Some preachers just give self-help talks. They sound great. They tickle people’s ears.
Preachers tells them people what they want to hear. They preach things that are popular. Many pastors today give “sermons that charm rather than challenge, entertain rather than edify” Paul told Timothy to “preach the Word, in season and out of season” (II Timothy 4:2). We are to preach it all of the time. What people really need to hear are God’s Words, not our words.
3) Be bold
This sermon was direct. It was confrontational. 5 Samuel said to them, “The Lord is witness AGAINST YOU, and also his anointed is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand.” (I Samuel 12:5 NIV)
Now then, stand here, because I am going to CONFRONT YOU with evidence before the Lord as to all the righteous acts performed by the Lord for you and your ancestors. (I Samuel 12:7 NIV)
Samuel confronted the nation with what God did FOR them and HOW they responded to God (how they forgot God and said that they did NOT want Him to rule over them). Samuel confronted the nation with its sin. He did not hold back. He says that what they did was EVIL. He calls it “evil” twice (I Samuel 12:17, 20)
Samuel was not politically correct. He did not dance around issues. He was not afraid to talk about some topics. He dealt with them and dealt with them directly. Samuel preached against sin.
Some preachers are afraid to use strong language. They do not preach against sin, because they do not want to offend anyone. They do not want to be considered unloving. Many preachers today try to be all positive because that is what people want to hear. Samuel did not give the people what they wanted to heart. He gave them what they needed to hear.
Samuel used strong language. That does not mean that you have to be rude and obnoxious. It means that you are not afraid to speak truth to people. John the Baptist used strong language. He was not afraid to rebuke Herod when he was living in sin. Jesus used strong language against the Sadducees and Pharisees. He called them HYPOCRITES. That does not sound very ecumenical. It does not sound very tolerant.
He was not afraid to preach against sin and he was not afraid to WARN people. The chapter ends with a warning. If you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will PERISH. (I Samuel 12:25 NIV). He is not talking to pagans. He is talking to God’s people.
How did they respond? They responded well. They took the rebuke, because Samuel was a man of integrity and he spoke truth to the people. They acknowledged that they had sinned and asked Samuel to pray for them (I Samuel 12:19).
4) Be supernatural
17 Is it not wheat harvest now? I will call on the Lord to send thunder and rain. And you will realize what an evil thing you did in the eyes of the Lord when you asked for a king.”
18 Then Samuel called on the Lord, and that same day the Lord sent thunder and rain. So all the people stood in awe of the Lord and of Samuel. (I Samuel 12:17-18 NIV)
Samuel did not just preach. He didn’t just teach. He performed a miracle right before their eyes. Samuel was more than a teacher; he was a preacher, but he was also more than a preacher. He was a prophet, not like some prophets we have in some churches today but a real prophet. Supernatural things happened when Samuel spoke. He could call down rain and thunder.
When Samuel spoke, they did not just see Samuel; they saw God at work. Samuel had the people’s attention. They were engaged. They interacted with him as he spoke. Wouldn’t it be cool if we saw God directly at work when we speak to people about Him?
God was at work in this sermon. God did great things in this sermon. Samuel said in I Samuel 12:16, “Now then, stand still and see this great thing the Lord is about to do before your eyes!” (NIV). Wouldn’t it be cool if God did great things in churches today and Christians saw it? Good preaching is supernatural. God has to work in the life of the hearers
5) Be simple
This sermon was not complicated. It was simple. Good preaching does not have to be long and complicated to be good. It can be simple. Einstein once said that “The definition of genius is taking the complex and making it simple.” Samuel gave the people two choices, not ten or twenty, just two. If you obey, you will be blessed. If you rebel against God, you will suffer the consequences.
14 If you fear the Lord and serve and obey him and do not rebel against his commands, and if both you and the king who reigns over you follow the Lord your God—good! 15 But if you do not obey the Lord, and if you rebel against his commands, his hand will be against you, as it was against your ancestors. (I Samuel 12:14-15 NIV)
What are the two choices? Fear God or rebel against God. They can choose to obey or disobey God. The first option is to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all their heart (I Samuel 12:24). The second option is to continue to do evil (I Samuel 12:25).
They are the same two choices that God’s people have today. It was true in the OT and is true in the NT. It was true of Israel. It is true of the church today. You can’t rebel against the commands of God and expect Him to bless you.
6) Be Balanced
One of the biggest problem of preachers today is that they are not balanced. This is true of preachers all throughout the country. What they say is true. They say things that need to be said. They say things that people need to hear but they do not preach the whole counsel of God. They leave important things out. If you do not do expository preaching and go chapter by chapter or verse by verse or book by book, most likely you are not preaching the whole counsel of God.
Some preachers are all negative. Some preachers are all positive. Some pastors preach the love of God, but not the wrath of God. Some pastors preach the wrath of God, but not the love of God. Some preach heaven, but never talk about hell. Some preach hell, but don’t say too much about heaven. We should preach both. Both are in the Bible.
Samuel’s sermon was balanced. How was it balanced, unlike many sermons today?
- He gave them both teaching AND application.
Some preachers are all teaching. Some preachers are all application. Samuel gave both. He taught them biblical history, but he gave them some applications. He gave them exhortations. He told them to DO some things. What did he tell them to do?
He tells the NOT to forget what God did for them (I Samuel 12:24). He tells them not to turn away from the Lord (I Samuel 12:20). He tells them to serve the Lord faithfully with ALL of their heart (I Samuel 12:24). He tells them to fear the Lord (I Samuel 12:24). He tells them not worship useless idols (I Samuel 12:21).
That is still a good exhortation for us today. Do we fear God? Do we serve Him? Do we obey Him? Do we serve God faithfully with all of our hearts or halfheartedly?
- He gave them promises AND warnings
What promise does Samuel give the people in this chapter? For the sake of his great name the Lord will not reject his people, because the Lord was pleased to make you his own. (I Samuel 12:22 NIV)
What warning does Samuel give the people in this chapter? Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will perish (I Samuel 12:25 NIV). The chapter ends with a serious warning. Samuel was both negative and positive.
- He gave them both rebuke AND encouragement
He rebuked them for asking for a king and called it evil but he also gave them hope. He gave hope to people who repented. What do you tell people who have sinned? What do you tell people who have sinned greatly? What do you tell people who know that they have blown it and feel bad about it? They may have sinned by marrying the wrong person (an unbeliever).
There are some consequences to our actions, always have been and always will be. The Bible says that we reap what we sow. On the other hand, there is hope to people who have completely screwed their life up. There is hope for people who did NOT get God’s best for their life.
They could still have God’s blessing. They may not be as blessed as much as if they had fully obeyed but they can still be blessed. Israel could have God’s blessing, even with a king. God is not going to abandon people. He gives hope to the hopeless.