Summary: This is a Thanksgiving sermon on directives from Samuel to the Israelites to reflect on the great things God has done.
November 23, 2005 1 Samuel 12:23-24
As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right. 24 But be sure to fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.
Lord, Give us a Thankful Faith
I. Fickle Faith wants Flash
“You’re a lot funnier with 31 million.” This is what the Lottery billboard says as you drive through downtown Topeka. I got to thinking about that billboard. What is it supposed to mean? I interpreted it to mean one of two things - either that people will laugh at your jokes more if you have 31 million dollars - or you will find more things to be funny in life. As I was riding in my car I wondered in my own mind whether I would find life to be “funnier” if I inherited 31 million dollars. Would you change? Or would you remain exactly the same? It really comes down to integrity and core values. If you are a truly genuine person, money shouldn’t make you any more funny than you were before.
Apply this to faith. If you are a genuine believer - you should be willing to believe and testify to Jesus as your Lord - whether you’re rich or poor, sick or healthy, talented or not. If you were to win the lottery, it should not effect your faith one bit. If you were to come down with cancer, it should not hurt your faith at all. Why? Because faith is not based on what we can feel, taste, or touch. It is based on the Word and promise of God. Strong faith is like a dog at the side of the table. All it does is concentrate on that one thing - the piece of meat. It doesn’t care what the other kids are doing - whether the door is open or someone is walking through the kitchen. Even if it has an itch, it scratches the itch while staring at the piece of meat. That’s the way faith ought to be - solely focused on the Word and promise of God.
The Israelites were a living history of a fickle faith. You know how some people are fair weather fans - cheering for their team when the team is going great? That’s NOT how the Israelites treated God. They treated God more as a last ditch God. In today’s text, Samuel confronts them with their long history of fickleness. When they were given the Promised Land under the leadership of Moses and Aaron he says,
1 Samuel 12:9-11 (Your forefathers) 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. 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.’ Then the LORD sent Jerub-Baal, Barak, Jephthah and Samuel, and he delivered you from the hands of your enemies on every side, so that you lived securely.
Every time they had a hard time, God delivered them through the leadership of what we now refer to as Judges. Samuel was one of those judges - a good judge who helped lead the people for many years. (1 Samuel 7:15) God constantly provided deliverance for them - even when they only turned to Him as a last resort.
In the eyes of the Israelites, Samuel wasn’t a very “sexy” leader as it were. By the time we are covering in 1 Samuel 12, He was getting old. The people wanted a more charismatic leader - someone with confidence, strength, and the ability to lead in war. That wasn’t Samuel’s forte. What made things worse was that some of the Israelites’ enemies fought against them with powerful kings. One of them was Nahash, king of the Ammonites. This is when Samuel’s Israelites once again showed a weak faith. He said,
“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. (1 Samuel 12:12)
Samuel warned them that if they had a king he would take their sons and daughters to fight and cook for him. He would take a tenth of their flocks, grains and servants. They didn’t care. They said, “NO! We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.” (1 Sa 8:19) When the Israelites were attacked, they showed a weak faith. They wanted a leader who looked the part - not an old man who didn’t know how to fight. It wasn’t an all out idolatry by any means, but it was a weak faith at best.