- 1John 1:5-2:6
- 1Samuel 12:6-25
Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
Of all the parables of our Lord Jesus Christ I relate very well to the one of the wayward son. This parable is about four lost things: a coin, a sheep, and two sons. The headings added by some translators are missing the point: it’s not about the lost coin, or the lost sheep, and even one son—the last it about two wayward sons, but surely not a prodigal son. To be “prodigal”is to be wasteful, especially with one’s money—and the parable has nothing to say about being wasteful.
Although the father pleaded with the elder son and assured him of his love, the hardness of his heart resisted the restoring love of the father. That’s why he too was lost.
What the parables want to bring home is that the coin, the sheep and the younger son were found by the owner who cared. That’s the point! And over and over our Lord repeats:
I tell you, in the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10, CSB)
And this aspect of grace keeps knocking me over every time I think about it. In our sinfulness we walk away from God, we want to do our own thing, we then fall in a heap, but the cords of love we enjoyed in the presence of our Father, draw us back. In his faithfulness and mercy, God forgives and restores. This is the message of all Scripture: the holy God who bows down to an underserving and sinful world, and then provides a way out if this sinful mess in and through the sacrifice of his Son Jesus Christ.
According to 1 Samuel 12 he is now and old man, grey, about to hang up the boots. He calls the people to bring charges against him, if they have any, before he hands over. Has he taken anything from anyone unlawfully? (“Taken” in this context stands against the charges brought against the sons of Eli who “took” what be longed to the Lord, and also stole what did not belong to them. The future king would also “take”, and even Samuel’s own sons “took” bribes.)
Has Samuel defrauded anyone? Was anyone oppressed? Was anyone bribed? No! Can you hear these words echoed in the words of Paul?
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. There is reserved for me in the future the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me, but to all those who have loved His appearing. (2 Timothy 4:7–8, CSB)
Samuel had been faithful and true to the God who appointed him. But he was not sinless; he too needed a sacrifice and atonement blood to be forgiven. More later.
Our High Priest and Prophet, Jesus Christ, superseded and was far more superior to Samuel. He never sinned in any way. Yes, He only gave. He did not come to be served, but to serve. He knelt and washed the feet of his own. The only thing He took was our trespasses to become sin for us, in order that we might in Him become the righteousness of God (2Corinthians 5:21). Him we worship as our perfect High Priest. The writer of Hebrews helps us to understand the superiority of Christ. A human high priest “… is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he is also subject to weakness. Because of this, he must make a sin offering for himself as well as for the people.” (Hebrews 5:2–3, CSB) But of Christ he writes:
“… though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, called by God as High Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek, …” (Hebrews 5:8–10, NKJV)
Call to life
Samuel used the last opportunity to address the people to plead for the people before God.
Now therefore, stand still [maybe,“be quiet”], that I may reason with you before the Lord concerning all the righteous acts of the Lord which He did to you and your fathers: (1 Samuel 12:7, NKJV)
Moses used the same word and command of Moses in Exodus 14:13 when the Israelites were in a panic with the army of the pharaoh behind them and the mighty waters of the Red Sea in front of them. Moses said to the people,
“Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. (Exodus 14:13, NKJV)
Now Samuel connects these events and applied it to the people who away turned from God, and rejected his Kingship by asking for a king so that they could be like the nations around them. In essence they formally walked away from God in rebellion. Do you see the attitude of the younger son of the parable?
What Samuel said was to remind them of God’s love and how He compassion on his people. Samuel recalls God’s acts of rescuing his people from slavery out of Egypt, and later out the clutches of Sisera, and again from the commander of Hazor’s army, and out of the oppression of the Philistines too. He gave them leaders like Gideon, Barak and Jephthah, and even Samuel himself.
Samuel preached about the God’s great act of salvation, pleading with them to worship God. This “plead” is a word used in legal sense. An advocate pleads on behalf of his client, or brings charges against a perpetrator. Samuel did both: he charged the people with their sins, but he also pleaded for them before God.
Samuel hammered in the fact that they sinned by asking for a king, and pointed to Saul, “Look at him, God answered your prayers.”
Is it all over now? Will God forsake you and leave you in the hands of this feeble man? Have they missed the boat?
Has the lost son forfeited everything, even the love of his father? No! There is still opportunity for grace, forgiveness and restoration.
If you fear the Lord and serve Him and obey His voice, and do not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then both you and the king who reigns over you will continue following the Lord your God. (1 Samuel 12:14, NKJV)
The next verse spells out the opposite, “the hand of the Lord will be against you!” And it is a dreadful thing to fall in the hands of the living God!
The prophet then called upon God to do an extraordinary thing: to send thunder and rain upon the grain which was ready for harvest. Why? It was to illustrate to them that their actions were a mirror of the disruption of the God-ordained pattern of relationship that should be between them and the Lord. Israel moved out of its proper relationship with the Lord; now Lord ordained that nature would move out of its proper pattern with the people. This terrified the Israelites, for they understood that it could point to more severe disturbances as God spelled in the his Covenant with them.
Repentance and forgiveness
They then begged Samuel to pray for them, to intercede so that they would not die. They realised they had made an enemy of the living God. They begged:
“Pray to the Lord your God for your servants so that we will not die, for we have added to all our other sins the evil of asking for a king.” (1 Samuel 12:19, NIV)
They needed some to intercede for them. Samuel did!
Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you. (1 Samuel 12:23, NKJV)
This is the amazing aspect of grace. Then Samuel said to the people,
“Do not fear. You have done all this wickedness; yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. And do not turn aside; for then you would go after empty things which cannot profit or deliver, for they are nothing. (1 Samuel 12:20–21, NKJV)
Why? “For the Lord will not forsake His people, for His great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you His people.” (1 Samuel 12:22, NKJV)
The younger son went after all the empty things which profited him nothing and could not deliver what he craved for: he dreamed of freedom, but ended up in slavery. At that point the loving care of his father overcame him.
“I will go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. (Luke 15:18, NIV)
Like Samuel, and more than Samuel, our Lord, our Mediator, stood before God. He,
During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, [he] offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the One who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of his reverent submission. (Hebrews 5:7, NIV)
God heard the cry of his Son, not only for Himself, but for those He came to set free. Samuel said if he would not intercede for the people he would sin. But he stressed upon them “to fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart” and to “consider what great things He has done for you.” (1Samuel 13:24)
Jesus is still doing it. That’s our verse from 1 John this morning:
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1–2, NIV)
More than Samuel, Christ pleads for us: He is our righteous advocate before the Father; his plea rests upon his atoning sacrifice.
What is so amazing about grace? Ask the younger son of the parable: in spite of his rebellion, his father restored him as his son.
Ask the Israelites as they gathered to hear Samuel’s farewell speech and heard the thunder and saw the lightning! They found out that the same God who rescued their forefathers stood ready to destroy them if they did not repent; but He also stood ready to forgive and restore if they turned from their wicked ways and serve Him with all their heart.
What’s so amazing about grace? There’s forgiveness and restoration for every rebellious sinner in and through the work of Jesus Christ, our High Priest.
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. (Hebrews 4:14–15, NIV)
He is our atonement. He intercedes for us. He calls sinners home to freely forgive and give assurance of restoration.
He is our King. Saul, the king, is dead, but Jesus Christ our King lives forever. Fall down and worship Him as Lord. Do as the younger son did:
I will go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ (Luke 15:18–19, NIV)
What you will hear is the welcoming voice of the Father:
This son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. (Luke 15:24, NIV)
Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on 20 August 2017