Since boyhood Samuel faithfully served God’s people. The Old Testament nation of Israel certainly had its ups and downs and Samuel had been there to lead, advise, and intercede with God on numerous occasions. The Israelites were a stubborn people and eventually became like those nations around them, wanting a king to rule them. Samuel attempts to warn them of all the repercussions possible with having a king, as opposed to the judges they had experienced, but the Israelite people remain firm in their request and God grants them a king for the first time in their history.
Samuel isn’t happy about the situation. At this point he is old and has served the Lord for many years. While he plans to step aside from activity duty, he still wants to make a difference in the lives of the Israelites and he delivers a farewell speech in which the following verse is included: “Only fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things He has done for you.” (1 Samuel 12:24 ESV)
Another translation says “be sure to fear the Lord” (NIV). Whether using these words or “only” it is clear that Samuel is saying – Look guys, this is really important. If I can leave you with one word of wisdom it’s to not forget to show reverence for God.
Samuel doesn’t leave it at that. He gives two ways to venerate our loving Heavenly Father – serve Him faithfully and be thankful and remember what He has done for them.
I’ve been reading a book about the evangelist Billy Graham. Over and over the theme arises of Billy faithfully serving God from the time of his conversion. As God’s called servant, he studied God’s Word intensely to proclaim the Gospel. He also spent considerable time in prayer in order to face all the challenges that service in Christ’s kingdom creates.
It’s difficult to faithfully serve God if we haven’t taken the time to get to know Him and find out what He wants of us. As Billy Graham aptly demonstrated – spending time in God’s Word is imperative for faithful service, to know and understand God’s plan for us. Prayer is also necessary – communing with God on regular basis provides direction and peace amidst the storms of life.
Our faith is strengthened when we take time to pause in our hustle and bustle lives to examine what God has done for us already. A life of gratitude is very different from one that is lived with a focus on the negative. It is hard to be upset, etc. when giving thanks and praise to God for His wonderful and marvellous works. We have even more to look back on than the Israelites did. We have a whole Bible full of examples of God’s provision for both spiritual and physical needs.
And of course, Samuel is not the first to proclaim such a message. Moses gives us these words in Deuteronomy 10: “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear your God, to walk in obedience to Him, to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?” (vs. 12,13 NIV)
The message is strong and certain: God is to be feared, not out of terror, but out of awe. He has done so much for us and He has this world in the palm of His hands. But our calling is more than that – love, obey, serve, and follow are all words used here to give us direction to lead a healthy Christian life. I think it’s pretty hard to have one without the other. Following Christ is basic, not some big puzzle that we have to wrack our brains to try to solve. He wants our love and our service along with our obedience. He has given us the examples we need to do so.
It’s not like we are trying to please some picky person here. Our God loves us deeply and wants us to have joy in life. He doesn’t want to see us stress ourselves out trying to please Him. But He does ask us serve Him with all our heart and soul – total commitment and total involvement.