As he set out for his presidential inauguration in 1861, Abraham Lincoln knew he faced a seemingly impossible task. “I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington,” Lincoln declared. This was no exaggeration. The union was dissolving, and in months the nation would be embroiled in a bloody civil war.
Samuel had a similar sense of foreboding during the public ceremony that ratified Saul as Israel’s king. More than an inauguration for Saul, it was also a farewell speech for Samuel, who was stepping down as Israel’s judge. It was time. Samuel was “old and gray” and the Israelites wanted a different leader (v. 2). True to his role as God’s spokesman, Samuel reminded the people of their history of disobedience during the days of the judges (vv. 9–11). He also pointed out the lack of faith that prompted them to ask Samuel to appoint a king: “We want a king to rule over us” (vv. 12–13). Their demand betrayed a lack of confidence in God.
Now that God had granted their request, God’s people had a choice to make. “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!” Samuel declared. “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” (v. 15). Although he was stepping down as judge, Samuel promised not to abandon God’s people (v. 23).
>> Do you fear the Lord? Are you following Him well today? No matter what foolish choices you have made in the past, if you turn to Christ, He will receive you. Ask Him to forgive you and show you “what is good and right” (v. 23).