12 1-3 Samuel addressed all Israel: “I’ve listened to everything you’ve said to me, listened carefully to every word, and I’ve given you a king. See for yourself: Your king among you, leading you! But now look at me: I’m old and gray, and my sons are still here. I’ve led you faithfully from my youth until this very day. Look at me! Do you have any complaints to bring before God and his anointed? Have I ever stolen so much as an ox or a donkey? Have I ever taken advantage of you or exploited you? Have I ever taken a bribe or played fast and loose with the law? Bring your complaint and I’ll make it right.”
4 “Oh no,” they said, “never. You’ve never done any of that—never abused us, never lined your own pockets.”
5 “That settles it then,” said Samuel. “God is witness, and his anointed is witness that you find nothing against me—no faults, no complaints.”
6-8 And the people said, “He is witness.”
Samuel continued, “This is the God who made Moses and Aaron your leaders and brought your ancestors out of Egypt. Take your stand before him now as I review your case before God in the light of all the righteous ways in which God has worked with you and your ancestors. When Jacob’s sons entered Egypt, the Egyptians made life hard for them and they cried for help to God. God sent Moses and Aaron, who led your ancestors out of Egypt and settled them here in this place.
9 “They soon forgot their God, so he sold them off to Sisera, commander of Hazor’s army, later to a hard life under the Philistines, and still later to the king of Moab. They had to fight for their lives.
10 “Then they cried for help to God. They confessed, ‘We’ve sinned! We’ve gone off and left God and worshiped the fertility gods and goddesses of Canaan. Oh, deliver us from the brutalities of our enemies and we’ll worship you alone.’
11 “So God sent Jerub-Baal (Gideon), Bedan (Barak), Jephthah, and Samuel. He saved you from that hard life surrounded by enemies, and you lived in peace.
12 “But when you saw Nahash, king of the Ammonites, preparing to attack you, you said to me, ‘No more of this. We want a king to lead us.’ And God was already your king!
13-15 “So here’s the king you wanted, the king you asked for. God has let you have your own way, given you a king. If you fear God, worship and obey him, and don’t rebel against what he tells you. If both you and your king follow God, no problem. God will be sure to save you. But if you don’t obey him and rebel against what he tells you, king or no king, you will fare no better than your fathers.
16-17 “Pay attention! Watch this wonder that God is going to perform before you now! It’s summer, as you well know, and the rainy season is over. But I’m going to pray to God. He’ll send thunder and rain, a sign to convince you of the great wrong you have done to God by asking for a king.”
18 Samuel prayed to God, and God sent thunder and rain that same day. The people were greatly afraid and in awe of God and of Samuel.
19 Then all the people begged Samuel, “Pray to your God for us, your servants. Pray that we won’t die! On top of all our other sins, we’ve piled on one more—asking for a king!”
20-22 Samuel said to them, “Don’t be fearful. It’s true that you have done something very wrong. All the same, don’t turn your back on God. Worship and serve him heart and soul! Don’t chase after ghost-gods. There’s nothing to them. They can’t help you. They’re nothing but ghost-gods! God, simply because of who he is, is not going to walk off and leave his people. God took delight in making you into his very own people.
23-25 “And neither will I walk off and leave you. That would be a sin against God! I’m staying right here at my post praying for you and teaching you the good and right way to live. But I beg of you, fear God and worship him honestly and heartily. You’ve seen how greatly he has worked among you! Be warned: If you live badly, both you and your king will be thrown out.”
10 1-3 Believe me, friends, all I want for Israel is what’s best for Israel: salvation, nothing less. I want it with all my heart and pray to God for it all the time. I readily admit that the Jews are impressively energetic regarding God—but they are doing everything exactly backward. They don’t seem to realize that this comprehensive setting-things-right that is salvation is God’s business, and a most flourishing business it is. Right across the street they set up their own salvation shops and noisily peddle their knockoffs. After all these years of refusing to really deal with God on his terms, insisting instead on making their own deals, they have nothing to show for it.
4-10 The earlier revelation was intended simply to get us ready for the Messiah, who then puts everything right for those who trust him to do it. Moses wrote that anyone who insists on using the law code to live right before God soon discovers it’s not so easy—every detail of life regulated by fine print! But trusting God to shape the right living in us is a different story—no precarious climb up to heaven to recruit the Messiah, no dangerous descent into hell to rescue the Messiah. So what exactly was Moses saying?
The word that saves is right here,
as near as the tongue in your mouth,
as close as the heart in your chest.
It’s the word of faith that welcomes God to go to work and set things right for us. This is the core of our preaching. Say the welcoming word to God—“Jesus is my Master”—embracing, body and soul, God’s work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. That’s it. You’re not “doing” anything; you’re simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. That’s salvation. With your whole being you embrace God setting things right, and then you say it, right out loud: “God has set everything right between him and me!”
11-13 Scripture reassures us, “No one who trusts God like this—heart and soul—will ever regret it.” It’s exactly the same no matter what a person’s religious background may be: the same God for all of us, acting the same incredibly generous way to everyone who calls out for help. “Everyone who calls, ‘Help, God!’ gets help.”
14-17 But how can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it? That’s why Scripture exclaims,
A sight to take your breath away!
Grand processions of people
telling all the good things of God!
But not everybody is ready for this, ready to see and hear and act. Isaiah asked what we all ask at one time or another: “Does anyone care, God? Is anyone listening and believing a word of it?” The point is: Before you trust, you have to listen. But unless Christ’s Word is preached, there’s nothing to listen to.
18-21 But haven’t there been plenty of opportunities for Israel to listen and understand what’s going on? Plenty, I’d say.
Preachers’ voices have gone ’round the world,
Their message to earth’s seven seas.
So the big question is, Why didn’t Israel understand that she had no corner on this message? Moses had it right when he predicted,
When you see God reach out to those
you consider your inferiors—outsiders!—
you’ll become insanely jealous.
When you see God reach out to people
you think are religiously stupid,
you’ll throw temper tantrums.
Isaiah dared to speak out these words of God:
People found and welcomed me
who never so much as looked for me.
And I found and welcomed people
who had never even asked about me.
Then he capped it with a damning indictment:
Day after day after day,
I beckoned Israel with open arms,
And got nothing for my trouble
but cold shoulders and icy stares.
49 1-6 God’s Message on the Ammonites:
“Doesn’t Israel have any children,
no one to step into her inheritance?
So why is the god Milcom taking over Gad’s land,
his followers moving into its towns?
But not for long! The time’s coming”
“When I’ll fill the ears of Rabbah, Ammon’s big city,
with battle cries.
She’ll end up a pile of rubble,
all her towns burned to the ground.
Then Israel will kick out the invaders.
I, God, say so, and it will be so.
Wail Heshbon, Ai is in ruins.
Villages of Rabbah, wring your hands!
Dress in mourning, weep buckets of tears.
Go into hysterics, run around in circles!
Your god Milcom will be hauled off to exile,
and all his priests and managers right with him.
Why do you brag of your once-famous strength?
You’re a broken-down has-been, a castoff
Who fondles his trophies and dreams of glory days
and vainly thinks, ‘No one can lay a hand on me.’
Well, think again. I’ll face you with terror from all sides.”
Word of the Master, God-of-the-Angel-Armies.
“You’ll be stampeded headlong,
with no one to round up the runaways.
Still, the time will come
when I will make things right with Ammon.” God’s Decree.
7-11 The Message of God-of-the-Angel-Armies on Edom:
“Is there nobody wise left in famous Teman?
no one with a sense of reality?
Has their wisdom gone wormy and rotten?
Run for your lives! Get out while you can!
Find a good place to hide,
you who live in Dedan!
I’m bringing doom to Esau.
It’s time to settle accounts.
When harvesters work your fields,
don’t they leave gleanings?
When burglars break into your house,
don’t they take only what they want?
But I’ll strip Esau clean.
I’ll search out every nook and cranny.
I’ll destroy everything connected with him,
children and relatives and neighbors.
There’ll be no one left who will be able to say,
‘I’ll take care of your orphans.
Your widows can depend on me.’”
12-13 Indeed. God says, “I tell you, if there are people who have to drink the cup of God’s wrath even though they don’t deserve it, why would you think you’d get off? You won’t get off. You’ll drink it. Oh yes, you’ll drink every drop. And as for Bozrah, your capital, I swear by all that I am”—God’s Decree—“that that city will end up a pile of charred ruins, a stinking garbage dump, an obscenity—and all her daughter-cities with her.”
14 I’ve just heard the latest from God.
He’s sent an envoy to the nations:
“Muster your troops and attack Edom.
Present arms! Go to war!”
15-16 “Ah, Edom, I’m dropping you to last place among nations,
the bottom of the heap, kicked around.
You think you’re so great—
strutting across the stage of history,
Living high in the impregnable rocks,
acting like king of the mountain.
You think you’re above it all, don’t you,
like an eagle in its aerie?
Well, you’re headed for a fall.
I’ll bring you crashing to the ground.” God’s Decree.
17-18 “Edom will end up trash. Stinking, despicable trash. A wonder of the world in reverse. She’ll join Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighbors in the sewers of history.” God says so.
“No one will live there,
no mortal soul move in there.
19 “Watch this: Like a lion coming up
from the thick jungle of the Jordan
Looking for prey in the mountain pastures,
I will come upon Edom and pounce.
I’ll take my pick of the flock—and who’s to stop me?
The shepherds of Edom are helpless before me.”
20-22 So, listen to this plan that God has worked out against Edom, the blueprint of what he’s prepared for those who live in Teman:
“Believe it or not, the young, the vulnerable—
mere lambs and kids—will be dragged off.
Believe it or not, the flock
in shock, helpless to help, will watch it happen.
The very earth will shudder because of their cries,
cries of anguish heard at the distant Red Sea.
Look! An eagle soars, swoops down,
spreads its wings over Bozrah.
Brave warriors will double up in pain, helpless to fight,
like a woman giving birth to a baby.”
23-27 The Message on Damascus:
“Hamath and Arpad will be in shock
when they hear the bad news.
Their hearts will melt in fear
as they pace back and forth in worry.
The blood will drain from the face of Damascus
as she turns to flee.
Hysterical, she’ll fall to pieces,
disabled, like a woman in childbirth.
And now how lonely—bereft, abandoned!
The once famous city, the once happy city.
Her bright young men dead in the streets,
her brave warriors silent as death.
On that day”—Decree of God-of-the-Angel-Armies—
“I’ll start a fire at the wall of Damascus
that will burn down all of Ben-hadad’s forts.”
28-33 The Message on Kedar and the sheikdoms of Hazor who were attacked by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. This is God’s Message:
“On your feet! Attack Kedar!
Plunder the Bedouin nomads from the east.
Grab their blankets and pots and pans.
Steal their camels.
Traumatize them, shouting, ‘Terror! Death! Doom!
Oh, run for your lives,
You nomads from Hazor.” God’s Decree.
“Find a safe place to hide.
Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon
has plans to wipe you out,
to go after you with a vengeance:
‘After them,’ he says. ‘Go after these relaxed nomads
who live free and easy in the desert,
Who live in the open with no doors to lock,
who live off by themselves.’
Their camels are there for the taking,
their herds and flocks, easy picking.
I’ll scatter them to the four winds,
these defenseless nomads on the fringes of the desert.
I’ll bring terror from every direction.
They won’t know what hit them.” God’s Decree.
“Jackals will take over the camps of Hazor,
camps abandoned to wind and sand.
No one will live there,
no mortal soul move in there.”
34-39 God’s Message to the prophet Jeremiah on Elam at the outset of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah. This is what God-of-the-Angel-Armies says:
“Watch this! I’ll break Elam’s bow,
her weapon of choice, across my knee.
Then I’ll let four winds loose on Elam,
winds from the four corners of earth.
I’ll blow them away in all directions,
landing homeless Elamites in every country on earth.
They’ll live in constant fear and terror
among enemies who want to kill them.
I’ll bring doom on them,
my anger-fueled doom.
I’ll set murderous hounds on their heels
until there’s nothing left of them.
And then I’ll set up my throne in Elam,
having thrown out the king and his henchmen.
But the time will come when I make
everything right for Elam again.” God’s Decree.
26 Clear my name, God;
I’ve kept an honest shop.
I’ve thrown in my lot with you, God, and
I’m not budging.
2 Examine me, God, from head to foot,
order your battery of tests.
Make sure I’m fit
inside and out
3 So I never lose
sight of your love,
But keep in step with you,
never missing a beat.
4-5 I don’t hang out with tricksters,
I don’t pal around with thugs;
I hate that pack of gangsters,
I don’t deal with double-dealers.
6-7 I scrub my hands with purest soap,
then join hands with the others in the great circle,
dancing around your altar, God,
Singing God-songs at the top of my lungs,
8-10 God, I love living with you;
your house glows with your glory.
When it’s time for spring cleaning,
don’t sweep me out with the quacks and crooks,
Men with bags of dirty tricks,
women with purses stuffed with bribe-money.
11-12 You know I’ve been aboveboard with you;
now be aboveboard with me.
I’m on the level with you, God;
I bless you every chance I get.
27 Light, space, zest—
So, with him on my side I’m fearless,
afraid of no one and nothing.
2 When vandal hordes ride down
ready to eat me alive,
Those bullies and toughs
fall flat on their faces.
3 When besieged,
I’m calm as a baby.
When all hell breaks loose,
I’m collected and cool.
4 I’m asking God for one thing,
only one thing:
To live with him in his house
my whole life long.
I’ll contemplate his beauty;
I’ll study at his feet.
5 That’s the only quiet, secure place
in a noisy world,
The perfect getaway,
far from the buzz of traffic.
6 God holds me head and shoulders
above all who try to pull me down.
I’m headed for his place to offer anthems
that will raise the roof!
Already I’m singing God-songs;
I’m making music to God.
7-9 Listen, God, I’m calling at the top of my lungs:
“Be good to me! Answer me!”
When my heart whispered, “Seek God,”
my whole being replied,
“I’m seeking him!”
Don’t hide from me now!
9-10 You’ve always been right there for me;
don’t turn your back on me now.
Don’t throw me out, don’t abandon me;
you’ve always kept the door open.
My father and mother walked out and left me,
but God took me in.
11-12 Point me down your highway, God;
direct me along a well-lighted street;
show my enemies whose side you’re on.
Don’t throw me to the dogs,
those liars who are out to get me,
filling the air with their threats.
13-14 I’m sure now I’ll see God’s goodness
in the exuberant earth.
Stay with God!
Take heart. Don’t quit.
I’ll say it again:
Stay with God.