1 Samuel 9:13. (RAMAH.)
Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee.
I. WE SHALL HAVE TO BEGIN WITH A FAIR AND DETAILED EXPOSITION OF THE NARRATIVE AS IT MEETS US.
1. This verse, besides its bearing upon our main point, contains a valuable lesson of its own: Rejecting Divine Providence is rejecting Divine government and forfeiting Divine favour. There is no sense in a declaration that we accept God's law in general, but reserve the right to practical freedom in reference to particulars. "The end of all civil government," says an ancient thinker, writing for our times as wisely as for his own, "is to live well according to the Divine pleasure." We are surely Christians, but in general, you know; not quite so particular as we might be, possibly, but with a decided respect for religion always. Now this will not do; Jesus Christ, is everything to a man, or He is nothing. In all human history there has never been a fitter leader to command our loyalty or to win our love. We have been told that the ancient Persian kings used to elect, for the education and training of their princes, the four best men in the kingdom — the justest man, the wisest man, the bravest man, and the most temperate man — so that each new sovereign might have the highest advantages, and come to the regal throne best fitted to rule over the people. Christ is the Prince of a kingdom that, is supreme in the universe. When the Providences of God summon us to follow Jesus as our Lord, to reject Him is also to reject the Lord that made us, and defy Him when He is most our friend.
2. You must bear in mind, also, as this narrative proceeds, that wilful disobedience, continuously repeated, becomes settled rebellion. The reply which Samuel received reminded him that this was not a new case of sudden refusal of the Divine sovereignty. That nation had actually got into the habit of it. They had never shown anything more commendable since they came up out of the land of Pharaoh; they proved an awkward and ungainly people when Moses was trying to manage them in the wilderness. When one throws off God's beneficent restraints, it is surprising to see how awfully wicked he can be as in a moment of rapid demoralisation. Things apparently innocent are made the baleful occasion, sometimes even the instrument, of violent outbreak in vice. it is one of the intense severities of Montaigne to say of these atheistic people that "they infect innocent matter with their own venom." Some sceptics like to do this in their reckless arguments. They force natural science, always loyal and reverent to the Creator of the universe, to speak a lie and bring false testimony against God. It is the deliberate counting out of Divine government which puts this universe in such a false position. The only effective manner in which to deal with such a dangerous experience is found in letting it have its own way until it shall be weary and worn with its follies and be ready to return penitently to God.
3. So now we come to the point that we started to reach. Human prayers are sometimes granted with a Divine protest. Solemn moment is that in which God gives to any man or nation in judgment what was asked of Him in petulance and pride! Now let us understand that circumstances may erect; a foreordained fact into a responsible sin, for which those who are the actors are to be held accountable in the end. The Lord said these malcontents in Israel might have their wish, and yet he charges on them the guilt the transaction involved. Furthermore, this very demand of the people had been foreseen and publicly predicted three hundred years before. And yet this whole proceeding was now wrong; it was premature and hasty, and it was conducted without reference to the over-ruling will of Jehovah. God's Providence does not constrain any man's iniquity. Foreordination has nothing to do with free will. Those elders were doing their own behest, not God's; and they suffered for it.
II. We turn now from this story to THE ONE PRINCIPLE IT SO VIVIDLY ILLUSTRATES. It is worth our while to press a valuable admonition like that which is given here. We are told to let our hearts go forth in prayer continually unto God, and God will grant us our desires. But here we learn that not even the answers we obtain are to be trusted always. What does this mean in real experience?
1. It means that all petitions are to be offered, and all desires are to be pressed, according to the Lord's will before our will. If we thrust ourselves forward, Divine Providence will frequently hedge up the way. If now we urge on, sometimes the barrier is seen to move quietly away; then we can have our request if we continue to press it. But is this safe or wise? that is the sober question. It is the creature erecting itself against the supreme judgment of its Creator and taking its case into its own hands. When a man is intelligent, and his conscience tells him that God is not exactly granting, but only permitting, his prayer, is it best for him to persevere in it in the confident hope that courage will carry him through into safety?
2. And for another thing, this declaration means that under protest God grants a Christian's prayer, the answer will be a positive discipline rather than a blessing.
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
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