1 Samuel 15:10, 11
Then came the word of the LORD to Samuel, saying,…
The recorded instances of Samuel's praying are of an intercessory character (1 Samuel 7:9; 1 Samuel 8:6, 21; 1 Samuel 12:18, 23). The last of them is his intercession for Saul. He appears to have been told by God in a dream of the result of the probationary commission which had been given to the king. Agitated and distressed, and not yet clearly perceiving it to be the fixed purpose of God (ver. 29) that Saul should no longer reign over Israel as his recognised servant and vicegerent, Samuel gave himself unto prayer, if thereby he might avert the calamity. Respecting his intercession, consider -
I. ON WHOSE BEHALF IT WAS MADE. Chiefly, doubtless, on behalf of Saul, though not without regard to the nation, on which his rejection seemed likely to produce a disastrous effect. Intercession should be made for individuals as well as communities. "Satan hath desired to have you," said he who is the perfect example of intercessory prayer, "but I have prayed for thee" (Luke 22:32). There were many things in Saul calculated to call it forth.
1. His good qualities, exalted position, and intimate relationship to the prophet.
2. His grievous sin (vers. 11, 19, 23), exceeding his previous transgressions.
3. His great danger - falling from his high dignity, failing to accomplish the purpose of his appointment, losing the favour and help of Jehovah, and sinking into confirmed rebellion and complete ruin. "It repenteth me that I have made Saul king; for he is turned back from following me" (vers. 11, 35). When a change takes place in the conduct of man toward God, as from obedience to disobedience, it necessitates a change of God's dealings toward him (otherwise he would not be unchangeably holy), and this "change of his dispensation" or economy (Theodoret) is called his repentance. It is not, however, the same in all respects as repentance in men. No change in him can arise, as in them, from unforeseen events or more perfect knowledge, seeing that "his understanding is infinite;" yet, on the other hand, as in their repentance there is sorrow, so also in his - sorrow over those who turn from him, oppose his gracious purposes, and bring misery upon themselves (Genesis 6:6; Judges 10:16); and of this Divine sorrow the tears and agonies of Christ are the most affecting revelation.
II. IN WHAT SPIRIT IT WAS MADE.
1. Holy anger against sin, and against the sinner in so far as he has yielded himself to its power, arising from sympathy with God and zeal for his honour (Psalm 119:126, 136, 158).
2. Deep sorrow over the sinner, in his essential personality, his loss and ruin; not unmingled with disappointment at the failure of the hopes entertained concerning him. Sorrow over sinners is a proof of love to them.
3. Intense desire for the sinner's repentance, forgiveness, and salvation. "And he cried unto the Lord all night" with a loud and piercing cry, and in prolonged entreaty. The old home at Ramah, which had been sanctified by parental prayers and his own incessant supplications, never witnessed greater fervour. Wonderful was the spirit of intercession which he possessed. Well might the Psalmist, in calling upon men to worship the Lord, single him out as pre-eminent among them that "call upon his name" (Psalm 99:6). But still more wonderful was the spirit which was displayed by the great Intercessor, who often spent the night in prayer, and whose whole life was a continued act of intercession, closing with the cry, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Would that more of the same spirit were possessed by all his disciples!
"We are told
How much the prayers of righteous men avail;
And yet 'tis strange how very few believe
These blessed words, or act as were they true."
III. TO WHAT EXTENT IT AVAILED.
1. Not to the full extent he desired. Saul did not repent, neither was he exempted from the sentence of rejection. The relation of the sovereignty of God to the will of men is inexplicable. How far the Almighty may, by special and extraordinary grace, subdue its opposition we cannot tell. But he has conditioned the general exercise of his power by the gift of freedom and responsibility, he does not destroy or recall the gift; and the power of human resistance to the Divine will is a fearful endowment. There are stages of human guilt which would be followed by the wrath of God "though Moses and Samuel stood before him" (Jeremiah 15:1). "There is a sin unto death; I do not say that he shall pray for it" (1 John 5:16). "The sin, namely, of a wilful, obstinate, Heaven daring opposition to the ways of God and the demands of righteousness, and which, under a dispensation of grace, can usually belong only to such as have grieved the Spirit of God till he has finally left them - a sin, therefore, which lies beyond the province of forgiveness" (Fairbairn, 'Typology,' 2:341).
2. Yet, doubtless, to obtain many benefits for the transgressor, in affording him space for repentance and motives to it. Who shall say how many blessings came upon Saul in answer to Samuel's intercession for him?
3. And to calm the soul of him who prays, to make known the will of God to him more clearly, to bring him into more perfect acquiescence with it, and to strengthen him for the duty that lies before him. "And he arose early to meet Saul in the morning" (ver. 12).
1. How great is the privilege and honour of intercessory prayer.
2. Since we know not who are beyond the reach of Divine grace, we should never cease to intercede for any.
3. If intercession does not avail to obtain all that it seeks, it does not fail to obtain invaluable blessings. - D.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then came the word of the LORD unto Samuel, saying,