1 Samuel 12:23
Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you…
There was a vein of misgiving evident in the words of Samuel. Perhaps the new king and his triumphant soldiers ascribed it to the timorousness of old age; but the seer looked further into the future than they, and if he felt bound to warn them of the danger they would incur by rebelling against the commandment of the Lord, he gave them at the same time an assurance that he would do all in his power to preserve them from such wickedness and its inevitable consequences. The man of God could never forget Israel. But what could he do in old age for this intractable people? The reins of government had been taken out of his hands; and it had never been his duty, now less than ever, to go out to battle. What remained for him to do? Must he not let king and people take their own course - sow as they pleased, and then reap what they sowed? Nay. Samuel would not, under a plea of helplessness, withdraw himself from all care for Israel's future. There remained to him the two greatest weapons for moral effect - prayer and teaching. The one points to God in heaven, the other to men on the earth. Such are a prophet's weapons, and they are mightier than a king's sceptre or a warrior's sword. That the intellectual and the moral are the highest forms of greatness and usefulness is a truth which has established itself throughout all history. The most illustrious and influential of the Hebrew race were the prophets. Moses, Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, none of the kings compare with these, except David and Solomon, and they because they had qualities resembling those of the prophets - the one of them a poet, and the other a sage. In like manner the greatest of the Greeks were not their warriors or rulers, but such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle - the men who thought and who taught. That unique and ancient people, the Chinese, regard as by far their most important man the sage Confucius. Their most powerful emperors have been comparatively little men. Our modern nations too have had their characters moulded by their thinkers and teachers far more than by their princes and soldiers; and a nation's character makes its history as much as its history shapes its character. There is a supreme illustration of this truth. Unspeakably the greatest effect ever produced by one personality on the human race has been exerted by the man Christ Jesus. The widest, deepest, and most beneficial influence has issued from him; and he began that mighty movement, which has outlasted many governments, and shows no symptom of weakness or decay, by the very instruments or weapons which were named and used by the prophet Samuel, viz., prayer and instruction. Jesus prayed; Jesus taught. How weak in comparison were the men of the sword - Herod, and Pontius Pilate, and Pilate's imperial master at Rome I Jesus had no worldly title, and used no carnal weapon. If he was a king, it was to bear witness to the truth. The weapons by which he overcame were these - he prayed, and so prevailed with God; he taught, and so prevailed with men. In the same manner he continues to animate and strengthen the Church. He makes continual intercession in heaven; and by the abiding of his words and the living guidance of his Spirit he gives continual instruction on earth. In the very beginning of the Church the apostles showed their deep appreciation of this truth, and refused to be drawn aside from that way of highest usefulness which their Master had shown to them. They would concentrate their energies on moral and spiritual work. "We will give ourselves to the word of God and to prayer." Paul was of the same mind in his apostolate. He relied on weapons "not carnal, but mighty through God." He foresaw, and it is evident from the writings of Peter and John that they too in old age foreboded, evil days, as Samuel did in his declining years; but those apostles knew no better course to recommend to the faithful than that which Samuel followed - to pray always, and to teach sound doctrine. Evil might come, even apostasy might ensue; but the elect would be proved and purified, and after troubled days the kingdom would ultimately be set up in "the sure mercies of David," and the confusion of the time of Saul would be past forever. No emphasis is laid on rite or ceremony. Samuel was a priest, and lived in a dispensation of religion which gave great scope for ritual. But we are left to assume that the rites prescribed through Moses were observed at this period. We hear wonderfully little about them. Samuel was intent on teaching that "to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams." How weak and puerile to lay the stress of our religion on the observance of ritual, or the performances of a priesthood! The way to make and keep a people Christian is not to sing masses for them, or multiply altar ceremonies and celebrations, but to pray, and to "teach the good and the right way," of obedience to conscience and to God. Whoso would serve his own generation well, let him pray, and let him by example, and persuasive speech or writing, preach righteousness. These are the good man's weapons, and these through God are mighty. Mischief may go on, as Saul went on to distress the people of God; but prayer and teaching quietly counteract the mischief, and prepare the way for a revival of piety and the reign of the "King of kings and Lord of lords." - F.
Parallel VersesKJV: Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way: