Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you; but I will instruct you in the good and right way.
1 Samuel 12:23
On the heels of Saul’s victory over Nahash, Samuel takes a moment and reminds the Israelites that this victory is a blessing in spite of the Israelites’ choices and actions, not because of them.
Samuel begins with challenging the people to step forward and bring an accusation against him if they have one and the Israelites say that they have no accusation to bring against Samuel (vv 1-5). Samuel continues by giving the Israelites a brief overview of God providing judges to deliver them from their oppressors (vv 6-11) and concludes, in verse 11, that God delivered you from the hands of your enemies all around, so that you lived in security. He concludes his exhortation by telling the Israelites that their choosing of a human king is a rejection of God’s Kingship over them (vv 12-25).
In the midst of the rebuke, the people ask Samuel to pray for them because they recognize that they have made a bad decision. Samuel responds with this morning’s verse.
Samuel sees praying for the Israelites as something God has told him to do and that to not do it would, for him, be sin. This sounds, to me, like a foretaste of what is written later by James (James 4:17): Therefore, to one who knows [the] right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin. Which jives with the fact that the Ten Commandments come in both proscriptive and prescriptive flavors, “do not”s and “do”s. It is just as wrong to not do the things I should as it is to do the things I should not.
Samuel gives a second part to his response which is that he will instruct the Israelites and their new king in the good and right way. Not only will Samuel continue to do the right thing himself, but he will instruct the Israelites on what the good and right way is for them to conduct themselves. Even as he is doing at that very moment.
Samuel’s response leaves me, as a follower of God, with two responsibilities. First, I am to pray for those for whom God tells me to pray. Second, I am to instruct as many as will listen in the good and right way. And these are challenging responsibilities. God tells me to pray for my enemies and those hurt me and misuse me as well as to pray for my fellow believers and those who love me. Jesus gives the best example of this when He prays for the soldiers crucifying Him. Their actions could not be any more heartless or abusive toward Him, yet He prayed that the Father would forgive them. And so should I pray for those who misuse and abuse me.
Father, thank You that Jesus gave Himself as an example of praying and for whom. Thank You that Samuel also desired to pray for those You had put on his heart and that he saw it as wrong not to. Please give me a heart that sees failing to pray for those You lay on my heart as just as wrong as every other sin. Please give me a heart that wants to speak the truth in love and so instruct others in the good and right way.