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TEXT: I Samuel 8:4-22
SUBJECT: The Life of Samuel #7: Rejected!
If there's an uglier and more painful word than this one, I don't know what it is. 'Rejection' means, 'You're not good enough'; it means 'You're not wanted'.
For some people 'rejection' is tightly focused on one event. The woman you proposed to turned you down. She tried to soften the blow by saying, 'It's not you; it's me'. But you know very well, it is you. You've been rejected.
For others, 'rejection' is not on one thing, but everything. I grew up with a girl who was not wanted; her parents told her so when she was little, and now-forty years later-they haven't changed their minds. 'Rejected', that's what she was-and what she is.
Some feelings of rejection are all in your head. You think people don't want you, but they really do. They love you and they want your company, if only you would offer it to them. But if some of these feelings are built on the air, others are well-grounded. Millions of people have suffered the pain and embarrassment of being rejected.
If you're one of them, today's story is for you. One of its main characters is a good man who spent his whole life in serving the people, only to be rejected by them. In public. Samuel is his name, and few people have felt the sting of rejection more keenly than he did.
He is not the only rejected person in the story, however, and as mean as the people were to him, they were even more ungrateful and cruel to this Other Person. The Other Person I have in mind is.God.
The Lord deserves nothing but praise and welcome. The people ought to have been thanking Him from the bottom of their hearts. But they weren't doing that. What they were doing is.rejecting Him, telling Him He's not good enough; telling Him He's not wanted.
This doesn't heal our broken hearts, of course, but it puts them in perspective. It tells us we're not alone, that others have been hurt and humiliated, and that One of them had a choice in the matter! We don't. No one wants to be rejected, and if we could get around it, we would. But we can't.
God could. He chose to suffer rejection, in order to be what He says He is, a compassionate God and a sympathetic Savior, to borrow the line from Hebrews, to be-
Touched with the feeling of our infirmity.
We'll soon get back to this, but first, the story.
THE REQUEST, VV.4-5
Samuel is an old man; he has lived a public life for many years, and now he's entered his golden years, the years of honor. The people would make a pilgrimage to his home in Ramah to thank him for what he's done and to show him the respect he so richly deserved.
This is what we would expect, but not what we find. The elders of Israel have paid him an official visit, but instead of bringing their respects, they bring nothing but their grievances.
Part of what they say is right. Samuel is not up to the task anymore, and the sons who are doing some of his work are not worthy of their father. They are taking bribes and perverting justice.
This, however, is not what they're after. They're not telling Samuel to supervise his sons more closely or to discipline them for their evil ways. Or even to fire them.
What they want is the end of his office, the Judgeship (if that's a word), the office he had occupied his whole adult life. They've had it up to here with Judges.
You have to wonder why. For more than 200 years the Judges had served Israel (for better or worse) and had always saved them from the Amorites, the Hittites, the Jebustites, and all the other Ites inside and beyond their borders. Though God had saved them by the Judges, they were sick and tired of the men.and the God who sent them.
They wanted a king.
In and of itself, their desire was not wrong. Deuteronomy 17 told them God would one day give them a king, and that, if he was loyal to the Law, he and they would prosper.
If the request was not sinful, what lay behind it was-
Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.
The key words are: 'Like all the nations'.
Have you read the Book of Leviticus? If you have, you've found all manner of weird laws. Some of them make good sense to us-liking building a rail round the upstairs patio, so people won't fall off. But others are of a very different character. The seamstress couldn't use two kinds of fabric in the same garment. The farmer couldn't plant two kinds of seed in the same field. Even flower gardens had to be all one or another; mixed bouquets were strictly forbidden.
The Lord gave His people these strange rules, not because He wanted to make life hard of them, but to teach them a lesson: They must be separate from the other nations; they must be different.
If other nations have kings-let them-Israel is not another nation, Deuteronomy 14:2-
You are a holy people to the Lord your God, and the Lord has chosen you to be a people to Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.
By demanding a king like all the nations, Israel is renouncing their special place in God's heart.
This is another way of saying: they wanted to live by sight and not by faith. The problem with the Judges is that you had to wait for God to send one of them. In other words, you had to trust Him. A king, on the other hand, would always be there, and long before he died his son would be in line to take his place.
Israel's desire for a king was of a piece with their hankering after idols. It's easier to trust a god you can see than the God you can't see. In the same way, it's easier to trust a monarchy (with it rules of succession) than the Lord who does what He wants, how He wants, when He wants.
SAMUEL'S REACTION, V.6
If the people want a king, Samuel is none too eager to give them one, v.6-
But the thing displeased Samuel.
You have to wonder if he took this personally. I think he did, chiefly because he's a man-and nobody likes to be told he's inadequate.
Hurt and angry at their words, Samuel turns to the Lord in prayer.
At the risk of damming up the flow of my sermon, I want to pause here for a minute to say something about anger and prayer. Anger robs you of self-control. In particular, it causes you to say things you shouldn't. Maybe they're true things-but not all true things should be spoken, and rarely do we say them in the right way when we're mad.
Hold your tongue when you're angry. When mad, Caesar counted to 100 before saying a word (and with Roman numerals, they must have taken a long time!). Christians should not do less than pagans. Instead of counting when mad, let's pray. If this makes you a little less quick and witty, that's all right: being slow-witted isn't half as bad as being hasty in your words.
How often have you regretted what you didn't say when you were mad?
Samuel's reaction to the people was a right one. He strongly disapproved of what they wanted, but instead of lashing out at them, he talked it over with God. Good move for him. And for us.
GOD'S ANSWER, VV.7-18
The Lord's answer was not what Samuel was hoping for. Instead of telling him to ream out the people for what they said, God told him, 'Give them what they want'-
Heed the voice of the people in all they say to you.
Samuel must have been shocked at the answer! Until the Lord explained Himself.
Firstly, He clarified their position. The people were not rejecting Samuel; they were rejecting God. It was personal, but not in the way Samuel thought it was. They weren't against him; they were against God.
Secondly, He wondered at Samuel's wonder. Why was the man so surprised at the people's demand? They've always been this way. From the day God freed them from their bondage, they have longed for another god and king. In the wilderness, they set up the Golden Calf and tried to fire Moses and elect a man who would lead them back to Egypt. In Canaan, they're doing the same thing: replacing the Lord with the Baals and rejecting the Judges He sent them in favor of a king they themselves would choose.
Rather than think too little of the people, Samuel thought too much of them. Rejecting God and His leaders was not the exception: it was the rule.
Thirdly, Samuel must warn them against the king they wanted so badly. You want them to fight the enemy and overcome them? He will. The problem is: you'll be the enemy! Here's what your king will do:
And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the Lord will not hear you in that day.
We don't have time to look up all the references, but there's a contrast here between Israel's true King (God) and the king they wanted to replace Him.
The Lord gives; the king takes away. The Lord gives them their:
And He will love you and bless you and multiply you; He will also bless the fruit of your womb.
Now, O Israel, listen to the statues and the judgments which I teach you to observe, that you may live, and go in and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers is giving you.
He will.bless.the fruit of your land, and your grain and your new wine and your oil, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flock.
Everything they have is God's gift, but instead of being minding and praising the Lord, they reject Him and put a man in his place. The man-like all idols-is going to betray them.
If Samuel was a political scientist, the people might say he was wrong. But he wasn't a scholar predicting the future if trends stay the same (which they never do!). He was a prophet of God-and they knew it! Way back when the man was little more than a boy-
All Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, knew that Samuel had been established as a prophet of the Lord.
In ignoring his warnings, therefore, they were spurning God and His Word.
THE DECISION, VV.19-22
The people knew what God wanted them to do, and they didn't care.
Samuel took their words to God and repeated them in His hearing. Of course he knew God had heard the words, but he was now bearing witness against them, as in a court of Law. The Judge would hear the testimony, and He would rule against the guilty.
He did this-not by saying no their demands-but something far worse: by saying yes.
Israel will have its king. And wish they hadn't.
Israel is sent home, and the Lord starts looking for their king.
What does the story say?
It says good men are not always appreciated. When you're not, don't worry about it. Our Lord said there are worse things than being unappreciated-
Blessed are you when they revile you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you for my sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
It says 'Be careful what you pray for, you just might get it'. St. Therese knew whereof she spoke-
More tears are shed over answered prayers
than answered ones.
Don't get mad when God says no to your prayers. It may be the best thing He ever sends your way.
It says people are fickle. Hailed one day as a hero, the next day Samuel is rejected. From this it says, Don't be fickle yourself. Ignoring, shunning, and rejecting people hurts them, and often the hurts are not healed in this world. Be careful, be loyal, don't forget your friends. Who is my neighbor? You're the neighbor!
These are the secondary lessons taught in our story. The main one is the one I referred to at the start of the sermon:
The Lord allows Himself to be rejected.
He didn't have to allow it. He could have struck the rejecters dead on the spot-as he did long before when He killed Korah and others who refused His Lordship and mutinied on Moses. He could have done that, but He didn't.
He could have come at them from another angle. He could have given them new hearts, hearts that love Him instead of reject Him. He didn't do that, either.
What He did is allow them to break His heart.
Why did He do that? There's only one answer: Love. Love makes you vulnerable. A good man would be sad about any son running away from home, but when it's his son, the man is crushed. Because he loves his son in a way he doesn't love others. If an enemy curses me, I don't care; but when a friend does it, I do care. Because it hurts.
The closer one is to you, the more his rejection hurts. Not wanting to be hurt again, some will push others away. They'll be polite (maybe), but that's all. They haven't got the guts to love.
God does. This is not the first time He was rejected. And it won't be the last. One day-future to Samuel's day-God is going to send His Son into the world. He's not coming to judge the world-because the world is already judged. He's coming to save the world, to forgive sins and to give eternal life to everyone who wants it.
When He comes, we would expect a hero's welcome. But it's not what He got-
He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.
He was despised and rejected of men.and we hid, as it were, our faces from Him.
This is how great God's love is for us. Great enough to sit by and watch His servants rejected by ingrates. And His Son to suffer a fate even worse.
No wonder Peter said, we are not redeemed with corruptible things like silver and gold, but by the precious blood of Christ. This is what God's love cost Him.
Today, we are presented with the same choice Israel had way back when. We can reject God-as they did-or we can receive Him as they didn't. They chose badly. But you don't have to-
To those who did receive Him, He gave them the power to become the children of God, even to those who believe in His name.
We will have this Man to reign over us!
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