1 Samuel 12, 13

1 Samuel 12, 13

SERIES: Leadership in Hard Times

The Difference Integrity Makes

SPEAKER: Michael P. Andrus

Introduction:  1 Samuel is a book about leadership, both positive and negative, among God’s people.  We began in chapter 1 by observing the difference a godly home makes in the development of leadership.  Today, in the fifth message in our series, we will look at the difference integrity makes in the exercise of leadership.  Please follow along as I read portions of 1 Samuel 12 and 13:

Samuel said to all Israel, “I have listened to everything you said to me and have set a king over you. 2 Now you have a king as your leader. As for me, I am old and gray, and my sons are here with you. I have been your leader from my youth until this day. 3 Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the Lord and his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes? If I have done any of these things, I will make it right.”

4 “You have not cheated or oppressed us,” they replied. “You have not taken anything from anyone’s hand.”

5 Samuel said to them, “The Lord is witness against you, and also his anointed is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand.”

“He is witness,” they said.

6 Then Samuel said to the people, “It is the Lord who appointed Moses and Aaron and brought your ancestors up out of Egypt. 7 Now then, stand here, because I am going to confront you with evidence before the Lord as to all the righteous acts performed by the Lord for you and your ancestors.  (At this point Samuel rehearses the history of Israel).  We pick up the story in chapter 13:  

Saul was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned over Israel forty-two years.

2 Saul chose three thousand men from Israel; two thousand were with him at Mikmash and in the hill country of Bethel, and a thousand were with Jonathan at Gibeah in Benjamin. The rest of the men he sent back to their homes.

3 Jonathan attacked the Philistine outpost at Geba, and the Philistines heard about it. Then Saul had the trumpet blown throughout the land and said, “Let the Hebrews hear!” 4 So all Israel heard the news: “Saul has attacked the Philistine outpost, and now Israel has become obnoxious to the Philistines.” And the people were summoned to join Saul at Gilgal.

5 The Philistines assembled to fight Israel, with three thousand chariots, six thousand charioteers, and soldiers as numerous as the sand on the seashore. They went up and camped at Mikmash, east of Beth Aven. 6 When the Israelites saw that their situation was critical and that their army was hard pressed, they hid in caves and thickets, among the rocks, and in pits and cisterns. 7 Some Hebrews even crossed the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead.

Saul remained at Gilgal, and all the troops with him were quaking with fear. 8 He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul’s men began to scatter. 9 So he said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings.” And Saul offered up the burnt offering. 10 Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to greet him.

11 “What have you done?” asked Samuel.

Saul replied, “When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Mikmash, 12 I thought, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the Lord’s favor.’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering.”

13 “You have done a foolish thing,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. 14 But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”

Two key individuals appear in this passage of Scripture—Samuel and Saul.   Samuel was a leader who exercised integrity all the time.  Saul, on the other hand, was a leader who lacked integrity at crucial times. 

Samuel was a leader who exercised integrity all the time.

The first area that is addressed in our text is Samuel’s civil leadership—his work, if you will.   

         His civil leadership was characterized by complete financial and moral honesty.  (12:1-5)A word about the background of chapter 12.  Several Sundays ago we studied chapter 8, where the leadership of Samuel (and ultimately of God) was rejected by the Israelites in favor of a king.  As chapter 11 closes the new King has been inaugurated and has distinguished himself in battle in his very first campaign, leading the people to a stunning victory.  Samuel apparently fears that the Israelites might see this victory as evidence of human achievement instead of divine blessing.  He desires to press home to them the absolute importance of trusting only in the sovereignty of God and the sad results they will suffer if they refuse to do so.

But he wonders if the people will listen to him.  After all, they have already rejected his leadership; will they also reject his prophetic voice?  He decides to reassert his authority by challenging them to find any moral defect in his life.  His intent, rather than to brag about his own righteousness, was to show that because he had been completely trustworthy in the past, his word for the present and the future could be accepted with confidence.  He claims, and the people affirm, that there has been no dishonesty, stealing, oppression, cheating, or bribery in any of his dealings with the people.  What a testimony for this man of God! 

Corruption in our local and national leaders has always been a problem; sometimes we wonder if it hasn’t reached epidemic proportions.  I despise it as you do, but I think that many of us do not realize the heavy temptations that our leaders face.  Power is a corrupting influence.  You perhaps have heard the proverb, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  There is some truth in that, for special interest groups are unbelievably skilled in putting pressure on our politicians.  They use political pressure where they can, but they are not beyond using moral pressure, blackmail or even bribery if no other means will do the job.

That doesn’t excuse the politicians who fall, but perhaps it helps us understand why so many of them do.  But let us not think only of the notorious leaders who have made the headlines; let us think of ourselves and the particular area of leadership that God has entrusted to us.  Can we claim, as Samuel did, “The Lord is witness against you, and also his anointed is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand.”?  Are there any tools in our garage that belong to our employer, any funds in our bank account that were immorally obtained, any programs in our computer that were copied in violation of copyright laws, any time in our schedule that was stolen from our work or from the Lord?  

The integrity of Samuel’s civil leadership having been established by his own testimony, as well as by the people’s affirmation, we learn secondly, and more indirectly, that …

His spiritual leadership was likewise blameless.  Samuel’s integrity impacted his ministry in at least three ways.  

1.  He rehearsed the history of God’s dealings in the past.  One of the important tasks of any spiritual leader is to remind people of the past (not to live in it, but to rehearse it).  God’s people need to be aware of their spiritual roots; we need to know “the pit whence ye are digged,” to borrow some King James English.  Those who are not aware of the mistakes of the past are condemned to repeat them.

Samuel did this first by reminding the Israelites of how God had redeemed them from Egypt and brought them into Canaan.  He then recounted their disobedience under the Judges.  Throughout their history there was a cycle of sin, judgment, repentance, and restoration.  To pick out phrases from the text, he says, “they forgot … so he sold … they cried out … and he delivered.” 

This recitation of God’s dealings with them in the past was intended to lay the groundwork for Samuel’s exhortation regarding God’s dealings with them in the present and future, for the present situation had all the earmarks of their historical tendency.  

2.  He encouraged and warned the people about God’s dealings with them in the present and future.  The Ammonite menace had prompted them to request a human king, a request that was ill-motivated and really involved the rejection of God as their King.  However, instead of judging them immediately, God had graciously acceded to their request and gave them a king.  

Now if I were the Lord, I would probably have done the same thing, but I would be sitting back just hoping for that king to mess up so I could say to the people, “See, I told you so.”  But that is not the attitude God took toward them.  Look at verse 14:  “If you fear the Lord and serve and obey Him and do not rebel against his commands, and if both you and the king who reigns over you follow the Lord your God—good!”  This verse reveals an amazing truth about God.  His will was violated by the sinful desire of the people to have a king, yet he is willing to bless them despite their wrong choice, if they would only be steadfast in their obedience from this point on.  In other words, God is rooting for them and is willing to bring good out of their bad choices.  

Now I would never want to give someone contemplating an act of disobedience the notion that it doesn’t really matter, because God will give you a second chance.  Going into an act of disobedience with that kind of attitude would certainly qualify as willful sin, which God judges with unusual severity.  But I think it’s amazing that when we have been disobedient, especially when that disobedience is a result of ignorance or passion, God doesn’t write us off but offers to work with us where we are and bring good out of the evil!

There’s always the other side, however.  What if we follow up disobedience with further disobedience?  Look at verse 15:  “But if you do not obey the Lord, and if you rebel against his commands, his hand will be against you, as it was against your fathers.”  Then, to put force behind his warning he calls upon God to produce rain during the dry season, and God does it, sending a shudder of awe through the people.  They said, “Pray to the Lord your God for your servants so that we will not die, for we have added to all our other sins the evil of asking for a king.” 

Samuel calmed them with further encouragement and warning:  “You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart….  For the sake of his great name the Lord will not reject his people, because the Lord was pleased to make you his own.”  Finally, in verse 24 he tells them, “Be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.  Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will be swept away.” 

We have seen two ways in which the integrity of Samuel’s spiritual leadership is exhibited:  he rehearsed the history of God’s dealings in the past, and he encouraged and warned the people about God’s dealings in the present and future.  

3.  He practiced personal spiritual discipline.  It’s one thing to tell other people how to live godly; it’s quite another to set an example of godly living.  In a powerful statement regarding his own spiritual responsibilities, Samuel says in verse 23, “As for me, far be it for me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you.  And I will teach you the way that is good and right.”  Two spiritual disciplines are mentioned here—intercessory prayer and teaching God’s truth.  

Samuel considered it a sin to fail to pray for the people over which God had placed him.  One of the outstanding characteristics of this man Samuel was his prayer life.  We don’t have time this morning to look at all the examples of his intercession for the people in prayer, but I would point out to you that Samuel was widely known for his prayer life.  

Consider the words of Psalm 99.  This Psalm of praise to God says in verse 6, “Moses and Aaron were among his priests, Samuel was among those who called on his name; they called on the Lord and he answered them.” Pretty good company, I’d say—Moses, Aaron, and Samuel.  Then in Jeremiah 15:1, the Lord says, “Even if Moses and Samuel were to stand before me, my heart would not go out to this people.”  God was so fed up with the people in Jeremiah’s day that he claims the greatest intercessors in their history—Moses and Samuel—would have no effect on His decision to judge the nation.   

But Samuel was also a teacher of the people.  He prayed for them and he taught them God’s ways—what a combination!  Little wonder that he was a great leader; he had integrity in his civil leadership and in his spiritual leadership.  

But what a contrast we find when we come to Saul.  Now we won’t be able in this one sermon to see all the evidence of failure in Saul.  But over the next three Sunday mornings we’re going to see in chapters 13, 14, and 15, three steps that Saul took which led to major leadership failure.  

Saul was a leader who lacked integrity at critical times.

Chapter 13 finds Saul setting about to create a standing army of 3,000 trained troops.  Some he stationed at Micmash and some at Gibeah, in order to avert Philistine attacks.  After a preliminary encounter at Geba, the Philistines pushed the Israelite troops eastward all the way to Gilgal.  There Saul waited for Samuel to come and offer sacrifices before he went into battle.

Under pressure he bent the rules.  Now God had made it very clear that sacrifices were to be offered only by a priest (Lev. 6:8-13), but Saul proceeded to offer the sacrifices himself.  Not only did he violate the general prohibition against taking the priestly prerogative for himself, but he also violated a specific prohibition given in verse 8 of chapter 10.  There Samuel had said, “Go down ahead of me to Gilgal.  I will surely come down to you to sacrifice burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, but you must wait seven days until I come to you and tell you what you are to do.” 

What happened is that the pressure mounted on Saul as the days passed and the Philistine forces gathered.  He was even having problems with desertion by his soldiers.  So, under pressure he bent the rules—he offered up the burnt offering himself. 

Friends, pressure is a guaranteed factor in our lives.  We simply cannot wait until the pressure mounts before we make decisions about how we’re going to react to the temptations of life.  We need to decide before the pressure comes so that the decision is automatic.  Many of you face ethical decisions regularly in your work.  One of our men came into my office this week facing a real dilemma.  The company for which he has worked for many years has made the decision to handle a product that is by its very nature immoral.  I was proud of him as he expressed a willingness to quit his job, if necessary, because of his conscience on the matter.  Far better that it be said of us, “Under pressure he quit the job, or under pressure she terminated a relationship, or under pressure he refused to cheat than under pressure he bent the rules.” 

Just as Saul finished offering the sacrifice, Samuel arrived and asked him, “What have you done?”

At this point we see the second evidence of a lack of integrity on his part.

Under scrutiny he blamed others and justified himself.  Look at Saul’s answer: “When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Micmash, I thought, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the Lord’s favor.’  So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering.” 

Notice that Saul blames the soldiers, he blames Samuel, and he blames the circumstances.  Do you remember a little incident talked about in Genesis 3?  Adam also bent the rules under pressure and when God came and asked him what he had done, he responded, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”  It’s the woman’s fault; in fact, God, it’s really your fault, because everything was fine until you brought her into my life.

Under judgment he turned to his own strength.  God’s judgment was delivered upon Saul in verses 13-14.  Samuel told him that had he kept the Lord’s commandments his dynasty would have been established over Israel.  But since he failed to do so, his dynasty would end with himself and a man after God’s own heart would be appointed leader in his place.  

And what is Saul’s response?  One could have hoped for a repentant heart, and had that been the response, one wonders whether God might have changed his mind.  But instead, we see in verse 15 that “Samuel left Gilgal and went up to Gibeah in Benjamin, and Saul counted the men who were with him.  They numbered about 600.”  I see a strong hint there that the rebuke he received merely hardened Saul’s heart and he turned further from God to the human resources he could count.  

What is the message in this text for us today?    

1.  When integrity marks our lives, we are free to lead God’s people successfully.  One of the great things about living a life of complete integrity is the freedom of conscience that goes with it.  You never have to look over your shoulder; you never have to remember what you told someone for fear that you might contradict it later, because you always tell the truth; you never have to worry about whether someone saw you in a certain place.  There’s simply no substitute for integrity.

2.  When lack of integrity marks our lives, our leadership will always fail, eventually.  Oh, I know a person can lead people for a while even though he’s living a lie.  Some have done it even for years.  But eventually it will catch up with him and it will destroy him.  

All of us have seen great leaders fall, and sometimes we’re tempted to believe that they were felled by one weak moment or one wrong decision.  But rarely is that the case.  Most often the ultimate failure is the result of many small failures.  As Solomon wrote, “It’s the little foxes that spoil the vines.”  (Song of Solomon 2:15) There is simply no substitute for thorough and complete integrity. 

As we close this morning it may be that some of us need to deal with the Lord on the matter of personal integrity.  Perhaps there is some confession that needs to happen today; perhaps even some restitution.  Without doubt all of us need to make decisions now that will make right choices easier when we get under pressure.  

DATE: February 21, 1988




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