Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 12

The Church Pulpit CommentaryChurch Pulpit Commentary

Verse 20


‘And Samuel said unto the people, Fear not; ye have done all this wickedness; yet turn not aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart.’

1 Samuel 12:20

It is the special and most perilous curse of sin that it obscures, or blots out altogether, or terribly distorts the vision of God in our hearts; it gradually reduces us to that most desolate of all conditions, ‘having no hope and without God in the world.’

I. Those who need friends most are those who have fallen most and are in the most sore condition; but if even man despises and finds no forgiveness for our faults, is there any hope that He in whose sight the very heavens are not clean—that He will pity us, and take us to His breast, and suffer us to live in the glory of His presence? Will He, who is the Friend of the innocent, be a Friend of the guilty too?

II. God loathes our sins but, knowing that we are but dust, He loves our souls.—He sent His Son to seek and save the lost. When that blessed Son had taken our nature upon Him, He lived with the aged and the withered, the homeless and the diseased, with the palsied and the demoniac, with the ignorant and the blind.

III. Each new day is to you a new chance.—Return to God and use it rightly, letting the time past of your life suffice you to have walked in the hard ways of sin and shame. The mistakes, the follies, the sins, the calamities of the past may, if you use them rightly, be the pitying angels to guide you through the future. If you put off the present time for repentance, the convenient season may never come. As yet the door stands open before you; very soon it will be too late, and the door be shut.

Dean Farrar.


Notice four things in this text.

I. We have sinned some sins which we cannot repair.—God, in His great love, takes us still as we are; takes us back to His bosom; only asks one thing; that at least we will go on in simplicity and sincerity now.

II. Though the temporal punishment may remain, it yet may be no sign that the sin is unforgiven.—It is a difficulty in our way, raised by ourselves. God takes us back though we are fallen. Let us serve Him still, though the vigour of the old days is gone.

III. This punishment is a sign, a sure sign, of destruction following unforgiven sin.—If God so punish those whom He receives as repentant, what will befall us if we repent not? Surely nothing else than that ‘we shall be consumed.’

IV. What an argument with us ought His longsuffering to be.—What peace is in the thought of forgiveness so large, so full, so free, as God has promised! Not friends, nor repose, nor confession, nor resolution avails anything without the very presence of God; but each of these things in Him may work us weal, and He in them can bring us absolution and perfect peace.

Archbishop Benson.


(1) ‘Comforting them with their sins, and persuading them to heartfelt contrition, Samuel points out to Israel anew the way of life. He sums up all in the clear, solemn words, “Only fear the Lord and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider how great things he hath done for you. But if ye shall do wickedly, ye shall be consumed, both ye and your king.” Thus in Gilgal a word is spoken for all time. Into that vital word nothing accidental or circumstantial enters. The law of national life is written as with the pen of the Medes and Persians. The basis of true national prosperity is revealed for evermore. In simplest paraphrase it stands now as then, that highest national well-being is only secured by hearty obedience to God.’

(2) ‘Here is the secret of national prosperity. Read it in three words, “Fear … serve … obey.” Reverence, service, obedience, these three ensure happiness and success. This is true of a nation, and it is true of an individual. “The more of righteousness,” said the Talmud, “so much the more of peace.” Then the dark side of the same truth gives us the secret of national decay. In just two words, “not obey … but rebel.” There are great lessons for us in this parting principle. The fear of the Lord is still the beginning of wisdom. His service is still perfect freedom. To obey is still better than sacrifice. On these three notes, “fear,” “serve,” “obey,” the true national anthem is written.’

(3) ‘Let Anglo-Saxon righteousness be lost, and supremacy would soon go with it. It is not inconceivable that, should we forget God as Israel did, and should China receive Him fully, the splendid intrepidity and faithfulness shown by the Chinese Christians during the Boxer ordeal, and the proverbial patience and tenacity of the race, and vast resources of the country, might give to the world a new war-cry—“Chinese supremacy.” Let no self-conceit blind us to the fact that God demands righteousness of any people who would prosper.’

Verse 24


‘Consider how great things He hath done for you.’

1 Samuel 12:24

One of the great difficulties in the present day is to make time to consider. How are we to get at the truth about ourselves and our standing before God and men? Our text asks us to consider and see where we are. What is the test? How can we be really sure whether we are Christ’s or whether we are not. There is a test which we must apply again and again whenever the least doubt arises as to whether we are God’s children and the heirs of glory. It is this: Have you ever yet definitely by faith gone to God and asked Him, for Christ’s sake, to wash you in the Blood of the Lamb? Are you cleansed by faith in Calvary? ‘Consider how great things He hath done for you.’

I. In giving us His Son.—God so loved you that, before you were born, Jesus Christ, His Son, came down from Heaven to die on Calvary’s Cross for you. He thought of you and these black sins, and that evil nature which all of us inherited from Adam, and atonement was made for every one of us. We have not got to be good in order to be saved. We are saved by faith in the love and in the mercy and in the finished work of Jesus Christ, and because we trust in Him He brings forth in us the good works of holy living. We are good, if we are good, because the good God works in us; and any good works which we do are His works, and therefore the good works which we do, being His, give us no merit.

II. In giving us His Word.—‘We are filled who live to-day,’ writes a distinguished philosopher, ‘with a more present sense of the great love of God than those of old who, groping in the dawn of knowledge, saw only dark shadows of the Unknown.’ For we possess now the written Word of God, translated into all the vernaculars of the world; and those who read and mark and learn and inwardly digest God’s Holy Word are saved with His great salvation.

III. In changing our life.—‘Consider how great things He hath done for you,’ and is doing, and will yet do for all who trust in Him. Is it no great thing if you and I put forth our faith and expect God to fulfil the impossible in our lives?

—Rev. A. J. Poynder.


‘John Gough, who, after thirteen times being overcome by delirium tremens—a wreck, a human wreck—was enabled before the end of his life to take hold by faith of God’s omnipotence, so that God raised him up to be one of the very greatest of temperance advocates in the last century. How was it? It was because he considered how great things God had done and could do in the life of humanity. So, because he trusted God to make the impossible possible in his life, the chains of drink were broken and he was no longer its captive; and, emancipated from his old besetting sin, he was enabled, both in England and in America, to win many converts who gladly accepted temperance and meekness and Christianity as their watchword.’

Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 12". The Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.