Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Sermon--A Life of Integrity--1 Samuel 12

Samuel’s Legacy of Faith

A Few Years ago, a Frozen Pizza line had commercials that asked an important question of those on the verge of death--What Do you Want on Your Tombstone? Pepperoni and Cheese?

How will you be remembered? Unfortunately, neither you nor I are in much of a position to determine that. Typically, how you are remembered is dependent on the impact that you had on the one’s doing the remembering.

I am ready to meet my Maker.
Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal
of meeting me is another matter.
Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

Thomas Jefferson

Last week we skipped ahead to compare the annointing of David to the annointing of Saul. This week, we're going back to look at what Samuel believes to be his last act of public ministry. This is his farewell speech.

Thinking he was essentially done with public service and ministry now that Israel had the king they wanted, Samuel called the people together to say goodbye and to remind them once again what he had spent his life building.

Samuel didn’t want to be remembered for the battles he had won, he didn’t want to be remembered for the prestigious role of anointing the first King of Israel, successes didn’t matter, wealth didn’t matter, buildings, statues—all the measures of success didn’t interest Samuel, they weren’t what he wanted to be remembered with.

Samuel Wanted to Be Remembered for His Life of Integrity &
For His Call to Faithfulness as a Prophet of God

What is the most important legacy you can leave? The legacy of a life of Integrity, a Legacy of Faith

1 Sam. 12—Life of Integrity
12:1-3—Courage to Stand on Integrity
Samuel was a remarkable man. By all accounts he was generous, he was honest, he was true to his faith, to the people and to God. He was so confident of the standards of his life that he was willing to stand before the people and say something powerful, something I want to be able to say after a long life of service to my Savior—

“Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the LORD and His anointed.”
He hasn’t taken anything that didn’t belong to him
He hadn’t cheated anyone or taken advantage of them or his position as leader
He had not oppressed anyone by laying a heavy burden on them, or belittled anyone because he was better and more important than they were.

Standing in front of a large group, challenging them to find any fault, after years of service… takes a great deal of courage. I don’t think there’s many politicians, pastors, professors or anyone else that would do that without sweat popping up on their forehead—with a straight face.

Just in case Samuel had missed or forgotten anything, or had truly done anything wrong, what’s amazing is that if anyone does have proof of some impropriety, any wrongdoing, then Samuel promises to “make it right.”

Samuel didn’t want to talk about all his accomplishments, brag about his closeness to God—he wanted to talk about his life, his behavior, his reputation, his integrity.

When others think of you, what will come to mind? Have you taken, cheated, oppressed, or taken a bribe? If so, then you need to acknowledge your wrong and admit it, first to yourself and then find the appropriate way of making it right, of restoring your integrity. Some courts are requiring criminals or violators to make restitution for their crimes—but the man or woman of integrity won’t have to be threatened, won’t have to be coerced. The man or woman of integrity will want to do the right thing, once the fault has been brought to their attention.

Is integrity the most important consideration you have when examining your life? Integrity before God, integrity before people? Or is something else more important? Your status in town, the size of your bank account

The people understand Samuel and consider what he asks of them. Here is their answer—vs. 4-5—The people testify to the life of Samuel, that he was good to them, that he was honest, that he didn’t manipulate the faith to improve his own situation by taking the best cuts of meat, the best offerings, that Samuel had not cheated or oppressed them. Every one of these things the people had seen done in others—they knew how this list manifested itself—they had been cheated and taken advantage of, they had been oppressed by those who served as priests. But the people could not say those things about Samuel.

For Samuel, all the other things he could have thought of in for his final address, all the other things he could have pointed to for his success as a prophet were of little importance compared to his integrity. If his integrity failed, his message failed. That’s why he desired the opportunity to submit his life to scrutiny.

Not only His life of Integrity—But Samuel wanted to make sure no one could forget his first and most important role as a Prophet of God—the calling of which came when he was a mere boy and was used by God every step of the way. Samuel wanted to be remembered for Pointing the People to God.

Samuel’s Life as a Prophet
READ—vs. 6-11—his life was full of Reminders of God’s Goodness—as if he was a good historian teaching his class—reminding them of all the evidences that God has provided of His faithfulness and power.
Even in what he thought was his last day of service, Samuel was still faithful to point people to God—giving God the credit for everything.

As a Prophet, Samuel didn’t stop with the things God had done, but he once again, brought up the people’s responsibility to follow God—Samuel wasn’t afraid to step on a few toes. His integrity allowed it. Imagine how easy it would be to dismiss Samuel’s pleadings to Honor God in life if you knew he had cheated people, taken advantage of them or failed in some moral area.

Samuel wasn’t interested in pandering to a few fair-weather fans. He truly wanted to see them all fulfill their covenant with God, to truly be reconciled to God. He calls them to obey. Only someone who is more interested in God’s opinion over public opinion is willing to do this. READ—vs. 12-22

Popularity was not his chief goal. He is mirroring how Paul described his ministry in Galatians 1:10—“Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” God’s approval of Paul’s ministry was far more important than any popularity contest or public approval.

Samuel is not afraid to step on toes—he tells them plainly of the consequences to their behavior in vs. 14-15. And they have to take his words seriously because he’s not just talking the talk, but walking the walk.

Samuel still expects to be able to call upon the power of God and display it before all to see. In other words, Samuel wants them to know that he serves a higher and greater power than them than even the King. Israel may have a king, but they are still answerable to God.
The people still know and recognize Samuel as their prophet, their representative of God’s Hand in their lives and Community—vs. 19

Samuel wants them to know in vs. 20 that they must be willing to Serve God no matter what—despite past failures, despite their mess ups they were expected to continually follow God “with all your heart”. I am thankful for this verse because it is another confirmation that God doesn’t throw me away when I sin and mess up in life. Even then, God wants us to return to Him and follow Him.

Samuel wanted to see the spiritual fruit at work in their lives for generations—he wanted to try and ensure that a legacy of faith was passed on from father to son. So he again urges them to not turn away to “useless idols”. He reminds them again of the reason for God’s faithfulness in vs. 22—“for the sake of His great name.” God’s own integrity was on the line but also God’s joy at making a people for Himself.

To this end—Samuel conveys what he thinks as one of his last statements to them, the Necessity of Prayer and his care for them—vs. 23. Samuel’s Integrity and Life of Faith will not allow him to ever stop praying for them, to ever stop calling for the best for them. He is still the people’s teacher of what is good and right. Samuel still, in 24-25—Continues to Direct People to a right relationship with God and warns them to do what is right.

That is a life of Integrity—a lifetime serving God. From beginning to end, Samuel’s heart and life was on display. No one could find fault with him. That is the greatest legacy we could have—it’s not fame or fortune, but a life of integrity and a life of directing people to God.

Imagine what it would say on Samuel’s Tombstone.

Here lies Samuel—Called by God—Faithful to the Call

How do you want to be remembered? What do you want on your Tombstone?

Jesus lived the ultimate life of integrity—He was Sinless. Jesus was the most Faithful to God’s Call—because that call required Him to give His life. He died for you and me, that we might be brought to God. Where Samuel urged and warned, Jesus paved the way—and He is paving the way for you right now--

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