“Yet if you persist in doing evil” 1 Sam 12:25

by Steven Chan

When we realize that we have done that which is wrong in the sight of God, we should confess our wrong to God and not continue in the path/direction of doing wrong. The Bible says in 1 John 1:9: “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” But the Bible also warns us in Rom 6:1-3: “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?”

The Bible tells us of the time when Israel asked for a king – just like the nations around them (I Sam 8:5). Let’s consider again this watershed event in the history of Israel.

1. The Israelites asked Samuel for a better leadership than the one provided by God. “But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” So Samuel prayed to the LORD.”(1 Sam 8:6) It is worth nothing that although Samuel was unhappy with their request, he did not act unilaterally without seeking the wisdom of God; he prayed to the Lord. When our brethren today make certain decisions that we do not agree with, as we perceive them to be doing that which is wrong, it is important for us to pray to the Lord for His wisdom. We should not presume to act without God’s counsel, wisdom and blessings – even though the matter involved a wrong committed by our brethren.

2. God clarified to Samuel that the people had rejected His leadership. “And the LORD said to Samuel, “Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.” It is noteworthy that God had to point out to Samuel that the act of the Israelites was in effect a rejection of God and not Samuel. In other words, it was ultimately a sin against God; not a rejection of Samuel as such. It is good for us to have the same perspective when we face similar acts of rebellion or insubordination against the way of the Lord. It is not a personal matter; it is a rejection of divine authority and rule.

3. Despite the wise counsel of the Lord of the costly consequences of having a king, the people ignored God’s wisdom in the matter and insisted in having a king. In 1 Sam 8:22, the Bible recorded thus: “So the LORD said to Samuel, “Heed their voice, and make them a king.” God agreed to their request. Did that make it right? In Num 11:33-34, the people complained incessantly and were not content with God’s daily provision of manna (Num 11:6), and insisted in having meat. God granted their request: “But while the meat was still between their teeth, before it was chewed, the wrath of the LORD was aroused against the people, and the LORD struck the people with a very great plague”. Similarly, God gave Israel a king as desired by them. But just because God agreed to give them a king, did not make it an acceptable thing to God. We should likewise be careful when we insist on our own ways and may be permitted by God to continue along that path. It does not mean that God is pleased with us or our act of rejection of His wisdom and counsel.

4. Samuel caused thunder and rain to fall on the day of wheat harvest, “that you may perceive and see that your wickedness is great, which you have done in the sight of the LORD, in asking a king for yourselves.” (1 Sam 12:17). Then the people realized the displeasure or anger of God: “all the people greatly feared the LORD and Samuel” (1 Sam 12:18).

God is ever concerned with our spiritual well-being. When we go astray, He still seeks to save us (Luke 19:10). In Heb 12:5-6, the Bible says: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the LORD loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.”

To the church at Laodicea, our Lord wrote: “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.”(Rev 3:19) We need to heed the warnings of God – as He chastens us when we go astray. But if we persist in our wayward way and fail to repent, then we are in danger of “being swept away” (I Sam 12:25).

5. The people finally came to the realization of the wrong or evil that they had committed in asking for a king: “And all the people said to Samuel, “Pray for your servants to the LORD your God, that we may not die; for we have added to all our sins the evil of asking a king for ourselves.”(1 Sam 12:19). They have added to their list of sins. That’s a good question for us all: “Have we also added to our sins?”

6. “Then Samuel said to the people, “Do not fear. You have done all this wickedness; yet do not turn aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart. 21 And do not turn aside; for then you would go after empty things which cannot profit or deliver, for they are nothing.”(1 Sam 12:20-22)

Since they have acknowledged the evil that they had done, Samuel assured them that all will be well if they “do not turn aside” from following the Lord. Two things they were warned of:-

a. They must continue to serve the Lord with all of their heart;

b. If they turn aside from God, then they would “go after empty things which cannot profit or deliver.

When we turn away from the way of the Lord, we are most likely to go after “empty things” which cannot profit us not deliver us. Isn’t that true today? Can the “empty things” that some follow today (whether it is feng shui or mystical religion or new age superstitions) deliver us from death or provide us the assurance of heaven?

7. If we confess our sins, our Lord will not forsake us in spite of the sins we had committed. He will readily forgive us of our sins (I John 1:9). “For the LORD will not forsake His people, for His great name’s sake, because it has pleased the LORD to make you His people.”(1 Sam 12:22). The same assurance is given to us in Heb 13:5: “For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Every sin can be forgiven – IF we confess them to our Lord.

8. Samuel affirmed that he will pray for them (given that they had confessed their sin) because he realized that he would be sinning against the Lord if he ceased to pray for them: “Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you; but I will teach you the good and the right way.”(1 Sam 12:23). When a sin has been realized and confessed, then fellowship with God is restored and we should continue to pray for such and to teach them the “good and right way”.

Do we consider whether it would be a sin for us to cease to pray for our brethren in certain circumstances? The Bible says in James 5:16-17: “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”

9. We ought to fear and serve our Lord as we remember the “great things” God has done for us: “Only fear the LORD, and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you.” When we forget what God has done for us, we are in danger of not fearing or serving Him.

10. After we have confessed the evil or wrong that we have done, we need to stop going down the path of doing evil. “Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will be swept away” (1 Sam 12:25, NIV). God did not require that they do away with their king. But He warned them against “persisting or still doing evil or that which is wicked.”

If after we have confessed our wrong, and we fail to repent or change our ways, then we will be in real danger of being “swept away”. Some confess their sins but they fail to repent as they “persist in doing evil”. The Bible warns in Luke 13:3: “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

Are we persisting in doing evil – knowing that “evil” is not just immorality but also “rejecting the way of the Lord” in preference for our own ways – as when the Israelites asked for a king. Are we like the Israelites of in Jer 6:16: “Thus says the LORD: “Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’