In their desire to be like the world around them, God’s people had rejected His rule and called for their own king. Samuel confronted them with their mistake, and in 1 Samuel 12, gave them a sign from heaven to make sure they saw the wickedness of their choice. They saw it clearly and they were afraid.
It is never easy to come face to face with our failures. Whether it is the embarrassment and hurt caused by losing our temper; unwise financial decisions that have left us in a hole; succumbing to immoral temptation and feeling overwhelmed by guilt; or looking back over wasted time and the distractions of the world, all such failures have negative consequences. In this case, the possible negative consequences the children of Israel were facing were so serious that they worried they might die. Wisely, they confessed their sin. Guilt is always meant to drive us into the presence of the Lord for forgiveness. When you know you’ve done wrong, tell the Lord about it. They also asked Samuel, a spiritual man, to pray for them.
Notice that Samuel did not overlook their sin, but shifted their focus to the future. He comforted them: “Do not be afraid.” He called on them to be sincere and devoted to the Lord again: “Serve the LORD with all your heart.” He challenged them not to be sidetracked by worthless distractions: “Do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty.” And he reminded them of who they were and the Lord’s faithfulness to them: “For the LORD will not forsake His people, for His great name’s sake, because it has pleased the LORD to make you a people for Himself.” He also assured them of his prayers, and warned of consequences if they continued in disobedience. (1Sam 12:19-25 ESV).
The Lord knew all about our weaknesses and failures when He called us, but still He saved us and promised not to forsake us. We need to understand the Lord’s forgiveness and faithfulness, and learn how to focus on moving forward, while at the same time guarding against a careless attitude toward sin. With an eye fixed on the Lord and a heart that is right with Him, our future will be much brighter. The apostle Paul conveys this in Philippians 3:12-14, “Not that I have already obtained the prize, or am already perfected; but I pursue … forgetting the things behind, and stretching out to the things before, I pursue, looking towards the goal, for the prize of the calling on high of God in Christ Jesus” (JND). Paul knew he wasn’t a perfect Christian, and he knew that there was ugliness in his past, but he developed a forward focus.
Don’t let the regrets of yesterday, last month, or the last year ruin your future. God hasn’t given up on you: “The LORD will not forsake his people.” Samuel’s advice for your future does involve a look back – but it isn’t a look of regret. It is one of gratefulness and worship. “Only fear the LORD, and serve Him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things He hath done for you” (1Sam 12:24).