A Future for Failures


“Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. 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.” (1 Samuel 12:20–22)

When the Israelites have been brought to fear and they repent of their sin of demanding that Samuel give them a king to be like the other nations, then comes the good news: “Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil.” Do you hear how backward that sounds — how wonderfully backward? You might expect him to say, “Fear, for you have done all this evil.” That’s a good reason to fear: you have done the great evil of demanding another king besides God! But that’s not what Samuel says. “Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil.”

He goes on, “Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty.”

This is the gospel: Even though you have sinned greatly, and terribly dishonored the Lord, even though you now have a king which it was a sin to demand, even though there is no undoing that sin or its painful consequences that are yet to come, nevertheless there is a future and a hope. There is mercy.

Fear not! Fear not!

Then comes the great ground — the basis and foundation — of the gospel in 1 Samuel 12:22. Why don’t you need to fear, even though you have done all this evil? “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.”

The ground of the gospel is God’s commitment to his own name. Did you hear it? Don’t fear, though you have sinned, “The Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake.” This should have two effects on you: heart-breaking humility and toe-tapping happiness. Humility because your worth is not the foundation of your salvation. Happiness because your salvation is as sure as God’s allegiance to his own name. It can’t get more sure.