When things aren't working in our lives, our families, our churches, we often decide to make some big change—quit, leave our spouse, buy something, sue somebody. But we may be making a big change that won't change anything at all.
That's what happened more than 3,000 years ago in Israel. The pressure of enemies on their borders provoked Israel's elders to go to their leader, Samuel, and demand a change. Well, God gave them their request—a king named Saul—as well as a stunning victory over their brutal enemy, Nahash, king of the Ammonites.
There's a bittersweet moment, however, at the beginning of 1 Samuel 12. With the confirmation of the new king, Samuel must step aside. But before he goes, he speaks to the people—including us—about our propensity for making big changes that don't change anything at all.
Remember Your Salvation Story
In 1 Samuel 12:6-8, Samuel tells Israel to remember their salvation story: In Egypt they cried to God—not a king—for help. In response, God rescued them and led them to the land flowing with milk and honey.
Our salvation stories are all different, of course, but they're all the same too. We were in bondage to sin and Satan and death. We had no hope and cried out to God, "Save me!" And he put Jesus' blood over our hearts, took us out of bondage, and brought us to lives lived in the milk and honey of God's promises.
Then Samuel offers a short summary of the Book of Judges, which tells of seven cycles in the life of Israel. They'd forget the Lord, he would get their attention by pulling back his safety fence, they'd get miserable enough to cry out to him and repent, and he'd send a deliverer. We have cycles like that too. "I accepted Christ when I was kid," one friend told me. "But then when I got out of college, I chucked it all. Then everything fell apart and I couldn't take it anymore. So I cried to God and asked him to give me another chance."1