THE BOOK OF 1 SAMUEL—Week 6
Crisis 6: Big Life Transitions (1 Sam. 12)
Things in life change. There’s no getting around it. Transitions are an integral part of the human experience. Sometimes these transitions are expected, and we can plan for them, such as with graduations, weddings, and retirements. Other transitions are not planned, such as with the unexpected loss of a job or loved one, and they leave us scrambling to adjust. Yet, even with the most planned of transitions, it is not uncommon for us to find ourselves dealing with a sense of loss or uncertainty. How do we handle such times of transition in a Biblical way?
In this week’s passage, we find Israel experiencing a number of transitions all at the same time. They are transitioning away from Samuel’s leadership to Saul’s. They are transitioning away from being led by God-appointed judges to being ruled through a hereditary kingship. They are moving from being a loose confederation of tribes with a shared heritage and faith to becoming an actual nation-state. In this chapter, we see Samuel gather all the people together for one, final national address. In this address, Samuel provides us with some key insights for dealing with times of transition:
- Remember God’s faithfulness. Even with the most planned of transitions, we still experience a certain measure of uncertainty, and that uncertainty can conjure up feelings of worry, doubt, and fear. That is why it is vital that we take a moment to pause and remember God’s faithfulness in the past. Following the examples of Moses and Joshua in similar times of transition, Samuel recounts the history of the Israelites to that moment and how God never failed to deliver his people, even when they were unfaithful to him. In times of transition, we must remember that God has not led us to this moment just to abandon us now. Even when we are faithless, he remains faithful. (2 Tim. 2:8-13)
- Remember God’s sovereignty. God is not the author of our decisions, be they good or bad, but neither is he dictated to by our decisions. We can not thwart God’s sovereign will. His purposes will be accomplished. The Israelites chose to reject God’s kingship in favor of an earthly king. Samuel makes clear that this is a sinful choice with lasting consequences. Nevertheless, after Samuel calls on God to display his power, Samuel reminds the people of God’s ability to redeem this sinful decision. When times of transition bring uncertainty into our lives, we can rest in God’s sovereignty. We can rest in the promise contained in verse 22: God will not forsake us—not because of who we are or what we do, but because of who he is. (Rom. 8)
- Don’t let fear dictate your decisions. Samuel admonishes the Israelites to not be afraid. In times of change and uncertainty, it is natural to succumb to a mindset of fear. When we do so, our sinful natures more often than not lead us to try to control our circumstances so that we can regain some sense of stability and normalcy. In those moments we often look to tangible things—bank accounts, retirement funds, jobs, and even our own abilities—to deliver us from the uncertainty and fear we are feeling. We look to anything and everything other than God to deliver us. We must not do so. We must remember that the mindset of fear is not from God, but from the enemy, and it is meant to lead us astray. (2 Tim. 1:7)
- Serve God with a thankful heart. Verse 24 has been a very special verse for me for many years. The Holy Spirit led me to this verse as a teenager when I was seeking confirmation of God’s call on my life, and this verse has guided me through times of transition ever since. When I have felt fears arise, when anxiety over a big life change has gripped my heart, the Holy Spirit has consistently taken me back to this verse. He has used it to gently turn my focus away from the uncertainty and loss to the new possibilities to serve God in the transition. He has reminded me of the great things he has done for me, and he has challenged me to look for the great things to come. Serving God from a thankful heart allows us to move past the transition into the exciting new things God has for us.
- What are some of the big life transitions you have faced? What emotions did you feel as you moved through that transition?
- Why do transitions tend to elicit feelings of fear or anxiety? How do those feelings lead us into idolatry?
- How do the admonitions of Samuel turn us away from fear and anxiety and back to God?