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. Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way. -1 Samuel 12:20-23
3 DEEP SOUL OBSERVATIONS FROM SAMUEL’S FAREWELL SPEECH
- Samuel was at the end of his life. He had a keen awareness of time and how short life is … he knew what it was like to be young… when you don’t think your life will ever come to an end. There is a tendency in youth to avoid thinking about last things, but the consequence of that is that we end up giving our hearts, time and treasure to many worthless things.
2. Samuel knew what it was like from experience to give himself to many worthless things, and idols. He was not condescending toward his audience, he was compassionate and empathetic because he knew how easy it was to pursue empty things rather than a life of abiding closely with God in prayer.
3. Most of God’s people had no experience with the Holy Spirit… only a few had temporary experiences of being filled by the Holy Spirit. Samuel understood the vulnerability of all people to get distracted and enticed away from what is most valuable, and to waste one’s life on empty things. After the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, now anyone who is in Christ has the Holy Spirit. But even we are vulnerable to idol worship and empty things. Samuel fought against this tendency by encouraging the people to fear the Lord and develop a life of prayer (first to abide closely in relationship with God, like tending your own roots) and then the natural fruit that would come from that would be to pray for others, which Samuel emphasized. He cried out:
far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you… 1 Samuel 12:23
Wise old Samuel knew that a life of prayer would feed one’s soul with the healthy food of listening to God’s Word. The result would be a healthy life of giving oneself to those things of highest value: relationship with God, relationship with others, especially intercession and loving service of others, rather than putting yourself at the center of life.
ADVENTURE IS A LABORATORY FOR IDENTIFYING THE EMPTY THINGS IN YOUR LIFE
The Psalms are full of wisdom about the soul. The soul longs for what most satisfies it. And Empty things don’t quench its thirst. Consider these two Psalms:
You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. –Psalm 63:1
Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word. –Psalm 119:37
Samuel’s farewell speech is some spiritual beef jerky to chew on for a while. And I would suggest that identifying the empty, worthless things, is not something that happens on the run. You have to hit the pause button for a while and let the Lord search your heart and he will show you the empty worthless things you have been trying to feed your soul.
G.K. Chesterton, a 20th century poet, once said:
It is the happy man who does the useless things; the sick man is not strong enough to be idle.
You need to have the courage to pause. Don’t feel guilty for pausing from activity to get alone with Jesus. In fact the first call of the disciples on Mark 3 was simply to “Be with Him.” So be courageous. Just hit pause, and see the silence of the outdoors will teach you.
SOLITUDE REFLECTIONS FOR LIFE AND MINISTRY
- From 1 Samuel 12:20-23: What are some reasons why you think Samuel emphasized these two things at the end of his life?
- How might you take a small step today to turn away from worthless things and nurture your roots in Christ for the health of your soul, and for the eternal benefit of other people who you could be serving and prayerfully interceding for? Does this stir your heart?
- What are those empty, worthless things for you?
- Samuel had a heart for the young people who were listening to this speech… to help them avoid a life of empty things. What is a practical thing you could this week you help a younger person avoid the trap of pursing empty things?
- Why do you think Samuel taught the people that it was actually a sin against God to forget to pray for others? There is no legalism here, but there is a window into a pure what life can be like if we reject worthless things and turn toward God with wholeness of heart…
- What is one specific way you can you immediately apply what you have learned from this farewell speech, these final, last words of the prophet Samuel?