I was reading in 1 Samuel the other day: remember when the Israelites wanted a king to be like the other nations and Samuel knew they were wrong to ask for such a thing ... after all, they had GOD as their king. But the people persisted and God did, indeed, give them Saul to be a king over them. (1 Samuel 8, 9, 10)
After Saul was confirmed as king, Samuel addressed the people (1 Samuel 12) and towards the end of his address, the Lord sends great thunder and rain - this was during the Spring harvest and the people would take it as a sure sign of God's condemnation. The people then turn to Samuel and confess that they were wrong to have asked for a king, and they ask Samuel to pray for them. They know they have sinned against God.
They plead with Samuel to pray for them because 'we have added unto all our sins this wickedness, to ask us a king'.
Samuel's answer to this blew me away. Bear in mind how wrong God's own people had been; how far they were from where they were supposed to be; how determined they were to get what they wanted; how much they had rejected their one true God. And yet ... listen to Samuel's answer:
"Fear not: ye have done this wickedness
no sweeping it under the carpet with Samuel. He tells it like it is.
"yet turn not aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart
Is there anything like the Gospel for giving 'second chances'?
"Turn not aside to go after vain things, which cannot profit.
And wait for it ...
"For the Lord will not forsake His people for His great name's sake; because it has pleased the Lord to make you His people."
Wow. Can there be any greater blessing in this whole world than to be one of the Lord's people? Knowing that in all our failings, all our sin, all our shortcomings, 'He will not forsake His people'.
Never! He can not forsake His people because it has 'pleased the Lord to make you His people'. This is mind-blowingly reassuring. This is infinite, sovereign, gracious, holy, unchangeable love.
This is not, by the way, some licence to wake up in the morning thinking, 'Oh well, God loves me, His love will not change, so I can do as I please today' ... If I were to think like that, I could be sure I wasn't in God's family.
Rather, knowing this makes God's children wake up in the morning thinking, 'I have the most amazing, loving Heavenly Father. I pray I would do nothing this day to dishonour His precious name.'.
Have a look at what Samuel says at the end of his address:
"Only fear the Lord, and serve Him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things He has done for you."
And so, after our times of sinning, our times of lukewarmness, our times of distance from God, we take Samuel's words - Fear the Lord. Serve Him. Consider what great things He has done for me ... and love Him anew for His amazing love.
Samuel finishes with this warning:
"But if you shall still do wickedly, you shall be consumed, both you and your king."
Ohhh, boy. This God is not to be trifled with.
There is no greater place of danger than to be outside of the family of God.
And there is no better place to be than inside the family of God: His love and care and protection are unchanging and unspeakably great.
It is the greatest wonder in the world to me that God 'for His great name's sake' took me into this family.
"But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sin, has quickened us together with Christ. By grace you are saved."