They Have Not Rejected You, They Have Rejected Me

God’s people had rejected God’s prophet. For many years, Samuel had served the nation of Israel. Though his sons had proven wayward, he himself had remained faithful. He had served well. He had spoken the words of God to the nation. He had appointed judges to govern them. But still the day came when the people rejected him.

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“Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, ‘Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations’” (1 Samuel 8:4-5). Samuel had appointed judges, but now the people demanded a king. This displeased Samuel. Literally, “the thing was evil in his eyes.” He knew that the people had rejected him, that they were repudiating him. They were expressing discontentment with his leadership and longing not only for a new leader but for a whole new system of government. Their rejection and his dejection was complete.

Samuel did the right thing—he took his concerns to God. God spoke to the prophet and encouraged him in an unusual way. God’s encouragement was that the people’s rejection was not first a rejection of Samuel the prophet, but of God the king. “And the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them’” (1 Samuel 8:7). While Samuel may have been right to be offended by the people’s demand, God had far more more right to be far more offended, for while Samuel had ruled imperfectly, God had only ever ruled perfectly. While Samuel’s time had been short, God had a long and unblemished legacy of loving, guiding, and protecting his people. Still, “Obey their voice,” he said, “and make them a king” (1 Samuel 8:22).

Samuel the prophet was God’s spokesperson to the nation of Israel. He was called and equipped by God to speak the words of God. Those who rejected the words of Samuel were actually rejecting the words of the one who called Samuel. To reject God’s spokesperson was to reject God. Today God calls you and me to be his spokespersons to the world. We can learn from Samuel that our task is to faithfully communicate the words God gives us, then to know that those who accept the words are actually accepting God, not us, and that those who reject the words are actually rejecting God, not us.

And so we dutifully, faithfully speak the gospel to the world, we call them away from their sin and to the Savior, Jesus Christ. We tell them of the one who “so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). If they heed this gospel and turn to Christ, we know that they have heeded God. If they reject this gospel and turn further from Christ, we know they have rejected God.

There may be consequences when we speak on behalf of God. We may face censure, we may face mockery, we may face violence, we may face death. Yet when we have spoken for God, we can be convinced that their hatred is first against God. God’s words to Samuel become his words to us: they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me.