I’m a guy!! I get behind the wheel of a car and I know what I’m doing and where I’m going. Well, that last statement is a bit of a stretch. I’ve been known to make a wrong turn here and there. And, like many in my tribe, I’ve been hesitant to ask for directions. I am so grateful for GPS. Now, I don’t even have to think about stopping and asking for directions.
But, making a wrong turn on the highway is far less a concern than making a wrong turn in life. Like everyone else I know, I’ve made my share. Sometimes they are obvious enough that my friends and family notice. Always, though, those deviations are noticed by God.
In just a few words, I could tell you all those things you’ve heard from preachers and such about second chances and forgiveness. All true I believe, but I want us to look at this little passage from the Bible to see the consequences of a wrong turn. For me, it’s not the lesson I was expecting to find here, but it did pop off of the page.
The Story of a Wrong Turn
Then all the people said to Samuel, “Pray to the LORD your God for your servants, so that we do not die; for we have added to all our sins this evil, by asking for ourselves a king.” Samuel said to the people, “Do not fear. You have committed all this evil, yet do not turn aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart.1 Samuel 12:19-20 NASB 2020
The gist of the story is that God was the King of Israel. Through his servant Moses, God had led the children of Israel from bondage in Egypt and through 40 years in the wilderness, taking care of their every need. Then under the leadership of Joshua, God had led them into the promised land. After Joshua’s death, the people kept falling away from God, but He continued to provide prophets to help, encourage, and lead them. Finally Samuel became the prophet God used to instruct His people. But, now that Samuel was growing old, Israel was looking around at the other nations and decided that they wanted an earthly monarch too.
Samuel recognized right away that this was a wrong turn for the people, but God reminded him that it was not the prophet they were rejecting, but God Himself. However, He chose to give them a king. So Samuel went to the people, reminded them of their history under God’s Kingship, and then warned them of the danger of having a king, especially one who led the people away from God. After a demonstration of God’s power, the people responded in the words quoted above.
The people had made their choice, and now they realized the error of their way. How did God respond?
Results of a Wrong Turn
First, God continued to love them. Just a few verses on we read these words:
For the LORD will not abandon His people on account of His great name, because the LORD has been pleased to make you a people for Himself.1 Samuel 12:22 NASB 2020
God did not abandon them because they made a wrong turn. There was no backing away from the decision they had made at this point. God still gave them a king. Let’s remember Samuel’s words to them, “Do not fear.” How beautiful those words. In my own life, I make choices and decisions realizing that at least some of those choices are more my will than His. However, I’m grateful that God chooses to not turn His back on me, but to continue guiding and blessing me along this chosen path.
Second, the people recognized the sin of their choice and repented. I can only pray that God reveals when I make a wrong turn so that I can repent and receive the fullness of His forgiveness.
Third, they were warned to stay true to God. The text says it this way: “Do not turn aside from following the LORD.” Don’t keep making sinful choices. Don’t turn down every side street that looks pleasing to the eyes. Instead, serve God wholeheartedly. That reminds me again of the Great Commandment to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Choosing God’s will never results in a wrong turn.
Fourth, Samuel recognized the people’s need for prayers and instruction. He guaranteed them that he would continue to pray for them and teach them the right way to live. He even acknowledged that to do otherwise would be a sin. We all know this. I look at the Facebook posts of my friends and very quickly I see that we all recognize the need for the prayers of God’s children. Hopefully we will continue to pray for each other.
But, there is also the need for instruction and the best instruction for life is in God’s Word. Reading the Bible is a first step. Studying the Bible is a further step. Allowing the words of the Word to inform our choices and decisions is a powerful tool in following our Lord. In addition, and not instead of these, we can place ourselves under godly leaders and place our lives in churches that teach AND practice the truths of God.
Finally, at the end of this chapter and this story comes a warning: “But if you still do evil, both you and your king will be swept away.” (1 Samuel 12:25) Each of us has to recognize there is a consequence to sin. Although God honored their choice by giving the people a king, the warnings Samuel issued came true. Eventually, the wickedness of their kings led to the destruction of their nation. It is imperative that we realize the wickedness of our own sin and the punishment that is necessary for that sin.
Good News for a Wrong Turn
The good news is that for the believer, Christ has taken that punishment. On the cross, He died for our sin (make that my sin and your sin). God does not overlook our sin. We are only forgiven because Christ took the punishment for it, and by faith in Him we receive the mercy that God offers through that sacrifice.
A wrong turn. We make them all the time. Aren’t you grateful that God, through Christ, can make us right again?
An Old Hymn: Christ Receiveth Sinful Men
Sinners Jesus will receive:
Sound this word of grace to all
Who the heav’nly pathway leave,
All who linger, all who fall.
Come, and He will give you rest;
Trust Him, for His word is plain;
He will take the sinfulest;
Christ receiveth sinful men.
Now my heart condemns me not,
Pure before the law I stand;
He who cleansed me from all spot
Satisfied its last demand.
Christ receiveth sinful men,
Even me with all my sin;
Purged from ev’ry spot and stain,
Heav’n with Him I enter in.
Sing it o’er (Sing it o’er again) and o’er again:(Sing it o’er again:)
Christ receiveth (Christ receiveth sinful men) sinful men. (Christ receiveth sinful men)
Make the message (Make the message clear and plain) clear and plain: (Make the message clear and plain)
Christ receiveth sinful men.
“Christ Receiveth Sinful Men” by Erdmann Neumeister (1718); Translator: Frances Bevan (1899)
If this has been encouraging you might also wish to read I Did It Again.
You can read the story in context – 1 Samuel 12 at biblegateway.com .