"And all the people said to Samuel, 'Pray for your servants to the Lord your God, that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil, to ask for ourselves a king.' And Samuel said to the people, 'Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. 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."
- I Samuel 12:19-22
This interaction between the people of Israel and the prophet Samuel takes place early in the reign of King Saul, their first king. God had commanded Samuel to anoint Saul in response to the begging of the people, who wanted a king like the surrounding nations, rather than the judges that they had known since the Conquest. Jehovah had pinpointed their demand as arising, not from a desire for good governance, but rather as a rejection of His rule over them (I Sam. 8:7). In response, while granting them a king, Jehovah sends a storm during harvest time (I Sam. 12:17) as a sign of His wrath. And, as usual, the people quail before Him. I say "as usual" because Israel, throughout its history, had been willing to mourn her sins for a short time, before returning to them with increased gusto.
Using this teachable moment, Samuel reminds them of the faithfulness of our Covenant God. Is it because He is impressed with Israel? Certainly not. His faithfulness to them arises rather from His faithfulness to His own nature. In other words, His grace to them is exactly that, grace. His concern is His reputation, but the benefit is theirs.
The comfort of this knowledge will come home to us each time we have our own teachable moments, when we realize our own sin, and mourn the affront we have given to God (read Psalm 51 for an example from David). We naturally wonder whether we are still worthy of His forgiveness. And the answer must be no! We certainly are not worthy. But His nature doesn't change, and His faithfulness to His covenant never fails, and His regard to His own character never ceases. Knowing those things, we can know that forgiveness awaits us, even when our own consciences continue to accuse us.
When your conscience is wounded, never let it serve as an excuse to turn away from God. You can and will fail, but He never does.
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