The Lord’s Covenant Faithfulness

adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 18 Sep 2009

“For the LORD will not forsake his people for his great name’s sake: because it hath pleased the LORD to make you his people” (1 Samuel 12:22).

1 Samuel is a book about transitions and interventions. Historically it is set at the tail end of the period of the Judges, which was a period of great confusion, characterised by political, moral and spiritual anarchy. The situation was so bad that towards the end of the 300 years or so, the sons of the high priest, Eli grew up as shameless apostates who used their priestly office to satisfy their wicked lusts in the most shocking ways.

The nation looked like it was on the path of self-destruction until God intervene by hearing the prayer of a righteous mother of Israel by the name of Hannah. God gave Hannah a son whom she named Samuel. Samuel grew up as a godly man, and would serve as the prophet and judge of the people.

Sadly, however, when Samuel grew old it became apparent that things would start to go downhill again, for there did not appear to be anyone to take his place, for his sons were also corrupt (1 Sam 8:3).

It was then that the people began to ask Samuel to appoint a king to rule over them. The first king that Samuel anointed was Saul, a tall and handsome man, who won the heart of the people. Saul would prove to be a failure, and God would direct him to anoint David, a man after his own heart. This book will end with Saul taking his life, and therefore paving the way for a new king and a new era which would foreshadow the blessing of the rule of Christ.

In any case, our text is part of Samuel’s farewell speech to the people after he anointed Saul to be king.

It was the time of wheat harvest. It does not rain at this time. But Samuel wanted to impressed upon the people the Lord’s displeasure towards them for demanding to have a king. He prayed for a storm, and the Lord sent one. It was in the midst of the lighting, thunder and storm that Samuel spoke to the people. He admonished the people for their sin and urged them serve the Lord with all their heart. But he also encouraged them with a promise of the faithfulness of God towards His people—

For the LORD will not forsake his people for his great name’s sake: because it hath pleased the LORD to make you his people.

Now, in so far as this promise was made to Israel because was she was the covenant people of God, we know that this same promise is applicable to us as a branch of the Israel of God.

What is the promise? What are the reasons for this promise?  What does this mean for us? The Lord helping us, these are three questions we must meditate on this evening.

1. What is the Promise?

The promise simply stated is:

…the LORD will not forsake his people…

We had actually look at a similar promise a few weeks ago when we considered how the LORD said to Joshua—“as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee” (Jos 1:5). This promise is quoted in Hebrews 13:5. But we noted how that promise is directed to the individual believer. God will not abandon his children who are elect and redeemed by the precious blood of Christ.

But in our text for this evening, the promise is not for the individual, but for the people as a whole.

Now, make no mistake, this promise to the people as a whole is really founded upon God’s promise to His elect in them. You see, God’s promise not to forsake his people is not just for any people. It was not a promise to the Egyptians, or to the Philistines, Amorites, Midianites, or Edomites, etc. It was only for Israel in the Old Testament.

Why? Because Israel was appointed the flock of God. God would keep His sheep and lambs in her. There will be some goats and perhaps some black sheep in the flock. Indeed sometimes there may even be more goats and black sheep in the flock, but as long as Israel was chosen by the Lord to be His flock, he would not forsake her.

Or to put it in another way, Israel of Old was special in God’s sight because she was chosen by the Lord to be the nation to nurture God’s elect whom Christ died for.

As long as Israel remained in such a role, God would not forsake her.

In New Testament days, the role of Israel would change, for the Lord would say to her:

“Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof” (Mt 21:43).

The Jewish branches on the olive tree would be cut off and gentile branches would be grafted in.

But at the time of Samuel, Israel was God’s covenant people. God would not forsake her for the sake of her elect.

Which leads us to the next question…

2. Why the Promise?

We understand that God would not forsake because she was chosen to bear and nurture God’s elect. But why did God choose them? Why does God bear with them when they were stiff-necked and rebellious?

Samuel gives 2 inter related-reasons:

… the LORD will not forsake his people for his great name’s sake: because it hath pleased the LORD to make you his people

a. First why Israel? Well, Israel is chosen because it pleased God to make her His people. It was not by the choice of man, but rather the choice of God. Moses said to the people earlier:

“For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth” (Dt 7:6).

Why did God choose Israel? Not because they were great or mighty or more righteous! Moses adds:

“The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people” (Dt 7:7)

Israel was chosen and beloved by God out of His sovereign good pleasure.

b. But secondly, why does God promise not to forsake Israel when she was an ungrateful, stiff-necked, and rebellious people?

The answer is: “for God’s great name sake.” God had chosen Israel to be his people. He has put his name upon the children of Israel (Num 6:27). For that reason, he will not forsake them. He will remain faithful to them because he has covenanted to be their God, and to take them to be his people.

Now, this does not mean that God cannot prune off the rotting branches from the olive tree, which represented Israel. This does not mean that God cannot graft in wild branches to the olive tree.

Indeed God did that. He pruned off the fruitless and rotting branches many times in the history of His people. We think of how the 10 Northern tribes were cut off in 722 BC. And eventually, in New Testament times, so much of Israel was rotten and fruitless that very little that was Jewish remained in the tree, while the Gentiles were grafted in.

Today, God still have Israel as his people. Only that Israel has change its demographics. Most of the Israel of God is today Gentile. Apostate Israel that is re-gathered in Palestine today is not the Israel of God. The Israel of God comprises Jewish and Gentile believers scattered all over the world today.

This is why the promise is applicable to us who are the people of God.

And so let us ask finally…

3. What is it to Us?

As we saw, God’s promise never to forsake his people apply to us directly as long as we are a living branch of the Olive Tree.

If we cease to be a living branch of the tree, or if there is no more of Christ’s elect in our midst, we cannot claim God’s promise not to forsake us.

Let us therefore beloved brethren labour on with the firm assurance that the Lord will not forsake us.

Let us serve Him faithfully together through all the changes and transitions that the Lord will bring in our path.

As Samuel sought to encourage the people during a time of transition and imperfect leadership, so let us encourage ourselves in the Lord through the present time of changes and transitions.

Every time there are changes and transitions, things will be difficult and often discouraging especially when we are dealing with people. But at such times we must look to the Lord. We must cling on to His promises and labour on gratefully and faithfully.

Labour on beloved brethren and children on this branch of the olive tree. The Lord will not forsake us. The Lord will bless us if we continue to continue to walk in the fear of the LORD, and serve Him in truth with all our hearts, considering what great things he has done for us (v. 24).

But if we do wickedly and refuse to repent of our sinful ways and attitudes, then the Lord will consume and cut us off that the rest of His tree may continue to bear fruit for His name.


For the LORD will not forsake his people for his great name’s sake: because it hath pleased the LORD to make you his people.

Beloved brethren and children, you are his people. Thank God that we can be a living branch of his people. Thank God that he does not only look upon us as individuals, but as a people united together in Christ.

Thank God that our king is none other than the King of kings and Lord of lords. May He grant us the strength and joy to labour on together for His glory believing His promise that He will never forsake us. Man may forsake us, but the Lord will never. Amen. Ω