The Claims of God
AW Pink (1886-1952)
Copyright: Public Domain
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THE CLAIMS OF GOD
Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you. But if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed” (1Sa 12:24-25). These words were uttered by God’s servant to Israel at an important crisis in their national history. Dissatisfied with the divine theocracy, they wished to be like the heathen and have a human king to be their head and leader. The Lord suffered them to have their wish gratified, but pressed upon them the wickedness of it. Then, His servant faithfully presented to them the certain issues of two courses of conduct—if they feared and served the Lord, He would prosper them. If they rebelled against Him, His hand would smite them (1Sa 12:14-15; 24-25).
In our text, we find Samuel setting before Israel the requirements of God from them. They were to fear and serve Him. In it, he reminds them of the wondrous mercies which had been shown them, and the obligation which these imposed. He bids them consider the great things which God had done for them. In 1 Samuel 12:7, he called upon them to “stand still” while he reasoned with them before the Lord of His “benefits” (margin) unto them. God had brought them out of the house of bondage (1Sa 12:8). He had made them to dwell in the favoured land of Canaan. When they had departed from Him and He sorely chastened them, then, they cried unto Him, confessed their sin, and He graciously delivered them from their enemies (1Sa 12:9-11). What then ought to be their response? Fear and serve Him.
“Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning” (Rom 15:4). The temporal deliverances, which JEHOVAH wrought of old for Israel, shadowed forth the spiritual deliverances which Christ has secured for His people, and which the Holy Spirit applies to them experimentally. Their emancipation from Egypt figured our redemption from the bondage of sin, “Redeemed from…your vain conversation” or “manner of living” (1Pe 1:18). Christ died not only to save His people from Hell, but also to “deliver us from this present evil world” (Gal 1:4). Such inestimable blessings carry with them immense obligations. The claims of God upon His people are infinitely greater than those He has upon the wicked. And naught but divine grace can enable us to answer our obligations and meet His claims. What these are we shall now consider.
1. “Fear the Lord.” Of the unregenerate, it is said, “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Rom 3:18). They have no respect for His authority, no concern for His glory, no love for His law. But concerning the righteous, we are told, “Surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before Him” (Ecc 8:12). And why? Because “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil” (Pro 8:13), and “By the fear of the LORD men depart from evil” (Pro 16:6). Thus, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Pro 9:10), for without it, man is a consummate fool, on a lower level than the beasts which perish, for “The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib” (Isa 1:3), but the wicked own not the voice of their Maker.
To “fear the Lord” is for the heart to be deeply impressed by His awful majesty, His immeasurable power, His ineffable holiness. It is to stand in reverent awe of Him. If the seraphim veil their faces in His presence (Isa 6:2), how much more ought worms of the earth bow in the dust before Him! To fear the Lord is to tremble at the very thought of knowingly opposing Him. It is to have the utmost respect for every revelation of His imperial will. When the father of Isaac obeyed the divine command to lay his beloved son on the altar of sacrifice, the Lord said, “Now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me” (Gen 22:12). And this godly fear which is required from us (compare Act 9:31; 2Co 7:1; 1Pe 1:17) is not to be spasmodic and occasional, but as Proverbs 23:17 says, “Be thou in the fear of the LORD all the day long.” Then, what cause have we to cry daily, “Unite my heart to fear thy name” (Psa 86:11).
Observe well the opening word of our text, “Only fear the LORD.” If the fear of the Lord is truly upon our hearts, everything else will (so to speak) take care of itself. If the fear of the Lord be upon us, pride will be abased, self-will and self-seeking will be subdued, and the evil whisperings of Satan will have no power over us. If the fear of the Lord be upon us, we shall be delivered from the fear of man, as we shall be quite indifferent whether or not we please him. If the fear of the Lord be upon us, doubtings and questionings of our salvation will be at an end, “In the fear of the LORD is strong confidence; and his children shall have a place of refuge” (Pro 14:26). “The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him; and he will show them his covenant” (Psa 25:14).
2. “And serve him.” Yes, Him, not self, not sin, not our fellows. God is the only one who has any real claims upon us, for He is our Creator, our Owner, our Lord. Him, we are commanded, under pain of everlasting woe, to serve. Not simply believe in Him, pray to Him, but be in complete subjection to Him. His will is to be our law, His commands the regulator of our ways. “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Mat 4:10). We cannot “serve” two masters, as Christ affirmed, “For either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other” (Mat 6:24). Note well that this call to “serve” the Lord comes after “fear” Him. We cannot truly serve Him unless His fear be upon us. Any so-called service which flows not from a reverent awe of God is only the restless energy of the flesh putting itself into action.
“Serve Him in truth.” What is meant by this? At least three things. First, the Lord is to be served in sincerity, not in pretence. A form of godliness, no matter how precise and punctilious, is of no avail in His sight if the power of it be lacking. Second, the Lord requires to be served in reality, not in mere lip profession. “Let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth” (1Jo 3:18). Nothing is more vain than an empty formality. Third, in a scriptural way. “Thy word is truth” (Joh 17:17). To serve the Lord “in truth” is the opposite of following the fashions of the day, or the inclinations of our hearts. It is an obedient walk regulated by the divine precepts.
“With all your heart.” Ah, it is at the heart that God looks, and not merely at the outward appearance, as does man. His great requirement is, “My son, give me thine heart” (Pro 23:26). We do not find Him until we search for Him with all our heart (Jer 29:13). He bids us, “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart” (Pro 3:5). He commands us to love Him with all the heart (Mat 22:37). So He demands that we shall “serve him with a perfect heart” (1Ch 28:9). Of Rehoboam, it is said, “And he did evil, because he prepared not his heart to seek the LORD” (2Ch 12:14). To serve the Lord with all the heart means with undivided affections. It is the opposite of a “double heart” (1Ch 12:33). Of old, God complained against Israel, “Their heart is divided” (Hos 10:2). God requires the throne of our hearts that He may reign over us, that we may be out and out for Him, with no reserve, nothing kept back. “Whoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he can not be my disciple” (Luk 14:33).
3. “For consider how great things he hath done for you.” This is the motive. We are to fear and serve Him in truth with all our hearts, not that we may gain the reputation of being very spiritual people, not in order to escape the everlasting burnings, but because of what the Lord “has done” for us. Let the realization of that be the mainspring of action. Let the remembrance of that move you to fear and serve Him wholeheartedly. That is the only motive which God will accept. A daily life lived to please Him out of gratitude for what He has done for you. “I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God” (Rom 12:1). God’s claims upon us are founded upon what He has done for us. Our obligations are measured by the blessings which we have received from Him.
“Consider what great things He hath done for You.” You, an insignificant worm of the earth (Isa 41:14), a mere “grasshopper” (Isa 40:22). You, a vile sinner, with “no good” in you by nature (Rom 7:18). You, who merit nothing at His hands but untempered judgment. Yet, instead of casting you into Hell years ago, what has He done for you? Preserved your worthless life these many years, showered His daily blessings upon you, and supplied your every need. And, if truly saved, has delivered you from the wrath to come, given you a place in His family nearer to Himself than that which the holy angels will occupy, and made you an heir of everlasting glory. Oh, that our hearts may be so melted by the realization of His amazing grace, that the love of Christ shall “constrain” us to fear and serve Him in truth with all our hearts.
“For consider what great things He hath done for you.” Turn them over and over in your mind, dwell on them frequently. As the man of the world is constantly scheming how to make money, or how to have “a good time”—his whole heart being wrapped up in such things—so do you make it your chief business to be occupied with the wonders of God. “Set your affection on things above.” Many a person on the beach shivers and is miserable while he is only paddling in the waters. Not till he plunges right in does he really enjoy himself. So it is in connection with the things of God. So long as they have a subordinate and secondary place in our thoughts and lives, we do not really “delight” ourselves in the Lord. “Give thyself wholly to them” (1Ti 4:15) is a word which each Christian needs to lay to heart.
If you be a real Christian, what are the “great things” which the Lord has done for you? Set His heart upon you, loved you from all eternity (Jer 31:3), and written your name in the Lamb’s book of life (Luk 10:20). Spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up to the cross, to atone for your sins (Rom 8:32). Sent the Holy Spirit into your heart to regenerate and raise you up into newness of life (Gal 4:6). Given you an unfailing Lamp unto your feet and Light unto your path (Psa 119:105), to direct your steps through this dark world (2Pe 1:19). Granted you, even now, access to His throne of grace, that there you may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Heb 4:16). Blest you with His abiding Presence (as He did Daniel in the lions’ den), promising never to leave nor forsake you (Heb 13:5). Assured you that, in a soon-coming day, you shall be done with sin forever (Heb 9:28), be made like Christ (1Jo 3:2), and spend eternity with Him (1Th 4:17), beholding His glory.
Ah, my brethren and sisters, the things mentioned above are indeed “great.” Then, surely we ought to “consider” them day and night. We should consider them prayerfully, begging God to make them more real and precious to our hearts, that we may so “consider” them as to be transformed by them (2Co 3:18), that they may order all the details of our lives to His glory. The more they are so “considered,” the easier and the more blessed will it be to “fear and serve him in truth.” Then shall we find that all Wisdom’s ways are “pleasantness, and all her paths are peace” (Pro 3:17). For “His commandments are not grievous” (1Jo 5:3). They are so to the unregenerate, but not to those who have tasted that the Lord is gracious.
But what if we do not fear and serve the Lord in truth with all our hearts? That will prove that our profession is vain, that we are yet in our sins. “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1Jo 2:4). Make no mistake on this point, my reader. All around us are those who “profess that they know God, but in works they deny him,” and such are said to be “abominable” (Ti 1:16). And what shall be their end? This, “But if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed” (1Sa 12:25). “If they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven” (Heb 12:25).
May the Lord deign to add His blessing and to Him shall be all the praise.