Confession: I have a friend who drives me crazy.
I love her and I know God has put her in my life so I can walk along side her, mentor her, pray for and with her, disciple her, and point her to Christ.
But she keeps making the same mistakes. She keeps falling flat on her face. She keeps making the same empty promises of change.
And I find myself losing patience with her pattern.
“Lord, will she ever learn?!”
I want to quit her, to drop her, to leave her to her own devices.
I told God recently, and not for the first time, that I’m done and through and plain worn out.
And then He gently directed me to the story of Samuel and the Israelites to find out exactly what God thinks about my desire to quit.
The Israelites of the Old Testament were a mess.
All through the book, they follow this same pattern: Sin against God. Receive the consequences. Confess and repent. Repeat. Sin against God. Receive the consequences. Confess and repent. Repeat.
From Abraham to Joshua, to the judges and the prophets, every leader they had grew frustrated with their fickleness and the need to interfere for them before the Lord. And the prophet Samuel was no exception.
At one point, he finds himself watching the people of God fall into the same old pattern when they stubbornly reject God as their one true king and demand to have a human king like all the nations around them.
Samuel talks to God. God relents and they get their way.
When Samuel explains to the Israelites why their behavior was such an atrocious slap in the face of God and how a king will treat them and abuse them, they fall back into their pattern of repentance and ask Samuel to interfere on their behalf, which he does.
As Samuel is giving his farewell address to the Israelites he reminds them of their pattern: how time and time again they sinned against God only to repent in the face of their consequences. He points out their latest mistake in asking for a king and the Israelites, again, ask for his help in making things right with the Lord. He tells them not to be afraid and encourages them to, once again, turn to the Lord and follow him for He will be faithful to them.
I imagine Samuel was so tired of giving these people the same speech over and over.
I imagine he wanted to wring their necks and kick them to the curb.
I imagine he felt spent, and done, and through, and unable to give anything else.
I imagine he and I would have that in common.
And yet these words come out of his mouth:
“As for me, I will certainly not sin against the Lord by ending my prayers for you. And I will continue to teach you what is good and right.” (1 Samuel 12:23)
I’m called out and exposed.
In Samuel’s eyes it would not be just impulsive and unwise but plain ol’ sinful to abandon the Israelites, to give up on them. No matter their pattern. No matter the frustration they caused him. No matter their seeming lack of growth.
He vows to continue to pray for them and to be their teacher and mentor through it all. He has no false hope for his people. He tells them not to sin but then adds: “If you continue to sin…” because he knows they will.
We all have “Israelites” in our lives who drive us crazy. We are Samuels to someone else who seems to not be able to get it together. This story reminds me that they need our prayers and our teaching. They need our faithfulness and for us to remain constant when nothing else in their life seems to be.
As God is faithful and constant with us.
To quit them would be a direct affront to the Lord.
Samuel allowed the Israelites to live through the consequences of their pattern, true, but he never stopped walking side by side with them through it all.
So here’s my prayer for today, and tomorrow, and the day after that, and as many days as I need to pray it:
“Lord, when I’m at the end of my rope with my “Israelite” and want to throw the relationship out of the window, give me Samuel-size strength, patience, and compassion. Help me to stay put.”