Since this is a momentous occasion, it’s appropriate for Samuel to follow the examples of Moses and Joshua by preaching to the people at the close of his ministry and reconfirming their faithfulness to Yahweh. Imitating the concerns of these two great men of God, Samuel gives a summary of Yahweh’s past faithfulness in Israel’s history (1 Samuel 12:6-12) to portray two possible future paths the Israelites may take, one of obedience and the other of disobedience (1 Samuel 12:14-15), and he insists on a present decision to confirm their reception of the promised blessings (1 Samuel 12:13, 16-21).
Previously, the Israelites responded to Moses and Joshua by expressing confident obedience and a secure commitment to Yahweh. This time, they respond
with repentance: “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” (1 Samuel 12:19). Can it be that the experience of their spiritual decline over the generations has made them more sensitive to their sinful nature and their inability to obey Yahweh with all their heart? At least they recognize that the thunder and rain testify of their sins against Yahweh (1 Samuel 12:17-18). Saul commands them to obey: “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” (1 Samuel 12:20). And he directs them to Yahweh’s grace through His covenant with Abraham as a solid foundation for their obedience: “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” (1 Samuel 12:22).
Samuel points out one more risk: the false sense of security in a mere human being for the redemption that only God can give: “But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king” (1 Samuel 12:25). If they don’t fear and serve Yahweh with all their heart, not even their new king will be able to save
them. Instead, he’ll be swept away in condemnation right along with them! Even with a new king, salvation only comes from Yahweh.