Samuel was a prophet during a time when prophets were few and far between (1 Sam 3:1). He was the last of the judges over Israel, and perhaps the most faithful and effective of all of them. He became a priest under Eli’s tutelage. He anointed both Saul and David. Clearly Samuel was an influential man deserving of admiration. But surely he had skeletons in his closet, right? It seems like everyone who attains high office has some kind of scandal. A bribe? Abused the power of his office? There must be at least one person Samuel defrauded.
“‘Testify against me before the Lord and before his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Or whose donkey have I taken? Or whom have I defrauded? Whom have I oppressed? Or from whose hand have I taken a bribe to blind my eyes with it? Testify against me and I will restore it to you.’ They said, ‘You have not defrauded us or oppressed us or taken anything from any man’s hand.’” (1 Sam 12:3-4)
As part of Samuel’s farewell address before he stepped aside for Saul to rule, Samuel challenged anyone to stand up and testify against him for any impropriety. Theft, fraud, oppression, and bribery were a few possibilities. And no one said a word against Samuel. Not even some curmudgeon (there is always one!) with a petty grievance. Samuel’s challenge established his credibility before his farewell address to Israel (1 Sam 12:6-25).
Would a corrupt man ever issue a challenge to testify against him? Would a thief ask his victims to step up to accuse him? Would a despot ask whom he had ever oppressed? Would a bribe taker ever willingly put himself under the spotlight? Never! Samuel’s challenge is one that only a righteous and upright person would make. Honorable people are unafraid to be examined because their righteousness speaks for itself.
Now imagine yourself in Samuel’s position. How would people answer your challenge to testify against you? Consider a few more challenge questions: With whom have I lost my temper? What promises have I broken? Which of my brethren have I discouraged? Who accuses me of uncaring apathy?
Would anyone speak up against you? Are you sweating? If so, then repentance is needed. Of those who might have testified against him, Samuel said, “testify against me and I will restore it to you.” Most important, if we are afraid of people testifying against us today, then we ought to be doubly afraid of the omniscient God who will testify against us on the last day (Eccl 12:14).