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Occasionally I will read a somewhat familiar passage and get hung up on the significance of a single word – usually a small, seemingly insignificant word.

This morning I was reading in 1 Samuel, and I came to this passage.

And Samuel said to the people, “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. And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. 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 12:20-22)

This is a remarkable passage at a major turning point for the nation of Israel.  The people had asked Samuel to appoint a King for them like the nations all around them.  It is made clear that this is not ideal.  In fact, it is portrayed as a rejection of the LORD as King of his people.

We might expect then, for Samuel to give the people a good tongue lashing about their sin, and say something like “well now you’ve rejected God, so you’re on your own”.  While Samuel does draw attention to the sinfullness of the people’s desire for a king, in comes a tidal wave of grace with the word “Yet” in verse 20.

Samuel tells the nation that they have done an evil thing, “yet” he implores them not to turn away from following the Lord, reminding them that the Lord will never forsake his people.

So why is this “yet” significant?  If you are anything like me, you face a very real danger of wallowing in discouragement when your sin is pointed out to you.  True believers can get so discouraged with their seeming lack of progress in sanctification that they are tempted to just throw in the towel and give up.

That is what makes this passage so helpful.  Samuel doesn’t sugar coat the sin of the people, but he also don’t bash them over the head with it.  He exalts the grace of God, urging his people to continue following the Lord even though they had just recently totally blown it.

It is the security that comes from the knowledge of the love and grace of God that takes those moments of would-be defeat and turns them into opportunities for victory through the power of God.

Don’t let your failures defeat you.  Grace lets you get back up and start right where you left off without having to punish yourself.  There is a big victory in this little word “yet”!