Notice: I've taken a part-time job, and it's definitely affecting my blogging time. I'll continue to add content here as often as possible.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Samuel is one of the few people in the Bible whose story we know from before birth until death. We get to know his parents, we learn that he was an exceptional child, we see him grow into his role of leadership, and we also hear about his failings.
He was born around 1105 BC, and died, an old man, before David was crowned as king in 1010 BC. If you are someone who grew up in Sunday School, Samuel’s story probably was one of your favorites, as you learned that God speaks, even to children.
But the story begins with a would-be mother, Hannah, who wished for a son so badly that Eli the priest thought she was drunk when she was desperately praying in the temple. Eli promised that she would have a son, and Hannah vowed to give that son to God.
Samuel, whose name means “God has heard,” went to live at the temple with Eli when he was just a toddler. We don’t know how old he was exactly when God called to him in the night, but he was still a child, serving under Eli. The old priest almost blew it, telling Samuel twice that no one was calling him. But then he realized that the Lord was breaking a long silence, and once again had found a leader who would listen in the person of Samuel. Samuel then answered with, “Yes, Lord, I am listening.”
Thus begins a transition from God dealing with his people through the Judges to speaking through the Prophets. Samuel is sometimes considered to be both the last of the Judges, and the first of the Prophets.
He anointed the first two kings of Israel, Saul and David, and counseled both of them in their spiritual lives. He lectured the Israelites when they turned away from God. His reputation for treating the people with respect was unblemished.
His one serious failing was a problem common to many people in religious leadership. His sons did not follow in his teaching. One has to wonder why this is so often true. Are intense leaders so caught up in their ministry that they fail to make vital connections with their children? Samuel appointed his sons, Joel and Abijah, as judges in Israel. But they were greedy, and began to take bribes. It was really the end of an era.
The people were angry at the lack of justice provided by the judges and insisted on having a king. This was not the type of government that God wanted for Israel, but the people insisted. Samuel tried to convince them of their mistake, but he was too close to the problem, because of his sinful sons.
So God chose Saul to be king, and told Samuel how to find him. Samuel always felt close to Saul and grieved greatly when Saul turned out to be as disobedient as his own sons.
Samuel is also mentioned in the faith “Hall of Fame,” Hebrews 11.
One of the most powerful questions Samuel ever asked still resonates today, “Has the Lord as much pleasure in your burnt offerings and sacrifices as in your obedience? Obedience is far better than sacrifice.”
I Samuel 1:1 - I Samuel 25:1