By Ron Courter (Excerpt from Article Originally Printed July 31, 1985)
The opening chapters of 1 Samuel tells of Samuel’s birth and the genesis of molding one of God’s great servants. Samuel’s time on life’s stage takes in the ending of the judges of Israel and the beginning of an era of kings and prophets in Israel. His life was during the threshold years of great change for Israel, as kings were anointed and prophets began to appear and preached with regularity for several years. It is true there were prophets prior to this time, but now we enter a period of abundant labor by the prophets of God.
Samuel judged Israel. “And Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. And he went from year to year in circuit to Bethel, and Gilgal, and Mizpeh, and judged Israel in all those places. And his return was to Ramah; for there was his house; and there he judged Israel; and there he built an altar unto the LORD (l Samuel 7:15-17).” Samuel was a man of great intercession like Moses. “Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way (1 Samuel 12:23).” Read 1 Samuel 7:1-13. The power of the righteous man is often overlooked, but let us be ever conscious of such as them when they are among us. Jeremiah 15:1 reads, “Then said the LORD unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this people: cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth.” These words are a great tribute to these men, even though corruption had to reap her harvest. Indeed, if God so notices his laborers, we should “… esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake…”
Samuel’s significance as a prophet and the introduction of a new era of prophetic work and message is clearly seen in the word of God. Acts 3:24 says, “Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days.” Paul in his resume of Israel’s history said, “And after that he gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet (Acts 13:20).” Read 1 Chronicles 9:22 and 2 Chronicles 35:18 speaking of Samuel in his prophetic role.
Permit us to say a word about studying great Bible characters before continuing with a few observations regarding Samuel. It would appear there is a lack of communicating the lives of God’s great servants to the children about us in recent years. It probably indicates a change in values and the distraction of our age to be entertained constantly by technical advancements. Also, the changing home schedule of parents sharing less time in quiet home pursuits with their children probably reveals itself here. We sense a great need for the mighty cloud of witnesses that are part of our heritage to be noticed again (Hebrews 12:1).
Let us suggest two considerations in approaching teaching on the great people of faith and try to wed the two whenever possible. First, ponder their role (not all people mentioned in the Bible have a major role) in terms of developing God’s great scheme of redemption and where they fit chronologically. One can also ask does this person depict any of the great themes of the Bible or manifest a specific character trait more vividly than others? For example, we hear the name Job and think of patience or we hear the name Abraham and we think of faith. It would be well for children to associate certain traits with a Bible character. It could then be drawn upon in various circumstances of life. Secondly, we learn by looking at the events of their life in discrete steps. We examine disposition, attitudes manifested, thoughts pondered that lie behind specific decisions in their life. Hence, we learn to uncover truths that help us prepare and also beware. It is well for us to go slow in such observations, for we do not want to over extend a teaching or over generalize that event. It is easy to see what we went looking for in such cases, therefore we read into the book instead of out of the book. But the Bible helps the reading, caring Bible student. How? The comparing of passages often reveals what the Bible saw important in that person or event. For example, please read Hebrews 11 and 1 Corinthians 10:l-12 in light of our discussion. Remember to examine related passages, for it is not unusual to have an event in the Old Testament commented upon at another time in the Old or New Testament that helps to reveal why God considered that event sinful or manifesting obedience to God. For example, consider the words of Hebrews 11:4 in understanding God’s perception of the sacrifices by Cain and Abel. Consider Esau selling his birthright in light of the words of Hebrews 12:16.
We see Samuel played a giant role in moving forth the redemptive scheme, because he is deeply involved with Israel going from the judges to the kings. He can be placed in a crucial place in the historical line of the Bible for the student who desires to develop a full picture of Bible events, but Samuel’s life can still be appreciated by those who do not have that consciousness. This lesson would like to note a few events regarding Samuel’s life for exhortation in upholding the will of heaven.
The circumstance of Samuel’s birth is not parallel to the birth of every child, but still there are some observations that lend themselves to us today. The parents of Samuel reveal constant dedication and devotion to the name of the Lord in their life and decisions. We cannot expect the church to manifest dedication and spiritual awareness collectively, unless the homes of God’s people are not ever concerned about the will of heaven in the decisions of everyday living. Elkanah manifested great love for Hannah, even though she was barren. This would not have been necessarily typical in that day. Elkanah was also dedicated to the will of heaven and its fulfillment in regards to Samuel’s birth and life (1 Samuel 1:21). He was willing that decisions be made to uphold the will of heaven. “And Elkanah her husband said unto her, Do what seemeth thee good; tarry until thou have weaned him, only the LORD establish his word …”
Hannah’s consciousness of the Lord was consistent in grief or in joy. Bitterness can only be handled with the Lord’s help and Hannah truly reveals that awareness. “And she was in bitterness of soul and prayed unto the LORD, and wept sore.” She spoke of herself as a woman of a sorrowful spirit. Today, we find such sorrowfulness leading people from the Lord, but it led this woman to draw closer to the Lord. Hannah did not forget the Lord when her sadness was removed. Oh, how often among us the answered prayer is forgotten!! “Wherefore it came to pass, when the time was come about after Hannah had conceived, that she bare a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, Because I have asked him of the LORD (1 Samuel l:20).” Samuel literally means ‘heard of God.’ When Hannah returns to Eli she says, “For this child I prayed; and the LORD hath given me my petition which I asked of him (1 Samuel l:27).” Hannah’s praise of the Lord in the opening of chapter is a manifestation of the thankful spirit pouring itself out unto the glory of the Lord in thanksgiving. Read it slowly and carefully.
Hannah’s resolve and preparation reveals a mature faith. Praise without heart and purpose without sacrifice does not bring forth life that fulfills and establishes the will of the Lord. “But Hannah went not up; for she said unto her husband, I will not go up until the child be weaned, and then I will bring him, that he may appear before the LORD, and there abide forever (l Samuel l:22).” How many times she had made the journey in sadness we do not know, but now she could have made it in joy, but she thought not of herself. The modern ad maker would say go ahead, you owe it to yourself. Today, the church has lost much of her joy, for so many seek joy directly, rather than realizing it comes through service done. It comes through doing first, what must be done first. The people of the kingdom must ask themselves as never before, what are we doing with our liberty, our wealth and our position in time?
Samuel was a man of growth in what was right and a key to that growth was that he ministered. He did the task allotted to him. There is little or no doubt that one of the basic keys of growth is to learn to do what must be done. Growth in life is not a mere matter of always doing what one prefers to do. Obedience must be learned. Recall “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.” Let us not stop. “And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” The church appears too many times today to have lost one of the essential features of the Lord’s body. The Lord’s body is a ministering body, a body that strives to serve not be served. The cry of too many members is serve us, instead of realizing the key to their needs is to serve. What is happening in these areas of ministering among us is not right. (to be continued)