Part Four: Samuel
1 Samuel 1:1-7:17
After the death of Joshua the nation of Israel became in practice a loose confederacy in which no one tribe was over another tribe. The thing that bound them together was their faith in God and the Law of Moses. Instead all 12 tribes were equal in stature, position, and power. As the need arose, God would raise up a judge who would rid Israel of her enemies and then guide her in the following years. With the story of Samuel we come to the last of the great judges in Israel's history. Henceforth Israel will be ruled by kings.
THE ACCOUNT IN 1 SAMUEL
The Birth of Samuel (1 Sam 1:1-2:36)
There was an Israelite named Elkanah of the tribe of Ephraim who had 2 wives. One wife Peninnah bore him many children, while the other Hannah was barren. Although Hannah was barren, Elkanah loved Hannah more than Peninnah. This set-up led to intense jealousy on the part of Peninnah. She would torment Hannah by making fun of her barren condition. The situation became the most intense whenever the family would go up to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices for the children. Peninnah would be merciless in her taunting of Hannah.
At one of these festivals Hannah was so distressed that she fell on her face to pray. Her grief was so great that although she was weeping on the inside, her lips could utter no words. Although her lips were moving, nothing could be heard coming from her mouth. What was the content of her prayer (1 Sam. 1:11)?
At this time Eli was the high priest over Israel. When he saw Hannah in this state, he assumed that she was drunk from all the festivities and rebuked her accordingly. When she explained to him her situation, Eli blessed her and prayed that the Lord grant to her her petition. Hannah returns home where the Lord does give her a son, Samuel. True to her word Hannah presents Samuel to Eli for service after he has been weened. From then on Samuel will serve the Lord with Eli at the tabernacle.
Samuel's Call (3:1-18)
At this time the Lord is displeased with Eli and his sons who were next in line to be high priests over Israel. The Lord was displeased with Eli's 2 sons because of the debauched lives they lived. The Lord though was also displeased with Eli because he refused to restrain his sons (3:13).
We are NOT responsible for the actions of others. The Lord is going to judge me on the basis of what I have done, and He is going to judge you on the basis of what YOU have done. Although I am not responsible for the actions of others, I am responsible for the way I have responded to certain people in my life. The Lord is going to hold me responsible for the teachings I imparted to Nathan and to Molly, and for the discipline I meted out to them whenever they did wrong. The Lord is especially going to hold us accountable whenever He has placed us in position of leadership, such as, parents, church leaders, ministers, politicians, etc. Well, Eli has failed miserably in the way he has responded to his sons and their evil actions. God is going to give the priesthood to another family. Eli know that this thing is from the Lord because not only will both of his sons die, they will die on the exact same day(2:34).
Because the spiritual condition in Israel has degenerated to such a degree, there are no longer any visions or word from the Lord (3:1). All that is about to change radically.
One night after Samuel and Eli have gone to bed, the Lord calls out Samuel's name. What happens the first 2 times the Lord addresses Samuel (3:4-7)?
What happens the third time the Lord addresses Samuel (3:8-9)?
Finally, the Lord addresses Samuel the fourth time. How does Samuel respond (3:10)?
What does the Lord tell Samuel?
God informs Samuel that He is going to do something so marvelous that all the ears of all who hear it will tingle. Notice though when God says this to Samuel. He says it AFTER Samuel has just told him: "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening." (Milton Cunningham says that Samuel's response is so different from most of our responses. We normally say, "Listen, Lord, for Your servant is speaking!") Samuel does not mean that he is listening so that he can decide whether or not to obey the Lord; he is listening for the sole purpose of obeying whatever the Lord tells him to do. Because Samuel is this kind of man, God is going to do marvelous things in Israel's midst.
The same call and challenge are being offered today. God is not a domesticated pet. He is wild who still loves to do the impossible and incredible in our midst. He still wants to transform lives. The question is whether or not we are listening to God so that we may obey Him. You may claim though that God does not speak to you. Well, the problem is yours not His. The problem is that you have not determined to follow Him no matter what. Oh, we are willing to follow Him in this way or that way, just not in other ways. That won't do. It really is all or nothing.
Eli insists on Samuel telling him everything the Lord told him. In fact he basically tells Samuel that he will curse him if he leaves anything out. Under such pressure Samuel informs Eli of all the Lord had told him. Eli humbly submits to the Lord's will.
The Beginning of Samuel's Ministry (3:19-21)
From this time on what kind of relationship did the Lord have with Samuel (3:19)?
How did this affect Samuel's reputation in all of Israel, from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south (3:20)?
Samuel Judges Israel (1 Sam. 7:3-17)
Although Samuel will judge Israel for FORTY years, 1 Samuel records only one major incident during the time of his judgeship. This is noteworthy. Many times we feel like we have to have an adventure after an adventure after an adventure in order for us to experience the blessing of God. Sometimes though God will do something so marvelous JUST ONCE that it changes everything afterwards.
The Israelites continually turned to the foreign gods of the Canaanites who lived among them, the Baal and Ashtaroth; therefore, Samuel calls the people together for a solemn assembly to worship the Lord. They were to put away their idols though before they came. The people respond positively to Samuel's summons.
Who else hears about Samuel's summons and how do they respond (1 Sam. 7:7)?
When these attack the Israelites, what does God do (7:10)?
How devastating is God's attack on the Philistines (7:13)?
For the rest of Samuel's days as judge Israel will live in security, safe from the Philistine menace. It is not necessarily the number of times that God saves you that is important; many times it is the degree to which He saves you. In this case the salvation was complete. No other times of deliverance were needed from this point on.
Notice what led to this great victory: the people simply obeyed Samuel's summons. They just thought that they were going to meet Samuel to worship the Lord. God had other plans though; He was going to use this to accomplish a great victory over the Philistines. If they had not been obedient, God would not have accomplished this great victory on their behalf.
The key then is obedience to ANYTHING the Lord wants. You and I don't know how God is going to use the things in our lives to bless us and to achieve great victories. He does not reveal this to us. He just expects us to obey Him and leave the rest to Him.
THROUGH THE EYES OF THE APOSTLES
When God told Eli that He was going to destroy his house (his family), He promised that He was going to raise up a great prophet. What did God say was going to be true of this prophet's house (1 Sam. 2:35)?
At first blush you would think that this referred to Samuel. However, was this prophecy fulfilled by Samuel and his family (8:1-5)?
According to Luke this prophecy was fulfilled in Jesus. According to Acts 3:24 which prophets does Luke list as having spoken about Jesus?
The prophecy that the ears of all who hear it will tingle was especially fulfilled in the ministry of Jesus and in His ministry through the apostles. According to Paul who had heard the report about Jesus and His miracles (Acts 26:26; 25:13-14, 22; 26:1)?
The report about Jesus did not simply circulate among the common folk; the report about Jesus was so amazing that even kings heard the report.
The ministry of Jesus did not stop with His death and resurrection. He continued His ministry through the apostles. And what a ministry it was. It was such a marvelous ministry that the only way the people could respond to it was in amazement. At least fifteen times in the book of Acts Luke writes that the people were "amazed" by or "marveled" at Jesus' actions through the apostles (Acts 2:7, 12, 43; 3:10, 11; 4:13, 16; 5:5, 11; 8:13; 9:21; 10:45; 12:16; 13:12 and 28:6). The ears of those who heard about Jesus' ministry through the apostles certainly tingled. In fact the work of Jesus through the apostles was so marvelous and so undeniable that even the religious leaders could not deny the things Jesus was doing through the apostles (Acts 4:16).
The work of Jesus THE prophet continues today. He still speaks to His people, and He continues to tingle their ears if they will just listen and obey. I experienced this again recently. My family allots a certain amount of money for clothes. That amount is sufficient. Recently though some more money came into my hands, and I thought, "I'm going to really go all out and get a lot more clothes!" Yet I felt like the Lord wanted me to use this extra money another way. At first I was really excited about it, and then I started rationalizing. I thought: "I have already use my money this way in the past, and enough really is enough." Then I thought: "God wants me to have more clothes; that's just me thinking I need to use that money this way." Finally, I admitted to myself that this was truly the voice of the Lord and that I needed to obey. So I used the money the way God wanted me to use it.
Then I went shopping with the clothes money I had previously saved, and to my amazement the Lord did something neat with the lesser amount of money. I hit 70%-off sales. I would try to buy a certain shirt and yet I could not find it in my size at that price. Then I turned around and saw a similar shirt, same color, $20 cheaper than the one I wanted to buy originally. As I was buying the clothes, I had a thrilling time. By the time I was through with these incredible savings, I had basically doubled my purchasing power! God had wanted to bless me in His way; if I had not obeyed the Lord, I would not have experienced the thrilling time He had in store for me. I might have been able to double my purchasing power even if I had kept the money; however, the excitement definitely would not have been there.
To me the most wonderful way that Jesus still ministers to us as a prophet is that He prays for us. Samuel claimed that he would never cease praying for the Israelites. In the same way both Jesus AND the Holy Spirit pray for us (Rom. 8:26-27, 34). Since both of these pray for us, there is absolutely no reason why we should not have spiritual victory.