<<OT religious leader>>

He was the last and most effective of Israel’s judges (political and religious leaders) who were God’s spokespeople and administrators of justice. When Eli died the influence of the priesthood began to decline and this gave rise to the prophets as the people demanded a king like the others nations, transitioning from a theocracy (government by God) to a monarchy (rule by man). Samuel anointed Saul as the first King of Israel (1 Sam 8:5-9).  Samuel was born in 1105 BC and even though Saul became King in 1050 BC Samuel continued to represent God to the Israelites, serving as both judge and prophet. His story is told in 1 Samuel 1-28. 

Lessons from his life: * Samuel was probably only about three years old when Hannah, his mother, entrusted him to Eli, the temple priest, and he began to be mentored in the Lord’s house, observing, being taught and given increased responsibility (1 Sam 2:11).  Children can effectively serve God too.  Don’t underestimate the love of children for God, their commitment to Him, sincerity of heart and purity of motive for, as in Samuel’s case, this can become a lifelong dedication (1 Sam 7:15).

* One night in response to his name being called he went to Eli and said, “Here I am, what do you want?” He thought it was Eli his master who had called but Eli said, “I didn’t call”.  This happened three times, but it was only then Eli realised God was calling Samuel and he instructed the lad to say, “Speak Lord for your servant is listening” (1 Sam 3:2-14).  This was the beginning of Samuel hearing messages from God that he faithfully passed on as the divine representative. Do I hear from God and respond accordingly?

* Samuel pleaded with God to help them in their situation, because, even while the Israelites were repenting of their sinful ways, the enemy army was amassing against them. Later after a successful battle, he acknowledged with thanksgiving, “You certainly helped us” (1 Sam 7:3-13).  Isn’t that often our experience too, as we turn towards God the enemy of our souls gets annoyed and lets us know he’s still around?  Do we rely on God to come through on our behalf? After we have gained the victory, do we acknowledge it was the Lords doing? Samuel challenged the people, “If you want God’s protection and blessing you must obey Him” (1 Sam 12:14,15). This principle still applies.

* Although Samuel was a righteous man and dedicated to God all his life, unfortunately his two sons were corrupt and were not fit to follow in his calling (1 Sam 8:1-5). He did not learn from the mistakes of his mentor Eli, the previous temple priest who also had wayward sons that he had failed to correct (1 Sam 2:22-25). Am I spending enough time ministering into the lives of my children or those in my care?  This includes confronting, correcting where necessary, giving ample encouragement, inspiring, instilling in them good morals, sound habits and pure ethics besides Godly biblical disciplines and wisdom - all by being a good role model.

* Due to the people’s discontent, a monarchy was established.  This was a common form of rule among neighbouring nations.  Like God, Samuel was not happy that the Israelites wanted a visible king rather than a theocracy or God-governed rule (1 Sam 8:5,6, 12:12). However he followed God’s instructions, assembled the people, gave them the divine message and organised the selection process which indicated Saul as the choice (1 Sam 9:16, 10:1,24). Samuel publicly declared and wrote down the duties of a king (Deut 17:14-20; 1 Sam 10:25). Both a public witness and writing things down are important so they cannot be forgotten or misconstrued. While encouraging them to worship God fervently and not to turn away from Him Samuel didn’t minimise the fact of their serious sin.  Even though he didn’t agree with their decision he said he would continue to pray for and teach them God’s ways (1 Sam 12:20,23). When people don’t accept our Christian witness it’s not us but God they are rejecting.

* In response to King Saul’s excuse Samuel declared, “You have disobeyed the Lord’s commands” (1 Sam 13:13). This was after he, along with the rest of the Israelites were charged with obeying God (1 Sam 12:14,15).  God, through Samuel, gave Saul another chance, “Be sure to obey, here’s what you have got to do”, but again Saul refused to obey – “You were told to...but you didn’t obey?” (1 Sam 15:1-3,11,18,19). Do I repeatedly point out violations of God’s standards and people’s sinful habits with the heart-attitude or motive of wanting to see them spiritually blessed? However, God says He will not always contend with the persistent rebellion and refusal of man’s heart (Gen 6:3). There comes a point when God says, ‘You have had your last chance’. Do not presume on His patience and grace – obey quickly to what He asks of you.

* When God told Samuel it was time for a new king, he saw a potential candidate but God impressed on him, “Man looks on the outward appearance whereas the Lord looks on the heart.” He continued to search till the Lord said, “This is the one” (1 Sam 16:7,12). Don’t become set in your own mind, instead remain open to the advice and opinions of others, and especially God’s inner witness of peace in your heart.  Do I gauge people by their outer attributes or their character and heart qualities?

See also: Eli, Hannah, Judges of Israel, 1 Samuel, Saul.