His name means: "The Name of God"
His work: Priest, prophet, and judge, Samuel helped transform Israel from a nation led by charismatic figures called "judges" to one ruled by kings, who were to exercise their authority not as other kings did, but as men who belonged to God. He anointed Israel's first two kings: Saul and David.
His character: Samuel was eager to hear God's voice and willing to speak his word, even when doing so meant rebuking a king and risking his life. A spiritual leader who won military victories against the Philistines, he reminded the people of God's faithfulness and of the vital importance of their obedience. Sadly, he failed to pass on these same character traits to his sons, who acted corruptly as judges in his stead.
His sorrow: That Saul, Israel's first king, failed to obey God.
His triumph: To help shape Israel into a monarchy whose kings were to be God's servants.
Key Scriptures: 1 Samuel 1:1-28; 2:18-26; 3:1-20; 7:2-16; 8:1-10:26; 12:1-25
A Look at the Man
Years had passed since the death of Eli and his sons, and Samuel was growing old, his own sons more like Eli's than he cared to admit. He had judged Israel faithfully for many years, but the elders were clamoring for a change, insisting Israel needed a king like the other nations of the world.
This demand for a king seemed to Samuel like more evidence of their waywardness. This stiff-necked people were impossible to lead, always so certain they knew what was best for them. So Samuel railed against the idea until the people became so adamant that he made it a matter for prayer. He heard a surprising answer from the Lord: "Samuel, listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do."
So Samuel described in frightening detail all the demands a king would place on them—drafting their sons and daughters to work and die for him, devouring the fruits of their labor, requiring so much that they would feel enslaved by him. But the leaders insisted, "We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations with a king to go out before us and fight our battles."
So God gave them a king named Saul, a man who stood a head taller than most other men, yet a man who was no better at following the Lord than they had been. This was the king Samuel had to anoint. The king he had to guide. The king he finally had to pass judgment on, delivering a message any man would fear to render a king—that God intended to tear the crown from him and give it to another man.
Then the Lord told Samuel to fill his horn with oil and go to Jesse of Bethlehem, because one of his sons was to be king. Though Samuel feared Saul's wrath if he were to anoint a new king, he did as the Lord commanded, and as soon as he saw Jesse's eldest son, he was certain he had found Israel's next king.
But the Lord thought otherwise, saying to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." Six more of Jesse's sons passed before Samuel, but each one was rejected. And then came David, the youngest of Jesse's sons, a shepherd boy, as strong and solid on the inside as he looked on the outside. Samuel took the horn and poured the oil over David's head, anointing him king in the presence of his brothers.
Years passed before David finally ascended to the throne of Israel. By then Samuel was dead. But the man who had been an answer to his mother's prayer and who had been dedicated to God in a special way for the whole of his lifetime had fulfilled God's purpose, helping Israel make the transition from the chaotic period of the judges, when every man did what was right in his own eyes, to the period of the kings of Israel, when the Lord God searched for a ruler who would be a man after his own heart.
Reflect On: 1 Samuel 3:1–10
Praise God: For speaking to us.
Offer Thanks: For the way God has revealed himself to you.
Confess: Any failure to listen to what God is saying.
Ask God: To help you listen for his voice.
Today's reading is a brief excerpt from Men of the Bible: A One-Year Devotional Study of Men in Scripture by Ann Spangler and Robert Wolgemuth (Zondervan). © 2010 by Ann Spangler. Used with permission. All rights reserved. Enjoy the complete book by purchasing your own copy at the Bible Gateway Store. The book's title must be included when sharing the above content on social media.
Sadly, he failed to pass on these same character traits to his sons, who acted corruptly as judges…