On the surface, the life he was called to lead does not appear particularly harrowing. As a boy, Samuel was committed to tabernacle service by his parents. God called him into lifelong ministry in a very personal way, and Samuel was to become the final judge and the first true prophet in Israel. At about age thirty, Samuel began traveling an annual circuit through Bethel, Gilgal, Mizpah, and then back to his hometown of Ramah. In each city he would act as judge between accused and accusers.
Anyone who has ever had to consistently confront others…to be the repeated bearer of bad tidings knows how tough and nerve-racking it can be. But this is what God asked of Samuel. It all started with Samuel’s calling. God told Samuel he was chosen to succeed Eli, the rejected high priest, because Eli’s sons were evil priests and their father had done nothing to stop them. The young boy then had the awful duty of telling Eli the devastating news. This was only the start of many such confrontations Samuel had to carry out.
Early in his ministry, Samuel faced the great multitudes of Israel and said, “If you are truly serious about returning to God, you must destroy every foreign god you own.” In this age, people would often kill or die rather than renounce crazed allegiance to an idol. Yet, knowing the danger, Samuel stood up boldly and demanded loyalty to Yahweh alone.
The people gave up their idols, but, as Samuel became aged, they grew incessantly restless. “Give us a king to lead us,” they clamored, “like all the other nations.” Samuel knew his leadership was being soundly rejected by the tribes. He also knew what abuses a ruthless king could levy on a people, and he warned the Hebrews of what could happen. He didn’t mince words—he relayed the fact that God was not pleased with their demands. However, the people insisted, so God gave them a king.
After a man named Saul was crowned king and won a military battle or two, hopes ran high among the populace. They thought their problems were over. Then Saul began believing his own headlines. He figured he didn’t have to do exactly as God instructed. After all, he was the big cheese.
Before one battle, Saul offered the sacrifices to God prematurely, instead of waiting for Samuel to do it. For this disobedience, Samuel had to tell Saul his kingdom would not be carried on through his sons. After another battle, contrary to God’s command, Saul allowed the people to spare the king and keep all the best livestock and plunder. Samuel then had to face Saul with the news that God would replace him with another king. In one moment of rage, the towering Saul could have lopped off Samuel’s head, yet still the prophet relayed God’s punishing message.
Did Samuel gain some sort of perverse pleasure from relaying God’s words of judgment? Quite the opposite. After Samuel told King Saul that God had rejected him as king, the prophet grieved for years. And Samuel constantly prayed for those who had stubbornly rejected him for a king. In fact, once he told the crowds, “God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you!”
This is Samuel’s crowning trait—he was a man of prayer. All along those dusty Judean roads and olive-lined hillsides Samuel travelled his circuit, praying all the time. He also prayed as he founded a school for young prophets. It was not until his death that some realized what his presence and his prayers had meant for Israel. “And Samuel died, and all Israel assembled and mourned for him.”
What can we learn from Samuel?
Samuel learned that leadership can often be a demanding, thankless task. Yet, without bitterness or recrimination, Samuel faced rejection and the rage of those he rebuked. Like Samuel, Christian leaders can face the toughest challenges if they will commit them to God continually in prayer.
Bible Verses about Samuel
1 Samuel 1-25, 28:14-19; 1 Chronicles 9:22, 11:3, 26:28, 29:29; 2 Chronicles 35:18; Psalm 99:6; Jeremiah 15:1; Acts 3:24, 13:20; Hebrews 11:32
What questions does this help to answer?
- Who was Samuel in the Bible?
- What did Samuel do when he grew up?
- What should I do if I’m rejected for my faith?
- What did God call Samuel for?
- How does God speak to children?
- Can God call children?
Steve Fortosis served for six years as youth minister in several parishes. Meanwhile he was also working toward his masters, then his doctorate in religious education. Through the years he has enjoyed teaching on the college and seminary levels and writing professionally. He has published a number of books including story and prayer compilations, missionary biography, Biblical character biography, devotional lit, children’s lit, and even stories of Bible translation. Presently he resides in Florida with his wife, Debra, where he teaches part-time and writes on a free-lance basis.Steve Fortosis