The story so far …
And now, for the last Judge! The time God has been waiting for since Jacob blessed his children in Genesis 49 with their different legacies is closer than anyone knows. It is time for Judah’s descendant from whom the ‘scepter shall never depart’ to be born. This is David, the king from whose line the ultimate King will be born. Can God find a Priest/Prophet/Judge submissive of God, spiritually mature enough and with the political will and integrity needed to transition the nation from a theocracy led by the Judges and Prophets to a kingdom where the Prophet and/or Judge is not the ultimate leader? Can God find a Priest and Prophet with the height of spiritual sensitivity needed to identify exactly the one God chooses as king? Eli and his corrupt sons are in office. Can they be relied on to cooperate with God, and relinquish power by anointing a king whose position will be higher than theirs? How is this most critical national transition traversed successfully? Series 26 stands in awe of a man with a leadership profile that stands head and shoulders above most. A man whose leadership abilities provided for man’s needs and God’s will perfectly. Samuel: the quintessential prophet, judge, leader and kingmaker.
It was a very long story. Everything about it was long. A loving mother who had waited so long for a son that she offered to give him away if he was born. With an apprenticeship that started when he had barely walked, he was probably the longest apprentice prophet in history. It is because of this long apprenticeship that God became the deepest environment in Samuel’s life. He turned on the lamps of God. He laid out the bread of God. And when everyone left God’s tabernacle, he slept by the altar of God.
That is where their long conversations started. ‘Samuel. I want you to take care of my house when Eli and his children are gone’. Too young to understand how that could happen, Samuel placed himself in the hands of God as his servant, just as his mother had placed him in the hands of God as an offering. Those long conversations saved him from the character distortions of Eli’s children.
After Eli and his children perished in the time of war, Samuel took up leadership in God’s house, the worship at the altar, and led the people as Judge. Those long hours of studying the law of God handed down from Moses in order to know the heart of God concerning every social, political and spiritual issue shaped Samuel’s gentle heart to lead in integrity and right judgment. They taught him the standards of God in every situation. The more Samuel led in integrity bound around the laws of God, the safer and more prosperous the nation became. The people loved Samuel, and Samuel loved God’s people and house. As Samuel settled into being the spiritual, social and political leader with a heart of gold that did right and gave justice, who declared the word of the Lord in prophecies that were consistently fulfilled, the ‘ridiculed’ Hannah became the mother of the most revered leader since Moses. What a long road to fulfillment!
Under Samuel, the most potentially precarious events that could have tipped the nation under a less sensitive leader played out in utmost peace and serenity. Then the people demanded for a king ‘like the nations around them’, and Samuel felt utterly confused at this new challenge for which no law had prescribed an answer (besides, he thought they loved him!). He knew his sons had turned corrupt – just like Eli’s sons. Did that mean that God would wipe out his family line too? Samuel knew trauma.
He did the only thing he knew to do when confronted with any situation. Go to God in prayer and accept God’s interpretation of the situation: ‘you are not the one they have rejected. I am the one they have rejected. But I will not give them up. Work with me to anoint a person I bring to you as king over my people.’ Samuel quietly waited for the man God would point out, acted precisely in accordance with God’s directions regarding what would ensure the spiritual eligibility of that particular king, and just as firmly, he moved out of the limelight of national leadership to his base as a simple prophet in the tabernacle. His sons had proved to be a disappointment and he accepted God’s judgment that they were not fit to judge God’s people. Samuel had long understood what his role was: to serve God and country, and no more. Saul took over as king in Israel without any social disturbance.
From the background, Samuel wondered quietly at the many perverse incidents Saul got into and prayed long into the nights for Israel. The long conversations resumed: ‘Samuel, I have rejected Saul’. ‘Samuel, go and anoint a son of Jesse for me. Samuel, this is not the son of Jesse I mean! Samuel, this is the son of Jesse I mean!’ After that anointing, it seemed as if hell had broken loose around the son of Jesse. But God kept speaking, so Samuel kept praying. ‘Samuel, don’t worry about the war between David and Saul. I am the Lord, and my perfect will be done’. Samuel trusted, and God kept both he and David safe, though Saul seemed bent on destroying David. He watched God prevail time after time in this long struggle for the throne.
That is when the final conversations started: ‘Samuel, well done, faithful servant. You have done your part. You may rest now.’ A long life well lived under the banner of the will of God, and with no fear of man or need to seek the approval of man ended as quietly – in the arms of prayer started by a mother who had learnt to pray long while waiting for her God. Samuel died and rested as the last Judge of Israel. A long deep rest
David finally occupied the throne, having learnt to know God, trust God, and fear God through the long and intense battles for the throne. God had a king governing His people with the same undivided loyalty to the law of God that Samuel had. That was His will from the beginning, and it was made possible because Samuel had what it takes to bring the will of God to pass.