(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)
Samuel is the last named person in the Hall of Heroes of Hebrews 11; and the last named of six heroes in verse 32: “And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets.” So we will close our series Heroes With Feet of Clay with Samuel, the last of the judges and the first of the prophets of the kingdom of Israel.
He had an interesting beginning. His mother Hannah was barren. So she cried out to God, “O LORD of hosts, if You will…give your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life….” (I Samuel 1:11). God answered her prayer, and Samuel was born! When the boy was about 3 to 5 years old, she took her son to the tabernacle at Shiloh, and said to Eli the High Priest:
“...my lord, I am the woman who stood by you here, praying to the LORD. For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition....Therefore I also have lent him to the LORD; as long as he lives he shall be lent to the LORD.” (I Samuel 1:26 through 28).
So Samuel stayed at the tabernacle and served God and Eli the priest.
- Now the sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were rogue priests who misused and abused the sacrifices people brought to be offered to the LORD! (see I Samuel 2:11-17, 22-25). But Eli basically did nothing to correct his sons! (see I Samuel 2:29).
- I Samuel 3:6 and 9 – “…while Samuel was lying down to sleep…the LORD called…‘Samuel!’ So Samuel arose and went to Eli, and said ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ ” This happened three times before Eli realized it was God calling! So he told Samuel, “Go, lie down, and…if He calls you…say, ‘Speak, LORD, for Your servant hears.’ ”
- I Samuel 3:13 – When God called a fourth time, He told Samuel that he would destroy the house (family) of Eli, “…because his sons made themselves vile, and he did not restrain them.”
- I Samuel 4:11 and 18 – All this was fulfilled soon after when the Philistines went to war against Israel. Hophni and Phinehas were both killed, and the Ark of the Covenant was taken by the enemy!
- When the news reached Eli, he “…fell off the seat backward…and his neck was broken and he died, for he was [98 years] old and heavy.”
- Seven months later, after God plagued the Philistines, they sent the Ark back to Israel ! (see I Samuel 5:1-6:18).
“So Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him….And all Israel…knew that Samuel had been established as a prophet of the LORD.” (I Samuel 3:19, 20). He had quite a career over about the next 60 years!
- Samuel led a revival in which the Israelites turned from the foreign gods they were worshiping, back to the true God! “So the children of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtoreths, and served the LORD only.” (I Samuel 7:4).
- I Samuel 7:12 and 10 – “Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the LORD has helped us.’ ” The reason for this dedicatory monument was to memorialize God’s help in overcoming the Philistines as they attacked! “…the LORD thundered with a loud thunder upon the Philistines that day, and so confused them that they were overcome before Israel.”
- I Samuel 8:1 through 3 and 5 – “…when Samuel was old…he made his sons…Joel, and… Abijah…judges over Israel….But his sons…turned aside after dishonest gain, took bribes, and perverted justice.” So the elders of Israel rejected the judgeship of God, and came to him, saying, “…make us a king to judge us like all the nations.”
God let the will of the people prevail! The king that God led Samuel to was Saul, of the tribe of Benjamin.
- I Samuel 10:1 – “Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on…[Saul’s] head, and kissed him and said: ‘…the LORD has anointed you commander over His inheritance [Israel]….’ ”
Samuel advised Saul over the next years, but the king turned out to be fearful, rebellious, and disobedient, much to Samuel’s disappointment.
- I Samuel 13:5, 8, 9 – “…the Philistines gathered together to fight with Israel….[Saul] waited seven days….But Samuel did not come….So Saul said, ‘Bring a burnt offering and peace offerings….’ And he offered the burnt offering.”
Saul, being from the tribe of Benjamin, could not be a priest! For priests which were chosen only from the tribe of Levi were allowed to offer to God the prescribed offerings! (see Deuteronomy 21:5). So Samuel, when he arrived shortly after Saul had finished the offerings, told him, “You have done foolishly….now your kingdom shall not continue. The LORD has sought for Himself a man after His own heart…to be commander over His people….” (I Samuel 7:13 and 14).
- I Samuel 15:1 through 3 – “…Samuel said to Saul, ‘The LORD…says…“I will punish Amalek for what they did to Israel, how he laid wait for them…when they came up from Egypt….kill both man…woman…infant…nursing child…ox…sheep, camel and donkey.”’ ” (see Exodus 17:8-14).
But Saul didn’t obey! He spared Agag, the king of the Amalekites, and the best of the animals, supposedly for later sacrifice to the LORD! (see I Samuel 15:15). But his real reason he spared the best of the Amalekite animals is revealed when he confessed a bit later to Samuel in verse 24: “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the command-ment of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.”
Samuel set King Saul straight on this matter in I Samuel 15:22 and 23:
“Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obedience...? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifices, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has reject- ed you from being king.”
- I Samuel 16:13 – So God sent Samuel to Bethlehem to anoint a son of Jesse to be the next king of Israel. “Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him…and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward.”
Only once more do we hear of Samuel before his death (see I Samuel 19:18-24). When Saul began his chase of David to kill him, David ran to Samuel’s house in Ramah.
The last mention of Saul is in I Samuel 25:1: “Then Samuel died; and all the Israelites gathered together and lamented for him, and buried him at his home in Ramah.”
The last mention of Samuel ? No, there is another important one! In I Samuel 28, the Philistines again attacked, and Saul needed divine guidance! But God would not answer Saul, “…by dreams or by Urim or by the prophets….” (I Samuel 28:6). So the king found out there was a spiritist medium in En Dor. Maybe she could bring up Samuel to tell Saul what to do! This was a great sin in itself! (see Deuteronomy 18:9-14). So Saul disguised himself and went to the medium in En Dor (see I Samuel 28:3-6).
A question comes to my mind: How do you disguise yourself when you are “…taller than any of the people from the shoulders upward.”? (I Samuel 10:23).
The medium brought up Samuel from the dead! (see I Samuel 28:11-19). I believe this was a special act of God, for I have discovered that ‘the dead’ whom mediums supposedly bring up are really demons posing as the dead! How do I know? I was in the occult for three years, studying to be a trance medium! Besides, Jesus said the only way someone can come back from the dead is by resurrection! (see Luke 16:31). But back to the story: Samuel’s appearance even scared the medium! (see I Samuel 28:12). I guess she was not expecting the real Samuel to appear!
...Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bring- ing me up?” And Saul answered, “I am deeply distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God has departed from me and does not answer me anymore....Therefore I have called you, that you may reveal to me what I should do.” Then Samuel said: “Why then do you ask me, seeing the Lord has departed from you and has become your enemy? ...Because you did not obey the voice of the Lord nor execute His fierce wrath upon Amalek...the Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, David....Moreover the Lord will also deliver Israel with you into the hand of the Philis- tines. And tomorrow you and your sons will be with me.” (I Samuel 28:15 through 19).
So Saul and his three sons all died by the hands of the Philistines the next day on Mount Gilboa! (see I Samuel 31:1-6).
But this series is called Heroes With Feet of Clay! It doesn’t sound like Samuel had any indication of clay feet! He even challenged the people of Israel in I Samuel 12:2 asking if he had stolen anything from them or defrauded them in any way. And they answered in II Samuel 12:4, “You have not defrauded us or oppressed us, not have you taken anything from any man’s hand.”
But in I Samuel 8:1 through 3 (quoted above), we are told, “…when Samuel was old…he made his sons…Joel, and… Abijah…judges over Israel….But his sons…turned aside after dishonest gain, took bribes, and perverted justice.” Apparently, Samuel’s clay feet were his failure as a dad! His two sons did not turn out to be well-parented boys! But God still honored him as a hero!
So, Christian, even if you are not the perfect parent, even if you think you have failed in your efforts to raise godly offspring…
…God can still use you!
He greatly used imperfect Samuel !