Subtitled, “One and Two” (a Sunday message given at Caloocan, Philippines UBF, January 23, 2011)
“The next day John was there again with two of his disciples.” (John 1:35)
Category Archives: Lectures
2011 New Year’s Conference Main Message
His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I. Why do we do the daily bread?
1) To purify us (Psalm 119:9)
2) To nurture our soul (Deu 8:3; Psa 84:2)
3) To ensure that everything would go well with us (3 Jo 2)
4) To equip ourselves for every good work (2Ti 3:15-17)
II. How do we eat the daily bread?
1) Before you enter the sanctuary
Prepare yourself to be in a repentant and restive mode (Matthew 11:28; Isaiah 30:15; Gen 28:11-14)
2) As you enter
Enter the presence of God the Father and Jesus Christ through the Spirit (Numbers 7:89; Heb 6:20; 1Co 2:14)
2) After you enter
Go through the four step process (Pro 22:17-18)
a) pay attention
** UBF daily bread guideline
(Prayer; Reading; Thinking [Meditating]; Writing; and Prayer)
“The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ Then Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.’” (1 Samuel 3:10)
The era of the Judges is a time period of 340 years, between the death of Joshua (1390 BC) and the enthronement of King Saul (1050 BC). He lived, as a judge, in the transitional period from the era of the Judges to that of the Kings. He was a man of God who had influence over other people as a judge, a prophet, a priest, a politician, an administrator, a teacher and a spiritual advisor (Ps 99:6; Jer 15:1; 1Sa 15:11). Most of all, Samuel was a spiritual father of the Israelites and had an important role in laying the foundation of the kingdom of Israel—he established Saul as the first king of the kingdom and he anointed David to be the king of the Davidic kingdom. God raised Samuel to be a servant of God’s word, a prayer servant and a shepherd of God’s people and a spiritual mentor for David. By observing Samuel’s life, we want to learn about God who raised Samuel as a spiritual father. We also want to think about who this God is to us. Samuel’s life can be divided into three parts: first, the role of his parents from his birth to his dedication to God; second, the period of his growth and his role as the spiritual father of Israel; third, the latter part of his life focused on raising a successor.
I. THE ROLE OF GODLY PARENTS (1:1-2:11)
First, Hannah prays with a vow (1:1-18). The book of Samuel begins with a story of a woman who had a serious life problem. The name Samuel means “I asked the Lord for him” (1Sa 1:20). Therefore, it means “God has answered the prayer,” which tells us about the background of his birth. There was a man named, Elkanah, in the hill country of Ephraim. Even though he lived in Ephraim, he was a Levites (1Chr 6:34). At that time, people practiced polygamy and he also had two wives—Hannah and Penninah. Having two wives in a family was itself the cause of trouble. Everybody carries his or her own serious life problems. Hannah and Penninah had their share. Penninah had children but she did not have her husband’s love; Hannah was loved by her husband but she was childless. At that time producing offspring was a serious problem; childlessness often was considered as God’s curse. Hannah was miserable in her soul, feeling cursed. Barren women often got divorced, but Hannah fortunately was loved by Elkanah. When he went to worship and sacrifice to the Lord, he would give her a double portion because he loved her, and the Lord had closed her womb. “The Lord had closed her womb” means that Hannah’s suffering went beyond physical reasons; her suffering was caused by a deep rooted spiritual problem. She suffered because she sensed that God had closed her womb. In other words, she suffered in her relationship with God. She never retaliated against her vicious rival. She never blamed her husband. Hannah quietly suffered in all her barren years. She did so because she knew it was God who had closed her womb. “The Lord had closed her womb” means that God had a purpose in all of Hannah’s suffering. God was preparing Hannah as a prayer warrior. He was preparing Hannah as a mother of prayer for Samuel, and a mother of prayer for all nations.
Verse 6 says, “And because the Lord had closed her womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her.” Peninnah might have said, “You cannot give a child to your husband. You don’t deserve the double portion!” Hannah was sorrowful enough due to her childlessness. When her rival Penninah insulted her like that, she was so downhearted and irritated that she would weep and could not eat. Hannah was sorrowful, so sorrowful that she would die in sorrow. Most of all, she was sorrowful when she felt that she was childless because the Lord had abandoned her. Tears flowed from her eyes in deep sorrow. Elkahnah would try to comfort her, saying, “Hannah, honey, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?” Even such love from her husband could not fundamentally comfort her sorrow.
We all encounter our own troubles, sorrows, anger and vexations due to various problems in our lives. We can try to solve such problems in a humanistic way or in a spiritual way. The way we choose can make all the difference. Hannah could resolve Penninah’s provocation in a fight, if she wanted to vent her emotional feelings. She could have tried to kick her rival out, manipulating Elkanah’s love. Or she could drown herself in alcohol in sorrow and fatalism. But she did not choose such humanistic ways, but fought a spiritual battle. She did not struggle against people, but she struggled in prayer. Look at verse 10. “In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the LORD.” She brought her life before God and poured out her troubles, sorrows and despair before the Lord. Her sorrows, troubles and pains of heart were sublimated into moving prayers before the Lord. We learn here that prayer is the key to solve all problems in our lives.
What was the content of Hannah’s prayer? Look at verse 11. “And she made a vow, saying, ‘O LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.’” Surely, Hannah had prayed for an offspring continually for many years. Why didn’t God answer her prayers quickly? Maybe God waited for the moment when Hannah poured out her heart before him. God waited until Hannah would entrust her son’s life completely into God’s hand. Hannah’s problem was not just the problem of childlessness. When we carefully observe her prayer, we find that expressions such as “look upon,” “remember,” “do not forget” were repeated. We see that she had doubts about God’s love deep down in her heart. She thought that God did not look upon the pains in her heart. She thought that God did not love her. That made her sorrowful. Indeed, most of us become sorrowful and angry when we feel that God does not care about us. We murmur in our hearts, “How can God treat me like this?” We even threaten God, saying, “If you don’t do anything, then I must find my own way.” God does not bless those who do not have a right attitude toward God. Even though Hannah was in a very difficult situation, she did not complain nor blame God. She prayed to God that he would only look upon her misery and remember her, and not forget her. In a nutshell, Hannah had a right attitude toward God.
The important point to notice here is that Hannah made a God-centered vow. Usually people pray to God in order to get something from Him. They offer a self- centered prayer with a long list of wishes: Heal my sickness, give me a high paying job, bless my business, give me good marks, bless me with a good marriage, give me a son, and so on. They just want blessing upon blessings. However, God hardly answers self-centered prayers. James teaches us about prayer. “You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasure” (Jas 4:2b,3). However, Hannah’s prayer was a God-centered prayer. Many people make a vow to God when they are in an immergency situation. They think making a vow to God is having a deal of “give and take”. They make a vow that they would give material offerings or they would dedicate themselves to God’s work or they would go out as a missionary if only God helps them get out of their desperate situations. They want to negotiate with God. However, such prayer is very much self-centered and it is making use of God for their own interests. On the contrary, Hannah asked God to give her a son out of His grace. In return, she would give her son back to God for all the days of his life as a Nazarite, and no razor would ever be used on his head. Her vow was a God-centered one. God is always ready to bless us, but he wants us to have inner qualities to bear his blessings gracefully. Otherwise, the blessing can turn into a curse.
Hannah poured out her heart before God and kept on praying. She prayed to the point of exhaustion, losing her voice, so that her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. She was captivated in deep prayer. Eli observed her mouth and thought she was drunk and said to her, “How long will you keep on getting drunk? Get rid of your wine.” Eli did not know Hannah’s deep anguish and grief. But she did not retort to Eli, saying, “What kind of a servant of God are you?” Hannah rather gently replied that she has not been drinking wine or beer, but she was pouring out her soul to the Lord. Then, Eli blessed her prayer with assurance and she returned home. After prayer, her attitude was completely changed, “Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast” (18b) After prayer, she did not worry and she was not anxious any more. She entrusted everything in God’s hand. She was confident that God would answer her prayer because she prayed according to his will (1 Jn 5:14).
Second, Hannah kept her vow (1:19-2:11). Look at verses 1:19,20. The Lord remembered Hannah and in the course of time Hannah gave birth to a son, Samuel. God never forgot Hannah. He knew her great anguish and sorrow, and listened to all her tearful prayers without missing one. What God wanted from her was a God-centered prayer. Hannah experienced God’s deep personal love for her. She did not need to agonize in sorrow any more. No more mocking and insults from Peninnah. She was feeling no longer cursed, but blessed by God.
However, after having a son, another problem arose for Hannah. It was how to bear God’s blessing well. There is a saying in Korea, “One is less desperate after using the water closet.” It is never easy to keep the vow we made to God. After getting what we want through prayer, we change our mind making many excuses and rationalize not to keep our vows. Hannah could have thought that she should raise Samuel herself, because Eli was too humanistic. She could have rationalized, thinking, “Even if I raise Samuel under my care, he can still be devoted to God,” or “I will devote Samuel to God later after having another son.” But Hannah got the full consent of her husband and took Samuel and presented him to the Lord after he was weaned. She kept her vow to God. It is a most difficult thing to sever the natural bond between a mother and a child. Since Hannah nursed her son until she had weaned him, he was so dear to her. She has become so attached to him. It was easy for her to love her son more than God, because she knew the unbearable pain and suffering caused by her childlessness. Her very dear son, the fruit of her prayer could be a snare that could tarnish and destroy her faith. After having Samuel, She could have been more miserable than before she had Samuel.
However, Hannah never changed her mind. Her faith, her loyalty and her love for God were all the same. Rather, her faith grew mature after God blessed her with Samuel. Out of great joy and thanks, she offered her son to God. Hannah kept her vow, thus proved herself as a woman of faith with a sense of responsibility. The fact that Hannah offered God her beloved one and only son powerfully demonstrates that she loved God more than her son, herself and anything else in the world. She had deep reverence for God. The Lord was gracious to Hannah and blessed her with 3 sons and 2 daughters (2:21).
When Hannah gave Samuel to the Lord, what was her attitude? Was she in deep sorrow, crying and shedding many tears? Of course not! Joy, rather than sorrow overflowed from her heart. Songs of praise, rather than a deep sigh came out from her lips. Her heart was filled with vision, not despair. Her heart rejoiced in the Lord for his deliverance (2:1). The object of her joy was neither her husband nor her son. Her joy was found in God himself who granted her grace of salvation. When Hannah rejoiced in God, he filled her heart with joy, gratitude and happiness that only comes from Him. God is the source of our joy. It is easy for us to rejoice more in our children than in God; it is easy for us to rejoice in Bible students, our spiritual children. It is easy to enjoy God’s blessing rather than God Himself, who is the Giver of the blessing. When we do so, our relationship with God is broken. Spiritually, this is a serious sin. As a result, we cannot taste real joy. According to the Catecism, the chief end of a man in life is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. When we rejoice in God who is the source of all the blessings, he continually pours out his blessings upon us.
Hannah rejoiced not just because she solved her life problem by having a son. Her greatest joy was that she experienced God in her life. She realized that God alone was holy and He was the Rock whom she could trust and depend on (2:2). God gives life and brings death; he sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts; he raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap—God is the absolute Sovereign (6,7). And God will shatter those who oppose Him. Verse 10b is the prophecy about the coming Messiah. “He will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed.” Hannah saw the vision of the coming Messiah through the birth of Samuel. God answered the wholehearted prayer of a sorrowful woman and granted her Samuel and begat the kingdom of Israel. The prayer of a woman seemed to be small and helpless, but there was power in it to change an era and create new history.
Third, The role of Elkanah (1:1-8, 21-23, 2:11). Here, we must not overlook the role of Elkanah. Hannah could dedicate Samuel to God and raise him as a man of God because there was the complete agreement and support from her husband Elkanah. Elkanah lived in the time of idol-worship and time of people living as they saw fit. But year after year, he went up from his town to worship the Lord Almighty at Shiloh (1:3). He was also a loving and understanding husband who comforted Hannah, even though she was barren (1:8). Elkanah accepted Hannah’s desire to keep her vow that she would present Samuel before the Lord after weaning him; he told her with kind words to do what seemed best to her (1:23). Elkanah made good environment for Hannah to raise the child by faith. When the time came, Elkanah carried the burden of bringing the boy Samuel to Eli the priest (2:11). He had a heart as wide as the Pacific Ocean and understood and embraced Hannah. He was a good example of being a supportive husband for a more spiritual person than himself, instead of hindering the life of faith of his wife out of envy and jealousy. Thanks to Elkanah, Hannah could seek and serve God without troubles and she could raise the boy Samuel to grow as a servant of God. Therefore, Samuel could grow to be a servant of God because God-fearing Elkanah and prayerful Hannah made a spiritual environment for him. They must have raised Samuel until his time of weaning thorough spiritual upbringing. Raising children is like painting a picture on a white paper. Children’s upbringing entirely depends on how the parents educate them. The most important thing we have to teach our children is a right attitude toward God. Parents can imprint a right attitude toward God when the parents themselves have a right attitude toward God. Then, the children will grow upright and have a right attitude toward God. It works in the same way in raising our spiritual children (Bible students). The influence of the parents lays the foundation for the children to build the house of their lives.
II. A SPIRITUAL FATHER, SAMUEL (2:12-4:1a; 7:1-11:15; 12:23)
First, the Lord calls Samuel (2:12-4:1a). The mother of a Chinese philosopher, Mencius, moved three times for the sake of his education. This story tells us the importance of an educational environment. Mothers everywhere and in every generation have had great concern for the education of their children. Hannah was not an exception. Even though Hannah dedicated Samuel, in reality, she was entrusting Samuel under Eli the priest. Eli the priest lacked spiritual power and discernment; he was a humanist who honored his sons more than God (1:14, 2:27-36, 3:13). His sons, Hophni and Phenihas were priests but they were wicked men; they had no regard for the Lord (2:12); they treated the Lord’s offering with contempt (2:13-17); they were also immoral and slept with the women who served at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting (2:22). According to 1 Samuel 4:18, Eli was an old man and heavy. He ate too much and was so pot-bellied that he had a hard time to move around. He neither studied the Bible nor taught the Bible to others. He was sick with an easy-going life style; he was a useless man who could not get off his lazy-boy chair (1:9, 4:18). As a result, his sons had no respect to God and lived a wicked life; and the people acted according to what they saw fit.
To entrust her son to such a humanistic leader, and leaving him in an environment where such moral and spiritual corruption was rampant was an extremely dangerous choice. However, Hannah kept her vow to God and left her son under Eli the priest as soon as Samuel was weaned (1:28). She had to sever the attachment to her son and visit him only once a year as they went up to Siloh to offer the annual sacrifice, bringing a little robe for him (2:19). It sounds rather reckless for a mother to take such action. But we must consider the deep inner motive of Hannah’s action. In 2:6-7, we see that Hannah had absolute faith in the absolute sovereignty of God who controlled all aspects of man’s life. In other words, Hannah trusted in God completely. She believed that God would be responsible to raise Samuel when she presented him before the Lord. When Hannah brought Samuel to Eli the priest, she actually entrusted Samuel to God, rather than to Eli. Many parents are anxious about their children’s future and are burdened by a sense of responsibility for their children. Of course, we must have a sense of stewardship over our children and be responsible, but fundamentally we must trust in God who will be the Sovereign over their lives and who will lead their lives. When Hannah entrusted Samuel completely in God’s hand, God himself raised him (1Sa 2:21b, 26; 3:19a).
The boy Samuel received internship training in the temple from his childhood. He ministered before the Lord, wearing the ephod his mother made for him (2:18). He slept in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. The ark of God was the Ark of the Covenant where the word of God was and it was the symbolic place of God’s presence. It meant that Samuel lived before God and tried to live according to the word of God. Here, we learn that in order to grow to be a servant of God, firstly, it is important to have a spiritual environment. Without the temple of God, i.e., the environment where we can have the word of God, it is impossible for us to grow as a servant of God.
When God called Samuel, he answered immediately, saying, “Here I am,” and he went to Eli. It meant that he was always alert spiritually (4-5). He answered to the call three times and went to Eli. Eli realized that God called Samuel and told him to answer to the Lord, saying, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” When God called the fourth time, Samuel answered, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” Samuel had the attitude to listen to the word of God. Here, we learn that in order to grow to be a servant of God, secondly, it is important for us to have listening training—we have to know how to listen to God. Jesus also first trained the Twelve apostles to listen after calling them. Before and after telling them the parable of the sower, Jesus said, “Listen” (Mk 4:3) and “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Mk 4:9). Jesus did not train the disciples first on how to teach or how to make public speeches; rather, He trained them to listen. It was because listening is the most important. As we observe the process of how children learn a language, first they listen to what others are saying attentively. After many times of repetition, they begin to speak the language based on what they heard countless times. The secret of studying well is also listening carefully. If one wants to be a good Bible teacher and a good shepherd, one must learn how to listen carefully to what one’s Bible students are saying. But most of the time, people do not listen to others but just let out what they want to say. Such people cannot grow to be good shepherds.
Second, a servant of God’s word (3:19-4:1a). 1 Samuel 3:1 tells us about how the time of Samuel was. “The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.” In other words, Eli’s era was the time of the absence of God’s word. The words of God are able to make us wise for salvation (2Ti 3:15). Unlike animals, God set eternity in the hearts of men (Ecc 3:11). People yearn for eternal life. Except Christianity, every other religion teaches that we can save ourselves through our good deeds and human efforts. However, the problem is that any of our extraordinary efforts cannot bring us to salvation because we are utterly rotten because of our sins. The Bible alone can teach us true wisdom that leads us to salvation. But the people of Eli’s time did not have the word of God and they suffered under anxiety and the fear of judgment, without having the assurance of eternal life. Furthermore, the word of God is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Ti 3:16-17). But Eli’s generation did not have the word of God and they could not grow in righteousness nor could they raise children in righteousness. The word of God gives an absolute meaning and direction in life; the word of God gives the absolute value system in life. Since they did not have the word of God, however, they did not know the true meaning and purpose in life. They had no meaning of existence. They were surviving day to day with a meaningless life; they tried to enjoy their lives to the fullest extent. Since they did not have an absolute standard in life, they acted as they saw fit (Jdg 21:25).
Furthermore, they had no vision because the word of God was rare. The author of the book of Samuel tells us that there is a close relationship between visions and the words of God. In other words, since the word of the Lord was rare, there were not many visions. Here we learn that visions come from the words of God. Where there is the word of God, there is a vision. When people have the word of God, people are full of vision; when people have vision, they can live their lives with vigor. God had a vision for the people of Israel to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. But they were oblivious of God’s will toward them because they did not have the word of God. We often think that it is difficult for us to have a vision because of the difficult realities of life. But Proverbs 29:18 tells us that people without vision will perish (KJV). The people of the boy Samuel’s time were perishing because they did not have visions. The lamp of God was flickering like a candle light in the wind. What did God do in such a time?
The greatest problem of Samuel’s time was the lack of the words of God. All people always have all kinds of problems, both small and large. But the real problem is not having problems; it is our perspective toward the problem and how to deal with the problem. However many problems we might have in life, if we have the words of God we can have strength and wisdom to solve the problems. In fact, we can grow spiritually through the problems in life. If we do not have the word of God, however, we cannot have the inner strength to deal with the problems. Then, even small problems look gigantic and we cannot come out of the problems. The reason why the word of God was rare in that generation was because the servants of God did not pay attention to God’s word and did not study the word of God. God raised Samuel to be a servant of God’s word in such a time. Look at 3:19-4:1a. “The LORD was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the LORD. The LORD continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word. And Samuel’s word came to all Israel.” God raised Samuel to be an excellent Bible teacher. What we need in our generation the most is also excellent Bible teachers who can correctly handle the word of God.
Third, the shepherd of God’s people (7:2-17). We can find in chapters 4-6, the accounts of the Israelites’ war against the Philistines; they were completely defeated even when they brought the Ark of God to the battlefield (4:10). The Ark was captured by the Philistines and Hophni and Phinehas were dead (4:11). They tried to use the God’s holy ark as a good luck charm to have victory in the battlefield. But God cannot be mocked (Gal 6:7). After experiencing considerable disaster, the Philipstines send the Ark back to Israel on a new cart. The the Ark remained in the house of Abinadab for about 20 years (7:1-2). Then, the whole of the Israelites became spiritually thirsty and sought after the Lord. There was a long gap of 20 years between 4:1, which said, “And Samuel’s word came to all Israel,” and 7:2b, “…and all the people of Israel mourned and sought after the Lord.” These verses teach us how the whole Israelites began to seek after the Lord. It was not because they suddenly became full of spiritual desire. By nature, men are inclined to seek for evil rather than to seek God. They began to seek after the Lord, for Samuel had taught them faithfully the word of God over a period of 20 long years. As a result, Samuel became the shepherd for the whole house of Israel. How did Samuel help them?
Firstly, Samuel urged them to get rid of the foreign gods and serve God only (7:3,4). Look at 7:3, “ And Samuel said to the whole house of Israel, “ If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” We can see here that in a very subtle way, they were under the influence of many foreign gods. Baal was a Cananite agricultural god whose main function was to make land, animals and people fertile. Ashtoreth was an attractive goddess of love. The two were worshiped with lewd rites. The people of Israel worshiped God and at the same time served Baal and Ashtoreth. They did not serve God absolutely but relativistically. Our God is the Creator who is worthy of receiving glory and honor and power from all creatures (Rev. 4:11). Idols are crafted by men and can not give any help to them; they are worthless (Isa.44:9-20). Nevertheless, people worshiped both God and idols. God hates such smorgasbord religion. In this day and age, many people are influenced by smorgasbord religion. They serve both God and Money. They serve both God and wordly pleasure. They serve both God and their husband. They serve both God and children. They serve both God and their human dreams. Such people look smart; however, they are foolish people. It is because we can not serve two masters (Matt.6:24). We must choose one alone—God or Baal, God or this world. God is holy. If we want to serve God, we must get rid of foreign gods in our hearts and return to Him with all our hearts. We must not put something else other than God at the first place of our hearts. We must commit our hearts to God alone. When Samuel challenged the Israelites with the message of repentance to get rid of foreign gods and serve God only, did they all run away? No. On the contrary, they liked his clear message. What people really want to hear is such a message that awakens and stirs their souls. Through Samuel’s message the Israelites came back to their senses and they put away all the foreign gods and served God alone.(4)
Secondly, Samuel served the work of salvation through prayer (7:4-14). When the people of Israel repented Samuel did not stop there; he assembled them at Mizpah for a spiritual gathering. When they assembled, they drew water and poured it out before the Lord. This meant their act of repentenace; as they poured out water, they were pouring out their sins before God. On that day, they fasted; and there they confessed, “We have sinned against the Lord” (6). God wants us to confess hidden sins in our hearts. When we confess our sins we can experience the grace of forgiveness of sins. Through the gathering at Mizpah, a nation-wide repentance movement started. When the Philistines heard that Israel had assembled at Mizpah, the rulers of the Philistines came up to attack them. Israel was just like a mouse that was cornered. However, they had faith and asked Samuel not to stop crying out to the Lord for them. Then Samuel took a suckling lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. He cried out to the Lord on Israel’s behalf. The army of Philistines, armed with swords and spear, drew near the place where Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering like surging waves. Without faith in the Living God, it was impossible to cry out in prayer in such a situation. However, Samuel was not shaken at all because he believed in God Almighty and he prayed earnestly. Then a miracle happened. The Lord thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were defeated and ran away. After the victory, Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far has the Lord helped us.” Samuel served the work of salvation through prayer.
Thirdly, Samuel governed Israel by going on a circuit (15-17). Samuel reclaimed the lands from the Philstines. Throughout Samuel’s lifetime, there was peace. Samuel could have become an authoritarian or have enjoyed an easy life. Look at 15-17. “Samuel continued as judge over Israel all the days of his life. From year to year he went on a circuit from Bethel to Gilgal to Mizpah, judging Israel in all those places. But he always went back to Ramah, where his home was, and there he also judged Israel. And he built an altar there to the Lord.” He made his home at Ramah as a base camp and from year to year he went on a circuit from Bethel to Gilgal to Mizpah, teaching the word of God and helping people with their practical problems. Later, Bethel and Gilgal were known as the place for the school of prophets in Elijah’s time (2 Ki 2:1,2). According to 12:23b, which said, “And I will teach you the way that is good and right,” Samuel taught the Israelites God’s word wholeheartedly so that they might not to fall into the sin of idolatry but live a life worthy as God’s people. He did not stretch his neck to exercise his authority over his people, but visited the people at the field of their lives and served them with humility. Even when he went back his hometown, there he also judged Israel (7:17). Not only did he serve the people, but also he tried to have deeper fellowship with God through building the altar to the Lord. Samuel was indeed a great man of God and a good shepherd for his people. Through one spiritual leader who revered God, the Israelites came out of spiritual ignorance and confusion and began to worship the only true God. In this way, they could enjoy peace and happiness.
Fourthly, a man of obedience (8:1-11:15). When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as judges for Israel. But his sons did not walk in his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice (8:1-3). The elders of Israel gathered together and went to Samuel to complain about them. Furthermore, they demanded Samuel to appoint a king to lead them, such as all the other nations had (8:4-5). This displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord (8:6). In verse 7, God said, “…it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.” In light of this, we realize that Samuel had a sense of betrayal toward the people. He served them wholeheartedly all his lifetime. Now, at the latter part of his life, he was rejected by the very people whom he served. How painful his heart could have been! It might be even harder to bear because the reason for their rejection was the corrupt practices of his own sons. But he denied himself and obeyed the will of God. So he dismissed his sons from the position of judges and anointed Saul as the king of Israel. He was a man of obedience who obeyed the will of God absolutely.
Fifthly, a prayer servant (7:5,9; 8:6,21; 12:23; 15:11b). One of the characteristics of Samuel’s shepherd life was that he was a prayer servant for his people. He assembled all Israel at Mizpah when the Israelites put away their idols and served the Lord only. It was to pray for them to restore a right relationship with God and become the people of God who serve Him alone. Samuel also cried out to the Lord for the people who were in distress so that they might find peace and rest (7:9). When the Israelites asked for a king, he went to the Lord in prayer, even though he was hurt with a sense of betrayal. He did not try to solve the problem humanly but brought the problem to God in prayer (8:6,21). When Saul disobeyed God, Samuel was troubled and cried out to the Lord all that night (15:11b). In his farewell message, he promised, “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you” (12:23). This reveals how much Samuel prayed. Here we see the spiritual authority of a leader comes from the intercessory prayer for the people. Therefore, intercessory prayer is the duty that a spiritual leader must fulfill.
Thus far, we examined the most active part of Samuel’s life as the spiritual father for Israel. He was a servant of God’s word, a shepherd for God’s people, a man who obeyed the will of God, and a prayer servant who cried out to God in all circumstances. In the house of his life, there were four pillars—the words of God, shepherd’s heart, obedience and prayer.
III. THE FOCUS OF SAMUEL’S MINISTRY—RAISING A SUCCESSOR (8:1-5; 9:1-11:15; 12:1-25; 13:1-22; 15:1-35; 16:1-13; 19:18-24; 25:1)
Chapter 8 and on in 1 Samuel covers the last quarter of Samuel’s life. And we find that he mainly focused his ministry on raising a future successor.
First, the failure in raising children (8:1-5). One caution we must take from Samuel’s life is that he failed in raising his children. Even though Samuel was a great man, he was not a god and he had a weakness. It was that his two sons did not resemble their father but turned out to be corrupt leaders. Why did this happen? We do not know the exact reasons. Was it because Samuel had little time to take care of his own children because he was busy in serving the people? Or was it because his wife did not educate the two sons well? Whatever was the case, Samuel could not excuse the irresponsibility in raising them to be corrupt leaders. Here we learn that not only must we take care of other people but also we must take care of our children at home. When we fail to raise our children as upright, the pain is great and its influence is not good. We cannot emphasize enough about the importance of our children’s education. We must do our best and pay close attention in raising our children to be useful servants of God, because they are also God’s flock who are entrusted to us. We must not impose our unfulfilled hopes on our children but rather we must encourage them to grow to be people whom God desires.
Second, the farewell message (12:1-25). In 12:1-5, Samuel testified to the integrity and purity in his public life as a leader. His financial integrity was impeccable. He testified this not to brag about himself but that the people might accept his farewell message so that they might repent before God. In verses 6-18, Samuel warned the people about the gravity of asking for a king, because God was their true king, through a history study. In verses 19-25, Samuel exhorted the people to serve the Lord God in reverence and turn away from useless idols because idols could do them no good nor could the idols rescue them. Finally, he promised that he would not sin against the Lord by failing to pray for the people and to teach them the word of God that was good and right.
In his farewell message, we see how much he loved God and God’s people. Samuel testified to the people who were asking for a king that God himself was their king. Yes. God is our King. God alone can rescue us; he is the absolute Sovereign who can judge us. He is the Sovereign of history and raises those whom He wants to raise and rejects those whom He wants to reject.
Third, the trainer of king Saul (9:1-11:15; 13:1-22; 15:1-35). In chapters 9-11, Samuel anointed Saul and established him as king in obedience to God’s words. He did his best to establish Saul as the king. Prior to being the king, Saul was a very humble man who knew how small he was. Saul said, “But am I not a Benjamite, from the smallest tribe of Israel, and is not my clan the least of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? Why do you say such a thing to me?” (1 Sa 9:21) But after becoming the king, he became proud and disobeyed God, doing things according to his own desires. In the time of crisis, he did not obey God’s words given through Samuel; he also offered a burnt offering which was authorized only to the priests. He excused his actions, saying that the situation was too urgent (13:12). In chapter 15, God gave Saul another chance to make up for his failure. But Saul became greedy and disobeyed God’s word; he was just busy in dividing the spoils. Samuel rebuked his sins harshly. Even though he was the king, Samuel did not compromise with him and rebuked him based on truth. Samuel helped him, trained and rebuked him so that Saul might become a useful man of God who obeys the word of the Lord. When Saul did not want to have God in his heart and disobeyed God’s words, Samuel grieved for him and did not see him again until he died (15:35).
Fourth, a mentor to David (16:1-13; 19:18:24). Samuel failed to raise his children to be successors of God’s ministry; he also failed in raising Saul as a successor. He could not but sit in despair. But he obeyed God’s direction to anoint the son of Jesse and establish him as a king instead of sorrowing over Saul. It required courage of faith in order to fulfill this mission since Saul would try to kill him. Samuel, however, obeyed God’s direction and anointed David as king (16:1-13). David was anointed, but to be established as the king, he had to receive many trainings under Saul. Because of Saul’s jealousy, David ran for his life into exile. The first person David sought was Samuel. “When David had fled and made his escape, he went to Samuel at Ramah and told him all that Saul had done to him. Then he and Samuel went to Naioth and stayed there” (1 Samuel 19:18). Samuel provided David a refuge as his supporter and played the role of a mentor for David, comforting, encouraging and protecting him. In this way, David cound realize the meaning of his sufferings and could endure them. In summary, David could be David because behind him there was Samuel who fully supported him.
Fifth, the death (25:1). 25:1 records the death of Samuel briefly. When Samuel died all Israel assembled and mourned for him. They buried him at his home in Ramah. Samuel ended his great life, after completing his God-given mission.
As we examined Samuel’s life thus far, we learned that Samuel could bear beautiful fruits in the tree of his faith, such as God’s word, shepherd’s heart, obedience and prayer, because the tree was rooted in his parents’ God-fearing faith, tearful prayer, words of truth, Biblical discipline, patience, devotion and all kinds of labor of love (figure 1). If we compare his life to a building, the influence of his parents became the foundation of the building (figure 2). Elkanah and Hannah influenced Samuel greatly; then Samuel influenced David as his mentor; and at last, their influence reached to Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, through David (figure 3).
In conclusion, who is God who appeared in 1 Samuel chapters 1-16? In chapter 1, we find God who wants us to bring our problems before Him in prayer, rather than being drowned in our problems in life. He is also the God who answers our prayers and uses them in God’s redemptive history when we pray to Him with a right attitude, seeking God’s mercy and offering God-centered prayers. In chapter 2, Hannah experienced God who gives or takes life, who humbles or exalts a man. In short, God is the God of absolute Sovereignty who controls every aspect in life. In 2:30b, a man of God tells Eli who God is clearly. “Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained.” When Hannah honored God, God also honored her devotion of her son and raised Samuel to be His servant and used him preciously in God’s ministry. On the other hand, when Eli honored his children more than God, God judged him severely. When Hophni and Phenehas despised the sacrifice of God, both of them were killed in the battlefield.
In chapter 3, God is the God of hope. God called the boy Samuel in order to restore spiritual order and rescue the generation from destruction. In chapters 4-6, God revealed His own glory when the Ark was captured in the foreign land. God cannot be mocked. In chapter 7, God is the God of Ebenezer who answers crying prayer and helps his people in the time of crisis (12). In chapter 8, we find the personal God who wants people to worship him voluntarily rather than out of obligation. When the people of Israel rejected God as their king and asked for a king as their neighboring nations, God allowed them to have a king as they wished because God wanted their voluntary love. In his farewell message (chapter 12), Samuel testified that God was the king of his people (12:12). In chapter 15, God desires obedience rather than sacrifice (15:22); God is God of the Glory of Israel who does not lie or change his mind (15:29).
In summary, who is the God of Samuel?
First, God is He who raises people. God raises people and honors those who have a right attitude toward Him. God is seeking people who have a right attitude toward Him in each generation; he raises such people and uses them to save the generation.
Second, God is the God of hope. He called the boy Samuel to raise him as a spiritual father of a nation. When Samuel had God’s calling he was but a little boy. When we look at 3:7, neither did Samuel know the Lord nor did the word of the Lord come to him. He was very young both physically and spiritually. Yet, God called the boy Samuel because he had a right attitude toward God; God had a great hope of raising him as a spiritual father. God is the God of hope who raises people in hope. God could not but despair at the generation. God was angry when he saw humanistic leaders like Eli. God could not endure any longer when He saw people like Hophni and Phenihas who were wicked and immoral. God grieved and despaired. In such situations, God saw the boy Samuel who was ministering before the Lord with pure heart. Even though he was young, God found a great hope of saving the generation in the boy Samuel. God called the boy Samuel in hope of raising him to be a spiritual father of a nation. God who called the boy Samuel is the God of hope.
From this study, what can we learn about the God of Samuel? First, God is one who honors those who honor Him and those who have a right attitude toward Him; but he despises those who despise Him.
Second, God raised men. He considers those who have a right attitude toward Him and raises the person. In each generation, God is searching for such people and raised them to save the generation.
Third, God who called a boy Samuel and raised him as a spiritual father is the God of hope. Samuel was only a boy when God called him. In 1 Samuel 3:7, we see that he did not personally know the Lord yet and the word of the Lord did not come to him yet. Physically and spiritually, he was very young. But God had great hope in Samuel because he had a right attitude toward Him and raised him as a spiritual father. Indeed, our God is the God of hope. When God saw the generation, he despaired. When he saw a humanistic leader like Eli, he was angry. God could not endure any longer when he saw the immoral and sinful men like Hopni and Phinehas. God was grieved and despaired. But God found a boy Samuel who was serving the Lord with pure heart in the house of God; God saw a great hope of saving the whole generation in the boy Samuel, even though he was only a boy. God called him with a great vision that he would grow to be a spiritual father, even though he was very young at the moment. God who called the boy Samuel is the God of hope.
God also wants to save this generation by calling men like Samuel today. Most of us are young. But we are so young spiritually that sometimes we cannot help ourselves well. We are called to be shepherds but we often are lost together with God’s flock and periodically stumble into problems. We easily lose spiritual discernment and are influenced by circumstances and swayed by people’s opinions. We are spiritually young like the boy Samuel. But we have the purity of hearts like Samuel. We love the words of God and have earnest spiritual desire to serve Him. God has hope in those who have a right attitude toward Him and raises them as spiritual fathers. Not just once, but until we hear his calling voice and answer, God calls us with a broken shepherd’s heart. He calls us by name personally. “Samuel! Samuel!” (Let us call, replacing Samuel’s name with our own names.) When we think of this God, we receive great strength and comfort. We cannot have any hope in ourselves because we are young and lacking many things. But God, who is living and almighty, has a great hope in me and wants to raise me as a spiritual father. Praise God who is the God of hope who raised the boy Samuel as a spiritual father!