FFF 8:11 (Nov 1962)
The God Obedient Life
One of the greatest of Hebrew worthies is Samuel who was linked with Moses, the prophet of prayer (Jer. 15:1). He is the last of the judges and the first of the Prophets. When the priesthood had broken down, the Tabernacle had been deserted and the Ark of God had been captured, he stood in the breach as God’s emergency man. It is obvious that God sets forth some person in the Bible to represent every phase of human character, gracious or natural. In Abraham, we seen the pioneer of faith (Rom. 4:20); Moses, faithfulness towards God (Heb. 3:5); Baalam, the sin of covetousness (Jude 2, 11, Peter 2:25); David, wholeheartedness towards God (Acts 13:22 R.V.); Job, patience in trial (James 5:11); and Samuel, the obedience of faith. The meaning of his name is best rendered, “heard of God,” but others prefer, “asked of God.” The child was a living proof of the glorious fact that God hears and answers prayer. It is believed by many Jewish writers that in his name lies the root of the word, “obey,” and if this is so, how suggestive and important the word “to hear.” To hear the voice of God in its truest sense is to obey the voice of God. Let us study this man who was loaned to the Lord as long as he lived, and discover that spiritual growth and godliness has as its foundation, obedience.
The Parentage of Samuel
The Book of Samuel opens with a glimpse of the father and mother of Samuel. His father, Elkanah, like Moses and Aaron, was a Levite, and so a member of the priestly tribe, whilst his mother was a woman of prayer. Though denied the joy of children and taunted by her adversary in the home, Peninnah, she took it all to God in prayer. Hannah knew that actions were weighed by God, and that the Lord of Hosts had His eye on all that was taking place in her home. Assurance was borne home to her heart that she would mother a child, and in the gift of Samuel she determined that his name would be a life-long witness and a constant reminder of the faithfulness of God. What a high and holy purpose is found in the words, “As long as he liveth.” Oh! how much we owe to mothers like Hannah who mould and make men of God. Years ago Lord Shaftesbury said, “Give me a generation of Christian mothers, and I will undertake to change the face of society in twelve months.” The parents of Samuel were on speaking terms with God. A little chap was once asked why he was such a model boy in the Church service: “That is easy,” he said, “My father is on speaking terms with God, and my mother is on speaking terms with me.”
The Environment of Samuel
The days in which Samuel lived were similar to those depicted in the closing chapters of the book of the Judges. Confusion, civil and religious, marked the times of Samuel. In high places as well as holy places reigned corruption and spiritual declension, yet in many simple households the Word of God was precious and His will fulfilled. As a small boy Samuel was exposed to the wicked and vile practices of the sons of Eli. In such a poisonous and dangerous atmosphere his life developed in the service of the Lord. Three chapters tell about his early education. More is said about Samuel as a boy than any other lad in the Bible. Day after day he saw the holy things of God outraged, and the sacrifices unto the Lord despised and degraded. Yet the prayers of Hannah prevailed, and the protective grace of God was strong in the life of this chosen youth. What encouragement this gives to the soul as we contemplate our own generation and the ravages of sin to which our children are subject in every place under the sun. How graciously God can guide the steps of our little ones years before He reveals Himself to them according to the prayer of faith.
The Call of Samuel
The call of God came to Samuel in the normal routine of life. It was a time when the Word of God was precious, (rare) because of the apostasy and unrighteousness over the land. Being a child he rendered childlike service — sincere, unaffected, frank, transparent and real. It was not until the third occasion when the voice was heard that the aged Eli knew that the call came from God. With what expectation Samuel awaited the call of God! Could he ever forget the double mention of his name “Samuel, Samuel”? The time had come when the temple child would have a revelation from the Lord. The knowledge of the Lord comes through the Word of God being revealed to the heart. In the Hebrew it is rendered in verse 21, “The Lord uncovered the ear,” as one would do in speaking in confidence to a close friend. After this never-to-be-forgotten experience Samuel grew in the things of God, that is, His knowledge, His power, His wisdom, His favour, and in His integrity and influence. In his ministry unto the Lord (2:11); in his growth before the Lord (2:21), in his development before the Lord (3:19), we note the beauty of an ordered and obedient life before God and man. In his call it is important to remember that Samuel worked under the supervision of an older man, even as Joshua did under Moses, Elisha under Elijah, and as Timothy under Paul. From the night he heard the call of God, his watchword was “to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (1 Sam. 15:22). Such a life cannot be hid, and from the north to the south, from Dan to Beersheba, it was noised abroad that Samuel was not only established to be a prophet of the Lord, but possessed that indispensable secret of spiritual effectiveness, “the Lord was with him” (1 Sam. 3:19).
Oh, give me Samuel’s ear!
The open ear, O Lord,
Alive and quick to hear
Each whisper of Thy Word;
Like him to answer at Thy call,
And to obey Thee first of all.
The Work of Samuel
As a child Samuel had learned that a man without the presence and power of God in his life is waste and weakness. His experience with Eli had left an imprint on his life so that he longed in his own life to know daily the presence of the Lord. He learned later on that the secret of victory is through prayer (1 Sam. 7:5-10). In the fickleness and faithlessness of the nation he found comfort in prayer. Israel wanted a King, and on account of this great grief to his heart he sought the face of God, and got the answer of peace (1 Sam. 8:5,6). In his long and useful life among the people, he saw the outgoing of the Theocracy and the incoming of the Monarchy. As you read the chapters, (3:19 to 11:15), his life is characterized as prophet, priest and judge. He successfully brought the nation out from a state of chaos and anarchy to an established government. So powerful was his voice that none of his words fell to the ground. Often I have tried to visualize this man of God in his speech so seasoned with salt; his authority so blended with affection; his influence so inspired by the reality of God’s presence, and his life so revered, so challenging and so productive.
The Testimony of Samuel
As we come to the close of this magnetic personality, we find him challenging the people to bring to light any case of dishonest dealing on his part in a life of public service. As a true servant of the Lord Samuel was jealous of the honour of His Name. He reminds the people of “the righteous acts of the Lord” (1 Sam. 12:7). In all the ways of God with His people He is faithful to record judgment and yet remember mercy. During his long and loyal service Samuel had favour with the people, and he was recognized as the channel through which the Word of the Lord came to the nation. In his yearly circuit to Bethel, Gilgal, Mizpeh, and his home in the heights of Ramah, all witnessed to his integrity and influence in the prosecution of his duties. From a child he reviews his life before the nation, and as far as he is concerned, his personal character and right manner of life is nothing except in relation to the grace and goodness of the Lord whom he has sought to serve. Like Paul he considered himself nothing, wanted nothing, and kept back nothing that was profitable to the people. To forget to pray for the nation Israel, Samuel considered a sin. What a rebuke to many in these days when there is still much anti-Semitism in the world! What folly it is to forget that spiritual safety whether national or individual is in the hands of God (1 Sam. 12:11)! How important to remember, “how great things He hath done for you,” and leave on record the emblem of a blameless life. Samuel’s life is a testimony to the value of right conduct which is absolutely essential in the life of a servant of God. Moses also wore the white flower of a blameless life, and he could testify, “I have not taken one ass from them neither have I hurt one of them” (Num. 16:15). May God help us to see that spiritual growth and influence in the things of God is dependent on our obedience and devotion to the Lord. In view of the unparalleled opportunities of our day, oh! that we might, “fear the Lord, and serve Him in truth with all our hearts,” even as Samuel did in his generation.
Oh, give me Samuel’s heart!
A lowly heart that waits,
Where in Thy house Thou art,
Or watches at Thy gates,
By day and night, a heart that still
Moves at the breathing of Thy will.