The Faith of Samuel

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, February 18, 2018 0 comments

by Logan Ames

I remember when the show American Idol, which became one of the most popular television shows of all time, first came out and one of the biggest reasons to watch the show was Simon Cowell. He was quite the polarizing figure because while other judges were soft, kind, and tried not to ruin the contestants’ dreams, Simon seemed to have no problem telling them exactly what they needed to hear. His goal was not to placate the contestants just so they could leave that week or the entire show feeling better about themselves. His years of working in the industry taught him that the best thing he could do for those people was tell them the truth.

Whether you liked Simon or not probably had a lot to do with how well you receive the truth when it is not what you hoped it would be. Personally, I enjoyed watching Simon on the show because I felt that he was the only person that truly cared about what was best for the individual. As I relate it to my own life, I’ve had plenty of “yes” people around me who were unwilling to give me the dose of reality I sorely needed at times, and I’ve also had plenty of people who were always willing to tell me the truth even when they knew it would sting temporarily. I can say with 100% certainty as I sit here and type this that the truth-talkers have been much more beneficial than anyone who wanted to make me feel better in the moment.

I’m sure many of you would say the same thing if you sit back and reflect on your lives. The truth doesn’t always feel good, but it’s never wrong. We can look at accepting truth when it doesn’t feel good as a sort of discipline. Hebrews 12:11 tells us, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." Hearing what we need to hear gives us a chance to get back on track. If what we hear has to do with sin, it also gives us the chance to repent.

This week’s faithful hero is a man from the Old Testament named Samuel, which literally means “heard by God." I’ll get into the circumstances of his birth in another blog post later in this series, but it helps to know that his very existence was brought about by a conversation between his mother and the Lord, and that his life from very early on was characterized by his own ability to speak to and hear from God himself. Samuel is the last hero mentioned by name in Hebrews 11, but his story is quite unique. It’s hard to place him within one specific era in Israel’s history because he was around at the end of the period of the judges and the beginning of the period of the kings. Samuel is most known as one who “called upon the name of the Lord” (Psalm 99:6). As such, Peter also lists him first among all the prophets as he is addressing the crowd in Acts 3:24. Like all of the other heroes of the faith listed in Hebrews 11, Samuel had a role to play in God’s story. But unlike many others, he had no great military victory or conquest. His role was to simply speak truth where it was needed, and he did it well.

The first time we really see Samuel doing what he was called to do is in 1 Samuel 3. He was only a boy but had been set apart for the Lord’s service by his mother, so basically, that means he was living at the house of the Lord and serving under a priest. That priest’s name was Eli, and the story tells us that Eli had wicked sons and that he did not properly deal with their sins. If the priest was not even willing to address sin within his own family, then he certainly wasn’t honoring the Lord and the position he had been given. Samuel hears God speak to him for the first time, but it’s bad news. God tells Samuel, who I remind you is STILL A BOY, that he is going to judge Eli and his household for the sins of his sons which Eli knew about and did nothing. 1 Samuel 3:15-18 then tell us that Samuel was afraid to tell Eli about the vision the next morning despite Eli’s insistence. This is where we see, however, that Samuel does not allow that fear to stop him from honoring God’s word to him. He tells Eli the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and Eli correctly accepts the word of the Lord knowing he can’t change it anyway. Verse 20 then tells us that all of Israel recognized Samuel as a prophet of the Lord.

We see more examples of Samuel’s willingness to speak the truth throughout 1 Samuel. In chapter 8, we see that the elders of Israel ask for a king to lead them so they can be like the other nations. This greatly disturbs Samuel, so he goes to the Lord. He’s probably expecting God to work something good in the situation, but God just tells him to give the people what they want and warn them of the dangers of naming a king to rule over them, which really meant they were no longer looking to God for guidance but a mere man. Samuel again pours his heart out sharing everything God told him to share, but the people reject his words and demand a king. Repentance is rejected by the people, so they get Saul as king and the downward spiral begins.

In chapter 12, God brings thunder and rain when Samuel is done speaking to the people about God’s greatness and their sins. The people repent and admit their sin of asking for a king and also ask Samuel to pray that they won’t die for their sins. This might be where Samuel says something like, “Heck no! You knuckleheads have rejected my preaching so many times that I am done with you!” But that’s not what he says. He tells them it would be a sin against the Lord for him to fail to continue praying for them. Samuel continued to be faithful to God’s word.

Samuel stands up to King Saul several times, including in chapter 15 when Saul fails to completely obey the Lord, who told him to completely destroy the Amalekites. Saul destroys everything and everyone that is weak and despised, but he keeps the best of the best alive. He tries to pretend his intention was to sacrifice them to the Lord, but Samuel declares that God prefers obedience over sacrifice every single time. He is so serious about keeping God’s word that he even kills the king of the Amalekites himself when Saul is unwilling. In chapter 16, Samuel anoints David as the next king of Israel even when he is rejected by everyone else, including his own father and family members. Samuel honors the word of the Lord for the rest of his life, and actually, beyond! In 1 Samuel 28, Saul is so distressed (sin will catch up to you eventually) that he consults a witch to consult the spirit of Samuel long after he has died. A crazy thing happens and the witch, probably to her own amazement, is able to bring up Samuel. Saul asks Samuel for help and guidance and even the spirit of Samuel continues to speak the difficult truth of God’s word to Saul.

What we can learn from Samuel is that God’s word is never to be sugar-coated. Without understanding the reality of what God is saying to us, we can never repent. And repentance is a MUST for anyone to really turn to Jesus. God sets a very high standard for those who claim the responsibility of speaking HIS word. Throughout the Bible, he condemns those who speak only what the people desire to hear so they can feel great about themselves. Samuel kept his faith in God’s word and never manipulated it to be what he wanted. He continued to speak it and very seldom brought about repentance. But as a true prophet, his ONLY responsibility was to speak the truth. The results were up to God. This is a powerful lesson for any of us who share God’s word with others. And in case you didn’t know it, faithful Christian, that’s not just preachers; IT’S YOU TOO!

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