1 And the men of Kiriath-jearim came and took up the ark of the Lord and brought it to the house of Abinadab on the hill. And they consecrated his son Eleazar to have charge of the ark of the Lord. 2 From the day that the ark was lodged at Kiriath-jearim, a long time passed, some twenty years, and all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord. 3 And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” 4 So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the Lord only. 5 Then Samuel said, “Gather all Israel at Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you.” 6 So they gathered at Mizpah and drew water and poured it out before the Lord and fasted on that day and said there, “We have sinned against the Lord.” And Samuel judged the people of Israel at Mizpah. 7 Now when the Philistines heard that the people of Israel had gathered at Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the people of Israel heard of it, they were afraid of the Philistines. 8 And the people of Israel said to Samuel, “Do not cease to cry out to the Lord our God for us, that he may save us from the hand of the Philistines.” 9 So Samuel took a nursing lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. And Samuel cried out to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord answered him. 10 As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel. But the Lord thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were defeated before Israel. 11 And the men of Israel went out from Mizpah and pursued the Philistines and struck them, as far as below Beth-car. 12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.” 13 So the Philistines were subdued and did not again enter the territory of Israel. And the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. 14 The cities that the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron to Gath, and Israel delivered their territory from the hand of the Philistines. There was peace also between Israel and the Amorites. 15 Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. 16 And he went on a circuit year by year to Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah. And he judged Israel in all these places. 17 Then he would return to Ramah, for his home was there, and there also he judged Israel. And he built there an altar to the Lord.
(1 Samuel 7:1-17)
Over the past several days we’ve been studying a passage in which Israel returned to God. They had been living under the suppression of the Philistines for more than twenty years and had finally had enough. So they turned back to God, having found other gods unfulfilling and unable to rescue them from their circumstances.
During this time we didn’t hear anything from Samuel. The last we heard from Samuel was when he first heard from God [1 Samuel 3]. He was only about twelve years old at that time and was serving God in the tabernacle.
Exactly what Samuel was doing between that time and our current passage we don’t know. But we can presume that he was spending a lot of time with God who was developing Samuel’s leadership skills. Because the next time we see him, he confidently takes charge of Israel’s situation.
It takes time to become a leader. When he was about three years old Samuel’s mother left him at the tabernacle where he helped Eli and performed menial tasks. At age twelve he heard from God for the first time. For the next twenty years, God developed Samuel’s leadership skills.
God had chosen Samuel to be Israel’s last judge and first prophet even before he was born. God knew the situation Israel was in at the time and He knew that situation would get worse. He also knew that when they finally hit rock-bottom, the people of Israel would return to Him. And He needed someone to be the leader they would need. Samuel was that leader.
As a leader, Samuel gave wise counsel to the nation. We saw him instruct Israel to put away their false gods because he knew that the people could not truly have a relationship with God if they were clinging to their other gods [1 Samuel 7:3].
As a leader, Samuel also interceded for the people before God, by praying for them and making sacrifices for them [1 Samuel 7:5, 8-9]. Samuel knew that in order for the people of Israel to be saved from their dire situation there had to be a blood sacrifice. This, of course, foreshadowed the death of Jesus on the cross and the final sacrifice made for all sin [1 Peter 3:18; Romans 6:10; Hebrews 9:28].
And as a leader, Samuel kept the people from getting to full of themselves. He set up a memorial for future generations to see so they would remember that they need help from God.
Samuel was a humble leader whose actions were always for the best of the people he led. Compare these traits to our modern-day leaders whether they be in government, business, or entertainment.
Leaders today don’t give people wise counsel. They not only suggest, but also encourage people to deny and defy God and to engage in sinful activity that will result in them spending eternity in hell.
Leaders today don’t intercede for the people with God by praying for them. They instead claim that they can solve people’s problems.
And leaders today certainly don’t encourage people to be humble. They do the opposite – they incite people to promote themselves which will only lead to disaster [Proverbs 16:18].
Samuel was a strong leader. And he spent all the days of his life judging Israel. This included traveling on a circuit each year to various cities around Jerusalem. Traveling in our culture today is slow and inconvenient. It was even more so back then.
But Samuel was not just putting on a show when he was in public. He even built an altar to the Lord in his home town, Ramah. These words implied that Samuel was involved in the construction of this altar either physically and/or monetarily. Samuel didn’t just tell other people how to live. He walked the talk. His public and private life were characterized by total dedication to God.
That is the mark, and a requirement, of a true leader.
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.