Claims to fame: Samuel was a Nazirite (from birth), a priest (for life), Israel’s final judge (adult life), seer (future-focused ministry), and prophet (calling people to turn back to the Lord), as well as a writing prophet (but not the biblical books named after him).
Samuel anointed Israel’s first two kings (Saul in mid-life, David as a teenager). Prepared the nation of Israel for its greatest decades (under kings David and Solomon).
He is repeatedly called one of the Old Testament’s greatest prophets and heroes of the faith. Some 3,000 years later, Samuel still enjoys a God-honoring legacy.
Worst failures: He appointed his two oldest sons as judges, but they were corrupt and soundly rejected by the nation’s elders (1 Samuel 8:1-5). This is eerily reminiscent of his mentor’s terrible ongoing failures with his own sons (1 Samuel 2:11-5:22).
After decades of seeing such abysmal failures, Samuel should have aspired to do better with his own sons, right? Then again, he divided his ministry year between four cities (1 Samuel 7:15-17).
More importantly, let’s never forget any parent can raise heroes of faith and raise prodigals (who sometimes come back to faith and family). Even God is pictured as a prodigal’s father (Luke 15:11-24).
Samuel’s Family Tree
Most famous grandson: the prodigal Joel raised a hero of faith, Heman, a noted worship leader and psalmist (1 Chronicles 6:33-39; 15:17-19; 16:41-42; 25:1-6; 2 Chronicles 5:12; 29:14; 35:15; Psalm 88). In every generation, there is hope for a new hero of faith.
Samuel’s Classic Stories
His mother Hannah, barren, prays earnestly, dedicating her first son, Samuel, to serve the Lord all of his life (1 Samuel 1-2).
As a young boy, Samuel first hears the Lord speak to him in the middle of the night (1 Samuel 3). Many years later, as Israel’s judge, Samuel rescues the nation and sets up an “Ebenezer” (1 Samuel 7).
Rejecting the Lord’s leadership, Israel’s elders and other leaders demand that Samuel anoint a king despite all it may mean (1 Samuel 8).
The Lord and Samuel reject Saul as king not once but twice (1 Samuel 13 and 15). In turn, the Lord and Samuel anoint young David as the next king (1 Samuel 16). Eventually, Samuel has to protect David from Saul (1 Samuel 19:18-24).
After that, Samuel dies and is mourned by all (1 Samuel 25:1).
There is no age discrimination with God. He will use anyone who loves and obeys him. He used the young boy Samuel to bring a message of coming judgment to a sinning priest (1 Samuel 3:1-18).
Samuel had been filled with the praise and teachings of God at his mother’s knee and spent his childhood nights and days in the tabernacle. When God roused him, Samuel was sleeping near the ark of the covenant.
His heart and life were near to God, ready and available. He did not need to wait for a special age, a special class, or a special experience. Once he knew the voice of God, there was no turning back.
That wholehearted, childlike commitment to God never left Samuel. From his youngest days to his old age, he was God’s man, always available to be used for God’s glory.
From before his birth, Samuel was a promise fulfilled. Even after his death, he came back (so to speak) to declare God’s judgment and will (1 Samuel 28:11-20).
Scriptures about Samuel
Or take a couple of minutes and read the next chapter, 1 Samuel 16 — about the Lord and Samuel anointing young David.
Most of Samuel’s story appears in 1 Samuel 1-19. His death is recorded in 1 Samuel 25:1. That isn’t the last that we read about Samuel. Samuel’s name appears repeatedly elsewhere in the Old Testament.
Four verses show that Samuel actively prepared Israel for its most celebrated decades.
1 Chronicles 9:22 says, “The [temple] gatekeepers had been assigned to their positions of trust by David and Samuel the seer.”
1 Chronicles 11:3 says, “When all the elders of Israel had come to King David at Hebron, he made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel, as the Lord had promised through Samuel.”
1 Chronicles 26:28 says, “And everything dedicated by Samuel the seer and by Saul son of Kish, Abner son of Ner and Joab son of Zeruiah, and all the other dedicated things [by King David] were in the care of Shelomith and his relatives.”
1 Chronicles 29:29 says, “As for the events of King David’s reign, from beginning to end, they are written in the records of Samuel the seer, the records of Nathan the prophet and the records of Gad the seer.”
Later in the Old Testament
Three verses cite Samuel as one of the greatest heroes of faith.
2 Chronicles 35:18 says, “The Passover had not been observed like this in Israel since the days of the prophet Samuel; and none of the kings of Israel had ever celebrated such a Passover as did Josiah, with the priests, the Levites and all Judah and Israel who were there with the people of Jerusalem.”
Psalm 99:6 says, “Moses and Aaron were among his priests, Samuel was among those who called on his name; they called on the Lord and he answered them.”
Jeremiah 15:1 says, “Then the Lord said to me: ‘Even if Moses and Samuel were to stand before me, my heart would not go out to this people. Send them away from my presence! Let them go!’”
Three verses call Samuelone of the great prophets.
In Acts 3:24, Peter says, “Indeed, beginning with Samuel, all the prophets who have spoken have foretold these days.”
In Acts 13:20, Paul says, “After this, God gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet.”
In Hebrews 11:32, the writer says, “And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets.”
For further reading:
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David Sanford’s book and Bible projects have been published by Zondervan, Tyndale, Thomas Nelson, Doubleday, Barbour, and Amazon. His newest book is Life Map Devotional for Men published concurrently with his wife Renee’s new book, Life Map Devotional for Women.