In 1 Samuel, that’s probably God’s call to be a servant after His own heart as we hear in two well-known passages: “But now your (Saul’s) kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought out a man after His own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over His people, because you (Saul) have not kept what the Lord commanded you.” (1 Samuel 13:14) and “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on (David’s older brother’s) appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
Although both passages refer most specifically to soon-to-be King David, Samuel and a few others in the book are also examples of such servants.
In fact, the person and books of Samuel are pivotal in the Old Testament. Samuel, like Moses, served in all three anointed roles of prophet, priest, and “king” (judge), and the Lord worked through him to reveal His plan of salvation even more clearly by a clear contrast among a few godly and ungodly servants, especially prophets, priests, and kings.
The book is named after Samuel, but he is not the primary focus. The Lord is always the focus of His Word. However…it’s important to note that Israel had lived for hundreds of horrendous years under judges with a great variety of pet sins, and they were now seeing the rise of a few particularly godly men. With that in mind, maybe we can see why God’s Word constantly points us to our need for Christ as our perfect Prophet, Priest, and King. The book of 1 Samuel makes this point powerfully by contrasting some of these “servants”.
Eli and his sons were clearly priests, but they were just as clearly unfaithful, fattening themselves on the glory that should go to God alone. You can refer to an earlier article on Leviticus and Numbers: the Qualitative and Quantitative Love of God for a more detailed description of how they “served” to please their own hearts, not God’s. Samuel, on the other hand, was the only other person in God’s Word described like Jesus, our perfect Priest, in that both “grew in stature and in favor with God and man.” (1 Samuel 2:26 and Luke 2:52).
Saul was also clearly Israel’s King, but he soon showed himself just as clearly to be serving his own heart, not God’s. While Samuel (the last of the judges and possible the only consistently faithful one) and David labored for God’s glory, the more Saul ruled, the more clearly we see that his ambitions were self-centered. Saul ruled impulsively, jealously, and at times ruthlessly to secure his own kingdom. Samuel and later David ruled with humility, repentance as appropriate, and to help God’s people follow Him faithfully.
Lastly, in 1 Samuel 28, we see that the medium/witch/seer of Endor clearly possessed some prophetic powers, “possessed” being my intentionally dual descriptor. But God’s Word had just as clearly forbidden His people to consult mediums/witches as people He had not sent to speak for Him. (Leviticus 19:31, 20:6, and Deuteronomy 18:9-14) As true prophets, both Samuel and Nathan served because God had sent them to speak for Him.
Thus, 1 Samuel provides us with several key truths to encourage our faithful service:
- God calls each of His people to serve in ways that reflect His own heart. But, just because a person is in a position of authority, that doesn’t make them a person of integrity.
- Because the Lord created us in His image, He calls each of His people to serve in the basic functions as a prophet proclaiming His Word, especially to those in authority, as a priest mediating for others by prayer, teaching His Word to His people, and encouraging worship, and as “kings” (leaders) protecting, providing, rewarding and disciplining, and progressing His kingdom for His glory.
- But we need a perfect and eternal Prophet, Priest, and King. Samuel, David, and Nathan were all imperfect, and they all died. We need Jesus.
In next week’s article on 2 Samuel, we will see that it’s not always so easy to discern between the godly and ungodly. Even godly kingdoms can quickly decline, so we must constantly remain close to the Lord in humility, repentance, and complete and joyful dependence on Him.
If you’re interested in reading other posts from this series, “Satisfaction Sundays”, you can refer to the menu above. You can also click on the following links for Understanding and Applying the Bible, inductive Bible studies on Philippians, or devotional videos on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.