Thursday, August 14, 2014

Samuel's retirement as Judge of Israel and the lessons for us today

Gerbrand van den Eeckhout (1621–1674)
Hannah presenting her son Samuel to the priest Eli
Samuel had been a faithful man of God since his mother Hannah had presented him to Eli in the temple when Samuel was three years old. You might remember Hannah's prayer. The LORD had closed her womb, and desperately Hannah wanted a child. She prayed in the temple, promising to deliver a child that the LORD gives her, back to Him for His glorious service. The LORD was pleased with this. He opened Hannah's womb, and the child born was Samuel.

Samuel served for many years as Priest, Prophet and Judge.

The day came when Samuel was going to retire as their Judge. The People had clamored for a King instead, and God acceded to this. So Samuel gathered the People, and spoke to them in farewell.

And Samuel said to all Israel, “Behold, I have obeyed your voice in all that you have said to me and have made a king over you. And now, behold, the king walks before you, and I am old and gray; and behold, my sons are with you. I have walked before you from my youth until this day. Here I am; testify against me before the Lord and before his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Or whose donkey have I taken? Or whom have I defrauded? Whom have I oppressed? Or from whose hand have I taken a bribe to blind my eyes with it? Testify against me and I will restore it to you.” They said, “You have not defrauded us or oppressed us or taken anything from any man’s hand.” And he said to them, “The Lord is witness against you, and his anointed is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand.” And they said, “He is witness.” (1 Samuel 12:1-5)

I find this profoundly beautiful.

When the LORD called little Samuel into service, you'll remember the scene. Sadly, old Priest Eli was dim of eyesight, and as we'll see, dim of hearing also. The visions to Israel were rare in those days. The LORD called to Samuel.

Then the Lord called Samuel, and he said, “Here I am!” and ran to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. (1 Samuel 3:4-5)

Three times the LORD called and three times Samuel answered "Hear I am!" It took three times for Eli to figure out that it was God who was calling Samuel. Samuel opened his service to the LORD with those powerful three words, 'Here I am'. As a parallel, when the LORD called Isaiah, Isaiah also responded with, "Here I am!" (Isaiah 6:8).

Samuel ended his service as their Judge with the same phrase he began service, "Here I am." We know that when we are before the people of the Lord, we are before the Lord. (Acts 5:4, Acts 9:4).

Before Samuel spoke last words to prompt them to remember the LORD and all He had done for them, Samuel did something first. He checked his relationship with the People. He asked them if there was any blight in his behavior to cause a stumbling, to cause an offense, to have come between them and him. He would make amends. The People answered, "No". Samuel had not defrauded, had not oppressed, had not cheated, had not bribed.

Samuel went on with his message, bringing all the Lord had done to the Israelites' mind. Samuel closed with this-

"Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you. But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king.” (1 Samuel 12:24-25).

It is such a parallel to us today. Now, the Old Covenant and the New Covenant distinguishes us from the OT Israelites and the NT Christians. Further, there are not Priests, Kings, Judges, or Prophets of Israel anymore. However, the principles are the same. For example,

1. Samuel was a faithful servant of the LORD all his days. He was attuned to God's will, he was diligent to follow His voice, and he was faithful to God's people. Eli's spiritual hearing had grown so dim, he failed to hear God calling to Samuel. Yet Samuel was attuned all his days. Are we attuned to the Lord? Are we available to perform service to Him? Do we diligently and actively comply when we do hear His voice (through the scriptures)?

2. Samuel lived a holy life before His people. We are called to do the same.

Source: Elegant Finishes by Gina
Living holy and blameless before the Lord means living holy and blameless lives before His people, too. I'd said a moment ago, 'We know that when we are before the people of the Lord, we are before the Lord.' (Acts 5:4, Acts 9:4). I'd used those two verses from Acts to show the truth of my axiom. When Ananias and Sapphira lied about the portion of money they had pledged to the church, they were not lying to Peter. They were lying to the Holy Spirit (who is IN Peter). When Saul was persecuting Christians, he was not just persecuting some people who happened to be living in the Middle East, he was persecuting the Spirit IN the people. That's why Jesus said, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?"

When we are before God's people, we are before God.

3. Samuel's call to charge him so he could make amends, before he got to the business of reminding them of what God had done, is similar to today's New Testament charge to cleanse ourselves before we approach the Lord's Table for communion. We are not only charged to cleanse ourselves before the Lord but to clear things with any of the brethren. If there are any outstanding sins, we must rectify them first.

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. (1 Corinthians 27-29)

It is a call to be reverent, holy, and mindful of all Who God is and what He has done. Attempting to be reverent about what Jesus has done for us though a filter of unconfessed sin or through the muck of grudges and bitterness against one in the Body, is not behaving in worthy manner. Samuel cleared the decks first. We must do the same.

Old Testament or New Testament, we are called to live holy lives.

but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:15-16, cf Leviticus 11:44, Leviticus 19:2)

Samuel's call to the people to charge him with any wrong he had performed so as to make amends was not only holy but humble. In that way, it was a beautiful moment. God, grant me the humility and ability to live a holy life as Samuel did and as You call us to do.

1 comment :

  1. I like how you wrote, "Samuel cleared the decks first." That's a good image. There is something about that tangible element of communion when we pause as a body to remember what Jesus did for us. It makes sense that we would consider in that moment, that sacrifice, and repent for sin. It is such a gift to be not only allowed to turn from lingering sin but commanded to do it. I want to get rid of it and be holy, too. Thanks for a thoughtful, applicable essay.

    Melissa

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