Last week we read about the early development and growth of the young man, Samuel. The old priest Eli was his mentor and we reached the point where Samuel had a fine reputation as a man of God. The outlook was good and we might have expected that to continue until Samuel took over the leadership role from Eli.
Then came the Philistines.
Their attacks left the Israelites demoralised, without any sign of intervention by Samuel, Eli – or even God Himself So this week we come to one of those periods of silence in the Bible. God’s people get to feeling downtrodden and forgotten – perhaps even abandoned by God. Our Friday reading leaves the story up in the air. Eli has died, and there is no sign of Samuel taking up the reins.
Not just for a few months, but for 20 years.
A tough time indeed as our readings end with the words
Israel mourned because it seemed the Lord had abandoned them.
v 19. As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him, and everything Samuel said proved to be reliable.
What a great reputation to have, from youth onwards! This is the picture we have of the way Samuel was respected in the nation. Doubtless from small beginnings, under the tutelage of Eli at Shiloh, Samuel was found to be both reliable and consistent. But these were more than human abilities; they were not developed by rote-learning, nor by following the example of Eli who let God down by the way he failed to discipline his own sons. (And, as we shall discover in chapter 8, Samuel had the same problem as Eli with his two sons. ‘As Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons to be judges over Israel. But they were not like their father, for they were greedy for money. They accepted bribes and perverted justice.’ 8:1-3) So although Samuel had wayward sons, he was able to work effectively as a leader amongst the people, and they were aware that he was a faithful servant of God. Basically, he had a good and well-deserved reputation, which is essential for any leader, making people aware he was God-empowered.
Samuel stands out as a Prophet-Leader. There were others similarly equipped to serve the nation of Israel in the major roles of Prophet, Priest and King, foreshadowing the functions of the Messiah, Jesus.