You can listen to my sermon on this topic HERE.
Most of the time we regard Samuel as a great man of God.
We know the story that his mother dedicated him to God before birth and that he lived with the priests int he tabernacle from a young age. We remember God calling to him in the night and requiring him to give a difficult message to his mentor, Eli. We admire Samuel’s faithfulness as he obeyed God’s directions.
Samuel was the last in a long line of Israel’s judges. Before Samuel the quality of men and women filling this role had gradually deteriorated. After each judge died the nation of Israel would slip further and further away from following God. But Samuel turned this all around.
Samuel came to be regarded as “Israel’s leader”. While he was judge the Philistines were defeated. Peace reigned. The government was stable and Samuel continually called the people back to Yahweh.
So the Philistines were subdued and they stopped invading Israel’s territory. Throughout Samuel’s lifetime, the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines. The towns from Ekron to Gath that the Philistines had captured from Israel were restored to Israel, and Israel delivered the neighboring territory from the hands of the Philistines. And there was peace between Israel and the Amorites.
Samuel continued as Israel’s leader all the days of his life. From year to year he went on a circuit from Bethel to Gilgal to Mizpah, judging Israel in all those places. But he always went back to Ramah, where his home was, and there he also held court for Israel. And he built an altar there to the Lord.
This description of Samuel’s influence sounds idyllic, the transformation is extraordinary.
But it’s not the end of the story.
In Judges 8:22 we first see some Israelites approach Gideon seeking to establish a hereditary monarchy. Gideon’s response seems to have become the orthodox thought of the faithful from that point forward. “But Gideon told them, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The Lord will rule over you.””
So when Samuel appointed his sons as judges (1 Sam. 8:1) it seems that he was taking matters into his own hands. Was he trying to establish a hereditary judgeship? He apparently didn’t even know his sons well enough to recognise their greed and corruption.
When he immediately turns around and gets upset at the Isrealite leaders desire for a king, one has to wonder if some of his displeasure comes from a rejection of his own sons.
To complete the picture, God also views the request as a rejection of His kingship. It’s to Samuel’s credit that he immediately took his concerns to God. Ultimately, it seems that God’s concern wasn’t that Israel desired a king, but that they wanted one “such as all the other nations have.”
However, I wonder if Samuel ever considered that his actions in appointing his sons as judges may have contributed to the Israelite people wanting a king. They sure didn’t want those corrupt sons as their leaders in perpetuity.
Here’s the challenge for us. Sometimes the actions we criticise in others, may actually be a response to our own behaviour to which we’re oblivious.
This is why our first response before criticism and anger, should be to follow Samuel’s example and talk it over with God.