The period of history between the conquest of Canaan and the establishment of the monarchy is known as the period of the Judges. The Judges were rulers raised up by God to look after his people or free them from intimidation or oppression and to bring them back to a good relationship with God. Over and over the people failed to learn any lessons and continued to have ‘gods’ that they worshipped, and they developed a complete lack of any real trust in their God, who had delivered them from slavery in Egypt and brought them into the promised land.
Samuel is perhaps the greatest of the Judges – and the last one. So what was Samuel like? He was a leader who took God seriously and had a respect for what God said. Let’s look at 1 Samuel 7.
Have you ever had to tell someone something they would probably not want to hear? Has someone told you the truth about yourself? Samuel had to tell the Israelites to get rid of their idolatry and foreign gods. We may need to ‘get rid of’ some things that compete with God in our lives. We may have to point out to others some changes they may have to make.
Samuel really pleaded with God for the people: their lives were messed up and they were facing opposition and attack from an enemy. The Churches of God today could do with people who are willing to plead with God for us! Could we do that? We need to pray, of course. What about your church prayer meeting – do we attend that? If you look at the list of things the early Christians did, recorded in Acts 2, devotion to the prayers is one of them. Maybe one of your friends is having a hard time – pray for them. Maybe someone has given up – don’t forget to ask God to help them.
Ebenezer is a Hebrew word meaning ‘stone of help’. We read in 1 Samuel 7:12: ‘Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”’ It’s great to have reference points in your life: times you can look back to when you knew that the Lord had helped you or looked after you. The old stone called Ebenezer was to be a permanent reminder of just that. Take time to look back in your life to an ‘Ebenezer experience’. If you can’t think of one, take note the next time God looks out for you!
Samuel was wholehearted in his devotion to God and God’s people. He encouraged them to full-time devotion, and they said, “Do not stop crying out to the LORD our God for us, that he may rescue us from the hand of the Philistines.” For them it was a fierce enemy – the Philistines. What is it that stops you from following the Lord? The Bible tells us that, ‘Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith’ (1 Peter 5:8-9). If it isn’t you right now, then there’s someone you can pray for. The Lord is not looking for part-time, half-hearted admirers! He wants all of you, and the devil will fight back to stop that happening. Samuel served God, did what God told him to do, spoke up for God’s people and prayed for them. We need people in churches of God today who will do the same.
Dave Webster, The Church of God in Liverpool