Samuel was the best judge Israel ever had. He walked only in the ways of the Lord and insisted that the people do the same. He turned Israel back to God.
When we looked into the book of Judges we came across many men and one woman whom God raised up to fill this role in Israel. They were from multiple tribes throughout Israel. Samuel comes from the tribe of Ephraim but is ‘grafted into’ the lineage of Levi in 1 Chronicles 6. I did a bit of searching on this point and one site I found, living-faith.org, explains some possible reasons.
I AM NOT A BIBLICAL SCHOLAR but here is my take on this. I believe that God is able to protect His word throughout the ages. I believe it is HIS hand that penned the works we have today through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit on mankind. Having firmly established this in my heart, I believe that Samuel was ‘grafted into’ the lineage of Levi because he was given to the Lord at such an early age. He was raised by the high priest Eli and called “my son” on MANY occasions. He did not physically join the line of Levi but he was promoted into that status by his life and lifestyle. He lived wholly the life of one dedicated to the Lord, as the Levites were called to do.
Samuel is not said to have performed any of the duties of sacrifice in the temple. But he did sleep in the temple and served Eli in some capacity. He also earned a good reputation for the services he rendered to the Israelites who visited the temple. After Eli’s death and the loss of the Ark of the Lord we don’t see Samuel living at Shiloh any longer. We also do not see him living where the Ark of the Lord is residing. Samuel makes his home at Ramah. This is in the territory of Benjamin, a close cousin to Ephraim.
Now that that is over, let’s get to the story of some of the things that Samuel did. And by the way, if you disagree with what I said a moment ago, I am fine with it. As I stated, I am NO biblical scholar and I don’t think God is going to strike either of us from His Book just because I assigned ‘grafted in’ status to Samuel and you don’t.
I’m curious as to when Samuel stands up and makes his call to the people to put away their foreign gods. Is this right after the Ark is taken? Is it when the Ark is returned? Or is it some other point in Israel’s timeline that we are not given specific date to? We KNOW it is not when the Ark is returned to the whole people because that happens after Samuel’s death. It also had to occur before he anointed Saul as king. His sons were judges at the time he anointed Saul and they were not following the Lord, which we will read about next time.
At the time of Eli’s death Israel was fighting the Philistines and losing! The Ark of the Lord was captured in a hugely one sided battle. We don’t know what was going on battle wise over the next seven months but we do know that God’s hand was against the Philistines. In all their territory they were being ravaged by mice and in the major cities at least they were plagued by tumors. They may have been so caught up with their own problems that they were ignoring Israel.
This might also be during the time that Samuel called for Israel to repent. It seems a likely time because they would have been emotionally devastated by the loss of the Ark and probably ready to repent as a result.
Something that puzzles me are the words that Samuel used when telling Israel to clean up their act. He said to “put away” the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth. He didn’t say to “break them down” or “destroy” them. To me, to “put away” something means removing it for a time. I “put away” my laundry after folding it so it will be in a place I can access it later. I do the same when I “put away” groceries, dishes, snow tires, books I’ve finished reading, any number of things that I will at some future point in time pick back up and use again. And this is EXACTLY how the people of Israel behaved. For Samuel’s time they left their foreign gods and Ashtaroths in their waiting places, “put away” until they decided they wanted them back again.
Why didn’t God tell Samuel to call for a community bon fire for these items? It would have made bringing them back out a little harder. God may have had Samuel use these words because He KNEW they were going to turn back to them again and Again and AGAIN. By not destroying them though He was leaving the choice in their hands. It is also possible that the people weren’t spiritually ready for destruction of their idols but were strong enough to look away.
As I am thinking about this issue what comes to mind is an alcoholic and spare bottles of alcohol within his reach or a smoker and cigarettes around them. To have ANY success ALL the spares or leftovers HAVE to be eliminated so going back is harder. ANY addiction works that way.
But then I thought about it from another aspect. Putting away something the people had come to trust in requires faith. The people had so convinced themselves that anything good was coming from their foreign gods that they had lost faith in the power of the only TRUE God. God had been silent for some time because of their rebellion. They had the stories of the hand of God moving previously but nothing they could personally sink their teeth into for their own relationship with Him. They also KNEW that they were NOT living up to the standards He had set for them. Since they weren’t able to live up to His standards they would settle for a substitute that didn’t require as much. They had lost faith in God’s love for them and their ability to serve Him.
So Samuel called them to “put away” or ‘set aside’ the imposters and try the truth. “If you don’t like it or it doesn’t work out for you, what have you lost? But if, as I KNOW HE WILL, the Lord shows Himself faithful in your lives and works His wonders in your life you will see for yourself Who is REALLY LORD of ALL! THEN you will have the confidence to not only “put away” but completely forsake ANYTHING else!
God, through Samuel, also gave the people a promise for their faith and trust. He started with an IF, moved on to a THEN, and ended with a He WILL. His “He WILL” was deliverance from the Philistines and this was something the people could judge for themselves. IF they did as He commanded He would do as He promised.
The people needed Samuel’s help for their faith. They had watched his life as he grew. They knew he had heard from the Lord personally. And they trusted in his faith and his relationship with the Lord. They wanted Samuel to stand in the gap for them. They would follow his directions but his faith was a big part of what they were trusting in.
One thing I find very encouraging in all this leaving the false gods for the ONLY true God is how the people spoke of Him at Mizpah. In SO MANY instances where the people and the representatives of God speak back and forth about Him they say “your God” or “the God of…” and don’t list themselves personally in that statement. This time, after they had “drew water and poured it out before the Lord and fasted on the that day and said there, ‘We have sinned against the Lord’” (verse 6) the spoke of their need by saying “Do not cease to cry out to the Lord OUR God for us, that He may save us from the hand of the Philistines” (verse 8b, emphasis added by me). They linked themselves to Him. He wasn’t “Samuel’s God” but their God. They needed Samuel to do the work they felt unworthy of doing but they were owning their new relationship with Him, THE God of Israel.
I LOVE how God answers them RIGHT THEN! The Philistines were close enough to see what was going on at Mizpah and they didn’t like it! They wanted a beaten down Israel. One that wasn’t sure of itself. One that was so far away from its God that it wasn’t a problem anymore. They knew the stories of old. Of the miracles God had wrought on behalf of His people. But they also knew that He hadn’t been doing many of them lately. I’m sure their latest victory over Israel where they captured the ‘God of Israel’ was ringing in their ears. His hand certainly wasn’t on them that day. Yes, His hand had been against the Philistines wherever the Ark went but that didn’t necessarily mean He was on their side again, especially if the Ark was still in their possession at this time. Besides all that, the Ark wasn’t at Mizpah with Israel so this should be a walk in the park!
Israel was frightened and didn’t have the spirit of the fight in them. But they had just given their allegiance back to the One and Only God and He fought for them. Israel didn’t have to lift a single weapon to defeat the Philistines that day. “As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel. But the LORD thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they severe defeated before Israel. And the men of Israel went out from Mizpah and pursued the Philistines and struck them, as far as below Beth-car” (verses 10-11). Israel chased them down with weapons but they didn’t do the original work; God did. PROOF POSITIVE from His promise.
The proof didn’t end that day. The Philistines were subdued by God and “did not enter again the territory of Israel. And the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel” (verse 13).
God is calling each of us to make that same decision today. That “IF” “THEN” choice. IF you really want to know Him, THEN put away the things that you have in His place and HE WILL show Himself to you. HE WILL be your God. HE WILL enter into a personal relationship with you that is sure and secure. HE WILL watch over you. HE WILL take you and graft you into His family.
He will NOT make every one of your problems go away like magic. He will NOT do all the work for you. He will NOT let you have it both ways, Him and whatever else you put in His place. But He WILL be with you every moment of every day, no matter what comes. He WILL work out His plan for your life which is ALWAYS good! He WILL call you back when you wander away. And NOTHING can snatch you out of HIS hands when you TRULY give your life to Him.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare[b] and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).
Father God, thank You for the plans You chose to make for my life. I know I have not always made it easy for You to bring them about. But You have ALWAYS been faithful to Your promises to me and for me. I wish I could say the same of myself.
TODAY, RIGHT NOW, I again choose YOU. I want to let NOTHING ELSE take You place in my heart. I don’t want to “put away” the other things. I want to obliterate them! Draw me closer each day to You Lord. Be MY God and I will be YOUR child!