The life and ministry of Samuel the prophet is one filled with numerous lessons that the young believer can learn. His birth, his life and his ministry were undoubtedly willed by God to meet a specific need in Israel and by extension the kingdom of God. Hannah, the mother of the prophet had been barren for a long time and had had to endure mockery and scorn from her rival, Peninnah. She took it to the Lord in prayer and sought help from him.
What I find inspiring is the fact that she offered to give the child she was praying for back to God. There are a few profound lessons we can glean from this. The first lesson is this, Hannah’s decision to give the child back to God meant that the answer to her prayer wasn’t going to benefit her alone but the whole of Israel. In 1st Samuel 1:11 she told the Lord that if he would give her a son, she would give him back (to the LORD) all the days of his life and no razor would touch his head. Meaning, this child would be consecrated unto the LORD to serve in his temple. This decision was made way before she conceived and bore the child. She wasn’t selfish in her request neither was she asking God to merely put her enemy to shame. She was specifically praying that she may bear a son who would serve the Lord all the days of his life.
Secondly, by this prayer, Hannah was assuring the LORD that she wasn’t going to make an idol out of the blessing of the Lord. As unlikely as it may seem, sometimes gifts can cause you to drift away from the giver. This is what Hannah was kicking against when she promised to give the gift back to the giver. When God honours you with status, or blesses you with money or anything material or spiritual, your attitude should be to figure out the best way to honour him with it. You cannot serve the giver and the gift at the same time. You will eventually make up your mind and choose one. And every so often we choose, by the leading of our flesh, to serve and worship the gift. This is what Jesus meant in Matthew 6:24 when he said, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money”. Hannah was poised to maintain her devotion to God when God blessed her with her greatest heart desire. I dare say this singular act was like what Abraham did with Isaac. And I refuse to be amazed by the fact that God blessed the two of them so much, because the heart they had for God was proof that they deserved their heart’s desires.
God blessed Hannah with 5 children of which Samuel was the first. This was recorded in 1st Samuel 2:21. There is a line in that verse that struck me when I read it and I believe the truth it discloses is so important, especially if we desire to grow in the LORD. It says ‘and the boy Samuel grew in the presence of the LORD’. The first thought that came to mind when I read it was ‘...because there is no where else he could have grown’. The above quoted statement is similar to ‘and the tree grew in fertile soil’. Because the fertile soil is the right condition under which trees grow. It doesn’t matter the sophisticated agricultural implements you may use in farming. If your goal is to grow a tree, when you dig a hole in a concrete slab by the road and plant your seed in it, you are definitely going to be disappointed by the outcome of your actions. However, when you plant a seed in fertile soil and in the right environment, you have hope to see a tree sprout out of the ground in due season. My point is, the only place where spiritual growth is possible is the presence of God. Most of us desire spiritual growth and it is ok to do so. However, we have been planted elsewhere and only pay occasional working visits to church because we believe the presence of God is there. We believe God is omnipresent: he is everywhere. The bad thing is we believe ‘everywhere’ actually means ‘every church building’. David said ‘he who dwells in the secret place of the Most High...’, the key word there is ‘dwell’. To dwell is to remain at a specific location. The point I am making is this, that we need to learn to always be conscious of the presence of God with us no matter where we find ourselves. That is one sure way we can grow spiritually.
Here is another interesting thing we can learn from Samuel’s life. It is found in 1st Samuel 3:1:
Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord in the presence of Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.
Samuel was ministering to the Lord in the presence of Eli. Which means he was being guided by the spiritual authority appointed by God over his people. This points to the importance of mentorship and service in the kingdom of God. I find it very interesting that this was the introduction to the chapter that details Samuel’s first conversation with God. According to the verse above, the word of God was rare in those days. Meaning, God had ceased talking to his people through visions. But in this chapter he decided to speak to a young boy. However, Samuel would have missed it, if he wasn’t placed under the tutelage of Eli. You know the story, how God called Samuel so audibly in the night that he thought it was the Priest Eli who called him. On the third time, Eli told him to respond to God. Samuel did, and the Lord spoke to him directly. The next morning even Eli asked Samuel what the message was. Now, I understand you may come up with counter arguments about how Eli wasn’t the ideal mentor for someone like Samuel. Eli’s house was in shambles. His sons had gone haywire and God was going to punish him for it. However, at the time, he was the only spiritual authority God had set over his people. So who else could have trained Samuel in the ways of the Lord? God is able to use a flawed Eli to raise the great prophet Samuel. I find that to be very remarkable. His ways are not our ways, they may seem mysterious to us however they achieve the desired results.
Samuel grew to become one of the greatest prophets in the history of Israel. The hallmark of a true prophet's ministry is to predict future events (by the inspiration of God) with a high level of accuracy and declare it to people. Samuel did same. The bible describes this in a very interesting way and I would like us to look at that. It says:
And Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.
My emphasis is on the last statement, ‘... and let none of his words fall to the ground’. The expression ‘fall to the ground’ means a word that is spoken but doesn’t achieve the purpose for which it was spoken, or a word that failed. And this couldn’t be seen in Samuel’s ministry. Every word he spoke came to pass, every prophecy came to pass just as he said it. Because the Lord was with him. That is how powerful Samuel became. God’s word doesn’t fall to the ground, therefore a prophet is safe when he speaks exactly what God said. I believe this is what Samuel did.
Finally, Samuel was a man of integrity. As young people, we need to learn this. No matter how gifted we are, our status, or the office in the corporate world we occupy, God is glorified in our integrity. You can be a person of integrity once God is your focus. Sometimes the people around you can even lead you to sin. God will never lead you to do anything contrary to his word, hence he should be your focus. Samuel did not abuse his power as the spiritual authority of Israel. He didn’t take bribes from them neither did he oppress anyone. These vices are prominent in the ministry of some ‘men of God’ in our day and age but Samuel wasn’t like that. This is why he could confidently say to the people:
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.” -
1 Samuel 12:2-4
These are a few lessons that stood out for me in the life and ministry of Samuel as I journeyed through the book of 1st Samuel. I ask for grace for myself and everyone who reads this article to live out these lessons in any field of endeavour we may find ourselves in. I would also like to ask all who read this write-up to read the book of 1st Samuel and I know it will bless you so much.