Samuel Promotes True Worship
A PROPHET reproves fellow believers who requested a human king and urges them to obey God. To establish his authority, he asks Jehovah for a sign in the form of a storm. Rainstorms are virtually unknown in Israel during this time of the year, the days of the wheat harvest. Yet, God sends thunders and rain. Consequently, the people are greatly in fear of Jehovah and of his representative, Samuel.—1 Samuel 12:11-19.
Samuel the prophet was also a writer. His action-packed historical accounts cover some 330 years and include the exploits of Israel’s Judges. For instance, the true-life story of Samson, the strongest man who ever lived, has provided the inspiration for poetry and opera as well as for other productions of stage and screen. (Judges, chapters 13–16) Samuel also wrote about Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi, both of whom were widowed and impoverished. This true story with a happy ending is equally gripping.—Ruth, chapters 1–4.
What lessons can we learn from Samuel’s writings and his life? How did he promote true worship?
His Early Years
Samuel’s father, Elkanah, was a worshipper of Jehovah and a loving husband. Elkanah’s wife Hannah was a spiritually strong woman. At the house of Jehovah in Shiloh, barren Hannah fervently prayed, vowing: “O Jehovah of armies, if you will without fail look upon the affliction of your slave girl and actually remember me, and you will not forget your slave girl and actually give to your slave girl a male offspring, I will give him to Jehovah all the days of his life, and no razor will come upon his head.” (1 Samuel 1:1-11) This meant that the child would be set aside for Jehovah’s service.
Hannah prayed silently. “Only her lips were quivering,” says the account. High Priest Eli wrongly assumed that she was drunk and rebuked her. However, Hannah respectfully explained her situation, and Eli said: “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant your petition that you have asked of him.” Jehovah did so, for the account continues: “It came about at the rolling around of a year that Hannah became pregnant and brought a son to birth and proceeded to call his name Samuel, because, said she, ‘it is from Jehovah that I have asked him.’”—1 Samuel 1:12-20.
Samuel was brought up in “the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.” (Ephesians 6:4) As soon as Samuel was weaned, Hannah brought him to the house of God in Shiloh and presented him to High Priest Eli. Under his care, the boy “became a minister of Jehovah.” Hannah’s great joy was expressed in her moving words of thanksgiving later recorded by Samuel himself.—1 Samuel 2:1-11.
If you are a parent, are you encouraging your children to take up a career in Jehovah’s service? Promoting true worship is the best use that a person could ever make of his energies.
Samuel adjusted well to life at the sanctuary. He “continued growing up with Jehovah” and became “more likable both from Jehovah’s standpoint and from that of men.” He displayed godly qualities that endeared him to others.—1 Samuel 2:21, 26.
The same could not be said of Eli’s good-for-nothing sons, Hophni and Phinehas, who “did not acknowledge Jehovah.” They practiced sexual immorality and took for themselves the best parts of sacrifices that people brought to the sanctuary. God had already sent a prophet to announce the punishment that Eli could expect, which included the death of his two sons. (1 Samuel 2:12, 15-17, 22-25, 27, 30-34) Jehovah would use Samuel to deliver another judgment message.
Samuel Serves as a Prophet
God told Samuel: “You must tell [Eli] that I am judging his house to time indefinite for the error that he has known, because his sons are calling down evil upon God, and he has not rebuked them.” It was not an easy message to deliver, and Eli insisted that Samuel not hide a word of it from him. So Samuel related all that Jehovah had said. That took courage!—1 Samuel 3:10-18.
As Samuel grew to maturity, all Israel came to know that he was God’s prophet. (1 Samuel 3:19, 20) The judgment that Samuel foretold began when Israel suffered a crushing defeat by the Philistines. Hophni and Phinehas died in the battle, and the Philistines captured the ark of Jehovah’s covenant. On learning of the loss of his sons and of the Ark, Eli fell backward from his seat, broke his neck, and died.—1 Samuel 4:1-18.
Twenty years later, Samuel urged the Israelites to abandon false worship. They responded by eliminating their idols, fasting, and confessing their sins. Samuel prayed and presented a burnt offering in their behalf. The result? When the Philistines attacked, God threw them into confusion, and Israel’s counterattack crushed the enemy. With Jehovah’s blessing, the condition of the Israelites improved considerably, and they recovered the territory that the Philistines had taken from them.—1 Samuel 7:3-14.
Samuel certainly did promote true worship. For instance, he saw to it that some of the spoils of battle were used to maintain the tabernacle. He helped to organize Passover celebrations and the service of the Levite gatekeepers. (1 Chronicles 9:22; 26:27, 28; 2 Chronicles 35:18) From his home at Ramah, Samuel made yearly trips to judge in various cities. He earned the reputation of being honest and impartial. Because people respected Samuel, he was able to help them spiritually. (1 Samuel 7:15-17; 9:6-14; 12:2-5) His honesty and spirituality undoubtedly motivated many to follow his example. Does Samuel’s course have that effect on you?
Israel Requests a King
In his old age, Samuel appointed his sons, Joel and Abijah, as judges. They “did not walk in his ways, but they were inclined to follow unjust profit and would accept a bribe and pervert judgment.” Their conduct led Israel’s older men to request a king. (1 Samuel 8:1-5) This was bad in Samuel’s eyes. When he prayed about it, however, Jehovah said: “It is not you whom they have rejected, but it is I whom they have rejected from being king over them.” (1 Samuel 8:6, 7) God told Samuel to grant the people’s wish and warn them that under a monarchy they would lose certain liberties. When the people insisted, Jehovah arranged for Samuel to anoint Saul as king.—1 Samuel 8:6-22; 9:15-17; 10:1.
Samuel supported this arrangement despite his misgivings. After an Israelite victory over the Ammonites, he gathered the people at Gilgal to confirm Saul’s kingship. (1 Samuel 10:17-24; 11:11-15) Samuel reviewed Israel’s history and admonished the king and the people to obey Jehovah. God answered Samuel’s prayer with the unseasonal thunderstorm mentioned at the outset. That storm caused the people to admit their error in rejecting Jehovah. When they asked Samuel to pray for them, he replied: “It is unthinkable, on my part, to sin against Jehovah by ceasing to pray in your behalf; and I must instruct you in the good and right way.” What an example of loyal love for Jehovah and his people! (1 Samuel 12:6-24) Are you just as willing to support theocratic arrangements and to pray in behalf of fellow believers?
Israel’s First Two Human Kings
Saul was a modest man approved by God. (1 Samuel 9:21; 11:6) In time, though, he disregarded divine direction. For instance, Samuel reproved him for impatiently offering a sacrifice instead of waiting, as he had been commanded. (1 Samuel 13:10-14) When Saul disobediently spared the life of Amalekite King Agag, Samuel told him: “Jehovah has ripped away the royal rule of Israel from off you today, and he will certainly give it to a fellowman of yours who is better than you.” Samuel himself put Agag to death and went into mourning for Saul.—1 Samuel 15:1-35.
Jehovah eventually said to Samuel: “For how long will you be mourning for Saul, while I, on the other hand, have rejected him from ruling as king over Israel?” At that, Jehovah dispatched Samuel to Bethlehem to anoint a son of Jesse as king. One by one, Samuel considered Jesse’s sons until Jehovah gave His approval for David, the youngest, to be anointed. That day, Samuel learned an important lesson: “Not the way man sees is the way God sees, because mere man sees what appears to the eyes; but as for Jehovah, he sees what the heart is.”—1 Samuel 16:1-13.
Since Saul’s disobedience pained Samuel, how it must have grieved him when Saul nurtured murderous hatred for David! Despite such trials, Samuel remained active in his old age and did what he could in Jehovah’s service.—1 Samuel 19:18-20.
When Samuel died, Israel mourned this humble and courageous prophet who touched the lives of many. (1 Samuel 25:1) Samuel was imperfect, and at times he erred in judgment. Despite his limitations, however, Samuel gave Jehovah exclusive devotion and worked tirelessly to help others do the same.
Much has changed since Samuel’s day, but the record of his life holds valuable lessons for us. Above all, Samuel practiced and promoted the true worship of Jehovah. Is that what you are doing?
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REFLECT ON SAMUEL’S LIFE
• As Samuel’s parents taught him God’s word, bring your children up in “the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.”—Ephesians 6:4.
• Encourage your children to be like Samuel by making service to Jehovah their career.
• The godly qualities exhibited by Samuel endeared him to others, and he thus set a good example for us.
• Samuel did all he could to promote true worship, even as we should do.
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Samuel promoted true worship and willingly provided spiritual help