A Study of the Life of Samuel
¡§Living a Life of Great Consistency¡¨
Seldom even in Scripture do we meet men who served God all of their lives. But Samuel is such a man. 1 Samuel 2:26, we read of Samuel that he ¡§continued to grow¡K in favor with the Lord and with men.¡¨ From the time that he was just a child until he went home to be with the Lord at a ripe old, he served the Lord. There is no evidence that Samuel experienced the teenage rebellion or that he had a mid-life crisis.
To really understand Samuel we must endeavor to understand the times in which he lived. Samuel was born into a time in the history of his nation in which confusion reigned. Just before Joshua died, Joshua had warned the people and challenged them to ¡§fear the LORD¡¨ and ¡§to serve Him in sincerity and truth¡¨ (Joshua 24:14). Even more specifically he had exhorted them with these words: ¡§and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD! (15) And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell¡K.¡¨
Joshua concluded this very pointed message with a word of personal testimony regarding his own decision: ¡§But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.¡¨(v. 15b)
Though the children of Israel responded very positively to Joshua¡¦s words and personal example they failed to follow through. Turn with me to Judges chapter two. The good news was that they ¡§served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the LORD which He had done for Israel¡¨ (Judges 2:7). The bad news was that after that generation had died out, another generation had come on the scene ¡§who did not know the LORD nor the work which He had done for Israel.¡¨ (Judges 2:10). The phrase describing this generation as those ¡§who did not know the LORD¡¨ has to be understood in the sense not acknowledging him. It was not they were ignorant of God it was that they chose to ignore Him and his word. It is more a case of indifference than one of ignorance.
Four Principles for us today.
1. Every Generation Must Choose God For Themselves
Some of the saddest words in all of scripture are recorded in Judges 2:11, ¡§Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served the Baals; (12) and they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt; and they followed other gods from among the gods of the people who were all around them, and they bowed down to them; and they provoked the LORD to anger. (13) They forsook the LORD and served Baal and the Ashtoreths.¡¨
In only one generation the whole nation had gone from worshipping the one true god to the worship of idols. After Joshua¡¦s death, his generation served God as they said they would but not so their children. This generation was changed by the pagan culture that surrounded them, rather than reaching their pagan culture with the truth. This new generation did not pass on the religious heritage to their children. They did rehearse for their children all that God had done for them, they did not instruct their children in God¡¦s word. In only one generation the children of Israel went from serving and worshipping the one true God to be immersed in the pagan culture around them living lives of open sin. The second generation has a natural tendency to accept the status quo and to lose the vision of the first generation. The second generation has at best has a lukewarmness toward the things of God and perhaps a complete abandonment of the principles that guides the previous generation. All to often the second-generation also has a second hand experience with God.
Every Generation must choose God for themselves and
2. Any Society That Rejects God¡¦s Standards Is Headed For Ruin.
Samuel was born in this period in which confusion reigned. The last verse of the book of Judges is a pretty clear summary of the whole time period: ¡§In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.¡¨(21:25). Because Israel had rejected God¡¦s standard; there was no standard. It seems obvious that this also speaks to our day as well. Look how far this nation has fallen in one generation. We have removed God from our schools, we have forbid our children from praying, we have rejected God¡¦s word as a standard for our society.
„« ¡§Historian Arnold Toynbee stated that of the 22 civilizations appearing on the stage of world history, 19 of them collapsed when they reached the present moral condition of the United States.
„« In 1973 Dr. Karl Menninger wrote a book entitled Whatever Became of Sin¡¨ The well-known psychiatrist sensed the loss of old-fashion morality in the unrestrained permissiveness of modern society and expressed his alarm.
„« Dr. Paul Saltman, professor of biology at the University of California at San Diego, declares: We must demand, not just of scientists but of every human being on this earth, that they begin to understand that we cannot replace the Ten Commandments with the ten Amendments, or the ten principles of physics, and somehow come out whole. We have to demand that each person begin to understand the nature of the values and words and ethics by which he or she lives in society.
„« The president of John Hopkins University, Dr. Steven Muller asserts: Failure to rally around a set of values means we are turning out highly skilled barbarians. Society as a whole is turning out barbarians because of the discarding of the value system it was built on ¡KTo restore the value system America would have to return to its faith in God. There can be no value system where there is no supreme value that transcends man¡¦s natural self-centeredness, where one man¡¦s values are esteemed as good as another¡¦s¡¨ [ As quoted in Donald Campbell. Judges: Leaders in Crisis Times. (Wheaton, Illinois: Victor Books, 1989) pp. 12-13]
The result today is no standard of conduct, in its place we have situational ethics. Everyone has to decide for them selves if something is right or wrong for them personally in their own given circumstances. The result of course is chaos. Notice with me the downward slide in the process of the degeneration of Israel.
The Process of Degeneration In Israel
The people served the Lord (Judges 2:7)
The Next Generation
They failed to model and teach their children (2:10)
The Next Generation
They did evil in the sight of the Lord and served other gods. (2:11)
Moses had warned the leaders of the necessity of keeping God¡¦s law in Deuteronomy. In the fact the term Deuteronomy is derived from two Greek words: deutros meaning ¡§second¡¨ and nomos meaning ¡§law.¡¨ Therefore Deuteronomy means a second giving of the law. In Deuteronomy the sixth chapter we find rather pointed advise for living a long and fruitful life. Moses tells them that he is repeating these laws and statutes so that they as well as the next generation ¡§¡K may fear the LORD your God.,¡¨ Moses did not want the next generation to repeat the mistake of willful rebellion that had kept the children of Israel for forty years in the wilderness. Moses said in verse three ¡§Therefore hear, O Israel, and be careful to observe it, that it may be well with you,¡¨
Any Society the rejects God¡¦s standards is headed for ruin and
3. The Only Really Effective Motivation For Our Conduct Is Our Love For God
Moses reminded them that their obedience to God should come for love for God and hearts filled with gratitude for His goodness. Verse four says, ¡§¡K You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. (6) ¡§And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.¡¨ Moses knew that when this generation had settled down in the land that the temptation would be to forget about God.
4. Every Generation Is Accountable For Passing The Faith To The Next Generation (vv.7-9)
¡§You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. (8) You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. (9) You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.¡¨
This does not mean that they are to be continuously lecturing their children it means that they are to continuously live out their faith on a daily basis. They are to use every possible opportunity to communicate their own love for God and their commitment to keeping His commandments. I fear that this still a problem for us as believers today; to live out our faith in a consistent fashion before our children. To convince them by what they see of our lives what our priorities are. Children soon pick up on how important God and his word is to you. If you ignore God¡¦s principles in living your live you can be sure that your children will notice. If you allow other thing to have priority in your life ahead of your time to be in the place of worship they notice. They notice that church attendance is an option, but not a commitment. They notice how much you give to the church. And what is not very important to you will be even less important to your children. The sins that you allow they commit to excess.
Unfortunately the generation that followed Joshua did exactly what both Moses and Joshua had warned against. They failed to love God with all their hearts. They did not pass on their faith to their children and the end result according to Judges 2:13, was that Israel ¡§forsook the Lord.¡¨ The book of Judges is the record of this tragic three hundred year period in the history of Israel.
Although the Lord was very angry with their decisions he never turned His back on their cry for help. The book of Judges is the recorded of the seemingly unending down spiral of the children of Israel during this time.
First Israel would fall into sin, then the resulting judgment or chastisement, which would lead the people to repent and call out to God for deliverance. Unfortunately the tears they shed were more signs of regret for the penalty then they were tears of repentance. But nonetheless God always answered and delivered and restored his people. Then would come a time of rest and peace unfortunately only to be followed by Israel forgetting about God and falling into sin, and the process started all over again. But each time they repeated the cycle they spiraled downward. When the nation had reached its lowest point, God revealed his compassion and grace in Samuel. Samuel would serve as prophet, judge and priest for the children of Israel.
¡§We are living in the middle of a thick moral fog. Millions around us are committed to doing what is right in their own eyes. That is the path of personal and social disaster. God has called us to listen to His direction. The path of safety is the converse of Judges 2:21-25. Not ¡§everyone did what was right in their own eyes,¡¨ but ¡§Everyone did what was right in His eyes. When men in the time of the judges lived by that standard, God used them to bring freedom and victory to His people.¡¨ [Gary Inrig. Hearts of Iron, Feet of Clay. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1979) pp. 291-294]
I want to leave you with a few things to ponder.
1. The basis of moral behavior is of critical importance. Why you do what you do is as important as what you do. If your moral behavior is not grounded on the absolutes of God¡¦s word you will end of doing what is right in your own eyes.
2. Situational ethics is degrading and dehumanizing. It does take a genius to figure out that our country is in trouble. We are terribly confused as a society, ethically and morally.
3. Right and wrong are not what man thinks they are, it is what God says that they are.
4. The cure for our moral situation is not better laws or stricter enforcement, it is found in having a real relationship with a living Lord.
5. As we will see in the life of Samuel one person can make a difference. Samuel was just one man, but he made a difference in his nation for God. Will you???