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- 1 Samuel
by L.M. Grant
After the book of Joshua has recorded the many great victories of Israel over their enemies, being sustained by the grace and power of God, and established in the land of Canaan, the book of Judges shows how quickly Israel forgot God, sinking lower and lower in selfish independence. The unity that was seen under Joshua was soon exchanged for the sad condition expressed in the last verse of Judges (ch.21:15): "In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes." Honest faith might have recognized God as King, and in submitting to His authority would find His guidance in unity with others in the nation; but the test in Judges proved them unprepared for any such thing.
In Samuel therefore the time has come for God to provide Israel with a king. Yet the first king given, Saul, an outstanding specimen of humanity though not born again, became a humiliating failure; and even the second, David, a man after God's heart, a true believer, proved himself eventually a failure also. But these were tests for Israel. Did they have confidence in the greatest of men? Neither Saul nor David could be a satisfactory king, nor could any who followed them. However, David is a type of the One who alone can be trusted to rule in absolute authority over men, the Lord Jesus Christ, and his history is precious for this reason.
Before the kings are introduced, however, the sovereign operation of God prepares a prophet to introduce them. Samuel is brought in an extraordinary way to the temple of the Lord in Shiloh, about 20 miles north of Jerusalem, a temporary building of which we are given no description. The tabernacle was still in existence (1 Kings 8:4), but of course Eli and Samuel would have no place to live in the tabernacle, though it was likely in the same place, for the ark of God was in Shiloh (ch.4:4). The priesthood was in a state of decadence and failure, Eli and his sons strikingly illustrating the painful vanity of natural succession. Samuel, from his childhood, was called to bear solemn witness against this abuse of priesthood, though he had no official position. It was God who had raised him up and his spiritual power far outweighed the official dignity of Eli, Saul or even David. After Saul was installed as king, it was still really Samuel who maintained any stable relationship between God and the people.
All this is a serious lesson for our day. Official authority of men cannot be trusted. Only the direct working of God is worthy of our confidence. Therefore in the church of God no official authority is given to any man; but the Spirit of God is given to every believer in order that all may submit to His authority and be guided by His power. On this account all the Lord's people ought to be prophets, and will be in the measure in which they respond to the living operation of the Spirit of God in their souls.
the Fifth Week after Easter