Welcome to our study in I Samuel, chapter 3. If you can remember our last Sunday afternoon lesson, you know we spent some time in chapter 1 and 2, looking at a woman named Hannah and her son, Samuel. Then, we looked at Eli and his two wicked sons. By comparing the two stories, of the two parents, we got some lessons that were very applicable to our lives today.
Today, as we begin in chapter 3, I want to continue the story of Samuel. You will see that, unfortunately, we don’t have all of Samuel’s story. We don’t have much material on the life of the man! All we read are a few facts. In chapter 3, you read in verses 19 and 20, “….” So, we know he was a prophet for God. Then if you go to chapters 4-6, you read about the Ark of the Covenant being taken away; but you don’t read much about Samuel. Then in I Samuel 7:15, it says, “….” And so, not only is he a prophet; but, all of his life, he is a judge. And if you dig further, you find that he seems to be doing the job of a priest, sometimes. He is a most unusual character and he does wonderful, wonderful things for God. But then, you come to chapter 8 and in verse 1- 2, it says, “….” And so, we jump from chapter 3, when Samuel was just a young man, to the time he is an old man, very quickly. And we don’t have very much information about the middle part of his life.
And it’s not easy to grow old. As a seventy year old lady, named Elveta, wrote, “It is difficult to grow old gracefully.” And many of you understand how the older you grow, the more things change and you can’t do all the things you used to be able to do. And so it is for Samuel. We read, in chapter 8, that now Samuel is old and unable to travel all over the land to judge the people. And so we find, in verse 2, that he appoints his sons to the office, hoping they will help him. And he sends them out to certain areas and he picks one area and it seems to work, to be a good plan. But the problem is that the sons of Samuel quickly become corrupt. As they judge, they realize it’s a great opportunity to make money. If they shut their eyes to some things, they can extract money from people. We could say that they loved to be bribed. So they see the opportunities; they take them; and now all of Israel gets tired of it. The elders finally get together and decide to go to Samuel. They have all the rights to do that and so they say, in chapter 8, verse 5a, “….” There was nothing wrong with the thing they say thus far. They are holding the father accountable. Maybe Samuel didn’t like it, or some of us don’t like it, at times, but it was his responsibility, as a father. But the problem was that the elders went a step farther. They could have said, “Samuel, why don’t you find a new way to rule us and have that new plan approved by God?” But instead, they totally rejected him and said in chapter 8, verse 5b, “….” These people had made up their minds. They had decided on a plan to get a king! And when Samuel heard those words, it is obvious, from the Scriptures, that he gets a broken heart. At this point, he feels the bitter pain of rejection. Maybe he begins to think like this. “I have busted myself, for all of these years, to help these people and they don’t even appreciate it! All they want is a king! And Samuel turns to God. In verse 6c, we read, “….” I wish, this afternoon, I knew exactly what he said to God. For I find God talking to Samuel in one of the most encouraging, beautiful scenes ever written in Scripture. It’s almost like God is talking to Samuel, as though he was his best friend. And God says, v. 7-8, “….” It’s kind of a pathetic story. It makes us feel sorry for God because he brought them out of Egypt. He tried, time after time, to do something good for his people and every time, they turned and said, “I don’t want that; I don’t like that (like a mom cooking long and hard). And God says, “Samuel, don’t take this personally. It’s nothing against you; it’s something against me!” Then God says this, “Samuel, I want you to go to these people and I want you to listen to them very carefully; but, I want you to warn them about the king that will rule over them and what he will do. And so, Samuel goes to the people; he stands before all of them and says, in verses 11-18, “…” Now Samuel is as direct as you can get. As you would say, he doesn’t mince any words, whatever! He tells it exactly like it is! He says if you get the king you want, you will regret it; you will not like it. He’ll take your children and do things with them you won’t want done. He’ll take your fields, your money and your servants; he’ll even make you servants. You don’t want the king!
Now you would think, after that talk, the people would say, “You are right; we don’t want that!” But it’s not what they do. They say, “We still want a king.” They want the king, so badly; their hearts burn with such a desire that they shut their ears and close their eyes to all God has said through Samuel. But that shouldn’t surprise us too much. We experience it all the time. Have you ever had a young teen or young college person at your house, who has set their heart on something bad! You know what they want is wrong. You can see it so clearly. And so you use logic; you use reasoning. If you are a parent, you may resort to threats; but they still will not change. They refuse to listen because they will get what they want!
But it’s not just for young people. The same thing happens to all of us every so often. Sometimes we decide that we want something and we go for it even though God says, “It’s not good for you1”. We ignore all advice to get our heart’s desire. And these people said, “We want a king!” And God gives them what they want. And so, as you go on to chapter 9 and chapter 10, you find God picking a man, to give them a king. First, He reaches out and brings forth Saul! And Samuel anoints him to be king. But I don’t want to talk about him yet! Lord willing, we will deal with him next week! Instead I want to take you to chapter 12, verse 1. And there we find Samuel, one more time, and, in verses 1-2, he says, “….” And the people respond, in verse 4, “…” At this point, Samuel fades away from the position of leadership he has occupied for a long, long time. Oh you will read about him some, again, in the life of Saul. And you will read about him, some, in the early account of David. But, so far as being the great leader of Israel, right here, he steps down and fades from the picture.
Now that has been the story of Samuel in a quick fashion. And there are three very brief lessons that I think we ought to consider from that man’s life. Actually two of them come from his life and one comes from the people he led. The first lesson, very simply, is this.
I. Samuel felt that bitter pain of rejection and turned to God.
Samuel found a time in his life, in his old age, where he became very, very discouraged. He felt that bitter pain of rejection and he, immediately, turned to God. And I want to say to all who are discouraged, turn, first of all, back to God. And I know some of you will understand the pain Samuel had in his heart. I don’t know of many pains of the heart greater than the pain of rejection. Do you remember when you were a child? You saw some friends, in the park, and you finally got the guts to ask them if you could play with them and they said, “No, we don’t want you to be part of our group!” So, you remember how you walked away? How your heart was broken?
Maybe you remember, as a young man, going to this one young girl and saying, “I really would like to take you out for a date!” And she said, “I don’t’ want to go out on a date with you!” And that pain of rejection stabs you in the heart!
Or maybe, for some of you, it has been much worse than that! Maybe you felt rejected by a father, a mother or brother. And that pain of rejection can take you down to the very bottom of discouragement. And I think Samuel is there! But Samuel has the wisdom to turn to God. And so I say, today, if you get discouraged, why don’t you pick up the Scriptures and read something like Psalm, chapter 23; or why don’t you read Romans, chapter 8; or the story of Joseph. Why don’t you find a place that talks about your problem, exactly, and read that! As a minister, I guarantee I have to do that often. But as a regular person, you do to.
Then you can also turn to faithful men and women of God and let them help you! For discouragement, Christians ought to always turn to God, His Word and His church, instead of turning to people of this world who, so easily, lead us in a direction we ought not to go.
II. When you are accused, your best defense is always a good life
Then I see a second lesson from the life of Samuel! I find, from the life of Samuel, that when you are accused, your best defense is always a good life! Samuel stands before the people, probably still feeling the pain of rejection, and he says, “Look at my life. Have I done anything wrong? Look at my life and judge me!” I have never been accused or rejected many times in life. But I have already learned that when that happens, the very best thing you can do is confront it and say, “Look, here is what I have done; here is what I’ve been; here is where I have gone. Look at my life!” In fact, II Cor. 5:10 says, “…” What that means is, nowadays, we will stand before God and, hopefully, you will be able to say, “When I was baptized, and every day since, I have tried to live as Jesus has wanted me to live! Now if you give that kind of defense on the Day of Judgment, God will say, “You have a place in heaven forever and ever. But I tell you this. If you go through life compromising, then you will stand, before men and their rejection, and you will look back and have nothing to stand on! If you go through life compromising your morals and your values, you will be brought down a step further. I know it’s not easy to live the way we’ve been called to live, day by day. Sometimes, you look out your window, at the world, and you think, “These people are having it better than I have it. They are having more fun than I am!” Don’t you believe it! What you should believe is that, if you live, day by day, exactly the way Jesus wants you to live, when your accusers come, they will never have anything with which they can destroy you.
III. God will give you the desires of your heart, so watch what you desire.
Now, here is the last lesson. It comes from the Jews who dealt stubbornly with Samuel. God allows you to have what you want, if you want it badly enough. They said, “We want a king, like this world!” And God knew, very well, that it would be disastrous for them. And later, they found it to be that way! King, after king, after king, would succeed each other and they, all, would be wicked. And their hearts were hardened because of their kings. And God foreknew it all. But God didn’t step in the way. He allowed them to have just what they wanted. (There comes a time, as a parent, when you have to do the same!) But also realize that, for you, God also allows you to have what you want! If you throw a fit long enough, God will let you get what you want. He will not stand in your way. But realize, if God stands opposed to it, it is because it is truly not good for you. Remember Eve?
In the beginning, she was in the garden that God had created. And He had said, “You can eat all of the fruits in this garden, except for the ones of this one tree. You shall not eat of it or touch it!” And God didn’t put an angel before her then. He said, “You want it; you can have it!” She took it and ate it and, from that day forth, her life was filled with misery.
A little later, in the life of David, the same thing happened. He looked across his rooftop and saw a very beautiful, naked woman. He desired her and God did not step in the way. He said, “Have what you want!” But from that day, to the last day of his life, he suffered misery because of his decision. God says, “You can have what you want. I won’t stop you. But that lets me know, I need to be careful about what I want because my wants give my life a certain direction!
And so I am asking you this afternoon, to look carefully at your desires – at what you want. Is what you want taking you closer to heaven? Is what you want, right now, taking your mate or your children closer to heaven? And if it’s not doing those things, you may not need what you want! It could be that new job or anything else. So stop, right now. Open your eyes; open your ears; and open your mouth and check with Him to see if what you want is alright! Make sure God says, “It is a good thing to want what you want!”
And so, there are three lessons this afternoon. And surely, one of these things applies to you. Maybe you are discouraged? And maybe you can learn, here, when it happens, you don’t turn to the world or Satan, in place of religion. You turn to God, to His Word and to His church!
Or maybe, you need the lesson on how you shouldn’t compromise. Because if you are compromising, some day, you will be accused, if not by man, by God and you will have nothing for your defense; but, you will go a step lower.
Or maybe, this afternoon, you need to look at what you want. Maybe you see it is taking you no closer to your God. Remember, God will let you get it; but you may not want it after you get it. If any of this touches you and you want to respond publicly, we want you to and we give you the opportunity, at this time.