In our latest book Fearless by Faith, Brother Andrew and I reflect on how David was formed and prepared to be God’s anointed. But before there was David, there was a prayer warrior, the prophet Samuel. We couldn’t develop his story in the book, but let’s consider how important his role was in addressing Israel’s fear.
“As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you” (I Samuel 12:23).
Understand, Samuel was old. He was retired. He believed his work was finished. He had served his people for decades. He began his service in the tabernacle as a little boy. Over the years he’d been priest, prophet, judge, military leader, and counselor. He’d traveled throughout the region fulfilling his responsibilities. He’d led a revival. Then he’d anointed his successor, Saul, the first king of Israel.
Samuel was a beloved leader, a man full of integrity, a man of character. By now he was old and tired and had earned the right to live out his final days in peace. However, these were not peaceful days.
Samuel exhorted the people: Be faithful to the Lord and all will go well. Worship worthless idols and you will feel His wrath. In this context Samuel made this promise: “Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you.” So even though Samuel retired, one activity never stopped. He prayed—constantly. When a person has communed with God over decades, he or she cannot give that up.
Then God called on Samuel to be part of the answer to his prayer and to perform one more act of service—to go to Bethlehem and anoint Saul’s replacement.
What was life like in Bethlehem? You have to wonder by the way the town “welcomed” him. The city came out trembling, asking, “Do you come peaceably?” Doesn’t that seem like a strange question? Samuel was a revered spiritual leader. For at least fifty years he had built a reputation of integrity. Why wouldn’t Bethlehem welcome him warmly?
Of course, Samuel wasn’t surprised by the cool reception. He even questioned God about the assignment. “If Saul hears of this, he will kill me,” he said.
Why was everyone so afraid? Because the nation of Israel was sick. They had rejected their rightful king (God) for a fraud. The consequences were predictable—Samuel had warned them. “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you,” he’d said (see 1 Samuel 8:11–16).
Some of Samuel’s prophesies had come to pass. Saul had become a dictator. Sooner or later that’s what happens when a ruler detaches himself from God’s authority. Without a legal framework to restrict his powers, he can do whatever he wants. Life under Saul couldn’t have been pleasant.
Samuel’s assignment was to anoint Saul’s successor and that posed a problem. Samuel was scared. Bethlehem was scared. So, God provided a cover. Samuel was to disguise his purpose by bringing a heifer with him and telling the city’s elders that he had come to sacrifice to the Lord. Sometimes even God goes underground!
Question: Do we get the leader we deserve? Sometimes we do. Israel got the leader they asked for, and as Samuel had predicted, they were now crying out to God because of it. However, Samuel had said, “The Lord will not answer you in that day” (1 Samuel 8:18). But here’s an interesting twist: Samuel prayed, and God applied grace to give Israel a leader they did not deserve.
It’s important to counter the negative thinking of our age. The spiral of complaint, texting on Twitter, posting and sharing on Facebook, is not very productive. When we spend hours on social media, we can expect fear and despair to result. Paralysis is likely. Or some human reaction which will lead us in the wrong direction.
Samuel prayed. David learned and grew. Both were ready to respond when God opened the door.
I’m not suggesting we ignore the problems of the world around us. I am proposing something more constructive than endless complaints. That’s prayer. We pray intelligently by feeding our minds with thoughts from God, which come from Scripture.
How much are you feeding at this rich trough of God’s feast? Our Father’s Book will help us pray and prepare us for action.
For Reflection: What problems do you like to complain about? How can you turn those complaints into prayers?
If you haven’t already ordered your copy of Fearless by Faith, you can do so here.