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THE FAITH OF SAMUEL – Hebrews 11:32f

Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on September 28, 2016 under PM Bible Study |

PM Home Bible Study Group; September 28, 2016

Hebrews 11:32f

Theme: The prophet Samuel’s story teaches us how faith in God’s promises sustains us during dark and discouraging times.

We have been studying lately from the heroes of faith that we’re told about in Hebrews 11—a chapter in the Bible that we’ve grown to call, “God’s Hall of Faith”. And most recently, we’ve been focusing in on those heroes who are only mentioned by name in verse 32. The common thing that ties them all together—and with all of the other heroes mentioned in this chapter—as been that they all heard some particular promise of God; and that they trusted in and believed that promise. And in His perfect time, God prove Himself to be faithful to all the promises He ever made to them. Thus, they illustrated the definition of faith we find in Hebrews 11:1—“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”; and prove the principle we find in Hebrews 11:6—“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

In this present study, we consider the faith of a truly great man—one of the greatest of all the heroes of faith in the Old Testament—the prophet Samuel. Did you know that this great man is often put in the company of a couple of other outstanding heroes of faith? Psalm 99:6-7 says;

Moses and Aaron were among His priests,

And Samuel was among those who called upon His name;

They called upon the Lord, and He answered them.

He spoke to them in the cloudy pillar;

They kept His testimonies and the ordinance He gave them (Psalm 99:6-7).

God Himself held Samuel up as one of the most outstanding of His saints. In fact, in another verse, he is held up for esteem along with Moses as the most outstanding Old Testament saints imaginable. There was a time when God was determined to bring judgment upon His erring people Israel; and He through the prophet Jeremiah He told them, “Even if Moses and Samuel stood before Me, My mind would not be favorable toward this people” (Jeremiah 15:1). Acts 13:20 tells us that he was the last of the great men of his particular era in redemptive history; saying that God led His people in the period between the judges and the kings, and that “He gave them judges for about four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet.” In fact, Samuel is unique in that he stood of a place of important ministry in two significant era’s of God’s redemptive work—coming at the very end of the era of the Judges and at the very beginning of the era of the Kings. In fact, his influence even extended beyond that unto the very beginning of the age of grace in which we live today. The apostle Peter—not long after Pentecost, and the beginning of the church era—told his Jewish brethren, “Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days” (Acts 3:24).

But the times of Samuel were not easy ones. His life of service to God occurred during some of the darkest days of the people of Israel—and there was much about the spiritual condition of his people that was discouraging to this great man. And that is exactly why his story is so valuable to us. He teaches us how faith in God’s promises sustains us during dark and discouraging times.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Most of our biographical information about Samuel comes from the first of the two books of the Bible that bears his name—1Samuel. Let’s briefly consider just some of the highlights of this great man’s faith; and let’s begin with what 1 Samuel tells us about …


A. Did he have faith at his birth? Well, no. But his mother Hannah surely did; and it would seem that he drew from it. In 1 Samuel 1, we’re told that Hannah was one of the two wives of a man named Elkanah. Elkanah’s other wife—Peninnah—was described as ‘a rival’ to Hannah (which shows you why two wives was not a good idea). Peninnah had children; but Hannah did not. And Peninnah often provoked Hannah severely and made her miserable because God had “closed her womb”. Penninah even provoked Hannah when they made their annual family trip to the house of the Lord in Shiloh (before the ark was moved to Jerusalem). Peninnah’s cruel provocations made Hannah so miserable that she could not even eat for all her weeping.

B. On one of these visits, Hannah made a vow to God. She came before the tabernacle—in great bitterness of soul and with weeping and anguish; and without making a loud utterance, but simply moving her lips—she said;

O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head” (1 Samuel 1:11).

As it turns out, the old high priest at the time—a very self-indulgent and unworthy man named Eli—saw her and thought she was drunk. He chose right then to rebuke Hannah for her drunkenness—which insensitive act would only have only made her pain worse. But she told him that she was not drunk; but that she was pouring out her concern to God. Eli responded, in what seems a perfunctory manner, by saying, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition which you have asked of Him” (v. 17). Hannah greatly rejoiced in these words, however; because even though Eli was an unworthy man and his words were spoken in a rather off-hand manner, he was nevertheless the high priest at the time. She considered that she had just received affirmation of her request from the high priest himself!—and she went away believing that God would now surely give her what she asked. And He did!

C. And if you’ll remember our study of Numbers 6, perhaps you’ll recognize what it was that Hannah had devoted Samuel to be. She was dedicating her child—before he was born—to a Nazirite vow. When he was born, she called his name Samuel, which means “Heard of God”; “Because I have asked for him from the LORD” (v. 20). When it came time for the family to go up again to Shiloh for the annual visit, she stayed at home and said, “Not until the child is weaned; then I will take him, that he may appear before the Lord and remain there forever” (v. 22)—a plan to which Elkanah agreed totally. So, Samuel may not have had faith at the time of his birth; but his mother—and to some degree, his father—certainly did.

And it wasn’t long before Samuel’s own faith became evident as well. Consider next …


A. As soon as he was weaned, Hannah brought her so to the old priest Eli and said,

O my lord! As your soul lives, my lord, I am the woman who stood by you here, praying to the Lord. For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition which I asked of Him. Therefore I also have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives he shall be lent to the Lord” (1 Samuel 1:26-28).

She and her husband worshiped the Lord together there; and she prayed a prayer that is one of the greatest prayers in the Bible—a prayer that clearly affirms that our great God can—and will—prevail over even dark and discouraging times. It’s worth reading in full:

My heart rejoices in the Lord;

My horn is exalted in the Lord.

I smile at my enemies,

Because I rejoice in Your salvation.

No one is holy like the Lord,

For there is none besides You,

Nor is there any rock like our God.

Talk no more so very proudly;

Let no arrogance come from your mouth,

For the Lord is the God of knowledge;

And by Him actions are weighed.

The bows of the mighty men are broken,

And those who stumbled are girded with strength.

Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,

And the hungry have ceased to hunger.

Even the barren has borne seven,

And she who has many children has become feeble.

The Lord kills and makes alive;

He brings down to the grave and brings up.

The Lord makes poor and makes rich;

He brings low and lifts up.

He raises the poor from the dust

And lifts the beggar from the ash heap,

To set them among princes

And make them inherit the throne of glory.

For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s,

And He has set the world upon them.

He will guard the feet of His saints,

But the wicked shall be silent in darkness.

For by strength no man shall prevail.

The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken in pieces;

From heaven He will thunder against them.

The Lord will judge the ends of the earth.

He will give strength to His king,

And exalt the horn of His anointed” (1 Samuel 2:1-10).

This is one of the greatest prayers recorded in the Old Testament. And in addition to it being a great affirmation of God’s grace in troubling times, it is also seems prophetic—in some respects—of the life that her young child Samuel would go on to live. It speaks of how he was the child of one who had been barren. It speaks of how the Lord “lifts the beggar from the ash heap to set them among princes and make them inherit the throne of glory”; and this seems to foretell Samuel’s ministry to King David. It speaks of how the Lord would “thunder” from heaven against those who oppose him; and a couple of times in Samuel’s life, he called upon God to prove Himself by answering in thunder. And it speaks of how the Lord “kills and makes alive” and “brings down to the grave and brings up”; and this hints at the closing event of Samuel’s story—when he was allowed to speak to King Saul from the grave. It may not be wise to press the matter too far; but it certainly does seem that his mother’s wonderful prayer gives us—to a limited degree—a prophetic preview of Samuel’s life. And the fact that it came to be recorded in the scriptures for us as part of Samuel’s story suggests that it must have had a very significant impact on his own life of faith as a word from God.

B. After giving him over to Eli, Samuel grew and ministered to the Lord before the old priest. But Eli’s own family was corrupt. He had two sons—serving as priests—who were evil men who did not know the Lord. They were sexually immoral and materialistically greedy; and they took advantage of the people. The time came when God had had enough of them and of old unfaithful Eli. He even sent a prophet to Eli to warn him that judgment was coming; but Eli did not listen. And that’s when we find Samuel’s first prophecy. God called the young child while he was asleep at night; and Samuel kept thinking it was Eli calling him. After this happening several times, Eli instructed the boy to say something that it would be a good thing if we all said: “Speak, LORD, for Your servant hears” (3:9). That’s when God told Samuel;

Behold, I will do something in Israel at which both ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. In that day I will perform against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. For I have told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knows, because his sons made themselves vile, and he did not restrain them. And therefore I have sworn to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever” (3:11-14).

C. In the morning, Eli wanted to know what the Lord had said. Naturally, little Samuel was afraid to tell him. But he did tell him; and Eli responded; “It is the LORD. Let Him do what seems good to Him” (v. 18). Eli didn’t seem to respond to the warning of God with much enthusiasm or with much repentance. But perhaps it all had a tremendous impact on Samuel. We’re told;

So Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground (v. 19).

It would seem that it was a turning point for the people of Israel too; because we’re told;

And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel had been established as a prophet of the Lord. Then the Lord appeared again in Shiloh. For the Lord revealed Himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the Lord. And the word of Samuel came to all Israel (3:20-4:1).

In time, the priesthood of Eli—and the life of his two wicked sons—was brought to a terrible end. The ark of the covenant was stolen away by the Philistines; and the times seemed dreadfully dark. Nevertheless the ark was eventually recovered; because God still loved His wayward people, and still kept His promises to them. And God’s claim on the life of this child Samuel—growing quickly into a man—seemed clear to all. And no doubt Samuel grew up with faith in the promises of God toward him, and those that had been given to his mother. But here’s were we find that faith put to the test. It’s were we see …


A. After the ark was returned and came to rest in a place called Kirjath Jearim, Samuel began to function as a judge of his people. He began to call for a spiritual reform from them; telling them,

If you return to the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths from among you, and prepare your hearts for the Lord, and serve Him only; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines” (7:3).

The did so; and Samuel led them in a time of great national repentance. And it came at just the right time too. The Philistines mounted an attack; and yet, Samuel led the people in trusting in God; and the Lord miraculously delivered His people, “with a loud thunder upon the Philistines” in answer to Samuel’s prayer (7:10). You would think then that, from then on, the people would have a resolute trust in God and in His man Samuel.

B. But it was not so. The people began to demand that they may have a king—just like all the other nations around them. Samuel appealed to them that they needed no king—that God’s leadership was all they needed. But the people would not hear him. In frustration, Samuel prayed to the Lord; and the Lord told him,

Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt, even to this day—with which they have forsaken Me and served other gods—so they are doing to you also. Now therefore, heed their voice. However, you shall solemnly forewarn them, and show them the behavior of the king who will reign over them” (8:7-10).

Samuel warned the people of all that the king would do to them—and of all the freedoms they would lose under a king. But it made no difference. They said, “No, but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles” (vv. 19). What a sad disappointment this must have been for Samuel.

C. And in judgment, God gave them what they wanted. God gave them a man named Saul to be their king. He was tall, and attractive, and dynamic looking—everything that people might want in a king appearance-wise. But in his heart, he proved to be a very unfaithful man to God. At his coronation, Samuel reviewed the history of his people—throughout the times of the Judges; and reminded them of how the Lord had been their helper. He told them that most recently—rather than continuing to trust God—they demanded a king; and now, God has given them what they wanted. And then—as if to show His great displeasure over their wickedness at making this demand—God brought a terrible thunderstorm at the word of Samuel. Perhaps they remembered how God had brought forth a thunderstorm once before upon their enemies in response to Samuel’s prayer; and it made everyone terrified. They said to Samuel,

Pray for your servants to the Lord your God, that we may not die; for we have added to all our sins the evil of asking a king for ourselves” (v. 19).

But what a great man Samuel was. He encouraged them to stay faithful to the Lord; and exhorted them, saying that,

the Lord will not forsake His people, for His great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you His people. Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you; but I will teach you the good and the right way. Only fear the Lord, and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you. But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king” (vv. 22-25).

It seemed as if Samuel’s life of faith and ministry was one that was often accompanied with great moments of disappointment. Not only did the people prove to be a disappointment in their trust in God, but so did the faithfulness of the new king they chose. And yet, in the light of Saul’s unfaithfulness, this is where we see the story of …


A. Almost immediately, Saul began to show himself to be a king that did not obey God with a faithful heart. He was often hypocritical—putting on a big spiritual ‘show’ for the people, but not doing as God had told him. Saul was often guilty of ‘partial-obedience’ to God—deciding for himself which parts of God’s command he would obey; which is just as bad as open disobedience. The dreadful moment came when God had commanded Saul to obey a long standing purpose God had of punishing the people of Amalek. They had ambushed the people of Israel long ago in the Exodus (see Exodus 17:8-16; Deuteronomy 25:17-19). God told Samuel to go and attack the people of Amalek and “utterly destroy” them. Saul was to leave absolutely nothing.

B. But Saul did not obey. He preserved the best of the livestock—on the pretense of wanting to make an offering out of them; and he left the king of Amalek—King Agag—alive as a prisoner. (Later in history, it would be one of the descendants of this man—Haman—who would nearly destroy the people of Israel in the times of Esther; see Esther 3:1). Saul’s disobedience would have terrible consequences later on; and it truly grieved God that Saul was king. God told Samuel this; and Samuel cried out to the Lord all night long.

C. In the morning, Samuel went to meet Saul and confront him about his disobedience. Saul made a whole host of excuses—blathering on about the pressure of the people and about making an offering, and of how he really obeyed the spirit of God’s command. But Samuel told him;

Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,

As in obeying the voice of the Lord?

Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,

And to heed than the fat of rams.

For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft,

And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.

Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,

He also has rejected you from being king” (15:22-23).

And then—in one of the most horrific acts of obedience anyone ever had to take up, Samuel did what Saul would not. He called for King Agag to be brought to himself, and told him;

As your sword has made women childless, so shall your mother be childless among women.” And Samuel hacked Agag in pieces before the Lord in Gilgal (v. 33).

It was something that must have been horrible to see. But it’s an illustration of how seriously sin must be treated. And it was Saul’s faithlessness that made it necessary.

But God was not through with His people. The loss of king Saul led to God giving His people the greatest of their kings. Here’s where we find an important high point in Samuel’s life …


A. Samuel was led from there to the home of Jesse; and he was told that it was from the sons of Jesse that God would give Israel a worthy king—a king that He had provided for Himself (16:1). So; Samuel went to the house of Jesse and met most of his sons. They all seemed outstanding ‘king’ material; and there was one that Samuel even thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him!”. But God told him;

Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (16:7).

B. In the end, God identified the least likely of them all—the humble young shepherd boy David—as His chosen king. When God told Samuel, “Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!” it must have been a surprise to Samuel. And yet, he—in faith—obeyed God and anointed David king. What a great faith Samuel had! He obeyed God—in spite of appearances. And in time, God proved to Samuel that David was indeed His man.

But things weren’t easy for David from then on—or for Samuel. The rejected king Saul fought in an ongoing way against God’s choice of David. Saul pursued David with the intention of killing him. But this is where we find another great quality of Samuel …


A. The story of David’s faithful service to Saul—and of Saul’s relentless hatred and pursuit of David—is a long one. And at a certain point, David—in his flight for his life from Saul’s murderous hatred for him—came to Samuel. We’re told that he “fled and escaped, and went to Samuel at Ramah, and told him all that Saul had done to him. And he and Samuel went and stayed in Naioth” (19:18). David, wisely, knew who to go to. And Samuel—as a faithful man of God—must have been a great encouragement to him.

B. But more than an encouragement, God used Samuel to be a protector of David. Samuel and David both knew that God had anointed David over Saul—and so, by the way, did Saul. When it was told to Saul that David and Samuel were in Naioth, he sent messengers to take David. But it was as if God—through Samuel—had placed a spiritual defense around David that Saul could not penetrate:

And when they saw the group of prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as leader over them, the Spirit of God came upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied. And when Saul was told, he sent other messengers, and they prophesied likewise. Then Saul sent messengers again the third time, and they prophesied also. Then he also went to Ramah, and came to the great well that is at Sechu. So he asked, and said, “Where are Samuel and David?” And someone said, “Indeed they are at Naioth in Ramah.” So he went there to Naioth in Ramah. Then the Spirit of God was upon him also, and he went on and prophesied until he came to Naioth in Ramah. And he also stripped off his clothes and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night. Therefore they say, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” (19:20-24).

What a great God our God is! But what a great man of steadfast faith in God Samuel was in a time of trouble.

Perhaps we can’t call this last important milestone a part of Samuel’s “life” of faith. In time, Samuel was taken from the scene by death. But it certainly needs to be noted that the Bible tells us of …


As it became more and more evident that God had called David, and that He was removing Saul, Saul became even more desperate in his unfaithfulness. At a time of crisis, he tried calling out to God. But because he was an utterly disobedient man who would not submit to God’s will, God did not answer him. Psalm 66:18 says, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear.” So, instead of repenting, Saul made a fatal decision. He turned to the occult and—remarkably—went to a witch and asked her to call Samuel up from the dead. What extremes the sinful heart will go to when it will not repent!

Even more remarkable is the fact that God allowed Samuel to come and speak to Saul. It must have been a surprise to the witch—who appears to have been accustomed to ‘faking’ appearances for her customers. She shrieked in terror because Samuel actually appeared. And just as we would expect, he was even still faithful to God. Saul asked him what to do; and he told Saul;

So why do you ask me, seeing the Lord has departed from you and has become your enemy? And the Lord has done for Himself as He spoke by me. For the Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, David. Because you did not obey the voice of the Lord nor execute His fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore the Lord has done this thing to you this day. Moreover the Lord will also deliver Israel with you into the hand of the Philistines. And tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The Lord will also deliver the army of Israel into the hand of the Philistines” (1 Samuel 28:16-19).

The next day, Samuel’s words to Saul—from beyond the grave—proved true.

* * * * * * * * * *

Of course, that closing event should not be taken by us to be an example to follow. But what it does teach us is that this man Samuel had a faith in the promises of God that brought him through times of disappointment and darkness—a faith that proved itself his whole life long … and beyond.

God proved to be true to everything He told Samuel. The difficulties of the times do not change the promises of God. And we—like Samuel—are able to remain useful to God in our own dark and difficult days, if we will stay true to God and have faith that He will do all that He says He will do.

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