19 Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, 20 and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, 21 whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began… 24 Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days. Acts 3:19-20, 24 NKJV
The coming of Jesus Christ was foretold from the beginning and by the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow. Jesus is our loving King, who reaches out to us amidst our own self-destruction, and offers the olive branch of peace and restoration.
Without God in our lives, we are quick to turn to our own ways. For many, this leads down a slippery slope of dishonesty, theft, sexual immorality, and indulgence in mind-altering beverages or substances. It is no way to live a joyful and satisfying life. We merely exist rather than enjoy the light of His goodness, kindness and love.
It is into this ugly type of existence that God’s love often comes. He reaches out to us when we least deserve it and sees the potential in us to be something better. When we turn to God, He begins to change us from the inside, into someone who seeks to do the will of God rather than our own. This change is often noticed by others before we see it in ourselves.
The book of Judges highlights the consequences of a people who have turned their backs on God. Before the birth of Samuel, each person lived their life as seemed right to them, totally self-centered and often at the expense of others. God’s law of love for Himself and our neighbor was totally disregarded, and life became a daily battle, with every person for themselves.
As people turned away from God, He turned up the heat in their lives to try to get them to return to Him. Peaceful borders were crossed by enemies who took authority over Israel and stripped them of their bounty. Even the little that they had was kept in secret, such as when Gideon was forced to thresh his wheat in hiding.
But God did not forget His people, whom He loved. Their hardship was not a punishment, it was an attempt to attract them back to God. We all pray “foxhole” prayers at one time or another, usually with some kind of bargain with God to get us out of a bad situation. Our side of the bargain is usually quickly forgotten once He does save our skin.
But prior to Samuel, God raised up Judges to rally Israel against its enemies, and to expel them from the land.
16 Nevertheless, the Lord raised up judges who delivered them out of the hand of those who plundered them. 17 Yet they would not listen to their judges, but they played the harlot with other gods, and bowed down to them. They turned quickly from the way in which their fathers walked, in obeying the commandments of the Lord; they did not do so. Judges 2:16-17 NKJV
Once each crisis passed, people quickly turned back to their old sinful ways, and the divine cover of blessing and protection ebbed away until the next invasion.
Such was the life of Israel until the birth of Samuel. Judges like Gideon, Samson and others were raised up by God to bring the people deliverance from their enemies. Despite these judges’ imperfections, the Lord kept the people free while they lived. Once the judges died, the people turned away from God to worship other gods, and their deliverance did not last.
The birth of Samuel was the beginning of something new. It was the start of God reaching down to do for us what we clearly are unable to do for ourselves.
The era of Samuel begins with the false start of King Saul, but leads to the installation of King David, on whose throne Jesus Christ, the Messiah, will one day reign through eternity. It will be a joyous day for those redeemed by Him, all of whom will be present.
In the words of Prison Chaplain Robbie Strong of Louisiana, speaking to a church service full of inmates, “Be there!”
Today is a great day to call upon the Lord, no matter our circumstances. There is no act or volume of sin we have done which He will not forgive, save the one of ignoring His Holy Spirit, who is always calling out to us for our benefit.
5 Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at His footstool—He is holy. 6 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. Psalm 99:5-6 NKJV