At his first sermon on the Feast of Pentecost, the apostle Peter spoke of how the Old Testament prophets foretold the coming of the Christ, who is the source of our forgiveness and peace.
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 was foretold from the beginning by the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow. They point to Jesus, our loving King, who reaches out to us amidst our own brokenness to offer the olive branch of peace, forgiveness, and healing restoration.
Without God, many are trapped on a slippery slope leading to a negative and unfulfilled life filled with dishonesty, theft, sexual immorality, and mind-altering beverages or substances. It is no way to live a joyful and satisfying life. In this miserable state, we are merely existing rather than enjoying the true light of God and His freedom and provision.
It is into this type of hopeless existence that God will inject His love. He reaches out to us when we least deserve it, seeing in us the potential to be something much happier and greater. When we turn to God in response to His outreach, He begins to change us from the inside out. We begin to experience His peace and joy, and soon desire to be someone who seeks the will of God rather than just our own. Our improvement in attitude and demeanor will often be noticed by others before we see it in ourselves.
The book of Judges highlights the consequences of a people who have totally turned their back on God. Before the birth of the prophet Samuel, each person lived their life only as seemed right to them, self-centered and often lived 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 only fighting for themselves.
When people turn away from God, He will often turn up the heat in their lives to try to get them to return to Him. This happened in Samuel’s time and before. Peaceful borders in Israel were crossed by enemies who took authority over the people and stripped them of their God-given bounty. The little that they had left was kept in secret, such as when Gideon was forced to thresh his wheat in hiding.
But in all this, God never forgot His people, whom He loved. Their hardship was not a punishment, rather, it was an attempt to attract them back to Himself. 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.
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 was passed, people quickly turned back to their old sinful ways, and the divine covering of blessing and protection slowly ebbed away until the next crisis.
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 from oppression while they lived. Once the judges died, the people turned away from God to worship other gods, and their deliverance did not last for long after that.
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 all those redeemed by Him, who will be present to experience it.
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, to experience freedom and times of refreshment. There is no act or volume of sin we have done which God will not forgive, save for the only one of permanently ignoring His Holy Spirit, Who is always calling out to us for our benefit.
Father God, You know the obstacles in our hearts which keep us from answering the call of the Holy Spirit to draw closer to You. Break down those barriers in the authority of Jesus, in whose name we pray, Amen.
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)