Meet Samuel… innocent, powerful, redundant, rebel
1 Samuel 8:4-8
“You are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to govern us.” Samuel prayed to the Lord, and the Lord said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.
Samuel, a child living at the temple away from his family, hears a voice in the night and runs to his old mentor and father figure Eli. It takes several repetitions and sleepy grumblings for Eli to realise Samuel is being called by God. Samuel listens as God delivers hard truths for Eli and repeats them to the old man faithfully, and without moderation, in the morning.
The young boy who didn’t recognise God’s voice has grown to be a prophet and is given power under difficult circumstances. Eli has died, the nation of Israel is under attack, the Ark of the Covenant is stolen, and the people long for guidance. Samuel quickly becomes Judge and leader to Israel.
As he gets older Samuel increasingly feels ignored, rejected and hard done by. We have all felt powerless and sidelined at different points in our lives but for Samuel this goes twofold: the people ask him for a king to lead them and when he appoints this king - he ignores Samuel too.
As with many people who are ending one stage of their working life, the transition from a powerful position to an advisory one is hard and can bring up a lot of anger. Letting the younger generation with their new ideas come and make mistakes of their own can be infuriating but as Samuel learns, with some nudges from God, it is the way the world has to work. With new ideas and mistakes come new opportunities for change and progress.
But Samuel isn’t done yet and still has a vital part to play. His early training listening to God’s voice comes in handy. Young David’s ascension to the newly created throne is due to Samuel’s ear for God’s will and his uneasiness with the king he first anointed. He finds David, anoints him and even helps to hide him from murderous King Saul.
Samuel is an example of learning to let go and give guidance but also an example of keeping alert and not giving up. He learns in his age and wisdom to do both.
Father you gave me the gift of your voice
Now give me the gift of your understanding and patience.
Help me to see my part in the journey not with pride but with reverence,
to know when to offer guidance and when to watch and wait,
when to intervene and when to be surprised.
You have given everyone your spirit to flourish with,
may we all in our own time be your power for good in the world.