Today’s Devotion written by Pastor Dave Olson
As Samuel grew up, the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the LORD. I Samuel 3:19-20
The prophet Samuel’s story is written in the book of first Samuel. Samuel’s voice emerges in the days of Israel’s venture into being governed by their first king. Up until the days of monarchy beginning with Saul, David and Solomon, Israel was considered a theocracy with God alone as King and God’s rule represented by tribal, religious and communal leaders called judges and priests. Samuel was the last in the line of judges and led for forty years. But we learn in I Samuel 8, the tribal elders grew restless and dissatisfied. They saw that the succession plan of Samuel retiring and being followed by his less than reputable sons was a crisis to be avoided. They demanded of Samuel that he appoint for them a king. In verse 5 they plead, Samuel, you are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us like other nations. Samuel prays and God says, “Samuel, you heard them, give them their king. It is not your leadership they are rejecting, it is mine. It has been that way since I brought them out of Egypt, Give them their king, but first warn them what it will come to mean. So, after warning them about the way kings typically behave, Samuel did.
No surprise that the timing of the rise and growth, the heyday, of the prophetic movement came in direct relationship to the establishment of the power of kings and a royal elite. Most of the prophetic books in the Hebrew Bible were written during that period of time. They were understood to be a counterbalance to the voice, ethics and rule of autocratic leaders and they saw their role as asserting God’s authority above that of the king; the king’s role as being the shepherd of God’s flock and not their owner, God’s rule of law preeminent over that decreed by royalty; the values of God’s kingdom prioritized over the whims and distortions of human leaders behaving as though they were gods. There were times when a king would listen and even change, like when the prophet Nathan confronts King David over his crimes and abuse of privilege. But most often Kings surrounded themselves with people they called “royal prophets” who usually told the king only what the king wanted to hear with disastrous consequences and the people suffered. The Bible calls them false prophets.
When the Bible was assembled, the writings that were chosen to be included were tested against the testimony and truthfulness of other writings bearing witness to God. They were chosen because they were spot-on challenges and critiques that would become timeless in the life of God’s people. They can be a challenging read, blunt and sometimes harsh. They can be encouraging and hopeful, healing and assuring about our God of patient, steadfast love. Words very appropriate for all time and for times like these.