1 Samuel 8:1; 1 Samuel 19:19; 1 Sam 25:1

Samuel had had a long and dramatic life as a judge of Israel, full of unbelievable events, from his birth, his calling to be a prophet, through to the last recorded event we have in scripture. Samuel judged Israel until we read in 1 Samuel 8:1 that ‘when he became old’ he made his sons judges over Israel. Then in 1 Sam 9 he anoints his first king, Saul, despite his and God’s misgivings. He did his best to guide Saul, but as Saul began to go his own way he anointed his second king, David, and both were still alive when he died. Saul was still on the throne and David was living in fear of his life, a fugitive constantly on the move to keep one step ahead of Saul’s soldiers searching for him to kill him, and Samuel then supported and did all he could to help David as he waited to become king.

The last we hear of Samuel before his death is in 1 Samuel 19:19. Samuel was at Ramah when David came to him and told him that Saul was trying to kill him and the two of them went together to Naioth. Word of this came to Saul who sent messengers to capture David – he had to send three lots of messengers and then had to go himself and none of them were able to capture David. Why? Because Samuel was standing in charge of a company of the prophets who were ‘in a frenzy’ and each set of messengers was drawn into this prophetic frenzy by the Spirit of God. When Saul himself arrived, the Spirit of God fell on him too and he joined them, stripping off his clothes and lying naked on the ground all day and night. This gave David time to flee, leaving Samuel to look after Saul and his messengers when the Spirit of God finally left them.

What an extraordinary situation, but I suspect that Samuel took it in his stride, knowing that God was in control and that he, Samuel, was still God’s anointed judge and prophet even in the presence of the other prophets and two kings. Samuel had started his life as Eli’s successor, priest and judge and effectively the leader of Israel. He had given in to the demands of the people and anointed Saul as king, handing over that leadership – at least in earthly terms – only to see it go pear-shaped as he had told the people it would. He then anointed a second king. And yet here he is, standing in charge of the prophets, king’s messengers, king and king in waiting.

It is not long after this that Samuel died and all Israel assembled and mourned for him. ‘All Israel’ would have included Saul and David. What a tribute to a life well-lived in obedience to God. May we strive to be as obedient as Samuel in our lives.

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