Lessons from the First Book of Samuel

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It’s a book about leadership. The election here in the Philippines is coming very soon. I can only hope this post can make a difference in the lives of my countrymen when it comes to choosing the next leader but not just for this coming election. It is my prayer that we all get to see the kind of leadership God wants, and that we will desire to have that Godly leadership not just from other people but within our very selves all the more.

A Woman’s Story

This book starts out with the story of Hannah. The mother of Samuel. She was a barren woman who was being ridiculed by the other wife who had a lot of kids. Her story was that of bitter pain and continuous struggle. Imagine to live everyday of your life with someone who has nothing better to do with her own life than to taunt you.

But Hannah’s story would serve as an example for Israel. Her story proved that from bitter pain may come great promise if that pain leads you to God. Her story was a version of what Israel was going through and was about to go through. That Israel would respond the way she did despite all the trouble she’s experienced is what God tells the Israelites here. And what God is telling us too for all the troubles we would go through.

History and Queries

Just a bit of background about this book. Israel at that time were having issues of survival. The dominant and persistent Philistine army kept pressing in on them and threatened the very existence of Israel. So they asked for a king. Their motive in asking? They saw every other nation around them has a king so they wanted one for themselves.

Do you remember feeling that way too? You’re a Born Again, Christian but you come across a moment in your life when those people around you who profess to be “Christians” too (those who live their lives as if they are really not believers of Christ, those whose lifestyle make you cringe) have things you don’t have? Or the people around you who are non-Christians have things you don’t have and really want to have? And then because you feel entitled and – you must admit – selfish, you think you should have what they have too?

That’s exactly what the Israelites felt at that time. And from that selfishness, in their hearts they rejected God and so clamored for a human king. Even if God – who took them out of Egypt through His mighty power that the whole world saw, and therefore they should be proud of Him – should be their one and only King. But the Israelites forgot about what He did for them. Israel rejected His leadership.

So have you ever been in that situation? Have you ever felt like you did something really, really big and great for someone or other people, but they ended up forgetting what you did for them? Or have you ever been so in love with someone, you did everything for them but they still rejected you and went for someone else? Are you a leader now and you have people under you who just don’t listen to you?

Surprise, surprise. God knows exactly how that feels like only we cannot fathom the depths of His feelings. We can only imagine how it must feel like for Him through our own experience. And boy, that really hurts.

The Israelites didn’t just reject God as their king, they also forgot that God didn’t want them to be like every other nation. They were suppose to be different. Different because they have the Almighty God as their Lover, Lord and King.

Men and Power

In this book, we find three very attractive, handsome, poweful men who became Israel’s leaders:

Samuel
— became one of the greatest leaders Israel had ever known. He was a prophet who would discern God’s will. A priest who led Israel to worship. And finally, a military leader.

Saul
— one who had a promising beginning. He was a humble young man who never imagined he would become a king. But then he ended as a failure.

David
— became the greatest king Israel has ever known. A man who has proven time and time again in his lifetime, that he will persistently turn to God for directions, and so God honored him and declared him, ‘a man after God’s own heart.’

From these three great men, we learn how God appoints leaders too. He doesn’t necessarily go for those who are seeking power.

Samuel was a boy when God called him. Saul was hunting a donkey when God chose him. He was not looking for a chance to be king. And David was anointed king while tending sheep.

God chooses His own leaders. He chooses leaders who knows how to listen to Him.

What kind of leader are you looking for? Do you want to lead? Do you think God is calling you to lead people? Do you want to be a successful leader? Do you desire to be the leader God wants you to be? Then you would do well to follow the examples of the people mentioned in this book.

A Leader’s Failure

So while Samuel and David became great examples of successful leadership, in this book we find the tragedy of a poor leader in the life of Saul.

It was very disheartening to learn of what happened to him because he started out beautifully. He was just out looking for a donkey. He was very humble. And then he became king.

But then…

* Saul was the type of leader who allowed his ego to dictate his leadership. Why he did that I haven’t a clue, but he did. A rash vow made his hungry army less effective and his own son was put into trouble. 1 Samuel 14:24.

* For some reason, Saul saw the battles he went through as a personal vendetta to avenge himself. Why he would think that way, I will never know. It was very clear. God called him to rule the people and follow God’s instructions. But he thought that it was all about him. A wise leader would know that the battles were about God’s honor and the security of His people.

* And this is the one that I found greatly unbelievable, Saul lacked confidence in God’s support. He lacked a strong compulsion to obey God no matter what. How he went there, to that point is beyond me. God made him king but He didn’t trust God??? I mean, God took him from nowhere to be king! To be king! That was just mind blowing.

* And the last thing for me, is that Saul was always in a hurry to do things. Under pressure, he grew impatient, fearful, rash, jealous, and he would compromise God’s words. And that’s just a big no, no. I would never go for that kind of leader. I don’t ever want to be that kind of leader.

1 Samuel 15:11 “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments.” And Samuel was angry, and he cried out to the Lord all night.

Two things: First, it was not because the all-knowing God didn’t foresee how Saul was going to be (in the future) but because Saul, in his heart, rejected God’s words, and so rejected God.

A simple explanation is ,if a parent corrects a child and the child runs away from home because of the correction made – for example, a slap – the parent would feel that kind of regret because the child ran away instead of just accepting the correction and making things right.

That’s how God felt.

Can you identify yourself in this scenario? Are you someone who keeps rejecting God’s words because they offend you or make you feel uncomfortable? Do you feel what God must be feeling in any situation of your life? Or is it just really about your feelings, your emotions?

The second thing, Samuel cried out to the Lord all night. A disobedient believer brings great sorrow to a devoted follower of God and his Son, Jesus Christ.

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David, the shepherd didn’t give an ‘overpowering first impression,’ but through his life the world found out that God values hidden qualities more. In this book, we all see that David demonstrated that he loved and trusted God with all his heart. And that is the only thing that mattered.

So I ask..

What kind of leader would you choose? What kind of leader are you?

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