Paul speaking to an assembled crowd in the synagogue at Antioch of Pisidia: “The God of this people Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an uplifted arm He brought them out of it. Now for a time of about forty years He put up with their ways in the wilderness. And when He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He distributed their land to them by allotment. After that He gave them judges for about four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet.” (Acts 13.17-20).
Previously Barnabas had taken the lead in public discourses but Paul’s leadership abilities continued to bloom until we find him as the spokesperson. It is interesting to notice how Paul divided the time of the nation of Israel. There was the Exodus, the wanderings, the period of conquests, the judges, and then the kings. Looking at history in this manner, it was only natural that Samuel would be the first Old Testament worthy mentioned by name in Paul’s discourse; Samuel was the “transition judge.” By that, it is simply meant that his reign was the one in which God chose to allow the Israelites to realize their wish and transition from the judges to a state headship vested in a king.
Note, however, how Paul referred to Samuel; he addressed him as Samuel the prophet. Paul didn’t call him Samuel “the prophet” to distinguish him from all the other Samuels in the Bible; there was but one! He called him Samuel the prophet to highlight the primary significance of his life and influence on the nation of Israel. This man, Samuel, lived and reigned in an extremely volatile period of Israelite history and at a time in which “every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” That very phrase was chosen by the inspired author of the book of Judges to conclude his book; note his words: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21.35). At a time when virtually no one of stature cared enough about God to stand for the right, Samuel stood head and shoulders over the rest of Israel. When the floods of sin swept over the Israelite landscape, Samuel remained moored in the safety of God’s Holy word.
There are a few people in the scriptures who are mentioned extensively but about whom nothing negative is said. There’s Joseph, and of course Jesus, but few others. Samuel is one of those few. When all others about him were losing their heads to follow the crowds, Samuel stood firmly on the word of God; he refused to hear other voices, knowing fully that the ONLY true source of wisdom came from above. When hundreds, thousands, and even millions chanted for a king, Samuel continued to remember God’s inspired counsel delivered through a previous prophet, Moses. He remembered the warnings given by Moses and recorded in Deuteronomy 28 about setting up a human king as the head of Israel; he steadfastly opposed Israel’s attempts to be like the nations about them and continued to call his countrymen back to God.
Like Samuel, we need to stand against ungodly actions regardless of what the polls say!
1. How did Paul refer to Samuel in Acts 13?
2. Why would Paul use that descriptor to identify Samuel?
3. Describe the culture and political climate in Israel during Samuel’s time?
4. Why did Samuel oppose a king in Israel?
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