Samuel: The Last Judge



1 Samuel 7


Hebrews 3:12 (NKJV) Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.


Israel, also known as the Children of Israel,” was chosen by God to be a witness.


God chose Abraham. From Abrahams descendants, God chose Isaac, and from Isaacs two sons, God chose Jacob, whose name He changed to Israel. It is this Jacob from whom the nation gets its name, Israel.” Gods purpose in His choice is summed up in the words of Isaiah 43:10.

Isaiah 43:10 (NKJV)You are My witnesses,” says the Lord, And My servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe Me, and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, Nor shall there be after Me.


In this passage, God says, You are My witnesses.” This is why God chose them. In Genesis 12, when God chose Abraham, He said to Abraham, And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3) The blessing that came through Abraham is the knowledge that the Lord is God, and there is no other. The blessing of Abraham is Jesus, the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Living Word.


When God chose Abraham, he was but one man, and his wife. To build a nation, God moved Abrahams descendant, Jacob, and his children to Egypt. The four hundred years Israel spent in Egypt were the years of slavery. Then God sent Moses to deliver Israel from Egypt, and Israel spent forty years in the wilderness. These were the years of wandering. After Moses, Joshua led Israel in the conquest of Canaan. These were the years of conquest. After Joshua, Israel was led by a series of what are called judges.” The years of the judges were three hundred twenty. This word judges” is not referring to a person who conducts a court and oversees trials. These judges” were those who led Israel after Joshua until Israels monarchy was established when Saul became king.


The timeline of Israel up to the monarchy looks something like this:


Abraham - Jacob

Slavery

Wilderness

Conquest

Judges

United Kingdom

215 years

430 years

40 years

31 years

320 years

98 years

 

  

We are looking at the life of Samuel, who was the last of the judges and the first of the prophets. He served as a prophet during Sauls reign and was the prophet who anointed both Saul and David as King over Israel. Some of the judges who led Israel before Samuel were: Othniel, Ehud, Deborah, Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson. These are the most well known. Samson is probably the most famous, with Deborah and Gideon not being far behind. 


To understand Samuel in his historical context, it is important to understand the times of the judges. These three hundred twenty years were characterized by what we call the cycle of the judges. It was a repeating circle. At the end of Joshuas life, Israel was walking with the Lord. But when Joshua died, the people left the Lord and started serving the gods of the land, chiefly Baal and Ashtoreth. This turning away and idolatry angered the Lord, so He turned Israel over to raiders and foreign powers who oppressed and abused the people. Because of their suffering, the people would cry out to the Lord for deliverance, and the Lord would raise up a judge to deliver them. As long as the judge lived, the people remained faithful to the Lord, but when the judge died, the people quickly turned away from the Lord to serve the Baals and Ashtoreths. This turning away started the whole cycle over again. Othniel, Ehud, Deborah, Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson were famous because they delivered Israel from their oppressors when the people sought the Lord to save them from their suffering.


Samuel was the last of these judges. He was born in answer to his mothers prayers and she dedicated him to serve the Lord from the time of his birth. We see the wickedness that Israel had fallen into in the sons of Eli, the high priest. Because of this wickedness, the word of the Lord was rare until Samuel came along. According to the word of the Lord, Eli and his sons died while Samuel was still a boy. 


The account of Elis death and the following twenty years can be found in 1 Samuel 4-6. The Philistines invaded Israel, and Israel was losing the battle. In hopes that it would turn the tide of battle, the Ark of the Lord was carried into the fight accompanied by Elis two sons. This resulted in disaster. The Ark was captured, and Elis two sons were killed. When a messenger brought this news to Eli, Eli fell off his chair, and his neck was broken because he was very old and very fat. 


The account of the next twenty years of Israels history is summed up in the words of Elis daughter-in-law.

1 Samuel 4:22 (NKJV) And she said, The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.”


For twenty years, while Samuel was growing up to be probably around thirty years old, the Ark of the Covenant was not in its proper place in the Tabernacle of the Lord. 1 Samuel 7:2 tells us that at length, the people of Israel lamented after the Lord.

1 Samuel 7:2 (NKJV) So it was that the ark remained in Kirjath Jearim a long time; it was there twenty years. And all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord.


At this point, Samuels ministry as the judge of Israel began. 1 Samuel 7:3 marks the beginning of his service.

1 Samuel 7:3 (NKJV) Then Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, If you return to the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths from among you, and prepare your hearts for the Lord, and serve Him only; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines.”


The rest of 1 Samuel 7 details Samuels work as judge. The Lord subdued the Philistines, so they no longer harassed Israel, and He gave them peace and prosperity. 1 Samuel 7:15 sums up those years.

1 Samuel 7:15 (NKJV) And Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life.


At the beginning of his ministry, Samuel confronted Israel about their relationship with God. Consistent with the cycle of the judges, Israel had turned her back on God. Look again at 1 Samuel 7:3.

1 Samuel 7:3 (NKJV) Then Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, If you return to the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths from among you, and prepare your hearts for the Lord, and serve Him only; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines.”


The words If you return” imply they had left. And consistent with the times of the judges, they were serving foreign gods and Ashtoreths.


As the last of the judges, Samuel faced the challenge that every judge had faced. Israel had turned away from the Lord and started serving other gods.


What was the attraction of these other gods? Why did the people turn to them so quickly?


I will attempt a brief answer to these questions. Baal and Ashtoreth worship came as a pair. Baal was the Canaanite word for master, and the god, Baal, represented power, prosperity, and fertility. Ashtoreth was the god of sex. The worship of Baal and Ashtoreth involved all kinds of sensual dancing and immorality.


The significance of the people bowing to these gods is that they were seeking power, money, and sex. These are the things that people have pursued since we were kicked out of the Garden of Eden. 1 John 2 speaks of these things as what the world has to offer.”

1 John 2:16 (NKJV) For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.


The lust of the flesh” = sex

The lust of the eyes” = money

The boastful pride of life” = power


Americans bow to these gods. Ashtoreth worship takes place as we watch sex scenes played out in front of us on our screens. Baal worship takes place as we buy the latest iPhone and get caught up in the commercial side of Christmas. Our enemy, the devil, must celebrate as we focus on our power and what we want to be done in the Church rather than on the Kingdom of God and telling people the good news about Jesus.


The New Testament warns us to be on guard against falling away this way. Hebrews 3:12-13 says:

Hebrews 3:12–13 (NKJV) 12Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; 13but exhort one another daily, while it is called Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.


In this passage from Hebrews, we see the root of our turning - unbelief.


We are warned to beware, take heed, or see to it because, as human beings, we have a weakness in this area. Jesus died for our sins, but one judgment remains.

John 3:18 (NKJV) He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.


Unbelief sends people to hell. Hebrews 3:12 tells us unbelief is evil. It calls it an evil heart of unbelief.”


Israel followed the cycle of the judges throughout her history. Eventually, she was destroyed. In 70 A.D., the temple and nation were destroyed because of her unbelief and turning away.


As horrible as this is, the judges were able to turn the nation back to God. Othniel, Ehud, Deborah, Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson all lived at different times. In other words, each one single-handedly turned the nation around. Samuel, at approximately thirty years of age, turned Israel around without anyone to help him. Actually, none of these was alone; God was with them.


What did Samuel do? Lets look.

1 Samuel 7:3 (NKJV) Then Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, If you return to the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths from among you, and prepare your hearts for the Lord, and serve Him only; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines.”


Do you see what Samuel did? He spoke the truth about the Baals and Ashtoreths, and he spoke the word of God. 


One man talking straight and faithful to the word of God turned around a nation. Do we need to name Martin Luther, Abraham Lincoln, or any of the other great people of history?


Consider how Hebrews 3:13 tells us to deal with our evil, unbelieving hearts.

Hebrews 3:12–13 (NKJV) 12Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; 13but exhort one another daily, while it is called Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.


In this passage, it says to exhort one another.” This is another way of saying, speak the truth.” Need I remind us that the Bible says to speak the truth in love?” (Ephesians 4:15) When we use the Bible to demand submission, we are using the word of God in the worship of our own power. Speaking the truth in love means that we are trying to build one another up. The first thing each one of us must do is deal with our unbelief. This is done with Gods help in confession and repentance. If we have dealt thoroughly with our unbelief, we can prayerfully and humbly speak the truth to our neighbors.

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