Our devotion for the commemoration of Samuel today comes from The Word Becoming Flesh.
Samuel has always been a difficult figure to classify, but that probably answers to his position on the threshold of one of the major transitions in Israel’s political and theological history, namely from theocracy to monarchy. In many ways he is the last and greatest of the “judges,” and even his venal sons, Joel and Abijah (8:2), are so described.
Presumably he was also a priest, because he was Eli’s successor, and his conflict with Saul (1 Sam. 13:13) implies that he alone had the right to sacrifice. Conversely, Saul’s behavior may presage much later interference in cultic affairs by the monarchy.
In many respects, he must also be understood as the first of the great prophets (cf. Acts 13:20), and from here on we meet many of them also in the historical books. Chap. 9 indicates that he has the clairvoyant powers of a “seer,” yet his “prophecy” towers head and shoulders above the ecstatics among whom Saul fell. As the great prophets of later times spearheaded a “back to Moses” reformation after the devastations of Baalism, so Samuel can be understood as leading Israel’s first great religious revival after her “first love” had failed in the period of the Judges (cf. esp. chap. 7). His famous “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice” oracle against Saul in chap. 15 is in many respects almost the quintessence of the prophetic message.
Thus, Samuel is a veritable “second Moses,” representing virtually all offices in Israel as no one had since Moses. It is no accident that Jer. 15:1 views Moses and Samuel together as great mediators and intercessors for Israel. In this, as in other respects, Samuel anticipates both Elijah and Christ. Typologically, not as much is usually made of Samuel as many other figures, but there appears to be no good reason for that neglect.
In many respects, Moses had functioned as a “king,” and likewise with Samuel, also in his apparent capacity as a “judge.” (Note the reaction of the Bethlehemites at his coming in 16:4.) No doubt, that accounts partly for his coolness toward the idea of kingship in the more formal sense. But it will not do to attribute it all to personal insecurity or pique! . . .
Finally, it should be stressed, as Samuel clearly illustrates, that “prophecy,” humanly speaking, arises in Israel largely as a counterpoise to kingship. One of prophecy’s major and standing tasks is to call the throne to account, especially to remind it that the absolutist, mythological, and “divine right” models of paganism are inappropriate for the covenant society of Israel. And when kings fade after the Exile, prophets soon disappear from the scene too.
Prayer (1 Samuel 2:1–2)
My heart exults in the Lord;
my horn is exalted in the Lord.
My mouth derides my enemies,
because I rejoice in your salvation.
There is none holy like the Lord:
for there is none besides you;
there is no rock like our God.
Devotional reading is from The Word Becoming Flesh, pages 125–27 © 1979 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.