Samuel, Saul, and David.
Three pillars of the Old Testament. But what did they do? Why are they in the Bible?
Raising a Leader
The period of Judges (about 100 years after the death of Joshua) was not working. Sin after sin the Israelites committed. God realized He had to do something else. And fast.
Enter the rise of kings for Israel. This is not something God had ever intended for the Israelites, but it was needed. The Philistines, Israel’s nemesis for centuries, was pressing in, threatening all of the tribes of Israel for territory. They boasted of chariots and a better organizational structure. What was Israel to do?
The Story of Hannah
God had a plan. Using the pain of not having a child, Hannah prays to God for a son whom she’ll dedicate to the Lord. This son is Samuel who would grow into one of the greatest leaders Israel ever had. He had three roles to play:
- Prophet–discerning God’s will
- Priest–led Israel in worship
- Military leader–led Israel against enemies in battle
He and God chose Israel’s first two kings.
From Hannah’s bitter pain comes great promise. Despite being made fun of and taunted for having no children, she had one of the greatest leaders of all time. She definitely got the last laugh. The Israelites followed the same path: from pain comes promise.
The Best Leaders are God’s Leaders
- Samuel was chosen over Eli’s sons to lead Israel because he listened to God.
- David, a poor shepherd boy, was chosen to lead Israel because he listened to God.
Samuel: A Transition between Judges and Kings
Samuel unites Israel for the first time in over a century, bringing the Israelites close to being a nation again. He anoints Israel’s first two kings and deposes one who doesn’t measure up (Saul). He delivered both good and bad news and had God’s ear. He settled disputes as a judge and prayed consistently. His life ended with not one black mark on his record, and the people loved him.
The greatest example of a complete 180 turnaround in life is the apostle Paul. He went from being a fanatical Jew whose mission in life was to stamp out this new religion of Christianity to experiencing Jesus and devoting his entire life to him.
Paul was an anomaly in the ancient world. He was an education Jew and a Roman citizen–the equivalent of lords and ladies in the Middle Ages, just below royalty. He used this as a huge advantage and this fact saved him from many a fate. He was fluent in Greek and his writings are rich in theology and the times of the day. Paul studied theology in Jerusalem under the famous rabbi Gamaliel. He had every advantage a person could have in this time.
Paul’s Hebrew name was Saul and probably used both from his youth. This was a common practice among the Jews of the Dispersion. He was born in Tarsus where he learned his trade of tent making (Acts 18:3), the son of a Pharisee.
Paul became one of the first missionaries, spreading the word of Christ to all who would listen. He traveled almost incessantly all around the Mediterranean Sea. He experienced many harrowing moments in his travels from a ship wreak, a snakebite, beatings, and narrow escapes–stuff of movies today. He started many churches and 13 of his letters are in the New Testament. He was the first one to say God loves all equally and to bring the Gentiles to God through Jesus Christ. “For God does not show favoritism,” he wrote to the Romans (Romans 2:11).
He faced many personal threats and challenges. He survived a stoning and many of his travels were marked by frequent comings and goings due to threats on his life. He was imprisoned in Rome twice, where he was eventually executed in late 66 or early 67 AD. Tradition says he was beheaded on the Ostian Way, a major trade road in Rome.
Paul’s life is an example to us all. Having understood his duty, he followed it unflinchingly, undeterred by possible consequences to himself. He had native zeal and ardor, giving himself wholly to his work. He was warm-hearted and affectionate. He was humble, sincere, and sympathetic. In essence, he was possessed and empowered by the living Christ. Isn’t that what we all want?