1 Samuel 7:5 Then Samuel said, Assemble all Israel at Mizpah, and I will intercede with the Lord for you.
God’s people had fallen into idolatry, but under Samuel’s leadership, they agreed to throw their idols away and serve the Lord. Samuel gathered the people at Mizpah for a time of spiritual renewal. There they fasted, confessed their sins, and poured out water before the Lord (1 Samuel 7:6).
The ceremony of pouring out water was not required by God’s word, but may symbolize pouring out our hearts to him. [P]our out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord (Lamentations 2:19), wrote Jeremiah. And, pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge (Psalm 62:8), wrote David. Prayer is normally calm and quiet, but when our hearts are full of emotion, it can be appropriate to pour them out to God.
1 Samuel 7:7 When the Philistines heard that Israel had assembled at Mizpah, the rulers of the Philistines came up to attack them.
Satan is never pleased when people are turning to God, so he interrupted the occasion by sending the Philistines to wage war on Israel. God’s people were afraid, so they asked Samuel to pray while they went out to fight. Samuel offered a sacrifice, and called out to God in prayer. As the Philistines drew near, God sent thunder that was so loud it threw them into a panic, and they were defeated.
This recalls the words of Hannah, Samuel’s mother, when she gave him to the Lord. The Most High will thunder from heaven; the Lord will judge the ends of the earth (1 Samuel 2:10). Samuel’s mother may have died by then, but her words were being fulfilled. God used his thunder to bring judgment on the Philistines.
1 Samuel 8:1 When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as Israel’s leaders.
Samuel’s sons were not morally qualified to lead, so this was a bad idea. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice (2 Samuel 8:3). Samuel should have known not to appoint his corrupt sons, since Eli made the same mistake with terrible results. The desire to see our children succeed can be so strong that it overrules our better judgment.
Notice that children of godly parents do not always grow up to be godly adults. Samuel’s sons were willing to receive whatever advantage their father could provide, but they were not willing to serve their father’s God. This pattern has not changed in thousands of years. A foolish son brings grief to his father and bitterness to the mother who bore him (Proverbs 17:25), says Proverbs.
1 Samuel 8:4-5 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.
It was not wrong for God’s people to ask for a king, since that had been God’s plan from the beginning (Deuteronomy 17:14-20). The problem was that they wanted to be like all the other nations. Instead of relying on their heavenly king, through prayerful obedience, they wanted an earthly king with a powerful army. God reluctantly agreed, and told Samuel to give them a king (1 Samuel 8:21).
The world still longs for someone who will bring lasting peace and prosperity. We desperately need a king who will overcome evil, and lead the world in righteousness. In fact, that king is coming soon (Revelation 22:20). [T]he government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), wrote Isaiah. Happy are those who serve him now.
1 Samuel 9:1 There was a Benjamite, a man of standing, whose name was Kish. [H]e had a son named Saul, as handsome a young man as could be found anywhere in Israel, and he was a head taller than anyone else.
Saul enjoyed the benefits of a good appearance, and belonging to a prominent family. The family’s donkeys went missing one day, and Saul was sent to find them. Take one of the servants with you and go and look for the donkeys (1 Samuel 9:3), said his father. After a few days of searching, Saul wanted to return home. But the servant suggested visiting the prophet Samuel, since he might be able to tell them where the donkeys were.
God told Samuel that Saul was on his way, and that he should anoint him ruler over Israel. As soon as they arrived, Samuel informed Saul that the donkeys had been found, and that he would rule over God’s people. The following morning Samuel took a flask of olive oil and poured it on Saul’s head saying, Has not the Lord anointed you ruler over his inheritance? (1 Samuel 10:1).
It is surprising how little choice Saul seemed to have in this matter. He did not ask to be king, was not trying to be king, and did not want to be king (1 Samuel 10:22). But God made him king, and suddenly, everything changed. Our lives belong to God, and we never know when he will call us to an important task. The best way to prepare for great things is to be faithful in the little things (Matthew 25:21).
1 Samuel 10:9 As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul’s heart.
Changing hearts is the work of the Holy Spirit. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws (Ezekiel 36:26-27), wrote Ezekiel. Nothing was more important to Saul’s success than the help of the Holy Spirit.
Likewise, God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5), wrote Paul. The Spirit empowers us to live for Christ and to carry out his work (1 Corinthians 12:7). Apart from the indwelling Spirit we do not even belong to Christ (Romans 8:9). But your Father in heaven [will] give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him (Luke 11:13), said Jesus. Whoever believes in Jesus Christ should rely on the Holy Spirit to help them live in service to God.
Reflection and Review
Why does God want us to pour out our hearts to him?
Why does the world need a righteous king?
Why did God change Saul’s heart?