1 Samuel – Someone to follow, someone to blame
The first book of Samuel falls, historically, toward the end of Judges, Samuel himself was probably born while Samson was Judge of Israel. It was a transitional period with the time of the Judges ending and the people of Israel finally getting the king they had been asking for. Also, with the people "doing what was right in their own eyes" (Judges 21:25) even the office of the high priest had lost some of its authority, so God spoke through a prophet.
Samuel was all of these, prophet, judge and priest. He was born in answer to his mother's prayers and dedicated to God before his conception. The bible says: "So Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel had been established as a prophet of the Lord." 1 Samuel 3:19-20
How many people can it be said: "let none of Gods words fall to the ground?" Precious few, I imagine. Samuel valued the word of God and was careful with what God said.
In addition to Samuel, the other main character in 1 Samuel is Saul, the first king of Israel. Samuel gave the people a message from God, warning them that it was a mistake to desire a king, but they wouldn't listen.
"Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, “No, but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” 1 Samuel 8:19-20
In other words, we want someone to follow. Everyone can't be the leader, so we want one to be king over us. The problem was that they already had a leader and king, God Almighty who had delivered them out of captivity, led them through the wilderness and always responded to their cry's even through seasons of disobedience – but that wasn't enough.
Following God was hard, blaming God was impossible.
And that is sometimes what it comes down to. We want to follow someone to relieve our own personal responsibility. If we just do what the king says then mistakes are his fault, not ours. If it wasn't for Gods unfailing love the ensuing time of Kings would have completely derailed Israel because while there were some very good kings there were also some very bad ones.
Wanting someone to follow and, ultimately, someone to blame is a challenge in the Christian life as well. When we enter into God's kingdom through faith in the sufficiency of Christ to forgive our guilt and the penalty for our sin, we enter into a new kingdom where Christ is King. We return, in a sense, to live under the rulership of someone we cannot see. He has given us His infallible word and promised to dwell within us by His Spirit Who guides, comforts, teaches and intercedes for us. But that doesn't make the Christian walk easy.
The word challenges us continually to deny ourselves and be better than we are by making choices that honor God, serving, loving, resisting powerful urges to conform, judge, slack off. Jesus said, "Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it." Matthew 7:14
Take a look at the fragmented church today. You can probably find one or a dozen that routinely justify behavior that is biblically wrong, conforming instead to modern, cultural, worldly standards. And their leaders are up there justifying it all and twisting scripture to make it say what they want. Some of this lazy theology would make it a lot easier to be a Christian because there is really no distinction between them and the world at large. Let's make it a casual, social gospel. Ah, easy. And if it's wrong, oh well, I'm just a follower, it's leaderships fault, I'm just following their lead.
But that kind of logic won't fly at judgment day. Because Christianity is personal. Your relationship with God is first personal, then communal. You are accountable for both what you know, what you do and what He has said. If you hear a pastor explaining away a passage of scripture to mean the opposite of what it obviously says, it's on you whether you sit still for it or not.
Instead of looking a king, like Saul, someone to blame for our mistakes, let us desire, instead, to be like Samuel, to be someone of whom it could be said, he "let none of [God's] words fall to the ground."