One Holy Man Matters
Eric Newton: I’m sitting here with Dr. Steve Hankins, and we really appreciate his message in seminary Chapel. We’ve been doing the series, “Servants Chosen and Equipped.” Dr. Hankins preached on the life of Samuel from the book of 1 Samuel. I wonder if you could just give us a little bit of an idea of what you found to be distinctive and really compelling about the life of Samuel as it relates to the ministry.
Steve Hankins: Sure. Well, Samuel of course is a major character in the Old Testament, and the Scriptures make clear to us in the New Testament that all the events and characters of the Old Testament are intended for our examples. But even more specifically, Samuel was an unusual man in that he was a transition figure. In the New Testament, both in Acts chapter 3 and also in Acts 13, where in one case Peter is speaking the other case Paul is speaking, Samuel is presented as the transition figure from the judges to the kings; he’s presented as the first in a long line of prophets, culminating in the first century when Christ and his work is being told about.
But what’s even more fascinating is the fact that Samuel is identified as an unusual man of prayer—of faith—whose prayers got answered. In fact, Psalm 99:6 specifically states that God answered the prayers of Moses, Aaron, and Samuel. And then we have a statement, also found in Jeremiah 15:1, where God says to Jeremiah the prophet that, “If Moses and Samuel were to try to persuade me not to judge Judah for their sins, I wouldn’t respond even to them,” giving an idea of the spiritual stature of this man.
And then in Hebrews 11 we have the wonderful statement of verse 32 that Samuel is noted as one of the great men of faith. I think it’s really noteworthy that in the record of Samuel’s life in 1 Samuel 1-25 you find no specific description of failure or sin in character or behavior; that’s unusual in the Bible. Even the best men in the Bible usually have things about them that are noted under inspiration that lay out their weaknesses, expose their failures, their sins, and in Samuel’s case we don’t find that. In fact, I think that gives us an indication of what is really profound about the life of Samuel in Scripture—and that is that one holy man matters. And he was a man of his generation—which was not a good generation.
In fact, in the book of Judges in chapter 17 and also 21, the same statement is made, and that statement is that “There was no king in Israel, and every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” And into that environment Samuel steps as a child born in answer to prayer—a child given over to be trained by a high priest at the time who himself was a very sad failure; Eli and his two sons were serving as priest—Hophni and Phinehas. And Samuel grows and is nurtured in the Lord by this high priest in a special training environment at Shiloh, and God calls him to be a prophet. And in time he was recognized by all Israel, not only as a prophet, but he was recognized as the last in the line of the judges.
He was the man also who anointed the first king of Israel at God’s direction—that was Saul, of course—and then Saul’s replacement, which was David. But this was a man who knew what it was to boldly preach to a nation that needed revival. He was a man who had a sterling life spiritually and a man of unusual trust in God in spite of many challenging and difficult circumstances in his life. One holy man does matter. His life resulted in a great change and a revival that occurred in Israel.
Newton: Thank you very much for that. As I recall you worked through some implications of Samuel’s life and how that would be applied for us today as ministers. Can you give us a couple of those?
Hankins: Oh, sure. Well, Samuel was an example of a man who trusted in the good guidance of God without bitterness. He had a difficult time in his early life: his parents left him with the high priests for training—that was unusual; he had very poor examples in Eli and Hophni and Phinehas; he faced many serious challenges from the nation and from the leaders even that he anointed. And yet he continued to trust God and God’s good guidance. Something else that’s remarkable about Samuel that I think should be true of us is that he was willing to boldly face a nation that desperately needed revival. They were in sin, worshiping false gods that are called the Baals and Ashtaroth, and he faced them with that iniquity and called for them to repent. And fortunately, they did repent.
Another very important implication is that this was a man who lived a very high standard of righteousness in his life. He did not give in to the allurement of the culture and of the world, and he set a tremendous example for us. All of us sin. We all fail. But none of us needs to be living in a way that fails to set a proper example, and Samuel was that good example that we all ought to try to be.
Newton: Thank you. I think it’s really encouraging—we live in a challenging day like Samuel. But just like him, we can stay true to the Lord. And God has actually given us, like you said at the beginning, examples like this in Scripture to guide us along that way. Thank you again for your ministry.
Hankins: You’re welcome.