Day 6 1 Samuel 3 ... All-purpose Leader

By the time of the judges, most terms in the Israelites' covenant with God had already been fulfilled. Abraham's descendants, twelve tribes and many thousands strong, had a land of their own. And yet, something was clearly lacking. No one could begin to call the crazy quilt of tribal territories a unified "nation." In fact, throughout the judges' era the Israelites fought each other as often as they fought their hostile neighbors.

As this book opens, the Philistines, a traditional enemy, were exploiting the Israelites' disunity, pushing ever deeper into their territory. The Philistines had superior weapons-chariots, in particular-and Israel had neither a central administration nor a regular army to mount an effective defense. A crisis of leadership was building, a crisis that threatened the very existence of Israel. The military weakness led to one of the darkest days of Jewish history when the Philistines captured the sacred ark of the covenant. Some wondered whether God had abandoned them and thus forsaken the covenant.

"In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many vision" begins this chapter. But it goes on to relate how God stepped in directly, as he had done with Abraham and Moses before, calling out a leader for his people. "See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle," God announced. He answered the desperate prayer of a barren farm wife and granted her a son, Samuel, who would grow into his role as one of Israel's greatest leaders.

Ultimately, Samuel would serve the Israelites in many capacities. He was both judge and prophet. A priest by training, he also led the nation's worship. When the need arose, he even functioned as a military general, spearheading a victorious recapture of disputed territories. And finally, under God's direction, Samuel anointed Israel's first two kings. By performing these varied roles, Samuel left an important legacy: He managed to unite the tribes for the first time in a century. Under his leadership, Israel came to the very brink of nationhood. God had not forgotten the covenant after all.

Point to Ponder: : Have you ever felt "called" by God for a certain task?