Samuel's name is listed among the giants of the faith in Hebrews 11. He was the last of the judges and the first of the prophets. Compared with others of his day, he was a veritable spiritual giant. He was a far greater threat to the Philistines, the hereditary foes of Israel, than Samson ever was, for all of Samson's exploits and practical jokes. Samuel towered head and shoulders above King Saul and helped launch the illustrious David on his triumphant way.
We begin with Samuel's mother. Hannah was a remarkable woman, a woman full of faith, able to lay hold of God until assured her barrenness would be turned into blessedness. Included in her pleas for a son was a promise to God to give that son back to God. When the little boy was born, she called him Samuel, which means "asked of God." The name was to remind her, when the temptation came to keep him, that he was not hers but was His. He was God's.
Then there was his mentor, the old priest, Eli, a man who became a second father to Samuel. Eli had done very badly in raising his own sons, but he did exceedingly well in raising Samuel. Soon all Israel knew that a new prophet had arisen, one who knew God and who, young as he was, could speak for God. It was Eli who taught and trained the boy, but it was his mother who prayed for him, for her growing "Asked of God," now wholly given to God.
We think, too, of Samuel's ministry. He lived in a very dark day. There was no king in Israel; and there was no prophet, except himself, to speak for God. The priesthood was in a shambles, and the period of the judges was coming to its inglorious end. The people had been on a seesaw for centuries, up and down, up and down, getting nowhere and ringed in by fierce and implacable foes. The knowledge of the true and living God lingered in the land, but a revival was needed. And Samuel was the man to bring it.
We find that when the will of God was to be sought, it was Samuel who travailed in prayer to ascertain when and where and how this or that or the other thing should be done. It was Samuel who wrestled with God over the matter of the constitutional change of Israel from a theocracy into a monarchy. It was Samuel who wrestled with God over the matter of terminating Saul's infant dynasty and transferring the kingdom to David.
Moreover, when the wars of God were to be fought, it was Samuel who stood in the gap. It was Samuel who fought the Philistines and proclaimed his "Ebenezer" saying, "Hitherto hath the Lord helped us" (1 Sam. 7:12). Never again, after his last, spectacular victory, did the Philistines dare invade Israel in the days of Samuel. He was a greater man than Samson after all.
Then, too, when the Word of God was to be taught, it was Samuel who taught it. He became Israel's first prophet. Soon all Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the Lord. He established a teaching itinerary. He traveled to Bethel, to Gilgal, to Mizpeh, and back to Ramah in circuit, judging Israel and trying to bring Israel back to the book.
Finally, full of years, the aged prophet died; and all Israel wept. And well they might, for such men are rare. They occur in every generation, but generally they stand alone, giants in the earth. "Time would fail me to tell of . . . Samuel," is the Holy Spirit's last word about Samuel (Heb. 11:32). And so it would. We shall have to wait, therefore, till time shall be no more to hear the rest of this story.