A Man of God Raised Up – Lessons from Samuel8 min read
Every revival needs a man of God to serve as a leader for God’s people as they renew their commitment to the Scriptures. Pentecost had Peter. The Reformation had Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin. The Evangelical Revival in England had Whitefield and Wesley; in America, Jonathan Edwards. In the same way, Israel had their spiritual leaders to guide in spiritual restoration, men like Elijah, Josiah, Ezra, and others. When God moves to awaken his people, he uses men of God – spiritual leaders who guide God’s people into His truth and deep conviction of it. Samuel was certainly such a man, and his story helps us understand how God works to bring a man of God on the scene and use him in restoration.
Samuel’s Preparation for Ministry
Samuel’s period of preparation can be divided into two parts: preparation before his calling and preparation by his calling. Before his calling, we find that from birth he was a set apart child, thanks to his mother Hannah. She, by God’s sovereign grace, provided Samuel with the foundation he needed to meet Israel’s needs. This is the same thing we find with Timothy. Paul said to him, “From a child you have known the Scriptures…” Men of God always trace their heritage to something; often it is a godly mother who gives her all to establish her children in Scripture. This upbringing made Samuel distinct, even as a child, from the ungodly sons of Eli; so with any man of God, his character will be such that people notice a clear distinction between it and the character of his contemporaries. True spiritual leaders are spiritual before they are leaders; the most important capacity for men of God is not the ability to preach, but integrity. Integrity will be clear to one’s peers, and so it is said of Samuel that he “grew on, and was in favour both with the LORD, and also with men.” God does not use men who are detached from the real world, because ministry will not be done in an ivory tower. It is an immensely practical thing. Thus a man of God must be pure before God, even in the things that men cannot see; but he must also be pure before men in the practical evidence of personal maturity. Of course, it doesn’t end there, since we see Samuel committed to the house of God. He was faithful in whatever capacity he was given, even if it was opening the doors in the morning. So today, a man of God will be a man of the assembly. These cannot be separated. Yes, unsaved peers should look upon the man of God with approval, but they can only appreciate that superficially if at all. In the assembly where God’s people are, there the man of God is (or should be) more fully appreciated. This will be his sphere of service when his calling is solidified; thus he must be committed to it beforehand. Again, spiritual leaders are spiritual before they are leaders.
But the public ministry does come eventually. This is signified by a direct call from God: for Samuel, it was as direct as could be, since it was verbal. Though we won’t have the same case today, we will find common characteristics. Firstly, we find that the call was repeated three times; the principle here is that God will be clear when the time for public ministry has come. It is no trivial matter to publicly preach the Word of God. One must be absolutely sure the call is from God, not from another source, such as feelings, ambition, or even destructive persons that only want to confuse. When this call is from God it will be recognized, just as Eli realized it was the Lord who called Samuel. As to the response, it should be obvious. When the authority of the call is understood “Speak, for your servant hears” is the only appropriate reply. God’s perfect Servant exhibited this perfectly while on earth: “The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned. The Lord GOD hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back.” (Is. 50:4-5). When God speaks, immediate obedience is always perfect timing. It is not right to launch into public ministry before preparation is complete, nor is it right to digress from that ministry when the call has been established firmly. Ultimately, in all of this, the Lord must be supremely recognized. “It is the Lord; let Him do what seems good to Him” was Eli’s response, even though this would mean his own passing from the scene. God is sovereign over Who He does and does not raise up. One cannot manipulate a true call from God. When a man of God is raised up, it is only ever of God; otherwise, he is no true man of God.
Samuel’s Progression in Ministry
Where there is a call, there should be progress in fulfilling that call. For Samuel, we find that in the last part of 1 Samuel 3. We read first of all “Samuel grew.” Obviously this is physical and emotional growth; basically, he became a man. We need manly men in the ministry – experienced men, strong men (inwardly), men of sanctified desire, men of self control, men of maturity. But the most important part of Samuel’s reputation was this: “The Lord was with him.” This marked both God’s approval and God’s full support. If a man made this his life goal, he would not regret his ambition. To the spiritual man, God must be everything for life to matter; for one to say the Lord is with him, that is his greatest compliment. And when the Lord is with his public servant, He makes the words of that servant hold power and authority. It is said that Samuel’s words did not fall to the ground. As a prophet, his sayings held true. By application, we can see that a man of God who speaks for God will have words that stand true and are impacting. Paul said to Timothy, “Preach the Word!” This is the only way to have an effective ministry, for when God is speaking through His Word there is no telling what effects this will have since “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” (Is. 55:11). This power in preaching the Word will be recognized by God’s people, for “My sheep hear My voice.” It was known across the entire land of Israel that Samuel’s ministry was God-ordained. While there are exceptions, such as in Jeremiah’s case, the man of God will be recognized by those he is called to lead. However, regardless of recognition, the true minister’s goal is what Samuel accomplished: “And the word of Samuel came to all Israel.” Faithful and far-reaching promulgation of the Word is the goal of the man of God. Revival comes when God’s word is given due prominence.
All of this, of course, is sustained by the private work of God in the heart by revealing Himself. “And the LORD appeared again in Shiloh: for the LORD revealed himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the LORD.” The minister’s goal is not to learn the Word in a seminary and then preach it; his is a lifelong discovery of Who God is. The man of God makes the knowledge of God his personal goal. A solid prayer life and a consistent meditation life are not simply facets of someone’s ministry. Rather, they are the heart and soul of everything the ministry is. God will not use a man to teach others if the man has not been taught himself. God will not use a man to strengthen others if the man knows nothing of the spiritual strength of deep communion with God. A man who falls apart privately will soon fall apart publicly: the private life is the foundation for the public. The true man of God is not defined by his role: he would be just as committed if his publicity was never given to him.
We need revival. Therefore, we need men of God to be raised up. To reverse ignorance, we need teachers. To reverse complacency, we need godly examples. To reverse spiritual immaturity, we need leaders. These find their answer in men of God. This is what Paul believed when he wrote to Timothy, and this should be our same hope today:
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. (2 Timothy 3:16-4:5)