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“Our work is finished here,” I said to Samuel that evening after returning to Mizpeh. “It is time for us to leave.”
Samuel nodded. “You have been a great help and encouragement to me,” Samuel said, “but I have perceived a divine sadness in my heart in the past hour, and I know that we must now be parted. Do you think that we shall see each other again?”
“It is possible,” I said. “You still have much work ahead of you. You will yet anoint two kings in Israel. Perhaps Yahweh will let us witness those historic occasions in His kingdom.”
“I do hope so,” Samuel said with a sigh. “So much of the future is yet hidden from me. We have gained our freedom this day, but how long will this last? The hearts of men deceive them. How long can Israel refrain from idolatry?”
“Israel will continue to have problems,” I replied. “The people now worship the true God, but they do not truly know Him yet. They fear Him, but most do not truly love Him. They know not His mind or His ways. They have only perceived His mighty acts. They know Him as a great King, but they do not yet know Him as their heavenly Father.”
“What can I do to change that?” Samuel asked.
“Only God can change the heart,” I said. “The stone that you have set up today is a witness of God’s power and His acts, but there is a greater Helper who is yet to come—One who has the power to change hearts. 154 Meanwhile, you must be content to fulfill your commission and leave the rest for another generation and another time.”
“I feel so helpless,” Samuel said.
“None of us can take the place of God,” I said, “nor can we do that which only He can do. The people felt helpless today as well, until God intervened and fought the battle for them. So it is with us. We can only follow His leading and walk the path that He has laid out for each of us. God is in no hurry, and His plan is unveiled over many generations. This gives many people opportunity to participate in His plan and to do His will. One plows, another sows, and another waters the seed.” 155
“Then I will do my part to the best of my ability,” Samuel said. “I can do no more. I must lead these people even in their infirmities and their lack of understanding.”
“Yes,” I said, “and you will find that as their leader, you will have to submit to their will even when it is wrong. The thorn of leadership is that they must represent the people. When you anoint the first king, you will see what I mean. That king will be a reflection of the heart of the people. I can tell you only to give them the word of Yahweh and warn them when they show signs of rejecting Yahweh as their King.”
“That is good advice,” Samuel said. “When I peer into the darkness of that which is to come, I feel old inside. What I fear most is that I will be unable to retain Israel’s freedom, that the people will respect me, yet will not listen to the word of Yahweh that I give them.”
“A new type of bondage will indeed come upon them,” I said, “not like the Philistine captivity, but something deeper. The power of flesh is our worst taskmaster, and it is ever present, even if Israel seems to be free. The bondage of religion is the most subtle and insidious form of bondage, for it has the appearance of godliness, and men are unable to recognize it for what it is.”
“Yes,” said Samuel. “I have often pondered whether or not it is possible to instill in men a love for God Himself. It is easy to instill in them a love for religion, the priesthood, the tabernacle, and even the Ark of God, for these are things that they can see and feel. They want to be ruled by men, who they can see and hear, but they dread being ruled by a God that they do not really know.”
“Time always reveals the hearts of the people,” I replied. “I would like to give comfort to you in this regard, but the hearts of men do not change easily. Nonetheless, God has promised to make all of us His people and to be the God of all nations. Though He is not driven by a sense of urgency, He will fulfill His word in due time. Meanwhile, it is encouraging to know that He has called a few, a remnant of grace, who are the first fruits of His promise.”
“That does indeed comfort me,” Samuel said. “I will always be grateful for the prayers of my mother who brought me into this world by the grace of God.”
We slept peacefully that night and awoke in a new place.