It is a fact that sometimes a period of Christian service can result in disappointment. Samuel had spent his life attempting to bring the nation of Israel back to God and he had seen some fruit, as we saw earlier with regard to the national repentance at Mizpah. But here near the end of his days, he experiences his people rejecting God. During that time Samuel was disappointed both with the behaviour of his sons and the beliefs of the people.
Yet although Samuel was facing disappointments, he still gave a high priority to prayer. Before he answered the elders about their wrong request for a king, which he realised was sinful, he committed the matter to the Lord. Also when the people refused to heed his warning, he referred the matter to the Lord. I think we can identify two important rules here to help us in our daily lives.
The first is to take our disappointments to God. ‘When any thing disturbs us, it is our interest, as well as our duty, to show before God our trouble, and he gives us leave to be humbly free with him’ (Matthew Henry). We have heard of the advice to change the first letter from ‘d’ to ‘h’, and see disappointments as ‘his appointments’. There will be many disappointments in the Christian life, whether with ourselves, or with others, or with circumstances, or with crushed hopes. Often, disappointments can come one upon another, as here, because Samuel not only had the long-term disappointment of his sons but the added disappointment of being rejected by the people he had laboured to help.
The second rule is to speak with God first before we respond to those who speak harshly or ungratefully to us. The obvious danger that arises in such situations is that of self-defence and often wrong things can be said in this way. Samuel knew there was a measure of truth in the criticisms of him. Yet what affected him the most was his realisation that the people were rejecting the Lord. Wisely he took his circumstances to the Lord in order to find out what to say.
Samuel received a comforting assessment, that his rejection was shared by the Lord. He also received a word of warning to pass on, which he did, although it must have been difficult for him to do so. In this he was sharing a common experience of the Old Testament prophets such as Isaiah and Jeremiah. Disappointment did not mean that he could not continue serving God. So as an elderly leader, disappointed with what had happened, he persevered in his calling to lead God’s people. We should not let disappointments stop us serving God.