Ellen G. White Writings

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The Signs of the Times

October 19, 1888

The Death of Samuel

By Mrs. E. G. White

“And Samuel died; and all the Israelites were gathered together, and lamented him, and buried him in his house at Ramah.” The death of Samuel was regarded as an irreparable loss by the nation of Israel. A great and good prophet and an eminent judge had fallen in death; and the grief of the people was deep and heart-felt.

The life of Samuel from early childhood had been a life of piety and devotion. He had been placed under the care of Eli in his youth, and the loveliness of his character drew forth the warm affection of the aged priest. He was kind, generous, diligent, obedient, and respectful. The contrast between the course of the youth Samuel and that of the priest's own sons was very marked, and Eli found rest and comfort and blessing in the presence of his charge. It was a singular thing that between Eli, the chief magistrate of the nation, and the simple child so warm a friendship should exist. Samuel was helpful and affectionate, and no father ever loved his child more tenderly than did Eli this youth. As the infirmities of age came upon Eli, he felt more keenly the disheartening, reckless, profligate course of his own sons, and he turned to Samuel for comfort and support.

How touching to see youth and old age relying one upon the other, the youth looking up to the aged for counsel and wisdom, the aged looking to the youth for help and sympathy. This is as it should be. God would have the young possess such qualifications of character that they shall find delight in the friendship of the old, that they may be united in the endearing bonds of affection to those who are approaching the borders of the grave.

From his youth up, Samuel had walked before Israel in the integrity of his heart; but he was no longer to go in and out before his people. Although Saul had been the acknowledged king of Israel, Samuel had wielded a more powerful influence than he, because his record was one of faithfulness, obedience, and devotion. We read that he judged Israel all the days of his life. The closing years of the prophet could not but be years of sadness and burden of soul. His own children had not followed the example which he had given them. They had not heeded the precepts which he had sought to impress upon their minds. They had not copied the elevated, pure, unselfish life of their father. Through their impious and selfish life they had forfeited the confidence of the people, and this was a cause of great grief to Samuel. He had been to some extent too easy and indulgent with his sons, and the result that is usually seen where this is the case, was made apparent in his family. The characters of his children were marred with selfishness, and their course was such that it made them a dishonor to the cause of God. If the warning given to Eli had exerted the influence upon the mind of Samuel that it should have done, it would have aided him in the government of his household.

The Lord said of Abraham, “I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.” If Samuel had been like Abraham, and had commanded his children after him, how different would have been the moulding of the lives of his children. Their characters were fashioned after the sight of their eyes and the hearing of their ears. The associations which they chose, the company which they kept, left an impress upon their minds; and reverence for God and sacred things was weakened.

The aged prophet had loved Saul with intense affection; but before he died, he saw the scepter dishonored in the hand of him whom he had anointed in the name of the Lord to rule Israel. He saw him as one who could not rule himself, much less a nation. With some consolation he recalled the fact that he had anointed the son of a shepherd in Bethlehem as the future king, and he looked forward to David's reign as the time when Israel would revive. The bright and morning Star was to come of the seed of David, and his throne was to be established forever.

After Israel had rejected Samuel as ruler of the nation, though well qualified for public labor, the prophet sought retirement. He was not superannuated, for he presided as teacher in the school of the prophets. This service for his God was a pleasant service. David's connection with Samuel during his stay at Naioth aroused the jealousy of Saul lest he who was revered as a prophet of God throughout all Israel, should lend his influence to the advancement of his rival. As the character and management of Saul were viewed in contrast to the character and management of Samuel, Israel saw what a mistake they had made in desiring a king, that they might not be different from the nations around them. The people looked with alarm at the condition of society, fast becoming leavened with irreligion and godlessness. The influence and example of their ruler was leaving its impression on all sides, and well might Israel mourn that Samuel, the prophet of the Lord, was dead.

The nation had lost the founder and president of their college, but that was not all. They had lost him to whom they had been accustomed to go with their great troubles. They had lost one who had constantly interceded with God in their behalf. Israel had felt more secure while the prayers of this good man ascended to Heaven for them; for “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” They felt now that they were being forsaken of God. The king seemed little less than a madman. He was abandoned of God; but he was not filled with godly sorrow for the evil course he had pursued. He was remorseful, passionate, and unable to exercise reason. The Lord had declared by the lips of Samuel the condition of the disobedient: “Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.” These words found their verification in the life of Saul. The uncontrolled passions of his wicked heart made him unfit to receive counsel or advice. He refused all instruction, and acted as if possessed of a demon. Justice was perverted to cruelty, and order was turned into confusion. Oh, that Saul had humbled his proud heart before God! But anger rests in the bosom of fools, transforming those who have been made in the image of God, into the image of the evil one.

Saul had a mind and influence capable of governing a kingdom, if his powers had been submitted to the control of God, but the very endowments that qualified him for doing good could be used by Satan, when surrendered to his power, and would enable him to exert widespread influence for evil. He could be more sternly vindictive, more injurious and determined in prosecuting his unholy designs, than could others, because of the superior powers of mind and heart that had been given him of God. He had ruined his own soul, and had wrought the ruin of his house; but he was impenitent and hardened. He had brought injury and disgrace upon himself, and yet he desired that David when he should come to the throne, should preserve his house and honor his name. But his very course in pursuing his successor from place to place, and of proclaiming him an outlaw and a rebel, brought infamy upon the name he desired to have honored.

It was while Israel was racked with perplexity and internal strife, at a time when it seemed that the calm, God-fearing counsel of Samuel was most needed, that God gave his aged servant rest. Oh, how bitter were the reflections of Israel as they looked upon his quiet resting-place, and remembered their folly in rejecting him as their ruler; for he had had so close a connection with Heaven that he seemed to bind all Israel to the throne of Jehovah. It was Samuel who had taught them to love and obey God; but now that he was dead, the people felt that they were to be left to the mercies of a king who was joined to Satan, and who would divorce the people from God and Heaven.

David could not be present at the funeral of Samuel; but he mourned for him as deeply and tenderly as a faithful son could have mourned for a devoted father. He knew that his death had broken another bond of restraint from the spirit and actions of Saul, and he felt less secure than while the prophet lived. While the attention of Saul was engaged in mourning for the death of Samuel, David thought it necessary to seek for a place of greater security; so he fled to the wilderness of Paran. It was here that he composed the one hundred and twentieth and twenty-first psalms. In the desolate wilds of the wilderness, realizing that the prophet was dead, and the king was his enemy, he sang: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved; he that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.... The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil; he shall preserve thy soul. The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore.”

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