Samuel: The Most Influential Leader of His Day

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1 Samuel 12—13

Have you ever wondered what gave Samuel such credibility with others? When he spoke, people listened.

Few descriptions offer a greater compliment than the one given to Samuel’s leadership in 1 Samuel 3:19, 20: “So Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all of Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel had been established as a prophet of the LORD.”

Samuel’s success began when he was just a boy, under his mentor Eli. God spoke to Samuel during the night, then the lad spoke for God to Eli (1 Sam. 3:11–18). Despite the hardness of God’s message to Eli, Samuel spoke the truth in love. This encounter began a long pattern for Samuel.

Soon, the Israelites sought out Samuel to speak words of direction for their future. They needed help to retrieve the Ark of the Covenant. They needed strategy against their enemy, the Philistines. They eventually sought his permission to crown a king, like the other nations around them.

The influence of the prophet just kept growing. It grew so vast, that when King Saul failed in his leadership, Samuel removed him. Imagine, having the sole authority to kick out even the reigning king! Samuel lived long enough to give the Israelites two kings. Samuel exhorted, he affirmed, he corrected, he prophesied, he reminded, and he taught the people. When he died, all of Israel gathered to mourn his loss (25:1). Indeed, this was a man of impact!

Images of Leadership from Samuel’s Life

1. Shepherd
The key descriptive word here is relationships. The Bible loves to describe God’s leaders as shepherds. Even the Lord is described as a Shepherd (Ps. 23; John 10:11). A shepherd knows, loves, protects, and leads his sheep. Samuel drew from this imagery. He spoke out of relationship. He identified with the people and could be both tough and tender because of this relationship. People listened because of relationship.

2. Steward
The key word here is responsibility. A steward acts on behalf of an owner, overseeing others and managing possessions. Stewards are accountable to the owner. Jesus taught this principle in Luke 12:42–48. Samuel lived this truth as he confronted kings and peasants, as he wept over the disobedience of Israel, and as he sought guidance for his nation. He remained faithful to his calling, accountable to God, and responsible to people. That is why they listened.

3. Seer
The key word here is revelation. Leaders must possess a vision and communicate fresh direction to the people. Samuel, like other Old Testament prophets, brought the word of God to bear on contemporary issues. He spoke with divine conviction about past lessons, present situations, and future direction. He moved from being merely a judge to becoming a prophet, speaking with skill as a visionary leader. People listened because of his revelation.

4. Servant
The key word here is rights. A biblically informed leader gives up his rights instead of gaining them when he reaches the top. Leaders sacrifice for the good of the people they lead. Samuel modeled this as he interceded for Israel, as he made sacrifices on the altar on their behalf, and as he wept for their welfare. Power did not motivate him, but service. People listened because of his servant’s heart.

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