Trusting God – 1 Samuel Intro.

Life is full of challenges and complications.  What do we do when we face these overwhelming obstacles? 1 Samuel tells the stories of women and men who struggled to trust God but in doing so discovered that He is enough.  Like them we can embrace the fact that God’s guidance and goodness can be trusted.   Here are the the first  people introduced in 1 Samuel, their life lessons and what we can learn from them in the next few weeks:


Hannah’s prayer shows us that all we have and receive is on loan from God. Hannah might have had many excuses for being a possessive mother. But when God answered her prayer, she followed through on her promise to dedicate Samuel to God’s service.

She discovered that the greatest joy in having a child is to give that child fully and freely back to God. She entered motherhood prepared to do what all mothers must eventually do—let go of their children.

When children are born, they are completely dependent upon their parents for all their basic necessities. This causes some parents to forget that those same children will grow toward independence within the span of a few short years. Being sensitive to the different stages of that healthy process will greatly strengthen family relationships; resisting or denying that process will cause great pain. We must gradually let go of our children in order to allow them to become mature, independent adults.

Strengths and accomplishments

  • Mother of Samuel, Israel’s greatest judge
  • Fervent in worship; effective in prayer
  • Willing to follow through on even a costly commitment

Weakness and mistake

  • Struggled with her sense of self-worth because she had been unable to have children

Lessons from her life

  • God hears and answers prayer
  • Our children are gifts from God
  • God is concerned for the oppressed and afflicted

Her story is told in 1 Samuel 1-2.


Elkanah & Peninnah

Husbands can be insensitive for many reasons, but often they simply suffer from ignorance. Elkanah had two wives, which doubled his opportunities to seem insensitive. His wife Peninnah was able to give Elkanah many children. The other wife, Hannah, owned Elkanah’s heart but was unable to get pregnant. Peninnah, jealous that providing Elkanah with heirs didn’t turn his affections toward her, treated Hannah with disdain. Yet Elkanah seemed oblivious to the turmoil around him.

Although the events leading up to the birth of Samuel primarily involved Hannah, both Elkanah and Peninnah played significant roles. Peninnah’s competitiveness and derision drove Hannah to prayer; Elkanah’s simple love allowed Hannah to entrust their child Samuel into God’s care. Elkanah didn’t realize how much a little attention toward Peninnah could have cooled the simmering emotions in his home. Nor did he understand that his love for Hannah didn’t make up for the emptiness of her womb.

The glimpse God gives us of that tense household provides a helpful backdrop for God’s purposes, which are not thwarted by human shortcomings. He worked within the strain and stress of those relationships to bring Samuel into the world—one of the most significant figures in the Old Testament. When our relational systems seem too gnarled to be unraveled or salvaged, we need to remember that God not only displays his creativity by making things from scratch, but also by bringing order and beauty out of messes.

Strengths and accomplishments

  • Elkanah supported Hannah’s decision to leave Samuel in Shiloh to be raised as a priest
  • Regular trips to Shiloh acknowledged God’s importance to the entire family

Weaknesses and mistakes

  • Elkanah did not understand what would have helped each of his wives
  • Peninnah made things worse by taking out her disappointment and anger on Hannah

Lessons from their lives

  • Ignorance is not a good excuse for insensitivity
  • Jealousy is not a good excuse for bad behavior
  • God works in the middle of family messes

Their story is told in 1 Samuel 1-2.


Eli was one Old Testament person with a very modern problem. The recognition and respect he earned in public did not extend to his handling of his private affairs. He may have been an excellent priest, but he was a poor parent. His sons brought him grief and ruin. He lacked two important qualities needed for effective parental discipline: firm resolve and corrective action.

Eli responded to situations rather than solving them. But even his responses tended to be weak. God pointed out his sons’ errors, but Eli did little to correct them. The contrast between God’s dealing with Eli and Eli’s dealing with his sons is clear—God gave warning, spelled out the consequences of disobedience, and then acted. Eli only warned. Children need to learn that their parents’ words and actions go together. Both love and discipline must be spoken as well as acted out.

But Eli had another problem. He was more concerned with the symbols of his religion than with the God they represented. For Eli, the Ark of the Covenant had become a relic to be protected rather than a reminder of the Protector. His faith shifted from the Creator to the created.

Strengths and accomplishments

  • Judged Israel for 40 years
  • Spoke with Hannah, the mother of Samuel, and assured her of God’s blessing
  • Reared and trained Samuel, the greatest judge of Israel

Weaknesses and mistakes

  • Failed to discipline his sons or correct them when they sinned
  • Tended to react to situations rather than take decisive action
  • Saw the Ark of the Covenant as a relic to be cherished rather than as a symbol of God’s presence with Israel

Lessons from his life

  • Parents need to discipline their children responsibly
  • Life is more than simply reacting; it demands action
  • Past victories cannot substitute for present trust

Key verses

Then the Lord said to Samuel, ‘I am about to do a shocking thing in Israel. I am going to carry out all my threats against Eli and his family, from beginning to end. I have warned him that judgment is coming upon his family forever, because his sons are blaspheming God and he hasn’t disciplined them. So I have vowed that the sins of Eli and his sons will never be forgiven by sacrifices or offerings'” (1 Samuel 3:11-14).

His story is told in 1 Samuel 1-4. He is also mentioned in 1 Kings 2:2627.


We often wonder about the childhoods of great people. We have little information about the early years of most of the people mentioned in the Bible. One delightful exception is Samuel; he came as a result of God’s answer to Hannah’s fervent prayer for a child. (In fact, the name Samuel comes from the Hebrew expression “heard of God.”) God shaped Samuel from the start. Like Moses, Samuel was called to fill many different roles: judge, priest, prophet, counselor, and God’s man at a turning point in the history of Israel. God worked through Samuel because Samuel was willing to be one thing: God’s servant.

Samuel showed that those whom God finds faithful in small things will be trusted with greater things. He grew up assisting the high priest (Eli) in the Tabernacle until God directed him to other responsibilities. God was able to use Samuel because he was genuinely dedicated to God.

Strengths and accomplishments

  • Used by God to assist Israel’s transition from a loosely governed tribal people to a monarchy
  • Anointed the first two kings of Israel
  • Was the last and most effective of Israel’s judges
  • Is listed in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11

Weakness and mistake

  • Was unable to lead his sons into a close relationship with God

Lessons from his life

  • The significance of what people accomplish is directly related to their relationship with God
  • The kind of person we are is more important than anything we might do

Key verses

“As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him, and everything Samuel said proved to be reliable. And all Israel, from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south, knew that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of the Lord” (1 Samuel 3:19, 20).

His story is told in 1 Samuel 1-28. He is also mentioned in Psalm 99:6; Jeremiah 15:1; Acts 3:24; 13:20; Hebrews 11:32.

I hope you can join us in our journey through 1 Samuel.



Adapted from:  Life Application Study Bible, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1988), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 409-419.

About dkoop

Lead Pastor of Upwards Church: Leander & Jarrell, TX
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