Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh: the “Fear” of Samuel

You can order icon of Holy Prophet Samuel handpainted at our Convent

On September 2, we celebrate the prophet Samuel commemoration day. He stands on the verge of two decisive eras in the history of not only the Israeli people, but also humanity. Before him, the Israeli people recognized God as their only Lord, the only master of their destiny. The saints ruled on earth: the patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob; God’s chosen ones ruled – Moses, Joshua;  judges ruled – Samuel.

They all had one thing in common: they were people of spirit who communicated with God in prayer and righteousness and they were some kind of conductors of His will. One of the prophets says that a prophet is a person whom God shares His thoughts with. And those God’s thoughts were proclaimed by the prophets, and the Israeli people – as much as they could, as much faith, strength, and wisdom they have – obeyed them. And the ways of God were peculiar; it is not in vain that Isaiah the prophet says: For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, but just as my thoughts are higher than your thoughts, so my ways are higher than your ways…

And so, during the life of the prophet Samuel, a tragic upheaval took place: this was the moment when the faith of the Israelite people hesitated, decayed. They looked back and saw that they did not see an heir for Samuel; and the question arose before them: what will happen when he dies?.. And instead of trusting God, as their ancestors trusted Him, they decided that being under the guidance of God is terrible; you never know where the Lord will lead you; He said to Abraham after all: Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, unto a land that I will shew thee… And He ordered Moses to raise the Israelite people out of Egypt and lead them to the land of promise – that is, to the land that the Lord promises them, not pointing out where it is or what it is, demanding to trust Him… It became too scary to live only by trust, they wanted confidence and security.

And the Israelites turned to Samuel with the demand: Make us a king to judge us like all the nations… This is Israel’s first renunciation of the autocracy of God; for the first time Israel demanded to become “like all” – that is, renounced being the only one, not like any nation. And Samuel turned to God with a prayer, asking what to do. And God’s answer was: They have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me; warn them of what this will mean; and if they nevertheless want to become “one of” the peoples instead of being the People of God, in the exclusive sense of the word, if they agree to be subject to the earthly king instead of being led by the Heavenly King, then make them a king…

And so it happened: Israel demanded a king, and Saul was made king.

This is the first turning point in Israel’s retreat. This deviation from God as from the only support of their life, as from their only leader and Lord, was completed many centuries later, when before the judgment seat of Pilate, in the face of Christ the Savior, the people of Israel, under the leadership of their high priests and elders, declared: We have no king but Caesar… Thus, the Israelites not only renounced the direct leadership of God, not only demanded to be “one of” the nations, but even agreed not to be a “people” either, but to dissolve in the Roman Empire as one of the constituent parts, no different from others.

That is why the name of the prophet Samuel is so significant in the history of the Jewish people, that is why he stands before God, in “fear”, and why the “fear” of Samuel should be a model and a call for us. Amen.

Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds

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