End of year wisdom from Samuel’s calendar

Samuel took a stone and set it up, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the LORD has helped us.’ Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. He went from year to year on a circuit to Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah, and judged Israel in all those places. But he always returned to Ramah, for his home was there. There he judged Israel, and there he built an altar to the Lord (1 Samuel 7:12, 15-17).

End of year and cross-over into a new year are exciting and joyful times in all cultures around the world. Two things come to mind at the end of year: reflection and thanksgiving.

The end of the year is first a time for reflection, when we can turn our minds back to the beginning of the year, ponder and scan through the months, and see how God’s grace has carried us through.

Reflection on God’s care through the year leads us to thank God for:

  • blessing us and our families with good health, food, protection, finances, friendships, the communion of believers and spiritual nourishment
  • blessing our ministry, businesses and the work of our hands
  • seeing us through difficult and challenging times
  • giving us peaceful times in our nations

We always have a lot to thank God for. As we count our blessings one by one, we lay a stone of thanksgiving, ‘Ebenezer’, and say, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us.’

But crossing over to a new year also brings uncertainties as we don’t know what lies ahead. It is often a pleasant time of the year, a time of excitement. It was, for instance, an exciting moment for the people of Israel when they were told: ‘Get ready for in three days you will cross the Jordan to go in and possess the land’ (Joshua 1:11). We don’t know for sure what the future holds but we know the LORD who holds the future and who goes ahead of us to the new year to fight our battles and arrange things before us (Deuteronomy 1:30-33).

Samuel’s annual stations and circuit

The Bible text above gives us a glimpse and insight into how the prophet Samuel served his people and managed his year.

First, Samuel served with dedication ‘all the days of his life’ and with the right motives that his people know God and that God alone be exalted and glorified.  As we come to the end of the year, it is time to stop and ask ourselves: What has been my level of dedication in ministry? What were my motives as I served?

Second, the prophet Samuel had the following four important work stations which we can all learn from as we cross to start the new year.


Samuel starts his year from Bethel. Bethel is the awesome place of God’s presence, a place of dreams, the place of a ladder connecting to heaven, a place of blessings and great promises, the House of God and the gate of heaven! (Genesis 28:10-17). What a great place to start the year from! Start in God’s awesome presence!


The next station is Gilgal. Gilgal is the place of circumcision, the place where the manna stopped and people ate from the produce of the land for the first time, a place of celebration of the Passover (Joshua 5:1-12). Both painful (circumcision and stopping of the manna) and enjoyable (celebrating the Passover) things happened in Gilgal. Gilgal might not be a place we like but it is an important station in our life and ministry. God at times allows us to go through Gilgal, through both painful and enjoyable times. In Gilgal, we might need to consider cutting out (circumcising) some activities and readjust to changes in funding and limited budgets. Gilgal is a place of refinement and re-alignment of goals, activities and budgets.


After Bethel and Gilgal, comes Mizpah. Mizpah is where the ark of the covenant was received back, prayers and sacrifices were offered, a stone of thanksgiving ‘Ebenezer’ was laid, battles were fought and lands were recovered. It is where Samuel judged Israel.  Mizpah is operations centre. It is a great place but not the starting point. The mistake we all make at times is starting the year from Mizpah (operations) rather than from Bethel (God’s presence), a reason we fail.


Samuel’s final station is his home town Ramah where he built an altar. Ramah is where we reconnect and have communion with God before starting over again in Bethel. As we come to the end of the year, we need to return home to our base, Ramah, and build an altar before we cross to the new year. Bethel and Ramah are next to each other in the circuit.

Have a blessed end of year and cross-over to 2022!

Alex Bolek is ICMDA Africa Coordinator and East Africa Regional Secretary

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