I See Through The Smog a Bright Future On The Horizon.

I SEE THROUGH THE SMOG A BRIGHT FUTURE ON THE HORIZON.

A secret glimpse into God’s plans both dark and bright.

(1 Samuel 2:27-36)

1 shiloh_tabernacle_drawn_lg

This is the exact spot, so the archeologists say, where Shiloh was located, and the layout of stones and ridges suggesting where the Tabernacle was placed.

And then; still in this same period of Samuel’s life, a visitor arrived.

The man is left nameless.  He prophesied.  Was he therefore a prophet?  The Prophetic word he was given to pass on to Eli was a bombshell that must have shaken the old man to the foundations of his character.  It was on a personal level: to do with his family.  On the other hand, if the man was talking of Samuel with his opaque promise of some kind of a future successor, Eli had potential excitement to his finger tips at the conceivable glimpse of how the youth was going to turn out.

Whatever dialogue transpired prior to the delivery of the, “Word,” is not revealed.  Because of the seriousness and the far reaching effects of this message, we shall quote it phrase by phrase.  He opened with, “Thus says the Lord.”  In the Old Testament when God communicated in a slightly different manner than in the New, this prefix was the weighty precursor to many a Divine deliberation from prophets.  The assertion is that, “This is what Almighty Yahweh says, and the message I am about to impart was received by me in exactly the same words as I shall speak.”  Weighty stuff indeed!  Prophets, do not use this word lightly – ever! Recipients,“Ignore this phrase at your peril!”

This, incidentally, is the first biblical sight of a prophet since the days of Deborah.  We are talking of possibly a hundred years or two since the likes of this had last occurred in the biblical narrative real time.

I have ransacked several versions of the Old Testament to gain the general consensus of what went on here.  Some of the sentences are extremely difficult to translate, according to the experts.  On top of that, once you have settled the translation, the interpretation of the message and its long term meaning becomes an even higher obstacle.

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“Did I plainly appear unto the house of your father, when they were in Egypt, in Pharaoh’s house?  And did I choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to offer upon my altar, to burn incense, to wear an Ephod before me?  And did I give unto the house of your father all the offerings made by fire of the children of Israel?”  These rhetorical questions that Eli would have silently nodded to, commenced this terrible prophetic dirge of doom.  We paraphrase this opening simply as : “Did I not swamp your family with privileges and blessings to an amazing degree?”

Eli knew that the nameless visitor was referring to historical facts of Israel’s youthful but stunning history.  The answer was a knowledgeable, “Yes”! to all the questions posed.  From this the knife of God’s judgement pierces Eli’s heart.

“Why do you kick at my sacrifices and at my offering, which I have commanded in my habitation; and honour your sons above me, to make yourselves fat with the chiefest of all the offerings of Israel my people?”  In plain English; “Your lack of discipline on your son’s abuse of the sacrifices, demonstrates how you honour them more than me.  Why?”  God’s logic is like a steamroller to crack a nut.   It is irresistible in its damnation.  Ungainsayable!  “For this reason the Lord God says, “I said indeed that your house, and the house of your father, should walk before me forever”: but now the Lord says, “Be it far from me; for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.  Behold the days come, that I will cut off your arm, and the arm of your father’s house, that there shall not be an old man in your house”.”  It sounds like the damnation of accidental, or murderous deaths to all the descendants of Eli’s family.

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God now thrusts deeper still.  My version:  “I promised that you would be priests forever.  But this abhorrence of Me and My sacrifices, means I shall deal with your family, take its power away, and all your progeny shall die whilst young.”  It seems amazing that the misconduct of one man in one generation, should  affect so many in future generations.  This word came to pass in Saul’s reign as Eli’s grandson and great grandson came to early demise in those days.  The power was removed from them when Solomon took the throne and displaced Eli’s descendants with Zadok, the true High Priestly line through Eleazar.

The heavily complex Hebrew language of verse thirty two of this chapter has translators in total disarray.  From version to version it says what seems like totally different things.  Having read through eleven translations, as well as various commentaries, I am still not sure if there is any one I should prefer.  So; using the principle that when the experts disagree the layman is free to choose which he thinks is wisest, I hereby choose the lot of them, and come out with the following notes.

The prophet explains that God will give Israel wealth, blessing and pleasure in the future.  Good will be done to Israel.  This is reference to the future with David and Solomon, the foundation of which was built on Samuel’s teaching.  However, Eli’s family would not partake of these blessings and will – it is predicted – be envious of those in the outpouring of prosperity.  There may even be suffering and trouble for his family.  Eli, or maybe just his future family, shall see shortage, need and distress in God’s House while the prosperity spreads.  The intrigue and “grabbing lifestyle” of those that “wore the Ephod,” (another term for those who were priests) is open to public dispolay in the reign of Saul and the life of David.

4

Eli tutoring Samuel.

An adversarial enemy shall be seen in the habitation of God.  It is described by others as, “distress,” but Eli shall actually see it.  This must refer to the taking of the Ark, for Eli was not alive to see the sack of Shiloh, or indeed anything thereafter. The news of the stolen Ark of the Covenant is what socked him, leading to his death almost instantaneously. This will occur in the midst of the blessings given to Israel. The blessing I believe were of the nature of a man in particular; his name was Samuel.

Then comes the pronouncement that all and sundry of the translator’s fraternity agree on: henceforth, nobody of Eli’s family will live to old age.  One man translates the word, “old man,” as, “noble.”  To make the prophecy even harder on Eli and his posterity, the prophet adds that even those that live the longest of his family shall grieve their own heart. Jewish tradition believes that Eli was 100 years old when he died.

The doom and damnation is set.  If only father had spanked the two when they were little and gained enough discipline and respect from them so that they would obey him in adult years, things could have been so different for the entire future of Israel.

A sign is then promised by the itinerant prophet as a token that the entire message shall come to pass.  The sign is that the two wayward sons shall perish on the same day.  This final aspect of the message was relevant to Eli for less than a minute.  Years later, less than sixty seconds after the news was broken to him of the death of his two sons, he was dead.  God’s economy is bigger than the first and most prominent meaning of this shocking message.  The fact is that God knew that this prophecy would gain fame by being repeated and repeated over and over again through the following years.  How else could the writer of First Samuel know that this prophecy was spoken.

The man of God closed his errand with a prediction that must have been as heart-warming to Eli as the former was chilling. “I will raise up for me a faithful priest that shall do according to that which is in my heart and in my mind:  and I shall build him a sure house; and he shall walk before my anointed forever.” 

As per usual there are two ways of interpreting what was said.  There is , of course the immediate historical perspective, and then the long term prophetic insight to the words, referring in some way to the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Was this about Samuel? Or was it about Christ? Or, more likely still: Was it about them both?

This fits Samuel as well as the Saviour.  In fact it fits Samuel more than it fits Christ.  All but the last phrase suits the two.  “He shall walk before my anointed forever,”  cannot refer to Christ, as He was the anointed.  Referring to Samuel he would walk before Saul during his lifetime revealing God’s heart to him.  Saul was the Lord’s anointed.  But Samuel would walk before Christ in eternity.  Christ was the archetype of the Lord’s anointed.

5 eli and his sons

Eli trying to correct his sons.

The more I try to put my mind in the place of Eli’s as he was being spoken to by, “Nameless,” the more I think that this closing promise would be the silver lining on the dark clouds of doom.  He had done a good job on Samuel, even if he had failed miserably in the way of Hophni and Phinehas.

“And it shall come to pass that everyone that is left in your house shall come and crouch to him for a piece of silver and a morsel of bread, and shall say, “Put me, I beg you, into one of the priest’s offices, that I may eat a piece of bread.”

The meaning of this is plain when seen in the context of the extra difficult verse 32. Those that are of the priestly family, yet in poverty, will be asking the trustworthy and faithful priest (Samuel) for a job so that they can earn a little money and a little food.

The prophet that delivered this message is never referred to again.  He disappears off the face of the biblical narrative.  But his words are there for us to squint and wince at three thousand years later.  Eli must have been “blown away.” The Account informs us that Eli was blind and overweight.  Whenever his position is mentioned he is either lying or sitting.  How he survived this news I shudder to imagine.  Of all the shocks and knocks that this man met through life, this pronouncement eyeball to eyeball would have done the most to suck his life from him.  Many people would have given up at the point at which he had arrived.  The harshness and the finality of the heart of God towards him and his diabolical duo would surely have stilled and stopped the heart of the majority.  This prophetic word was set in concrete.  The future was, to a degree, revealed.  Terrible things at the Tabernacle were to come.  Hophni and Phinehas were to die on the same day.  No more old age in the family; and his offspring were already adult.  Familial poverty. National prosperity.  A divinely raised faithful priest. Stuff to chew on. Stuff to ponder long and hard. My heart goes out to Eli at this point.

Man has a failing (or is it a blessing?) to see most things in the context of his own immediate history.  In Eli’s mind these heavyweight prophetic statements must have also been seen in his immediate context.  Correctly, or incorrectly perceived by the old man, the, “Enemy in the dwelling of God,” could only be his sons, the godless of Israel, and/or the ungodly nations among whom they lived.  The faithful priest could only be Samuel.  Did Eli have a vision of the Messiah to come. Oh!  If only he had been a different sort of parent.  If only he had stood up to the wickedness of his sons earlier in life.  If only!  If only!  The most painful moments of anybody’s life are those spent contemplating what could have happened if they had done something correctly, which was in actuality done wrongly or badly.  Those regrets are heightened to a most hurtful degree when the repercussions of their wrong doing bring desolation, hurt and damnation upon others.

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At this point of time Eli must have wept.  He must have been in an inward state of heartbreak.  Death became him more than life.  Annihilation was preferable to an eternity counting the cost of his own “non-action.  Poor Eli!  No words could comfort a man in such a scenario.

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Categories: 1 Samuel 2 verses 27 - 36, The prophet with no name | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “I See Through The Smog a Bright Future On The Horizon.

  1. Pingback: Awake! Awake! Oh Samuel And fill your horn with oil. Anoint ! Anoint a new King to rule o’er Israel’s soil | Samuel : The Last Judge - The First Prophet

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