SAMUEL BELIEVES WHAT ISRAEL BELIEVES. ISRAEL BELIEVES WHAT I BELIEVE. I BELIEVE WHAT SAMUEL BELIEVES. SO ASK HIM.
Your God? My God? Or everybodies God?
Just “a word” on Samuel’s theology. And not a brief one. I believe it appropriate here to get inside Samuel’s “little grey cells” and work out what made him do the things he did, and say the things he said over the following years after 1 Samuel 7:2 and on to his dying day.
What a man believes dictates his actions. What Samuel believed dictated his actions. If Samuel was a true prophet of God, and he was; if he reflected the heart of God, and he did; his understanding of what was going on and what God thought about it all must have been more accurate than the general rank and file of Israel at the time.
If he was angry, we need to see why, for, as a prophet, we must assume that God was angry for the same reason. That’s what a prophet is all about. It was not just a matter of thinking: God wants somebody to be killed”, or “We must war against this nation”, leaving Samuel to pass on the information without expending any emotional or spiritual energy at all. The prophet receives God’s heart on a subject, not just his word. God’s word without God’s heart is somewhat of a delusion. If God is grieved, the prophet is given revelation and insight to the point where he also grieves. The true prophet of Yahweh is a living embodiment of what Yahweh is thinking and feeling at a given moment in the human time line on a given issue – providing, of course, that God has spoken to him or her about the issue. Samuel was deeply disturbed when the people asked for a king. He was wildly angry later on in life at Saul’s disobedience. He was annoyed at Saul losing the kingdom. He was eager to see the right man assume the throne when he anointed Jesse’s son.
This means, self evidently, that Samuel must have received and held an entire body of understanding and beliefs that tore at his soul concerning God’s purposes, and Israel’s responses to those purposes.
So, my question is this: What did he think God’s purposes were? What did he believe? What was his theology?
EASTERN RELIGION & CULTURE OUTSIDE ISRAEL.
No presentation of Samuel’s Theology (or indeed any Theology of the Old Testament) can be properly made without constant reference to its connections with the whole world of Middle Eastern religion as we understand it to have been at the time. I do not mean to parallel Israel’s worship of Yahweh with any other religious system at the time, but to see how Israel’s concept of God was affected by the idolatrous nations’ gods and belief systems.
Coupled to this presupposition, I believe we need to observe and search out how the understanding of Israel, and its prophets and writers in the Old Testament, move on progressively according to the light that God gave them right on up to and into the New Testament. This is known very creatively as, “Progressive Revelation.” The term needs no explanation.
Sounds easy doesn’t it. But difficult practicalities are seen when trying to state the facts as these presuppositions demand. It becomes a task of some not inconsiderable amount of scholarship to definitively unearth what was believed at a certain time and what was revealed later, or earlier than any specific time in Israel’s history. My issue here is simply; “What did Samuel believe in his lifetime?”
There are however, thankfully, certain dates and chronologies that are unmovable from certain high points of God’s revelation to the people of Israel in history. With these sequential anchors we can home in with some kind of certainty on peripheral issues related to those matters we are fixed on, chronologically speaking. For instance, before the law was given to Moses there was no understanding of the issues the law brought up. Using this approach we can get some idea of those things that must have been uppermost in Samuel’s paradigm. It is true, we have to note, that there are times in the biblical narrative when the progression of revelation and the worship of Israel towards Yahweh seems to become static and grinds to a halt, hardening into a rigid system set in rock. It is like some athletic man caught in the running position by the fall of larva on the city of Pompeii. One moment alive, active and moving forward at great speed. Then when studied generations later, it is seen to be stuck rigid in the same position of activity, yet motionless. The form of movement and progress is illustrated in the posture of the figure, yet it is strangely still, dead and immoveable in solid rock. There are times, like the days of the Judges, the days of the division of Israel after Solomon’s death, the exile of Israel into Babylon, or the inter-testamental period prior to the birth of Christ, periods that, generally speaking, were times of spiritual “creeping death” as far as the contemporary masses were concerned.
Thankfully there is always a breakout of robust creative characters, like Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Daniel, and others of the prophetic ilk, that get things moving again. One of these startling characters of life and innovation in the realm of the Spirit was the son of Ramah, the man of our present investigation.
But where did these wonderful characters come from? Who birthed them into their radical faith? Who taught them their revolutionary doctrine? Who instilled in them those aspects of faith and courage that turned families, tribes, even nations around? Where did the teaching come from that had never been heard of before? Who imparted the solid character into Moses? Who imparted faith and power to Elijah? Who passed on their insight into biblical prophecy to Daniel? Who baptised John the Baptist? We can only turn to history, archaeology and primarily of course, the bible to see what people were discussing and believing at any given point of time. Our formula for the answers we seek is much more black and white than the application of that formula.
THE KINGDOM OF GOD.
That which binds together indivisibly the two realms of the Old and New Testaments – different in externals though they may be – is the awesome eruption of the Kingship of Yahweh into this time space world, and the establishment of that Kingship in individuals, families, movements and ultimately nations, to culminate at some future time, of course in the establishment of that Kingship on a global scale in the person of the King of all Kings Himself – the Lord Jesus Christ.
God affirms and acts, both in Old Testament laws and New Testament grace, pursuing one and the very selfsame great purpose i.e. the building of His Kingdom. We must see that only this comprehensive statement does justice to the essential relationship of the two testaments. The Old is in the new revealed. The New is in the old concealed. The Law of God is peppered with grace. The grace of God is based on the pronouncements of His law. Christ came to fulfill the law.
ORTHODOXY WITHOUT FAITH.
It was just at this point of history i.e. at the time Samuel was walking around the fields of Benjamin and Ephraim, that the old orthodoxy, in spite of having a sound idea of the correct course, had the misfortune to lose its grasp of the living reality and to slip back into the procedures of mental and merely physical demonstration of a “religious system.” In plain language, the rituals and ceremonies that were intended to come from an intense experience and understanding of God, were carried out without practical faith being even present. There were, as there always will be, those that walk and live in faith like Eli, Hannah and Elkanah, but generally their days were days of spiritual darkness and godlessness. Whilst we are reading of this actually taking place in the history of First Samuel, it is difficult for the cursory bible reader to perceive this as a fact. The spiritual status and practise of the majority of Israel at the time of Samuel’s youth, and the lifestyle of Eli’s sons, actually conceal rather than clarify the relation between the Old and New Testament. Spiritual stagnation had set in and stultified so many things. The religious institution of Eli’s day was something similar to parts of the state church today in the UK. It strongly influenced the nation by virtue of its ineffectiveness, as does institutionalised religion today, yet it still searched for true orthodoxy. The worship of Yahweh, instead of being a dynamic, “Direction Setter” for the surrounding gentiles to follow, had become a motionless message of malignancy. The light had gone out. The life had left. The glory had departed. The ceremony continued; the vitality of the formality was vitiated. It was a form of Godliness that simply denied the power thereof.
We need to dissect this before we put the scalpel to Samuel’s brain and find out what was in there. Although in my life time some Christian ministers have said the opposite to me, I assert that God was never simply into pomp and ceremony in the Old Testament. Far from it. The ceremonial melodrama of the tabernacle was of sacred symbolism and significance to the godly Israelite. It still teaches us, of course for that very reason. Because of the New Testament we can easily read the actions of the Priests and worshippers into New Testament teaching. It took a little more savvy for the Old Testament Israeli to perceive what we take for granted. Christ is our High Priest (Hebrews 3:1), our Tabernacle (John 1:14), our atoning sacrifice, and our burnt offering. Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us (1 Corinthians 5:7). This is not Christian teachers straining at lessons for their congregations. The Tabernacle and temple, the High Priestly office and the sacrificial system were all instituted by God for the specific purpose of teaching us about Him who would come later.
We said earlier, “Archaeology helps our understanding.” Archaeology is an amazing, if extremely imprecise science. Historical discoveries are, I detect, often the support of theological finds in the Old Testament. We have to be a little bit careful of its statements concerning its terrestrial findings however. We must not divert Old Testament theology so easily to easier understood channels of historical stories and archaeological finds. This incubates the concept that once historical problems are resolved, everything has been done to resolve theological questions. How silly to think so! Archaeology can, however, aid theology.
Why is Archaeology an inexact science? At the time of writing there is a great debate in the field of Egyptology to do with chronology and dating. The debating boffins all handle the same findings from mother earth. One professor thinks it was from a certain time and another equally learned chap says they were actually left there three hundred years later than the previous professor stated. The articles found are factual; opinions are relative. This is important when archaeology tells us what it thinks people knew at a certain time and what they did not. But archaeology shall be appealed to as we go along in our search for Samuel’s understanding of God. If my reader wants an utterly enthralling example of what I am saying here, I suggest that purchasing David Rohl’s “A Test of Time” will make what I say crystal clear.
With all the above said, our sheer rock face to conquer is how to understand the brush strokes of Samuel’s beliefs as a body of theology, a Yahwehist paradigm, a pure set of Godly belief. We want to see also, by examining on the one hand his religious environment, and on the other his essential coherence with the New Testament, and how to shed light on his deepest meaning and significance to his own generation as well as ours.
THE TEACHINGS OF INDIVIDUAL CHARACTERS.
It is an awkward fact that the unique quality of Israelite worship of Jehovah, and the teachings that issue from it, obstinately resist all efforts to subject it completely to systematic treatment and a Systematic Theology. The revelation and understanding of Yahweh seems to take leaps forward and around its own concepts each time a brand new figure fills the written page of its inspired history books. If there was one feature that “Yahwehism” exhibits more than any other religion, it is an abundance of rugged faith filled, word filled, Spirit filled personalities, who are closely involved in the historical experiences of the people, and the consecutive progressive revelation of God.
THE CONSISTENCY IN THE ENTIRE COVENANT.
The series of covenants and promises instituted by God with Abraham, Moses at Sinai, Moses re the land, and Joshua re the occupation, were the concepts on which Samuel’s convictions, and Israelite thought in general, gave definitive expression to the bonding of the people to God. By those means they received solidly from their start their peculiarity of knowledge of Him. Israel were a people of the covenant and the promises, and the oracles of God. That is how and why they still exist today. However, perceived from Abraham’s day, right through to the fiery revelation of God at Sinai where the Mosaic Fiat was an insertion and addition to the Abrahamic covenant, all the covenants made prior to their birth are a major key to the understanding of many of the teachings of the great Old Testament figures. It is this idea that was simultaneously Samuel’s light and glorious joy, as well as his heaviest burden i.e. Israel were in covenant with Yahweh. The failure of the people to run with this concept angered him massively. Repentance of the people was always with the aim of bringing them back under this umbrella. Samuel would have been taught the first five books of Moses from Eli, having gained the basic “children’s stories” from his mother as a toddler. He himself would have had access to the scrolls and their contents as he grew and developed. His beliefs would have gained strength, and been configured more as a river broadening its flow than of cement hardening with time.
So what did he perceive and believe that made him the mighty man of God and prophet that he was?
He would have foundationally ascribed to the making of the covenant, the realisation that its establishment especially emphasised the factual, historical, time and space revelation of God Himself. God is in the here and now. Yahweh is in the “here and now” and interested in “my personal circumstance,” as well as the circumstance of the nation of Israel. Knowing Yahweh was not and is not a philosophic or academic exercise, but a relational experience where Almighty God enters our time and space world and addresses issues in a concrete and physical fashion, even though He is Spirit. This was not only a fact that Samuel gloriously discovered when God appeared to him at his first revelation, this is true for you and I today. The Christian’s creed is a set of physical, historical factual events. It was the same for Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua and each of the Judges. God stands, moves and speaks in our time and space world.
Beyond that, as far as God’s plan, purpose and will are concerned, in the terms of the Mosaic covenant, a clear discernible Divine will becomes plain. Caprice of inscrutable acts of God are excluded from the mind. God has a definite long term goal, yet unfulfilled in Samuel’s day. Much of it still unfulfilled even today.
The intent of the will of Yahweh, thus defined in the covenants, shows its formative power by the way in which it makes the human being party to the covenant and aware of his unique position before God. God wanted Israel as a nation to display his glory and holiness.
The life of the nation, all thirteen tribes that comprised it, derived its power to bind together the individual component tribes solely from the idea of the authoritative will of God as expressed in the Mosaic and Abrahamic covenants and nothing else. The Mosaic covenant was its sole foundational reason to exist as a single nation. The promises to Abraham, and the covenant with Moses thus subordinated the national life of Israel totally to the sole purpose of that promise and that covenant.
So when we stated earlier that the God of Israel, the faith of Abraham, the tabernacle of Moses and the Ark of the Covenant were the very hub around which the wheel of Israel’s existence existed, through our lengthy deliberations here, we realise how exact our statement was.
In another chapter we referred to the surprise that many people would have to discover that many of the, “people of Israel,” were not actually “Israeli” by birth. Our present explanation uncovers how it should not be such a surprise after all, when one perceives the birthing process that brought the tribes into the bonding of a nation. The terms and demands of the covenant as prescribed by Yahweh Himself meant that the decisive requirement for admission to, “the people of the covenant” (vis a vis, “the nation of Israel”) was not primarily natural kinship but spiritual kinship, i.e. readiness to submit oneself to the will of the Divine Lord of the covenant and to vow oneself in obedience to Jehovah. This was achieved by the rite of religious circumcision after the surrender of the heart and will of the person.
It is this reason that caused one New Testament writer to say that, “Not all Israel is Israel.” A non Israelite, submitting to Yahweh’s demands and purpose was more an Israelite than a blood born Israelite who was not submissive to the Lord of the covenant. The substance of the Mosaic Covenant, therefore, in fact created a kingdom domain with an overlord and subjects. The substance of the Abrahamic covenant tied whoever has the same faith as Abraham to an ever deepening relationship with Jehovah by that faith.
From the first utterance from heaven of Genesis 12:1-3 the Kingdom of God was launched. From the moment the covenant was instigated, the idea of the kingdom of God was in the air. God’s purpose and will began with Abraham the father of the nation of Israel. That purpose developed with this nation of Israel but was intrinsically bigger than any nation. It was not confined to the borders of the Promised Land, or the genealogies of Israel. God is Lord and King of His Kingdom. Whosoever submits to Him becomes part of that Kingdom.
NO “NATIONAL RELIGION”.
For all these reasons there is therefore no question of a, “National Religion,” or “National God”, per se in the accepted sense of the word. Yahweh was not fighting for Israel, but for the manifestation of His kingdom through his covenant people (which was, however, basically in the context of the people of Israel). Israel, when submitted to God was part of the kingdom. The kingdom is and always was bigger than Israel. It therefore did not necessarily mean that Israel’s goals were God’s goals, or vice versa. A fully converted generation of the nation of Israel is still God’s goal. But such is the nature of the promises to Abraham, that if or when the entire nation of Israel walk in unbelief and against God’s purposes, God will judge them harshly before bringing them back to faith and obedience.
Yahweh fights for what is right, not primarily for Israel. Samuel must have learnt this at an early age. Was this part of his theology that he learned through experience? The iniquitous conduct of Hophni and Phinehas, and the subsequent Philistine taking of the ark, with the accompanying lost battles and death of 34,000 men, taught him that the Supernatural dealings of Yahweh, with which he was becoming more than well acquainted, were primarily for holiness, righteousness and morality than they were for Israel, per se. God was still fighting for righteousness and His Kingdom, even thought it mean the transitory loss of glory from Israel. God and His people would have the last laugh, even though the heathen were laughing at the ineffective double mindedness of Israel at the time of Samuel’s youth.
ISRAEL, THE COVENANT PEOPLE WERE GOD’S PEOPLE
Already implied in all this, however, is the conclusion that faith in the covenant God assumes the existence of a remarkably parochial and superior attitude to history by the people of Israel. However little, or much Samuel understood of the surrounding nations, it mean that the present and future rule of Yahweh the King, the fulfilling of all His purposes and goals were birthed, and to his understanding, still embryonic, in his people, Israel, the people of the covenant. His perspective on world history to that time was as perceived in Genesis through to Deuteronomy. God’s purpose as perceived and revealed at the time of Samuel were therefore wrapped up in a good understanding of the Mosaic covenant.
Hence it is the ideas of election and covenant and, closely associated with them, the divine lawgiving, which becomes the decisive rationale of Samuel’s perspective of history. His entire paradigm is Theocentric, and covenant based. His history lessons with his mum and “Papa” Eli could better have been labelled as “Israelite Cosmology.” As he, as an individual, was divinely chosen for no other reason than God’s prerogative, so had the nation. God wanted his glory to shine to the world, via the nation submissive to and in obedience to God and His Sinaiatic covenant, not with the nation hedged in as if it was a purpose in itself. Israel indeed had a long term kingdom purpose, and was part of the kingdom. In times of spiritual decline, however, the nation’s leaders and priests considered the border of Israel to be the borders of the Divine kingdom. That was absolutely not a sound tenet to their belief system.
So, in tandem with this world view, stood also certain safeguards against an identification of religion with the pure national interest. This is where Samuel’s eyes pierced so cleanly and clearly. It was too clear for some. It frightened many around him.
THE BIRTH OF ISRAEL UNLIKE OTHERS.
It is an invariable mark of the rites birthing a “religious” covenant with other nations of the period of 1 Samuel, that those ceremonies had to be continually repeated, since their initial, covenant making sacrifice was effective only for a time – usually a year. The Israelite sacrifice to Jehovah that birthed their covenant however, could not be repeated, but created the covenant relationship for “all Time”at its first performance. The primitive rituals of the nations around them were perceived by the Israeli masses as to be without a moral basis and orientation. They were not directed at the establishment of a personal communion between their god and the people of the nation, as their covenant with God was. With Israel, however, this was something that God had entered into freely and which He on His side may have dissolved at anytime.
This understanding of the covenant, I believe, was Samuel’s standing strength. By reading through Samuel’s speeches and words several times, it strikes the reader plainly that Samuel saw what the covenant was in its basic nature, and how deleterious the infiltration of alien philosophies of religion were to it. The blending of religious ideas did not purify Israelite perception of Yahweh. Their historical experience hitherto had proved that the addition of some invented deity would greatly harm and damage the spiritual life of the nation bringing it to stagnation. After the stagnation had set hard, a Divinely raised prophetic character (any of the Judges) would shake the people with a revelation that seemed to be always based on this foundational concept of God’s covenant with His people, even though many of these characters never even use the word “covenant.” The revelation was not always a “theological” one as we would understand the term. To them, however, the raising up of a leader who would drive out the Midanites, Hivites or Philistines was based solidly on a theological premise. It wasn’t Midianite people that God was against, but the godless culture. When Israel neglected their “Yahwehistic culture” for idolatry, they suffered hardship and defeat, as did their enemies. Godliness and the true worship of Yahweh was at the heart of the entire drama of the covenant and the kingdom. That sentence incorporates a sound interpretation of the entire Old Testament.
Time and time again, the tide of spirituality in Israel waxed and wained, ebbed and flowed. What caused the ebb tides in Israel’s history? What stages took them from walking with God to the rank and file indulgence with demons and sin? How did the people of the Covenant, the Oracles and of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob sink down into the muddied quagmire of religious synchretism?
THREE STEPS TO AN EVIL AND FULL ORBED SYNCRETISM.
The sickening and unrighteous assimilation of Israel’s religious concepts with Canaanitish ways basically evolved through means of a “triple whammy” which, in the Canaanitish days that dynamic leadership was missing, floored the nation of Israel to the demonic dust of spiritual syncretism.
It happened with these steps:
- 1. SOCIAL ASSIMILATION.
Assimilation on a social level led to the acquaintance of the people of Israel with the invented “sugar daddy” deities of Canaan. There were obviously, as when modern cults meet true Christians, an overlay of certain terms. The terms suggested to the untaught a certain degree of parallel understanding between the revelations. The incomparable Yahweh was now compared with Baal and Dagon, Moloch and Milcom. The alien national deities seemed to be, “not quite so bad” to the untaught. Sacrifice, God, prayer etc were all still relevant to their demonically inspired idol worship. The consequence for the concept of the covenant is that the dependence of the covenant on Yahweh’s moral conditions was glossed over, since it was part of the very nature of other national deity’s that they must distribute his gifts to the inhabitants of that particular land, regardless of the character of the recipient of those blessings. Morality was a dirty word to most heathen religions of the time. For the false gods and idols of the area around Israel,to support the nation of which he was owned was his one essential function, without which he cannot even be imagined to exist. It was therefore in the imagined deity’s own interests not to overstress any demands, but to suit them to men’s natural requirements. The entire religious ethos of the idolatrous heathen was artificial and superficial in its demand on its adherents, and at the same time extreme in its cruelty. A minority, even of their own children could die hideous sacrificial deaths, enabling the majority to live with little discipline. Their mentalities were riddled with concepts of appeasement, light years distant from atonement as stated by Yahweh.
2. POWERS OF LIFE ARE OUTSIDE OF GOD.
A new idea grew from this. This idea was natural to the surrounding nations. It was the full height of their covenantal understanding and experience. But when Israel imbibed the concept they slipped into deception and error. The covenant actually became an expression of the fact that the god, the people of that particular deity had been thrown together through inscrutable means, beyond the power of the deity himself, and that neither deity nor native could well survive without the other. Their invented gods were gods of area, nations and tribes. And sometimes their explained “theology’s” suggested that their god was there because of things that were out of their control. This was a commonly received paradigm in Canaan and all heathen nations of Samuel’s period, and indeed for several centuries afterwards. Archaeology tells us this plainly how common this was in Samuel’s age.
3 RELIGIOUS CONTINUUM BECOMES THE GOAL.
Following the pathway of thought of this deviation of Israel’s covenant, we see how it soon came to be perceived, by this distortion, in a more parochial parameter to Israel. This accepted belief transformed the covenant relationship into a locally limited community relation. The covenant was therefore deriving itself from the necessities of the nature of the god himself. This thought received murderous reinforcement from the one sided development of the ceremonial aspect of religion in conformity with Canaanite and general Middle Eastern customs. As a result the social and moral aspects of the divine demands, never properly there with alien religions, were drained out of Israel’s religious soup altogether, dulling their spiritual taste buds even further. So they would say: “God wants blood of bulls and goats. We do it to appease him, and keep him happy. God isn’t in control anyway.” The concept of forgiveness through faith and relationship with Yahweh is thus trodden under foot. The spiritual reality of Yahweh is dead to their thinking.
The far reaching decline into this state of Israelite culture took a firm root with the passing of time. It started in the days shortly after Joshua’s demise, and continued its slide into the days of Samuel’s early adulthood. These things, together with the social divisions caused by multi religious syncretism, did not a little to increase this dangerous slide, as is shown by the picture which First Samuel draws for us of the piety of his nation. We see all the typical features of religious mass-movements, omitting nothing of their darker side. Frankly, the surrounding nations had no lighter side at all. In some of these deities, it could be said in parody of scripture; “In them was no light, nor variableness of darkness.” “In them was darkness, and without them was there no darkness that existed” in their national scenarios. As far as the covenant with Yahweh was concerned, all this brought the hard unbelieving externalisation of man’s relationship to Him, and transformed the practical aspects of the worship of God into a, “do it whether you are good or bad” religion, where the divine gift is bound to reciprocate human performance, regardless of faith, forgiveness or fealty.
This legalistic distortion of the covenant relationship which denigrated it into a commercial contractual arrangement between parties of “equal status” before the law, rendered all genuine intercourse with Yahweh lifeless, as it was with the nations surrounding Israel with their truly lifeless gods. This scenario trained men in an irreverent calculation of divine obligations, which made any attitude of trustful surrender, impossible
By these degenerative steps the spiritual values originally mediated by the covenant were degraded and the covenant concept itself became nothing more than a protective cover for irreligious self seeking
WHO RULES? THE KING? OR THE PROPHETS WORD?
This deviation was later worsened in Samuel’s lifetime by Saul’s failure to arrive at any satisfactory adjustment between the national power consolidated in the state, and the will of God with its absolute demands as present via the prophet Samuel. That was totally Saul’s error and nought to do with Samuel. David adjusted wonderfully being surrounded by prophetic voices, and obeying them.
The evolution of the title of King being given to Yahweh, could not but give further impetus to this train of thought; for now that the relation of the people to their King as projected on to that of Yahweh, the latter connection also appeared as something simply given and not as founded in the first place by a special act of condescending grace. The point was that the rank and file of Israel spent too much time with gentile idolaters and then superimposed the concepts learnt at their religious shrines and ceremonies onto their worship for Yahweh. It was time with idolaters that their own law absolutely forbad. So the Almighty Yahweh was reduced to an invisible “tin pot god”, something like a tempestuous badly behaved child, i.e. totally unpredictable and utterly unreliable, but nevertheless needing recognition for the good or bad deeds attributed to Him. At least the other nations could see their gods in their idols. Israel had no idols of their reduced and belittled Yahweh.
From that understanding, or rather misunderstanding, the covenant is no longer regarded as an inconceivable gift of grace. It is not perceived as the benevolence of a God who is supreme above all earthly and heavenly power, and who in this way gives his sovereign decrees to His people. Instead it is grasped as a more or less modified version of a natural relationship between two partners dependent on one another. “He is not better than I”. When, however, the original concept of the covenant was caricatured and distorted in this way by assimilation of Canaanite thought, the prophets, the minders of the true understanding of Jehovah, were compelled to take stock, and take action.
This is the place from which Samuel launched his lifelong ministry. It was this foundation, this bottom line understanding of the covenant, and God’s relationship to the covenant people, that brought Samuel to such heart rending insights and actions throughout his life.
These beliefs steeled his attitude and moulded his outlook and responses throughout his adult life.
It was this constant struggle of ministry to bring to light in the eyes of Israel those same shafts of light which had illumined himself to such an amazing degree.
So with these thoughts, we see the nature of Samuel’s convictions in the backdrop of Israel around 1010 B.C. We can understand how and why Samuel, with these truths burning in his belly, stood up to be counted, and why he was Jehovah’s man for the days of darkness he was living in. He knew he had come to the kingdom for such a time as this. His convictions carried him forward in an attack on godlessness and religious synchretism.
But how to perpetuate the move? It is true that a man is called only to serve his generation, but with thoughts of the next generation after his, Samuel’s genius blossomed.
If the living voice of the living God had turned the nation round to such a degree in his life time and ministry, what could he do to perpetuate the voice of prophecy throughout Israel? How could he ensure that the worship of Jehovah would continue at one altar for the nation? How could he fasten the wisdom of God and the revelation of god to flow through future generations? What could he do to absolutely guarantee, as far as is humanly possible, that the future elders, rulers, nay – possibly even monarchs, would hear the voice of God regularly?
His passion for the people of Israel and the Kingdom of God, together with a ready ear to Jehovah, and a fertile creativity, brought answers to all these questions later. But those structures, when they came, were solidly planted on the foundation of the Mosaic covenant with Almighty God, and the relationship that they had with Him.
During this period that we have arrived at in the chronology of our story, the “Schools of the Prophets” becomes possibly Samuel’s most enduring and powerful legacy.
How else to tutor the nation into hearing from God than to gather those that wanted to hear from God, and then sift out those called by God. Tuition both practical and spiritual was needed.
The itinerating prophet discovered during these twenty years of seed sowing another secret, I believe. Worship!
The first mentioning of the schools of the prophets links them strongly with music and abandoned worship./
These, as we shall later explain, were what we believe to be two of the major revelations and practical legacies of Samuel’s life. Their significance shall be expanded on later, but we mention it here as a basis to what comes further on in Samuel’s visionary life.
Samuel’s vision for a temple must have also started to develop about this time. The battles and victories over other nations in the locality during Samuel’s early leadership started him collecting gold and silver, and all items that he needed to make the temple of Jehovah the most awesome sight on the planet. The booty was collected in his day, probably during Saul’s reign, and definitely during David’s reign, and all were utilised in Solomon’s final construction of the temple in the books of Chronicles and kings.
So we have a good idea of what Samuel believed and what he projected form those beliefs.
But how to perpetuate all this beyond his own life time? Samuel was getting to that.