PROPHET? JUDGE? PRIEST? OR GOVERNOR? WHICH POST DO YOU PREFER SIR?
Jack of all Trades, Master of each.
(1 Samuel 7:3-5)
“Then Samuel spoke to the entire house of Israel”.
Ladies and gentlemen: We have lift off! Or would it be better to shout, “We have touch down!” As they say: “The Eagle has landed.” It was one small step for Samuel, but it was a giant step for Israel, and mankind. Samuel the prophet was now alive and well on planet earth and moving into fulfilling his destiny as a prophet. This is where our story starts to becomes juicy. The Mighty man of God has arrived amongst us.
A man of wisdom, maturity and power had emerged from the ashes of Israel’s loss of glory and self esteem. Samuel spoke “to the entire house of Israel”. That is; the whole nation.
With the Tabernacle and all its accoutrements destroyed (or hidden) apart from the Ark, with Shiloh no longer in existence as a habitable town, and with the Aaronic priesthood in the depths of insignificance, Samuel takes hold of the reigns of the covenant people of Israel, to bring them back to the covenantal faith. This is why this historical event in the real time of 1 Samuel 7:3 is a huge moment in the history of the nation of Israel. This is also why I count Samuel as one of, if not the greatest of all the prophets.
The biggest surprise to the student of Israel’s history is that Samuel is now talking to Israel, as opposed to one, two or even several of the tribes. There is now, because of Samuel’s long haul trek of ministry, a semblance of unity. This man was now putting his foot on the accelerator pedal of ministry that was to propel Israel into a time of refreshing, prosperity and spirituality for the next century or so. The days of the Judges, where the predominant philosophy was that “every man did what was right in their own eyes,” had meant that tribes fought either for themselves or perhaps with their next door neighbours. None of the previous Judges had the entire conglomerate of Israel’s hegemony trusting them for leadership – until Samuel arrived. People would have, no doubt, reminisced about the stories their parents and grandparents had told them about Joshua who lead the entire nation across the Jordan and into battle. For well nigh 400-plus years such a thing had not properly happened at all, until the unity of heart and faith that had been seeded into the nation by Samuel.
How did it come about that the entire nation could be addressed? How did he achieve what had not properly happened except in one or two battles since the demise of Joshua?
We can only guess, as hypothesised chapters ago in these notes. We are talking of intelligent guesswork, generally accepted by the intelligentsia of biblical scholars. The guess is that Samuel became an itinerant preacher. We read a couple of verses later that he called the nation together at Mizpah, so he obviously had not called them together before that day in a single convocation. The word was spoken and spread amongst all the people by travellers and messangers. He, seemingly had spent two decades moving amongst them clan by clan, tribe by tribe, city by city and village by village, until the time was ripe for a full blown national summit meeting.
Since the fall of Shiloh, and the withdrawal of the tribes into shameful recession of heart and strength, Samuel, I believe started travelling. He taught the people, exhorted them, appealed to them using every godly means he knew of. “You are God’s covenant people. Return to the God of the covenant. Have faith in the God of your fathers.” It was also, somewhere around this period of time, when Samuel commenced his first, “School of the prophets.” Perhaps his word was delegated to his “Students,” or “apprentice prophets.” I believe there is the possibility that Samuel, having thoroughly initiated his prophetic students into the world-view in which he stood, sent them out preaching on his behalf.
After twenty years of listening to the man of God encourage them all to return to the faith of their fathers, the tide of faith started to rise in the hearts of the people. At first it was just a murmur. Then, when travelling merchants around Israel did their job of passing on the news, and the content of Samuel’s messages was dispersed, discussed and imbibed, and people had responded positively in the towns of Israel, it became a groundswell of genuine desire for God Himself. Critical mass of national faith was approaching.
The tide rose higher and higher over those twenty years. Such was the spiritual ineptitude of the senses of the people of Israel, their desire for God rose in concert with their attendance at the idolatrous shrines that were rife throughout the land. The tares of idolatry had been planted and were still growing along with the wheat of Samuel’s word from God.
At such a time as Yahweh whispered into Samuel’s ear that the hearts of the people were ripe for the appeal to total and complete commitment, Samuel stood up and called for a national convention. It was God’s choice of moment. A message was circulated around the land. Messengers? Or did Samuel himself travel round for this last appeal? Whatever the means, the word was circulated. The nation was called to Mizpah on a certain date, and the “whole nation” stood before him. Now: the prophet Samuel was to address the entire house of Israel.
What he said at this crucial moment of history was the key to all that followed not only in his life but in the days of David and Solomon after his death. The narrative is short and sweet. To my mind it is undoubtedly the barest cryptic compact of what was actually said. It was the final decision making appeal after twenty years of teaching. He had pleaded for them to turn to God, and they had. He was conscious of the oppression caused by the presence of the Philistines in the hearts of the people. Could they be free of the antagonistic race of giants? Samuel believed so. Just one thing was missing. Yahweh may have been the highest deity on the people’s agenda, but He was not to be compared with any other. The incomparable God gave a simple word to his prophet to deliver to Israel:
If you will wholeheartedly turn to the Lord, then remove the idols and the strange gods from your midst, including the Ashtoreth, and centre your worship on the Lord. Serve Him alone. Then he will deliver you from the Philistine’s power.”
Very plain. Intensely direct. These are the very words that changed the direction of Israel’s history. These words of Samuel’s, like all his others, did not fall to the ground. They landed in the hearts of all the men and women who heard, and obeyed the call of God. Faith comes by hearing; hearing the word of God.
Religious syncretism was a, “No! No!” It could not be “Yahweh and….”. It had to be “Yahweh only.” God’s curse was on the mix. It was a hard pill to swallow for masses who had been born with Yahweh in their mouth, idols in the home, and both or neither in the heart. There was a sugar coating to the pill also. The sugar was to be free of their oppressive neighbours. That was not an empty or idle promise. Hearts true to Yahweh find freedom and blessing in all they do, and even in the air they breath and the ground they walk on. After burning their idols, after destroying their shrines, their following experience of the power of God was to be the sweetest thing in the universe. To live under the umbrella of Yahweh’s love and goodness (Hebrew: Chesed)was an awesome adventure of victory, triumph, and even more – success. That victory in the heart would be tangibly felt by deliverance from the dreaded Philistines. This was a major step towards the national prosperity that was to curve ever more steeply upwards over the next century or more.
The people of Israel responded as one man. The idols were burnt, and the shrines destroyed, and the idolatrous meetings along with Canaanites and Philistines attending, were suddenly missing a huge part of their congregations.
The Philistines, the Hivites, and all the other Canaanite cultures would have responded more than negatively to this upsurge of spirituality taking place amongst the Israelies. The biblical narrative tells us “The children of Israel got rid of their Baal’s and Astarte and served the Lord exclusively.” The Hebrews fled the evil “High Places.” That is a euphemism for the idolatrous shrines constructed on the hill tops scattered around Israel’s Promised Land.
If you believe merely in things that are seen, you need to understand that this would have affected the economy of the Land. Idolatry means statue and demon worship, as well as people manipulation. Statues have to be made and sold. Selling makes money. People manipulation means religious attendance along with religious offerings. Burning of idols means loss of jobs and poverty. Serving Yahweh only, meant suspending membership, attendance and financial contributions to the false deities. This meant angry business people, and terribly angry religious leaders. This led to selected arguments and grudges against the defectors. Because of the spiritual, racial and economic factors in this multi-cultural mix, it finally resulted in all out war. Pluralism in cultures is a wonderful thing. Pluralism in spiritual issues is a veritable curse from hell. On the surface it looked like a “religious war.” Not at all! It was the demonic persecuting those that pursued God and Him alone. Do not think for one moment that because demons are scarcely mentioned in the Old Testament they were scarcely active. Quite the opposite. They were as common place, if not more so, in Samuel’s world.
If, like me, you believe also in a personal literal devil with hordes of hideous spiritual personalities under his thumb, you also perceive a violent reaction from the invisible world of evil. The only channel demons can work through is people that are under their control. We are referring mostly, to the Philistines and Canaanites in this particular instance. Although I am sure that there was demonic activity amongst the Israelites also.
Samuel’s appeal was winged by the Spirit of God to the hearts of the nation. The people of Israel turned wholly to God. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled. The time had come for the moment when the glory would, to some degree, start its return to Israel. Their new found hunger for God would be satiated. Blessed are they that hunger and thirst for righteousness. They shall be filled.
They were told to direct the longing of their hearts toward God uniquely. They longed for peace, happiness, freedom and to be free of their oppressors. It’s really what all of mankind, in every generation and every culture has always wanted. The prophet saw the fruits of repentance in the lives of the people. It must have cheered his heart. He would, by this time in his life, have become a national institution.
The fact that the entire nation submitted to his subsequent call to gather together suggests that the people of Israel respected this man as a person of truth, trust and divine power. “Assemble all Israel at Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord on your behalf.”
It depends on which authority you read whether or not you know where Mizpah was (or, undoubtedly, still is). Mizpah means “Watchtower”, or a risen plateau of a natural promontory. It must have been a natural amphitheatre that would enable Samuel to address a vast audience and ensure visibility as well as audibility. There are not too many spots in Israel now that lend themselves to this kind of description or title. The most widely accepted is the site of Nebi Samwil (Samuel’s Tomb) about five miles north of Jerusalem, says Theodore Robinson. This notable, historic moment is lost, with a cursory read. Imagine an attendance two or three times bigger than an F.A. cup final crowd. Imagine Samuel on a raised promontory addressing such an audience. Imagine such a thing not having happened for generations. This was to be a happy breakthrough for Israel. A new day had arrived.
He was calling them together with the promise that he would pray for them. The language is clear that Samuel was aware that he had power in prayer with Yahweh. Samuel had been endued- clothed – with an anointing of power and authority. His call obviously had great credibility with the people, for the nation turned out in their huge numbers. Twenty years of public exposure and face to face ministry had impacted the entire nation. Credibility and prophetic accuracy leads to authority. Authority happily given by the masses to Samuel, meant proffered submission of leadership to him. This was the inevitable result of two decades of quiet, unobtrusive, but powerful toil. Dan to Beersheba had heard him, and his ministry brought fruit. The nation was turned. The nation was truly one. There was bonded unity in the tribal diversity.
No Tabernacle! No wonder the nation had not gathered for many years. No Ark! Apart from Abinadab’s front room that is! Samuel obviously had his eyes on a new understanding of God and His manifest presence. No Aaronic priesthood to assume the lead! Samuel was calling them as a prophet, not as a priest, even though he was a Levite. This was indeed a new day. This was progressive revelation in Samuel’s heart and mind. He was tasting what was, for Samuel, the powers of “the world to come.”
The prophetic voice of God had superseded the priestly activities of the Levites as Israel’s lead. It was a lead that the Levitical order would never really regain. And it was not just “a” prophetic voice,’ it was the archetypal figure, the father of all seers, the greatest nationally acknowledged authority of any of the biblical prophets hitherto.
Samuelian times were about to really commence. Samuel assumed headship of the nation. Rich in creativity. Awesomely deep in his spiritual roots. Loved by the people of his time. He attained such authority under God, authority also gladly given by the nation he served, that he was trusted to even write the new guide books in the area of worship.
The entire direction of millions of people was changing for the better, all because of the vision and the glimpses that this one man had of the invisible kingdom of God breaking out into the visible. There were no nerves of rewriting the rulebook. God spoke through him and thus changed the general practice of worship and the practicalities of approaching God.
Silent worship was finished for this generation. Singing, dancing, expression of praise, and prophecy were on the emergence because of this man’s facilitating.
Samuel was, in a way we probably have never seen properly, a man of prayer. A praying spirit was birthed in concepts and practices learned on his mother’s knee during those first three years of weaning. He obviously absorbed the parental intensity and grasp of what prayer could achieve. He was conceived in prayer, birthed in love, weaned on God’s purpose for Israel, and fostered – nay – adopted by God himself, sleeping each night next to the one spot on earth where Almighty Yahweh had promised to meet with man, ie: just a few feet away from the Ark of the covenant and the mercy seat. It was as if he had been permeated with the very Shekinah presence of God as had Moses been for eighty days up the mountain, with just a short break after the first forty. But this man lived possibly forty years in the same Shekinah presence. Mighty Samuel!
Oh! If we could only properly esteem the man’s stature and genuine character! Elijah was used in the miraculous? Samuel too! Elisha, famous nationwide? Samuel too, in both northern and southern parts of Israel. Jeremiah faithful to the end in the midst of a people that ignored him? Samuel faithful from a child onwards to the delight of the eyes of them all. Isaiah phenomenal in his prophetic output? Samuel was probably responsible for more writing throughout his life than all the so called, “writing prophets” put together, but was too concerned with results to make a record. Daniel awesome in his personal prophecy to kings? Samuel was a king maker, and prophesied, anointed and crowned two of the most important of them into office.
A man saved by grace is all he was, just like every other believer. Yet in his stature, and achievement he was about to launch into a ministry arguably more influential than Moses. Moses was powerful in the ministry of the law and the culture he left Israel with, and that was only fulfilled in forty years of activity. Samuel probably lived to be over a century, and from the day of his birth he was purposed, planned and nurtured for those things for which he had been knit together by the Almighty. Once adult enough to make a choice, he “went for it”, and until his dying day toiled ceaselessly for his dream and his God.
No sinful action is recorded of him; not that it means he did not commit any act of a sinful nature – such an appellation can only be thrown at Christ Himself. It could be argued that Samuel did not only serve his own generation but two or three after his own. After his death there was a century of blessing, prosperity and revelation that was birthed and nurture in the very spirit of Samuel’s output. And after the spirit of Samuel had left this life, the hearts of the people, the legalistic and formalistic constitution of the shattered kingdom of Judah, still stood in the law that was written and set out by Samuel ben Elkanah.
Happy days were here again, or, at least they were seen to be coming over the new and near horizon.
Father in Heaven, give us such men of God again . . . or we die! Lord, make me a man of God like Samuel, or I die.
- First Prophet? Samuel? (lannononsamuel.wordpress.com)
- Samuel’s Introduction to the Prophetic (lannononsamuel.wordpress.com)
- I See Through The Smog a Bright Future On The Horizon. (lannononsamuel.wordpress.com)
- Matured In The Keg (lannononsamuel.wordpress.com)
- Preface (lannononsamuel.wordpress.com)
- You Cannot be Serious! Samuel who? For what? (lannononsamuel.wordpress.com)
- God’s Own Training School (lannononsamuel.wordpress.com)
- What a Total Anarchic Mess Before Samuel Arrived! (lannononsamuel.wordpress.com)
- The Foolish Wise Old Man (lannononsamuel.wordpress.com)
- There’s Never a Man of God Around When You Want One. (lannononsamuel.wordpress.com)