Being a Prophet is a privilege

The High Benchmark of a Prophet in Israel Set and Initiated by Samuel

The High Benchmark of a Prophet in Israel Set and Initiated by Samuel 

00000Sam2The mighty Samuel was the effectual influential bridge between the chaotic ups and downs of the days of the Judges, and the days of stability and prosperity under David and Solomon. By the term, “bridge,” I do not mean that he was merely a passive filler who joins the two epochs together simply by being alive between their occurrence and during that transition. Far from it!  The spiritual void at the end of the book of Judges and the genesis of First Samuel that revealed a desolated and godless nation state of Israel, actually precipitated his conception and birth. The power and force of his prophetic gift and the management of that gift in facilitating the means of him passing on the baton to future generations, shows him as a definitive towering pillar of seminal prophetic input.  His character, teaching and influence propelled Israel into a period of time and an outlook of faith that even 3,000 years later is referred to as the halcyon days of the nation of Israel. Samuel is the ultimate Old Testament prophet in Israel. He plied his trade as a prophet, toiled, preached, prayed, pursued and was troubled with the burden of the nation his entire life from the moment God first spoke to him. Jewish tradition says he was about 100 years old when he died. For that lifetime, Israel sunk first during his youth as Samuel’s authority was beginning to take root, and finally was in a state of continuous growth and expansion until it was in a position to grow without him.

Hail Samuel! Mighty man of God!

The book of First Samuel is the history of four people; Hannah, Samuel, Saul and David. Hannah produced Samuel, Saul tested Samuel’s grace, and David gained more from Samuel in only two meetings than the rest of the nation gleaned from his whole life’s circuit preaching in Judah and Benjamin.

I have read, meditated and pawed over Samuel’s life for many years. The more I read of him. The more I love him. If a person ever undertook to make a comprehensive character study of the men in the Old Testament who are referred to as “prophets” and of their lifelong activities, one would be conf2ronted, nay, challenged with a bewildering and perplexing variety of human kind of which one cannot select a characteristic that one could refer to as “the norm amongst them. It is my opinion that we have more revealed of Samuel’s life and context than any of them. The fear of God, and the faithfulness to bring to people exactly what Yahweh was saying is the only norm that blankets them all. And Samuel was the first to set the bar high.

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One does not need a diploma in Theology to see that there is a marked difference between the likes of Saul, who stripped off his clothes and prophesied, lying naked all day and all night (1 Sam 19:24), Balaam who was corrupt and selling his gift to the highest bidder, and those like Samuel, whose thunderous, “This is what the Lord says,” exposed the spiritual rot of Israel in his day.

When people refer to the biblical “prophets,” the beginner, or the man on the street normally lets his mind go to names like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel. These are the “Major” prophets, not major because they were more important, but simply because their books are larger than the other twelve. There are twelve so called, “minor” prophets also. All these men have made contributions to the revelation of God to man through the their contribution to the scriptures that we call the Bible.  But all of these prophetic men who have prophetic books named after them were later developments within the river of prophetism in Israel. It could be said that the real river of the flow of the Spirit of God in Israel stretched back to a river source  in the person of the prophet Moses. Moses really does have a primary place in the history of God’s dealings with men. Read those first half a dozen verses of Hebrews 3. In God’s leading of his people, the revelation made to Moses for Israel was something that the nation was called to walk in until the arrival of Christ. Moses was a prototype of things to come.

The prophetic message of all prophets thereafter was a message conjoined to and rooted in the Mosaic revelation, in exactly the same manner in which the apostolic message was rooted in the teachings of Christ.

Because of the first five books of the Old Testament, Moses left a huge legacy. The construct of all prophetic messages and characters thereafter was to declare quite unequivocally the obligations and demands of the covenant made via Moses. The prototype of these was the first prophet in the land to speak to the entire nation once they were installed in Canaan – i.e. Samuel.  It would be true to say that Moses initiated and set in place a written piece of work that put down the parameters and definitions of what a prophet was and what the prophets would actually say.

Moses, like all prophets, spoke by God’s authority. To contradict Moses was like contradicting God. Samuel was the first prophet in Israel who addressed the whole nation and was acknowledged as the spiritual leader of the all the tribes. He attained that position by no other reason than the force of his integrity and character. David ruled the nation by virtue of him being anointed king. Samuel was there by virtue of who he was and what he carried  in his person from Yahweh.

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Samuel and all who followed him as prophet stood as heirs to the prophetic commission of Moses and his definition of the prophetic role. It goes without saying, at least to this writer, that all Old Testament prophets point forward to our Lord Jesus Christ who was as a second Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15 – 22). Needless to add, Moses was the pale shadow of which Christ was the substance that created the shadow.

Having said this, however, we assert that the first “proper” prophet, “official” prophet, acknowledged by the nation in his lifetime in Israel as a prophet, was not Moses (who never entered the promised land), but Samuel (1 Samuel 3:1-14). Samuel being captivated and immersed in the Mosaic covenant and its ramifications to the nation, was appointed by nobody but God Himself as a “judge,” “priest,” “prophet,” and forced by circumstance to be a kingmaker under God’s mighty hand.  I have read one Old Testament professor  who in describing Samuel succinctly said that he “defined the role of the prophets as guardians of the theocracy.” What a fantastic description!  He was the gatekeeper for the nation’s access to God’s thoughts and opinions. The people screamed for a king “like the other nations,” however it was Samuel’s burden to make sure that they understood that no one could supplant God’s authority over His people no matter how good or bad any king might have be. Samuel’s huge burden, a burden that turned out to be the crux of his legacy was the unenviable task of rebuking King Saul, and to challenge the entire nation to remain faithful to Yahweh’s covenant, as brought to them via Moses.

On these grounds, I assert that Samuel is the prototype of all that followed him. It is as if Samuel fleshes out the Old Testament Prophetic Constitution. He sets the stage, lays the tram lines, lays out the map for the army of people that came after him, those we refer to as the Classical Prophets, the Writing Prophets, or the Hebrew Prophets of the Old Testament.

No other prophet seems to ever fill Samuel’s shoes. Moses only had his role for forty years. With all the others, none of them seem to have been life long prophets, none of them had the social kudos and the administrative weight of responsibility within the nation, as Hannah’s son. We do not hear of the whole nation mourning for any of those that follow him.

Please hear my heart on this. In no way at all am I in anyway trying to demean any of the prophets because of the brevity of their ministry, their small contribution to the canon of scripture, or their lack of success in turning the nation around. God forbid that anybody should do such a thing. According to the Lord Jesus all of Samuel’s successors died because of the hardness of the heart of the Israeli people. On top of that, the man whom Christ declared to be the greatest was badly dressed, lived in the desert and ministered for no longer than three months at the extreme. I am referring of course to John the Baptist. John was dressed in camel skin and spent the vast majority of his ministry stood in the Jordan river soaking wet. I met a Jewish man once who told me that there is only one thing in the world that smells worse than camel skin, and that was wet camel skin. No great prophetic robe for John as there was for Samuel.

But I finish these notes on Samuel with an encouragement for my readers to read these notes again and consider the greatness of this man.

May God raise up more men of this calibre in the world, men who, by the word of God, and the power of the Holy Spirit, can extend the kingdom of Heaven.

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Categories: An Acorn becomes a Mighty Tree., Being a Prophet is a privilege, God's own Training School., History teaches everything including the future., Matured in the Keg, The Prophetic Benchmark | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“I’ll be seeing you from old sheol where death embraces, telling Saul that here your face is coming soon”

The Kingdom Torn so Violently from its King.
(1 Samuel 15 :34-35)

Samuel did not want a king. He reasoned with the people against such an idea. It grieved him that the request dominated the people for a while. He was weary with the weight of it, until Yahweh told him not to be anxious. They had not rejected Samuel, they had rejected God Himself. God gave the people the kind of king they were after. Saul was the tallest of the nation. Everything about him made him attractive to male and female alike. He was the man that the people desired.

Saul, actually, had started off in very fine style. His humility and self effacement from the time that Samuel first met him endeared him to Samuel’s heart I believe. When the Ammonites besieged Jabesh Gilead, Saul went into action like Superman. He acted  immediately in a very kingly manner. He took his army to relieve Jabesh Gilead. And what is most important is that Samuel tagged along (1 Samuel 11:7). I think Samuel was just wanting to see what Saul was like in battle, and the way he handled himself in war, as well as assessing the people’s response to their new king. Samuel was like a big “father-figure” that was overseeing the whole transition from a free for all rabble, to an actual nation of subjects under a well beloved king. The whole conflict with the Ammonites siege in Gilead was so ably handled that the people wanted any that had ever complained about him when he was first crowned king to be put to death.

Dark shadowy days were ahead for King Saul.

Saul was very definitely the flavour of the month at that moment, but whether or not he ever embedded himself into the loving psyche of the people is extremely doubtful. Samuel was obviously very pleased with what happened in 1 Samuel 11. He was so pleased that he called the nation to return to Gilgal, the national religious “conference centre,” in order to reaffirm the kingship on the now well proven king.

I cannot help but wonder if this was the only moment in Samuel’s life when his wisdom and prophetic gifting failed to operate as it seems to have done throughout all his days. Samuel seems to have been so content with what had happened with Saul functioning as king that he went into “retirement.” The speech he made in 1 Samuel 12 is nothing but a valedictory monologue. One cannot mistake the logic of his words. It was a definite, “Thank you everybody, and Good-bye” speech.

I believe his actions spoke louder than any words could express. It shows humility, in as much as he did not consider himself by any means indispensible. It was obvious that he was nearer to indispensible than he considered himself to be.  If Saul had submitted himself to the tuition and wisdom of Samuel it is obvious he would never have lost the throne. Saul needed fathering in his newly given authority. But Samuel had already proven himself an inadequate domestic father of two sons, and was only seen as a giant in his fathering and prayerful listening to God’s views on issues to do with the nation of Israel. If he had fathered his two sons in the same way that he had fathered the nation, destiny might have taken a different direction.

Having retired as a non – royal national leader, he slipped out of the circle of Saul’s “court” and was destined only to appear before His Majesty the King in the role of prophet and/or priest.

So it seemed all was as it should be until Saul was told at a certain time to wait before a certain battle with the Philistines (1 Samuel 13:5 – 10). His instructions were to wait until Samuel would arrive to pray and offer a sacrifice, facilitating Saul’s victory over the dreaded foe. Israel and its armies were all in array, and the Philistines came and camped not so far away with chariots, and foot soldiers “as numerous as the sand on the seashore.” In the context of biblical battles and God’s fighting on Israel’s behalf,one would think that there was little for the soldiers of Israel to fear. So they all camped down and waited for Samuel before engaging the dread might of Philistia.

Samuel actually told Saul he was not to arrive for a full week. Perhaps you are like this writer, querying the legitimacy of such a pause. Was this a prophetic test? Or, did Samuel not know what was happening on the prospective battle field? Was Samuel wanting to reduce Saul’s army, like Yahweh did for Gideon, down to 600 in order to show God’s glory in their victory against many many thousands of the huge Philistines?  The insurmountable problem for Saul, was that during that seven day wait, the tension and fear had grown to the point where it gripped the armies of Israel, that they had trickled away to hide in caves and thickets. We are seriously considering grown men being petrified with fear for them to act in such a manner. And sure enough, as if Gideon’s experience was a template for the scene, everybody had left Saul, but for 600 men.

Saul’s route to destruction.

No explanation is given in scripture for Samuel’s late arrival. But like some well written BBC drama, Saul was so terrified of being left to fight the whole Philistine army by himself, that on the seventh day, feeling unsure to wait any longer, he himself made the sacrifice. Hear the dramatic music of the BBC drama as, “Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived…” Oh dear! This was not to be the last time that Saul would be relieved to see Samuel, but then be severely spoken to by the elderly prophet.

Samuel told him that his kingdom would not endure. That was the first strike. The severe word of God spoken by Samuel was responded to by the king in an ungodly frame of mind. It was the very beginning of the backward slide of Saul ben Kish. Samuel went storming off to Gibeah. We are not told why he went to what seems like Saul’s home.

Then, at a later date, several years later, Saul was instructed to wipe out the Amalekites. We have seen in the immediately previous pages of this volume that Saul failed in obeying the divine orders of his mission. The drama of the tearing of Samuel’s mantle, and Samuel telling Saul that God had torn the kingdom from his hands was the final cliff edge experience for Samuel. He had returned to the Naioth (Samuel’s home), and never spoke to Saul thereafter, or saw his face again as long as they both lived.  We will, of course, later engage in the supernatural moment when the spirit of Samuel arose from Sheol to speak with Saul on the last day of the king’s life. But that is for another day.

As if the news of Saul refusing to annihalate the Amalekites was not enough to stress Samuel out and take him to his grave, the confrontation with Saul in 1 Samuel 15 just pained the prophet too much.

“Until the day Samuel died, he did not go to see Saul again, though Samuel mourned for him.”  This line tells us so very much of Samuel’s Godliness.

 

  1. Samuel did not turn introverted about his own position, but mourned for many days, possibly years, for what Saul had done, and how he had lost character because of his actions.
  2. It was as if Samuel knew, and prophetically perceived how Saul was to die. Thus the prophet mourns, seemingly prematurely.
  3. Samuel did not publicly announce the “fall” of the king, nor the future of Israel as a kingdom. At the moment of time that encapsulates 1 Samuel 15:34 and 35, Samuel seems to have had no idea of what was to happen to the political side of the nation.
  4. Samuel was not conceited in any way whatsoever as to think that because Saul had been discredited in the eyes and words of God, he himself should reassume the role of leader, or presidential administration of the twelve tribes. In fact, such was the character of Samuel, I think it totally unlikely that he ever saw himself in that roll anyway. Samuel was a prophet. He heard from God, and he spoke from God. Samuel was in full knowledge of the fact that if God removed his hand from his life, there was nothing about himself to hold the interest of anybody. He was God’s ambassador and voice, and nothing more, as far as the nation was concerned.
  5. The only possible way the writer of the scriptures could have in any way known that God  was grieved that he ever made Saul King, was through the revelation of the prophet Samuel. Samuel was God’s confidante. Samuel was God’s shoulder to share with. God does nothing but that He tells it to His servants the prophets. God was grieved about the whole issue. That only increased Samuel’s mourning.
  6. Samuel, as a true prophet of God, felt the very heart of God. He didn’t just recite God’s word as a parrot would. Samuel felt the heart of God in the receiving of the word of God. It was grief and mourning for the lost king, and the dark days that were ahead of him.
  7. I find it amazing that Samuel did not complain to the national leaders with an, “I told you so,” attitude. He would have been well justified to take such a line. “I was the wise man! I saw it all coming! You would not hear me!” But such an arrogance was not in his DNA at all. His withdrawal into the grief and mourning of a bereavement was  genuine. He had nothing to say about the incredible loss of  the king.
  8. Samuel had such respect from the people, we do not hear that anybody gathered around him to encourage him. He was held in such a lofty position in the conceptual minds of the nation that he was simply left alone to get on with whatever his routine responsibilities were. Perhaps even the School of the prophets did not even lift him out of the grief.
  9. Samuel’s mourning for Saul was long and hard and heavy. It was so deep that the lengthy first verse of 1 Samuel 16 informs us that Yahweh had to shake him out of the oppressiveness of loss, and set him to work again.  He who knows all things, knew the reality of Samuel’s grief. God knew that nobody had a love and a passion for the people of Israel, their land and their future, like Samuel did.
  10. The grief for Saul, informs us that Samuel really loved him. His need to absent from Saul was a deliberate intention to avoid people making the mistake that Samuel was approving of King Saul’s policies and practices. Samuel withdrew from the wider public life, and merely withdrew into his ministry of training the school of the prophets.

Oh the affliction of being God’s prophet.

 

Categories: 1 Samuel 15:34-35, “I’ll be seeing you from old sheol where death embraces telling Saul that here your face is coming soon”, Being a Prophet is a privilege, Definition of a Prophet, The kingdom violently torn from its king | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Being a Prophet is a Privilege, but it is also an Affliction and Oh how Great is that Affliction.

The Agony and the Tears of a True Prophet.
(1 Samuel 15:10-11)
Saul is partying, making merry and generally living it up. He had left what used to be the Amalekite territory and made his way up to Gilgal. There was only one single Amalekite left alive, as far as Saul claimed (Trust me when I tell you that what Saul believed was simply not true), and that was the worst one of them all. On the way to Gilgal, Saul had stopped at Carmel and it seems, made some sort of statue, memorial perhaps, or even a celebratory structure in order to commemorate his “victory.”
Oh dear! Little did he know what he was getting himself into.
Samuel knows nothing of what has gone on across the, “killing fields,” of Amalek. Yahweh sees all things. In the context of time, no matter how well He knows things before they have happened, the Almighty waits until Saul has decided to keep the best animals and rescue Agag from death, supposedly the only living Amalekite. God waits until the sin has been perpetrated. Then Yahweh Himself is pained. And, if it doesn’t sound too strange a question, who does God lean on when He is distressed at something? Answer: His prophets. Or in this particular case, His prophet –singular.

While Almighty God was thinking thoughts of judgement and finality with Saul, the man himself is exulting in believing that he has done a great job. How incredibly painful to consider that God was righteously judging Saul for sins that he seems to have believed were not sins. At least that is how this writer sees it. The man had some kind of “accountability blindness,” or  even, “Responsibility Short-sightedness.” Either way, by all the dialogue of Saul that we read of in scripture, he seems to have thought he had done the right thing until Samuel confronted him with his actions.  But more of that later. 

Because of the saving of King Agag, and the rounding up of the best livestock, God looks for somebody to talk to. “The word of the Lord came to Samuel,” immediately. Imagine the concurrent scene in three different places.

Down somewhere between the Amalekite region, Carmel and Gilgal, it is the blood-bathed warrior’s “Happy Hour.” These soldiers are celebrating in keeping for themselves what used to be Amalek’s choicest live stock – both herds and flocks. Perhaps Saul, foolishly, did not tell them of the exact instructions that Samuel had delivered to him from God. Saul later explains to Samuel that the livestock he kept alive were for sacrificing to God. My thoughts are that the situation was utterly out of King Saul’s control, and that the soldiers were doing what they wanted irrespective of anything Saul had ordered or “suggested.” Telling the king what they were doing, left Saul utterly paralyzed with fear or ignorance – or was it apathy and despair. Saul did not know how to handle the masses.  Scene one, therefore, is drunken debauchery in celebration of, “A job well done!” that was not actually done at all.

Scene 2 is Samuel (probably at home in the Naioth in Ramah) praying, worshipping, “getting things on,” with his school of the prophets. He is heavy in heart because he has been left stranded in a kind of limbo. He has, by the Spirit of God, told Saul that he will definitely lose his kingdom to another. He was not told whether or not the change of dynastic family would take place during Saul’s life, or after his death. The limbo of not knowing the future must have weighed on him extremely heavily. As a prophet of God, Yahweh could, and ultimately would, reveal how things were to be in the future after Saul had vacated the earthly throne room of Israel. But even that was to be only partially revealed. Samuel was aged and in the autumn of his days. There was, as far as we know, no other, “up and coming” prophet at that moment who would assume the role of pastoring the nation as he had done for so many years. He was sadly disappointed with Saul’s change of heart, causing him to dive into blatant disobedience and an insipid lack of leadership. We are not sure exactly what Samuel was doing at that moment of revelation, but we are positive he was in an emotionally pressured state. He had given Saul the divine command to rid the world of the Amalekites, and then had quickly withdrawn to his home again. He was getting on with life as he knew it, probably understanding by his human intuition that Saul was possible of anything – except the right thing.

Scene 3 is more complex to explain. We are talking about the all seeing God, seated in heaven. While Saul was merry making, and Samuel was paining in the deepest part of his being, God was in the heavenly throne room, panning His eyes over the spiritual state of Saul, and the disobedience towards Amalek.

God lives outside of time. God can enter our “Time, Space World” from any angle He wishes. God exists outside the linear parameter of time. He enters into time, and talks to us with glorious condescension, in terms suggesting an equality with man as far as existing within the limits of time. Thus, we hear of theologians and preachers arguing and debating about God being surprised, or regretting, and “repenting” of anything.  God, here, sees and knows (and as we understand God – He must have known before it happened.) what Saul had actually done in disobeying the orders to kill all in Amalek. God’s desire, at that point of time, was to speak to His man in Israel, His key prophetic figure. Things have been utterly disturbed and disrupted in the heavenly sphere. A decree of God has not been submitted to. Saul is responsible for these foaming waves of white water in the smooth waters of God’s plans. Samuel is the man to deal with the issue.

Note that God will not do anything without telling His prophets.  Amos 3:7 tells us that this is the absolute truth. God shares His feelings with His prophets. To our knowledge, as far as prophets in the earth at that time were concerned, there was Samuel and his school of the prophets at Naioth in Ramah, and surely there must have been other individuals dotted around the land of Israel, yet, God came to the prophet Samuel by His Word to prepare him for the shock he would have when he saw Agag and the livestock. God shared all He wanted to do with Israel, with Samuel, and no other. God, expressed Himself fully and succinctly to the elderly prophet.  Observe that, just as it was when the angel informed Mary she was going to bear a son, so it was with Samuel’s revelation here, inasmuch as, we haven’t a clue as to what these two were actually doing when God communicated important things to them.

Yahweh did not waste a word or a moment. His statement to Samuel could not have been more informative, neither could it have been briefer. “It grieves Me that I have set up Saul to be King; for he is turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments.” Some translations have it as, “I repent at having made Saul King.” I think the modern translations try to adjust the language as so many millions of atheistic thinkers cannot cope with the fact that, “If there was a God, how is it He can repent of anything?” The Hebrew word is better translated as, “grieves,” rather than repented.

To use modern street language, the revelation of Saul’s conduct and God’s mind on that conduct, must have blown Samuel away.  The Word of the Lord came to Samuel in the manner I believe He nearly always had, that is, Yahweh came and stood before Samuel in order to speak with him. (See 1 Samuel 3:10 “Yahweh came and stood there, calling as at the other times.)

See the reasons that caused Samuel to be in “spiritual emergency” mode.

  1. God acknowledged that it was He, not Samuel, who had set up Saul as King. That would have eased Samuel’s heart very slightly.
  2. God is, “emotionally,” involved in Israel and humankind as a whole. He was grieved at what had happened with Saul. Samuel knew God’s heart and responded to it. God was grieved. He had said so. Samuel was also genuinely grieved.
  3. The fact that Saul was the King and set on the throne by God Himself, seemed to be something that Saul had lost track of. Israel as a people, the land that was given to them, the Tabernacle that they had worshipped around (until the Ark was taken by the Philistines), the prophets that taught them, the kings and priests that proliferated in Israel, were all placed there, with their existence justified by God Himself. How could Saul have lost sight of that?
  4. God was grieved because of Saul’s lack of submission to Him and His purpose, as well as all the priorities of the safety of the nation.
  5. It was not just the occasional refusal of Saul to follow God’s ways or obey His prophet. Saul had literally turned his back on God. Saul had willfully made the decision not to listen to God, and had walked away from being under Yahweh’s divine covering over him. Saul had turned his back towards God. That would be an insult in human relationships. It is a sin to knowledgeably and wilfully turn around from facing God.
  6. God wanted kings of Israel that would follow Him without question.
  7. Of all the people on the planet, God chooses to share His feelings with the prophet Samuel.

God speaks to mankind in human terms, in human ways, often working through people, in time, and conditioning his comments contextually, relative to the period and situation of the people to whom He is talking.  Deuteronomy 9:8 informs us that God expresses emotion over the sin of people, such as anger. God also expressed things like pity in Judges 2:18,  sorrow  as in 1 Chronicles 21:15 and of course, regret here in the two verses we are considering. God shares these proper emotions at the proper time even though He knew from eternity that people, in general, would sin. He also knew that Saul would disobey against Samuel’s words, which were God’s words.

Saul had turned his heart away from Yahweh. God could see what was in Saul’s heart, He is God that sees everything.  We humans, however, only see the fruit of what was in Saul’s heart. He was now living in a spiritual status that constantly and consistently disobedient to God.

Samuel was angry, for a good reason. My Hebrew Interlinear Old Testament  says that  Samuel, “was being hot.” The “heat” is translated as anger. But whether or not you agree with me about the nature of Samuel’s anger, in the midst of the anger, Samuel did something great. The prophet took all his anger, and spent the entire night pouring out his heart to God Himself, expressing his full emotion, feelings and intelligence on Saul and the nation. Herein is the secret of Samuel’s greatness.

The heart of God moves toward any person who is broken in spirit for the sake of others. That is the very nature of God Himself. Samuel was truly touched by the pains, disappointment and struggles of Saul, and the nation he had been ministering to all his life, as their prophet.

Saul’s sin screamed at heaven, and was displayed by all he said and did. His rebellion was openly exhibited, yet Samuel only dares to speak to Saul after having wept all night over the state of his heart, and the plight of the nation. Oh! For the heart of Samuel.

Even though Samuel had heard God indict Saul, Samuel acts in a divinely beautiful manner. Accusation , even when it is based upon truth, as Samuel’s divinely imparted knowledge was, cannot be any kind of substitute for intercession. In like manner to the Spirit of God, “Who helps our infirmities…” and “makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered”, so we also are called to pray for others in their time of weakness and failings. (Romans 8:26) Paul wrote, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). Some principles of prayer, even though they are only taught and stated in the New Testament, are actually eternal unchanging principles that have always been rocks to stand since Adam first fell.

It is a wise practice  to emulate Samuel, who, before offering criticism or rebuke to another person, even though it was God Himself who had broken the news to the prophet, spent time in brokenness before God. Your intercessions, tears and grief for that person will bear much weight before God. Maybe, if we haven’t been able to weep over someone’s failings, we shouldn’t address them or judge them.

Samuel’s prayers were not nice and tidy. He cried out to the Lord all night. That means Samuel took several hours to unburden his soul before God, so he could be in the right place when he spoke to Saul. Prayers of the night, in the silence, are prayers that are pointed, focussed and concentrated I find. With Samuel we distinctly get the message that praying in this manner was his continuous lifestyle.

We catch Samuel praying in 1 Samuel  7:9. 8:6. 12:18 and 23, and here in 1 Sam 15:11. It is always intercessory prayer,  ie: on behalf of somebody else. The prophet appears to have been told by God  the result of Saul’s  probationary commission.  Saul had failed the “test.” Agitated and distressed, moved and angered, yet  not clearly perceiving it to be the fixed purpose of God that Saul should no longer reign over Israel as His recognized servant, king  and vicegerent, Samuel literally gave of himself fully and holistically to prayer. If there was a way in which to save the day, save the nation and save Saul, Samuel was determined to seek God and get such prayers answered.  It was with great intensity, if by any means of relating with Yahweh, he might avert the calamity for both Saul and the nation.  Samuel’s agonising in prayer was chiefly, on behalf of the nation’s king, though not without regard to the whole  nation, on which the rejection of the monarch seemed likely to result in disaster.

Prayer works. And well meant, intercessory praying in the Spirit is priceless and availing. We should  intercede for individuals as well as communities, groups and even nations. “Satan hath desired to have you,” said the Master who was and is the perfect example of intercessory prayer, “but I have prayed for you” (Luke 22:32). King Saul was in very great danger and peril. He was falling from high dignity, failing to accomplish the purpose of his appointment, losing the favour and help of Yahweh, and sinking into confirmed rebellion and complete ruin. “It grieves me that I have made Saul  king; for he is turned back from following me.”  The words spoken by God to Samuel have pathos and pain about them.

Samuel rose from his prostration before God in a state of holy anger  against sin, and against the sinner, in so far as he had yielded himself to the power of God’s word, arising from sympathy with God and zeal for his honour.  He was also deeply sorrowed over Saul, because of his loss and ruin in his essential personality, mingled with disappointment at the failure of the hopes entertained concerning him from the start. Saul had been so humble when Samuel first met him. He would not sin against Israel or Saul in failing to pray for them.

“And he cried unto the Lord all night,” with a loud and piercing cry, and in prolonged petition.  He was shouting. He was calling out. Surely the old home at Ramah, which had been sanctified by parental prayers and his own incessant supplications, never witnessed greater fervour as at this tragic moment.  “God, have mercy on Saul! Have mercy on Israel! Keep us from your wrath! Give us all grace to repent and walk with You!” No wonder the Psalmist quotes Samuel as an outstanding man of prayer who was heard by God continually (Psalm 99:6). These kind of moments were exactly what Samuel was created for.

Having said all that, one could suggest that his prayers were not answered. Saul did not repent, nor did Father in heaven reverse his rejection of the monarch.   I am not sure, however, that Samuel failed at all.  There are stages of human guilt which would be followed by the wrath of God, “though Moses and Samuel stood before him” (Jeremiah 15:1). The Apostle John wrote that, “There is a sin unto death; I do not say that he shall pray for it”” (1 John 5:16). Judgement had been arrived at in heaven. It was a judgement that would not have been made if there was the slightest hope of Saul returning to his erstwhile humility and submission to the Almighty and his prophet. Samuel had, “cried unto the Lord all night.” His cries had not been in vain, for they had brought Samuel himself into complete submission, and had nerved him to do his work calmly, without a quiver or a pang of personal feeling, as becomes God’s prophet. He had aligned his own spirit with the Spirit of God, and was ready to be the human instrument that would  speak God’s word to the errant king of Israel.

It is the distinguishing mark of prophets, and others, that they cry for the offences and affronts committed by others against Yahweh. Jeremiah wished that his head were waters, and his eyes a fountain of tears, that he might be facilitated to weep day and night (Jeremiah 9:1). King David declared, his tears ran like rivers, because men kept not God’s laws (Psalm 119:136). Paul wrote about having continual sorrow in his heart for his unconverted brethren the Jews (Romans 9:2). And when God would point out the grand mark by which his own were to be known, he says, “Go through the midst of the city, the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof” (Ezekiel 9:4). So we are rationally challenged to ask; when wickedness is going on in our towns, or in the secret chambers of power, in our nation, do we shut our door about us, and cry to the Lord all night?

Whether Samuel slept at all that night we are not told. We are only made privy to the fact that he rose early in the morning and set out to speak to the king.

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Categories: 1 Samuel 15:10-11, Being a Prophet is a privilege, but it is also an affliction and oh how painful is the Affliction., Definition of a Prophet, Intercession, Prayer | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Foolish Wise Old Man

Is passivity ever right?

(1 Samuel 3:15–18)

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On the way to Synagogue in Jerusalem; circa 1900 I believe.

I cannot make my mind up. Was Eli wise with a little foolishness thrown in? Or was he mainly the fool, with a little wisdom given to spice up his character?  There are times I like the chap, and other times I am not sure. It is only because of Samuel, and the way he turned out in the end, that one is pressured to give the, “thumbs up,” to surrogate Big Daddy Eli.

In debating with myself about this old man, I always give him a big fat zero out 10 often for what went on the following morning after Samuel’s first revelation.  Domineering, and rude.  Insensitive and loud.  “Tell me!  Tell me!”  And no sign of, “How did it go last night, son?”  After all, it was only the first revelation of its kind in Israel for centuries.  It was only Yahweh Himself manifesting His presence and His word to a young man in the tent.  I am all for keeping spiritual people humble, but Eli’s approach was too crass, too foolish to do him credit.

Then again, perhaps he was afraid of dying any moment. I don’t say that facetiously. With the practices of his sons, with his acknowledgement of his own culpability in their upbringing and lack of discipline, and with the earlier prophetic promise of familial demise of power, and no, “senior citizens,” ever to be amongst their ranks again, it would seem logical that he considered himself as about to, “pop his clogs.”  “Any day,” might have been the word Eli could have used.  With that understanding we could, perhaps, understand the hurried, “Tell me quick, Samuel!  I might not be here to hear it all!” Honestly! I am not trying to be funny with that one.

See what I mean! There! I’ve done it again. Now I condemn the old man; now I exonerate him.

 “Samuel, my son.”  The young man must have dreaded this. Probably the first conversation of the day. Not even waiting for the breakfast table talk, Eli attacks.

Here I am.”  Are there any imperfections to the attitude of this young, “prophet,” in the making?  How many people, especially if they were a child (Remember, I, personally, am not sure he was.) would keep the message to themselves? The excitement! The burning inside! The drama! The interest!  But if Samuel had been that kind of character, he would not have been told what he had been told, would he?

“What is the thing that the Lord has said to you?  I beg you hide it not from me:  God do so to you and more, if you hide anything from me of all the things that he said to you.”  Eli’s words betray him. He had guessed already what the message was. Only if there was heavy destructive judgment in the air could Eli have said, “God do so to you and more if you hide it.” He knew alright!  What had happened is that Eli had been eating, sleeping and drinking the, “Hammer Horror Film” of prophecy that was laid on him by the nameless prophet earlier.  It was profound and shattering, both to his family, and the nation. After all; he was the inter regnum High Priest.  As the bad news he had received from the nameless prophet had not yet been fulfilled, he felt it was surely a repetition, or perhaps even, some appalling enlargement of what had earlier been predicted.

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Elderly Yeminite Jew in Jerusalem circa 1900. Hand coloured.

This understanding puts me back on Eli’s side very strongly.  I am impressed with the thought that Eli had thought of nothing else since the day the prophet spoke to him.  Surely that was the fact of the matter. Whether it was a week earlier, or a decade previous.  Eli was in a state of agony. Limbo! “Is this the day that I leave this mortal coil?”

Regrets are awesome tyrants when they are left to roam free in one’s memory.  Dictators!  Taskmasters!  I believe they often make people physically and/or mentally ill. If regrets are chewed on too much and too strongly, they are a veritable danger to health. This assumed fact made Eli’s continued existence on planet earth very tenuous.

But how on earth could he have possibly ignored the two sons for so long?  They weren’t always grown men, uncontrollable, lustful and anarchic. They were once on his knee, they were once asking, “Daddy,” to play with them, and tell them stories. They were babies, toddlers, and little children once. Oh, the agony of lost time!  How deep the pain of neglected opportunities!  How bloody are the consequences of missing the greatest of all God’s calls: the call to parenthood?  Anybody with normal physical functions could sire children. It takes a man to be a father. Of all the roles we play on this planet, the key role of being a mother or a father is the heaviest and the most responsible, and Eli had, sadly, fluffed it.

Samuel, being the person he was, did as he was told. He explained to Eli everything and hid nothing, for that is what he was ordered to do.  Picture the pain of the speaker. Feel the pain of the listener. Then listen to the pathos in the old man’s response. I hear the priest as in a daze. I perceive him numbed with grief for his wayward, perverted, yet nevertheless, beloved sons. I feel his heart almost stop beating, and smell the salt of his tears as the words are torn from his guts like some pillaging Philistine tearing out his stomach. “It is the Lord. Let Him do what seems good.”  

No justification of self. No condemnation of God, or his sons. Complete submission!  One of the greatest gems that God ever whispered in this writers ear was the concept of justifying God first and foremost at the outbreak of any personal catastrophe. The quiet, though agonised acceptance with which the elderly priest received the intimation of certain earthly doom seems to indicate that Eli, so confident of the love of the All-Pitiful Almighty Yahweh, looked for some other means of salvation devised in the counsels of Yahweh, the Eternal friend of Israel. He had his sight fixed on that by which his deathless soul, after the earthly penalty, would be reconciled to the invisible King.  Surely he looked on to the one sure hope.  The blood of bulls and goats could not help him now.  But the blood of a better covenant would. Eli, it seems to me, knew his eternal future because of his faith in the God of Israel.

Eli was probably nought but a pawn in his sons’ dealings since their adulthood.  But Eli was still their father.  Eli was their head.  Eli was the High Priest and spiritual head of the nation.  However, Eli had sown to the wind, and had reaped the whirlwind. Passivity with his own son’s upbringing had brought damnation.

8 Home from Synagogue

Home from the Synagogue in Jerusalem.

Categories: 1 Samuel 3:15-18, Being a Prophet is a privilege, Definition of a Prophet, Is Passivity ever right?, Samuel's first prophetic word., The Foolish Wise Old man | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Things Given. Things Developed. Things Grown. Things Matured.

Things Given. Things Developed. Things Grown. Things Matured.

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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

True gifts are given without prejudice to the one receiving. That is why they are called gifts.  Doh! If it is earned by any means, it is not a gift. Some gifts are given by humans to humans. The best gifts are given by God to humans. Some people are born with serious gifts of talent, insight, intelligence and even an exceptional understanding of what life is all about. Those are gifts from God embedded in the person, somehow – somewhere as conceived in the womb.

Humanly speaking, in the complete natural, some people are born so exceptionally gifted that their very existence and period of life makes history.  For example, Mozart was, “keyboard and violin concert competent,” and a major composer at the age of 5. As he grew he composed in an incredibly prolific manner. His most famous pieces were written in his later years.  Although he was given a gift by God that overshadowed almost anybody that ever lived in the realm of music, he wisely spent his entire life developing the gift that he was very conscious of, dwelling within him. What he had been born with was great. Yet he worked hard with that embedded gift as if he had no gift at all. The awesome, “gift of music,” that he developed grew in style, complexity and attractiveness, and he was still maturing in that gift when he passed away at the premature age of 35, one month before his thirty sixth birthday.

What was given him in birth, he developed. What he developed through hard work facilitated a growth in the skill of exercising his gift. The output of that effort, on top of what was given by God, matured into something quite awe inspiring. But make no mistake, the initiation of his passion and desire for music was a God given gift. The gift was embedded in Mozart’s personality and mind, making the gift part and parcel of his attributes as a human being. Incredible eh?

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An airbrushed image of Ludwig Van Beethoven

Beethoven spent the early days of his life much under the shadow of Mozart and was yet another gifted man in the realm of music. Like Mozart, Beethoven wasn’t just, “keen about music.” Music was his life. Composing was what he was made for, and he was so sensitively aware of what he was made for.  He tragically lost his hearing in his later years. We may feel a little sympathetic for anybody who loses their hearing, but this was a kind of, “death blow,” for Ludwig.  Imagine a footballer losing the use of his legs, or a singer losing their voice. Everything Beethoven lived for was in his hearing. The final years of his life saw his hearing all but disappearing completely. He still, however, composed symphonies.

“But surely! That’s impossible!” I hear you say. “How did he do that?” He carried on his life’s mission and composed symphonies by living in an upstairs flat with a wooden floor. Next, he bought a Grand Piano and chopped the legs off. Then he would lie on the floor with an ear hard to the floorboards. He knew what he was playing by the vibrations, not by what he heard. What effort! What passion! What purpose! What a sense of destiny! Nothing but nothing could have stopped Beethoven but death itself. I  do not think Ludwig van Beethoven had any religious convictions, at least not that I have read about, but his sense of purpose and knowledge of, “This is what I was born for,” utterly dominated his life.

My point is exactly the same as it was about Mozart. Beethoven was born with an incredible gift. But although this man had a gift that millions of music lovers would have given their right arm for, nevertheless he worked harder, studied music harder and composed longer than those that do not have such a gift. In fact one of his idiosyncrasies was that in order to keep himself awake for extremely long hours while he was composing  and not wanting to fall asleep, he would immerse his head in freezing cold water for as long as he could. It is thought by some that it was this practice that precipitated his deafness. How amazing is that?

These two men had things given from heaven, things they developed, things they grew that resulted in glorious maturation.

All human character gifting, or talent gifting needs developing. Only by development can it grow and mature. This principle is consistently true when discussing things to do with the Spirit of God when anointing the lives of people in whatever sphere. We are, here, specifically looking at the issue of prophecy and prophets.

Even though this principle is applicable to all gifting of character, or of a supernatural work of God, I am homing in on the one subject of Samuel the prophet and prophecy.  All things to do with prophecy being received and delivered are in the, “Potential for Development,” department.  No matter how ahead of others a gift may be, development is simply the priority of life.  All of life is about development, growth and maturation. Whatever a person’s gift may be, and even if in your particular field you are like a Mozart to a tone deaf beginner, development is what you are made for and the reason you are alive.

For people inexperienced in hearing God’s voice and then delivering what He has said, we need to remember Romans 12:6: “Prophesy according to your portion of faith.” The statement clearly infers that as one developes one’s prophetic gift, so the realm of faith will expand in one’s heart. By the growth of faith, the one prophesying gains the capacity to hear and receive messages of greater weight, and more directly personal words from heaven.

This concept of development is exactly what is exemplified and plainly witnessed in Samuel’s life. The principle was birthed in the son of Elkanah at his “initiation” into the prophetic. The prophetic revelation of Yahweh given to Samuel was a message that comprised all the major elements of prophecy in one brief moment of unveiling to Samuel, and suggests certain traits in the process of the giving and the receiving of the word of God that tell us so much about the man and about prophecy itself.

  • It was predictive. “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears about it tingle” (1 Samuel 3:11). Samuel’s first prophetic word was foretelling the future. Not all prophecy is predictive, but all prophecy is a declaration of God’s thoughts, will and word at that moment.
  • God’s first word was “Behold!” Or in modern English, “See!” 1 Samuel 3:10 tells us that Yahweh Himself was stood near Samuel when He spoke to him. Strangely and mystically, we are not told whether or not Samuel saw the Lord standing near him. But clearly, the inference is that Samuel had something to see as well as to hear.
  • God’s act in talking like this to Samuel was an example of the concept laid down in Amos 3:7, even though Samuel lived several generations before Amos even wrote it, i.e. “Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.”  Although it was Amos who contributed this truth to the canon in the eighth century BC, it is a truth that has always been factual since Enoch was alive in Genesis 5. We are led to believe that prophets were an incredible rarity in Israel in those days immediately prior to Samuel’s birth. God knew what and when He was to do a thing, and so broke into our time and space world to share Himself with Samuel. God knew who and what Samuel was. The word that came to Samuel in his bed was an early verification of his prophetic status. How wonderful that God could not perform His will until he had shared it with a young lad.
  • The prophecy came to a specific person at a specific time. The Lord came and stood there near to Samuel and called his name four times. It resonated with Samuel as a warm loving father speaking to him. I know that is true, because he believed it was Eli calling him at first. God draws near to those who are at rest in themselves and with Him. Calling Samuel four times says a lot about the character of God and the value of Samuel’s heart and attitude to the Almighty.
  • It was a word of knowledge. He was told things about Eli and Israel that he probably had no clue about.
  • It was a word of wisdom and deep insight concerning Eli’s lack of parental authority with his sons. The wisdom in God’s word was God’s alone. But the messenger always sounds as wise as Him that sent him in his presentation. That is why the gift is a mystery when the uninitiated hear the gift in manifestation.
  • It was a revelation to Samuel of the times he was living in. Later kings surrounded themselves with, “men that knew the times.” God Himself taught Samuel concerning the times in which he lived.

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  • Now that Samuel was the carrier of such an intimate portion of God’s planned activities, he was marked as one of God’s prophets. God had chosen him, and from then on his life’s gifting, developement and obvious maturation convinced the entire nation of Israel that Samuel was a prophet of God.
  • His gifting made him famous. Fame clearly did not spoil his character.
  • Because Samuel was the carrier of the message it would seem to some that he could speak God’s word at anytime and anyplace at his own whim and fancy. This is perhaps the biggest error that Christians generally hold concerning prophets and the prophetic. The easier a prophet moves in the prophetic, and the more prolific he is in that gift , the more some people are misled into thinking that they can ask a prophet at any time to give them “a word.” The ease and spontaneity of their gift is definitely NOT a sign that they can deliver prophetic words on demand. This is a huge issue in the minds of many sincere Christians. However, the rider must be added, that of a prophet is walking in continuous fellowship with the Holy Spirit, he could, conceivably answer the issues of life with a continuous sustainable flow of the prophetic.  I have heard several prophets say that once they step into the flow of the anointing, they can prophesy all day long. I have even heard some say that once ministry is finished, they find it difficult to step out of the anointing and come “back to earth,” as it were. The anointing flows like a river.
  • It demonstrated Samuel’s great faith at that point of time. The New Testament talks about people prophesying according to their portion of faith. Samuel was predicting something hugely impacting on the future of Israel.
  • Samuel in his youthful innocence was fully accountable to a father figure. He held nothing back from Eli, but told him everything.
  • Eli had been and was an ongoing mentor to Samuel right up to the point of Eli’s death. Even though Samuel’s initial prophetic gift at its birth was beyond Eli’s, nevertheless Samuel submitted to a human authority that was older than him, but not above him in gifting. Character is always more important than gifting. Being under authority is always more necessary than being in authority.
  • All the above, and the account of the call in 1 Samuel 3 lets us know that Samuel was not consumed by any kind of arrogance or pride about his prophetic words or his intimacy with God. To open the gates of the Temple i.e. the Tabernacle for worshippers, even before Eli was up and out of bed, and then to reveal the complete revelation to him shows his freedom from pride or a maverick independent spirit. Eli’s harsh bullying words to get Samuel, to tell him the message he was given were hardly necessary to the gentleness of Hannah’s son.
  • Samuel was tested and proven here on issues of character. Because of the incredible influential power of the prophetic it is seriously vital to the purity of the prophetic gift that the character who speaks on behalf of God carries the appropriate character requirements that befit the office of prophet.

All this – and Samuel was still a “lad.” The gift, and the man with the gift, must have spent his entire life on a learning curve that never ended until he died. What he had and treasured, what made him a key figure in Israel’s history, was given him from heaven. His biblical biography screams at us that what was given him was developed. The ever increasing breadth, depth and scope of his prophetic ministry show how he had grown in that gift by an ever deeper submission to God.  His anointing of David, and the impact of his later time with him while the son of Jesse was on the run from Saul, shows the calm yet supernatural nature of the prophet.

Whatever gift a person has, whether it be preaching, singing, prophesying or even praying, that gift can be developed, grown and matured. It is a complete fallacy to think that because a person may have a gift that few have, then that gift must have been given to a person in a state of full development. No!

There are things happening in the body of Christ today that are ever expanding the borders of faith as well as church practice of the faith. It is proof that whatever has been given to the church needs developing by the church.  Since about 1900 there has been much preaching and teaching of the restoration of things that were lost to the general body of believers on the planet in the early centuries after Acts 2.  As general examples, we have teaching on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, the gifts of the Spirit, the five-fold ministry gifts, team ministry and many other closely linked biblical truths. The apostle Peter talked of the, “Restoration of all things,” and another translation has it as, “A time when God restores things.” Many bible teachers believe that the last thing lost is the first thing restored and that the first thing lost is the last restored. Apostles and apostolic ministry, the ministry of the miraculous, deliverance and prophecy were some of the first truths to be neglected after the passing of Paul and the twelve apostles of the lamb.

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In all that has been restored in the church worldwide in the last century or so, the glorious manifestation of the apostle  and the prophet are two strong, wide planks that have never been put into the flooring of the twenty-first century church.

To grasp the prophetic properly we must understand the tension between two principles. Firstly, all prophecy, if it is true prophecy, originates and is initiated by God alone. That is an absolute. If the word is not sourced in God it is not prophecy as scripture tells it. 2 Peter 1:21 says plainly, “For prophecy never has its origin in the will of man, but men spoke for God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” God as the source is the absolute. Man as the recipient is the ear clearing, mouth training developer of the heavenly treasure that comes to him.

It is sometimes difficult to keep hold of this fact when a prophet that has much experience and deep understanding prophesies quickly, prolifically and spontaneously, almost seeming to speak at his own whim and fancy. Prophetic words might flow like free running water, but the source is still God Himself. In the New Testament we see that not only is God the Father the source of all prophecy, but that the Holy Spirit is the agent. The testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy. Prophets are conduits of what God has delivered. The Spirit is not only operative in the delivering of the prophecy to the prophet, but manifest, evident and powerful in the very proclamation of the prophecy. Because relationship with God was the true source of Samuel’s faith, as it is the source of the Christian faith, calling prophets “conduits” suggests that they are passive and even unfeeling towards the messages that God gives.  Jeremiah, however, wept as he prophesied, Jesus Himself wept over some prophetic words He uttered, Moses was deeply angered with some things that he was given to deliver. It is my observation of life that true prophets feel their message as well as hear and speak it. The feelings that accompany their prophetic words are God given emotions that communicate God in the telling of the message.

2 Peter 1:20 says, “Above all you must understand that no prophecy of scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation.” For prophecy to be clear and pure living water it must not be mixed with personal doctrinal hobby horses, or human moods and frames of mind.  Prophecy was greatly interfered with in the days of Jeremiah and Ezekiel. These two prophets were contemporaries even though they lived hundreds of miles apart. There were “prophecies” that Jeremiah heard that were from, “another spirit” (Jeremiah 23:13), and that came from some men’s “own stubborn heart” (Jeremiah 23:17). Jeremiah said that some false prophets spoke, “from their own mind” (Jeremiah 23:16), and others, “the delusions of their mind” (Jeremiah 23:26). Some things he heard were, “Stolen Prophecies” (Jeremiah 23:30) and, “plain lies” (Jeremiah 23:25). Ezekiel said that men spoke from their “own imagination,” as well as, “their own spirit”(Ezekiel 13:2-3). This makes it absolutely clear that prophets and indeed anybody claiming to have the word of the Lord, must be discerned by the receiving body of Christ for dividing between what is truly God speaking and what is not.

My interlinear Hebrew Bible asks, in Jeremiah 23:18, “Who is standing in the deliberation of Yahweh?” That means who is there standing in the presence of God. “And who is he that is hearing and seeing the word?” The word has to be heard in the presence of Yahweh. It has to be perceived and marked from the very presence and counsel of the Almighty, and then delivered.  Such a practice of being in His presence and counsel, hearing His words, perceiving His words, and telling His words, is a gift to be developed, grown and matured. No matter how much developing, growing and maturing goes on, the message must still be, and perceived to be the gift of the prophetic word from God Himself, nothing less, nothing more and nothing but.

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Categories: Being a Prophet is a privilege, Definition of a Prophet, God's own Training School., Things Developed, Things Given | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Biblical Definition of a Prophet

A Biblical Definition of a Prophet.

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So, how is a prophet defined from scripture?

We have the prophetic gifting, and the office of a prophet modelled for us by many people in the Bible. Using them as the template of a definition, we cannot but be on safe ground. Yet, each one is so different! Each biblical prophet has their own character, their own modus operandi, and their own emphasis. If there is one thing that is uniform about them all it is that there is no uniformity betwixt one and another. The human character of each is an incredible variable when attempting to define exactly what a prophet is in biblical references.

Prophets hear God in ways that are so diverse from, “normal Christians,” that at times people are tempted to utterly disbelieve them. Most people would rush to conferences and teaching sessions on, “How to Hear from God.” Or “How to know what God is saying.” But prophets have no problem with that at all. Their issue is what to do with what they have so clearly heard.

As a prime example, there is Moses. The interview with God at the burning bush is one of a simple explanation of how Moses would make himself plainly understood in explaining what God was saying to Pharaoh, as well as the children of Israel. Moses had an issue with how to make the point clear. He complained that he had a stutter, or something similar, and asked what to do if he was rejected.

In response to Moses’ complaint, God said something that explains God’s own definition of what one of His prophets is. A prophet of God stands before God in the same relationship that Aaron had as he stood before Moses his brother.  Yahweh said to Moses, “Your brother Aaron shall be your prophet” (Exod. 7:1-2), and “you shall be to him ‘God ” (Exod. 4:15,16). Whatever God said to Moses, Moses received it alone. Then he had to repeat it word for word to Aaron with all the same nuances of tone and feeling that God had shown in relating it to him. This means that every time we read in Exodus that,“Moses said to Pharaoh,” it was never actually Moses that did the saying. It was Aaron speaking for Moses, as Moses, I assume, would have stood by watching the events in silence.  No wonder Pharaoh was so angry! He must have been wondering why Moses did not want to speak to him. Moses would have spoken to Aaron in Hebrew, even though he could speak Egyptian. Pharaoh would have heard Aaron speak in Egyptian while thinking that the man Moses was ignorant of the language.

This relationship takes us into an uncharted and rarely understood concept. There are those that fight for God, and there are those that God fights for. God fights for and defends his prophets. Just as he did with Abraham in protecting him from the wrath of Pharaoh and Abimelech for lying, just as he did with Isaac when the fear of God fell on all the Canaanites so that they dare not touch him, just as God warned and prepared Jacob to leave his cheating uncle Laban, even though Jacob himself was known as a supplanter; and just as God fought for and watched over Joseph throughout those last chapters of Genesis.

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Another observation concerning prophets is that they know by relating to God and hearing from God what non prophetic people only know by book reading or sermon listening.  I know that prophets often hear things that nobody has even thought of before, but when they speak of commonly discussed subjects, they often have a completely new perspective. This gives them an authority that cannot be matched by academic learning. The man with an experience with God is never at the mercy of a man that has an academic appreciation of God. Elijah was incredibly assured when he announced that there would be no rain until he said so. That could not be understood by any book learning. No climate prognosticator could match Elijah in 1 Kings 17.  He was confronting the political authority of a king when he said it. He had disappeared from King Ahab’s presence before the wimpish king could ask, “Elijah! How could you know such a thing and have the authority to do what you are saying?” Moses did the same when he spoke to Pharaoh. Moses did not politely ask if the people of Israel could be excused from duty. It was, “This is what God says; “Let my people go!””  “But Moses, how could you possibly know that this is what God wants?” Prophets are rarely Politically Correct. Even Nathan, when confronting the much loved King David about his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah, did not quietly and respectfully ask if he could have a moment out of David’s busy day. “You are the man!” Nathan said to the King. One cannot really imagine those words being spoken without Nathan pointing straight at David’s chest. A prophet has a word and it’s a burden upon him until he delivers it.

Spontaneity is another trait of prophets. Not that every single prophetic word takes them on the spur of the moment, of course. That is just not true. But many things are spoken by prophets in the Bible that, when seen in their context, must have happened on the very spur of the moment. Abraham’s, “The Lord will provide Himself with a lamb,” is a prime example. Samuel’s declaration to Saul, “The Lord has torn the kingdom from you,” immediately after Saul had torn Samuel’s garment, must have been a word given him in that very moment. Isaiah 38:1-5  tells us how Isaiah, having told Hezekiah that he was about to die, was sent by God to return to the king and retract his words. Instead of dying in the immediate Hezekiah was told that he had 15 more years to live.

Prophets are gifted with a penchant for knowing what God is thinking about issues, people and circumstances of life. They seem to pick out of the air some thought or statement that seems trivial in one moment – and then seismic when it is understood. They see something or perceive something in the Spirit, then quickly with a throw-away line they impact a person’s life, their relationships, or even a nation. What they say with their gift is what God is saying. It does not matter in the slightest whether it is spoken with drama or lack of it. It is not more inspired because it is said with a strong clear rhetoric or stuttered and stumbled over with a speech impediment. The word of the Lord is the word of the Lord no matter how it is delivered. It is the receiving of that word that is more important than the delivery. I am talking of a true prophet. How often have any of us seen this?

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So prophets have a form of intimacy with God that most Christians do not grasp the nature of. I do not mean that other Christians do not have intimacy with God. A pox on that thought! But prophets have a particular intimacy with God that facilitates them to hear what God’s thoughts are. I believe God is whispering to the hearts of all Christians all the time. It is simply that millions do not know how to hear the voice of the Almighty. “Let him that has ears to hear, hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches.”

In the Old Testament “Thus says the Lord” is stated around 3500 times. As far as mankind is concerned, prophets are “Tellers”  and the “mouth” of God (Jeremiah 15:19).  Prophets are “impelled” and compelled by God Himself (II Peter 1:21). God deliberately and wilfully lays His thoughts in the mouth of a prophet (Deuteronomy 18:18; Jeremiah 1:9). God quite literally speaks through them (II Samuel 23:2). Their messages are the “utterance of God” (I Peter 4:11). Prophets were essential for the development of revelation and the purposes of God in the Old Testament. It is my solemn conviction that they are just as essential in the New Testament church today.

Prophets see things that millions of Christians don’t glimpse or even have a clue about. That is why they are sometimes referred to as seers (I Samuel 9:9; I Chronicles 9:22; Isaiah 30:10). All seers are prophets. Not all prophets, however, are seers. Seers must first see the message before they can pass it on (I Chronicles 29:29; Isaiah 30:10). Isaiah’s entire 66 chapters are referred to as a vision (Isaiah 1:1), inferring that he saw something even when he does not say so.

When contemplating the issue we are negotiating, whoever it was that wrote Hebrews starts with, “God who at sundry times and in diverse and various manners, spoke in times past unto the fathers by the prophets…” (Hebrews 1:1). The modes of the prophetic experience were definitely at sundry times and in varied and diverse manners.

There are, in scripture prophecies, the sources of which were physically, tangibly seen. The prophet hears and sees with his normal bodily senses (Numbers 12:8). They see things, when in company with others, that nobody else sees. Moses sees and hears at the flaming bush (Exodus 3). Samuel hears, but sees nothing, even though the text informs us that “The Lord came and stood there, calling as at other times.” (I Samuel 3:10). In another place Daniel sees things, but hears nothing (Daniel 5:25). Abraham, meanwhile both sees and hears (Gen. 18). These men were all prophets.

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There are also in scripture prophetic words received that are spiritually pictured and seen. The prophet is, “in the Spirit,” in what suggests itself as somehow out of the body, or at least in a different realm (Revelation 1:10). When this happens, it seems that to physical and worldly things, the prophet’s eyes and senses are simply closed down. The eyes of the prophet’s spirit however are open for business and very much alert (Numbers 24:3). Inwardly a prophet receives exactly what he, “sees” or, “hears.” Through inward sight a prophet receives a picture of some kind of revelation, a vision if you will,  which no matter how clearly he sees it, it still requires God Himself to interpret what he has seen (Amos 7: 7; 8: 2; Zechariah 1:9; 4:4; Daniel 8:15). Something is seen, then heard, and then the prophet repeats to people what he has both heard and seen.

There are prophetic deliveries also that are seen in visions, dreams or even trances. God intensifies dreams to people so that they are aware of a divinely delivered word, as with Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar and both of the  Joseph’s in both Testaments. There are songs of praise that people sing where they take off and enter the prophetic realm as with Hannah (I Samuel 2), Mary and Zacharias (both in Luke 1).

But these are mechanics that can be read in any book and heard from any Bible teacher. What are the defining aspects of prophets which cannot be read about?

Prophets rarely seem to tow, what we may refer to as, “The Party Line.” They always seem to go contrary to what people want to hear and go down paths not even contemplated by the masses. There is nothing whatsoever that is pink and fluffy about them. In fact, it is possible to make the case that the Hebrew writing prophets, both Major and Minor, were actually speaking against Israel. They were Jewish, but definitely not run of the mill Jews.  It cannot be argued with that the prophets, both the writing kind and the non writing kind collide head on and scream against the Jewish way of life in every generation in which they lived and prophesied. The prophets without favouritism or partisanship strike out at the sins of the nation. One can read through them all and not grasp the weight of the corrective message of all the writing prophets combined. They address greed and materialism (Isaiah 5: 8; Amos 6: 4-6; Micah 2: 2), excessive interest in money lending amongst themselves, in which context Interest on loans to Jews was actually forbidden, hiring of thugs, extortion (Ezekiel 22:12,13), exploitation of the poor (Isaiah1:17; Micah3:2,3; Amos 2:7; 4:1; 5:11; 8:4-6), oppression of widows and orphans ( Jeremiah 5:28), bribery in courts of law (Isaiah1:23; 59:4), false weights in business deals (Micah 6:11; Ezekiel 45:10-12), arrogance and lack of propriety in female fashion (Isaiah 2:12-17; 3:16-24), idolatry and foreign customs that contradicted the biblical concepts (Ezekiel 8; Hosea 7:11; 5:13; 11:2; Isaiah 2: 6), false holier than thou attitudes in the midst of godless religiosity (Isaiah 58: 2-5; Jeremiah 7: 4; Hosea 7: 14; Micah 3:11), self-righteousness (Malachi 1:6 : 2:17; 3:13), dead formality (Isaiah 1:11-17; Malachi 1:1O; Amos 5:21-23; Hosea 6: 6). These “attacks of Israeli culture at different points of time was always in order to bring the nation under God’s wing and into faith.

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A prophet does not succumb to the love of money (Micah 3:11). Daniel 5:17. Ezekiel 13:19). Plainly there were no Iying prophets amongst the writing prophets. Christ tells us that every single one of them died because of the contents of what they heard from God. It was the faithful declaration of what God shared with them that led to their deaths.

Prophets must be compelled and drawn along by the Spirit of God. A prophet carries an inner compulsion.  A prophet is “persuaded” of the Lord” (Jeremiah 20: 7). The ministry of a biblical type prophet is under a “necessity,” laid upon him or her from above.  As one writer puts it, a prophet does not have the message – the message has them. “Woe is unto me if I preach not,” is the way it is with them (I Corinthians 9: 16). These are the things that make a prophet a prophet.

They were so “pro” integrity truth and Godliness that they spoke against villainy, lack of integrity, godlessness and hypocrisy at any level of society. The prophets could never be accused of being “pro Zionism,” or “anti- gentiles.” They just spoke the truth as delivered to them from God Himself. Even when the greatest of all their national heroes failed, it is the prophets that highlight those sins and failures. What other nation of Old Testament times would even dream of highlighting their king’s acts of murder and licentiousness. Martin Luther knew the realities of this sort of thing and defied death itself when he wrote of the popes letters and decrees as, “The fartings of the Pope.” He practiced what he preached when he declared that a true historian must be a man, “with the heart of a lion to write the truth completely and defy the consequences.” None of the biblical prophets present legends of glory and bravery, purity and holiness – but they tell it as it is. Their legendary historical figures are not deified heroes that make one doubt their humanity. By all the accounts of all the prophets, even the greatest people in their history are simply tools in the hands of God (e.g. Cyrus, Isaiah 45:1), and the “saviours” and deliverers of the nation are people with faults like everybody else, “raised up” of the Lord (Judges 3: 9; II Kings 13:5; Nehemiah 9:27). They are open and truthful enough to mention what is good in the lives of the wicked (e.g. Ahab’s repentance, I Kings 21:27-29), and honest enough not to keep silent on the evil in the lives of the saintly (e.g. Abraham’s half-lie, Moses’ impatience, David’s adultery, Solomon’s idolatry and Elijah’s despondency.). Truth is the absolute essence of God’s word in the scriptures, and is part of the characteristic of a true prophet’s message.

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To the Hebrew prophets, their national history was a writhing, living entity that spoke clearly, giving directions for the present, and setting goals for the future. All of history impacts the now, and even more so is this true of Israel. Read my previous sentence and remember it the next time you negotiate any of the prophetic books of scripture. God lives outside of time, and so the prophets talk in ways that are so excitingly violent in their movement, things were happening at that moment, precipitating incredible things for the future – and it is all related to their history.

Prophets know how to repent. Repentance is a key plank of their message. Because of that fact, never speak evil of a fallen prophet. Even when one has fallen from grace, repentance, which is the Christians mightiest weapon, will cause them to rise again. “Touch not the Lord’s anointed, and do His prophets no harm.” God says no such thing concerning Pastor’s, evangelists, teachers or Apostles. There is no record in the Bible of a prophet who fell and did not recover.

In the New Testament we are told to weigh up the spirits and not to receive everyone who speaks to us claiming to be “In the Spirit.” We cannot and must not ever differentiate the weight of a person’s gifting from their character- that is New Testament teaching.  That aspect was slightly different in the New Testament. We have wicked Balaam hired as a prophet, and he spoke the word of the Lord. Jonah had some ungodly motives. The prophet of 1 Kings 13 was a liar – but he was a prophet.  In the New Testament it must not be so. The person having the divine spirit from above must be meek, peaceable and humble. What comes from above is above all. Prophets are called to refrain from all impurity of this world. They are content with fewer of the wants and needs that other men desire. This is the biblical characteristics of a prophet. These aspects of character impact the message he delivers.

The Spirit speaks and so the prophet speaks. If the Spirit does not speak, the prophet has nothing to say. Prophets act in a way that makes healing, deliverance, blessing, prophecy and breakthrough seem to come at their own whim and fancy. Such a thought, of course, is a lie. True prophets will never pray or speak prophetically without the Spirit’s intimation and suggestion.   Some Christians are always ready with something to say or pray.  Jesus, the ultimate of all prophets, could not even leave to go to a Jewish feast until He had been prompted by the Spirit (John 7:6).  A true prophet only moves as per the will of the Father. A true prophet will speak what will happen, or, unknown to him, what has happened. What he says is by the intimation of the Spirit. No intimation of the Spirit, no word from the prophet.

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Prophets are endued with a degree of authority over death. Faith in Christ, in its very essence confronts death. The one who has faith in Him that conquered death hell and the grave must have some degree of grasp over death itself. Abraham’s faith defeated the deadness of both his own body and his wife’s. Elijah defeated death altogether by not dying, Elisha called somebody back from death, Moses went up a mountain to meet death as it seems nothing about him was diminishing with old age. Isaiah gave one king extra years of life, virtually telling death to keep its distance from Hezekiah for another fifteen years. Both Peter and Paul emulated their Master and brought the dead back to life. Paul was left for dead, but then rose up and returned to the city of those who had “killed” him.  John went up higher and saw the souls of the dead. Prophets deal with death, and they deal with it savagely.  Departure from this life can be delayed by prayer or by waiting on God (Isaiah 38:4. Luke 7:2). We will all continue to be challenged by issues that violate our conscience or lead, we suppose, to our deaths. Human assistance or sympathy will not and cannot delay anybody’s departure from this life. Departure from this life, death itself, is on the way to meet us all one day, but can be delayed. On top of that, people can die before their time (Ecclesiastes 7:17).

When a prophet hears from God, things may seem spontaneous to him, but are well planned by God. Some things that seem too profound to be spontaneously delivered, are exactly things that just fell on them at that moment. The prophet will strike the axe to the root of a person’s problem. How many times have I heard people say that “A” is the problem they need prayer for, while the prophet answers, “I cannot even see issue “A” but I know that issues “X”, “Y” and “Z” are dominating your life. That is the prophet laying the axe to the root of a person’s problem. That strike will shake the leaves, rot the roots and lay the offending tree very low. The true prophet will open people’s spiritual eyes as he gives what has been given from above.

Having said all these things, we have to add that anything that seems to stereotype a true prophet has an empty ring about it. All prophets a radically different characters and have their own idiosyncrasies that, if majored on more than they should be, can lead people astray.

If we reduce it all to its naked minimum, a prophet is a man or woman of God, that hears exactly what God is thinking and saying to certain people, or on certain issues and he simply says it “as it is.” A prophet must be a Christian who is relating to the Father through Christ and in the power of the Spirit. He  or she will hear things from heaven that the majority do not.

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Categories: Being a Prophet is a privilege, Definition of a Prophet | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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