God’s own Training School.

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.


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.



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.


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

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

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


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?


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.



  • 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.



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.



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

God’s Own Training School


A man of God by any means possible …or impossible.

(1 Samuel 2:12 – 26)



If, like me, your heart is beating somewhat for a little three year old so far away from his parents, and in the care of an extremely old man who has two extremely nasty miscreants as sons; let me put you at rest.  Samuel turns out O.K.  I know. I’ve read the book.

That still does not set aside our need to look into the full depths of the environment that Samuel was plunged into.  The fact that he turned out so well is amazing to some.  It also proves that, “attitude,” in a bad environment can be infinitely more important than the environment itself.  It’s an additional point in the, “nature or nurture,” debate. Social Services of the twenty-first century, clearly, would not have allowed Eli or his sons near such an innocent.

Elkanah went back home to the rustic routine of farming and family life in Ramah.  The little lad was left ministering before the Lord with all that a toddler has to minister with.  He was undoubtedly given a course in Israelite history and traditions.  The old High Priest would have spelled it all out to him.  It’s a scantily told narrative as it stands. I for one would love to know more about little Sam’s upbringing with Eli.  I would have asked the biblical authors for a lengthy diatribe that homed in on the “whys” and “wherefores” of Samuel’s  childhood.  Dream on Lannon!

But the scriptures do a swap here.  The narrative changes, and we have quite a lengthy section telling us about what went on at Shiloh, with only passing phrases that glimpse the future prophet and kingmaker.  The book shows us the other side of life as it was around the environs of the tabernacle itself and Shiloh the city.  The scene of the narrative shockingly cuts from sweet youth, to evil adults, as we are solemnly told, “The sons of Eli were sons of Belial,” “Belial” being an alternative name for the devil.  We all have a dual parenthood.  We are of God, or of Belial, as well as of our human parents.  However the general biblical concept of being, “in Christ,” or, “in sin,” is not what this verse means to purvey.  The author is telling us that Hophni and Phinehas were a pair of villains.  Seriously so!  Heavy duty criminality.



The conduct of the duo reveals that they were utterly Godless.  Their unbelief was the source of their moral bankruptcy.  They were audacious, covetous, despotic, adulterous and blasphemous.  The grasping and worldly religious leader is here forever exemplified in its ugliest caricature.  They were the very nastiest picture of the lawlessness of the age in which they lived.  Not only did every man do that which was right in his own eyes, but these two priests also did whatever their rapacious lusts desired.  Any seniority they had amongst the Levites was based on nothing else but their sonship to Eli. Ministerial abuse peaks here.  The most “high profile” position of religious service next to Eli himself was theirs, and they were as corrupt as it is possible to be.

There are two crimes specifically mentioned that they continually perpetrated.  The one explained here sounds to the western bible readers as a bit of a storm in a teacup. Abuse of the the sacrificial system.  It has to be seen through the filter of the eastern paradigm to grasp how heinous their conduct was.  Moses set down laws for conducting sacrifices.  First the sacrificed animal was killed, and boiled.  The fat of any offering had to be waved before the Lord by the one making the sacrifice, then the fat was to be cut away and burnt.  The fat belonged to God.  That was how Yahweh instructed Moses concerning the method and principle of sacrifice. After that, only certain parts of the sacrificed beast were for the priest.  The breast was for the high priest and his family; and the right shoulder for the other priests.  This way the one doing the sacrificing could eat as well as the priest who ministered for him. However, before the animal was waved before the Lord, which meant swinging it to and fro before the Tabernacle, while the meat was still seething, Hophni and Phinehas sent out their servants to take what they desired as a priestly portion from the worshipping public.  They came with a three pronged fork an item that speaks to many of demons, devils and things.  Whether or not the devil and his hordes carry three pronged forks I very much doubt, but the association of ideas here is an appropriate one.  They would submerge the fork in the pot and run away with whatever it pulled out.  If the worshippers sought to correct the crime by reproving the criminals they were threatened with brutish violence. Moses stated in Leviticus 7:25 that whoever eats of the fat of the sacrificial beast would be cut off from the people.  That statement lets the reader know how important this issue was to Yahweh and the God fearing Israelite.  So not only were they taking more than they should have done, they were taking the fat as well; i.e. they also took the forbidden raw meat for roasting.



The entire existence of Israel was on the basis of God’s choice of them as His people, His removing of them from Egypt, and the sacrificial system around the Tabernacle. No matter how intricate and religious the system seems to us now in the twenty first century, they were under divine orders to run with what God had given them, exactly as Moses relayed it.  We have to understand that it was the equivalent to getting drunk with the communion  wine, and eating the bread that was meant for the church body  – only much worse.  They were detrimentally interfering with the conscience and faith of the people of Israel.  It has to be added that prior to their misconduct, the nation was not exactly at an all time high of spiritual fervour.  The sons of Eli were twisting the devils knife in the demonic wound of national unbelief and widespread idolatry.  “Because of this” says the book, “the sin of these young men was extreme before the Lord; for people hated the offering of the Lord.”  As usual, when the people that lead worshippers do not worship themselves, we have a major sociological, psychological, and for the believer, even a soteriological issue.

We have no idea how many people there were of the tribes of Israel worshipping at Shiloh during these days but many abhorred what went on there.  Unless people of that generation were different from today, these facts meant that many simply stayed away and forgot about what went on at the Tabernacle, as well as the God who was behind the whole concept.  So in the midst of the darkness of a black Chiffon sheet of oppression over the nation, thicker blacker quilts of sin were shrouded over the population of God’s chosen people by Eli’s sons.  Darkness in the people of light!  Famine in the land of milk and honey! Filth amongst the hearts of the cleansed!  Lack in the land of plenty!  There was something rotten in the state of Israel.  It pervaded the very spirit of the nation.  The spring of the decomposition was from the altar of God itself, and festering in the ministers of the Tabernacle.

Having painted the picture of depression, violence and muggings going on in the worship of God, the author of scripture swaps scenes again, obviously to make a point.  Preachers have lots of little sayings and illustrations that enforce the concept of the ability of “purity” to stay clean in an evil environment.  Think of the best of them and then read First Samuel 2:18.  “But Samuel ministered before the Lord, a child clothed with a linen ephod.”



The proposition is that whilst an evil murky cloud of sin was spreading  its greasy tentacles on the spiritual throat of the nation through two men in particular, the brightest and best that righteousness could produce at that time was also developing, probably, literally, next door.  While demons were having a rave up. God’s instrument of righteousness was developing in the womb of the Tabernacles’ own Holy Place. This is God’s way.

When the Bible was first translated into English nobody knew what an “Ephod” was. The translators took the easy way out and simply anglicised the mysterious Hebrew word.  Even today, our understanding of the word is simply the result of a lot of deduction and guesswork.  It is generally understood that the ephod was a priestly “dress – like” garment made of linen.  Normally priests were not allowed to start service until they were thirty years old. Once in service no activity was to be entered into without their linen ephod – the stereotypical eastern long white gown. They had to wear white boxer shorts of the same material while in harness.

The importance of us being told that the growing Samuel wore the linen ephod is to impact the reader that this little boy was now actually serving – as a priest.  All this occurred and was done, seemingly with Eli’s blessing, and obviously in the high profile spotlight of public service at the Tabernacle, where all true worshippers would become more and more acquainted with the youth.  It seems to me more than probable that he attended immediately to Eli’s person. He was ready to fetch and bring as he had occasion: and that also is called, “ministering to the Lord.” He could light a candle, or hold a dish, or run an errand, or shut a door, and because he did it with such a pious disposition of mind, it is called, “Ministering to the Lord.”  I call it, “character development.”

There was no mass media, or even broadsheet newspapers.  Only word of mouth.  In that context the little boy whose name was Samuel would have been nationally known, and widely loved.  A serious and grave child, working hard, before the Lord at the Tabernacle itself.

I suspect that there were clashes and crossing of swords between Samuel and the evil pair in the progressing  years of childhood. We are not, however, told of any. Hophni and Phinehas were actually dead before Samuel had fully matured. I also suspect that Eli tried to keep Samuel out of his sons influence throughout his childhood.  It could, of course, be that Samuel was strong minded enough to watch the evil actions of the two and simply steer clear.  I wish I had a time machine to visit and see.  Samuel grew strong and righteous in the midst of all this going on.  God’s school is often the hardest, but always the best.

The years began to pass.  Routine set in.  Elkanah still attended the annual sacrifice, and of course, always came with Hannah.  Every year she came with, what the King James Bible calls, a coat.  The word, Anglicised is a “m’il.”  The High Priest carried a “m’il” with his ephod. It was a square item that was hung on the chest having twelve precious stones attached to it. Each stone represented one of the tribes.  Obviously, Hannah, making a new one each year suggests that the “m’il” she made was without the stones.  But it allowed the worshipping Israelites to see that Samuel was a virtual, “High Priest in training,” not that Samuel could actually ever become High Priest, his family line would have utterly prohibited such a thing.  To be frank, although he was in charge, the book does not ever refer to the Tabernacle “head-man”as the High Priest, either.  Samuel, however, was clearly a leader of men in development – as perceived from his very early years.   Eli would not allow his sons to bear the Holy garments, so he was training a successor for when he passed on.   It was clear that Samuel’s potential role would be equally important and equivalent to Eli’s role after Eli’s demise, in power and status, in later years.  Samuel. It must be repeated, is never referred to as the High Priest, and there is no indications given as to exactly what was in Eli’s mind at this time.



It is all logical really, when Eli’s long term options are vaguely perceived.  This little boy would be working in the courts of the Tabernacle with a child’s High Priest’s costume.  Something like a little boy dressing like Superman or Batman.  But this was no game, nor was it fiction. The High Priestly position and role was no fantasy.  It seems sound to assume that Eli sanctioned all these confirmatory significant items in order to establish the lad in his interest and his direction.  The action was in contravention of the dead letter of Moses’ law, yet vindicated as part of God’s purpose as the years unraveled.

The entire worship of Jehovah revolved around the Ark, which was surrounded by the Tabernacle.  The Tabernacle was overseen by the role of the High Priest.  Even at the time of Christ the position of the High Priest was accepted as a function of great importance on God’s economy.  Eli was old and feeble and, perceptibly, about to pass on. His sons, by right, should succeed him in the role.  But his sons were so famously and infamously godless it was unacceptable to both public and Eli to pass on the baton to them. Now there was this little boy on the scene of time.  He ministered before the Lord, and to the Lord.  He obviously obeyed Eli.

If Eli had an errand, Samuel would run the job. If Eli had a door to be opened,  Samuel would turn the latch.  We are talking of endearing ways and mannerisms that nestled in and found a place not only in Eli’s heart, but in all that saw him, while attending on God in the Tabernacle.  He was accepted and loved.  Twentieth century “heroes” and “heroine’s” like the Beatles, Pele, and Princess Diana show the need of the masses for stars and icons.  Samuel filled that sort of role one thousand B.C. for back-slidden and debauched Israel.



Eli was fulfilling what we would today call a PR. Function in exposing Samuel and his character to the nation.  There was one question of course.  How would the two sons take it, if and when Eli was to die, and Samuel assumed the role of the senior minister of the nation?  How could Samuel step in as an unconstitutional High Priest?  The answer to that vital issue was to be resolved by God Himself.

How Hannah knew the right size through the years of adolescence is a slightly offending mystery to my own experience of teenage children.  I have brought up a son who is now in his thirties, and while in adolescence I couldn’t judge his growth rate from week to week, never mind on an annual “one off” visit.  Familial love was still there for Samuel.  Warmth and affection were so warm towards his family that in his later life Samuel returned to Ramah to live.  In fact, he died and was buried there.

The family picture thus painted is a glowing one.  Samuel was content with his lot in life, as was Hannah. The annual visit was a joyous high point.  Having settled down to this routine and his parents annual sojourn, something startling occurred on one particular visit that has a distinct lesson for us all.

It was Eli’s prophetic gift again. Hannah’s annual stopover with the new sized “m’il” was met with an outburst from Eli that was another release of God’s word.  It was a “happening”.  An occurrence.  A taking place of the spoken word of God.  He addressed Elkanah this time and said, “The Lord give you children from this woman for the petition she made to the Lord.”



It surely doesn’t sound much does it.  You or I could have said that.  The point is that Eli spoke those words at the specific prompting of God the Holy Spirit.  As God pushed, so Eli spoke.  The Spirit of God spoke via Eli.  When God speaks there is a definite performance of what is spoken.

The eternal mystery is that when the word of God is not received in the heart and mixed with faith it does not “take place.”  Not so on this occasion.  True to character, Hannah believed the word. Elkanah believed also. Over the next few years Hannah had three sons and two daughters to grace their home.  No further mention is made of Peninnah.

As a comment on the pronouncement that Eli made over Elkanah and Hannah, we need to ensure that childless couples are made aware of what the bible teaches.  God gives life and takes it.  It is He that grants conception, not the gynaecologist. There is no other lengthily proven issue in scripture more encouraging, I believe, next to the resurrection of Christ, than the fact that God answers the cries of barren women for children.

While five brothers and sisters were growing before mother and father at Ramah, the scripture adds: “And the child Samuel grew before the Lord.” 

Three, four and five.  Samuel was beautiful to observe, as all toddlers are when assuming adult importance in what they do.  Six, seven and eight.  Height in inches as well as spirit.  Concepts of understanding and responsibility are dawning on him in the most practical of ways.  I can only deduce that he was like a doting grandson to an equally doting grandfather.  The little lad leading, nursing and serving the old gent in a demeanour of humility and servanthood that endeared him to all that saw him.  It must have been so.   How else could it later say that the nation acknowledged his position and role as a prophet when he was a grown man. Nine, ten and eleven. The first rumblings of pubescence and the hormone release that we refer to as adolescence were commencing their earthquake of eruption in the youth.  Twelve, thirteen and fourteen.  Perhaps even, eighteen, nineteen and twenty. We are left, at this point, to make frustrating guesses.  So the picture painted by the scriptures in the silence of these years, the little peeps through the curtains with brief, “one liners” every so often, is very telling. Hophni an Phinehas degenerated.  Samuel was clearly regenerated in God’s character and goodness.  It is not stated so: but clearly implied.



While the years were passing, and Samuel was somewhere in this range of years, another scene is presented to us that we can only imagine was either witnessed by Samuel, or explained to Samuel by Eli.  I make a basic assumption, here: that Eli would have been quite private in his attempts at disciplining his sons. The two priests, undoubtedly grown men, were summoned before him to suffer their father’s feeble parenting.

Eli was too late, and too inadequate with words.  It was a collective discipline, and not individual.  He should have spoken to each alone.  It was interrogative without having hooked them in to willful participation of dialogue.  It was assertive and argumentative. Unfortunately, with their well learned philosophy and practice of evil, now a lifestyle, a one off speech would accomplish little.  And God held Eli responsible for his son’s upbringing.  They answered to Yahweh for themselves, of course.  They refused to listen to their father.  The reason for this insolence is given: it was because, “the Lord would kill them.”   Their evil ambitions had found an unstoppable momentum.  They left the interview with a determination to continue in their wicked ways.

The now familiar contrast is made yet again.  We picture the young man Samuel, growing so clearly and vividly; yet all we have with our present progress is five lines of insight.

“…and he worshipped the Lord there.” 1 v 28


“…and the child did minister unto the Lord, before Eli the Priest.” 2 v 11.


“… but Samuel ministered before the Lord, being a child with a linen ephod.” 2 v 18


  “And the child Samuel grew before the Lord.” 2 v 21 And now it says:


“And the child Samuel grew on, and was in favour both with the Lord and with men.”  2 v 26   


These insight packed words were plagiarised under divine inspiration by Luke when describing Christ’s childhood development. He “grew on.”  His physical demeanour as well as his character firmed and matured with the approval of God Almighty and His people.  His growth was visible and obvious.  The physical and the spiritual; the mental and the brute strength; all were developing, growing and maturing. The phrase “grew on” suggests slightly that he was now a young adult.

The latter phrase also explains how much of a public profile he had while acting as Eli’s servant.  Favour with people is an amazing thing.  This was the favour of followers looking to a leader. This was the favour of an acknowledgement of godliness. This was the favour of expectation.  When the people approved of the youth that strengthened and nursed the elderly leader, the future was perceived as bright.

Surely the mind of Eli was beginning to be realised. The people’s approval of Samuel would surely bring Hophni and Phinehas into line. Or perhaps Eli unrealistically opted against the hope that the duo would change.

It seems psychologically obvious that having two reprobate sons, as a surrogate father he could bask in the obvious favour that Samuel was enjoying, by doing all he could to ensure that Samuel followed in his footsteps, and not Hophni, or Phinehas. Little did Eli know at this time that God had plans that would put his two sons out of the running anyway.

But somehow, in some way, it was known and seen that Samuel was under the shadow of the favour of the Almighty.   And that favour grew with his own stature. Was it the startling pleasantness of a youth trained with the right responses to God and life?   Was it his smile?  His gait?  There must have been some mannerism, or some observable tangible characteristic that people could look and see that this was a person condemned to victory, life and godliness under the pressure and drive of God’s favour.  The exceptional character of Samuel, if Hannah was still alive to see him, was emerging as the pride of Israel.  Sadly, we read no more of Hannah or Elkanah from this point on.


Categories: 1 Samuel 2 verses 12 - 26, God's own Training School. | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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