Matured in the Keg

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

Matured In The Keg

Vintage prophet fruit to be squeezed slowly and left to stand in silence.

(1 Samuel 3:19–4:1a)

10 artist's impression of the tab in Shilo

One artist’s extremely sanitised image of the tabernacle at Shiloh. Although referred to as Temple, it was undoubtedly The Tabernacle tent left their there for a prolonged period.

 

“And Samuel grew.  And the Lord was with him, and didn’t let any of his words fall to the ground.  And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established a prophet of the Lord.  And the Lord appeared again and again in Shiloh: for the Lord revealed Himself to Samuel by the word of the Lord.  And the word of Samuel came to all Israel.”  

“And Samuel grew.” Childhood is now certainly behind.  We now have a very definite adult profile. Still helping Eli?  I think so; even though we are not told. Old man Eli is known for what he is: the inter regnum High Priest (How and why he gained the office, we have no idea). His strong virile aide Samuel is acknowledged, uniquely, as something that Israel had never really had since Moses, i.e. a full blown prophet of God.

One translation has: “And Samuel kept on growing.”  Many Bible scholars refer to what is known as the “principle of first mention.”  Crudely defined, it states that there are usually, inherent and intrinsic to the first mention of any major topic or subject in the Bible, the details and depths of the entire subject encapsulated in those opening remarks and is enlarged upon with more detail as the subject  continues and is developed throughout the scriptures.  I am not so positive that it is an inviolable law, but, on occasions, the perspective that such an understanding holds is found to be quite accurate.

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An artist’s sanitised perspective on Hannah praying for a son.

I mention this “principle,” simply because it applies here, with Samuel.  We are talking of the first defining character and circumstantial profile of a biblical prophet. Samuel was the first writing prophet of Israel since they had landed in the promised land. That is why I refer to him as, “The Last Judge: The First Prophet.” We have here the original and genuine article. The prototype of any Elijah, Elisha, or Ezekiel. The archetype over any Hosea, Joel or Amos. The stereotype of any Isaiah or Jeremiah.  That, in itself, is quite amazing.  Anybody who has plunged into the deep waters of the biblical prophets knows only too well that it is extremely difficult to find a more diverse group of characters and personalities. Finding things common among them is quite a discovery.

So what do we see here in our story so far?  Samuel kept on in the process of growth. It has a little more substance to the normal concept of “growing up”. We have a prophet. Samuel was a prophet when he received the word about Eli and his family. But he is still in the process of becoming a prophet, for he has light years to travel to attain his full stature of prophetic flow.  He “was,” and  yet, he was still “becoming.”  And what he was and what he did in maturity leaves the opening revelation about Eli in pale wanness as to the weight of his future, “words.”  In fact, in comparison to what he will be, it would be true to say that he is clearly not a prophet yet. Is this all Chinese to you?

Let’s abbreviate it.  The truly prophetic ministry is a continual ongoing process. 

The process for Samuel probably started at his home in Ramah. The first we see of it however is when his mother presented him to Eli. At that first meeting, it clearly says, “he worshipped the Lord there.”  The process was at least in its proper conception and gestation at that moment, if not before.  We cannot and must not separate the fact of Samuel being called as a prophet, and the fact of him worshipping God at the age of three.  The thought of a three year old openly and publicly worshipping God without any adult prompting is a deep revelation of the character of Hannah’s son, a character that is integral to the call of the Most High. The call of God is a preeminent presupposition for a man who is to be a prophet. But many a called person to many a different sphere has, “lost it,” because of “failed training.” Samuel learned his responses from early childhood and developed uprightly for the ministry of a true prophet.

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We are not inferring that if you did not worship God at age three you cannot be a prophet. Tosh to that thought!  There are born prophets (e.g. Samuel) and there are made prophets (i.e. Elisha). What we are saying is, that being a worshipper is a definite precursor to maturity in prophecy, or any other spiritual gift for that matter.

The prophetic starts with attitude and state of heart. The truly prophetic is not simply a matter of passing on what God says. It is that of course; but it is a matter of what sort of vessel is handling that word. It is not a clinical matter of: “I don’t really care about the substance of this message, but I thought I’d better tell you anyhow.”  As if, while nonchalantly and laughingly having a Big Mac and a milkshake, I can thoughtlessly inform you the secrets of God’s heart and purpose for the person, the family, the church or even the nation to which that prophet is talking.  God wants his heart plainly impaled and draped over every word of God that is prophetically shared. We are talking of Divine passion.  If you are not into such concepts, methinks that you’d better stand from afar and watch the drama, the tears, the joy and sadness as the prophets of the Old and New Testament, as well as those of today, impart God Himself to those to whom they are bidden to speak.  It really is an awe inspiring matter.

In these days of charismatic outpouring and the resurgence of teaching on the fivefold ministry gifts of Ephesians 4, the abundance of the prophetic, and the emergence of true prophets are making it essential for the rank and file church member to be au fait with the principles and defining traits of so called “Prophetics”.

13 Samuel ie TV actor

TV Actor playing Samuel the prophet.

This growth in Samuel was plain to all.  The public ministry in which Samuel was already a permanent fixture gave his character high profile among the worshippers of the nation.  This process of change and development in the man they saw as a, “prophet,” pointed to basic conclusions that the nation made concerning Samuel.  “The Lord was with him.”  That sounds a little bit of an obvious statement to some, and a religious cliché to others. The fact is that the presence of the Lord manifested itself in a most remarkable way in the every day relationships and negotiations of Samuel’s life.

“He did not let any of his words fall to the ground.” This is said of no one else in scripture.  It was obviously true of Christ. The inference of this statement is quite staggering. It meant, first of all, that in matters of moral integrity Samuel was impeccable. We are not discussing the whys or wherefores of sinless perfection in a man born a sinner.  We are talking about a wilful trained habitual conduct that meant his, “Yes,” was, “Yes,” and his, “No,” was, “No.”  We are looking at honesty and accuracy in his terminology and phraseology. Nothing more, nothing less. None of the, “I told you a million times,” stuff.  None of your, “I bought tons of food for the weekend,” overstatement.  Samuel was too real.  What he said was exactly that.  None of his words fell to the ground.

But such a concept takes on a broader perspective, because this man was a prophet.  In the next breath, the narrator of First Samuel tells us that, “All Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established a prophet of the Lord.” The inference is plain. Whatever Samuel said, happened.  If he was to say it would rain, it rained.  Nothing of his verbal output fell to the ground and failed.

We are talking here of the ultimate in trust, intimacy and constant open relationship between God and man.  This phrase does more than any other single statement establish the nature of Samuel’s Godliness. This could not have happened if God did not trust him.  It would seem logical to suggest, that if the rank and file of humanity had everything they said coming to pass and not falling to the ground, that people would be either (a) terrified of opening their mouth, or (b) they would go around cursing their enemies and blessing their loved ones and predicting great health and happiness for themselves.

But that is not how God works! The fact is that God would not have allowed that to be said of Samuel if he did not trust Samuel in the context of words. Would God trust you with what you say?  But the narrator is not simply expressing a personal opinion that is neither heard nor thought of by others. “The whole of Israel from Dan to Beersheba,” knew that Samuel was a prophet. He was, “established,” as a prophet.  Some translators have it as, “Commissioned,” as a prophet.  He had become part of the national psyche. He himself had become a national institution. Samuel was a hero. He was a plumbline for others to follow. He was God’s man and God’s voice. It was assumed and taken for granted.  Samuel WAS God’s prophet for their generation.  In Old Testament days, that counted for everything.  The power that would have been wilfully given and surrendered to him by the people; the sycophants that would have surrounded him, the space that was given him to say what he wanted and when he wanted, was, in comparison to today’s democratic principle, unreal.  If Samuel spoke, they would jump.  Samuel was free to expend and abuse as much power as the people would give him.  But no abuse occurred. At the end of his days he asks for anybody who believed he was corrupt in anyway to step forward. Nobody budged. Nobody could point a finger.

19 Shira_ErevSuccot-018

Samuel’s tomb today.

This aspect of God trusting the character of Samuel, and the definite statement backdrop that God would bring to pass anything Samuel said, is, to this writer, the most significant statement of Samuel’s character on one of the most basic characteristics of a man, i.e. his speech.  This trust was added to, with lots of further revelatory gifts.  The King James Bible states that “God appeared again in Shiloh.” Another version has it that, “God continued to appear to Samuel in Shiloh.”  We have development and growth in the understanding of what God was saying.  Note that the Bible does not tell us what was said at all of those revelatory moments.  The open vision was being returned to Israel by the gift of God, and we can be sure that whatever it was that God said to Samuel on those occasions was obediently followed and repeated at the right time, in the right places, and to the right people.  Whether it was personal words to one man, or national directives to all the tribes of Israel, or anything in between those two extremes, God always spoke first to Samuel.

Now for another word that needs tightly grasping.  “For the Lord revealed Himself to Samuel by the word of the Lord.”  God spoke to Samuel via Christ.  “The word became flesh and Dwelt amongst us.”  The word also means the message.  In the simplest of terms God kept the word for the moment flowing to Samuel in this developmental process.  Samuel delivered those words, and those words were received to such a degree that, “The word of Samuel came to all Israel.”  The word of the Lord, in Samuel’s mouth became the word of Samuel, received by the people as the word of the Lord.

Samuel was trusted and accepted. No one argued about Samuel’s prophetic output or input. The prophetic juice from the fruit of abiding in the tree of God’s life was dripping its delicious drops. The longer Samuel drank of the sap of God’s tree, the more it developed a mature and health giving flavour. The slump of unhappy unrighteousness was about to start its upward path to happy godliness and true national prosperity. While Samuel hung on the tree, his words were ripe for the moment and right for the people and rife across the land.

The flower of Samuel’s character was beginning to bloom, and the juice of the fruit of his gift was beginning to nourish the land.

Environs of Jerusalem. Mizpah (Nebi Samwil)

A photo of Samuel’s tomb conceivably pre 1900.

Categories: 1 Samuel 3:19-4:1a, Matured in the Keg | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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