The High Benchmark of the Prophet in Israel Set and Initiated by Samuel
The 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 during that transition. Far from it! The spiritual void at the end of the book of Judges and the genesis of First Samuel that desolated 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 state 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 when he died. For that life time, Israel sunk first during his youth as Samuel’s authority began 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 confronted, nay, challenged with a bewildering and perplexing variety of human kind of which one cannot select a characteristic that one could refer to as a 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 Isiah, 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 others 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 proto type 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 – i.e. Samuel. It would be true to say that Moses initiated and set in place a written piece of work that set in place 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).
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 Sam. 3:1-14). Samuel being captivated and immersed in the Mosaic covenant and its ramifications to the nation, Samuel 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 gate keeper 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 understand that no one can supplant God’s authority over His people no matter how good or bad any king might 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 the entire nation to remain faithful to Yahweh’s covenant has 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 of 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.
- After a Century of Rebuilding a Nation Single Handed the Great Man Passes (lannononsamuel.wordpress.com)
- Preface (lannononsamuel.wordpress.com)
- There’s Never a Man of God Around When You Want One. (lannononsamuel.wordpress.com)
- “I’ll be seeing you from old sheol where death embraces, telling Saul that here your face is coming soon” (lannononsamuel.wordpress.com)
- The Prophetic Imperative for the Conception, Birth and Life of Israel. (lannononsamuel.wordpress.com)
- First Prophet? Samuel? (lannononsamuel.wordpress.com)
- Routine Life Style (lannononsamuel.wordpress.com)
- Awake! Awake! Oh Samuel And fill your horn with oil. Anoint ! Anoint a new King to rule o’er Israel’s soil (lannononsamuel.wordpress.com)
- The Passing of the years and the Seeming Silence of the Prophet. (lannononsamuel.wordpress.com)
- Readin’ ‘Ritin’ ‘Rithmatic And Prophecy. (lannononsamuel.wordpress.com)