Posts Tagged With: Bible

Samuel’s Legacy seen in the Lives of those that were Influenced by him

The  Master Builder who Left a United Israel.   

The anarchical mess of the sprawling godless tribes of Israel carried on in ignorance of the seismic change in history that was about to take place over the next generation, all of which was precipitated and initiated through the birth of Shmuel ben Elkanah. That blessed child born in Ramathaim Zophim passed away, some think, about a full century after the day of his birth. It was Samuel’s time. The Samuellian era. The last and highest peak of the line of characters known as the Judges. This man was also the first and, to my mind, possibly the highest peak of the prophetic office and gift that ever ministered to the whole of Israel during the period of time in which the Hebrews lived in the land. He had become a one man institution. He was the posthumous pillar that epitomised what was to be the future greatness of Israel. He was treasured and feared by all in his mature years, and sadly missed after his passing.  He was anointed and appointed by God Almighty as His representative in Israel throughout his lifetime. What he left behind him was as unified, Godly and purposeful as it was the opposite of those things at the moment he had been conceived. Even while he homed in and concentrated on the schools of the prophets after his last words with Saul, the very fact that he was alive and moving “in God,” even though it was in the background of Israel’s political and tribal cosmos, Samuel gave the nation comfort, and a brighter vision to look forward to.

There was, of course, the hope of the great charismatic leader of men, David. But he was a man that Judah and Benjamin loved beyond reason, while the northern tribes knew less about.

The ground had been prepared for the Glory of God to return, just as dramatically as it had left when the Philistines had stolen the Ark of the Covenant in the early days of Samuel’s youth. The Ark was indeed safe in Israeli hands and had been after several months of Philistine illicit ownership, but the Hebrews had never had it been returned to the Tabernacle. There is no way we can possibly imagine that it was left in the home of a certain Abinadab, by Samuel’s forgetfulness, or anybody else’s forgetfulness. It was a deliberate act of “neglect.” That is, it was deliberately left there by Samuel. It was symbolic of a new day dawning. Samuel was so busy relating to God, hearing from God and ministering to the people of Israel, as well as judging them, that to trouble himself with the symbol of the God he was relating to seemed almost irrelevant.  The substance of their faith was much more vital than the symbol of the same. Samuel was a man born out of time, with a world view, belief system and spiritual disciplines far ahead of his generation. Samuel was living in his own, “Holy Spirit church age.” All he did was relate to Him who is invisible, in as real a relationship as Peter, James and John had done in the days of Christ’s ministry. Samuel would have been considered a spiritual gargantuan giant no matter what age he had lived in. Samuel was the classic wild, giant, dangerous prophet.

Samuel’s anointing had led him in a different direction than the proscribed national slavery to what had degenerated into a deadened sacrificial system. Samuel was a man of the Spirit all the days of his life. He was worshipping the Lord with abandon before he had received that first prophetic word in his youth. By keeping the Ark of the Covenant and the Tabernacle in a low profile with the people, it meant that he could keep the person of Yahweh Himself in the highest possible highlight. For Samuel, everything was a matter of the Spirit. The input of the prophetic word, and the spread and education of aspiring prophets was changing the face of Israel then, in a way that would have a future impact on the entire planet. Samuel’s lifelong circuit ministry of judging and teaching was a generational, credible call to return to the purity and faith of a life lived in devotion to Yahweh. This, after all, was the basic reason for Israel’s existence on the planet. How great was the force of righteousness within the prophet Samuel, and how magnificent was the working of the anointing that was upon him.

Samuel’s adherence to keeping the most intimate relationship with God and obeying Him as often and as consistently as he did throughout his life meant that the schools of the prophets had time to have become engrafted into the atmosphere of Israel’s culture within his own lifetime. His withdrawal from public and political life meant he could give his whole being to the development and the solidifying of an understanding into the world of prophecy and how it was to be maintained. Who knows what treasures he passed on to influence the future prophets.  The schools blossomed and developed under him, and were to direct the people and rulers of Israel over the next 500 years or so, not that they always listened to them.  Because of the fact that the prophetic Spirit and prophetic schools in Israel ultimately gave us the writing prophets, we could actually say that Samuel is still impacting the world today through them.  The writing prophets have left us a deep rich seam of truth that has not to this day been fully fathomed.

Samuel was the original seed of which all later prophets in Israel were the flower and growth. Sacrifice of animals was never abandoned altogether of course, but the sacrificial activity was brought into subjection to the flow of the Spirit of God and the prophetic word and office.  Samuel had gone quite some distance in tying Israel to Yahweh rather than to the Mosaic system that was attached to their history. The Tabernacle and the corrupted Levitical priesthood had lost the awe and wonder of the manifest presence of God in the infrastructure of that form of worship. Samuel had brought the drifting vessel of Israel, at first floating without a sail or rudder, back into its divine haven in all its proper function, i.e. loving God and walking in the parameters of His law.  The land of Israel was and is Yahweh’s land. The people of Israel were and are God’s nation. The whole of Samuel’s life and mission was to see his beloved nation brought under the umbrella of the terms of that covenant that they had so crassly broken.

Samuel had died while David was still on the run from the demonised and demented first monarch, Saul ben Kish. Yet even with the sorrow of the prophet dying without seeing the unity of one nation happily existing under the rule of a man who was after God’s own heart, the loyalty that was brewing in support of the anointed son of Jesse might possibly have been seen and perceived by the wise old man as a truly God inspired phenomenon. This would have allowed Samuel to die in peace concerning the future of the nation after he had departed to Sheol. Yet, whether he saw the hearts of the people turning towards David or not, I feel sure he would have seen in the Spirit what kind of a giant killing king Jesse’s son was to become. The priesthood may have turned out to be wimpish and retiring, but there was a Lion out of the tribe of Judah that was moving into maturity and position.

Saul was famous for his bravery across the twelve tribes, if only infamous for his demonic illness around the southern tribe of Judah. The bible reads as if it was only the confidantes of Saul’s court and the intimates of David’s friends and family that new of all the attempts on his life made by the son of Kish. Common folk might have turned against Saul had they known of the demonically inspired murderous attempts the sovereign had made time and again.  The giant killing, sweet psalmist of Israel was on the run from Saul for many years, while Samuel was alive, and the king’s hot pursuit of his successor continued until his death at Gilboa. There was indeed a conflict of loyalties in the hearts of the people. What were the Godly population of Judah to do? Follow Saul the present king who was clearly not the man he was when he was crowned? Or, like all the other nations that surrounded them, should they rid the land of an unwanted megalomaniac, dictator of a king and put the revolutionary “new boy on the block,” on the throne? Which way was the right one?

David had undoubtedly been taught well by Samuel. God had put Saul in office. God would remove Saul from office. Whatever human means or circumstances would bring about Saul’s removal from the throne, it was not to be by the hand of any God-fearing Hebrew, especially the man who was destined to succeed him. Because of Samuel’s integrity, morality and his grasp of patience for God to resolve issues, after Samuel’s death, the nation, in particular the people of Judah, waited to see what was about to happen. It was clearly a wait for Saul to die. Nobody in Israel it seems, wanted to touch this “Ark,” this anointed of God. Saul, as it were, was a holy vessel chosen by God, no matter what the outward display of vileness revealed. The resolution of the issue was all about divine intervention and a trust in the character of the Ever Living God, and His direct interaction with the people and concerns of Israel.  The tribe of Judah would have wanted Saul’s removal to happen quickly. I often wonder if the Northern tribes had a clue about Saul’s political intrigues against his own son and the man he had long suspected wanted to, “steal,” his throne. The North–South divide in Israel, from Joshua’s time on, is plain to see. On crossing the Jordan, the major campaign in the south, under Joshua, was nothing but a thorough conquering of Judah’s territory. As the years passed the fighting spirit that was needed for the conquering of Canaan leaked away like sand in a sieve. The book of Joshua reveals an incredible campaign in Judah, then a list of all the area that was not conquered, and a much lesser campaign in the north. The mid lands of Canaan were seemingly ignored.

One cannot but own the idea that the many people of Judah, and Benjamin, if not the rest of the nation, were aware that Saul’s successor had been anointed by Samuel and was waiting “in the wings” to assume the throne. News would have spread, throughout the southern people of Israel, of David’s two opportunities to have slain Saul – opportunities he had refused to seize, explaining his actions with the now famous words; “Touch not the Lord’s anointed.” Not only would the story have spread like wild fire amongst the people of Judah, Simeon and Benjamin, but it would have inspired them to emulate their future king. “If Saul’s successor, the son of Jesse, dare not remove Saul in order to get to the throne, then it would be wrong to override his will, his intention and his Godly motive. Therefore we, his future subjects as well as being Saul’s subjects must support our present king and wait to see what will happen.”  And so the people of Judah “sat back” as it were in respect of the throne and waited for the appropriate moment to acclaim their darling tribal representative as the rightful king.

As for the other tribes, there was a kind of cultural and social chasm once a person went North of Judah and Benjamin. (I referred above also to Simeon, but the land allotted to Simeon was a kind of annexe in the midst of Judah’s land. After a generation or two had passed, it seems Simeon was totally absorbed into Judah and is hardly mentioned again in the Bible.) Probably in ignorance of the details of the heavy story of Saul’s downfall, depression and demonization, there was a kind of nominal, “God save the King!” attitude amongst those northern tribes. There was little knowledge up north to think anything else but good things about Saul. If one pedantically marks the map of Israel and the narrative’s geographical location, while reading both David’s life and Saul’s reign, very little transpired in the northern tribal areas, but when it did, it shows a king who endeared himself to the people. Saul was much loved up north.  Possibly unawares of the court politics and intrigues, some were more than nominal in their support of Saul. Some risked their lives simply to return Saul’s cadaver to the land of Israel for a proper burial and time of mourning, showing an almost religious commitment to Saul even when dead. No matter what they thought of Saul down south, the north truly honoured their first king.

The deep mindset of division between Judah and the rest of the nation, that later split the whole hegemony into two after Solomon died, was already in the psyche of the people. It started as jealousy and was simmering for centuries before Rehoboam the son of Solomon was crass enough, and silly enough, not to soften the tax regime that funded the king’s lifestyle of luxury. It was the genius of David’s ability to join the nation into one that was a major aspect of the glory of his reign. David was anointed with a Spirit of wisdom. During his reign there was a joining of all the twelve tribes. Solomon’s heavy weight of taxes, and having the nation’s young sons and daughters away from their homes during the course of each year, missing farming time and normal home life for the king’s indulgence was tolerated only because of the wisdom and the character of Solomon and the deep love that the whole united hegemony of Israel had for the demised David and his son. Once the untried and untested son of Solomon had blotted his copy book, the amputation of north from south was done deftly and quickly, without any sociological anaesthetic.

The fact that we can see in retrospect that the nation was on the cusp of greatness, has to be understood as the gift of God on Samuel and then David’s life, a gift that was perpetuated with the very different gift of Solomon. It was an anointing of the Spirit of God that was placed on David’s life simultaneous to the horn full of oil that Samuel poured on his head. It was God that directly made David great. It was Samuel that had anointed David when he was but a child. It was Samuel who had mentored David from the period they had together, near the end of Samuel’s life, leaving the future king with wisdom beyond any of his peers. David proved to his own experience that, “Better is one day in the courts of Yahweh,” that is with Samuel, “than a thousand in the schools of men and worldly wisdom.”

Therefore, conceivably with some of the northern tribes knowing far less about the character of David than the people of Judah, Saul still had a staunch following right up to and even after his death. The nation was soundly formed and stabilising, despite the character of their present king. Samuel had led them away from being a family of tribes with only the religious ties of their history to bind them together while living independent existences.  Samuel, under God, had been the human instrument that had put Saul in office, and, to a degree, as far as externals were concerned, Saul was fulfilling his role. The nation was one, with only the political astute minds of a few who could see the Spiritual and social San Andreas Fault line that ran the whole length of the border between Judah/Benjamin together, and the rest of the tribes to their north, as well as the huge fault line that divided Saul’s character and personality.

David must have been a wise and discerning man, whose company other kings and leaders loved even before he was king. During David’s fugitive years, he made both friends and enemies, however, he befriended some of those rulers that reigned in the days of his loneliness, making friendships that were sustained during the years of his kingship. Some of the kings of those nations that surrounded Israel were still his submissive friends once he had ascended to the throne of Israel.

The nation having been propelled forward by the wisdom of Samuel, a prophet who had an ear to God and the people, as well as a mouth to pray with and teach the masses, built a shrine around his burial place. A building still surrounds his tomb today. Israel has an annual celebration of the life of Samuel.

I salute the son of Hannah, and personally seek God for some slight semblance of his characteristics and Spirit.

4 Nebi Samuel

Nebi Samuel

Categories: SAMUEL’S LEGACY SEEN IN THE LIVES OF THOSE THAT WERE INFLUENCED BY HIM | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered. The Witch of Endor. The King of Fearful Thinking. The Ghost of Samuel?

An incredible Taboo broken by Saul.

(1 Samuel 28:3-24)

The witch at Endor 1

The Witch at Endor

OK! OK! OK! Here we are at what is among the most bizarre passages of the entire Bible, if not, the most macabre and grotesque. What happens in this chapter is just plain weird. Although, to be strict, I have to say it is the uproar that this chapter causes in many commentaries, books, sermons and the belief systems that are used to explain it all that have made the passage so high profile among both Jewish and Christian apologists. It really is a bit of a phenomenon! If one Googles, “1 Samuel 28,” or, “The Witch at Endor,” or anything similar, one will see huge lists of sites written by those who are normally cool, calm and collected Christian writers sounding off quite strongly, with some of them going wild, writing strange unqualified comments concerning this piece of biblical history. They are all suddenly experts on the occult and necromancy in an attempt to justify their presupposition that “the dead cannot be contacted.” They seem to be concerned that people will read this chapter and all turn to necromantic beliefs. As if the Bible couldn’t stand on its own two feet. Without doubt, this scripture highlights something very strange.  However, like Joe Public who pays a few pounds in order to watch a football match and is absolutely convinced he knows more than the manager, coach and players who are paid a million pounds a month each to arrange the team, Christians who have never encountered demons in ministry never mind a necromancer or medium, claim expertise when any issue touches or concerns their favourite pet doctrine.

On the other hand we can take heart in the living proof that all these Christian writers, including some high profile names, haven’t got a clue as to how the occult practice of necromancy (contacting dead human beings) works or functions. For that we thank God.

While getting my mind around Samuel, his life, his character and his impact on Israeli society in biblical times over the last twenty-five plus years whilst scribbling the notes that have made up this blog, I have to say that some profound psychological bias has stopped me from camping on 1 Samuel 28 and getting to grips with it. I even wondered about ending this blog at 1 Samuel 25:1 and ignoring the witch at Endor saga and her calling up of the great prophet from the realm of the dead.

The Witch at Endor 2However, since I started seriously chewing over Samuel’s life somewhere in the 1990’s, I have spent time in Ikotun Egbe, Lagos, Nigeria with a renowned prophet and seen hundreds of deliverances, and heard dozens of testimonies of converted witchdoctors and self-proclaimed agents of Satan. And what an incredible education that has been!  In Nigeria they are referred to as “Ogbanjes.” I am told that “ogbanje” is Yuruba for “Agent of Satan.”  The Prophet’s way was, and still is, to have the entire congregation learn as much as possible from the testimonies of converted and delivered witch doctors, necromancers and ogbanjes. I, along with thousands of others in the congregation have witnessed him question them publicly concerning their motives and modus operandi in while they were lost in such dark dealings. It was always a revelation to hear the logic used by ex-participants in witchcraft, their manner of operation and the things they believed in and held dear.

I say all this not to claim any profound expertise in either the knowledge of necromancy or the casting out of such spirits, but simply to say I have heard the story of quite a few, and since those experiences I find myself reading 1 Samuel 28 in a totally new light and gaining a different perspective from anything I have read or heard before, and definitely gained a different viewpoint from that which I held when I started this series of writings. I intend to grasp the white hot iron of the story of the Witch at Endor with my own naked hand and explain what I understand concerning Saul, the medium, as well as the evil practice of attempting to contact the dead.

The story starts ominously at verse 3 when the scripture reads; Now Samuel had died, and all Israel had mourned for him and buried him in Ramah, his own city. And Saul had put the mediums and the necromancers out of the land.

It is my thesis that Samuel was consulted from all the corners of Israel on every level and on every kind of issue during his lifetime. It is my belief that Samuel walked in the Spirit of prophecy in a much more prolific way than the scripture actually explicitly states. My justification for that statement is the 24 hour period of Saul and his servant looking for three lost donkeys and meeting Samuel for the first time. The whole story is recounted throughout 1 Samuel 9 and through to chapter 10:16. Samuel knew all that was happening before it happened, and made statements that inform us of the depth and breadth of his prophetic scan. It reads as if Samuel was in a complete state of relaxation as he received knowledge of all kinds of stuff in people’s lives. I believe that Samuel’s life was lived out at an incredibly high level of visions, dreams and revelations of things that had happened in his absence, things he saw clearly before they occurred, and answers to questions that people posed to him before any question was asked. I am suggesting that the flow of prophetic vision and insight that are exhibited with Saul encountering Samuel for the first time, was nothing but a normal day at the office for Samuel. On the basis of the prophetic word being available “on tap” as it were, with a man like Samuel about the country, even though he died having spent many years tutoring other prophets in apprenticeship, many people relied on the supernatural guidance they received and the decisions they made based on Samuel’s prophetic counsel. He was the Life Coach of an entire nation. He continually heard from God drinking from an ever flowing river.

The witch at Endor 3

The lay of the land for Saul’s last stand.

I believe that a life at this level of prophetic output were clearly seen in the life of people like William Branham, John G Lake, and witnessed to by myself in the life of TB Joshua. Branham had prophetic visions, sometimes 30 to 40 a day, some trivial and some mammoth, but for the recipients of those prophetic words, downright marvellous and accurate. His own son tells the story of how his father came to a town utterly ignorant of where he was staying. His son arrived late at the airport to meet his father only to discover that his father had arrived but had left the airport in a taxi. The son was distraught and spent several hours searching for his “missing father” all over the town, touching base with local pastors and churches. Nobody knew where his father was. In distress he returned to his hotel to get his list of phone numbers and addresses of folks he knew in order to continue his search, only to find his father in the room sleeping in bed. When he awoke, his son asked him how he knew where to go. He simply replied he had seen the hotel in a vision. It was in this kind of spiritual environment Branham lived.

Similarly with TB Joshua, I have been present with him when passing unknown people, and he stops to give them a message about something he had seen in the Spirit, or some direction God wanted to point them towards. This kind of thing happened often when I was with him, and I wasn’t with him all the time. To my witness, he was never incorrect or misinterpreting anything in the situations he saw in people’s lives.

My point in referring to these accounts is to suggest that the prophet Samuel must have lived even above these two, “modern day,”prophets, and so I conclude that the prolific bread and butter of Samuel’s prophetic visions and directive advice must have been extremely common and widespread. For this reason, the untutored and ignorant could possibly have considered spiritism for supernatural direction after Samuel’s death, and for that reason Saul may have decreed all witches, wizards, sorcerers and necromancers to be exiled out of Israel.

The Witch at Endor 4 philistine-assemble-at-aphek-1sam28-29-

The route the Philistines took to congregate at Shunem to fight in Jezreel and Gilboa.

When considering whether or not Samuel encouraged Saul to make necromancy and witchcraft an exiled culture, I rather fancy that if Samuel had said anything at all, he would have asked Saul why he was allowing such people to live, seeing as Moses had written that witches, mediums, necromancers and those with familiar spirits should be put to death. For that reason, I believe that Saul was in a deep concern that the messages and guidance from the divine Spirit of Yahweh would dry up in Samuel’s absence and that many unlearned people would resort to spiritism for verbally inspired direction “like” they had been receiving from Samuel. 1 Samuel 28:3 suggests that it was immediately after Samuel’s death that the exile of the witches was royally decreed. The meaning very much seems to direct us to the conclusion that it all happened after Samuel’s death.

In the lead up to the ghastly request that Saul made, we see warfare about to break out yet again. “The Philistines assembled and came and encamped at Shunem. And Saul gathered all Israel, and they encamped at Gilboa” (1 Samuel 28:4). The Philistines were waiting for all their fighting force to fully congregate at the place called Shunem. “The Philistines assembled,” means the entire military population of the sea peoples was ready to fight to the death. Saul was gathering, “all Israel.” The books of Samuel are full of battles, wars and altercations between some of Israel and some of the Philistines, but one does not have to be a Professor in biblical studies to understand that in 1 Samuel’s last four chapters, this line up at Shunem and Gilboa was intended to be the mother of all Philistine-Israeli battles. This was, the Philistines had decided, the moment for total out and out war. Its’ sense of finality is also suggested because of the site chosen by the Philistines for the fight. This showdown encounter was to take place north of the Philistine’s core territory and well north of Saul’s capital. The Philistines begin to mass their troops in the Jezreel Valley. It wasn’t even near to Aphek or anywhere else more southerly or closer to the occupied Philistine territory as it had been in all previous clashes. The Philistines had decided to meet near Jezreel for, as far as I can see, at least four reasons:

  • The battlefield was more spacious for a larger contingent to fight and kill. It was Jezreel in between Gilboa and Shunem. The field to fight in was huge, as was the space for the Philistines to camp in.
  • If the Philistines were to win this battle, they would have so much of the middle land in Israel that they would have geographically virtually split Israel into two distinct parts, thus dominating the whole of the Jewish nation. If Saul was to survive after losing this battle, the Philistines would be seriously weakening Israel’s first king by physically and literally splitting off the Israelite tribes south of the Valley of Jezreel (Ephraim, Ben­jamin, Judah (Simeon)) from those north of it, around the Sea of Galilee (East Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, Naphtali). Saul was forced to fight on this ground simply because the Philistines were camped there, or he would lose control over much of his kingdom seemingly without contesting their claim.
  • Reason number two (immediately above) meant that the oncoming battle of Gilboa was an opportunity for a completely decisive battle for either side- and the Israeli’s were incredibly outnumbered. If the Philistines could conceivably defeat Saul in this conflict they would be in a comfortable position to utterly subdue Israel in the not too distant future and take over Judean towns in the Shephelah to the east of the coastal plain where the Philistines lived.  All this reasoning facilitates the big picture of what was definitely shaping up before Saul’s eyes. This was not to be just another skirmish to add to the archives, but the ultimate battle pitting the entire massed troops of the Philistine confederation of the five cities together with their vassals, against the less organized, smaller, and poorly equipped force that Saul was able to put out on the field. Add to this the fact that the Philistines had more advanced weaponry (iron versus Bronze) this Armageddon, not far from the literal Armageddon (Megiddo), could bring total Philistine dominance to the region for decades to come, if not longer. Knowing the end of the story, as we do, we see how, if it was not for the regrouping of Israel around David, this battle might have been cataclysmically negative for the future of Israel.
  • There was also a definite advantage for chariots on this larger battlefield. The flat river valley was a much better place for the 3,000 Philistine chariots to prosecute their cause (1 Samuel 13:5). At this moment of time Israel had no chariots at all. Chariots couldn’t operate effectively in the hill country where Saul lived, and Israel had neither the finance nor the skills to make battle chariots. Purely from the Philistine perspective, the choice of killing field was a wise one. The odds were clearly against Israel. And Saul knew it – hence this account in 1 Samuel 28.
The Witch at Endor 5

A strange artist’s impression of an apparition of Samuel. I think not. Fantastic study in light and dark though!

Saul, by all the political and military norms of the day had absolutely no choice but to fight. He would utterly lose face if he refused to engage the enemy, not to mention losing his kingdom. His chances of winning, apart from God’s intervention were worse than poor. As the flash of lightning reveals the hidden scenery in an otherwise black night, so the revelation of this devastating and momentous situation suddenly reveals Saul’s true character. Saul’s army is encamped on the slopes of Mount Gilboa. He and his troops were in a position to look across the valley bed and see the enormous camp of the Philistines. And it was still growing daily. More and more Philistines were marching northwards from Philistia in Gaza, through the old battlefield of Aphek and up to Shunem.

“When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly” (1 Samuel 28:5). Oh the devastation to life, mental, physical, emotional and spiritual, that fear wreaks in a human being. It robs mankind of vision, dignity, drive and sometimes, even sanity. Saul looked across the valley and literally shook with fear. Nothing deteriorates a person more thoroughly, and more speedily than fear.

V0025881 The witch of Endor with a candle. Engraving by J. Kay, 1805,

Stereotypical classic witch pose.

In the midst of this fear, there was no Samuel to call on. How significant it is that this mother of all battles was initiated by the Philistines soon after Samuel’s death. Perhaps the news of the prophet’s demise had reached the corridors of power within the Philistine political circles. Possibly they were more concerned about the presence and the prayers of Samuel than Israel was. Is it feasible that once it was announced to the five kings of Philistia that the man who prayed and defeated them by invisible means was dead, they might stand a better chance of winning against Saul?  “Oh! Great! If Samuel’s dead the odds are for us Philistines winning easily!” Possible?

Saul had been in battles before. He had faced death before and he was a fighting man. The problem, however, at this moment, was faith and assurance in his cause and character. The problem was that the anointing was no longer manifesting itself  to his enablement, not having been fed and obeyed. The anointing of God always needs to be fed, worked and obeyed. Where once Saul may have lifted his faith, his heart and his voice to take on huge armies, he now felt himself simply fading in unbelief and resignation. Israel’s first king must have been nearing 80 years of age at this moment in the timeline. Did his age have anything to do with it? Failing faculties?

What was going to happen to the king of Israel? In his fear, he wanted to know from heaven who was going to win, or even if there was any particular battle manoeuvre he should employ. Then again, perhaps there might even be some legitimate word from God that would allow him to withdraw from certain death for himself and many thousands of his countrymen. What was he to do?

There were, of course, still the ever available chosen means of communication with Yahweh. He could resort to prayer; or ask if any of his counsellors had received any dreams, or if any of the prophet seers from the schools of the prophets had gleaned anything from hearing or seeing heaven’s declarations. There was also the Urim (often referred to as the “Urim and the Thummin) where somehow, light would reflect on the High Priest’s Ephod in answer to questions that required a, “Yes,” or a “No” answer. However, the scripture exposes the peak of Saul’s heavenly rejection by informing us that, “When Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord did not answer him, either by dreams or by Urim or by the prophets” (1 Samuel 28:6).

There are certain principles that govern the effective use of prayer and relationship with God in the crises of life. Repentance, humility, faith and a discerning heart that knows the will of God and can hear the voice of God are all contributing factors to those principles. Saul had none of these characteristics at this moment. The writer of First Samuel, in these last four chapters, is definitely comparing David’s response to crises with Saul’s. David, in the ups and downs of life, in the righteous and unrighteous deeds of his existence always fell on his knees wilfully facing God. In a life of similar turmoil and strife, Saul developed a penchant for wilfully turning his back on God. That is the entire message of the last four chapters of the ninth book of the Bible. It is a message we all need to assimilate. We need to face life head on by facing God head on.

tHE WITCH AT eNDOR 10

A wonderful opportunity for artist’s to show their skill in shade, light and shadow.

The son of Kish was thrown into an internal panic attack. The fear was speaking to him loudly and dominating his thinking. It was driving him to do something desperate. He pondered deeply, only for something utterly dreadful to arise in his heart.

Where was Samuel? If he was here he would be severe and hard, but he would know what to do! In all Saul’s early difficulties of a similar circumstance to this one, he had sought Samuel, or Samuel had sought him. Now, however, Saul was bereft. The prophet’s voice had been hushed by the angel of death. Few people estimate faithful advisers at their proper value, especially when they speak at their most assertive. Saul had no Samuel now. Yet, the King wanted words from the prophet at this time more than he ever had done. Saul however did not know the presence of God. His desolation was indescribable. His own deeds had closed the pathways along which God’s angel of mercy had wanted to traverse in order to meet him. When in an agony of lack, even the worst of human nature cannot cling to atheism. Saul the desolate, Saul the moody, Saul the depressed, and Saul with the presentiment of death hanging over his very existence like a Diocletian sword, knelt before God with self-will, pride and resentment lurking between the lines of his petitions to the Almighty (1 Samuel 28:15). He simply had not the slightest desire to know God’s will for his life. Saul only wanted to know how he could save his life and win a battle, or even flee.

It was then that the fearfully awful idea that entered his heart, found expression through his mouth. Surely it must have been said in private to the choicest of his trustworthy servants. The sperm of the thought was conceived in the egg of a plan concocted in the silent womb of Saul’s fear. The gestation process demanded words to be spoken and immediate action taken. The most unutterable evil was about to be uttered. He must have faltered with butterflies in the belly, or even the desire to vomit before he even dared to say the words.  If it was being filmed, I am sure a skilful cameraman would have zoomed in to the King’s mouth as he, with a slow, deep guttural voice spoke the words of horror. “Find me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her” (1 Samuel 28:7). With that royal command, Saul’s depravity had reached an all time low.

The Witch at Endor 12

Not so skilled with dark and light.

Oh! What delusion was this? What leap into the darkness of fear and demonic encircling had Saul embraced to himself by one single uttered sentence? The religious insanity that places some kind of confidence in “ghosts” and the so called “spirits of the departed,” is too ridiculous to counter with intelligent discussion. One medium asked me once (in the UK) after I had encouraged him to have faith in God, “How can I trust a God who doesn’t speak to me, when I can speak to my dead relatives who do want to speak to me?” No matter how laughable I thought his remarks were, I kept a straight face. God is found by a clean and open heart. When He is found by someone in that mode, His voice is heard. I told the medium so, that day in my home town.

As far as Saul was concerned, he had spoken with Samuel, and he obviously knew something of God’s mind about mediums to have made them illegal in Israel. God’s word, however, demanded such people to be executed. Saul was aware of what God thinks of all these kinds of delusion.  Saul knew plainly that God thinks so severely of them that he never speaks of them in the law of Moses but with a livid thunder of indignation. He says: “I will be a swift witness against the sorcerer” (Malachi 3:5). That may be Malachi a few hundred years later than both Moses and Saul, but it carries the same Spirit of God. He says: “You shall not suffer a witch to live” (Exodus 22:18). Just in case one might make some important distinction between Spiritualism and witchcraft, God says, in so many words: “There shall not be found among you anyone that makes his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that uses divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer, for all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD” (Deuteronomy 18:10-12a). Saul was Israel’s first king. He had been tutored by Samuel. He knew God’s mind on this kind of spiritual aberration. In the king’s deep seated fear, however, the real depth of his understanding emerged. Saul was lost to the kingdom. David’s day was about to burst upon Israel.

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Yet another artist has a heyday with the graphic scene of 1 Samuel 28.

When push comes to shove, the entire system of spiritism and witchcraft is founded on the deluded thought processes that reckon on the insufficiency of the Word of God as a revelation. In the broadest possible parameters of the teaching of the word of God, its depth of content and the comprehensive nature of its message is sufficient for all we need to know about the realm of the spirit as well as life and death. One simply cannot walk through life with the Bible at home in one’s heart, cohabiting with spiritualism. One or the other will slip out of your grasp, depend upon it. Loving, lifelong spiritual interaction with any other invisible spirit other than God Himself is simply damned in the strongest possible language in the Bible.

What is more pathetic, and worse, if it could be, is that Saul was entertaining and dealing with a method of gaining foreknowledge of the future by getting dead souls to declare what they know. It was a selfish cry from his heart. In those earlier days when his vision was clear and his heart was open to divine teaching, he abhorred this kind of sin. But now, driven by fear, jealousy, and pride, refusing to humble himself before God, he was about to send his servants to find “one that consults a familiar spirit.” His confidence in the Almighty had left the building of his heart.  Superstition had rushed in to lie in the same bed that had erstwhile been kept warm by the presence of true obedient faith in God. It is the desperation of the human heart, when refusing God’s terms of relating with Him that jumps into the deep abyss of spiritism. Saul wilfully jumped.

“And his servants said to him, “Actually, a woman who is a medium lives at En Dor.” (1 Samuel 28:7) How did his servants know such a thing? If they knew this as a fact, why hadn’t they informed the king that one of his laws was not being complied with? The king doesn’t seem to be interested in his servant’s private lives, or their secret knowledge of broken laws. Their master grabs the proffered meeting. So Saul disguised himself and put on other clothes, and he went, and two men with him; and they came to the woman by night.” (1 Samuel 28:8a)

The Witch at Endor 14 edward-henry-corbould

It looks like morning is breaking on this one. Love the ephemeral white cloud in the top left that speaks of the realm of the spirit. Its weird. But so is the chapter.

The whole thing is so clandestine that it is shrouded in darkness even before the night fell. Saul disguised himself not only to prevent this medium from recognising him, but to prevent any Philistine from catching a glimpse of him. By looking at the map we can see that Saul could have travelled from Gilboa to Endor without actually going too near to Shunem where the enemy was camped.  But more and more Philistine troops were being added to the camp continually. The king’s route needed to be slightly elongated and bowed in order to make sure he would not encounter any enemy watchmen. The fact that Saul disguised himself as well as putting on common clothes is almost humourous, especially as one of the translations of a “familiar spirit” is simply, “Ventriloquist.” The image of Saul becoming a dressed up, disguised ventriloquists dummy, being manipulated by the powers of darkness fills me with giggles. But the picture is not funny really.

Saul and his two servants travelled in the dark night to wherever the medium’s abode was at Endor. How did they know where her home was?  This fact of spiritual, mental and physical darkness is very portentous to it all. Witches engage in their magical practices only in the dark. Witches covens and suchlike are always known to be meeting in the middle of the night and never in the day time. I am not au fait with the social circles of witches and mediums, and for all I know they may meet more often in the daytime than they do in the night, however, night time, darkness, and things being hidden because of the dark all seem very appropriate for what was going on with Saul’s quest. Josephus mitigates Saul’s motives by suggesting that the king’s desire was to conceal his absence from his army, i.e. he did not want his army to think he had fled in fear before the battle. If any of his own soldiers had stumbled upon him in disguise with non kingly robes leaving the camp, the most obvious conclusion would have been that the King was going AWOL. That picture did not bear thinking about. Darkness was essential for the medium’s business as well as for Saul, to get away from the camp unseen, especially as he was now violating his own edict against mediums and witchcraft. Another writer I have stumbled across offers the thought that the episode’s nocturnal setting alludes to the fact that the dead are in darkness (Psalms 88:13, 143:3; Job 10:21). Whatever the motive, there are clearly no redeeming features therein.

“And he (Saul) said, “Please divine for me, and bring up for me the one I shall name to you” (1 Samuel 28: 8b). He uses words that are blatant. “Medium! Do some act of divination for me and bring up the person I am seeking.” There was no turning back now! The medium must have commenced her ritual incantations. These kind of incantations, as I have learned, are individual and personal to each necromancer and or medium. Each has his own style of approach.

The Witch at Endor 15 -benjamin-west

But did the two servants actually witness the apparition.

The woman’s response has a strangely principled tone to it. Then the woman said to him, “Look, you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off the mediums and the spiritists from the land. Why then do you lay a snare for my life, to cause me to die?” (1 Samuel 28:9)  We cannot but get the picture that this medium had actually ceased her foul occupation, if only temporarily. She is greatly afraid that these three men who have just appeared out of the darkness are attempting to tempt her to consult some spirit, and then announce they were going to execute her or to take her to the king for judgement. In the twenty-first century we refer to this kind of practice as “Entrapment.” Frankly, I cannot for the life of me understand how any answer could have satisfied her that these three men, especially one so tall as Saul and who must have been looking somewhat strange in his disguise, were, “on the level,” and not about to, “shop her,” for her clandestine business of evil. The conversation is ludicrous! Surreal!

Saul’s answer is equally cryptic and somewhat circular in its logic. “Saul vowed to her by the Lord, saying, “As the Lord lives, no punishment shall come upon you for this thing” (1 Samuel 28:10). I am utterly perplexed by this!  How could a vow from a man she has never seen before, not even knowing his name, assure her in any way of his integrity? How could a vow made in the name of Yahweh impact a medium? How can a man, whom she had no idea was the king, have the authority to prevent any punishment to come upon her for her witchcraft?  Assuming payment was made for her services; was she desperate for the money? Did Saul seem so authoritative as to assure her that this deal was Kosher and safe? The whole dialogue seems somewhat bizarre in the overall context of this clandestine appointment for a serious event of spiritism. And Saul vows by using the oath:“As the Lord lives!”  It is like a wife making vows to look after her illicit lover in the name of her husband.  Am I the only one to see the nonsensical sham integrity and decency of this exchange?

Now the text gets confused by many in their explanations of what took place. Then the woman said, “Whom shall I bring up for you?” And he said, “Bring up Samuel for me.” So states 1 Samuel 28:11. I believe the woman had entered into her ritual of divination before she asked this question. I am open to correction. I am speaking on the grounds of testimonies I have heard of ex-necromancers after conversion to Christ and deliverance. I am of the strong opinion that it was whilst she was in the midst of some evil ritual that she asked, “Whom shall I bring up for you?” Necromancers commonly work themselves into some sort of altered state in order to become the medium at that moment. The question, “Whom shall I bring up for you?” would have been uttered under the force of the trance. The incantations and evil spells would have continued from that platform. The Jewish Midrash states so drily that it is humourous:  “She did what she did, and she said what she said, and raised him.” I did warn you that the passage and many commentaries on this passage were bizarre!

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The witch has a wand on this one. Or at least a pointing stick.

“When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice; and the woman spoke to Saul, saying, “Why have you deceived me? For you are Saul” (1 Samuel 28:12). Some believe that some Samuel made some horror-struck gesticulation at the sight of the king, or made some gesture toward Saul spoiling his state of incognito.   As with Christian ministers, so with demon inspired necromancers; there are the real and the fake, the authentic and the forgeries. The genuineness of this woman at Endor is not in question. She may, or may not have been a genuine medium prior to Saul’s visit. However, she undoubtedly moved in the demonic realm of the dead in a real and genuine manner on this occasion. According to the talmudic sages and various high profile Jewish traditional commentators, “the dead rise feet first.” Strange but true.  Some of those old Rabbi’s had convictions on some strange issues. Here, however, Samuel arose in the normal upright posture, out of respect for the king. They all calculate that having seen this, the woman now realized the true identity of her visitor.

The king responded with “Be not afraid; what do you see?” (verse 13) The, “Be not afraid,” was a “Get on with the job woman,” kind of remark. Saul wanted her to rush on to the conversation he had come for. “What do you see?” The worlds are nearer together than we often discern!  It is scripture that is full of the idea that we are surrounded by spiritual existences?

Undoubtedly in a trance like state, the woman says animatedly, “I see a god coming up out of the earth!” Saul obviously could not see what she was seeing, otherwise why ask? That is why I believe she was in a trance at this moment.“In what form is he?” Saul is eager to know of the character that she sees arising from Sheol.  “An old man comes up!” she exclaims, “covered with a mantle.” With this Saul perceived, or logically concluded “that it was Samuel. He stooped with his face to the ground and made obeisance.” (1 Samuel 28:14)

Samuel stepped up, out of the ground from the place of the righteous dead in Sheol. Why do I declare so unequivocally that it was really Samuel that rose out of the ground?  The scripture plainly says a little later in the text, “When the woman saw Samuel,” and, “Saul knew it was Samuel,” as well as “Samuel said to Saul,” and “Samuel said.” Finally the dialogue states, “because of Samuel’s words.”  My convictions concerning the inspiration of the scriptures leave me convinced by these statements alone that Samuel’s Shade, Ghost or spirit was indeed present to speak to Saul.

By the language used in the process of the apparition we have it clear in the text that the woman saw a figure rising – she even describes his appearance. I have heard such testimonies of Christians who were ex necromancers offering similar statements. We have no statement as to anything that the medium heard. As for Saul, we are told of the dialogue between he and Samuel, so we are confident to assert that Saul heard Samuel’s words perfectly. On the grounds that Saul asked the woman what the spirit looked like, and that he lay prostrate with his face to the ground, we have no evidence at all that Saul actually looked into the face of the man that had just stepped out of Sheol. Does that mean that Saul could not see Samuel? Or is it that Saul simply chose not to look? Nothing can move me, as far as the text is concerned, that it was anybody, or anything else, other than the prophet Samuel himself genuinely addressing the spiritually impoverished king.

The Witch at Endor 17 The Shade of Samuel Invoked by D. Martynov-1857

On this one, Saul is collapsing before Samuel has left.

The woman, it would seem, served only as an instrument to make the connection between Saul and Samuel, who then spoke directly to each other. She seems not to be party to the conversation. Jumping ahead in the text, the implication of the statement in verse 21, “The woman came in (or went up) to Saul,” is interpreted by many commentators as meaning that the witch was not present during the dialogue of king and prophet but returned from another room and noticed Saul’s panicked reaction to the encounter. I cannot go with this at all. I do offer the thought that in the manifestation of Samuel’s figure, the words spoken by Samuel may have been uttered through the woman, rendering her present but “non compos mentis” to it all, and in an altered state of consciousness as it were, during the discussion between Saul and she who was the “ventriloquist” for Samuel.

I am suggesting that the narrative leads us to see the scene as follows: The medium went searching through her ritual incantations for a contact in the spiritual darkness, after which, possibly in trance state, possibly not quite there, she asked whom Saul wished to speak to. Continuing her incantation striving for contact with Samuel, she sees him approaching her. She screams at the realisation that this is really Samuel, and that a man of such import, even in Sheol, would only approach for a man of equally sufficient import to the purposes of God. The woman, being a “ventriloquist,” for the dark world of the spirit, described the apparition as an old man enshrouded with a cloak. The visitor therefore, she concluded, must have been none other than King Saul himself.

Whether or not she could see Samuel through her trance like perception of the invisible, or if he was visibly perceived with the physical eye, I am uncertain. I have heard ex-spiritist mediums give accounts of both physical and spiritual visualisations in such scenarios. For that reason I remain neutral on whether or not the many artists who have portrayed this scene with a physical spectre standing before the kneeling king have it correct or otherwise.

The general gist of what I have learned in Africa suggests that it would have been extremely rare and unlikely that the apparition of Samuel would have itself spoken. I say unlikely, but not impossible because of the seeming “absence” of the witch during Saul’s dialogue with Samuel. To suggest she left the room is a physical logistic that I think is quite silly, I believe the woman would have been the mouthpiece or ventriloquist for Samuel. I think it nonsensical to even think that she would leave the room for any reason. How on earth is it even conceivable that a medium at this level of evil could have, after dancing with demons and risking her life in making such a connection, leave the proceedings of an evil dynamic that she was obviously in charge of? To me, it is inconceivable that a woman who has just screamed in shock, being literally traumatised to discover that the demised Samuel and the almost demised Saul could, in mid trance, adopt a civilised western posture of, “Oh! Excuse me gentlemen! I shall leave the room now while you have your private chit chat,” is as ridiculous as Saul’s expectation was at that moment.

From testimonies I have heard from ex necromancers and witch-doctors, I suggest that the most probable scenario would be that the visible Samuel would have stood there silently, perhaps with the physical gesticulations of the hands as if he was speaking, without his lips so much as moving. The ventriloquism would have been via the witch uttering Samuel’s thoughts with a voice not her own, possibly even sounding like Samuel did in his lifetime.

Then we have the horrific dialogue. For serious Bible readers, it almost demands a health warning before it is read. If I accept this as history – and I do; if I accept this as God’s word to man – and I do; what you are about to read may be considered unsuitable for the squeamish, and offensive to all. This is what happens when a living human being tries to contact the dead.

“Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” Saul answered, “I am greatly distressed; for the Philistines are waging war against me, and God has departed from me and no longer answers me, either through prophets or by dreams; therefore I have called you, that you may make known to me what I should do.” Samuel said, “Why then do you ask me, since the Lord has departed from you and has become your adversary? The Lord has done accordingly as He spoke through me; for the Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbour, to David. As you did not obey the Lord and did not execute His fierce wrath on Amalek, so the Lord has done this thing to you this day. Moreover the Lord will also give over Israel along with you into the hands of the Philistines. Therefore – tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. Indeed the Lord will give over the army of Israel into the hands of the Philistines!”” (1 Samuel 28:15 – 19)

Saul and his sons were set to be transported to Sheol, the place of the dead.  In Old Testament times both the righteous and the unrighteous, even though they were eternally separated there, were reserved in Sheol, Hades  and also called hell.  Samuel clearly felt Saul’s approach was a complete disturbance to his rest.

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The breathtaking futility of what I see hear speaks to me of Saul’s state of heart as he left Endor.

Saul’s response is too ridiculous for words. No matter how great and significant Samuel was in his lifetime, he was a servant of God. Somehow, Saul had succumbed to the delusion that Samuel was actually higher than Yahweh. This is proof of the reality of Clive Staples Lewis’s quote: “If you do not listen to theology, that will not mean you have no ideas about God. It will mean you have a lot of wrong ones.” Wrong ideas about God endangers our very souls. Ask King Saul. He will expand on that very fact. He tells Samuel that God will not speak to him in any other way. It is as if the king was expecting Samuel to say, “OK Saul. Don’t worry about it.  God won’t speak to you? How shocking! I will tell you because I know better that Almighty Eternal Yahweh.” As if!  Was Saul high on drugs? No! Just lost in sin, iniquity and a deliberate turning from God. Saul had truly lost a grip on reality and common sense.

Then it happens! Saul wanted a word from Samuel, and, “boy oh boy,” did he get one!

“I told you the kingdom was torn from you, years ago, Saul. Tomorrow is the crunch day of the entirety of what God told you by my hand.  Tomorrow Israel will lose the battle and fall into the hands of the Philistines. You will die along with your sons.”

I seriously find it hard to understand how Saul did not have Cardiac arrest at that point of time. Seriously violent and shocking news about what was about to happen to happen to a person is, to understate the case greatly; traumatic.

He also, finally, heard the statement authoritatively given, that David was to assume his throne.

The hideous evil of Saul’s bidding made the very crime he committed worthy of capital punishment and was therefore the instrument of the pronouncement of his judgement and sentence. Saul played with strange and evil fire and was horrifically torched with 100% burns. He went looking into the eyes of death, and was thus told he was about to die. What else can death bring? Death can only beget death. Only God Himself through the person of Jesus Christ can bring life out of death.

The most positive statement to gain from this entire filthy episode is the absolute confirmation of a future state, by “one who arose simply to peep over the parapet of sheol and step out from the dead,” even if it was just for a few moments in time. The human spirit lives after death. Samuel’s spirit still lived, even though his body had died at Ramah and had been buried there.

We must unconditionally conclude some heavy statements from this strange biblical account:  It is vain to pray to the dead. God Himself forbids it. There is no oracle required of any person’s future but God’s. No evil spirit can reveal the destiny of a soul, nor could it be trusted if it ever pretended to, and they do. No “light” that led people astray was ever light from heaven. If it  leads away from God, it is darkness charading as light. Light from heaven always points towards Jesus Christ. The father of lies, i.e. the devil, could never be entitled to any credit at all in his pretended disclosures of our future. Departed saints are also incapable of doing this. They have no such function assigned to them in the economy of the spiritual world. God alone, and occasionally through the medium of his holy angels, holds the prerogatives of human destiny.

But wait! There is one last line that is rather remarkable in its potential positivity. “Therefore tomorrow you and your sons will be with me.” But Samuel was in the place of the righteous dead! Samuel was in faith all his life. Saul was disobedient, but in faith – wasn’t he? But did he have ears to hear it?

I have been asked many times in my life concerning relatives of people who had been strong Christians with a virile and aggressive faith who died with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. If they die not even knowing their own children, or their much loved spouse of fifty years or so, how do they stand with God. My answer is that Dementia is a catastrophic disease of the brain. The brain is the means by which the mind of the human soul processes things. The mind is not the brain, but the mind’s vehicle of manoeuvring and manipulation of memory and knowledge. Nobody will have dementia at the judgement seat of Christ or the Great White Throne Judgement. Their response at the judgement will be made with totally sound faculties and culpability. This needs to be declared loud and often in these days.

Saul’s longstanding disobedience and demonic infestation are no grounds for declaring him lost forever. Believers sometimes have demons, as indeed the “Daughter of Abraham” did in Luke 13. I am held by a conviction that the vast majority of longstanding problems among Christians are demonic. If being demonised of itself puts a person in hell, then a great many Christians are lost. Christ’s parable of the unjust steward in Matthew 18 teaches us that someone’s account with God can be cleared and forgiven, yet the cleared and forgiven person may still be in a prison. Saul went to the same place as Samuel in his death. Samuel said so.

The Witch at Endor 18 The Shade of Samuel Invoked by D. Martynov-1857

Samuel’s stance is frightening. I don’t know why the witch should be losing her clothes. She was a spiritist, not a harlot. The two servants seem nearer to Samuel than Saul is.

After that brief moment, Samuel disappears from time forever and is left to await his judgement at the Judgement seat of Christ.

Something else needs to be added to all the above. What about the often repeated statements of many Christians that the dead simply cannot be contacted; The dead do not know what is happening in this life; All manifestations of a Necromancer’s incantations are demon spirits pretending to be humans, and other such, “so called,” tenets of the faith?

My answer is; I agree with the sentiment that would state that spiritists need to be told that necromancy and all forms of spiritism are abhorred by God Himself and should never be entered into. But what is stated by many as listed immediately above, that the dead cannot be contacted,  is simply overstating what the Bible teaches.

Let me qualify this by commenting on the scriptures that are used in any discussion about these things.

Ecclesiastes 9:56, and 10. “The dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion forever in anything that is done under the sun [in this life] … For there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave.”  This is talking plainly about things on earth after a person has died. Samuel died, and what is stated above is true. Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Samuel know nothing about things in this life any more. It is not saying that they are mindless ignoramuses. It is telling us that the energy of their dynamic in this life is simply no more. Verses like this are often used to preface the statement, “The dead cannot be contacted.” However, dead Moses contacted Christ at the transfiguration. The souls of the dead were seen by John under the altar in heaven. The power of the dead Elisha’s bones contacted the freshly demised man thrown into his crypt.

Nowhere does it actually say that the dead cannot be contacted. Understand where I am. I am not saying that they can be contacted. I am not saying that we should contact them if they could be. I am saying that Christians who make statements which are beyond the text of scripture are on thin ice.

Psalms 115:17 says, “The dead praise not the Lord.” Misinterpret this verse if you will, but it does not mean that dead people are unconscious and insentient because of death. The twenty four elders are dead, in heaven, and they worship the Lord continually. So this verse cannot be used to substantiate the statement, “The dead cannot be contacted.” It simply means, in its context, that we need to praise the Lord in this life, because when we are dead our opportunity to do so in this life is passed.

Psalms 6:5 “In death there is no remembrance of thee.” This is used as a blanket statement of many as “proof” that the dead cannot be reached, for they have forgotten God. However, it does not say that, nor does it mean that! To challenge that concept in which this verse is often misquoted: There will be a remembrance of God in death, for the blood of Christ speaks in this life as well as in the next and forever more. If we cannot remember that when we are in the presence of Christ what will be the reason we are in heaven?

Job 7:10.  “He shall return no more to his house.” Get to the meaning and do not misquote the verse. Israel will return to their house. The field that Jeremiah purchased from his cousin will be Jeremiah’s in the resurrection and he will return to his field. The vanity of looking for proof texts to justify a statement that we suppose the bible to substantiate is error.

God utterly condemned what Saul was going to do. Please do not misunderstand me. I am merely stating that in my widespread study of writers and commentaries, both Jewish and Christian, concerning 1 Samuel 28, in the midst of attempting to emphasize the evil of spiritism and Necromancy (amongst other things) conclusions are made that are simply not stated in the scripture.

I go further.

Leviticus 20:27. “A man also or woman who has a familiar spirit, or is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be upon them.”  This means that possessors of a familiar, or, “ventriloquial,” spirits, and wizards, God sees as a contagious and malignant force in the earth that needs to be cast out. The statement presupposes that familial (that is, “of the family”) spirits are real. It also presupposes that as casting the demon was not an option inOld Testament times, the person needed to be put to death to rid the world of the impact of a demonic force.

The Witch at Endor 19

How David decisively missed the battle of Gilboa.

Deuteronomy 18:10-12.  “There shall not be found among you anyone that makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or that uses divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination to Yahweh: and because of these abominations Yahweh your Elohim drives them out from before you.” The point is made concerning the fact that these kind of things are high on the list of priority evils that need to be confronted and expelled. All these things bring disease and misery to many. Jesus cast out demons wherever he went (Acts 10:38), as did Paul. The reality of them is strongly inferred by the very priority God gives them, but I refuse to make a statement stronger that what the scripture states. It does NOT state that necromancy is intrinsically a fraudulent deception – merely something that should not be touched by anybody for their own safety.

One evangelical writer states :

“Now, consider an important point. Was the witch to summon the spirit of Samuel down from heaven? No. Saul knew the state of the dead. That Samuel was dead in the grave. He was actually asking the witch to call Samuel up from the grave, not down from heaven.”

“Important point?” This is one of those examples of evangelicals talking absolute tosh! Why do I say so? Everybody, but everybody who died in the Old Testament, from the most Godly saint, to the very worst sinner went down to Sheol. That is just a fact that cannot be argued with. There was a great chasm between where the righteous were in Sheol and where the unrighteous were – it was a chasm that could not be crossed (Luke 16:16-31). Jesus, in His ascension, that is, His return to heavenly glory, led the righteous from Sheol into the presence of God, as per, “He led captivity captive.” So, in Old Testament times, if the dead could be contacted, both righteous and unrighteous would have had to be called “up.” As was Samuel.

Another writer states:

“Note also that God was no longer speaking to Saul, and God’s prophets were not speaking with Saul (1 Sam 28:6). So now, are we to believe that a witch was going to thwart the will of God by conjuring up Samuel from the grave, so that Saul could speak with a prophet of God, against the explicit will of God?”

I am so sorry, but once again I respond with, “What absolute tosh and rubbish!” Millions – if not billions of people sin and go beyond what God approves of every single day. It is not an issue of how much “power” does the witch have. Why does the fact that the witch called up Samuel even hint at her holding an power at all. Witchcraft and necromancy by their very nature are defying God, thwarting His will, and the very protocols of the dynamics of creation. Sin is sin. Why should we believe that in this respect the sin could not be perpetrated because of God’s will. The statement is not sensible.

Yet another:

“Remember also, the witch at Endor was known for having a familiar spirit. What is a familiar spirit anyway? It is not an angel of God, surely, because of God’s strong condemnation against consulting with them. A familiar spirit is a demonic spirit, a fallen angel in league with Satan. This is what the woman at Endor had, communication with a demon, a demon who was quite capable of impersonating Samuel. It was NOT Samuel who appeared at her summons, it was a demon masquerading as Samuel. The first thing that the demon did was expose Saul’s masquerade to the witch.”

Of course a familiar spirit is a demon from hell! Who could argue with that? Undoubtedly the witch had demonic issues within herself! I would have thought that was self-evident. But what relevance does that have to the story as related in scripture. These elementary truths does not in any way confirm anything but a plain logical fact. Spiritism, necromancy and dealing with familiar spirits is forbidden because it releases demons to, “play God,” with the simple minded and the wilfully sinful and the spiritually ignorant. How the writer above logically takes the self evident facts of life to enable him to conclude, “It was NOT Samuel who appeared,” is beyond me. This is evangelical dogmatism gone wild. This is what many of us do with other issues. We build a belief or conviction on things we have discussed, heard or read, and then we scurry around to find verses that substantiate our non biblical belief.  It is unhealthy and damaging to the kingdom when Christians spout off like this.

The Witch at Endor 21

Here the witch seems to be a passive spectator. As if!

The text refers to Samuel several times. The woman was obviously shocked when Samuel arose. What happened here was NOT the norm. The book says it was Samuel. No! It does not mean it is OK to contact the dead. This was an incredible one off, I believe.

However, my ultimate statement is that, nowhere in the Bible does it say that the dead cannot be contacted.  I detest and despise the thought of those that try such things, and I believe the majority of the practitioners of familiar spirits and necromancy are not the genuine article. The Bible truth is enough for me. Don’t do it! God hates it! In Moses day, God declared that because of what he wanted in Israel, the seven nations that were in Canaan before Israel, and any such demonic indulgence within the ranks of Israel  required capital punishment. The Canaanite religions and spiritual practices were so disgusting and socially contagious in their earthly impact, that God demanded that men, women, children and even animals of the seven cultures that dwelt in Israel were to be eliminated. If that does not give us a clear picture of how to think of such practices, nothing will.

Then I ask an open question. I do not claim to have an authoritative answer to this question, but I know which way I tend to fall when I give it a lot of thought. My question is: Would the Almighty Ever Living and Ever Loving God of heaven and Earth make such practices a capital offence if they did not work?

Saul understandably collapsed with fright and fear. His strength had literally expired. He had starved all day because of his fear. That which he feared had come to upon him.

In verse 21 the stereotypical aged hag with the crooked nose and pointed hat image is shattered. The witch, it seems, turns out to be an empathetic and kindly natured carer towards Saul. Or was she trying to ameliorate her fear of what Saul might do to her because of what he had been told? “I have done what you asked” she says. She then bids him rest and eat. He refuses. Both she and the two servants of the king encourage him to eat and he concedes. We have the dreadful truth that the king would not submit and obey God’s instructions, yet would both submit and obey a witch.

Saul left in disguise, in shock, and probably emotionally and intellectually numb. He rode off to die a soldier’s death.

6RSSa2

I don’t really know why, but my mental picture of Saul leaving Endor to fight a battle after just being told that he and his sons will die, and Israel fall into the hands of the Philistines makes me think of the anguish and futile despair of many thousands arriving at this place of hell.

Categories: 1 Samuel 28:3-24, An incredible Taboo broken by Saul., Bothered and Bewildered., The Ghost of Samuel?, The King of Fearful Thinking., The witch of Endor. | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kingmaker, Kingmaker, Make us a King

In God‘s Own National Lottery, Saul Ben Kish – It Could be  … Eh? It Should be You!
(1 Samuel 10:17-27)
A Yeminite Rabbi named Abram. Photograph taken 1935

A Yeminite Rabbi named Abram. Photograph taken 1935

Without any indication of calendar dates or  passage of time, Samuel called the entire nation, once again, to Mizpah.  Despite the fact that it was to procure a King of the very character that the people had desired, what Samuel called was not a political convention but a holy convocation.  Here we have Samuel, seeking to solicit the national recognition of incipient kingship on the “country yokel” that God Himself had chosen. This is the day, and the very moment that the last embers of the old Jewish Theocracy were smoldering away into extinction.  The day had arrived when the whiners were to have their way, as granted by gracious Yahweh.  The rejection of Israel’s Divine King was public, ungrateful, widespread and very willful.

There is not so much as a vague inference as to how much time had passed after Saul’s “private” anointing before the prophet burst into action to, “go public,” with it all  As far as the Bible is concerned, the text informs us that Saul arrived home on that day previous, and refused to tell his family the full transcription of Samuel’s prophetic word to him. The  very next sentence says baldly and boldly “And Samuel called the people together to Yahweh at Mizpah”
Samuel rose victorious.  It was a noble freedom from jealousy, like that of John the Baptist, when he looked upon his successor saying, “He must increase, but I must decrease!” It was grace, the like of which the world does not often see.  But this characteristic, now marked Samuel’s future course.  By a great act of self denial, Samuel now becomes even greater.  If Saul was head and shoulders above the nation physically, in character, Samuel was a mountain compared to the gentle grassy knolls, the flat plains, or ever the deep valleys, of the character of the masses.
The lifelong career of Samuel screams to us concerning the strength and alertness that comes from a life filled with implicit and immediate obedience to the word of God.  To find one’s self wholly opposed to prevailing currents of thought and feeling is to become helpless and despondent, excepting, of course, when the human spirit rests upon nothing but the Word of God and the revelation therefrom.  And such a revelation had been Samuel’s bread and butter for decades.
A Jewish man from Spain. 1920

A Jewish man from Spain. 1920

This rejection of God, mediated by rejection of Samuel, was reprehensible though tolerated. It was not a mere frantic impulse that had taken possession of the nation’s heart, nor had the petty orations of a renegade politician aroused the people to a spiritual revolution.  This was a case of a definite, fixed purpose, arising from, and settling with, the masses.  God frequently permits nations to have their own way, to pursue their own plans, and thus throw themselves away from the charts and maps of Divine Providence, they are soon loosed into a wild ocean, until they are wrecked upon divinely foreseen reefs, rocks and shallow, dangerous waters.  The people had asked for a King.  Here at Mizpah they were to receive exactly what they asked for.

It was, however a good thing that they at least came to Samuel in their lust to overthrow the divine rule.  The usual oriental style of massacre, riot and occupy was not resorted to.
This rejection affected Samuel as an awesome disappointment.  It was an insult to Him.  The people, in their demand for a King had told him in the bluntest possible way of the unfitness of his own sons to be their leaders.  By his God instructed action, he was forced to reluctantly  agree with that sad statement.  In instructing the nation, he had not been so faithful in instructing his own, “flesh and blood” children.
In the midst of all this Samuel was judicious, brave, humble and selfless.  We see here, as we stare at, and study Samuel, that Godly men sometimes have to do things against their judgement and better wishes.  Occasionally, the man of God must yield to the demands of the faithless and the wicked.  And in so doing he is not disobeying God.  Samuel does all he can in obedience to the same Lord that chose Saul, to install him into the office invented for him by the people that cried, “Give us a king!” as soon as was possible.
We need to note firstly that as the masses of Israel came together, that hundreds of thousands, if not a couple of million people came, not having a clue as to what was to transpire, or how the days were to conclude in the sacred assembly called by the prophet of God.  No one knew.  Apart, that is, from Samuel, Saul and Yahweh Himself. Saul, apart from remembering the anointing oil that Samuel pored over him, would not, of course known how the screenplay of this moment was to play out.
The supernatural prophetic word shared with Saul in private was an absolute declaration of what God was going to do.  For Samuel to simply stand up in public and say, “This is what God told me,” was not enough to conclude the elevation of a man to the high office of “Yahweh’s anointed.”  What was needed now, in equally as supernatural a manner, was for the general public to see and understand that God had chosen the man who was to be their anointed king.
Perhaps in the call to the national convention, Samuel had explained his mode of selection.  I think it more than likely he had done so.  You see, the mode of a publicly open selection was, what is referred to in scripture and in historical writings as, “The Sacred Lot”.  Yes folk’s, we are talking about a Sacred National Lottery! A one off! The Jackpot was the crown of Israel.
 Shlomo from the Yemen 1935

Shlomo from the Yemen 1935

We do not mean to infer that everybody bought a ticket and whoever’s number or numbers were called was given the throne of Israel – not at all!  As we shall see as we plough through the text, it was a little more dignified than that.  But in announcing that there would be a sacred lot,  it would have undoubtedly driven the entire nation to its knees. “Lord let it be me!”  would have been the cry heard in heaven from every home across the twelve tribes. “It could be you!” would have been every mother’s encouragement to the son’s of their love.

If we are properly aware of the use of the sacred lot in the epoch of which we are examining, we shall be hit, full in the face, with the solidly based conclusion that Samuel’s private and mysterious meeting with Saul was nowhere near sufficient for the full , majestic destiny of Saul to be installed as king – but Yahweh Himself would establish the fact so that none could doubt His sovereign choice in a National assembly, where all the elders were participants in the sacred prayers and lottery that was to not only validate Samuel’s secret prophecy to Saul, but validate Saul’s induction to the nation as their first monarch.  Whether Saul was loved or hated, accepted or rejected by people, nobody would be able to say that he was there by error.  All would have to say, “It was the choice, and the anointed of Yahweh,” that was king.
See also that they were called, “to Yahweh.”  It was a meeting with God that they were hailed to.  It was God’s issue to resolve, not Samuel’s. We are not discussing a political cabinet meeting, but a religious,  spiritual summit.
Mizpah  was a place of rich memories to both Samuel and the nation.  The lottery was probably to be finalised by means of the Urim and the Thummin.  By this, each choice that arose could be asked for a, “Yes,” or a, “No,” answer.  The Urim and Thummin would then vindicate the outcome as, “of God.”
However, exactly how the “lots” were taken is not stated.  To give credence to the scholarship of others, it may have been by throwing tablets as per Joshua 18:6 and 8, or even by drawing from a vessel or an urn as per Numbers 33:54.  The word used in 1 Samuel is consistent with the Urim and Thummin or the drawing from the urn. I feel confident in holding to it being the Urim and Thummin on the grounds of the scripture saying later that Samuel caused them to, “be brought forward”.  Suggesting that acceptance or rejection was made on the act of stepping forward.
Before proceeding to the election, Samuel, in order to clear his heart, has to once again bear his soul felt grief that such a meeting had to even be called.  Note, that even though he had already spoken to the man that was to be king and told him he would be so, the prophet is still sensitive to the very heart of God and knows that it is a concession to the hard hearted call of the people of Israel, that a king after their own heart, and a character such as they would approve of, was about to be selected by  a very compassionate God.
The contents of Samuel’s address, depending which translation of scripture one reads of course, could be accurately translated into one long sentence.  I am sure it is a summary to what was probably quite a lengthy sermon.
The People Know What They Want

The People Know What They Want

The nation sat and listened like war-time Britain would have listened to Churchill’s inspirational monologues:

“This is what Yahweh, the God of Israel  has said.  I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all the kingdoms that are were oppressing you: and you have this day rejected your God who is Himself your Saviour out of all your evils and your distresses, and you have said unto him, “No! Set a king over us.”  Now therefore station and present yourselves before Yahweh by your tribes, and by your thousands.”
If we understand it correctly, if Urim and Thummin were used, for speed and accuracy, elders from each tribe would step forward with a rod, a banner, or some symbolic artefact for each tribe. Whether the Urim and Thummin were consulted in the open for the masses to see, or within some enclosure with only the leaders of the nation watching intently is conjecture, as is the very issue of them being used.  I rather fancy that the entire nation would have been within view of the natural amphitheatre that is present at Mizpah in Benjamin, otherwise the integrity of the national knowledge that, “God chose the king,” would be impaired.
The scripture states: “Samuel brought near the whole tribes of Israel.”  One by one the tribes were highlighted and either by prayer, or even possibly by the stones responding of themselves as they stepped forward a “Yes!” or a “No!”  “Affirmative!” or “Negative!” as modern parlance would dictate, would have been understood by the onlookers.  It could not be seen, or even thought to have been of Samuel’s subjective selection, as if, “God told Samuel.”  Not that the people did not trust Samuel in that regard, but it was to be seen, to the satisfaction of the masses, that this was God Himself speaking and selecting.
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Of the twelve, all received a rejection, accept the tribe of Benjamin.  I wonder if Samuel was sweating, or laid back about it all.  The celebrated Young’s Literal Translation, says simply, “and the tribe of Benjamin was captured”.

The eleven other tribes were reduced somewhat to the excitement of spectators to the rest of the proceedings.  The tensions throughout Benjamin, the smallest tribe in the nation, would have been enormous.  At this point, the organising stewards would have brought in the heads of all the clans within the tribe of Benjamin. We are not told whether there were many or few in this second line of selection.  The same steps were taken, as with the tribes. “The family of Matri was taken.”  We have a mystery here.  Who on earth is Matri?  In none of the Benjamite family lines in scripture does the name appear.  Most scholars declare their ignorance as to why “Matri” is even mentioned.  One particular scholar (there is always one) is clever enough to suggest that the Hebrew letters for Matri could be a slight corruption of the Hebrew letters for “Bikri” in 1 Chronicles 17:8. We leave this remark for you to ponder, as we excitedly move on to the next level of the draw.
“Saul the son of Kish was taken” Now you might label me pedantic, but this is a letdown to me.  I am expecting the household of Kish to be selected next.  Perhaps it was, and the writer considered it irrelevant. Or perhaps he was trying to save ink and vellum and just miss it out.  Who knows?  But we have amazingly, miraculously, and supernaturally arrived at the same selection as Samuel’s prophetic word heard with his spiritual ears from Yahweh Himself. 
Saul hiding among the stuf

Saul hiding among the stuf

Israel now had a king who had visibly, in the open view of the entire nation, been chosen by God Himself.  Nobody but Saul himself, Samuel and the elders that were in Naioth when they had the sacred meal earlier, knew who “Saul the son of Kish” was, or had ever met the man.

As we are talking about taking lots, I hope it is legitimate and appropriate to say that, if I was a betting man, I would bet that, although the elders at Naioth had met Saul at the meal that day while he was looking for his three donkeys, none of them knew what Saul and Samuel were discussing, or why Saul was given the top seat at the banquet!
We have the name and address given by god Almighty stating who Israel’s first king is.  So where was he?  “Let’s have a look at him!” was the cry.
This, of course, informs us that the lot was made over lists or symbols of each individual, rather that using the urim and thummin with the people themselves standing before Samuel and/or the elders.
But where is he? Where is the man who was born to be king?
The nation wants to see what they have got themselves into!  Who is it that will rule over them?  Like the ushers, calling for the next character to the witness box in a court of law, all over the large mass of people could be heard: “Call Saul ben kish!!”  “Call Saul ben Kish!”  Call Saul son of Kish!”  
But there was no reply from anywhere in the camp. 
Now such was the solemnity of the moment, and such was the anticipation of the people, and such was the need for Samuel to present the king to the nation, that when he could not be seen, they did not feel it appropriate to simply organise a search. The Bible says, “Therefore they enquired of Yahweh, further, if the man should yet come forward”. 
Now, I don’t know about you, but this seems awfully strange.  Why should they ask if the man should step forward?  This is where access to multiple versions is preferred.  The best translation that makes sense says:  “Has the man come here?”  In other words, “Is Saul ben Kish in the camp? Or was he so convinced he did not have a chance to be king, that he stayed home?”
Whether or not the answer came by a prophetic word to Samuel, or some other prophet amongst the people, we can but conject.  A word came that was so far in advance of an open, “affirmative” or, “negative,” that it seems it must have been a prophetic insight given to a seer or prophet.  Samuel’s school’s of the prophets were undoubtedly present, so a resource for prophetic input was there on tap.
Samuel judging his people

Samuel judging his people

And the LORD answered, he has hidden himself among the stuff.” “The stuff” is normally understood by all translators and scholars to mean the baggage, the tents, the wagons and the donkeys.  Whether working, or at rest, that is where the future king was.

Now I have heard sermon after sermon that derides Saul for being where he was, and occasionally, one that considered Saul being absent from the draw as an acquiescence to his future by faith.  I think it was a positive thing that Saul was “among the stuff.”
God does not despise the humbler circumstances of life.  I believe Saul’s modesty, at this point of his life, is worthy of observation.  Few men would run from kingship.  Its pageantry would suit pride too easily, and pride is so commonly on the throne of people’s hearts that few would turn from it. The kingly sceptre, the universal symbol of kingly power and authority, would meet the ambition of nearly every person that has ever lived, and its flattery would suit their weakness.  Saul must have known what was coming, because he had had too many supernatural insurgences to doubt that he was the chosen of God.  Far from disqualifying him, the humble work may have added important qualifications for the higher service.

I think it is safe to assume that apart from the natural humility of Saul, Samuel’s explanation of the situation to Saul in the previous chapter would have included words of deprecation of the people’s desire to have a visible human king.  I think that it is  possible that this was the first moment the weight of it all had landed on Saul’s shoulder.  After all, there was a massive number of people there.  A nation!  I remember at school, confidently and nonchalantly learning my few lines  for the school play and saying, “Here goes nothing”, and then being close to fainting when, while peeping through the curtain,  I saw the faces of the masses who I would have to address from the stage. Suddenly, what had been initially received with a light heart became grave, serious, and extremely weighty.  A man of God, even of Samuel’s stature, is sometimes at a loss to know how far his co-operation with what seems to him to be the best policy possible to succeed, but which still falls below his ideal, makes him responsible for the defects of that policy or system.  It is sometimes difficult to decide which systems or organisations, or policy, are fundamentally evil and those systems wherein the evil is but incidental and simply created because of the characters within the scenario. 
Samuel's parish from Dan to Beersheba.

Samuel’s parish from Dan to Beersheba.

Note clearly, that the best way for the young person who feels himself fitted for a higher place than he now occupies, is to make himself so conspicuously useful where he is, that when the people begin searching among the stuff, they will find him head and shoulders above the rest of his companions.  The hiding of good men would thereby become difficult.

Saul was to make himself, for the first few years, an excellent king.  He proved himself as a fearsome, courageous, valiant leader and warrior after he had been drawn forth from his farming existence.  Here, he undoubtedly hid himself with a feeling of unworthiness.  He obviously hid himself with good intentions.  Good intentions are only good when they are followed by actions.  Many want to be rich without work, wise without learning, and world famous without a passport.  He undoubtedly hid because of his own self doubts and self questioning. Saul was not a well educated thinker, political leader, or spiritual man.
“And they ran …”  The people were in awe of the unknown personage they had just witnessed as being selected by Almighty God.  They were in a hurry to see what he looked like!  I should think so too! “ … and fetched him forward.” What, I hope, is a sanctified imagination, sees the people running among the baggage shouting at the folks there, “Which one of you is Saul ben Kish ben Matri ben Benjamin?”  And then, as per mob rule, without thought or study, once they heard anybody whimpering, respond with, “Eh!, That’s me!” just grabbing him and whisking him away on the shoulders of the mob leaders without so much as a moment’s hesitation, to see the nature of the face of their future king.
“And when he stood among the people, he was higher than any of the people from his shoulders and upward”.  Everything that is said about Saul would normally have been considered good grounds for youthful vanity.  But, in the beginning, it just is not there.  Saul is a kingly youth both internally and externally. The folks would have had several minutes, perhaps even longer of embarrassingly stopping to stare at the young man who now embodied all their dreams of fame, stardom, power, authority, political leadership and the entire package of gifting and abilities that they sought.  It would have been extremely difficult for anybody to match the image.

 

The stone altar at Gilgal

The stone altar at Gilgal

And Samuel said to all the people, “See him whom Yahweh has chosen, that there is none like him among all the people?”   It was true he was taller and very kingly.  The general consensus approved.  However long it took for the beauty competition type of ogling , staring and wondering, is not stated.  Like when a little boy meets Alan Shearer or a little girl meets Ginger Spice.  The flesh and blood reality of the person creates awe.  “They’re just like me!”  they feel.  And yet it is those mysterious areas where, “they are different from me!” that awe is created.  But by his walk, his size, his manner, his speech … by the image and impact of those opening moments of high profile visibility, the spontaneous response of the people was positive.  And all the people shouted, and said, “God save the king”  That’s why folks in England make such a cry.  It’s a biblical thing.  God save, and keep prospering the king.  If he prospers, so do we.

At the end of this historic day, Samuel published a book. “Samuel told the people the manner of the kingdom, and wrote it in a book.”  I would have thought the book had already been written and he merely delivered its contents to the people.  Young’s Literal Translation says he told them the, “right” of the kingdom. 
My understanding is that Samuel explained the authority and parameters of the king, and the parameters of the subjects.  I have no doubt that there would have been a few, “You shall not’s,” in the whole thing.  But Samuel was the man to deliver it, and while the masses sat with mouths agog staring at Saul, on the “platform,” next to the aged Samuel, I feel sure I am correct in holding to the opinion that the quality of listening would not be at its sharpest.  People would have been more acutely aware of the moment!  “Wow! We’ve got our own king” Just like the Philistines, and the Amorites!  We have our own King!”
Nebi Samuel. Samuel's tomb.

Nebi Samuel. Samuel’s tomb.

“… And laid it up before the LORD”.  The meaning of this being that either in his own home at the Naioth, or with the sacred Ark that was still at the Philistine border town of Beth Shemesh with the accoutrements of the Ark of the Covenant, the book was placed in a position of easy, but holy access. The book was laid up before the Lord.  In it would have been undoubtedly the statements that demanded total obedience to the law and covenant with God no matter how many kings they were to have, or who was king.

And Samuel sent all the people away, every man to his house.  Class dismissed!  The issues were over.  The king chosen, the constitution, such as it was, had been read.  There was nothing but the afterglow of an amazing history changing day.  There was a whole generation who went home knowing that future generations would have loved to have been there.  Like Kennedy’s assassination, or the first landing on the moon, or Martin Luther King’s march on Washington, there was nothing but the warm and vivid residue of the memory of what it looked like, smelled like and sounded like.
So! Let’s get something straight here.
This is just for the writers and illustrators of children’s books.  So often we see Saul in a big majestic palace.  So often the concept is portrayed which is too boringly consistent with our own western, or twenty-first century perception of royalty, and the clippings of power.  What does the book say:  “And Saul also went home to Gibeah.”   What? Gibeah?  That’s where the farm is!  That’s where the three donkeys are that got lost!  That’s where the manure needs to be cleared out once a day, and the cows need milking, and the fields need ploughing! Is that where our new king returns to?  Exactly right!  No coronation, note!  We shall discuss this in a later context. Samuel was not released in his heart to have a public coronation and celebration of the kingship of the man that now held the post of, “King!”  Nothing further was said or initiated.  No secretaries of state or palace building projects were in anyway suggested.  He was chosen, the people were happy, and so they were sent home to their routine.  The Sacred National Lottery winner himself, even, returned to the routine of farming life, such as it was circa 1000 B.C.
Where the Ark of the covenant went.

Where the Ark of the covenant went.

There was however one vital bit of intelligence we have, that tells us things were incipiently new.  The Bible says: and there went with him a band of men, whose hearts God had touched.

Numbers?   Not told!  Characters?  No description!  Ability’s? For the moment, not important!  Motives? Not a clue apart from their “hearts that God had touched.”The impact of this remarkable statement is that Saul came alone, and hid amongst the stuff alone, but now went home with a following. Nobody can be a leader, until they have a following.
Somehow, even after having stated that God had not approved of the action of the people in calling for a king, in the midst of it all, God had predeterminedly touched some people’s hearts to attach themselves to the new king he had chosen. These were men who would make sure that the king of Israel was treated like a king, and lived like a king.  The fact that these were people whose heart God had touched, suggest that God had ordained and set into action all those whom God considered ideal for the future running of whatever sort of Royal Court, Saul was going to set up.  It was a band, i.e. a team that worked together.  These were men initiated and propelled into their relationship with the new king by God himself.
Was everybody happy?  Is there ever such a scenario?
But the children of Belial said, “How shall this man save us?”
The day the Ark came back to Israel.

The day the Ark came back to Israel.

Sons of Belial means, quite literally, “sons of the devil.”  It’s a synonym for a gang of nasties.

They saw Saul, and said “No!”  There are always the cynics, the “neggo’s,” and those who are jealous of others success and rising to authority and prosperity.  Whether it was the richer Jews, who considered themselves better equipped to have been king.  Whether it was the, “down and outs” of Israel who thought, “He’s already got a job!”  This is a global syndrome in the hearts of all mankind. No explanation is offered.  I think perhaps they would have been many of the whingers who wanted a king in the first place, and were decidedly jealous that they themselves had not even got near the selection.   
Whoever they were, whatever their motives, and in whatever manner their protest was seen, it registered with the masses.  Later, as we shall see, when Saul’s support was at its peak, many Israelites wanted those who had despised the choice of Saul at this point in time, to be executed.  No political correctness there. The tribal and clan leaders of the masses obviously expressed some sort of obeisance and gave the new king, gifts as a sign of submission.  But these moaners and rebels despised him, and brought no present’s
Saul noted this.  But in the flush of faith, divine selection, and national thanksgiving by the vast majority, he exercised kingly majesty and largeness of thought.  He held his peace. 
Saul said nothing and imparted no opinion by look or by word, by delegation or symbolic gesture.  The King did as kings are often wise to do.  He held his peace and put down the passing moment’s observation into the brain compartment that we refer to as “Experience.”
Without track record, without even the knowledge of whether or not he was a good farmer, Saul ben Kish was now King Saul the First of Israel.  Could he fight?  Could he lead an army?  Could he command respect and loyalty?  Would the masses follow him? Nobody knew. All Samuel knew about him was that he was a big eater, and that he was not very good at finding lost donkeys.
God help Israel.  It is unthinkable to even suggest that Samuel did not go home praying even more intensely than normal about Saul and the national welfare of the twelve tribes. Samuel, Saul and the masses returned to their normal routines, while Samuel was interceding with the Almighty to show Israel and the king what to do and how to do it.
It was a scary moment in Israel’s history.
The sacred Ark of the Covenant.

The sacred Ark of the Covenant.

Categories: 1 Samuel 10:17-27, Israel's National Lottery for a king already chosen | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Foolish Wise Old Man

Is passivity ever right?

(1 Samuel 3:15–18)

7 to the Synagogue

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

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

No Greater Love Than a Mother Laying Down Her Son

NO GREATER LOVE THAN A MOTHER LAYING DOWN HER SON.

Where the Rubber Hits the Road on the Issue of Sacrifice.

(1 Samuel 1:24 – 2:11)

Samuel Dedicated by Hannah at the Temple by Frank W.W. Topham

Paintings of the moment Hannah presented Samuel to Eli are rife on the net. I find this one, especially when it is enlarged particularly beautiful and touching. As with most of them, it is a very sanitised perspective of the scene.

Sham! Fake! Double standards!  Most religions, Christianity included, are bound to have some double standards in their adherents.  Why?  Because they believe in perfection; and “poifict day ain’t!”  Christians believe in living like Christ.  But the deeper in Christ most people get, the more they realise they fall short- to put ot mildly.

I am not in position to make sweeping statements about “religion.”  I do not consider myself religious.  I am a Christian.  Christianity demands we love Christ.  I passionately believe in the teaching of the Bible.  But I’m not “there” yet.  Is that shameful?  I suppose it is by the worlds standards. The language used by the New Testament is the application of being, “crucified with Christ,” and reckoning myself, “dead to sin.”

We are talking of Christlike living that puts God first; others after Him, and very definitely yourself as last on the list.  I see it.  I strive for it.  But I don’t live as I see it!  Fake? I feel it sometimes! But I had rather call myself a fighter. I am fighting to reach a place in God that is utterly consistent with what Christian mystics refer to as, “The Surrendered Life.” If we had a mere hundred people who were living up to that sort of principle it would be a case of, “Watch out world, here comes the kingdom of God?”  But, without patronising my readers, you don’t need me tell you that the sort of living we are talking about is an ongoing process of change. It is a process that painfully few have made a mark on the world with.  This means that while “the Process” is still “in progress” our shortcomings become very much more acutely painful.

The syndrome runs like this:  I start life, “happy” being selfish.  Then somebody points me to Christ, the life of faith and the crucifixion of self.  I see it to some degree and commit myself to the change and a life of faith.  The more I trust, the more I see.  But what I see is always a little ahead of where I am, like a torch pointed along the foot path.  So I am constantly improving, yet constantly seeing so plainly how un-Christlike I am.  Painful, Eh? I glimpsed ten feet ahead of my position yesterday, but having progressed ten feet forward today, I realize that I am so short of my goal that there is 30 more feet in my vision today. Any rate of progress is satisfying. And consciousness of falling short is so dastardly unsatisfying. So, as I follow Christ as faithfully as I know, I am constantly filled with an unsatisfiable satisfaction. I mean by this that I am totally satisfied in having a living relationship with Jesus Christ, yet unsatisfied with my shortcomings and failures, especially those that I know about and nobody else has a clue about.

So when we see somebody who is miles further along the path of obedience than most, it dazzles the eyes. We are saying all this to point an envious finger at “Hannah.”  I am glad she is not in my church.  I would feel so unholy all the time. So, in the safety of being three thousand years distant from her, come with me and examine what is going on in her mind and spirit and the impact it had on her first born son at the very point of sacrifice.  Yes!  To study her at the very moment of loss.  What we are here examining is the whites of Hannah’s eyes, and the tone of voice, together with the expression on her face at the dot of time where the transaction’s cost is made, and she crosses God’s palm (as it were) with the coinage of heaven.  That will tell us so much more about this woman.

We move forward to the juncture of time where we have a beautiful God loving little lad of three years of age, or thereabouts.  We see a picture of a woman in relationship with God.  In her bosom is a concept of “religion” that beggars the thoughts of a lot of people in the twenty-first century.  “Religion is all right in it’s place,” say some.  They don’t understand that God fills every place.  “Religion and politics must stay apart, “say others.  They cannot perceive that over fifty percent of the Old Testament consists of prophets speaking to kings, dethroning them, crowning them and telling some of them what they should do next, and then they even define Government policy. “Religion must not interfere with my own family.”  The people that say this are those who are painfully confronted here with a concept that ridicules modern rationalisation of the claims of Christ on our lives and all that we have.  The entire substance of Christianity was birthed through a series of historical events that encapsulated the quintessence of sacrifice.  Those series of events are the Christian’s creed.  God Almighty was born of a virgin.  That’s sacrifice.  He willfully gave up His life in the most painful fashion on our behalf.  That’s sacrifice.  Because of that depth and purity of His sacrifice, He descended into hell on our behalf; He was raised from the dead; He ascended on high.  He is now seated at the right hand of the Father.  All this is the sacrifice, and the fruits of that sacrifice, made by the Lord Jesus Himself   Should Christians be any less moved to sacrifice?

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Long before the Son of God was incarnate, He moved upon Hannah with concepts of sacrifice that tear at our heart strings.  She had promised to give up her only son before a son was conceived.  Note how the bible delights in domestic scenes.  Christianity is kitchen and living room stuff; none of your fine religious Cathedral ambience. The deal had been “closed,” as it were, the day she had prayed like a, “drunken woman,” in the sight of Eli.  She had settled the issue in her heart.  Sacrifice must start in the heart and the will.  Once it is settled there, the case is closed.  There will be performance of what has been promised and committed, and that performance may be moments or even years later.  The issue however is settled in the will first.  But that does not mean that like some robotic machine she hands over her offspring with an automatic button without any emotion – in fact quite the opposite is true. The transaction is done best when the loss, no matter how great that loss is, ceases to be a loss.  In fact the loss needs to be seen as a gain. Only when one sees the, “loss,” as a, “gain,” has one truly sacrificed as Christ sacrificed Himself.

The bible text displays how this truly became so with Hannah. (Just jumping ahead a little bit, if you keep your eyes open you will see that a piece of this attitude rubbed off onto little Sammy. Just watch what he does as his mother presents him to Eli.) Samuel is now weaned and happily running around on his two feet. Whether or not Hannah waited for the annual fulfillment of her husband’s vow, or whether she went as soon as she had finished the weaning, we are not told.  Breastfeeding having ceased, she took the little lad along with her to Shiloh.  There was an entourage of three bullocks (one for each year?), a sack of flour, and a bottle of wine. Elkanah too!  We know that she travelled with Elkanah, for at the end of the dedication – where Elkanah is strangely silent – he escorts his wife home.

Because of the nature of the mother’s vow, her free volition acted on, and the song of delight recorded for us in First Samuel chapter two, we can only believe Hannah was contented.  There must have been, at the very least, a slight trepidation on her part for the future of her little treasure, but deep joy in obedience to her faith, her conscience and her promise. The scripture says that “the child was young.”  The word translated “child”, is the same word translated “young”.  We would say “the child was a child”.  In other words with all the serious environment of prayer, vows and offering to God, the lads childlike – indeed childish –nature, was in no way impaired. In modern parlance: Samuel was not a lone religious “weirdo”. Think of how you would have presented the case to such a little lad. He was there because she asked God for him. That would have been her explanation for his name.  He was to be a Nazarite that was her explanation for no cutting of the hair, and no attendance at funerals. “You really are God’s child, Sammy!”  That was the case as to why she was going to take him to Shiloh very soon.  In the midst of all this, the “child was still a child”.

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Perhaps it also means that Samuel was full of childlike and childish graces.  No cultish stuff here. Children can receive the stuff that makes men and women of God and still stay sweet and innocent.  God is the most exciting Persona in the universe.  It is He who invented the concept of excitement and thrill. Samuel knew lots about God and His call, and being special in His sight. He knew especially what it was to be loved and wanted, and to love and to want other people’s love. He had drunk the language and spirit of such concepts from his mother’s breast.

As Mozart was ahead of the world in his capacity to make music, Samuel, it seems, was ahead of  the world in his willful determination to love, serve and worship Yahweh. Although it is light years away from modern educational concepts of, “comparative religions,” and, “environmental responsibility,” together with, “good citizenship,” Samuel turned out, “Very nicely, thank you!”

With probably the most fundamental biblical education anybody has ever received, they (assuming Elkanah was not absent from the scene) sacrificed a bullock and brought the lovely and loving child to Eli. There is no Mrs Eli mentioned in the entire volume. Did anybody assist him in the rearing of Samuel?

Obviously Eli was married at some point of time; he had two sons. And more obviously, there must have been others working around the tent in Shiloh. There would have been other priests besides the infamous Hophni and Phinehas, for we are told that their “servants” were ordered by them to take the meat unlawfully from the sacrifices that people made.  We know there were women that attended the tent, for we are told the Eli’s two sons slept with some of them.

Shiloh is labelled in scripture as a city.  Even if there were only a few hundred living there, it meant that there were families. In the face of all these facts, however, we are not told of anybody else having dealings with Samuel apart from Eli. Eli, like any minister of religion, must have met many thousands of people, throughout the years, who spoke to him perhaps once, and who at a second meeting expected him to recall all that had transpired betwixt them.  Hannah however, doubtless aware of the man’s failing faculties, reminds his aged “forgettery” of the circumstances of the one and only meeting thus far between the two of them. There is the suggestion, of course, that when she says, “I am the woman who stood by you here, praying to the Lord,” that she rationally expects him to remember. Perhaps the nation was so backslidden that praying before the Lord’s Tabernacle was not commonly seen. Perhaps it was the praying of women that was rare. I find that hard to swallow however, inasmuch as, my experience, and the reported experience of many men of God that I know from around the world, is that women are usually in the majority of participators when it comes to intercession and devotional prayer.

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It must have been a pleasant shock to Eli’s system if he did recall the occurrence. At the time it happened, some four years earlier, he had not been told what the woman was praying for, and she had prayed silently. She had prayed; he had blessed her. He had pronounced the fulfillment of her prayer. He had spoken the heart of God, consciously or not. And what he had pronounced had occurred. “Therefore I have lent him to the Lord.” Eli now had a helper. But how long for? “As long as he lives he shall be lent to the Lord.” Eli had a helper for the rest of his natural. “Lent” is not the best translation. “I have, “given,” him back to Him who,“gave” him to me”, is better.

Now we have the first outline of the sketch that the bible gives us of Samuel’s nature and character.  The book states simply: “ and he worshipped the Lord there.” I suppose it is vaguely possible that the phrase could be referring to Eli, but in the wider context of the thrust of what is being said, it seems much plainer to perceive that the, “he,” is referring  to, “little Sammy.” So; picture the scene!  We have at least three people in a group together before the Tabernacle. Eli, Hannah, and Samuel. Elkanah is not mentioned. Hannah having presented him, Eli having accepted him; Samuel starts to worship. The little boy must have been happy at the thought of his new home. There is not the slightest hint as to the nature of his worship.  Did he sing?  Did he dance? Did he fall on his knees in prayer?

We should remember he was three years old plus – that may restrain our imagination a little in the secular twenty-first century world. But we should also take note that the concepts of God and worship put into this lad, as with most children of Godly homes in Old Testament times, would have meant that he had a greater understanding of the essence of worship in his childhood and youth, than most people have, these days, in adulthood. This should give much more free rein to the picture in our mind’s eye of the worshipping little boy, Samuel.  Whether Samuel’s worship was in a way familiar to us or not, the scriptures, in stating, “he worshipped,” acknowledges it as true and pure worship.

Hannah bringing Samuel to Eli

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The chapter breaks in the Bible are an artificial separation created in the eleventh century by a French priest in an attempt to make referencing scripture much easier. I think we should be thankful for what he did. Too often, however, when reading the bible, chapter breaks are made where the text actually suggests there should be none. The commencement of First Samuel chapter two is surely one of those such unwarranted breaks.

While Hannah was giving her most precious possession, in fear and trembling, to God, via old Eli, and while Eli was undoubtedly standing there, eyes agog at the worshipping new ward that was being put into his care, his mother broke out into praise. The chapter break could hide this. Considering the brevity of the life story of Samuel, and especially his upbringing, and the economy of words used in scripture, the length of the prayer as recorded in those first ten verses of chapter two are remarkable.  It is a song of delight.  A song of freedom!  A song of prosperity after suffering hardship; rainfall after a drought. Hannah was joyful to put it mildly.

The words of this prayer are to some degree repeated when Mary became pregnant with Christ. Those facts suggest most strongly that we are standing on holy ground when we read Hannah’s song.  We cannot but be touched by the grounds of deep thankfulness toward God. She suffered, she prayed, she received, she returned the gift back to God. This is a song from her experience. From the depths of despair, she arose to the heights.

The substance of Hannah’s song came to her from long hours of staring at Samuel, loving him, treasuring him, delighting in his company; and then giving him a way to the source of all Life. There is no theoretical theology in her lyric, rather heavy eulogy heaped towards God from the most practical empirical discovery of Yahweh, a discovery made in the enduring of a whole set of negatives thrown at Hannah by the very circumstances of life which were utterly random and totally out of her control. The Spirit of God had somehow revealed much that was to do with His economy, and she made a melodious prayer from it. The wildness of the circumstances that had enmeshed her had given way to a wildness of worship that glorified God in a spiritual “Top C”. It is often referred to as a song. Whether or not Hannah sung it, I cannot comment, but in most English translations it surely reads like a poetic song.  It is as if, at the point of release, and the carrying out of a vow that elevated God to the highest place her heart had to offer, the Spirit of God released her into this peon of praise.

She thanks God for enlarging her and granting her salvation.  She perceives how Holy God really is, through what had happened. She sees His rock like immovableness. She sees the folly of pride. She sees that, “actions are weighed” by God, not just watched.  People see the outside, but God looks on the heart. She sees how God sets people in high places or low. And having set them, He can bring down the mighty, and raise the lowly.  She remarks on the changeableness of life and how it is all overseen by the Almighty hand. Motherhood and the end results of chosen lifestyle are seen and beheld so clearly.  Life and death are in His hands. He can even raise the dead, says she, seeing herself as one that was dead and is now in fullness of life. He makes poverty. He makes wealth.  Inheritances come from him.  He keeps the feet of the righteous from falling.  He is the ultimate judge of everything and everybody.  Heaven was obviously moved to have her song recorded for us.

Hannah Brings Samuel to Eli

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The last line lets the reader know that she was flowing in the same Spirit of prophecy that was, later, to pervade her son to such an awesome degree. She actually says – and remember that Hannah lived about a thousand years before Christ was born- “He shall give strength to His king, and exalt the Horn of His anointed.”  It became true of Samuel towards King Saul, and after, toward King David.  It was prophetically true as he helped prepare the way for the Davidic line, to bring into the world King David’s greater Son.

Something tells me that we only have a much abbreviated prayer, and that the three of them together, Hannah, Eli and Samuel, entered into a longer and more protracted period of worship. What the Bible tells us, however, is enough for us to get a clear picture. “And Elkanah went to Ramah to his house.” So he was definitely in Shiloh while Samuel was being presented. Happy husband? Maybe! Maybe not! But Hannah was deliriously so. She went home, “childless,” again, yet deeply fulfilled. She went home lonely, but satisfied with her own actions. Now she could look Peninnah in the eye if she as much as dared to snipe at this chosen mother in Israel.

This section closes with phrase number two that leads us into Samuel’s heart. It said earlier, “he worshipped”; now it says “and the child ministered unto the Lord before Eli the priest.” What does this mean?  It means he did the running around with the sacrifices and the serving in the Tabernacle and it’s sacrificial system.  He did Eli’s errands for him.  Whatever Eli in his old, rotund, obese, decrepit body could not do, Samuel did, and  in so doing, he delighted the public worshippers by his running and getting, “down and dirty,” for his adoptive father. “He ministered”, meaning he gave of himself to the Lord. “Before Eli,” means he was tutored taught and mentored by the elderly gent who assumed fatherly and elevated status to Samuel.  Eli, amazingly, was Samuel’s Alpha male. Whatever Samuel’s concept was of Eli is warmly coloured in by the fact that when the voice of the Almighty called him four times in a night, some years later, it came with the authority and warmth that suggested to Samuel that it was Eli that was doing the calling. So Eli must have done something right. Or was it just the purity of Samuel’s acceptance of people?

Hannah at home in Ramah. Samuel, “at home,” in Shiloh. Only fourteen miles apart.  That’s Derby to Nottingham in the UK! It’s  Birmingham to Warwick in the English Midlands. It doesn’t sound far does it when we talk of fourteen miles? But six to eight hours? Now, it is London to Rome;  Delhi to Brisbane; Tokyo to San Francisco. It was half way around the world.

Great events have often been initiated by trivial causes. Great men have developed in the most unlikely ways. In Israel at that time, a married woman praying for children might have been more common than we would see today. However, that moment of Hannah’s prayer, and that catching of Eli’s eye, was the very moment of time in which there was a commencement of a great awakening in the history of Israel.  The little lad that was away from his Mum, worshipping and ministering to the Lord, was to prove to be the foundational pivot – the key ingredient of Israel’s return to greatness and glory. The Halcyon days of Israel may be commonly referred to as, “The days of David and Solomon,” but those days could not have happened if it was not for the days of Samuel.  And here was the mighty Samuel of supernatural favour and stature – as a three year old. Everything big starts little.

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For myself, you might have already guessed my feelings about this painting. I think it is a phenomenon. It is by John Singleton Copley, produced in 1780.

Categories: 1 Samuel 1:24 - 2:11, No greater love has any mother than this | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Teaching Concept We All Hate, Don’t Want to Know About and Stick Our Fingers in Our Ears When We Hear It.

The Teaching Concept We All Hate, Don’t Want to Know About and Stick Our Fingers in Our Ears When We Hear It.

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Samuel was conceived, gestated and birthed into a national situation that today we would refer to as a crisis. The twelve tribes were in total disharmony and were dominated by animosity between various clans and tribal advantages or disadvantages. The priesthood was in a weakened state of impotence, being placed in a high profile scandal because of the familial discordance with Eli and his sons. These sons were infamous. Israel, of course, at this time had no king or anointed leader. Most writers refer to Eli as being a Judge before Samuel arrived, yet scripture gives us not the slightest indication of any anointing or move of the Spirit of God in his life. Eli, a judge? In fact, the narrative of 1 Samuel leads us to believe that he should not have been in any kind of leadership as far as the priesthood was concerned. As well as the family trees and genealogies in the Old Testament explaining to the reader that Eli was not a descendant that was in line to be High Priest, he shows no leadership capabilities, no charismatic gifting or dynamism – so much so, he could not even exercise authority in his own home. Everything about him seems to be in a pathetic state of withering. The only medal we can award him, was his prophetic word delivered to Hannah after he had thought her drunk, and later he spoke of her having more children after Samuel. I suppose that was two phenomenally glorious prophetic words.  Well done Eli!

With a spiritually dead priesthood, and a non-existent monarch, there was only one other lack that nearly killed the destiny of Israel off. In those days there was no open vision. There were no prophets standing up and putting things right.  When Samuel began to hear from God and started to develope into a full blown prophet, he was a lone voice. There were no others that we know about, save the nameless prophet who addressed Eli and his lack of parental skills in bringing up Hophni and Phinehas.

The lamp of Israel was flickering and near to failing.

But we cannot forget the mightiness of Yahweh who had called Israel into being. When discussing the things of God it is always folly to depend on the data that the physical eyes feed us with, or what the textbooks and statistics tell us. God Himself was about to turn Israel around and put them together as they had never been put together before. They would become the envied model of unity and prosperity for many of the nations that surrounded them. Samuel was to be the initial human catalyst. This was Samuel’s greatness.

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In the realm of the Spirit, God was about to raise up a man that would think, see and talk like He Himself did. That man was the one we are focussing on, Samuel. Samuel grew up in a desperately low ebb of fortune for the various tribes that were known together as Israel. It would be true to say that Samuel was born in circumstances that would lead many to say that the entire world and its circumstances was in opposition to and militated against his growth, stability and character. Although loved by his mother, he was undoubtedly despised by his father’s other wife and his half brothers and/or sisters. He was placed by his mother into a home where the father of the house was too weak in character, and too aged in body to discipline his wayward sons. How on earth did he bring up Samuel?  He lived in a domicile where selfishness, theft and debauchery were commonplace. On top of this, seemingly, he seems to have grown without any peer group friends. One cannot but get the impression that he was destined to a life of loneliness. Perhaps that was one of the secrets of his greatness. He was born to climb a sheer cliff face of opposition and loss, and still reach the peak.

Samuel was made of strong stuff. How did he see the big picture of the place in which he grew?

All opposition in life should be seen in a context of a challenge to improve us. No matter how useless, purposeless, and negatively damaging circumstances and happenstance may seem to be, we are made to conquer and in so doing, we grow as people. Purposelessness never comes from pain, but thrives in comfort. You can say “Yuk!” as loud as you like and with as much feeling as you like, but that is the bottom line for the whole of humanity. I believe this is true whether one believes in God or claims to be an avowed atheist. Most people turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to this sort of line, but to me it is as ubiquitous as fresh air. It is just a self evident fact of life. We are all made with the capacity to fight against the status quo’s of life. God wants us all to do exactly that.

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Before my readers start writing and complaining about the blandness of such a concept, let me tell you where I come from on this issue. God made man to love Him and walk with Him in faith. Faith is needed because even though God is as personable, and tangibly real as you and I, we cannot see Him. We read what He says and what He is like from scripture, and from that understanding, life is to be lived in the sure knowledge that we are joined with Him through Christ. As Christ conquered in the realm of the spirit, so should we with His strength.

No matter how close we are with God, and no matter how deep our understanding of God is, there are evil things in the world that exist and move with no other reason than to rule mankind and ruin them. Christians get it even worse than others from one direction in particular. The fact is that the world is full of darkness, and the darkness is out to drown us all. Let’s qualify this by trawling through a few statements of the Bible.

“So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” (Revelation 12:9 NKJV). This verse makes a startling statement that we need to assimilate into our overall worldview. Just in case we mistake the subject of this statement for any of my readers, there are four appellations given. 1. The great dragon. 2. The serpent of old.  3. The devil. 4. Satan. I feel sure that all readers are left in no doubt as to the personage concerned with this verse of scripture. It is the ultimate power of evil that Revelation 12:9 refers to.

Satan was cast out of heaven and was clearly seen, by cross referencing the scriptures, to be thrown down onto planet earth. While he is making his home on earth, starting with Adam, and including every person who has lived since (not counting the Lord Jesus Christ) the entire population of the world has lived under a huge deception. We have all been seduced, manipulated and lied to, by Satan himself. Satan’s punishment for pride and arrogance was his being sentenced, intermediately, to exist on earth. This fact is inexorably embedded in the calculation of the people of faith, conquering the devil by their faith. This is the plain straight-forward unarguable teaching of the Bible. The fact that the entire world has been deceived is a huge hook on which to hang our thoughts as we proceed on our pathway of thinking. You and I have lived the early years of our lives in a deception.

Ephesians 2:1 -3 informs us; “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.” We are redeemed from the ghastly fruit of the devil’s deception, but believers always need to be further disabused of the mental and practical impact of the demonic deceptions that fill our lives. Traditionally (and flawlessly) Christians through the ages have referred to these deceptions as, “The world, the flesh and the devil.” These three aspects explain the situation totally and are fully revealed to us in this passage of scripture from Ephesians.

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Before Christians actually become Christians (i.e: before they exercise faith in Christ), they are walking, “according to the course of this world.” The world has a course. Outside of Christ the whole of humanity is running after that course (too often people pursue this course while “in Christ.”). The world has a philosophy and a presence of evil that has a determined course. There is absolutely nothing at all that is positive about walking according to the course of this world. Even the good things, like the scramble for knowledge, health and overall success, turn out to be bad because of its godless outlook and underlying philosophies. Christians talk about some other Christians being “worldly.” It is a sound byte of Christianese meaning that a person has trusted Christ and become a Christian, but is hitherto still living in a way that nobody would guess that they are Christians at all. The apostle John says that we should, “Love not the world.” It is talking of the system, the worldview, the rat race that is the way of the world, together with its lack of sensitivity, as being something that Christians should not be part of. The world clashes with the way a Christian is encouraged to live. These pages are not the place where I want to define the world and where those clashes occur, but rest assured, the truth is that the world and the Christian are juxtaposed in the most naked throes of reality.

The main reason that the world is declared to be evil is because the manner in which the world is, “according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the children of disobedience.” This confronts us with the reality of the devil. The devil and his hordes are referred to as, “the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience.” That is radical, and would no doubt be denied as being, “extreme,” terminology by many Christians – but it is the simple statement of scripture. The devil is the one who prompts us in many ways to disobey God or even deny Him and His ways. The world and the devil are conjoined, yet separate forces. He works within, that is, on the inside of those who live according to the devil’s ways.

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So all of humanity, since the fall of Adam and Eve, were conceived, gestated, born, lived and died in the environment of the world and the devil. There is, however, a third dimension that the scripture informs us of that leads us astray; our own fleshly inclinations. Ephesians 2 talks of the entire mass of humanity that is walking in the direction of the world, flowing according to the way of the devil who was working within us before people had faith in Christ, and then goes on to say that it is, “among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath.” So we have our own internal mechanism that leads us into evil when submitted to. The power of the principle of sin that works within humanity is broken by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The point of Christianity is the offer of following in the train of Christ’s triumph and breaking the power of sin in all its intricate nature. Christianity is to do with the inside primarily  before it starts to impact the outside.

The force of these conjoined triplets is what has the world’s population in its grip. But we must remember that Jesus Christ declared, “I have overcome the world,” as well as saying of the devil, “He has nothing in me.” The scripture also says he defeated sin “in the flesh.” On all three fronts the Christian is facilitated, and has the capacity to overcome the world, the flesh and the devil. The renewing of the mind to enforce a pure walk in the Holy Spirit is to aid us in combating the sin principle within our own flesh, the world on the outside with all its circumstances, philosophies and situations that are created to destroy people, and the very person of the devil himself. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. To be blunt. Christians have no excuse for spiritual or moral weakness.

The devil’s deception of the whole world, as referred to in Revelation 12:9 is in all these three areas of human existence. The world, the flesh and the devil, are all calculated to lead us all in a present lifestyle that leads to pain and sorrow, and straight into hell in the hereafter.

Because of this dreadful and terrorising reality of the human experience, it means that there are forces that are against God and all Christians intending to kill the believer’s faith and commitment to God. The world, the flesh and the devil must not be listened to or entertained. They are not to be parleyed with. It is found to be deadly warfare for Christians who fail in this dimension.

Because of these realities, all obstacles in life are to be met by faith and optimism for God’s power to release them. From Car crashes to sickness, from thought patterns to mental pressure, from circumstances that overwhelm us, to challenges that we enter into willingly or not, everything we encounter in life should be made into part of the character building exercise that God has made for us in this life. Whether situations are God made or devil manipulated, whether a person is in faith or not, whether it is something spiritual or the furthest thing away from anything to do with Christianity or spirituality. All situations should be met with a response that improves us as people. From what we understand from First Samuel, this was the prophet’s attitude to all that life threw at him apart from the rejection of Saul as King of Israel. It seems that Saul’s disobedience was, at one point of time, just too much for Samuel. But more of that, later.

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This writer believes that all things are to be brought under the umbrella of one’s faith in Jesus Christ, and He intends us to conquer by our connection with Him. Our faith is our connection. We shall be the other side of the grave a whole lot longer than we are in this life on this side of the grave. That places this life on the footing of being a kind of probationary period before we pass on to be with Him.  Jesus Christ is what the whole cosmos is about. “By Him, for Him and to Him are all things.” And even when challenges and bad situations seem to be simply benign circumstances that we cannot perceive as being anything spiritual, the Christian addresses him or herself to Christ for deliverance and freedom no matter what. Things that seem as harmless and accidental as running out of wine at a wedding (John 2:1-12), or even not having enough money to pay a legitimate bill, when brought to the attention of Christ can be seen and discerned from an entirely different perspective.

All negatives in life are a challenging negative for us to make a victorious positive out of. And most importantly in this area, even if the physical negative cannot be realistically turned around, as in an amputation through war or car accident, the losing of a loved one to illness or accident, or even suicide, the highly concentrated attack by the world the flesh and the devil to drown the human spirit and cripple the mind is not to be allowed. We are to fight the good fight of faith, and not give place to the devil.

If lack of forgiveness is the largest human problem, and according to volumes of statistics in a thousand different areas we are led to believe that it is – then the biggest negative on the planet is the human response to being mistreated, spitefully used, betrayed and/or abused. This also is to be thwarted by the power of Christ within us, working in the grace of God that is upon us, defeating the world, the flesh and the devil in all situations that we encounter them in.

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Isaiah 25 adds yet another dimension to the deception of the whole world by the devil and his darkness. The twenty fifth chapter of the great prophet starts off by praising God for his faithfulness in keeping to the promises that He had made historically to Israel (verse 1). Things promised long before Isaiah was born, were all being fulfilled before his eyes. He is obviously homing in with his thoughts on the States and cities of heathen godless nations that were violently rampant at that time. Assyria was sinking fast during the days of Isaiah 25 into the oblivion of history. Isaiah talks of cities of empires like Assyria, being made rubble, never to be rebuilt (verse 2). He concludes that some of these godless nations will bow down to Yahweh because of His dealings with them (verse 3), and the prophet exalts God for being  a refuge for the poor and needy, a shelter from the storm in a weary land. He likens the attacks of the ruthless to a storm driving against a wall, or the heat of the son suddenly assuaged by a cloud, meaning that the overall strength of the godless heathen is really powerless and cannot succeed against Israel (verses 4 and 5). This is good and clear in Isaiah’s singular thinking. Then he changes the subject ….or does he?

Isaiah lifts his eyes and takes our breath away with words that are intensely relevant to our issue on this page. My own lengthy paraphrase of what Isaiah sees is as follows:

“In this mountain in Jerusalem, Yahweh Almighty who commands heaven’s armies will spread for all the people of the world a feast of choice rich pieces of food, a wonderful feast of the best wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of the best well-refined and aged wines on the lees. And He will destroy and swallow up on this mountain the surface face of the covering burial shroud of gloom cast over, binding and enfolding all people; as well as the woven sheet, or veil, the shadow of death that is spread over all nations like a sticky web. He will swallow up death in victory forever, and the Lord God will wipe away all the tears from all the faces of the world; the rebuke and shame of His people He will take away from all the earth; For Yahweh has spoken and announced it” (Isaiah 25:6-8 Lannon’s Expanded Version).

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If the breathlessness of the three verses has not rendered you incredulous, I want to place it in the graphic that this chapter and these pages are painting. The prophet is undoubtedly talking of Mount Calvary. A spiritual feast with richness and protein that the world, in Isaiah’s day could simply not comprehend, was to be brought to the world’s dinner table. What Christ was to accomplish at Golgotha was to terminate the hopelessness that satanic power had wrought in the lives of all peoples. This feast, created and initiated by Yahweh of the angel armies, would be premised by the removing of not only the burial face cloth placed over the vision and understanding of the body of the world, but also the entire death shroud and the “sticky web” that has the entire human race fooled, deceived and wrapped within its horror and restrictions. Somehow, this awesome feat of Yahweh on “this mountain” was to remove all tears, lift all shame that ever was imputed to Israel, and cause the entire planet to see Israel in a new light. “The Lord has spoken it,” simply means that, as far as the chances of this statement to be changed were concerned, it was out of the question. It was set in concrete. It was unchangeable. It was to happen seven centuries or more after Isaiah had breathed his last, two millennia prior to this writer’s life time. From another perspective, the removal of the death shroud and the thick sticky web that has bound the world is in the process of being slowly dismantled by the light of the gospel.

The sticky web, and the veil of the shadow of death that envelopes humanity, and is embedded in the overall route that the world and the devil are set on is what smothers and wraps all dealings of mankind with each other, their aspirations and ambitions and relationships. Only Christ and what He accomplished in His death, burial, resurrection, ascension and glorification can accomplish the defeat of these things in our lives. He defeated them completely and absolutely. Our faith is our connection with Him. It is our own faith, and the workings of our faith that pierces the darkness and dissolve the bondage.

I have never met anybody who enjoys being told this when they most needed to hear it, that is, when they are at breaking point with some kind of circumstance.

It is because it just cannot be faced when people are in the midst of catastrophic loss and trouble. It engenders shame and guilt in many. When tragedy, at whatever level, and in whatever domain, strikes a person, when the whole bundle of life seems to be at an end, yet we are still breathing, when such a thing oppresses, depresses, possesses or obsesses us, it is at that point we need a miracle. An external miracle changes a situation. An internal miracle changes our frame of mind towards the environment that we find ourselves in. Either way, it is a miraculous breakthrough from our deathly situations.

This is the total deliverance that belongs to the Christian, and because of what God promised Abraham, was the inheritance of Israel. Because it was the inheritance of Israel, God shared these truths with the only man he could talk to about it after all the Judges – namely Samuel ben Elkanah.

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This kind of deliverance is for all. There are no degrees in Justification. There are no degrees in the promises of freedom and deliverance, only degrees in which individuals believe such things.

If people do not believe such things, there is no guilt or condemnation from God’s side. God is for the person who has faith in Christ. And if God is for a person, who can be against them? There is, however, no excuse for not believing the entire message of God’s freedom and deliverance, be it in the Old Testament or the New, even though in the New Testament it is made much more clear and full.

Samuel was to grow into having the faith of God. Samuel grew into taking the promises of God and defying the world, the flesh and the devil with those promises. Speak out what God says and we cause the devil to tremble.

What we do not like to hear is what Samuel was to be hearing all the days of his life.

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Categories: A circuit to reconnect the national spiritual circuitry, The Teaching Concept We All Hate | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Give me Children or I Die.

If God can’t improve my life … I give up!

(1 Samuel 1 :9-20)

 

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So here you are, in Hannah’s position. Imagine a moment in your experience; a major crisis; a time that you perceive to be one of the most traumatic and oppressive of your life. You are left alone for an hour away from the source and presence of your regular routine and people. It may be family, it may be colleagues at work, but you have escaped from them briefly. You are alone and feeling your very worst. If you do not get some relief, you feel you will die in your heaviness. It is making you seriously ill. The issue is affecting your composure, your ability to relate – your sanity even. What do you do? Where do you go?

Hannah’s trial, like a wound into which cruel hands rub salt, or some other smarting substance, turning excruciating pain into intolerable torture, was even more aggravated by the happier fortune and insolent, adversarial reproaches of her rival. The other wife – a rude, coarse, proud and vulgar woman – turned the scenario into an occasion for triumphing over her, and embittering the springs of her very life source. Strikingly, no response to her foe is recorded. Life asked of Hannah one of the most difficult questions. Giving a reply to Peninnah would genuinely have been casting her pearls before swine.  It was not Peninnah who was asking Hannah this huge question. Neither did Hannah see it as an impersonal, “life” ,that was begging her for a response.  The issue was between her and the Source of all Life.

However, this woman did have an answer. And I do not mean the trite religious encouragement to, “pray.” I do mean that of course – but with a sledgehammer. I am talking about a heavy-duty cry of the heart. A scream of the soul. The equivalent of a desperate step backwards into suicide – but in the opposite direction; a figurative jump off the cliff, with a huge bungee jump – without the bungee elastic – with a huge elongated free fall into the hands of God. A fleeing into life and reality. No matter what you or I think of the action of a suicide bomber – what I want you to imagine is the awesome, moving, heaving mountain of emotion, heart and spirit that carries a human being to actually walk with a huge bomb strapped to their torso, ready and willing to detonate the thing. Once you can  conceive of that sort of logic; that kind of imagination, feeling and  commitment to something so deep in the realm of the demonic and evil, and then see the same tsunami  placed in the arena of Godliness, goodness and purity, put that into Hannah’s context at the very moment we are talking about, and “Yes!” We are talking about prayer.

We are talking of the stuff that raises the dead, brings floods – or droughts – and/or changes the course of nations, if not the world.  We are talking about prayer that goes so far beyond prayer books and,“saying prayers,” as a real Formula One racing car goes beyond a little lad’s “Dinky Toy” version of the same. The word, “prayer,” does not seem to do justice to the concept of what we are talking about here.  We can analyse and dissect all that took place in these moments of Hannah’s life.  I think that it is a healthy thing to do so. But there is no way we can work out the ingredients of what went on to the degree that we can systematise the process of what happened to her, so that it could happen to me. Notwithstanding, rest assured – of course it can happen to you. There are many things going on as Hannah literally shook heaven loose of the blessing she sought.

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Those who like glass case logic and theology can have a field day with what happened outside the tabernacle in Shiloh that day. A study in faith. Lessons in persistency. A model in humility. A classic case of studies for the prophetic, “speaking things into being” (i.e. would Hannah have become pregnant if obese old Eli had not prophesied so, as he was about to do so in the text). The hidden significance, and possibly the lost truth of making inspired vows to God are in the text. Secret closet praying is also in the spirit of what we read. It seems obvious that Hannah believed she was alone. All these issues – and much more are present in the narrative for Bible school test tube analysis.

After exhausting all these juicy bits of theology, there are, for the academic wordsmith a few more choice phrases with which one can build a rationale of “How to Get Your Prayers Answered”. “She was in bitterness of soul.” She, “wept sore.” “She continued praying.” “She spoke in her heart.” “Her lips moved, but her voice was not heard.” All these phrases are right here in Holy Writ as it explains Hannah’s interview with God. Each remark oozes power, truth, grace and insight.

The picture is further embellished by the concept gained by the only pair of human eyes that saw her in her anguish and pathos. Eli was watching. She actually seemed to him to be, “a drunken woman.” Her body language was such that the undiscerning old man told her off in the most defamatory manner for coming to the ancient tent of such holiness, in an inebriated state. The mind boggles!  Just imagine what abandonment to her cause Hannah must have thrown into her, “quiet time with God.” She was so lost in what she was doing, and so determined to see the invisible, that she was actually blind to the physical, rotund and aged priest that was sat nearby watching her in prayer. She must have seemed to be a demented woman.

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We must beware what and how we learn. Evangelical Christians (one of which I claim to be) are infamous for legalistic lesson learning from the Bible, to the degree that the exercise becomes a detrimental faith killer rather than a glorious release of truth and trust in the heart. This account is not just a tale for convenient three point sermons. This is an in depth account of one human being’s struggle to come to terms with cosmic injustice in her own life, and the desperate longing to fulfil the Edenic command, as well as the Divine promise, to, “be fruitful and multiply.”

A black and white single item rarely sorts out life’s problems. We live in a macro circumstantial world. In plainer English, there are usually multiplicities of reasons that bring issues and problems upon us, and a multiplicity of answers to those problems, where any one or two, or more of them, may bring relief of some sort, in differing degrees. The biggest and most singular lesson to absorb from this woman is, “attitude.”  In this twenty-first century we talk of somebody, “with an attitude,” when we mean a negative and cynical frame of outlook. Whatever the opposite of cynicism and pessimism is, take it to the furthest extreme you can conceive of, and that is where Hannah’s pain drove her. She oozed her case, like some courtroom lawyer and spilled her liquefied invisible inners before God Himself. She herself explained that she had, “poured out her soul before the Lord.” She reasoned and she argued; She pleaded and she bargained. She would break before she lost the momentum of putting her situation clearly before the Almighty. She argued against her lot in life with the One who created her, her lot and her life.

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Get hold of where this woman was in her emotional and spiritual desolation. There was Peninnah’s animosity against her. There was the fact that she was one wife in a polygamous household. She lived in a society where childlessness was perceived as some kind of Divine curse, a community where people would whisper things like, “She must have done something pretty nasty to finish up like this.” There was within herself, despite all the man made cultural pressures, her normal maternal instinct that was put there by Almighty Yahweh Himself as an inducement for women to take up that most essential  and wonderful profession and vocation, namely motherhood. Think of the time she had held her husband in tight embrace with the prayer that she would be, “with child,” as a result of their union. The years had come and gone. Peninnah was pregnant time after time while she remained barren. Hannah had just had enough. She could not feel the pain of childlessness more acutely.

Yet, we notice again that she had not voiced her complaint to her husband, or the other wife. She had an attitude that  took the injustices and pains of life to the very Source of Life Himself, and nobody else. Atheism or Agnosticism did not have as much as a sniff in the cosmos of Israel a thousand years before Christ. Neither did religious platitudes or clichés cut any ice with Hannah.

Whatever the stuff of faith, godliness and spiritual power is, this woman had it in abundance. And like some multifaceted diamond it had various colours and angles that shone from it, but neither the colours nor the shapes of the angles make up the substance of the diamond itself. So we can see her patience and meekness; we can glimpse her faith and freedom in the realm of the Spirit; we can stand in awe of her sense of the reality and glory of God as the source of life, but that is not the thing we are looking for, that is simply the outward expression and manifestation of her attitude.

She had incredible strength of character and a determination of spirit that would not let go. In reading the Bible over and over again for over forty years, I suggest that if one takes the scriptures at face value, one cannot but conclude that from Genesis to Revelation, God Himself finds this kind of attitude of determination in faith, irresistible to refuse. I have a conviction that He prefers it when people have this same frame of heart and mind  towards him as Hannah did. For that reason, I cannot believe that what Hannah was thinking and believing were concepts and ideas especially created by God to move biblical characters only. A pox on the very idea of such a thing.

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This was an attitude arrived at by a process of intuition and deduction. The character of God; the state of man in general; the injustices of life; the very God given sacrificial system of which she was an adherent ; all of these subjects as taught by the books of Moses were extremely powerful, “potters wheels,” trowels and scrapers at work in the shaping of the clay of a worldview that could not abide with injustice or unrighteousness, whether personal, familial, national or universal. These things alligned her attitude to the way God thinks, and her understanding of what God wants, and the possibilities of what she could ask Him for. Her entire being was aligned with God’s entire will and being.

Hannah had an amazing lack of self interest in her expectancy. Her prayer for a child was distinct from any consideration of her own comfort and want. Hannah had learned that the heart’s truest joy is not in children, nor even in the mercies given in answer to prayer, but in relationship with Almighty God Himself. There was a true sacrifice of her more basic and natural inclinations here. It was total self denial, really.  What do we mean? I mean that Hannah, in her anguish made two vows. Making vows is, “unwestern,” but biblically, especially around this period of history, quite common.

The first vow was to give the man child that she was asking for back to God, literally, once he had arrived. The second vow was to ensure that this man child would be a, “Nazirite.” A Nazarite was a person of particular separation to God and His service. This child would be what the Talmud describes as a “perpetual Nazarite.” No drink, ever. No haircut, ever. And no touching dead bodies of any kind, ever. An example of this sort of dedication of children would be Samson. Samson was intended by his parents to be a Nazirite. (I hasten to add that Samson the Danite was not a particularly obedient Nazirite.)

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Hannah had no idea of the Divinely planned dream she was birthing on earth with her prayer. Peninnah could not possibly have foreseen what her adversarial attitude could have driven Hannah to.  Elkanah would have had no insight at all to the pillar of Israelite history and culture that the fruit of his connubial joy with Hannah would bring into being. Eli had no concept of the blessing he was unleashing upon Israel through the prophetic word he was about to speak; for speak he did.

This sublime moment, the results of which were to reshape a nation, and the surrounding nations for the next century or so, was, potentially, shattered in a moment of crass error and bluntness. From the most sublime issue of the sight of Hannah, soberly praying like a drunken woman, we plunge headlong into the utter ridiculous. Picture, If you can, the scene of opposites. You have, a couple of hundred yards away, the sound of partying, singing and dancing. The noise is somewhat faded through the distance, but it is there as the static in the background.  Huge numbers of people indulging in a religious feast. But cocooned in a silent space in front  of the Tabernacle-cum-Temple are two people. There is elderly rotund Eli, in his nineties, sat calmly, and with only the sound of his breathing, watching Hannah. Hannah is beside herself. She is praying like no one has prayed before. She is writhing. She seems to be either mentally ill or stupefyingly  inebriated with wine. It must have been a common sight to Eli to see drunken libertines, as his sons would bring women home to sleep with.

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Too much accustomed, in those evil days, to seeing women abandoned to godlessness and debauchery, Eli the High Priest, the head of the nation’s spiritual heritage, concludes Hannah is drunk. People praying, as if it was a life or death issue, was not commonly seen in Eli’s day.  Come to think of it: It’s not common in our day either.

“How long will you be drunk?” It would seem that Eli was more ready to reprove Hannah than he is his own sons. In poor old Eli’s favour, the scripture does tell us (but at a later point in the narrative) that he was going blind. In his old age he seems kindly, if somewhat strict, to a degree that his physical demeanour and charisma (or rather the lack of it) were inadequate to impose his convictions on his own sons. He was not, intellectually a strong man, but in his own parochial limited way, he was righteous and faithful.

Surely Hannah would have been justified in rebuking the aged priest for his contempt of factual observation. But when somebody is reaching with faith’s warm finger into the gentle springs of infinite love, it is understandable when they do not respond vituperatively. The woman is touching God, and something of His grace is  permeating her responses at that very moment.

Hannah’s reflex action to even further pain is consistent with what we have already seen of her. The meekness of Moses was indeed legendary, but did he, or any other, ever show a milder, gentler, lovelier spirit, a more magnanimous example of how to suffer wrong  than Hannah? She did not answer anything but modestly to Eli’s coarse insult. She utters no bitter complaint against her accuser. She does not bind him to look at home and upbraid him with the conduct of his own household. She does not tell him how ill and unbecoming it was for a person in his position to interrupt prayer and abuse a poor disconsolate woman at the footstool of Divine mercy. She does not throw at him a loud note calling him a false accuser. She does not twit him in the teeth and bid him look better at those drunken whoremongers who were his own sons, infamous throughout all Israel, and thereafter throughout all time.

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It is easy to think evil of all men. There is sure to be some fault about each one of us, which even the least discerning will ultimately discover upon examination. But prior to Christ’s birth, and the vision of His example,  Hannah responds in a way  to which we can append no adequate description, apart from saying, she was “Christlike.”

This abrupt introduction tells us nothing of the history of the elderly gent, father to the villainous Hophni and Phinehas. Eli was the son of Ithamar, the last son of Aaron and therefore the office of priest and spiritual judge must have been earned. To put it bluntly, Eli had no right to be High Priest, or even acting High Priest. For this reason it seems Eli must have been an august and vigorous character in his youth, for his post was not inherited, but won in some way. The fact that Eli retained his office to the end of his days suggests that the nation was so backslidden it had no Godly figures to fill the gap, as opposed to me suggesting  exceptional Godliness on Eli’s part. Frankly, neither scholars, nor archaeologists know why Eli was in the position of High Priest. It’s a mystery.

Hannah gently explains to him what she is doing. Eli sees his gross error and thus compensates; another plus to the character of the senior priest. He then speaks the most assuring words it was humanly possible for him to utter. Whether he was aware of the power and the depth of his own utterance is irrelevant. The Bible actually has several examples of people who prophesied not understanding the power, or the full picture of what God gave them to say. Some of these characters were not even aware that they were prophesying things into being. Eli had not so much as a clue as to any single word that Hannah had uttered in her prayer.

Give me childre or I die

Give me Children or I die??? More like, give me food or my baby dies!

She gently whispered to him, in the face of accusation of being debauched, “No, my Lord, I am a woman of sorrowful spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor any intoxicating drink, but have poured my soul before the Lord. Please! Do not consider your maidservant a wicked woman, for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief I have spoken until now.” This all suggest she had been writhing in her prayer for some considerable time.

What Eli spoke was received in Her spirit as solidly as her steamroller of a prayer had echoed in God’s ears and was received in heaven. What Eli spoke was heard, and mixed with faith in Hannah’s heart.

In a moment of time her anguish was dissipated. I do not mean suppressed, or repressed. I mean completely dissolved. It was not pent up to surface another day, but diluted and removed totally and utterly. Hannah had in a flash seen the invisible and received the answer to her spiritual scream. I do not mean she had seen God, although she had definitely touched Him, somehow. I mean, she had seen her son. Yes! Before Samuel was even conceived she had held him. Before the egg had been released from her ovary; before the single tadpole of her husband’s millions of human seeds had invaded that egg, the mother had seen her son. She held fast to the substance of what she was hoping for. She had the solid evidence of what her eyes had not seen. And this is the absolute biblical definition of what faith is, i.e. the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.

She stood up and left. Nobody could argue Hannah back into her grief. Peninnah could not taunt her back into tears and sadness. Hannah had received a Word from God. She had heard God when Eli had spoken to her. “Go in peace, and the God of Israel will give you your petition.”

Peace came with that Word. This was the truly prophetic. Dreamed up by God, who put the dream into the heart of Hannah, prayed over, wept over, and prophesied into – the foreordained plan was about to be  released into physical actuality on planet earth in the time/space world.  See the grace that Hannah received concerning the offspring we know as Samuel. Peace permeated her mind, and her anguish was annihilated.

6e330-a8a8a8jewish-man

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“Let your handmaiden find grace in your sight,” is all she responded with. She got up and went back to her tent with a spring in her feet.  Her appetite returned. Her smile was renewed.

Whenever you are in a similar cul-de–sac of an impossible situation, always remember Hannah’s attitude and world view in the midst of the fog. All things are possible to those that believe.

No remark is made of the response returned by Elkanah or Peninnah, but the following morning they arose early and worshipped together. Elkanah still had his blind spots. Peninnah still possessed her animosity. The children of Peninnah, just by their presence still shouted at Hannah’s soul that she was childless.

Next, in one short phrase, the scripture wraps up the entire issue by simply stating, “Elkanah knew his wife; and the Lord remembered her.”

She called him “Sh’muel.” It does not actually mean, “Asked of God.” Strictly translated, it reads, “Heard of God.” “Because I asked the Lord,” gives the reason why she called him Sh’muel. The very name perpetuates the memory of Mercy. “Samuel” is merely the Anglicisation of “Sh’muel,” just as,”Jesus,” is of the Hebrew “Jeshua,” or the Greek “Yesus”.

The long distance historical background that we have here traced, and the more localised family context to Samuel’s birth, explains to us how this man stirred the emotions, and attracted the love of those around him. What his mother had promised to God, and the manner in which she purposed to fulfil her vow, filled his home environment  with talk of spiritual issues and attitudes of faith, integrity and the primary issue of intimacy with God as the top priority of life.

From the moment of his conception, Samuel was in a cosmos that was to fill him with characteristics and outlooks that would be the backbone for millions,  before his body would return to dust, and his spirit to the creator of all.

Categories: 1 Samuel 1:9-20, Give me children or I die, If God cannot improve my life . . . I give up | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Prologue

Nebi Samuel. Samuel's tomb.

Nebi Samuel. Samuel’s tomb.

PROLOGUE.

This blog is about the prophet Samuel. Samuel’s life is recorded in the Bible from First Samuel chapter 1 through to chapter 25. These pages are also about prophecy. The life of Samuel speaks to us today, as does the whole bible. I believe God wants prophecy to be manifested through the church of Jesus Christ today.  I believe that the message and life of Samuel addresses the issue of prophecy and gives us a university standard of study course in understanding prophecy and its basis, as well as prophets in general.

When God speaks to someone, it is prophetic, however minor or major the spoken word seems to be. God speaking to man is intrinsically prophecy. For instance, in the most basic expression of Gospel preaching, whether preachers are aware of it or not, they are prophesying. The prophecy is, “When you die you will miss God and go to hell, unless you receive Christ into your life by faith; in which case you will then go to be with Christ when you die.” That is a prophetic statement. Preachers prophesy that statement over the lives of millions of hearers around the world every day. It is forth-telling the word of God at that moment. It is fore-telling the future of the hearers. It is biblical. It is God’s word for people with no faith, or faith in somebody or something else other than Christ. It is the front door message, the introductory invite to meet God and change one’s destiny. It is the very testimony of Jesus Christ. Revelation 19:10 tells us that the testimony of Jesus Christ is the spirit of prophecy. Gospel preaching is intrinsically prophetic.

But most people would cry out that prophecy must have a deeper and more mysteriously “supernatural” source in order to qualify as, “real prophecy.” From what is generally conceived  of and received as prophecy they would be  correct with that complaint. But is that how God perceives it?

Explanation on how Samuel can be legitimately called, "The First Prophet."There is, “Deep, Deeper and Deepest,” in many areas of life. There are variations in the degree of inspiration in prophecy. There are variations in the ability to see and hear in the realms of the prophetic. Just as a sound and solid adult human being may be four feet six inches tall, or six feet and four inches tall, so prophets may vary in spiritual weight and/or stature. The lighter is no less a prophet for his differing aspects of anointing. One person may have an eye for detail. Another eye might see more in the distance along a distant far reaching road than another. The eyesight of both is relevant and verifiable as genuine, even though they both see and say different things when looking at the same scene.

There are prophets in the world today. There are people who should be prophets who allow the traditional teaching of their denominations to halt them in their tracks from moving forward in their gift. There has been an upsurge in the church of Jesus Christ world-wide in all things prophetic; in prophecy itself, as per the gifts of the Spirit listed in 1 Corinthians 12, and also in that “mysterious” character the prophet (or prophetess).

The spirit of prophecy has never been withdrawn from the earth since the days of Enoch, Abraham, Moses, Samuel, Isaiah or Jeremiah. Prophecy is a gift from God. God desires to break in to people’s lives through personal prophecy. God is still speaking concerning the local church, the church world-wide, national events and world events. If there were prophets before the law was given, and if the law was given prophetically through angels; if prophets were required after the law was given, and after Christ had returned to heaven – why should there be any rationale in the mind of Christian people who believe in Christ and the Bible, that prophecy is not currently, “God’s way of doing things.”

Amos 3:7 says that God will not do anything without telling His prophets. I would say that God is still doing things in the world. Wouldn’t you agree. If He is still doing things He must have prophets somewhere that He is speaking to before He acts. That is the meaning of Amos 3:7.

God wants us all to know what He is saying. God speaks in generalities sometimes, as well as specifically to individuals at other times. God speaks about biblical truth, as well as about mundane and practical necessities of life. God chooses His prophets as He will, and as He always has. Trust me when I say that the Almighty is not into Hollywood and appearance. Be careful if a person acknowledged as a “prophet” comes to your town and is singularly lacking in make- up, good looks, smooth talk or a white suit. Whether you are impressed or repulsed by what you see and hear. If you get it wrong about prophets, you could be in trouble with God.

Samuel judging his people

Samuel judging his people

A man who was acknowledged as a prophet by many, spoke over me once telling me, “God loves you, and wants to prosper you!” I thanked the prophet. I thanked God. I believed what he had told me. I was uplifted and edified by the words of him who was acknowledged as a “prophet.” It was twenty plus years ago. I am not sure how to define my prosperity. I am happily still here and rejoicing in God. That is surely the best kind of prosperity. I cannot point to anything else in my life that would indicate anything out of the ordinary processes of life. I refuse to deprecate the man who spoke to me that day. Perhaps he was a prophet in training. Perhaps his spiritual vision was marred by the complexities of my life. Perhaps he saw things he was not allowed to share with me. I hold the experience in loose hands and pray for God’s blessing on the man who spoke those words over my life. I rarely share the experience because people with a negative take on such things tend to deride the gift as a useless piece of spiritual hype.

Then again, I have another experience of a prophet and his gift. I heard this prophet once address a young man whom he had never met before. It was so striking I cannot forget it. I may not recall it exactly, but the memory is still clear.  I was working as a “catcher” in a prayer line for this prophet. For the uninitiated, “a catcher,” attending prayer lines for people who require personal prayer, is a person who tries to soften the fall and the dignity of those who happen to be bowled over by the power of God when the Holy Spirit comes upon them to heal them through prayer. The prophet  pointed to one single young man, who was attending this church for the first time, and said words to this effect: “You were a college student years ago. You had a relationship with a female student. You made the young woman pregnant. When she told you that she was pregnant, you insisted that you were not mature enough to be a father to any child at that moment. You gave the young woman money to pay for an abortion. She went away distraught. You have never seen her since.” There was a pause at that moment and the young man being addressed, acknowledged the truth of what the prophet had said to him. But then the prophet spoke on. “Since your denial of your fathering the child, and your rejection of the human being in the young ladies womb, you have never found success or achievement in any way whatsoever.” The young man answered and eagerly affirmed that what the prophet had said was absolutely true, and was the very reason he had come for prayer. “I have news for you,” said the prophet. “The lady did not abort. You have a son. You will not prosper in any way whatsoever until you respond positively to the child and he calls you, “Daddy.” The young man became animated and cried aloud, “But I have no idea where she lives. She might even be abroad! I do not know how to find her, never mind if she has a child!” The prophet said that he (the young man) would find out about her right there in Lagos. To cut the story short, the prophet concerned gave the man enough money to stay in Lagos for several days, prayed over him and said, “Just walk the streets of Lagos and keep your eyes open”. Three days later he bumped into the sister of the supposed mother. The sister confirmed that he was a father. The whole story was resolved and after a while, even though neither the young man, nor the mother wanted to renew any relationship, the child saw him as his “Daddy” and the young man’s life was turned around. That was a prophet indeed.

7. Ramah to ShilohSamuel was the same kind of wild, giant, dangerous prophet.

Christianity is all about hearing from God and walking with God. If anybody is a true Christian, they themselves have heard from God. That is not the common language of Christians to say such a thing, nevertheless it is true. When a person knows and understands the correctness of repenting from their sins and taking Christ as their personal Saviour, they have heard the voice of God. That is prophetic.

It is my hope that through these pages understanding about prophets, prophecy and the need for the prophetic word will be aroused in the readers heart. Who knows? Some readers might discover their own prophetic gift whilst reading.

 

 

 

35. Awake Awake Oh Samuel And fill your horn with oil Anoint Anoint a new King to rule o’er Israel’s soil

Jealous brothers watch the oil run down David’s face.

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I WAS THE FUTURE ONCE blasts from my past

Notes, notes and more notes. Words I still believe could change the world

The Bible Through the Seasons

A Three-Year Journey with the Bible

Conforming To The Truth

Letting the text of God's Word teach us

AAAJ watchman

investment of the ultimate purpose of God

Apologetically, Yours....

Life as a Jesus loving, husband adoring, homeschooling, full time apologetics student

Prema Sunder Raj's Blog

Tamil Christian Family Bible Study Devotions

Break Away

Lifestyle | Food | Art | Faith | Music

God Running

There's only one place in the bible where we see God running.

Kingdom EMC

Info about Kingdom Evangelical Methodist Church in WV.

Knowing God through His Word ... Day by Day

Read the Bible through in a year....

Blake Williams

Broadcast Meteorology Student at Mississippi State University | East Limestone High School Alumni | Athens, AL & Starkville, MS |

Raining Truth Bible Trivia

BIBLE TRIVIA FROM THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENT

Daba

cos family is where it all begins!

Narrow is The Way Ministries

"Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." Matthew 7:14 (KJV)

Craig T. Owens

"Oh! that the power of God would set my heart and pen at liberty while writing, and fill your hearts while reading, that we may rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory." (John Newton)

Center for Evangelists

SOS Events - a life saving ministry

hocuspocus13

Magickal Arts