Posts Tagged With: Books of Samuel

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

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

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

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

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

Hail Samuel! Mighty man of God!

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

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

00000Sam4

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

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

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

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

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

00000Sam3

.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

00000Sam1

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

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.

tHE Witch AT Endor 13_(Nikolay_Ge)

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!

tHE wITCH AT eNDOR 16 1375-496

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.

CHjdf2

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

The Passing of the years and the Seeming Silence of the Prophet.

THE PASSING OF THE YEARS AND THE SEEMING SILENCE OF THE PROPHET.
Samuel “secretly” working on his most cherished vision.

(1 Samuel 16:15-19:17)

 
 
The years rolled by. As far as we know Samuel never crossed David’s path throughout his puberty, adolescence, teens and early twenties. Samuel’s life was clearly in danger from Saul. Saul was now a dangerous man to be with, or to cross. We know from the biblical account that David’s life was more and more wrapped up in the presence and activity of serving King Saul. As soon as he hit his twentieth birthday, David was an officer in Saul’s army. Nobody could serve in Israel’s army until they were 20 years old. My thoughts are that David was anointed by Samuel between 10-12 years of age. An anointing that facilitated David to kill bears and lions between 12-15. Anointed to kill Goliath circa 15. Anointed to carry Saul’s armour and sing prophetically in order to soothe his soul and spirit betwixt 15-20 years of age. Anointed to fight the battles of the kingdom of Israel from 20 – 23/25 years of age.
  
If Samuel had sought out David during the passing of those years, which consist of I Samuel 16:15 through to 1 Samuel 19:17, David’s, as well as Samuel’s life would have been in mortal danger from the demonised King Saul (David was in danger anyway simply by being with Saul). Samuel, I am sure, was bravest of the brave when it came to endangering his life for God, but Saul’s inner response to having been told that he was to lose the kingdom, as well as the animosity towards him who had been chosen to succeed him, meant that Samuel and David must have been on Saul’s “Most Wanted” list. Thankfully for both future king and present prophet, it seems that Saul was too fearful and confused to do anything about his fears and animosity in this direction. Or was it just that God withheld his hand towards David and Samuel. There are those who fight for God, and there are those that God fights for. David and Samuel being held in the hollow of Yahweh’s palm were as safe as safe could be, no matter how many chases Saul troubled himself with to get hold of David..
 
No matter what the evils were that the king had perpetrated (and was still perpetrating), Samuel’s deep knowledge of all things spiritual knew that the day he poured oil on Saul’s head, the son of Kish had become a new man. Something had happened that made Saul almost untouchable. It’s a spiritual principle that rules in the heavens. “Touch not the Lord’s anointed, and do His prophets no harm.” And Godly, or godless, holy or utterly unholy, Saul was the Lord’s anointed. Nothing could undo that fact. That anointing was more important before the throne and the angels of heaven, than it was to the people of Israel. The anointing meant that he was to be left alone, no matter how bad or wicked he became. If he was unfit for office, or divine use, it was God’s prerogative to remove him, nobody else’s.  It was Samuel, I am sure, that taught David the principle not to touch the Lord’s anointed. When he actually imparted that principle to David, ie: at what point of time, we shall negotiate a little later.
The book that we call 1 Samuel covers a period of around 115 years. It gives us, as we have discovered, the personal history of Samuel, who was the last of the judges, and the first of the national writing prophets in the land of Canaan – that is Israel, although he did not write as the major or minor prophets wrote. This ninth book of the Bible records and teaches us the moral failure of the priesthood under Eli, and of the Judges, especially in Samuel’s failed attempt to make the office of Judge hereditary. In his office as a prophet to the nation, Samuel was faithful, and in him begins the line of what we refer to as the prophets to the nation in the nation. That is one of the reasons why Peter referred to him as the first prophet in Acts 3:24.  From Samuel on, in the history of Israel, the prophet, not the priest is the conspicuous person, in the context of the story and guidance of the nation.
Through study and meditation, I have discovered that many times in the biblical narrative, we are caught out concerning the truth of people’s ages at certain points of the story line. No Hollywood film or artist’s illustration that I have ever seen shows Sarah as 90 years old when she delivers Isaac. They normally use a mature actress with a little grey added to her hair, but I have never seen anybody that looks 90 as old as Sarah was. No film or book illustration that I have ever seen has shown the fact that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were all three alive together for fifteen years. The last fifteen years of Abraham’s days were the first fifteen years of Jacob’s life. Now a story that covers those fifteen years  would be a  classic.  Did you know Jacob was 77 years old when he first left home to go to see his uncle “for a few days?” Some of these kind of things concerning ages and places in the bible I find to be an utter fascinating revelation that causes the concept of what I read to change in my mind’s eye. Did you know that Samuel lived about 2 miles from Saul? One could see Gibeah of Saul from Ramathaim Zophim, and vica verca. How often would both Samuel and Saul stand on the ramparts of their respective homes, and gaze over the land, and wonder what the other was doing!
When it comes to Samuel’s days, intermingled with Saul, David, Jonathan and all the moments of drama in his life, we have only a few concrete dates, or ages to hang on to, to assist us piecing the story together with “joined up writing,” and imaging what age the players in the drama were at any point of time. I spend many hours stringing the facts and theories together, studying what the academics and biblical professors say about them, and then coming to my own conclusions. So follow me as I push the envelope out on a few issues.
David started to be king of Judah when he was 30 years old, anointed at Hebron three days after Saul had died on Mount Gilboa. That is the first unmoveable fact that is set in concrete (2 Samuel 1:2. 2 Samuel 2:4. 2 Samuel 5:4). He became king of all Israel when he was 33, and died when he was 70 (1 Kings 2: 10-12). Those facts we cannot mess around with. They are inviolable, as it were, as plain as plain could be in the biblical text.
I believe Saul reigned for forty years because of what Acts 13:21 says. I am fully aware of the issues with 1 Samuel 13:1 in some translations of the Bible, but I leave my readers to read what Martin Anstey says about that verse and the Hebrew scrolls, and how the NIV handles it, and I personally count the matter settled. I choose not to discuss it in these pages. If we accept that the actual number of years of Saul’s reign was 40 as the apostle Paul preached in Pisidian Antioch, or 42 as the NIV states it in 1 Samuel 13, the larger chronological questions are answered, or at least made easier.
From Saul’s 40 year reign, we understand then, that David must have been born around the tenth year of Saul’s reign.
 
From this I cannot but conclude that there must have been a considerable age gap between David and Jonathan. Why? Because Jonathan was serving in Saul’s army really early on in his father’s reign, before David had been born, and nobody could serve in the armies of Israel until they were at least 20 (1 Samuel 13:2). If Jonathan was in the army as Saul started his reign, that means Saul was old enough to have a son who was at least twenty when his reign started. Many academics assume from this that Saul was around 40 when he became king, informing us, therefore, that he died around 80 years of age.
Jesse had seven (1 Chronicles 2:13-17) or eight (1 Samuel 16:10) sons. 1 Samuel 16:10 tells us that there were seven sons as well as David. 1 Chronicles 2:13-17 tells us that there were seven sons of Jesse (all named) including David. The important thing to note is that when they are introduced to us in scripture, the eldest three are already in Saul’s army (1 Samuel 17:13). This tells us that the eldest three had to be over twenty years of age. The absolute youngest the third son could have been was 20 (Numbers 1:3). Of course, it’s possible he was older.  This leaves the remaining 4 or 5 sons under 20. Jesse had two daughters as well, Zeruiah and Abigail, and we are told that David was the youngest.
Assuming Jesse’s wife had a child every year in succession, this means that David must have been around 13 or 14 when 1 Samuel 17 took place (ie: the slaying of Goliath).
I am under no illusion to think that the slaying of Goliath happened days, weeks or even months after his anointing by Samuel. I suggest that  a couple of years at the very least passed between 1 Samuel 16:13 and 1 Samuel 17:17. If David had been Bar-Mitzvah’d when Samuel turned up to anoint him, I have no doubt at all, he would have been introduced to Samuel along with the other older siblings when the prophet turned up at Bethlehem in 1 Samuel 16.
Therefore, I assert that David must have been somewhere between ten and possibly twelve years old when Samuel turned up with a rams horn full of especially fragrant anointing oil, to tell him that he would one day be king of Israel. No wonder Jesse didn’t invite him in while “grown-up” business was being discussed. A youngster of that age would have been out of his depth socially.
Samuel must have identified with the mind of God, as well as with the child David, on this issue, having been of a similar age when God first called him and birthed him into the prophetic ministry with a particularly harsh message for Eli. He must have smiled from ear to ear when he looked into David’s eyes for the first time. He couldn’t have failed to have remembered his own calling so many years earlier. I find it a strange fascination that, as far as 1 Samuel 16 tells us, or rather doesn’t tell us, it seems Samuel anointed the shepherd boy and left without even knowing the boy’s name.
I hasten to add that my statements here are merely as intelligent an extrapolation as I can make of it all, but what I am saying seems logical when considering the biblical facts, and then the aspects of the biblical story. So, I surmise that when Goliath issued his challenges against Saul’s army that included David’s three oldest brothers, David could have been any age between 12 and 15. He could not have been older than 15, as he was the youngest son of 8 sons, and no one could go in the army younger than 20, and only the eldest three were old enough to be enlisted as far as the biblical account informs us. I believe all of Jesse’s sons would have been in the army if they had all passed twenty years of age.

 

The passage from 1 Samuel 16:14 through to 16:23 is clearly out of synch with a straightforward chronology in the text. It was inserted I believe because 16:13 tells us how the Spirit of the Lord clothed David with power at the moment that Samuel had anointed him, and the writer immediately hastens to contrast how that the same Spirit had departed from Saul just as He had come upon David. To add deeper significance to the fact of one having the Spirit come upon him, and the other having the Spirit depart, the writer added that the account of David being seconded to sing and play for king Saul in order to soothe his troubled mind. The point being, that the “king to be” was the minister of peace and tranquillity to the troubled mind of the king that was in office. But David is not a lad as he is in 1 Samuel 16:12-13, and as he is in 1 Samuel 17. In 1 Samuel 16:18, at a point of time in the chronology when David’s anointing was probably only known by his family, David is described as a full grown adult, and a bit of a macho man by any standards. One of Saul’s servants said to the tormented king, “Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite who is skillful in playing, and a mighty warrior, and a man of battle, and skillful in speech, and a man of form. And Yahweh is with him”. In other words, the kingliness of David was surfacing and being noticed even by the king’s servants who had an eye to see. All this – and there was possibly another 15 years to roll by before Saul’s death and David’s becoming king.
 
All this leads me to believe, in my mental image of the story that David was about 10-12 when anointed by Samuel whom the ancient rabbinical writings theorise was in his mid sixties at the time. David was circa 15 when he defeated Goliath. That was the day when David first met king Saul. It was from the time that his first interview with Saul was ended that David and Jonathan met. If my extrapolations are correct David would have been 15 while Jonathan would have been somewhere around 45, if not older (This suggestion is based on the conclusion that if Jonathan was a soldier when his father took the throne, he must have been at least 20 years old. Ten years later David was born, suggesting Jonathan was at least 30 at the time that Jesse’s youngest was born. From that extrapolation, when David was 15 years old, Jonathan must have been at the very least 45.).  So the age old artist’s impressions of two similarly aged young men forming a friendship has to be a complete anomaly when seen in the light of the big picture. Hollywood and book illustrations eat your heart out. Why don’t they just stick to the reality of the inspired text?
What follows, after Goliath’s slaying in 1 Samuel 17 is David’s rise to fame and glory.  David must have been twenty years old before he started doing valiant things in the army, as per 1 Samuel 18:5. He was quickly promoted, and just as quickly became a famous hero of the people. The ladies of Israel sang, “Saul has slain his thousands, David his tens of thousands.” And that is where David’s problems started.
 
Actually, they were Saul’s problems internally, not David’s. But the king’s internal fears and hang-ups were turned around and pointed towards David. The king who would have been around 70 years old at this point of time, was demonically jealous of the soldier who was around 20 years old. Saul was neurotic in his thoughts about David, that having won the heart of the people, “What more can he (David) get but the kingdom?”  Those words clearly suggest that he knew nothing of the anointing of Samuel in Bethlehem. Goodness knows what his responses would have been if he had actually known that David had been truly anointed by Samuel as the king to follow after him.

Samuel was still in the Naioth, in Ramah, living only a couple of miles away from Gibeah of Saul. As far as we know from scripture, he never approached Saul, and Saul never approached him. Life went on for them both in completely different directions. Surely Saul received reports of Samuel’s health and activities, and probably vica versa. But they never met throughout those years. What a strange situation. How badly did Saul need a word from God, but the Spirit of God having left him, also left him without Samuel’s mentoring or prophetic input. 

What of Samuel’s age at this point? It’s guesswork mostly. One ancient Rabbi in particular, considered an authority in Jewish circles, reckons that Samuel was around 49 when Saul was made king aged 40. We simply don’t have the data to pinpoint Samuel’s birth or death. My personal opinion, and one guess is as good as another, is that Samuel was in his 60’s when Saul was made king, and in his nineties when he died. How do I come to those ideas? Just by reading Jewish Journals and biblical theses of Rabbinical trainees on the internet. It really is a matter of, “You pay your money and you make your choice,” as to the reality of the prophet’s age and stature in the story of Samuel’s long life, apart from the ages of David during his reign. 

One thing I am certain about, is that the ages of the characters in the screenplay of Samuel’s life are in much deeper contrast than normally shown in films, picture bibles, and bible story books.

With David in such a committed friendship with Jonathan, and Saul’s ever deepening jealousy concerning David, it meant that Jonathan was seriously between a rock and a hard place. Jonathan defended David as best as he could with his father.  He also was reluctant to speak against his father, or withdraw his support for him, even though Jonathan must have been aware that he would never be king of Israel after his father’s death. The whole story informs us quite frankly that Jonathan is one of the most noble characters in the whole of scripture. Knowing that David becoming king meant that he would lose what seemed like an inheritance to reign, he still supported and helped his covenanted friend, David, all he could. That makes Jonathan a great man in my thinking.

It was somewhere around this time, or perhaps, after the Goliath episode and before David’s rise to national fame, that Jesse’s son was appointed armour-bearer to Saul (1 Samuel 16:21. As I said above, it may be mentioned in chap. 16, but the actual event is probably later – i.e. “he [later] became one of Saul’s armour-bearers.). Armour- bearers did not have to be twenty, but it kept the men (or boys) that had such posts near the soldiers to allow them to grow in the atmosphere and general mindsets of the armies of Israel.
More years pass by. Saul banishes David from his court, yet makes him commander of a thousand (1 Sam 18:13). It all sounds very strange. Is that acceptance? Or is it rejection? As the jealousy developed Saul hoped David would be killed in battle. The ex shepherd boy of Bethlehem is perhaps 25-28 years old as this takes place. David’s success as a warrior has made Saul offer him the hand of his daughter Michal, “as a snare.” Each time the king spawns a plan to get David killed, he raises the bar of danger for David’s life. Where is Samuel while all this intrigue is infesting the land and ruining the reputation of the king of Israel?  We who read the text of scripture know all about what was going on in Saul’s heart. It took, however, years for the nation as a whole to discover the truth about Saul’s prophetic rejection (1 Sam 18:21).

Imagine the wretchedness of a man who plays games with potential husbands for his own daughters. He promised his daughter to whoever killed Goliath (1 Samuel 17:25. 17:27. 17:30). Saul was untrue to his word. Saul told David that if he served him well and bravely he could marry his daughter Merab (1 Samuel 18:17). Both the scriptures and the responses of the nation affirm that few, if any, were as brave as the anointed future king. Yet at the point when she needed to marry, she was given to another. So, Saul broke his word on a very important issue of honour, twice.

But then Saul understands that his daughter Michal was madly in love with David. He saw this again as a wonderful opportunity to get David killed. He plots and plans, telling David that if he kills a hundred Philistines, cuts off their foreskins, and brings them to Saul as proof of such an act, he could marry Michal. The smug contentment that Saul must have felt when David went out to fullfil such a commission, turned to deep shock, horror and disgust when David walked in with the hideous package.
This plot of treachery by Saul that had so woefully backfired was known amongst his courtiers. So the king became a slave to his own words. He had to give Michal to David (1 Samuel 18:28).
The scripture at this point, very starkly, tells us that David became the king’s enemy for the rest of Saul’s days. Saul was just downright fearful of David for the rest of his life  (1 Samuel 18:29).
David’s success and prosperity increased and expanded. He slew more Philistines and was more victorious than any other army officer in Israel. The people loved him, sang songs about him, and esteemed him highly. In the midst of this Euphoric “David-mania” sweeping the nation, something extremely dark takes place. It is on record that Saul actually asked Jonathan, and all the hangers on at court, to kill David (19:1).
Jonathan, caught between love for his father, as well as David, examined the king about the issue of killing his dearest friend, as well as any motive that Saul might have had for such an act. Jonathan wanted to sort it all out in a place where David could watch. Jonathan seems to have swayed Saul to change his mind. The king agreed  to let David live happily, so Jonathan brought David to be with the king “as he had been before (19:7).” But how long would that togetherness last, we ask?
In between the outbursts and neurotic changes of mind of Saul towards David, now to kill him, now to let him live, now to kill him and now to let him live, the text tells us that David’s courage, strength and victories in battle increased more and more (19:8). It is a striking highlight that the more successful David was, in his role as defender of Israel, the darker was Saul’s response each time. As before in 18:10-11, David was playing his harp to soothe the spirit of the king, whilst Saul was caressing his favourite battle spear. In a wicked, murderous and seriously demonic outburst, he thrust the spear at David. That was the third throw at Jesse’s son, probably with the same javelin each time. We thank God that Saul missed his target.
David fled to his home, where his wife Michal, who obviously knew her father better than David did, told him to run while she, “covered,” for him (19:11-13). How marvellous for David that Michal suggested such a thing.  David escaped without being seen. And when, as per Saul’s instructions, two “hit men” called at David’s house the following morning to kill him, Michal played for time in a very brilliant way. I rather fancy the hit men were a little lacking in astuteness, if not, were a little ESN (Educationally Sub Normal). However, these, “toughies,” not being able to tell the difference between a wooden idol and a man in the bed, worked to David’s advantage. Michal lied ruthlessly to her own father, obviously to save her own life, and much to King Saul’s chagrin, David had successfully fled.
David, at this point, is alone, fearful, and possibly confused. Where can he run to? Who can he speak to? Where can he receive God’s big picture of what is happening to him? How can it be that the anointing to be king over all Israel, had led him into being a pawn in Saul’s mind games of murder?  How could he come to terms with his situation? From whence could he see a light coming out of the darkness? Who else could meet him at his level of anointing, but the prophet who lives at Naioth? So David chose to go looking for the very old Shmuel ben Elkanah. Only time would reveal what a gloriously prudent choice that was.
After one incredible meeting with Samuel, David had been anointed to be king. Fifteen years or so had passed. As far as we know Samuel and David had never met together since. But for those fifteen years, Samuel had been working on what was probably his own most treasured project. And how that project would impact David’s future, and the very life blood of Jewish culture and the Nation of Israel nobody but David could have imagined.

 Related articles

Categories: 1 Samuel 16:15-19:17, The evil of King Saul, The Passing of the years and the seeming Silence of the Prophet. | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

“AWAKE! AWAKE OH SAMUEL! AND FILL YOUR HORN WITH OIL.
ANOINT! ANOINT A NEW KING TO RULE O’ER ISRAEL’S SOIL”
The Last Prophetic Commission Given to Samuel
(1 Samuel 16:1-3)
“How long will you mourn for Saul?” How incredible that Yahweh should interrupt Samuel’s “over grieving heart” to lift him out of his sense of bereavement!
Samuel was quite literally mourning for the living. How could the rest of the nation identify with the exterior sadness of the nation’s greatest asset? Saul was out and about winning victories and regaining lost territory for the nation. The general public were happy, rejoicing and making merry that they had a king who was battling on their behalf, and winning. Joe public, therefore together with Mr John Doe were happy with the status quo.
Samuel, however, the man who knows God intimately, knows more than Joe Public and John Doe, and has insight into most things to do with the nation of Israel, has actually been in mourning.  Those that knew Samuel, seeing his sleepless nights and his drawn face, must have been perplexed.  Samuel may have even shaved his head, or dressed in black. Whatever the outward show of bereavement was in Samuel’s day, it was plain for all to see that Samuel was in bereavement and grief.

 We generally mourn for a human being  when the life has gone from their body, the light has gone from their eye and their form is still, even in death, looking as if they are motionless and asleep.  But Saul was worth a good many dead people. The first king of Israel did not pass to his fathers for something like another twenty-five years after the time these words were spoken concerning him. And yet with Saul in the very prime of manhood, God Almighty said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul?” To the man on the street it was a huge mystery.

Samuel had seen with sorrow, eyeball to eyeball, Saul’s lack of spirituality and faith. The first prophet of Israel that lived in Israel could see clearly Saul’s lack of singular purpose and physical endurance. Hannah’s son had seen the stress of life tearing the anchor of Saul’s faith from the rock.  Judging by the subsequent life and activities of the soon to be ex-king, the divine rejection was a deeper sorrow to Samuel than to Saul.  In fact, did Samuel’s prophetic word concerning Saul’s rejection penetrate Saul’s understanding at all? Samuel knew that in Saul was that spark of goodness that needed but to be fanned to become a flame. Samuel knew as well that Saul, by his own acts, was extinguishing even that spark that lived within him. In the life that people studied and saw, Saul was enriched and blessed.  In the life that God saw, Israel’s first king was impoverished. And even though the inevitable judgment had only been announced, indefinitely, prior to his demise, Samuel mourned for Saul as if his death had already arrived.

In one of the visions of Ezekiel, an angel with a writer’s ink horn in his hand was commissioned to set a mark upon the foreheads of all the men that sigh and groan against all the abominations that were done in Jerusalem. Samuel wailed and groaned before the Almighty for the abominations which were done by Saul in his day. But sorrow, however reasonable and becoming, may be carried too far, too deep and too intrusively long term. Bereavement and grieving can be indulged until it makes us unfit for life and responsibility. Too much grief can darken our faith in Christ, disturb our peace and weaken our energies in whatever is our lot in life. The very tenderness of Samuel’s heart and his jealousy for God had bedimmed his wonderful character and sense of integrity, and kept him bewailing the case of the lost, damned and doomed king.

It is true to say that a person can be dead, though still breathing and active. I know. I have met them. I have met people who are dumb to God’s question, “What will you do then, with Jesus who is called the Christ?” I have reasoned with those that were deaf to the truth when I explained to them that, “You must be born again.” I have experienced the pain of witnessing persons who were blind to the significance of Him who cried, “It is finished!” on the hill called Calvary. Such people are truly, by divine definition, dead  in trespasses and sins, while yet alive. Samuel of Israel, prophet of God, mourned for the living. Today, in the twenty first century, the living still cause Godly and softened hearts to grieve and mourn. In this world I have also seen the truth that a mother’s streaming tears for her wayward and prodigal son may be intensely more bitter than those which fall upon the same son’s coffin. I have wept with father’s whose  anguish for their daughter’s sin was more heart rending than the anguish borne of her passing into the Unseen world. The presence of the dead can be  physically harmful to the living, but the spiritually dead are more harmful for the weight they thrust upon those that love them and seek God for their restoration. Physical death is inevitable, but it is not the worst thing that can befall a man. The death of the soul causes the very angels to weep.

To live life as God planned and predestined us is to live in a mental and spiritual consciousness of victory and accomplishment. To be conscious of victory over sin, sickness, death, the devil and the grave is, without doubt, one of the most natural and inherent desires of the human heart. Ecclesiastes tells us that God has put eternity into the heart of man. This means the bigger picture of human existence is there for us to acknowledge or deny.  Men desire to be mighty, but the might of man must be based upon the eternal might of God imparted to the human being through faith in Christ. Genuine triumph in life is conjoined to truth, and they simply cannot be separated. God has joined them in an indissoluble bond. There was no hope for Saul as a king from the moment Samuel pronounced the reign of Israel to be torn from his shoulders. There was, however, always hope for him as a man, right up to the moment of his last breath.

Samuel was deep in sorrow and grief until God put his hand on his shoulder and gave him the very last divine mission that is recorded for Samuel in his natural life time.

The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” Wow! The intimacy and comfortableness in the manner of the relationship between Samuel and Yahweh is something to ache for. God cares for Samuel in the same way He cared for Saul. Samuel was, however, deeply responsive and submissive to the divine will. A new purpose was to occupy the prophet’s heart. A new lover of God, chosen and raised by God for the eternal purposes of the Almighty was about to enter Samuel’s bundle of life. A new divinely given labour of love was to utterly engage the prophet and raise his spirits for the remainder of his days.

We see here, in the experience of Samuel a vital truth for all those of us who are buried in grief, bereavement, or rejection. Hear me when I say that in the obedience to God’s will throughout your life, your griefs will most certainly be ebbed from you closest beach of life. Samuel was summoned from his grief over Saul walking through his valley of the shadow of death, to carry out a new commission. Samuel was to be the human conduit that would manifest on planet earth the new king to follow Saul.

God has nobody else that He can trust with such a mission. The weight of Samuel’s  personal responsibility is made vivid by the divine rebuke and Yahweh’s cure for the hitherto inconsolable sense of loss in Samuel’s heart. “How long will you mourn? Fill your horn with oil, and go, I will send you.” Circumstances call upon you to journey in the service of the Lord.  Self denial of grief and conscious bereavement is required.  One’s persistent regrets and grief that have stretched far beyond the fence of legitimacy indicate need of further shaping by the Potter’s hand and conformity to the Lord Jesus. Our inner grief will be moderated by the satisfaction of our volitional obedience to Christ. In later years to the one’s we are considering, David lay upon the earth, fasted, and prayed, while affliction was upon his dying child. However, when he learned the issue – that the child was dead – he “arose from the earth.” Samuel also was being raised from the grief of death, to the joy and active service of national resurrection to a greater king.

This call of God, and this action of Samuel’s in obedience to the call of God, was almost Samuel’s final expression of his total commitment to the blessing of others. Samuel had always had much more to live for than his own personal interest. He had always been burdened, like a father pursuing the health and growth of his son, with the growth and development of Israel.  Israel was so  vital to Samuel’s heart. Samuel was a very vital member of the Hebrew commonwealth all the days of his life. His joy was the public’s contentment.  His grief was a public calamity. The profound sorrow into which he was plunged by Saul’s conduct and attitude could conceivably do injury to the nation. It could be argued that Samuel’s well being and sound prayer life was the secret of Israel’s spiritual water table rising. When there are others given by God for a person to care for, sorrow must not be sustained and must not go too far lest it become, in the realm of the spirit, illegal. The people that God has put into the care and ministry of a pastor, prophet, evangelist, teacher or apostle make demands upon their anxieties, prayers, and labours. No partial and special affection or feeling for those who are lost can excuse neglect of those who are spared. No grief and heavy bereavement for the dead can apologise for inattention to the living. “But this prolonged mourning, Samuel, is ill-judged, verging on sinful indulgence, and potentially disastrous for the people and the nation you love. Arise prophet, fill your horn with the most fragrant anointing oil, and go to work again for Yahweh.”

But Samuel was a realist in the midst of his profound walk with God. “How can I go? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.” Samuel knew his life was in danger, and that to walk round mindlessly ignoring the threat of Saul’s spies being present, as well as his every move being made known to the king, would have been foolish. Samuel voiced his concern to the Almighty who had treasured and fought on Samuel’s behalf all his life. His intimate acquaintance with God did not make Samuel lax in his sense of self preservation. There are those that fight for God. And there are those that God fights for.

The Lord said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to Yahweh. Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.”

From thoughts of sorrow, bereavement, national confusion and loss, Samuel is now catapulted into joy, a new future, national direction and great gain. I see Samuel being bed bound with his grief, like and elderly man taking to his death bed, and then, after God’s few words with him, springing to his feet like some Olympic sportsman. The elderly prophet now had one great task to do before he could properly and truly retire. And what an eternal weight was bound up in that task. His heart was now filled with hope, a future, a vision and an excitement that new no bounds.

A new  golden age for Israel was about to be introduced to the world. What a day to be alive in!

Samuel meets Shepherd Boy David.

 

Categories: 1 Samuel 16:1-3, Awake Awake Oh Samuel And fill your horn with oil Anoint Anoint a new King to rule o’er Israel’s soil, The last prophetic commission given to Samuel. | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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

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

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

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

Dark shadowy days were ahead for King Saul.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saul’s route to destruction.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Oh the affliction of being God’s prophet.

 

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

To be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way is a slight challenge for mankind.

TO BE ANGRY WITH THE RIGHT PERSON AND TO THE RIGHT DEGREE AND AT THE RIGHT TIME AND FOR THE RIGHT PURPOSE AND IN THE RIGHT WAY THAT IS  A SLIGHT CHALLENGE FOR MANKIND.
The Kingdom torn violently from it’s King
(1 Samuel 15:12-35)
Samuel was angry. Very angry! When I was a child I used to get so angry it was embarrassing. Some folks think I still do!   However, compared to childhood and early teens, I don’t get angry at all nowadays.  Samuel was incredibly angry at this moment. The prophet got up early, not having slept. Samuel had spent the night agonizing with his convictions and emotions together with God, and the divine replies and responses. I think it is probable that having seen the face of Christ by Theophany, and having heard his voice via his own physical ears, Samuel was painfully aware of God’s thoughts and feelings as he set off to “speak” to King Saul.  Even when one’s heart is on fire, one’s words and actions must stay cool.  This is where Samuel was. Struggling to stay cool. He had cried all night with God, and although the original language means simply to call out, I am convinced Samuel was weeping along with his call to God to save the situation.  It is better to cry than be angry. Anger hurts others, while tears flow silently through the soul and cleanse the heart.
A man acting as King Saul.

If it was going to happen to me, I would rather someone be angry at me, than disappointed in me.  Samuel was both mad angry, and terribly disappointed in King Saul.  Samuel was going with the word and the anointing of God. He was clothed in the power of God, as it seems he always had been since early youth. Real power consists not in being able to strike another, but in being able to control oneself when the anger arises. To be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power, but Samuel walked in the grace that could fulfill all those criteria. 

The story is vividly graphic and, reveals all that is pathetic in Saul, and all that is powerful and authoritative in Samuel. This is the plain and obvious human perspective of the story of Saul’s victory over the Amalekites. As far as Saul was concerned he had wrought a mighty victory. In God’s perspective, however, and that is what matters, it was Saul’s worst catastrophic defeat. How often do human beings get those two impostors mixed up.  Samson is made bald and blinded; defeat. But, in the end, his hair grows again and his spiritual eyes see clearer than his physical eyes ever did. He kills more Philistines in his death than he did throughout all his life, and he killed more than a few Philistines in his life. That is resurrection life, and resurrection victory. Abram leaves the prosperity and comfort of Ur and walks out to somewhere he does not know. “Surely a defeat,” cried the population of Ur. But Abram became the inheritor of the world. Jesus Christ dies on the cross crying “It is finished!” Many present thought it was, “I am finished!” But on the third day, that death that seemed such an ignominious humiliating passing was revealed to be the greatest victory in the history of mankind.

So let us not be fooled by what we see. Defeats are often wrapped up in victories.  And vica versa. Saul both succeeded in battle, yet failed in obeying God. He was bold enough to endanger his life as a sacrifice, as well as the lives of his soldiers, as he went attacking the forceful armies of Amalek, but he simultaneously deliberately disobeyed Yahweh by sparing the best livestock and the evil arrogant King Agag. He had truly conquered Agag, but that is not all that he was asked to do.  Any glory that there could possibly be in obliterating an entire nation along with its culture and the archived records of its existence, was utterly dissipated in the darkness of his disobedience, and the blackness of the defeat of his own soul.

Samuel rose early and set off in one direction, but was redirected when he met somebody who knew Saul’s actual location. In fact the news he received was to tempt Samuel to deeper anger than he already was experiencing. It was told Samuel that Saul had came north from the territory of the Amalekites, after the battle. The King had stopped at Carmel and set up a monument to himself. To understand why I claim that as fact, read 1 Samuel 15:12 and compare it with something that Absalom did in 2 Samuel 18:18. I read it quietly, and I see steam coming out of Samuel’s ears and his face turning purple, metaphorically speaking, of course. Samuel’s intimacy with God, and the fact that he did not ever allow his words to fall to the ground, give us the sound knowledge that anybody who took obedience to God as a light hearted, give or take issue, would not bring a smile to his face. Saul was lax in the issues of obedience to God.

How is it possible that a human being could have such an opposite perspective on his own life and activities from the view that God had on him? But don’t press that question too far, for we are all guilty of misreading God, life and other people at some time or other. I am not poking for condemnation. I am digesting stuff here in my search for reality.

Having made his statue, or tower, or whatever it was, in his name, Saul moved on to Gilgal. Yet again, the biblical storyline returns us to this place called Gilgal, a place that was shrouded in shrine-like holiness as far as the people of Israel were concerned. Why on earth did Saul go back there?

It seems to me that Saul must have thought that Samuel (and through Samuel, God Himself) had rescinded the cancellation of his dynasty.  After all, Samuel had been so angry when he told him that the kingdom would be taken from him, but he seemed so, “not angry,” when he commissioned Saul to rid the world of the Amalekites. “Why would Samuel commission me to rid the world of the Amalekites, if he had not rescinded his statement about my losing the crown?” It seemed logical to Saul. Samuel had told him that he had lost the crown, not giving any time parameters, and walked off. To see Samuel months, or even years later, instructing him to annihilate anything to do with Amalekites, to Saul, could have been misconstrued as being “recalled” to favour and power. He had gone quickly to justify Samuel’s “confidence” in him. The soldiers of Israel were so happy and overjoyed at their “victory” over Amalek.  Even nasty old King Agag was happy that he was spared torture and death, despite the fact that he  had lost his kingdom. (What sort of king is that?) Why couldn’t Saul have a laugh, a drink, a feast and a shout of joy like the rest of the army of Israel. Saul lost the true perspective on the subject of who he was, what kingship meant, and worst of all, he utterly lost the plot concerning what God Almighty, through Samuel, had commissioned him to do.  And having just no concept whatsoever at what he had omitted to do, believing the “press reports” of his army and King Agag, he set himself to take everybody back to Gilgal to celebrate. Some of the stock, indeed, may have been destined to the sacrificial altar, but methinks that the majority of the beef and lamb were prioritized at this point of time, as destined for the bellies of the soldiers.

We need to assimilate another fact. Although Gilgal was, to Israel, a holy place, it was a dreadfully fateful place as far as the king was concerned. It was at Gilgal they ‘made Saul king before the Lord’. It was also at Gilgal that he had taken the first step on his dark pathway of gloomy, proud self-will, down which he was destined to plunge far and fatally. It was at Gilgal that he had, in consequence of disobedience, received the message of the transference of the kingdom from his house and thus from himself. Now, falsely, wrongly and stupidly flushed with his “victory” over Amalek, he returned there with his troops,  laden with spoil when they should have been laden with nothing at all but a free conscience. Saul was deluded and in grave error.

Saul had made a victory march from the south where Amalek dwelt, passing by Nabal’s Carmel, where he had put up the monument to his “exploit” in a wave of arrogance and vainglory, totally opposite to the spirit which reared the stone of help at Ebenezer.  He arrived at Gilgal where they were all encamped and ready to party because of the heated battle in which they had just achieved victory.

There is a little, “something else,” that needs to be whispered, as an aside, at this point. Allow me to say quietly in your ear; “Saul did not even kill all the Amalekites!” You will undoubtedly respond after re reading the chapter again, “How can one assume such a thing that is not in the chapter?” My answer, to inform my readers, is to carry on reading throughout the Old Testament.

 

1 Samuel 27:8 tells us that in the days that David was roaming around, outside of Israel, whilst Saul was still alive, Saul’s future replacement was raiding other people that were on, what David considered to be, Israel’s territory.  And, would you believe it?  The Amalekites were among the people  he raided. So there was at least one single Amalekite city, more than likely quite a few that were still standing and giving David grief.  Saul’s mission was even a bigger failure than 1 Samuel 15 reveals. Immediately prior to the death of Saul and David being crowned king of Judah, whilst being away from their temporary home in a town called Ziklag, they discovered that the Amalekites had raided their homes and taken their wives and children. There were a few moments immediately after this kidnapping was discovered that David’s men wanted to kill the son of Jesse. David and his men only found their families who were being held safely by the Amalekites, because of an Egyptian who was an embittered slave to an Amalekite (1 Samuel 30:13). This means that Saul’s failure to wipe out the Amalekites was much bigger than simply sparing King Agag. The point of Saul’s instruction was to make sure that occurrences like this would never happen again. Again we repeat, Saul’s war on Amalek was a bigger failure by far than anything told us in 1 Samuel 15.

Later, the man who reported Saul’s death to David, under the presupposition that David would reward the man that killed Saul, owned up to having put Israel’s first king to the sword (he was probably lying) and was an Amalekite (2 Samuel 1:8 and 13). David was not racist in his response. Anybody who would dare to touch the Lord’s anointed, by David’s  criteria, deserved to die, no matter who it was. On top of all this, David, as per Samuel’s instructions no doubt, hoarded gold and treasure in order to adorn the Temple that would not be built until after his death, and, “Surprise! Surprise! There was Amalekite gold in the mix (2 Samuel 8:12). This was more than likely gold taken from defeating Amalekite cities after his being crowned as king of Israel. Finally, we have to say that the Amalekites were in existence until King Hezekiah’s day. 1 Chronicles 4:43 tells us that the Simeonites “killed the remaining Amalekites who had escaped, and they (the Simeonites) have lived there to this day.”  I assume that the word “escaped,” in 4:43 refers to escaping the sword of Saul and his army as reported in 1 Samuel 15.

From all this, we know for sure, Saul’s celebration was far too premature. They had won the battle, but had not obeyed God. In order for one single Amalekite family to have been spared, and then allowed to survive the generations, there must have been women survivors, and probably children too, and some livestock. If Saul had obeyed his heavenly direction, there would not have been a single person alive on the planet who could refer to himself as an Amalekite.

In plain language, Saul messed up completely.  Partial obedience is total disobedience. Obedience is an absolute. Saul and his men, it seems, obeyed as far as it suited them. The subjugating of the Amalekites was achieved, but that was not what was asked of them. They risked their lives in the battle and therefore considered themselves, as tradition dictated, possessing the right to loot the destroyed population. It was an act against God in sparing the good while destroying the worthless. What was not worth carrying off they destroyed, — not because of the command, but to save trouble. It was, as the biblical story informs us, not an isolated act of Saul. It grotesquely indicated his growing impatience of the divine control, exercised on him through Samuel. It seems to this writer that Saul had a problem in living with Samuel’s prophetic authority, and his own authority as monarch. He failed to marry the two together. He felt like a messenger boy for old man Samuel. In this he was between a rock and a hard place. He owed his throne and kingship to the prophet; and more than that, the very condition on which he held that throne, which had come to him unasked for, was that of submission to Samuel’s authority and instruction. His elevated, “self made grandeur,” gave energy to his selfish masterfulness and gloomy, impetuous self  will. These were the surface traits in his character which showed themselves  even in his early days as king.  With these characteristics of fallen man exaggerated in his high profile life, it is little surprise that such a person, held in harness and reins by a man possibly twice his age, should chomp and chafe on the bit!  Saul, like another Saul a thousand or so years later, found it hurtful and very difficult to kick, ‘against the goads.’  The coil of a snake can be seen by his actions. But his outward actions betrayed the complexity of the slimy cold folds of malice, hid from sight by the leaves of civilized relationships with his people. Tiny shoots of a plant, peeping a millimetre above the ground, do not in any way guarantee that the roots are similarly insignificant.

Saul had never heard of Samuel till that day when he came to consult him about his father’s lost asses years earlier. The text tells us so, plainly. It was an amazed circle of friends that instituted what became an old Israeli proverb: “Is Saul also among the prophets?” Everything about his acts of worship and sacrifice have the wall papering ambience of self and “the flesh.” But alas, we are so very wise in retrospect. Why didn’t I write these lines when first I sat down to write these pages. We are all wise men of supreme wisdom when we look back, whether it be our life or anybody else’s. It is wisdom for our present, and especially for our future that we should seriously crave.

Saul, by a succession of selfish and wrong choices, made himself, “The Wrong Man.” The tragedy is that he seems to have considered himself as the right man, the obedient man, as he talks to Samuel. The more disobedient he becomes, the more assertive he is in claiming his innocence. He seems to be in utter ignorance of any error, miscalibration or misjudgement in his opening lines to the prophet, at Gilgal. It is, sadly, an observed fact of life, that ignorance more frequently gives birth to confidence than does knowledge. Here is a biblical example of that fact. One of the painful things about Saul, and indeed our generation, is that those who feel superficial certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are attacked with doubt and indecision. Not only was Shakespeare aware of this fact when he wrote in As You Like It (5.1) “The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool,” but the bible itself negotiates the same principle when Solomon declared, “The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice” (Proverbs 12:5).

Samuel’s elderly gait must have been seen across the camp as he dismounted his donkey and shuffled, as elderly men do, across the flat of Gilgal. Unless Saul was severely challenged in his ability to read situations, which may very well have been the case, he must surely have had an anxious moment as he read Samuel’s facial expression on the approach. Probably the vigorous old man had walked and ridden that day from his home in the Naioth. A brief walk, a longer ride, resting both backside and legs, on and off, over some fifteen miles.  People must have known him, greeted him and informed him of all sorts of things on the way, including where Saul was and the monument he had built to give himself honour.

Another omission of Saul’s, of course, was the fact that he had taken time to travel to Carmel, build a monument, and then move on to Gilgal – yet he had not sent a word to Samuel. By all extrapolations and deductions, Samuel learned what had happened with Amalek, supernaturally from the mouth of God Himself. Surely this was just mindless neglect and subjective self congratulation that led Saul into his gross error. Was it a sign that he carried guilt about his conduct? I, personally, think not. The omission to send a messenger to report to Samuel was simple studied neglect, which reveals much about where Saul was in his heart and mind. It would seem that there is a bias in the senses and understanding of the ignorant and unlearned whereby educationally ignorant people suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average. I have seen it in life. There are times when I myself have been the guilty party filled with this, “illusory superiority.” God have mercy upon us for such conduct. This  is a somewhat weak explanation of what I see happening in the heart of King Saul. This bias is, I believe, attributed to a deep seated inability of the  mind of the unskilled, unlearned and ignorant, to recognize errors that they make.

Having read 1 Samuel over and over again, I am somewhat staggered at Saul’s common place responses to situations. We ourselves need to see that the accepting of the best of the spoil from the general destruction of Amalek, changed the whole character of Israel’s dealings with Amalek. It was brought down from the level of a solemn act of divine justice, of which Saul and his army were the executors by divine mandate, to that of a mere cattle-lifting foray, in which they were but thieves battling for  their own gain. In fact they were acting like all the other gentile nations that lived round about them. The mingling of personal advantage with any sort of service of God, ruins the whole, and turns it into mere selfishness.

 

Saul’s reasoning is astonishing. As Samuel approaches, he is hailed by the king. “The Lord bless you. I have obeyed the Lord’s instructions.” It is seriously difficult to grasp. Where was Saul’s understanding of life, people, and human relationships?  As a bible reader, I have always blushed a little when I read this interview between King and Prophet. It is like Saul is stark naked, and pretending to be dressed. It is as if he is a tall man, but asserting to be a Hobbit. He cannot possess any sort of grasp on reality to be responding to Samuel with the words he uses, and in the manner he does.  In every translation, particularly in the King James, it reads as if Saul is confident of a reward and congratulations of a job well done. The AV reads, “Blessed be thou of the Lord: I have performed the commandment of the Lord.” It is a jolly and a warm welcome for the prophet. Throughout the whole interview Saul plays a pathetic man, almost in some kind of drunken frame of mind.   He lies, and boasts as if it was the glorious truth. Everything we have read so far, and hereafter concerning Saul’s relationship with Samuel informs us solidly that the king was cowed by the abhorred authority and personality of the old man prophet from Ramah.

Samuel, seeming in full control of his faculties, speaks sternly, directly, with an obvious anger in the timbre of his voice. This is God’s prophet about to talk.  It is thought by some commentators that I have read, that if Saul had done the job wisely and properly, he would have been slower to boast of it. It sounds good to me, but my thoughts are that it is a feeling of a presupposed action, and not in any way reality. This writer believes that Saul was mentally troubled at this point of his life, he believed himself to be in the right. He believed a lie. That was his problem. Like a great many other people who have no deep sense of the sanctity of every jot and tittle of a divine instruction, he pleased himself with the notion that it was enough to keep it “approximately,” in the ‘spirit’ of the precept, without slavish obedience to the ‘letter.” “I have performed the command of the Lord.” That is what he affirms. But he had not in any way performed God’s instruction.

Old Samuel had reason to believe what the sheep and the oxen were saying, above King Saul’s bleating and lowing. “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?”  Oh dear! There is no greeting or pause for thought from God’s ambassador. Samuel jumps on Saul with his opening line. The prophet’s statement presupposes that he should have entered the camp with no noise apart from the fighting soldiers celebrating their victory. But there, in the hearing of all,  was the obvious buzz of the livestock.

‘They have brought them…the people spared the best ….” In plain English: “It ain’t my fault Samuel! It’s everybody else’s fault. I’m only the king!”  It is as if he has hit the bottom. He is mentally ill, but willfully so. All the thoughts, insinuations, mitigating remarks have been used before, and Saul has run out of excuses to make. At last we see him for what he really is. Sociologically, he is a weak, insipid leader. That is, “Leader” by position, but not by character or personhood. He had not given any order for them to kill Agag or the livestock. He had not in any way attempted to restrain his subjects.  In point of fact, this monarch was subject to his subjects in matters of conscience. How sad.

 

But note Saul’s attitude towards Yahweh, betrayed by him in that one phrase, “the Lord your God.” No wonder that he had been content with a partial and lax sense of “obedience.” Saul had no closer sense of union with God than that! Can you, like me, hear the sneer in his voice also, as if he had said, ‘What’s all the fuss about saving livestock? God will be honoured with many of them being sacrificed, and you, Samuel, will share in the party.’ If the words do not directly denigrate Yahweh, the spirit of the statement does.

This is too much for Samuel. He knows God’s heart and His grief about the whole issue. “Stay, and I will tell you what the LORD has said to me this night.”  How ominous!

I feel Saul has a sudden withdrawal into his shell, as the king responds with a whispered, shocked, stuttered, “Say on!” The son of Kish feels the impact, I believe, before the words are even spoken. Somehow it has dawned on him that this is serious. Samuel is about to repeat exactly what Heavenly Yahweh said to him in his night of prayer and intercession. I wonder if Saul stayed on his feet? Or fell to his knees? Prostrate even?

“Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The LORD anointed you king over Israel. And he sent you on a mission, saying, ‘Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; wage war against them until you have wiped them out.’ Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?”

Saul, unbelievably, excuses himself by claiming that he had obeyed. He claims, while looking eyeball to eyeball with Samuel, that he went the way the Lord had commanded him. In the same breath he says, “I have brought Agag the king of Amalek.” He claims that he utterly annihilated the Amalekites. Three points, all of which were false. It is because he makes such claims and throws them in the face of the great prophet that I believe Saul had lost touch with reality. I do not think he would deliberately lie in the context of an angry meeting with the universally accepted authority that was divinely invested in Samuel. “But the people …”  Here he excuses himself. If it was true that the people did something that he could not stop them doing, then he should not be king. If he sanctioned the whole thing by silence, he is  self condemned. If he was passive in the entire episode of keeping Agag and the livestock alive, again, he is condemned. He closes his “defence” by claiming that the livestock were for sacrifice to Yahweh.

In answer to Saul’s religious gobbledygook about honouring God by sacrifice with the loot from the battle, Samuel gives an answer that has unleashed power in its poetic phraseology for centuries. Samuel hereby speaks a great principle which was the intrinsic message given to every prophet in Israel. This message was repeated and repeated through the ups and downs of national life that followed after Samuel, until God could righteously say that God’s people were ripe for judgement because their cup of sin and iniquity was full. This message was not condemning the sacrificial system, but speaking against the religious fulfilling of the Mosaic practices without heartfelt faith and obedience.  In fact Ezekiel, Malachi, Haggai and Zechariah carried on with the same message after the judgement of exile.

Was it the intensity of his spiritual emotion in that moment? Or was it a saying amongst the people of Israel that Samuel was reciting? The prophet speaks in lyrical poetic strains. He speaks with measured parallelisms, which was the Hebrew dressing  for poetry. Samuel speaks words of such unfettered power and intelligence that it contains concepts and precepts of the entire New Testament gospel package. The prophet spoke words that will live forever.

“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to listen and heed is better than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is like the sin of divination,
and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
he has rejected you as king.”

Oh dear! The repeated rejection of Saul as king!  All the rationale and “logic” of Saul is turned on its head in a moment. Whilst, on the one hand, Samuel, in these words, lifts the surrendered commitment of the will to what is undoubtedly the peak of godliness, and the consequent subjugation of a life given to God, high above all mere ritual. On the other hand, by the same empirical logic, The son of Hannah reveals the black hole of the rebelliousness of the will, and the stubbornness of human  nature unsubdued, to the level of idolatry. That is exactly it. I am neither exaggerating nor understating. Non obedience to God is willful sin. Willful sin is rebellion. If we could only see it as God sees it, rebellion is as divination – witchcraft – evil. Continued, sustained, persistent, willful sin is stubbornness.  And stubbornness is the same as idolatry and teraphim (idols).
At the end of his prophetic statement, comes the stern sentence of rejection. “Because you rejected the word of the LORD, He has rejected you from being king.”

Oh the pain for Saul. The pain of realization hits him, and hits him hard. He is now utterly pathetic and hopeless in his situation. “Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned. I violated the Lord’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the men and so I gave in to them. Now I beg you, forgive my sin and come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord.”

Ah! The truth is out at last! And what a knife was needed to burst the boil. He violated the Lord’s commands. And most of all, he was afraid of the men, so he gave into them. Agh! The fear of man casts a snare. Oh! Poor man! He could not even face the men over whom he was divinely placed as king.  He asked Samuel, as if he was some kind of priest (which he indeed was in the ceremonial Old Testament sense), to give him absolution, and then to worship with him in public so that the people would see he was still close friends with true authority.

Saul! Saul! Poor wimpish Saul. All was lost. I have heard many people ask me, and even debate with me concerning this story. “Was it not a harsh punishment for such a crime?” As we have stated earlier, Saul’s act in this chapter is not to be judged as an isolated, spur of the moment act of reflex spontaneity, where Saul could cry, “Oops! Sorry!” and carry on as if nothing had happened. What happened in 1 Samuel 15 was the final outcome of several year’s ever deepening tendency within him, blossoming into full revolt in the face of God.  At this point Saul had been king for at least ten years.  (The logic for that statement I shall explain in later chapters). The sentence is pronounced, not because he spared Amalek, per se, but more basically because he rejected the word of the Lord.  It is as if, Saul had said, “I will reign by myself, without God.”  It is as if God responded with, “OK Saul! Reign by yourself! Go to it!” For the consequence of his, “removal  from office,” being announced  was not an outward change, he was still, in reality, a king, but a king with no anointing at all. His reign was a form of  kingliness but denying the divine purpose thereof.

Samuel refused to worship with the isolated, rejected king Saul. Having announced his refusal he turns to leave and a theatrical melodrama prophetically speaks, in a split second. Saul must have been on his knees, clinging tightly to Samuel’s mantle, or cloak. As the prophet turned, Saul gripped all the tighter. As Samuel took his first step, the mantle ripped and made a loud harsh  tearing noise.

Samuel must have been on a poetic role, and just as poetically as he had been a few moments earlier, so now.  As Samuel picks up the mantle and examines the tear in it, he makes a pronouncement which, to Saul, was the worst possible nightmare he could ever think of.  Imagine the drama, as he utters just as Saul had torn his garment, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbours – to one better than you. He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.”

Saul was lost. But in his panic and the quick realisation that all was lost, he has the presence of mind, the self preservation instinct of still asking Samuel to simply stand by him while they sacrificed to God. He wanted the people to see him worship with Samuel participating in the ceremony. He considered his face to be saved, if the public merely saw him as “one” with the prophet.   As if Samuel had a sudden attack of deep compassion, fully knowing that God would never change the words he had just spoken over Saul, the bible simply says, “Samuel turned again.” And he worshipped with Saul, so that all his soldiers could see what was happening and not rebel against the king.

Notice that Samuel said nothing to the population at all. He would not injure Saul any more in the eyes of man. The public were not to be given a clue of what was happening from the mouth of the prophet. This is that awesome thing referred to as, “integrity.” They worshipped together, Samuel undoubtedly offering the sacrifice.

When the sacrificial act was finished. Still in the presence of God, and with the knife still in his hand, as well as with the whole army of Israel in sight and sound of what he was doing, he calls for Agag, the Amalekite king, to be brought to him.

Agag came out to meet Samuel walking gently and softly. He had concluded to himself that as he had been spared for so long, that he must be safe. “Surely the bitterness of death is past,” he was heard to say, as is noted in the scripture (1 Samuel 15:32).  There would have been a moment or two’s silence while Samuel collected his thoughts.

 

“As  your sword has made women childless, so shall your mother be childless among women.” With a sword, or perhaps even the lengthy sacrificial knife he had used on the sheep and bulls, the King James Version simply says, “Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the Lord in Gilgal.” It was as if to say, “Saul, this is a first principle of leadership. Whatever your men think of Agag, God has sentenced him to death. And this is how you do it.” No matter how horrific and blood curdling it may seem to our twenty first century sensitivities, Samuel did the bidding of God.

Blood, torn flesh, death, and Agag’s cries of pain and horror were nothing to compare with what was going on in Saul. Saul’s torture was worse than death.

 

Categories: 1 Sam15:12-35, To be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose and in the right way - that is not within everybody's power | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

One moment of madness and it’s the end of civilisation as Samuel wanted it.

“Listen Saul! I know You are the King, but Yahweh is Lord of All, or He isn’t Lord at all. You are out boy!”
(1 Samuel 13:1-15)
map of michmash battle 1 Samuel 13 14
So, assuming you, the reader, have already read the full story, let’s take inventory here.  A Stock Check if you will.

WRONG CHOICES ARE DESTRUCTIVE

In this and the next but one chapter, we are about to negotiate the narrative of two incidents in the life of Saul and its bearing on what God had said through Samuel to Saul. It is a sad tragedy.  If I knew Saul personally, instead of simply reading it in the bible, I would cry.  I would shake him and plead with him.  I would shout and stop him at crucial moments of his life.  And in this chapter we have the first moment of madness that was to start his plummeting downwards.  Not of fate, mark me, but of his own personal choice. It is that matter of choice that makes the story so upsetting. It wasn’t that Saul accidentally fell into disobedience, he chose his direction and jumped. None of us sin accidentally. He did not fall into a pit he didn’t see. He saw the pit, examined the pit, and jumped into the pit willfully. The repercussions are simply horrific. Sin is not accidental – it is deliberate. We are not responsible for true “accidents.”  The world is full of many people who shake a fist at “accidents” that were actually their own fully thought out and chosen route of action. We are all fully responsible for our choices. These two stories that we are about to negotiate are all about Saul willfully and intelligently making horrific choices and reaping the results for those choices. Rest assured that nobody mocks God and gets away with evil, no matter what or how it seems to our sight and information received. We live amongst a generation that thinks with their eyes and believes with their emotions. That, in itself, precipitates all kinds of wrong beliefs and actions.   Whatsoever a man sows that is what he shall reap. When we make sinful choices, we sow to the wind, but, what we reap is the whirlwind. God give us mercy in this process. Saul reached for the gnot, but finished up swallowing the camel of destruction.

Saul!  Saul! Oh if I could only have been there to speak to you.  If Saul had conducted himself differently than he did on these two instances, Saul’s dynasty would have been as celebrated today as is David’s now.  In fact, had Saul walked circumspectly in these  two issues that we are about to see, none of us would know who David was, or is.  Saul would be the heroic definitive essence of Jewish history and religious culture.
So let’s go and catch up with Samuel in the next instance that we see him in.  In following the prophet we are now walking with him, howbeit possibly through the Philistine battle lines.  The whole story is a strange one, and no full explanation of it all is given in the scriptures.
0008 HornOfOil
REMEMBER AND ACT ON PROPHECY RECEIVED THOUGH IT TAKES YEARS TO FULFILLMENT
So where do we start to explain this complex context?  Well! Let’s go back to where we just left him in the last sound byte of our story.  Samuel has seemingly attempted to step down out of the limelight as far as governmental leadership is concerned, but there is one prophetic word he has spoken to Saul that has not yet been fulfilled.
To see this we need to go back to that moment when Samuel poured oil on Saul’s head and told him he was to be king.  It was the day after Saul was told that his father’s donkeys had been found.  The prophet told him about all the things that would happen on Saul’s route home, signifying that what Samuel was saying was the word of the Lord to Saul. In the same breath, having explained all that would happen on that very day, Samuel suddenly takes a telescopic leap  with his prophetic word to an undefined moment of time and said, “You will go down before me to Gilgal, and behold, I will come down to you, to offer burnt sacrifices, sacrifices of peace offerings.  Seven days shall you wait for me till I come, and I will show you what you shall do.”  When, how and what was that all about?
This is truly amazing.
The importance of those words must surely have been stressed and even repeated whenever Saul and Samuel met after that day.  This is not actually stated, but that must have happened, or when Samuel spoke the words there was some heavy duty anointing of the Spirit that made the words unforgettable.  In plain terms, imagine being present when somebody is telling you what is about to happen to you throughout your working day. You would listen and remember, and then when everything happens as per the prediction you would be in a state of amazement and conclude that God had spoken to you, and the man that spoke was speaking prophetically. But there is a little more to the account. Without a pause, however, I suspect with a sudden change of tone in Samuel’s voice, the prophet talks to the same person about  waiting for him at Gilgal and not to be tempted to make a sacrifice, but to wait for Samuel to arrive to make the afore mentioned sacrifice.  Without any comment as to the time and the context of history. Three years later, at least, Saul found himself at Gilgal, and thus remembered and waited for Samuel’s arrival.  Even if my conjecture is in error here, Saul had this word in his mind so strongly, that when he was in Gilgal, under great stress, he simply knew he was waiting for the prophet, as predicted such a long time previous. 
There is a good chance that in the midst of any gathering of Israel to go to battle, there was an unwritten law in the psyche of the people that they must all meet at Gilgal.  So with this prophetic word having been discussed, meditated on and thought about for something like thirty six months at the very least, Samuel knew either by discussion with Saul, the “grapevine,” or by supernatural means, he had to be at Gilgal on a certain day.
So!  What we will do now is recount briefly the story that brought about this scenario.  In the build up to this fateful moment in Israel’s history, we are not told of Samuel’s involvement at all.
THE BUILD UP TO CATASTROPHE
First Samuel 13 starts:  Saul reigned one year; and when he had reigned two years over Israel. This is one of those sections of the bible where the scrolls are vague on the subject of numbers.  Ellicott’s commentary gives what I accept as the best solution.  He says that the usually accepted meaning is that Saul had reigned one year when the events related in chapter twelve took place.  Then, after he had reigned two years he had chosen out his personal guard, and then did what is thus related in this chapter. This is a legitimate preface to the story.  It lets us know that no matter how distant the promises of God might be, when believed on and walked in they will come to pass.  You might forget what God says, but He will not.
Saul chose him three thousand men of Israel.  This statement gives us a key to this piece of history. Why did Saul do this?
0004 1sa_towns_in_1samuel13If it was for no other reason than to create a personal bodyguard it was a crass error.  The expense of such recruitment was truly disproportionate to the need.  It was an affront to the masses (330,000) who aided with the defeat of the Ammonites, so recently celebrated at Jabesh Gilead.  Why train such a small crack battalion of troops?  Why not send teachers to train the whole nation?
One of the answers to this question is the lack of arms among the Israeli’s.  But we go ahead of ourselves. These three thousand men were both body guard and “national SAS troops.”  With such a number of finely honed commandos they could inflict considerable damage on the Philistine infrastructure as well as create the new “image” of monarchical power and splendour that it would seem Saul wanted to portray.
Trouble would have come, however, if and when, the Philistines instigated a total war effort to rid the world of “Nasty Israel.”  The “Sea peoples” were undoubtedly still living with memories of Samson, and Samuel’s earlier success when Israel gave the Philistines a “whipping” at  Aphek.  In such a situation of a Philistine attack the body mass of the twelve tribes would be beckoned, and the whole “jealousy and pride”, “superiority and inferiority,” dynamics of human relationships would impact the morale of the nation escalating any confrontation on the battlefield to apocalyptic importance.  There would be three thousand trained troops who considered themselves, ”The Business,” and masses of fighting farmers who considered themselves, “green,” and surplus to needs.  This was overall, I believe, not a good idea of the king. It may have been a decision made on financial lack for a defence policy.
In any case, the fact was that Israel now had a personally conscripted standing army of three thousand.  Saul started something here that David and Solomon developed to perfection.  In the days of Saul’s immediate successors it ultimately made Israel one of the greatest powers in the Middle East.  They might have learned their trade on nobody but Philistines, Moabites, Ammonites and Edomite (read 1 Samuel 13 &14) but Saul left a seriously trained fighting machine, trained wonderfully well for war, deficient only in numbers and arms.
0007 PhilistinesIn the context of the story, this first verse is inserted to let us know that this 3000 elite soldiers had a negative effect on what we are about to be told.
“Whereof two thousand were with Saul in Michmash and in mount Bethel …” Michmash was a strategically placed site about nine miles north-east of Jerusalem.  It would seem Saul was holding back the Philistine hordes from this camp.
“… And a thousand were with Jonathan in Gibeah of Benjamin.” This is the first biblical mention of the great man Jonathan.  Jonathan was based by his father King at his home town “Gibeah of Benjamin.”  This was undoubtedly because the philistines were permeating the land of Canaan round about Benjamin’s territory, and the King’s home town needed to be held for the sake of the morale of the nation,  i.e. “if the king lost his home to the enemy, what hope do the rest of the nation have?”
“And the rest of the people he sent every man to his tent.” Here’s another crucial question that can be answered by nothing but conjecture!  Why did he send folks home?  If they had war with the Philistines all the years of Saul’s reign, why group three thousand only and ditch the rest?  In defence of Saul, it has to be conceded that it is hard to keep a nation in “war mode” for over long.  Joshua had the same problem. But the people must have turned out ready to fight or they could not have been sent home. It is possible that Saul could see that they had no skills or arms to match the other war machines of the neighbouring nations, especially the philistines.
“And Jonathan smote the garrison of the Philistines that was in Geba.”  So the first falling domino of our story starts here.  While all this basis of the three thousand and their respective camps was established, the Philistines were astride the vital pass that led to the Hebrew dominated highlands, namely Geba. 
Jonathan never puts a foot wrong in the whole of scripture.  He seems to be the perfect warrior.  And this attack must have been extremely effective in breaking the minds of the five Philistine kings, for they determined to respond in the most dreadful of warlike attacks.  Matthew Henry wrote, centuries ago, in quite the opposite perspective.  He thought that this attack by Jonathan and his thousand men was a total mistake, and one that brought about the attack from the Philistines, and hence the downfall of his father.  I think not!  War was the normal, “name of the game,” in the days of which we are talking!  Who struck the first blow is not really an issue.  As per the political scene of today, the Philistines did not consider the right of Israel to exist a legitimate or legal concept.  Israel’s attitude to the Philistines (or Palestinians) was not the same. Israel did not deny the other nations the right to exist, but they did deny them the right to any of the land promised to them by God Himself. This same story is being played out in the state of Israel even as I write.
0009 i_sam_14_13_and_jonathan_climbed_upThe Philistines reacted strongly. “And the Philistines heard of it.”  Then the king realised the dynamics of a scenario that had been created by Jonathan, and realised he needed more troops. “Saul blew the trumpet throughout all the land.” The trumpet would seem to be more than a declaration of good news and the triumph of Jonathan’s action.  It was meant as a rallying call for all fighting men to come to the king’s aid … at Gilgal. He wanted the men he had sent home, now to leave their homes again and to fight.  Saul  sent saying, “Let the Hebrews hear,” and all Israel heard say that “Saul had smitten a garrison of the Philistines…” Even though we are just told that the victory was activated by Jonathan, still, typical of Jonathan’s spirit as presented in the rest of scripture, he credited his father with the victory as Commander–in–Chief.  Either that, or Saul willfully stole the glory.  “… and that Israel also was had in abomination with the Philistines.” 
The hatred that the Philistines held towards the Israeli’s is often highlighted throughout the book of Samuel.  This would, at moments of weakness, dominate and ravage the morale of Israel.  Not only did the Philistines respond in hatred and a quest for vengeance, but they came in great force and magnitude.
And so, “the people were called together after Saul to Gilgal.”  Saul withdrew from Michmash, and probably out of deference, to the long standing holy place at Gilgal.  This was far removed from the front line near to Philistine fortresses.  The gathering of the people to their king was as quickly activated as with the earlier call, as well as the later dispersal.
On the south West bank of the Jordan River, slightly north-east of Jericho was the city of Gilgal.  Gilgal seems to have been the very first settlement of Israel on the West bank of the Jordan.  All through Joshua’s day it was the assembly spot, the HQ of Israel, if you will.  Its practical importance dissipated when government was transferred to Jerusalem, but Amos 5 :5, and Hosea 4:15 and 9:15 suggest it was still considered holy to the Jews in Samuel’s time.  Gilgal was a large flat plain and easily attacked.  It was a piece of land defended with great difficulty.
No matter how expert or otherwise Saul was in his war strategy, Samuel’s well remembered prophetic word, some three years earlier, stopped him from moving.  The word was that he would have to wait seven days before Samuel came to tell him how to meet the situation.  The silent wait was on.
0006saul-sacrifice
“LORD GIVE ME PATIENCE … BUT HURRY!”
“And the Philistines gathered themselves together to fight Israel, thirty thousand chariots, and six thousand horsemen, and people as the sand on the sea shore: and they came up, and pitched in Michmash, eastward from Bethaven.”  The Philistines were pitched where Saul was at the start of our narrative.  Of all the accounts in scripture of the Philistines gathering for war, never did they come more numerous, ominous, and ruminous as at this moment.  Israel were terrified to put it mildly.
The scene is set for battle, and the Philistines were grouped for a veritable holocaust to be inflicted on Israel.  But no battle was forthcoming from Saul, neither could there be.  He had been ordered, by the word of the Lord to wait for Samuel.  He is ready to fight. willing to fight, and had the troops ready for battle, but until Samuel was present nothing would be allowed. The prophetic word had said so, years before. Can you feel the tension?
“When the men of Israel saw that they were in a strait, (for the people were distressed,) then the people hid themselves in caves, and thickets, in rocks, high places, and in pits.  And some of the Hebrews went over Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead.”  Oh dear! To saul’s physical eyes, this was sheer catastrophe. The national resolve, faith, hope and positive expectancy dissipated and disappeared into the atmosphere in silent cowardice and retreat.  Faith needs feeding, folks!  Fear is a horrible thing.  It gripped all and a sundry in the camp of Israel.  Saul also was beginning to tremble. The nation caught the disease of fear from their king.
The sight of the awesome size of the Philistine force, the knowledge of their hatred for Israel, the inability of Israel to have weapons, and sharp ones at that (see verse 19 of the same chapter), the inner national conflicts between the masses and the standing army of 3000 all started to play on people’s minds.  Not only was the tension and the pressure too much for the masses to hold (they all fled  – and so fearful were they of what was to happen,  that they did not even go home) but ultimately Saul was left with a mere 600 troops. Yes indeed, we are talking of potentially 333,000 fighting men, reduced to 600.  This meant that at least 2400 of the standing army had fled too.  This must have shaken Saul to the foundation of his roots of faith and confidence. Personal self confidence of the king must have gone. People drop dead with this kind of fear. The word picture of grown men hiding in caves and holes out of terror suggests that the fear of what the Philistines would do to them was monstrous in size and imaginative in breadth.
00010 1 sam 13This was the severest of tests for Saul. It would have been the severest test for any king. The panic that ran rampant through the hearts of the Israeli soldiers was thinning the troops as every hour passed.  Surely he had heard of Gideon and his few hundred.  Surely he knew of Abraham slaying four kings and their armies with 318 men.  The point was, that he should have held tight Samuel’s prophetic word, and thus was divinely challenged to believe that the same was about to happen in his day and generation. No matter what his thought processes were, the Word of God had told him to wait seven days for Samuel, and that is exactly what he had initially set out to do – I think.  The anxious wait was full of artery busting tension and negative expectancy throughout the entire army of Israel. His resolve was seeping away.
THE MOMENT OF TRUTH AND DETERMINATION
“As for Saul, he was yet in Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling.” The Kings’ courage should have inspired the people.  Instead, the people’s fear gripped the King. “He tarried seven days, according to the set time that Samuel had appointed.” Here we have the prophecy of Samuel referred to without explanation as to how it was kept so high in Saul’s consciousness. “But Samuel came not to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him.”   There are two questions testing and pressurising Saul.
Number One:  Is the King the autocratic ruler of Israel, or is he simply the servant and agent of Yahweh putting His plans and orders into being?
Number two:  Could Saul control his impetuous nature?
0005 Samuel_rebukes_SaulFrom the text, it would suggest, that even if they all had stayed, the Israeli army was wildly outnumbered by the Philistines. The point was that the Philistines were quite near and ready for battle.  Saul’s army was rapidly depleting, and battle engagement seemed imminent over a horribly tense seven days.  The Philistines, obviously, did not know what Samuel had prophesied.  Was it reasonable to expect God to restrain the Philistines from attack?  Why not?   Saul obviously did not think so.  For at the point of the seventh day of waiting, with only a short period before the end of the day, Samuel had not arrived.   The elastic band of the king’s nerves was stretched beyond its limit. His peace was gone, his faith was gone. He was seeing the situation in terms of mathematics and from a human point of view, instead of from the divine perspective. That is how his decision was made. We will all have to answer for decisions we make from a human point of view. Saul’s nerve snapped.

“And Saul said, “Bring a burnt offering to me, and peace offerings.”  And he offered the burnt offering.”  Oh dear! Get into the story. Feel the passionate fear of the whole graphic.  Thousands upon thousands of well armed tall fighting Philistines were creeping up on the Israeli’s.   Saul’s force was reducing and reducing till they only had 600 men who did not have arms, chariots, or armour.   The fear is dark and dismal.  Saul has waited seven days.  The seventh day had not ended, but Saul’s patience and faith had. Perhaps he thought, “If I wait any longer I will be facing the Philistines on my own.”  Possibly he reasoned, “If the three thousand hand picked army had crumbled to six hundred, what chance do we have at all?”  Frankly stated: Fear was larger than faith in Saul’s heart.  His fear knotted thoughts contagiously gripped the fighting men that were still there. The murmuring cowardice of the people spoke louder than the prophetic word of God spoken by Samuel. In an action that could not have taken more than 5-10 minutes, Saul called for the animal and offered the sacrifice.

THE DIFFERENCE A SINGLE MOMENT MAKES TO LIFE
Saul’s action was no sooner complete, than Samuel comes over the horizon and stands in Saul’s face. “It came to pass, that as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt offering, Samuel arrived.”
0003 Nebi-SamuelStudents of scripture note that the Kings’ hand should not have touched the sacrificial animal, and that the Levitical priests were anointed for that job. Prophet’s for the word. King’s for the rule. Priests for the sacrifices. Those remarks always have the ring of truth to this writer’s ear, even though the scripture itself does not even raise the point.  The truth is that when King Uzziah himself made sacrifices in 2 Chronicles 26 his conduct is highlighted as a major sin. The fact that it is not here mentioned as a sin suggests that Saul could possibly have utilised the priests to offer the sacrifice. However even if he had authorised some priest to offer the sacrifice, the offering was still against what Samuel had spoken to Saul. It does seem, that throughout Saul’s reign, neither the Ark of the Covenant, nor the Tabernacle was commonly used, if at all. There is a single verse suggesting Saul utilised the Ark. My thoughts are that Saul was a true “country yokel” who knew little of the spiritual history of his nation. 

Oh the agony of that meeting!  Saul’s motives, decision making processes, hidden thoughts and fears, all contrived to bring him to this moment of dreaded horror.  It is difficult to explain the gravity of the implications of the moment for Saul.  Similar to Adam and Eve taking a slight thing like fruit off a tree and plunging the entire cosmos into darkness, so here, Saul’s action, seeming slightly more than trivial to the modern mind, was grave and mammoth in its significance.

No sooner had the sacrifice been made than Saul’s action was seen to be a crass error.   The animal still crackling under the flames, the smoke still rising to the sky, the people still kneeling in religious observance of what was taking place, and lo …. there…. through the smoke, is the aged Samuel sternly striding towards the king.
If Samuel was so near as the sacrifice was made, why on earth wasn’t he told? Why didn’t Saul have look outs?  Where were the watchmen, surveying the area who could have told Saul that the prophet was almost among them?  Why doesn’t Samuel explain his lateness? How did Samuel get through the Philistine lines?  How could a man walk through a camp of countless Philistines into a camp of six hundred Israeli soldiers unseen?  What is going on here?
The situation is a dreadful one.  The power and the anointing of God sitting on Samuel as it did caused all and sundry to perceive in his emotions and responses, as well as his spoken word, the will of Almighty God Himself.  If Samuel was angry – so was God.  If Samuel spoke – so did God.
“Saul went out to meet him, that they might salute him”.
Saul was under the spell of a delusion. And make no mistake, delusions are spellbinding. His fear had motivated him to offer the sacrifice.  While under the delusion he ran to meet Samuel with great reverence.  This reverence of Saul to the prophet lasted all of Samuel’s days, and as we will see later, even after Samuel’s death.
It was Samuel’s opening words that shook Saul back to reality.  The delusion instantly lifted, and Saul started lying to defend himself and cover up his actions.
7f8b9-a0a0a0a0samuelrebukingsaul
LIES IN ANSWER TO SIN’S DISCOVERY
“Samuel said, “What have you done?”” The pain of guilt suddenly revealed, when not handled rightly, leads to nothing but lies, cover up and deceit.  Saul responded with a mouthful almost before Samuel had finished his question. 
“Saul said, “Because I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that you came not within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered themselves together At Michmash; so I said, “the Philistines will come down now upon me at Gilgal, and I have not made supplication unto the LORD:  I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering”. 
Surely Saul could not have been sincere with these words.  I can’t believe that.  He actually put the blame on Samuel for coming late.  “Your non – arrival, Samuel, forced my hand,” is what he really wanted to say?  But not having the face to look at Samuel and say these words, he blandly and obliquely put the blame on impersonal “circumstances”   It’s like Aaron’s ridiculous pleas of “they gave me their gold earrings, I threw them into the fire and …. Oops! Out came this golden calf.  Nothing to do with me!”  Samuel withheld from saying, “I am here and within the time stated.”
How could Saul’s understanding of Samuel’s character have been so superficial?  One did not need to be a brain surgeon to understand that Samuel could see through lies and knew the mind of God, and that by the Spirit of Yahweh he could see into people’s motivations.  In lying to Samuel, Saul was lying to God.  Like Ananias and Sapphira, in lying to God’s leaders on earth, they were said to have been lying to the Almighty. 
“Samuel said to Saul, “you have done foolishly: you have not kept the commandment of the LORD your God, which he commanded you: for now would the LORD have established your kingdom upon Israel for ever.  But now your kingdom shall not continue: the LORD has sought him a man after his own heart, and the LORD has commanded him to be captain over this people, because you have not kept that which the LORD commanded you”.
The scene is too horrible for words.  The awesome trauma of this moment was undoubtedly one of the major precipitating causes of Saul’s irrational conduct for years to come.  This was a mammoth negative shock to Saul’s nervous, emotional and spiritual system.  It hit him so hard he became sick.  Before 600 soldiers who were trembling because of his lack of leadership and courage, he was publicly shamed.
THE CRUX OF THE MATTER THAT JUSTIFIES THE JUDGEMENT
Many commentators and preachers, even those that claim to be fundamentalist in belief systems, seem to slate both Samuel, and even God himself here, for a judgement that seems hideously disproportional to the sin committed.  How stupid!  Josephus vindicated the magnitude of the divine punishment by saying that Saul, “did not fully obey the command.” God is always right and just, and the rationale behind Samuel’s gravity in the situation needs to be put into context to grasp the significance of Saul’s actions. The very existence of the nation of Israel was due to the generosity and choosing of Yahweh.  Their faithfulness to Him would guarantee the increase, expansion and prosperity of the nation.  Their relationship to God was the bottom line, and the key to the blessing.
In the middle of an artificially created internal crisis of national “want”, Israel asked for a king, and God gave them Saul to rule.
29. One moment of madness and it's the end of civilisation as Samuel wanted it.While Israel walked with God and obeyed the precepts of scripture nobody could stand before Israel.  But once Yahweh was removed from the ultimate throne and leadership of the nation, the reverse occurred.  With God, the ultimate in blessing and prosperity.  Without Him, they would sink even lower than that nations around them.
The issue here is that Saul overstated his role as king over Israel, and in so doing he moved Yahweh aside from where He should have been.  In plain English, the sight of the slowly evolving monarchical infrastructure and the over-rated success at Jabesh-Gilead, Saul thought that the covenant with Yahweh was not as essential as it actually was.  Bad Move!  That was a catastrophic paradigm shift.  Saul’s delusions of grandeur and self importance were unacceptable for a man in his position.  It was definitely unacceptable to God.
This moment of time was a hinge upon which an incredibly important door to the future of the nation hung, and the birth of Christ was concerned.  This was the moment when Samuel first spoke the Word of the Lord saying, “Yahweh would have established your kingdom upon Israel forever.”  An eternal destiny, set by God, had just been destroyed by one crass act of disobedience.  God would have established his kingdom forever …. but!
“But now your kingdom shall not continue”.  How horrible for Saul.  No date!  No timing!  No statement of how the discontinuation was to come about.  Was Saul supposed to just pack his bags and leave, and wait for another?  Was he to be assassinated?  Was he to be demoted?  When will it all happen, Samuel?  Tell him!  Tell the poor man!
But Samuel could not say what he did not know.  The prophet only speaks what he hears Yahweh speak.  No more, and definitely no less.   Saul was to lose his throne.  That’s as far as Samuel could see, so that’s as far as he could say.
A MAN AFTER GOD’S OWN HEART, YET UNBORN, HAD BEEN CHOSEN TO SUCCEED SAUL
“Yahweh has sought him a man after his own heart”.  The point here is, I believe, that the people had achieved a king who was after their heart.  God had a man, somewhere in time and space on planet earth, after His heart and he would be their future king.  Saul died after a forty year reign when David was thirty years old. So David “blinking, stepped into the sunlight” ten years into Saul’s reign. This story was three years into Saul’s reign. The fact is that the man we are talking about that God had promised was to be Saul’s successor was not even born at this moment of time in our storyline. This was possibly the cruellest agonising pressure on Saul’s sanity.  Another had already been chosen, even though he had not even been conceived as Samuel spoke.  God had his eyes on a replacement king, and one that had a heart after God.  A right heart towards God, even now, could have saved the man’s mental and spiritual balance.  But no!
“And Yahweh has commanded him to be captain over his people.”  The words suggest that the person, whoever he might be (as if we did not know!) was somehow, in his spirit, already aware of what he had been called to.  Now that is amazing! David must have been born with some kind of presentiment in his heart towards kingship.
“Because you have not kept that which Yahweh commanded you.” We learned earlier that none of Samuel’s words ever fell to the ground.  Here is the evidence of a weighty, grave, and nationally important Word from God uttered on the spur of the moment where every jot and title happened just as he said.  Awesome!
What would you have done if you had been Saul?  Step into his sandals, and see if you do not feel and grasp the entire futility of being cast off by God.  He started to look inward instead of Godward.  That world view itself would add to the pain.  The view he had was all.  His life was now spent.  It was borrowed time.  For what purpose was his life? I have no doubt that deep repentance and seeking God could have softened the blow remarkably, but none of those spiritual excellencies were ever seen in Saul again from that moment until the end of his life.
00000006
IN CONCLUSION
The Bible gives us two moments of godless self-will that were precipitated by Saul’s free choice, and were the means by which Samuel saw into Saul’s heart and made the divine pronouncements of a future so shocking to Saul and his family – so full of blessing for a man called Jesse, and Israel as a whole.
The concept and demand of total and absolute obedience to every word of Yahweh as presented by Samuel was in the end the very ruination of Saul.  King Saul was fully and fairly tested.  He flunked!  The higher one climbs in God’s blessing, the narrower the criteria for judgment, the stricter and more full must be the obedience.
As a side line, I have to note, that not only was Jonathan at Gilgal when Samuel made the pronouncement, but that he heard the word as well.  So Jonathan was aware that he was not going to be king in his father’s place all through his future relationship with David.  This makes his actions through the coming years all the more amazingly honourable and righteous.  (See 1 Samuel 13:16)
“And Samuel arose, and got him up from Gilgal unto Gibeah of Benjamin”.
Samuel actually went to Saul’s home town.  Saul, Jonathan and the six hundred followed Samuel.  No reason is given why the party walked towards Gibeah.
“Saul numbered the people that were present with him, about six hundred men.”  I can hardly believe what I am reading.  After what Samuel said, Saul counts the men.  To what purpose? Possibly to reward them for sticking with him throughout the entire seven day wait.
Although the Bible does not say what happened next with Samuel, I think he went home to Ramah just a couple of miles away from Gibeah. The Philistines, no doubt by Divine interference, did not fall on Israel to destroy the people.  They split their camp into three parts and camped them around, keeping a fearful grip on Israel
So this day ended with the words of divine rejection resonating in Saul’s mind.  Divine rejection!  Note; that is enough to send anybody mad! 
0001 Gilgal-in-one-slider
Related articles
Categories: 1 Samuel 13 verses 1 - 15, One moment of madness and it's the end of civilisation as Samuel wanted it | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How can wanting a king be a sin if it makes Israel so happy and they win wars?

“So! This “King” Business is not so Bad After All Is It Samuel?
(1 Samuel 11:14-15)
KING SAULWhen Samuel encouraged and exhorted Israel to the renewal of the kingdom, we need to see what was happening, and why.  We need to look at the ramifications of what happened from this so called “renewal”.
Samuel accompanied Saul and the army back home.  Thirty eight miles south, south-east of the battle ground that was Jabesh Gilead,  was the ancient city cum shrine of Gilgal, a site which is today only known by approximation, Saul was reaffirmed, and the kingdom renewed.
So what happened?
This was a formal recognition of Saul by the means of, what we in Britain would refer to as a full and proper Coronation.  In the first flush of victory over the Ammonites, we plainly see that it was, from Samuel’s speech in 1 Samuel 12, a long time coming, in a long term, “step by step” campaign by Nahash.  Samuel says quite plainly in 1 Samuel 12:12 that Nahash the Ammonites’ uprising was one of the original reasons why they had asked for a king.
So, with ceremony and celebration, the prophet made sacrifices, the people, “made Saul King,” in the sight of the army, and declared him to be rightful monarch again, in the full confidence and high swell that a mighty and memorable victory gives a nation.
So we have in scripture three declarations of Saul’s kingship by Samuel.
The first time Samuel and Saul were the only one’s present.  The second time the entire nation was present with Samuel.  The third time was Samuel’s priestly presentation and full coronation worthy of a king.
The first time was a declaration to Saul alone.  The second time was the announcement to the nation of the king.  The third time was the presentation to God of the new king.
Practically, the main benefit for Saul was that we never hear of him again, “in the fields,” or, carrying on his farming duties.  It is commonly deduced that from this moment on, i.e. from this coronation at the end of 1 Samuel 11, Saul ceased to be a “part-time,” “ad hoc,” honorary king.  He was the reigning, ruling, royal monarch from this day on, with the beginnings of the trappings of monarchical splendour, and the privileges such a position gives to its post holder.
Not that, “suddenly! “  Saul was in a golden palace or anything of a sort.  But the king from this point had an army and a monarchical base, all of which needed paying for.  We will look at the ramifications of all this when we plough into 1 Samuel 12.
The point is that the entire nation now had a king that was acknowledged to be a fighter, a leader, a man of authority, and sanctioned by both Yahweh, Samuel and all the people.  For the moment, all was content, the people were happy with what they had.
And so the governmental authority of the Hebrew nation was now fully and formally altered into monarchy.  Long live King Saul! 
Could it get any better? A king that loves God, prophecies, and fights with valour? A monarch who could bring 330,000 men together from scratch and take them to the battlefield within 7 days?
Saul would be settling into his new role and delegating folks to run his farm. Samuel would be getting down and dirty with the schools of the prophets. The nations round about would be trembling in their boots (or sandals) because of Israel’s all round unity.
God did say to Abraham that he would be the father of kings, i.e. plural. As far as Israel themselves were concerned, Saul was the first sample of the fulfillment of God’s promise.
Categories: 1 Samuel 11:14-15, How can wanting a king be a sin if it makes Israel so happy and they win wars? | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

You wanted a King! So, let’s see him get on with “Kinging it.”

 Ammonite day of destiny? 
(1 Samuel 11:1-13)
Where we think the Tabernacle was placed. Also, where a Byzantine Church has been uncovered, This is the Mount Shiloh.

Where we think the Tabernacle was placed. Also, where a Byzantine Church has been uncovered, This is the Mount Shiloh.

Though, by our standards, the state of society in Samuel’s day may seem primitive, even the most learned reader and student  of scripture simply cannot be prepared to find Saul following the herd in the field after his election as King of Israel. It was Farmer Saul doing his earthly father’s bidding back on the ranch. I often wonder, and would love to know, what Kish’s response was when he found out he had fathered the first King of Israel.

As with most academics we have to give ground to the theory that the opposition to him at the national lottery was far from contemptible in number and influence. For this reason, we project that although being elected King was a fact, and even though having a band of men follow him was to his encouragement, for unity’s sake Saul probably thought it best to keep a low profile until his moment came to express kingly leadership and initiate some policy or action that would truly signify his royal authority.  On top of this, frankly, the resources and infrastructure that are normally instituted in order to maintain a monarchy had simply not been conceived of in Israel yet.
Human life was of little value in these times, and the crime of destroying it was little thought of.  If Saul provoked the lunatic fringe he would no doubt be the target of some furtive assassin’s dagger.  Perhaps that was the reason God gave Saul a band of men whose hearts God had touched. i.e. loyalty to their king and his physical safety would have been their paramount mission.
Shiloh. Taken from the west.

Shiloh. Taken from the west.

So we conclude that it was probably wise for Saul to wait to prove himself as worthy of the temporal sceptre of Israel – the anointed of Yahweh,  before elevating himself to a palace and a body of servants.

According to Josephus the wait was something like a single calendar month.  But we shall follow the narrative from the perspective of our prophet:  the mighty  in spirit – yet aged in body – Samuel.  Routine is good.  Daily routines, weekly routines.  Routines with family, work, and society.  But crises come and have to be responded to.  One particular crisis was about to burst upon Israel that, prior to Saul’s lottery win, could not have been responded to so quickly, so nationally, and resolved so efficiently. King Saul was about to exercise his royal prerogative.
Again, as with the distance of time between Samuel anointing Saul and the drawing of lots, so with the passage of time between the public selection of Saul and what transpired next. The scripture says nought of the number of days passage.  We are thankful for Josephus’s assertion of the thirty days passing.  It gives us a working draft sketch.
Saul battling the Ammonites.

Saul battling the Ammonites.

Another point of biblical silence is Samuel’s relationship and dialogue with Saul.  Indeed: Was there any?  None is indicated.

To continue the narrative and to keep the biblical record as our absolute, all that we know for certain is that one day in Ramah, perhaps in Naioth itself, came a messenger.  This was the UPS parcel post of the day.  At breakneck speed this messenger ran into town, called the people together, and when there was sufficient of the elders to formulate a required quorum, he opened a bloody package of flesh that had been hacked and sliced without mercy or forethought.  One could not tell what the flesh was.  Beef?  Pork?  Human being?  It could have been anything.  Undoubtedly the farmers amongst them knew. It was from somebody’s herd.
After the messenger had called the people of Ramah round to see the several pounds of horror, the folks sat back and waited for the messenger to speak.  He had been sent from the new king; so to say the people were electrified in giving their attention, would have been an understatement.
“Whosoever does not come after Saul and after Samuel, so shall it be done to his oxen”.
I would think it likely that Samuel would have had his contacts that would keep him informed.  Having read First Samuel over and over again, I feel that the words spoken suggest that Saul was not a man Samuel got on well with, whether in a personal dimension or in matters of state.  I think Samuel was looking for someone who could hear God and obey him to rule the nation, and if such a man was found and proven in Saul, Samuel would be content.
So even though we are not told that the messenger told the people the rest of the story, I am still convinced that the prophet of God who had led the nation for so many decades, was still in touch with those who kept him up to date with the, “National Intelligence,” grapevine.  We are talking of Samuel’s own infrastructure of intelligence.  It must have been difficult for the people to let Samuel go for the sake of Saul.
One artist's impression of Samuel anointing Saul.

One artist’s impression of Samuel anointing Saul.

This trip away from home, the furthest trip that Samuel ever took (as far as the bible tells us), was possibly one of the greatest highs the prophet ever had, as far as his personal projections of what was happening to Israel in the future, after his demise was concerned. It is a dastardly shame that the high was not sustained under the rule of the person that was King Saul the first, of Israel.

As they camped and were ordered into rank and file at Bezek, the farmer soldiers would have caught up on the story of what happened and why the blood stained messenger had visited their town, before rushing on to other hamlets and cities across Israel.  A swift night time march led forces across the Jordan and along the Wadi Yabis to the verdant valley below Jabesh–Gilead, belonging to the Trans Jordanian half tribe of Manasseh.  And to keep you, my reader, informed as to the intricacies of the story we need to digress a little to make sure we know, “the crack,” on each issue.
Jabesh Gilead had been besieged.  Now there’s a city if ever there was one.  Jabesh Gilead was a city in northern Gilead on the eastern side of the Jordan, about 45 miles north east of Ramah on the far side of Jordan. It was in the eastern half – tribe of Manasseh’s territory.  Yet again we have to give thanks to Josephus for informing us that it was the capital city of Gilead.
This city had a more than close relationship with the people of Benjamin.  How far back this strange union of twin towns and tribes had existed we cannot tell, but it could have been anything  between 10 or 200 years before Samuel was born. In Judges 21, Israel was summoned  as “one man,” more than likely by Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron, to avenge on Benjamin, the crime committed by the men of Gibeah.  This is neither the time nor the place to expand on the crime under issue here, but it was an inhumane atrocity committed on a young woman.   Sufficient to say that Jabesh-Gilead was the only city that refused to respond to the summons.  Whether it was this action that forged the friendship, or whether the friendship was already there, is conjecture.  For this act of non alignment with the rest of the tribes of Israel, Jabesh Gilead was raised to the ground and the population put to the sword by fellow Israelites.
The tribes that were involved in it all, however, deeply repented of their remorseless cruelty in their punishment of Benjamin, and feared, lest their brother’s name “might perish from the earth” (i.e. Benjamin).  The virgin women, who were the only survivors of Jabesh Gilead, were given to the Benjamites in order to “replenish” their families and numbers. Since then Jabesh must have raised its popular head again among the cities, and so must have Benjamin, though, for the reasons just explained, Benjamin was now the smallest of all the tribes.
Now, it would seem safe to presume that the folks from Jabesh had been present at the sacred lot that defined their new king.  So it was more than relevant to note, that when Jabesh had been besieged they did not send to Samuel, as Israelites had been doing in similar circumstances, for decades.  They did, however, send word to Saul, the new king, who would obviously have blood ties as well as emotional bonds with the city.   
Surrealist portrait of Saul

Surrealist portrait of Saul

This, “war criminal,” was a certain “Nahash the Ammonite,” who, to his misfortune, had attacked Jabesh Gilead.  Rest assured, by the end of our story, Nahash will have wished he had stayed at home in bed, on his farm, or in his palace, whatever lifestyle he was used to.  Nahash was king of the children of Ammon (1 Sam. 12:12).  (As an aside we remark that by reading 2 Samuel 17:25 and 1 Chronicles 1:16-17, we note that the family of David, possibly not yet even born in our narrative’s chronology, was related to the royal family of Nahash.)

The Ammonites were a kindred nation to the Moabites, having both derived their life blood from their forefather Lot, incestuously.  The Ammonite excuse for attacking Jabesh Gilead, was that in a recent generation, a Hebrew judge called Jephthah had wrought an incredible slaughter on Ammon, and taken land off them.  The Israeli tribes had generally been, since the days of Moses, a thorn in the side of Ammon.  So – undoubtedly one of two circumstances was ruling over this scenario. Either, not having heard of the new king they believed that the aged Samuel would not travel the distance to deal with the issue, and so they believed themselves safe from any military repercussions.  Or, perhaps, they knew they had elected a new king, but were not expecting it to have yet injected much efficiency or ferocity into Israel. Whatever the truth, they chose, in their ignorance, to seize back Jabesh-Gilead  to their own bosom. They would soon wish very heartily that they had not even discussed or thought of such a move.
The people of Jabesh- Gilead initially spoke not only cowardly, but in a manner that broke their covenant with Yahweh.  They actually offered, in covenant, to become the Ammonites’ servants.  Readers, we are talking of serious communal cowardice on the part of Jabeh Gilead.
The Ammonites, in a most gentlemanly fashion, responded by saying, “Yes!  That’s wonderful!  And we will gouge out all Jabeshite right eyes to ratify this covenant.”  I don’t know what that sounds like to you, but I believe we are talking about “heavy duty” random belligerence.  (The significance of such a gouging was that when battle commenced most of the troops held their shield in their left hand, covering their left eye as they held it, so that the battle was fought with the right eye watching the side they fought on.) Jabesh Gilead’s leaders asked for seven days respite in order to seek aid from the other tribes.  If by that time no help had come, they would submit to the barbarous Nahash and his inhuman suggestion. We can only conclude that Nahash thought the suggestion laughable.  Why any aggressor would allow the suggestion of, “going for help,” to stand, I simply cannot grasp, unless one or more of the following options were relevant to the story.
a.      He considered Jabesh well and truly besieged and was under the impression no one could get out to take the message.
b.      He believed Jephthah’s out and out slaughter was a fluke of circumstance that Israel could not replicate in this present generation.
c.      Perhaps he thought that even if Israel sent help, his army was sufficient to handle it.
d.      Perhaps he believed that even if they came with help, Israel were too clumsy a hegemony to get their troops together and be fully mobilised in seven days, by which time they would be behind the strong walls of “their” Jabesh Gilead.
.

.

Whatever the truth of the matter, by the course of the narrative we know that a messenger- cum- spy left Jabesh Gilead and went straight to Gibeah, the palace,  – pardon me, – the rough rustic farm where King Saul reigned, eh – lived, – eh – farmed -eh – scratched a living.

When news had reached King Saul he had responded by chopping up the cattle he had been working with, sending some part of the bloody carcase to every tribe in Israel, and threatened to do the same with anybody else’s precious herds who did not join the battle for the nations’ dignity and security, to save Jabesh Gilead. 
Oh!  This was excellent!   Absolutely excellent!  The monarchical system was biting!  Ladies and gentlemen, for Saul-ben-Kish, to show himself a true king, opportunity had knocked loud and clearly.
It was received on various levels of understanding.  Jabesh-Gilead was quite a large settlement, and if that was to fall, there was no telling how many attacks, or how deep an inroad Nahash might want to make into Israel’s eleven other tribal distinctions.  On top of that, if Jabesh was neglected as a seemingly “remote” outpost, how many other warring hordes might start to pick off “outpost” cities.    
Also, it would seem that the Ammonites were quite numerous, and the inference is made in the biblical narrative, that it would take a nationally recruited group of fighters to match Nahash’s army.  No mention, however, or indication is given of the numerical size of Nahash’s troops.
All the pre-discussed grounds for wanting a king had come into play with the first national crisis of Saul’s reign.  And like the dream set of a Hollywood movie, the scripture says: “and the fear of the Lord fell on the people, and they came out with one consent.”  The unity and resolve to follow their king to battle was a startling new social and spiritual phenomenon in Israel.  It was as much a spectacle as the selecting of the monarch. Bezek lay about sixteen miles from Jabesh.  The Israeli camp in Bezek had a spirit, an anticipation, an expectation all of its own.  Saul numbered,  mobilised and arranged his men. “And when he numbered them in Bezek, the children of Israel were three hundred thousand, and the men of Judah thirty thousand.”  Now that is a wonderful army to go out warring with on your first battle as King of Israel.  Could he possibly lose?
.

.

There is an amazing amount of undertone of all shapes and sizes in every line of the scriptural narrative.  It is primary to note that 330,000 men was the army amassed to slay the Ammonites, suggesting how big an attack on Jabesh-Gilead the Ammonites had mounted.  The Ammonites were obviously not intending to return home after taking Jabesh Gilead. Jabesh would be their home – and so it does reveal to us, that in defending Jabesh, the masses were fighting for their own freedom.  To be objective however, whether or not 330,000 men matched Nahash, or totally overwhelmed them is not explained.

As yet another aside, (there are so many that need to be highlighted) it is also important to note that they had numbered the fighting men and separated the men of Judah from the rest of the nation.  This undercurrent of superiority by Judah over the rest of the nation was a source of irritation for many as was utilised by men and demonic spiritual powers to split the nation after Solomon’s death.  It informs us that even though Samuel had overcome the national prejudices of both sides, and Saul also now that the entire nation had rounded to meet him at Bezek, the division of Judah and “the rest,” never left the minds of the people.  This was a mindset that had negative repercussions for centuries afterwards.
Samuel was undoubtedly discerning in his understanding of the dynamics of what was going on.  The Bible says, “and the Spirit of God came upon Saul when he heard those tidings.”  I am more than confident in saying several things of Samuel’s state of mind on this rescue mission. I believe Samuel went along as the figurehead, as the prophet, but most of all, as the eager spectator wanting, and even willing Saul to excel, and succeed and to further the destiny of the nation State of Israel.

.

Several points!  Firstly; Samuel would have been as delirious as he ever could get at the concept of the Spirit of God dominating the new King in his role of monarchical ruler.  To Samuel this was wonderful.  This would have been the main burden of his soul.  If the nation were disobedient enough to ask for a king, at least let them have a man of God play the role to minimise the damage and cut the losses.
Secondly the visible unity of the nation would have delighted Samuel also.  This was the purpose of the cry of the people.  For a “First-time” phenomena of the nation fighting under their own king, things could not have gone better.  Only the, “Judah superiority,” issue would have marred the scene, and neither Saul, nor the call for a king had brought that about.
Thirdly, what was almost heavenly for Samuel the prophet, was that he himself was wonderfully and marvellously reduced to the role of observer.  He watched, stood aghast and made mental notes as he studied King Saul doing all the things that Israel wanted out of their king, i.e. win wars and rule.  What Samuel wanted was the warring and the ruling to be done under the leadership of Yahweh and the anointing of the Spirit.  Both Nation and prophet got exactly what they were after.  It was wonderful to witness.  So when the scripture notes that the Spirit of God came upon Saul, rest assured that Samuel revelled in the spectacle.  This was releasing the Seer to take himself into another direction – i.e. in God – a direction that we shall highlight later.

 

Israel are happy with Saul simply because they won a war.

Israel are happy with Saul simply because they won a war.

And it was so that in the morning, Saul put people in three companies; and they came into the midst of the host in the morning watch, and slew the Ammonites until the heat of the day: and it came to pass, that they which remained were scattered, so that no two of them were left together.

Could it have been explained more succinctly?  Could Hollywood have made a film so well, where the hero comes out on top?  
And the people said to Samuel “who is he that said, “Shall Saul reign over us?” Bring the men, that we can put them to death”.  This must have been the moment that Samuel’s spirit fled the coop.  As the twenty-first century adage has it, Samuel must have thought he’d died and gone to heaven.  The people spoke to Samuel.  In all seriousness, many of the fighting men, elated at both their own success and the acumen of their king, remembered vividly those who had derided Saul at the election.  Samuel was experienced at handling such pettiness of attitude amongst the masses.  I picture him drawing breath and opening his mouth to speak – and then, before uttering a sound, he was interrupted by King Saul.  And Saul said, “there shall not a man be put to death this day: for today the LORD hath wrought salvation in Israel.”  Samuel could not have said it more authoritatively himself.  That was the final straw of blessing for the prophet. How could he really be expected to contain his feelings.  Samuel was released into a glorious freedom, a wonderful liberty of spirit.  There was only one thing to do.  Samuel felt empowered and anointed of God to do it.

 

.

.

Then Samuel said  to the people, “Come, and let us go to Gilgal, and renew the kingdom there.”  And all the people went to Gilgal; and there they made Saul king before the LORD in Gilgal; and there they sacrificed sacrifices of peace offerings before the LORD; and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly.

As we are thinking on how well Saul had acted on this occasion, we see how the old friend of the nation had come on the scene to assist the masses to materially and substantially understand the moment.  Saul and the nation are all the better for Samuel’s guidance and prayers.  The old Seer has no jealousy for the man who has taken his place at the helm of the people’s destiny. But knowing well the fickleness of the people, he is eager to turn the occasion to account for confirming their feelings, as well as the issue of their sins that brought them to this place.  Seeing how Saul had acknowledged God as the author of the victory, as noted in his quote saying that “the Lord has wrought salvation in Israel today,” Samuel wisely and subtly decides to strike while the iron is hot.  He wanted to “renew” the kingdom.
So having anointed Saul privately as the nation’s prophet.  And having supervised the sacred lottery that installed Saul, acting in the role of “pseudo-king” himself, now, as priest, Samuel calls for a religious, priestly sacrificial gathering to declare Saul, King of Israel, while the entire nation is in a hot flush of warm appreciation and zeal for the Benjamite from Gibeah.  The victorious battle scene was a successful PR exercise for Saul.  The hype of popularity for the King was as high as it was very going to be.
Returning from Jabesh Gilead to Gilgal, Samuel would have been deep in thought and meditation.  Right or wrong (and it was wrong) the people had clawed for a king.  God had given them just what they wanted.  And now, even though the scenarios was a second best one, a Yahweh worshiping, fearless, decisive,  fighting king had won the hearts of the nation, and, seemingly, as much as was possible in the circumstances, he had won Samuel’s heart as well.  In modern paralell’s, Samuel would have had his “speech-writers” hard at work as they rode their donkeys back to Gilgal.  The people did not know what was going to hit them.
God save the King

God save the King

Categories: 1 Samuel 11:1-13, You wanted a King so let's see him kinging it. | 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.
.

.

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

Selah – Pause and calmly think of that.

Our last moment together with our hero left him standing alone at the gates of Ramah in deep thought, meditation, and no doubt, considerable perplexity.  He had just anointed with oil a very tall and handsome young man at the very instruction of Yahweh Himself.
000000022That would seem to be enough to put a man of God of Samuel’s stature in total quietness of spirit.  But knowing God’s heart, and God’s great patience with mankind, and with Israel in particular, Samuel wanted to be the shepherd to his people that God Almighty had called him to be, and ensure the young man’s integrity and fitness for the office that he had anointed him to.  Hearing God, and heartily and happily obeying Him, does not mean that the pastoral or prophetic heart isn’t still burdened for the people of God and the direction they choose.
So with the mental image of the aged Samuel standing, staring at Saul ben Kish as he walks away to join his servant ( who, as an aside, Jewish traditions identify as Doeg the Edomite. A man with no small part to play in the Kingdom’s transitional times about which we are thinking), we want to bring to the reader the deep ponderables of the great Prophet at this historic moment.  So we quickly sweep Samuel ben Elkanah to the figurative analyst’s couch and ask him  in a stern inquisitive doctor’s tone, “When did your problem first start?”
As he stands there musing with his left arm akimbo and his right hand scratching the beard on his chin, Samuel’s mind must have been buried in the history and environment that had brought the nation of Israel to this pivotal hinge of a moment in time, upon which the door into a new era, a new hitherto inconceivable season, under God, had been birthed by his own prophetic words to Saul. 
6e330-a8a8a8jewish-manThe biblical account tells us very clearly that while Joshua was aging, the incipient lack of purpose, drive and pastoral leaders to succeed him,  reached a climax of chaos shortly after his death.  This was a history that Samuel was immersed in and more familiar with than most of the Israelis of his generation.  Indeed, it was arguably the saddest part of Israel’s history hitherto  into which he had been born.
Relations between the tribes was loose, occasionally even frayed.  Only the tribe of Judah, Simeon, and those in the hill country of Ephraim could have had long term inter action with each other of a positive nature.  In fact, so positive was the interaction between Simeon and Judah that the former was assimilated into the latter and is never mentioned again in the historical narratives of scripture.
The Philistines, referred to by many academics as the “Sea-peoples,” and the Arameans in particular were still present in Canaan, and this made for tension between the Israelis and Arabs, tension that, though subdued at some points, at other times exploded into crude and deadly warfare.
The nice, tidy and orderly setting that the scriptures give us of the nation of Israel, the twelve tribes, and within the tribes the clans, and within the clans the family’s, is absolutely correct in its intrinsic nature of the people of Israel with true Semitic, Abrahamic, and Israelite descent. However, those statements actually, are only half the story. Those statements actually cover up the chaos that ensued in the fight for survival, the claiming of land, the search for prime farming territory, and the complications of the presence of non Israeli peoples that should not have been allowed to exist if Israel had obeyed Yahweh’s injunction when Israel took over the land of Canaan. Their slowness and failure to obey that command caused God to send an angel, who addressed the people at Bochim (See the early chapters of Judges). To put it in twenty first century street language, the angel told them plainly, “Forget it! If you are not prepared for the battle to wipe them out, I cancel the order. Let these people live! But they shall be a thorn in your flesh all your days.” Bad news, eh?
When read with a view to understanding the political make-up of these times we have the books of Joshua, Judges and First Samuel to illumine us.  The Old Testament clearly indicates the growing difficulties involved in the resolution of these scenarios we have highlighted above.
0ddec-a8a8a8a8rembrandt30We are given the names of various men that God raised up, sometimes simply acknowledged by people as a leader, sometimes God Himself having to call the person directly to deliver a tribe, or geographical area at least, from the oppression of some invading national or tribal entity.  With the majority of them, once safety had been restored, and a measure of Covenant consciousness placed in the psyche of the new generation of Israel, the hero, or “Judge,”  would return to wife (or wives),  family and farm and normal service of pastoral living would have been resumed. That was true of most, but not quite all.
The word normally translated as, “Judge,” can lead to misunderstanding.  Because of the context of the word in the twenty first century, it tends to suggest, to the cursory observer, that supreme legal and even political authority was invested in the Judges.  Not so!  There are actually other English words used that could be accurately utilised such as “Saviour”, or “Deliverer”.  The variations in the nouns used throughout  the book of Judges, and the different spheres of functionality as explained in the histories that are recounted, indicates that the tribes allowed their leading figures to be assessed and utilised in as many different ways as there were crises and deliverers to extricate them from.  In plainer language; “They made it up as they went along.” Some of the Judges had a degree of local authority, but that was given by Yahweh and the masses, not by written constitutions and regular political processes as we know them in the twenty-first century in the western world.
We note all this to once again highlight the fact that apart from Samuel, none of the Judges were national leaders. They were merely tribal, charismatic emergents that occasionally had other tribes assist them in their fight to exist.  Deborah had six tribes, at least, join in her struggle, probably assisted by her geographical middle Ephraim situation.
So this was the state of play until Samuel emerged within the context of the book of Judges, even though in the text of scripture he actually is post the Book of Judges.  He was a Judge, and even moved in a circuit to oversee Israel as depicted in our earlier chapters.  But, Samuel was utterly different to all previous Judges.  What Samuel brought was a new dimension of character, spirituality, vision and a deeper and more intelligent understanding  of the Mosaic covenant.  As already depicted, under Samuel’s leadership,  Israel had returned to covenant loyalties, and with the return of their former faith came a resurgence of national spirit and vision.  They went out against the philistines, and on the very same field where they had suffered such a crushing defeat years earlier, in the same day that “Ichabod” was born, they routed their Philistine aggressors to such a degree that for many years the Philistines had left the central highlands of the promised land alone. So, even though we never read of Samuel leading the troops on the battlefield, he certainly inspired them to victory.
The Kotel circa 1850

The Kotel (Western Wall) circa 1860

So let us here envisage plainly,  that the destructive status quo of three to four hundred years of the Judges was a “higgledy-piggledy” rise and fall of leaders,  from one crisis to another, in various localities.  The revolution that broke this generational curse was provoked firstly by the dissatisfaction in the minds of the populations of the tribes as to their vulnerability. This consciousness of weakness developed into the consciousness of strength when united in the wonderful leadership of the prophet Samuel. This, in turn, brought a deep fear of returning to those days, birthed by the ramifications of Samuel commissioning his own two sons to act in his place when old age had set in. The entire nation had high expectations, expecting those sons to replicate Samuel’s integrity and character.  Neither of them showed their father’s impartiality and they were both quickly known known for their venality.  The people had no desire to be judged by them now that Samuel could no longer discharge his judicial functions as “he always had.” The old idea and political desire to have a hereditary leader, which had found brief expression in Gideon’s day, resurfaced with greater aggression and tenacity.  The people perceived that as Samuel was growing old, and having for years assumed an authority of institutional gravity, a dynastic concept of the aged prophet  being passed on, leaving these moral non-entities of his sons in the same function and position as their father, was nationally decided to be unacceptable.  So they pleaded with the prophet for a leader with monarchical authority.

Samuel’s disappointment was ironically a fruit of his own awesome success and righteousness. They had such a lofty model to measure others with that it would have been difficult for anybody to follow in Samuel’s sandals.  His disappointment  was brought about by the people assessing Samuel’s strength and authority correctly, but by totally misreading the roots and the reasons for those very characteristics.  They could not see that it was an internal spiritual impartation – no! – better, an actual implantation of Yahweh in Samuel’s heart, not just a narcissistic desire and ability to “rule,” which is what it seemed to be with Samuel’s sons.  The thrust of their appeal was: “If we cannot have your sons to carry on your work with the same internal splendour and authority, Samuel, then give us a constitutional leader with similar external splendour and authority as “all the other nations” have.”  The elders of the people, literally, had no idea of the spirit that ruled behind their request.
Picking another man was not like buying apples at the market .  That is why the Judges, up to Samuel, of necessity, had to emerge in wisdom and the anointing of God’s Spirit upon them.  But, although this is, “in yer’ face obvious,” when reading the book of Judges and First Samuel, for some reason it was not grasped by Israel, not even their “wise men.”
Jews in Jerusalem circa 1890

Jews in Jerusalem circa 1890

Samuel had expostulated with them, telling them that their cry showed a lack of faith and a complete misunderstanding of the Covenant God had with them. Yahweh was their true king.

The cry for a monarchy was not the result of careful planning, “Think Tanks,”  or political negotiations.  In a sense it was a knee-jerk reaction by the elders to have something settled about the leadership before death took their beloved and revered Samuel home to his eternal reward.  Such was their absolute trust in the character and integrity of Samuel, they left the entire issue of selection of a successor to him and his “God uncovered ear.”  Is that not amazing?
They felt the need to be able to make speedy political decisions, as well as hasty militaristic action.  This was something that had not been in previous generations, apart from small localities being steeled into action.  It does suggest that, whether of faith, or superstition, the elders would not consider a man who was not legitimised by Samuel, and thus Yahweh. Samuel was more than a king to the people of Israel. He was revered and perceived in such a Godly and lofty perspective, he was quite naturally, and without query, asked to find a man and make him king of Israel. “No pressure, Samuel! Just make sure it’s the right man that we want!”
Also, by attempting to enter the minds of the elders we conclude that there must have been some other long term desires in their thinking.  Follow my pathway of logic:  No1.  I suggest that the elders, if not the whole entity of Israel, perceived the Philistines as an ever growing and permanently present source of danger.  Previous enemies had invaded and left.  This was historically different;  the Philistines still lived there on land  that Yahweh had given to them  (Their memory of what the angel had declared at Bochim was conveniently never referred to).  No2.  The hitherto spiritual weakness of Israel meant that they were usually forced into years of horrible bondage where prosperity and wealth, apart from sons and daughter were lost to the greed of their enemies, before a leader, or judge had arisen to deliver them. That cycle sometimes took forty years of virtual slavery before they prayed into being a new Judge to save them.  No3. During those holocaust days of subjection,  Israel had been pounded into a fear for existence.  No4.  When a judge arose it took considerable time to mobilise the people for the particular front of battle.  It would take even longer to choose the officers of rank in their forces.  No5.  This was now considered to be inefficient and insufficient for the “modern warfare” of the ever present Philistine war machine on the coastal plain, potential Ammonite aggressors from the West and belligerent Amalekites from the South East.  So, No6 and the Conclusion, logically, the appointing of a permanently commissioned leader, a “life-time Judgeship” if you will, would, in theory at least, provide a tighter organisation, a more easily mobilised military base, a better trained body of troops, and greater fighting efficiency. 
That all seemed logical and politically prudent, apart from one major issue.
.

.

All this philosophising and politicising missed the fact that God had declared Himself to be their King, their Ruler and their Defender.  It was the negligence of the covenant keeping, the godlessness of the people, and the lack of understanding, that caused Israel to miss the whole point, i.e. that  living in the realm of the “unseen Yahweh” was the very answer to all the needs of the people of Israel whether or not it was financial, militaristic, prosperity and/or peaceful living.  If they had clung to Him with the same tenacity that later generations of Israel clung to idolatry, there would have been no “days of the Judges,” no days where, “every man did that which was right in his own eyes,” and therefore no need of a successor to Samuel.  In fact all would have been living in the same realm as Samuel lived.

If one had the unbelief to omit God and the covenant from the daily life and existence of Israel, what was being discussed was wise and prudent.  But the very omission of this truth made it foolish, dangerous , and frankly, a wilful sin from which, once having committed themselves to its pathway of conduct, there would be no way of escape.
Samuel's Tomb.

Samuel’s Tomb.

In practise this pathway of thinking (i.e. “We want a permanent dynastic leader!”) ultimately captured the groundswell of opinion in the whispering of Israel until it emerged as a cry from the dissatisfied Israelis that included the word “King.”  “Yes! That’s what we are looking for, give us a King!”  This was the moment of conception, the malingering  festering foetus of fallacial thought.  Fallacial, I say, even though that thought brought single bonding and unity to the twelve tribes, even though it forged a single unified nation called Israel that lasted no more than 120 years.  It was only forged through David’s character, held together though the Solomonic early years, yet lost again through Solomon’s foolish later years.

So with all this noted, we need to understand that the Israelite monarchy developed as an incredibly complex social phenomenon.  It is not enough to perceive it as the evolutionary development of the political order of the nation of Israel.  To do that is a definitive path to failing to understand its conflicts, tensions and ultimate destiny. Yahweh was the King of Israel – they needed no earthly monarch at all.
What is vital is to view the Israelite monarchy, as predominantly a religious institution.  We are not yet discussing the Davidic throne, for at this moment of time in Samuel’s chronology, David was not even born.  We are talking of a, “King of Israel,” as an humanly birthed concept that has to be initiated into being somehow by Samuel.
.

.

As a religious office, it was far more profoundly involved with Israel’s spiritual and innermost experience than any political machinery could ever be.

And all that is to say this:  Samuel anointed Saul at the direct instruction of Yahweh, but it seems to me to be clear, that had if it been left to Samuel’s own mind, he would not have proceeded.  Samuel was aware to a degree more than anybody else in the Israeli cosmos, that Yahweh had condescended to give the people what they wanted,  i.e.  a King that was after their own heart, and not after His own heart.  They were looking on the outside.  They wanted strength, good looks, power, muscle, intelligence, respectability.  Even with the knowledge that Yahweh was God Almighty, the Supreme Ruler of the Universe whose authority in world affairs was too awesome to be stated. Nevertheless, Samuel feared for what God had decided to do, in acquiescing to the people of Israel.
Samuel’s eyes were on the covenant, righteousness, holiness and obedience to the commands of the Lord.  Would this man Saul, from the smallest family in the smallest tribe,  whom Samuel had just drenched with his now empty oil-horn, be the key to taking Israel higher?  Would he have character, spirituality, integrity and faith that could bind the nation together in the manner that Samuel understood and had pursued for decades.
This had always been Samuel’s daily meat and drink.  But it had been his meat and drink as well as his responsibility to implement the divine revelation.  He had been the proverbial, “head cook and bottle washer,” for his entire adult life.  And now, with all his understanding and wisdom gleaned from years of abiding in faith, God uncovering his ear and whispering into it, and then Samuel declaring what he had heard, and having done such a job so faithfully,  he finds himself on a cliff edge. Dare we say, “It is Samuel suffering from nervous fatigue.”
In obedience to that same divine voice, Samuel has just promised to give it all away to a young fellow that he hardly knew.  Everything he held with reverence, faith and spiritual warfare, and all that he had taught and lived  for as an example before the people, he had virtually, at God’s instruction, said to this young man, “Alright! I shall give it up now and leave it all in your hands.”  This was a young man that could not even find three lost donkeys, and was more the follower of his servant, than the leader.  This was a man that had no clue of even who Samuel was, so he did not have even the history and reputation of Samuel in his family to live with and use as a benchmark.  A total stranger had just been promised the most influential position in Israel – so incredibly influential, because the people themselves invented the post, created the job description and then had said to Samuel, “You do the recruitment!”
So this is where we continue with the story.  To say Samuel was full of thought at this point would be an understatement.  To say that what he had just done was irrevocable,  and a turning of Israel’s national destiny was also undeniable as well as irrevocable.  What on earth was going to happen now? No wonder the aged prophet was in such deep thought!
I am sure Samuel would have given a lot for a simple nine to five office job sometimes,  that is, if offices, and clocks had been invented.  (Only joking!)  But seriously, we have paused here to simply observe that the weight of responsibility on the elderly prophet must have been remarkably intense. Having handed the future of Israel over to a complete unknown, the weight on Samuel seemed even heavier than before.
Categories: Selah. Pause and calmly Think of That | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The River of God in Full Flow (A Day In The Life)

THE RIVER OF GOD IN FULL FLOW. (A DAY IN THE LIFE)

I see that man! I see those donkeys! I see! I see! I see!.

(1 Samuel 9:1–10; 16)

1

Lost donkeys?

After all this, there are several, “major interest” questions burning a hole on my cerebral ROM (apart from, “How on earth is Samuel going to find a king?”).  What I want to know is how did our prophet spend his days?  What did he do in his “spare” time?  If he had any.  How did he earn an income and feed the family?

In the context of the chronology of our story, he is now a “golden ager;” a “senior citizen: a man from “an older generation.”  That was one of the reasons proffered for the “popular” request of a king, a request that disturbed Samuel’s deepest psyche.  There were no buses, no “Away Day super Savers,” for travelling to find a king, no state pension, no home helps, no social services, and no helpline 0800 numbers to find out how to handle life as an OAP in a gruesomely violent society.  So what was the man of God up to living a prophet’s life in this ancient context?

Wonder no more!  The bible actually gives us a chapter and a half that allows us to, “home video” him over a single complete twenty four hour period – or thereabouts. This is a genuine, BBC Panorama  documentary of Samuel at his best and most productive.  Some might refer to it as an episode of “You’ve Been Framed,” or even a  special edition of “Candid Camera,” watching one of God’s greatest through an important moment in Jewish history. Not that the epithet “Jew,” had yet evolved. At this point of time they were still “Israel, children of.”  We are talking heavy duty prophetic ministry, and Samuel caught red-handed (or red mouthed) in the delivery.  Perhaps the ultimate prophet – next to Jesus Himself, in a routine “day at the office” with Samuel ben Elkanah Ministries.  He answers both our question about the king, as well as his routine, and a there is a tiny hint as to how he had an income.

Here we see the original Hebrew prophet in Israel, to Israel in full mature flow.  We are about to gain insight into how Samuel’s own prophetic spirit, under the Spirit of God, flowed in personal words, familial assurances and messages of national importance.  We can also see how the mind of our magnificent old hero was constantly engaged. His critical faculties and spiritually sensitive mind was chisel sharp ever at the age of …..Whatever age he was.

2

.

It starts as the first verse of the ninth chapter of First Samuel.  Samuel is living under the pressure of having been asked to appoint a king.  It was not the terrible pressure it would have been to most people. Samuel had given it to the Lord to sort out, and so all he had to do was hear what God was saying then do what he was told.  Easy eh?  And you call this work?  The secret is to wait till you hear. The enigma is to stay still, and not to do anything until you genuinely hear.  Nothing to it!  (Pardon me while I cough and splutter as I type those words).

To explain the story chronologically, we must glance at occurrences over three successive days at different locations several miles apart.  So; let’s just nip on over to a place called Gibeah.

“Now there was a man of Benjamin, whose name was Kish, the son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Bechorath, the son of Aphiah, a Benjamite, a mighty man of power”.  He may have been a man of power, but the fact that he had a certain son is the only reason we know of him in scripture.

Who was the son? “He had a son, whose name was Saul, a choice young man, and a goodly; there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he; from his shoulders and upwards he was higher than any of his people”.  Note that Saul is introduced in connection with his ancestry; and by means of the lesser duties of life. This account throws light on Saul’s younger, domestic character. Saul was a, “choice,” young man. The word involves the idea of exceptionality.  It was that, “choiceness,” that caused God to select him.  Yahweh was about to give the people the sort of king they wanted.  A man after the peoples own heart.

3

.

A great writer has said that it is possible for us to be good for nothing in history, except as a warning for all who live after.  Sadly, knowing the end of the story, Saul stands in history as nothing but a warning.  No matter how the power of God demonstrates His choice to a person, and the nation at large, as well as the wherefores of his specific and particular choice of that person, there is still a development needed in that calling, together with whatever gifting one is called with.  Let Him that boasts, boast in the Lord Himself, not in the nature of his calling, or the facets of his gifting.

The whole point of this account is that God heard the peoples’ cry and was giving them what they wanted as opposed to a man after His own heart which was what God would have wanted if He had required a king at this point of history.  Under the scrutiny of an agenda laid down by men, Saul was perfection itself.

“And the asses of Kish, Saul’s father, were lost.”  God has not yet spoken to Samuel about anything, but he has activated His plan. Lost asses!  Not thunder and lightning?  No burning bush or Red Sea opening?  No Angelic visitation?  No!  Just three silly asses lost in the neighbourhood. I wonder where”!  “And Kish said to Saul, his son, “take now one of the servants with you, and arise, and go and seek the asses”.”

A thing to notice about Saul is his filial piety. There is no duty more forcefully demanded or taught in scripture than parental obedience. With this concept the bible associates the highest rewards for its obedience and the severest punishments for its lack. These rewards pertain to this life as well as eternity. Saul acted in such a way as to suggest that the reverential regard he professed for his father was genuinely felt.  He was, at the time we first meet him, always willing to submit his own inclinations to those of his dad. Put plainly; Saul was an obedient son.

7

Is this where the Seer lives?

Saul was not so particular as to the sort of work that was given him’ he was no idler. Saul was a persevering and patient son.  He set off and looked for three days.  Saul was a considerate son. He might have thought of the asses and nothing else, instead he later thinks and looks to the worries of his father.  In this we see the secret of his alacrity and early stature.  When the disciples of Jesus went to look for an ass, they did not give a thought to the meanness of the duty, but of the dignity of the Master who had sent them, and although it was a lesser master that sent Saul, the same principle accrues. Saul ended up worrying about his father more that the asses. Good boy, Saul !

Oh the mysterious power of God that guides our lives!  Events cause us to only see one side of the tapestry of life; events that seem trivial, like the loss of threes asses.  Farm life went on by the hand of the other servants.  Saul went in search.  Everything nice, casual and easy.  Events that occur at critical moments have a kind of divine predestination about them.  How Yahweh links the points of life!  He joined the loss of silly asses to Israel’s desire for a king, and made the one event subservient to the other. I vaguely perceive a divine smile in the search. The spiritually lost silly asses that asked for a human good looking king in place of Yahweh, would get what they asked for by means of three equine asses being temporarily lost.

But it’s not only events.  It’s people. Believe it or not, Saul had never heard of the man, or the prophet, or the man of God whose name was Samuel, or even of Ramah (Short for Ramathaim Zophim). The unknowing choice of travelling companion swayed things too!  It was a knowledgeable servant who was chosen to accompany him; knowledgeable in a way that influenced Saul in possibly the most important key moment of his life. The servant not only had heard of,”the man of God,” but knew where he lived. In thinking of seeking Samuel for guidance to find the asses, little did this servant know he was leading Saul upwards to the throne of the kingdom of Israel?  But there is God at the epicentre of all these dealings.  God breathes upon Samuel, the asses, the servant, Kish and all, to get Saul where he wants him to be.  All the results of which were previously whispered to Samuel … ah!  …  but we jump ahead of ourselves.  All these bits of trivia carried with them spiritual implications for the destiny of the nation forever hereafter.  They had profound ramifications on the social life of the people of Israel and their children in the present also.

All this proves, that if God wants even a king, he knows where to get one.  Obedient sons are the more likely to be chosen.  It demonstrates how God uses the everyday, workaday occasions to build his purpose and kingdom.  It reveals also the same principle of Jesus calling most of the disciples while hard at work.

8 saul-meets-with-samuel-1900

Samuel meets Saul.

Let us learn and observe that Divine blessings descend upon us all fully inclusive of the package of life’s trivia and mundane issues.  Could there be a greater trivia than searching for lost asses?  Could there be a more mundane pastime than travelling miles and miles throughout the countryside, filled with livestock and asses, looking for a particular three that belonged to one’s own father?  Yet, in the midst of this tedium was the building and establishment of a throne.  The study of this story demands that we consider the issues of trivial incidents in all aspects of life.  It must be acknowledged that matters, which in themselves, and separately considered, appear inconsequential, can turn out, in their connection and subsequence, to be most momentous.  It is the way with God to associate the most important results with that which, in its origin, appears most insignificant

These incidents were not only trivial, but they possessed, in combination with this characteristic, another feature – they were of a class of incident that is commonly referred to as, “accidental.”  Some theologians shout, “Unclean!” at the very usage of the word.  The chart of the Divine cartographer is gradually unfolding blessing and good, but the measure and the manner of that unfolding we must leave in the hands of the Master contriver Himself.  God is in absolute total charge of all that is good.  Of all the possible, or probable  events which might have happened to Saul, that of becoming King would most certainly have been set down by himself and by others that knew him as the least likely ever to occur.  Saul in the pursuit of a lesser-good, met with the offer and promise of a crown, as well as the gift of a new heart.  To man, it was sheer chance and, “accident.”  To God it was planned and set before the foundation of the world.

For this sort of thing to happen to us, it behoves us generally to have diligence and fidelity in meeting the claims of our present condition, whatever those situations may be.  The habit of working from principle will ever be found to be the best aid to perseverance, because it stands against all random excitement.  The moral of the story?  Be busy and accepting in your present lot, and a throne may well pass your path, if not, at least a prophetic word on your life.

“And he passed through Mount Ephraim….” This means he went through the Ephraimite land, a chain of mountainous peaks and slopes that runs southward into the territory of Benjamin in which was not only Gibeah, Saul’s home town, but Ramah where Samuel lived.  This is the area of Saul’s patrimonial home as explained in the rest of the book of Samuel.  “….And passed through the land of Shalisha.”  Shalisha is not on any map I can find – and I have found a lot of them.  The word interpreted means, “Land of the three.”  It is thought that is was so called because three valleys join into one, or vice versa.  It is believed to be the equivalent of Baal Shalisha (2 Kings 4:42). “…But they found them not;” So here is Saul and his servant, going further and further afield, and no asses are found.  On the grounds of the entire text we believe that they arrived across the valley from Ramah on the third day.

6

Saul and his servant meet Samuel

So; in an attempt to stay true to the chronology of the story we here break in on Samuel for a few moments during the second day of Saul’s search.  We have here an interpolation that is actually explained later in the biblical text.  “Now the Lord had told Samuel in his ear (The Hebrew states, literally, that God, “uncovered Samuel’s ear”) a day before Saul came, saying, “Tomorrow about this time I will send you a man out of the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him to be captain over my people Israel, that he may save my people out of the hand of the Philistines’ for I have looked upon my people, because their cry is come to me.” 

There are unwritten teachings, as well as inferences and suggestions in this wonderful statement. Firstly, God came to Samuel, as opposed to Samuel seeking God. That is; Samuel received a Word that he was not looking for. Secondly, God uncovering Samuel’s ear suggests a private  and secretive sharing of the facts yet to occur. “Shall God do anything without revealing it to His servants the prophets?” (Amos 3:7)  Thirdly, it suggests to me that God was breaking the principle of not telling the human race what was going to happen in the personal future, for a special reason. I suspect the reason was, that, after having  met with him, Samuel would not have anointed him if God had not revealed the situation to him in the striking manner that He did. Fourthly, although the Philistines had been subdued during all the active years of Samuel, the divine sharing suggests that the five city states of the Philistine empire were asserting themselves again to the detriment of Israel. Possibly the deterioration of energy and physical capabilities of Samuel in old age meant that Israel were not having as much success in subduing their enemy, as they had been enjoying for the previous generation.

My use of the word, “generation,” gives us another clue.  As always happens with the progress of time, a new set of elders and leaders were arising, many of whom would never have mentally imaged or pictured Samuel in his prime. There were no videos, no cinemas or Newspaper clippings to let the new generation know of how Samuel had laboured for two decades immediately following the fall of Shiloh and the taking of the Ark of the Covenant.  There was no photographs or TV documentaries to explain how Samuel prayed at Mizpah some thirty to forty years previous to the time we are now discussing, and by the very power of God, in answer to his prayer, the angels of the Lord sent the Philistines running, while the soldiers of Israel were given the, “easy” task, of mopping up after God’s great act of deliverance.  There were no public libraries lending tomes of exciting true stories of Samuel’s lifetime of circuit judgements and spiritual leadership, revealing how he maintained Passovers, and initiated the schools of the prophets, and started keeping booty from the nation’s victorious battles, to store away, ready to be utilised in the building of a glorious Temple to the Lord which would be built, “someday” in their future.  There were no Pathe News documentaries showing Samuel in his early prime and manhood that would have made him an awesome hero and role model for the new youth arising.

5

Saul at the feast with 30 guests.

Although the epoch at which we are gazing was remarkable in maintaining the integrity of oral traditions, some of these things are only deduced by a constant exposure to statements made in later books of the Hebrew Bible.  The Hebrew memory was clinically selective. A generation of leaders had arisen that knew Samuel, but were only acquainted with, “Samuel the Aged.”  “Samuel the Younger”, as usual, was inconceivable when the old statesman – prophet was studied by the new emerging leaders. So with the re-emergence of the Philistines, there needed to be a reassertion of Israel, with a new assertive leader. Perhaps, if the people had not asked for a king, God would have raised up another prophet of a similar ilk to Samuel.  More than probable, that is exactly what Samuel had in mind when he commenced the prophetic schools.

However, the quantum leap as to this hypothetical other, “time continuum,” if “this” had not occurred, or if “that” had not happened, is fruitless.   A king they had asked for.  A king they were told they would get.  And after an undisclosed period of time Yahweh pulled back Samuel’s head covering, to whisper that the man that was to be king, himself was to arrive on his doorstep, “about this time tomorrow,” and that he would help dispose of the shackles of that giant nation of the Philistines.  It would be a man, the like of which, was exactly what the nation had asked for.

In retrospect, having read the story to the end, we have here a classic example of how God’s positive inspiring prophetic word must have faith exercised by its participants in its fulfilment, or the very opposite of the good promise will occur.  The application of this principle is plainly seen in Saul’s fall from walking in grace, and the upper hand gained in Saul’s lifetime by the Philistines over the nation of Israel.

4

.

Yahweh’s statement in Samuel’s ear is awesome proof, as if any were needed, that He answers prayer, and remembers what is asked for.  He had heard the people’s cry, and this man approaching Samuel’s domicile, and yet, still unseen, was the answer to that prayer. Whether or not God mentioned the asses to Samuel at this time, we are not told.  All we know by this interpolation of scripture is that Samuel acted in practical down to earth faith as to the word he had received.  The prophet arranged a meal. The “kingmaker” had a special portion of the meal set apart for the, “king to be,” in readiness, and told the chef to keep if for the man he would give it to.  This was a step of humility by Samuel, giving the nation’s “leadership” portion to the, “new kid on the block.”  Samuel also showed his implicit trust in the word received, by standing at the gate waiting for the arrival of the mysterious future Monarch.

Whether or not he told anybody else of the full contents of his revelation is debatable.  I rather fancy he did, but how much he revealed is pure conjecture.  The whole point of this exercise was that god would reveal to Samuel, and thereby to Saul, what His intentions were.  If Samuel let a few of the elders of Ramah in on the revelation around a meal with the guest present, and then, thereafter, with a national lottery, choose the new King, the Divine interference and choice would be substantiated.  Samuel’s personal prophetic word to Saul, and his welcoming among the Ramah elders would enforce Samuel’s insights as a “genuine prophetic word,” when, of all the people in the land of Israel, Saul would be chosen (even if he chose to hide himself and shy away from the high profile position which was destined to be his later lifestyle).

11

Samuel anoints Saul

But all of those things could have happened without necessarily revealing the fact that the special guest at Ramah was to be their future king.  He could have sensibly presented Saul to the crowd with a, “Watch this space, and watch this face,” announcement. Samuel definitely knew all; excepting the character and face of the man concerned. Saul unknowingly follows the predestined plan and purpose without the slightest interference of his own free will choice of things.  How awesome is God!

“…And when they were come to the land of Zuph,”  i.e.; Samuel’s district, “Saul said to his servant that was with him, “come and let us return’ lest my father leave caring for the asses, and take thought for us”  His laudable tenacity comes to termination point. His conversational style with his servant and the obvious disposition to allow the reasoning of the servant to change his mind says something for the “King elect.”  We here make particular observations of young Saul’s modest disposition, a startling trait when compared to how he turned out later.

Many leaders have been known to start out with such characteristics which when damaged by time, fame and experience, were subdued, and the virtues they had replaced with vices quite opposite in nature to what they had begun with. The prize is to those who run with character on the marathons of life, not on the sprint of naiveté.  When George Washington rose to reply to an eloquent and flattering speech, expressive of the thanks of his country for his services in the French and Indian wars, he blushed, stammered, and then sat down in utter confusion, drawing from the speaker the further compliment that his modesty was equal to his valour.  It is said that Virgil, the “Prince of Latin Poets,” could not bear to be stared at in the streets.  He would sometimes ask for shelter in shops from the demonstration of his admirers.  Oh to maintain integrity through life’s battles, and especially in the midst of human flattery.”

10

.

A word of caution, however!  Do not go too far on this principle, later exhibited by Saul, of hidden humility, “hiding among the stuff”!  Moans and groans of missed opportunities are often the cant by which indolent and irresolute men seek to lay their want of success at the door of the public.  Well matured and well disciplined talent is always sure of a market, provided it exerts itself;  but it must not cower at home, and expect to be sought for.  The road to honour is often long and hard.  Many men have to endure the discipline of disappointment before they can carry the reward of success.

With the succeeding verses, we have to set the geographical backdrop to the two men discussing, “What to do next”?  By God’s gracious influence on the heart and mind of the son of Kish, he stubbornly refused to let up on the search for the asses until he stood across the valley staring at the very city where Samuel lived, and Saul did not even know Samuel, much less which city he lived in.  The more knowledgeable servant asserts a thought that, to us as time travellers, is perceived to be of absolute divine inspiration.

“…And he said unto him, “See now” There is in this city a man of God, and he is an honourable man. All that he says, surely comes to pass. Let us go there, peradventure he can show us the way that we should go.”   As for God we cannot but marvel how silently, secretly and often slowly he works out His purpose.  In the day of difficulty and loss, Saul’s servant wants the man of God.  Timing is perfect to the absolute second.

Observe the public image of the man of God,  Samuel.  Firstly he is known as a man of God.  That in itself was a  powerful statement in the backslidden times of that age. They knew he was honourable. How could a man of God be a man of God, without being a man of honour.  But Samuel stood out in the follow up generation that witnessed the weakness of Eli, and the wickedness of Hophni and Phinehas, as a man of honour.  He is also known as a true prophet.  “All he says comes to pass.” The straightforward starkness of the servant’s statement is enough to suggest the depth of Samuel’s character as perceived by the masses.  With the absolutes put in place in the psyche of the two donkey searchers, immediately after the clear statements of Samuel’s person and character follows the variable question.  Based on the presuppositions just mentioned, the servant suggests, “Let’s call and see if he can direct us.”  The approachability of Samuel was taken for granted.  The fact that no issue was too small for God, or Samuel, was the issue here.  “Peradventure” suggests that it was a matter of Samuel’s discretion – not that God wouldn’t know where the donkeys are.

9

.

God’s providence is a wonderful scheme; a web of many threads, woven with awesome and imaginative skill.  The meeting of two convicts in an Egyptian prison is a vital link in the chain of events that makes Joseph Governor of Egypt.  A young lady coming for her daily bathe in the river preserves the life of Moses, thus securing the escape of the Israelites some eighty years after. The thoughtful regard of a father for the comfort of his older sons in the army brings David into face to face contact with Goliath, thus preparing the route for his elevation to the throne.  The beauty of Esther, a Hebrew girl, fascinating a Persian King, saves the entire Hebrew race from massacre and extermination.  As it was and ever has been, so it is in the passage here before us.  The straying of three asses from the field of a Hebrew farmer brings together the two men, of whom the one was the old ruler, and the other the ruler “to be” of a brave new world.

But note especially, with all this amazing pinpoint accuracy of the times and places and dispositions of all these people, the free choice of them all is no way interfered with.  Thus do the two things wonderfully entwine together; God’s divine predestined and foreordained plan, and the trivial “chance” choices resulting from man’s free volitional faculty. The whole thing is too miraculous and marvelous for words.

Notice also Saul’s independent and generous spirit. In search of the asses, he comes near to the town where the prophet Samuel resided, the servant suggests to him that he should consult  the seer about the strayed equine trio. The idea seemed good.  The scripture continues, “Then said Saul to his servant, “but see, if we go, what shall we bring the man? For the bread is used in our bags, and there is no present to bring to the man of God. What have we?”   Here was a way out of difficulty.  “But what shall we give the man?”  Saul, it seems was a gentleman.  Do not even suggest that this was an eastern custom and demean his attitude of grace.  Saul respected the spiritual heritage of his fathers.  To everybody, he seemed to walk in the paths of righteousness.  God complained through Samuel, at a later stage of Saul’s biography, that he had turned his back on following Him.  This tells us that at least at one time, previous to that statement, Saul was walking according to the Divine will and purpose.  He simply lacked depth and persistence.

14 SamuelFirst_Book_of_Samuel_Chapter_9-3_(Bible_Illustrations_by_Sweet_Media)

.

We must be cautious while considering Saul’s ignorance of Samuel.  The ignorance begins with Saul’s father and mother.  We never actually read of Saul’s mother: but what kind of father could Kish have been?  We, and all the nation of that time, know all about Samuel.  “All Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the Lord.”  All Israel, it seems, excepting Kish and Saul that is!  Yes!  We should have thought that the name of Samuel would have been as familiar to all the people as that of (at the time of writing) Queen Elizabeth II to the people of Great Britain, or Nelson Mandela to the world at large.  Does this indicate a family living outside of all spiritual, ceremonial and religious connections, and entirely immersed in secular things, caring nothing about godly people, and hardly ever even pronouncing God’s name?  There is definitely some suggested ignorance about Kish and his son, an ignorance that perplexes us and throws us out at the very opening of the son’s sad history.

Saul would stagger us and throw us out, till we look at ourselves and at the men round about us, and then we soon see what had before been unknown to us.  We observe that our inborn and indulged tastes, liking and dispositions, inclinations and pursuits rule us also, shape us, occupy us and decide for us the men we know and the life we lead.  Josephus says that Samuel had an inborn love of justice.  But Saul had inherited from Kish an inborn and an absorbing love of cattle, sheep and asses; and until they were lost, he had no errand to Samuel’s city.   Why hold up our hands at Saul’s ignorance of Samuel?  We have the same inclinations intrinsic to ourselves to people we should treasure better.

Note, however, that Saul’s servant knew and revered Samuel.  It was the servant who guided Saul to the word of God, and the kingdom. Saul needed assistance and guidance all the way from farmyard to throne.

0002

.

So there was Saul, about to ask a favour of Samuel, but with this preliminary question in his mind.  Absurd indeed is the idea of giving anything to the man of God for his services.  What Samuel wants is an income to live on.  It was only a little, what Saul had, but with a full heart, it was all he had at the moment, and he gladly gave it.  God asks gifts from the heart.  Such offerings are given in faith, though they be limited by one’s poverty.  It was discussed and arranged before they entered into the presence of Samuel.  It was a mutually free decision

“And the servant answered Saul again, and said, “Behold I have here at hand the fourth part of a shekel of silver. That will I give to the man of God to tell us our way.” According to several theologians and historians they seem to take it for granted that they used silver coin shaped pieces that were roughly stamped and quartered with a cross, and snipped into certain proportions when so desired.  Its value in the latter days of Samuel is impossible to determine, apart from the observation that, “silver was rare,” in those days.  “Then said Saul to his servant, “Well said! Come let us go!”  So they went into the city where the man of God was.”    

Going back to verse nine we must remark on another interpolation.  An aside by the writer to, “fill us in,” on some snippet of information that he, or at least the editor, imagined the reader to be asking for, after reading verse eleven.  Namely: What is the difference between a “prophet” and a “seer”?  “Before time in Israel when a man went to enquire of God, he spoke like this:  “Come and let us go to the seer.”  He that is now called a prophet was before time called a seer.”  At a later date, “seer,” meant anybody who had any spiritual visions or dreams.  Demonic mediums, at the time that First Samuel was actually written, were called seers, but the writer of first Samuel wants us to know that in the days of the narrative, the word still meant, “prophet of the Lord.”  Such remarks are important in any generation.  Only thirty years ago a, “gay person,” was one who had a zest for life and was quite happy in his outlook and lot of life.  At the beginning of the twenty first century it has commonly come to be accepted as something quite different.

0a361-00092

.

“And as they went up the hill to the city, they found young maidens going out to draw water, and said unto them, “Is the seer here?”” They seem to be very affable and chatty young maidens.  No doubt the hormones and pheromones were at work with two young men amongst two young maidens.  The chatting was much more than what they asked for.  They were given a full account of the entire background to the meal that was taking place, as well as the customs of the city concerning the great prophet that lived there.  The sociology of the day is opened to us by their unsolicited detail.  Samuel is undoubtedly revered.  Religious feasting was an issue required by the people to have Samuel’s presence and blessing.  This was not, it would seem, a regular calendared feast.  The words of Samuel, (or was it the cook) when Saul was finally accepted into the tent of feasting later, suggests that Samuel had received the revelation the previous day, and then quickly called the feast and invited the townsfolk.  The words of the maidens suggest that the prophet had arisen that day with this purpose in mind.  The fact that naive young maidens are aware of the proceedings suggests that the whole town was abuzz with the issue.

Having received the word picture of what was happening in Ramah, the two men continue upwards.  “And they went up into the city,  and when they were come up into the city, behold Samuel came out against them, for to go up to the high place.” This meeting was, for Saul, one of the absolute hinges of his life.  It was a turning point, a pivotal swing in his fortunes and direction.  He arrives at the walls of the city and finds an elderly gentleman that looks nothing like what he was expecting, for then there would have been no need to say what he did.  “And when Samuel saw Saul, the Lord said to him. “See the man whom I spoke to you of!  This same man shall reign over my people.””  The prophet was told of Saul before the man had even spoken to him.  The prophetic word can arrive at any moment.  For those who have ears to hear, at any moment heavenly Father may whisper and reveal things of import uncalculated.  Samuel was undoubtedly staring at the man pointed out to him by the word of God, when Saul noticed the eyes of the aged person upon him, and he asks the expected question.  Again the ease of access that God dialogues with Samuel ben Elkanah is wonderful.  Samuel had “the ear.”  Was it trained?  Or was he born with it? Is it nature? Or was it nurture?

“Saul drew near to Samuel in the gate and said, “Tell me, I pray you, where the seer’s house is?”  It is at this stage I close my eyes and find myself travelling into the sanctuary of what I hope is a sanctified imagination.  What did Samuel look like?  Whatever he looked like, he was not the sight Saul expected, or the question would not have been asked.  Samuel answered Saul, and said, “I am the seer. Go before me to the high place. You shall eat with me today, and tomorrow I will let you go, and will tell you all that is in your heart.  And as for your asses that were lost three days ago, set not your mind upon them; for they are found.  And on whom is all the desire of Israel?  Is it not on you and all your father’s house?  And Saul answered and said, “Am I not a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel?  And my family the least in the tribe?  Why then do you speak this way to me?”

565b5-000991

.

The mystery was set.  Nobody knew what was really happening apart from Samuel and the Lord.  A new day was about to dawn and the key figure had arrived.  Though Samuel had before him the future king of Israel, and he was about to be deposed from his position of national supremacy, yet he communicates to Saul intelligence concerning his lost assess. And hints at his promotion.  We see Samuel’s authority in simply ordering the Benjamite what to do.  We see Samuel’s decisiveness: He will not let Saul go until the following day.  We see Samuel’s confidence in his prophetic gifting and God’s heart towards the new king.  “I will tell you all that is in your heart.”  We see a word of assured knowledge, “as for your asses, they are found.”  We see Samuel’s reading of the situation: “and on whom is the desire of all Israel?”  What was occurring here was a meeting and a redirectioning of national importance and that is without considering the soteriological impact that concerns us today.  We see Samuel’s reading also of what kingship will do to the family of Kish:  “Is the desire of the nation, not towards you and your father’s house?”  A more accurate translation would be, “And who is the best and most treasured asset of Israel?”  This makes Samuel’s words even more enigmatic to Saul. Or again, in plain language, “The nation has desired a king.You are to be that king. Isn’t it true that the entire nation’s desire is towards you?”

2ccd9-00000003

.

The facial expressions of both must have been classic, if the servant saw them both.  Samuel in the most beautifully exercised authority and knowledge, and Saul in the most beautiful naiveté, and ignorance.  “Am I not a Benjamite? Etc.”  He is perplexed as to how even (or especially) a man of God could speak to him in this tone.  “Does this prophet not know who I am?  I am a nobody, from nowhere.  Why do you speak to me like this?”

“I will tell you all that is in your heart.”  The following day, after Samuel had got to know the youth a little, he was to reveal things of a major Divine revelation.  He was to make disclosures of things hitherto held secret between God and Samuel. And Saul, in his new role was to be the recipient of truths, facts, and revelations which, frankly, it would seem he did not, at first, know what to do with.  But the statement of Samuel is that he would verbally reflect to Saul on what his character was and what he was thinking and aspiring to.  Samuel was to manifest his ministry as a “Seer” in the most literal way.  Samuel saw in the most vivid terms, issues that were mere conceptual to most. He tells him enough, at that very moment,  to put his mind at rest, in order to free him to think on weightier matters.  The asses are found, and he is to think no more of them.  The fact that it was “miraculous,” and indicative of divinely given insight  that he knew anything of the asses at all, was to be enough to predispose Saul to the thought that if the former statement was to his knowledge factual, the prophetic statement must also be accurate.

The writer is convinced that Samuel’s appearance, demeanour and general deportment impacted Saul greatly, making the strange apocalyptic words even more powerful to his mental and spiritual receptors.  We know that Saul knew nothing of Samuel prior to the meeting at this moment.  The character picture drawn by the servant was enough.  This man Samuel was perceived by an entire nation to hold God’s ear.  He was known to say things that always happened.  His words concerning the future, the destiny of Israel, and the spiritual and temporal circumstance of people were whispered in his ear by the Almighty.  The ultimate in spirituality could safely be conceived around the person of Samuel, almost to a point of infallibility in the minds and perceptions of the Israeli masses.  And here he was, promising a throne to a man that didn’t even know he existed until his servant had mentioned him just a few minutes before they met.  The fact that Samuel hadn’t, “looked like,” a prophet at the first, made his words even more impacting.

13ab5-000003davidrachelstomb

This is Rachel’s tomb where Saul passed on his way home after being anointed by Samuel.

Saul’s’ query must have been spoken with a sense of deep surprise, if not shock.  But Samuel is not recorded as having even answered Saul’s perplexity.  From this moment Samuel treats Saul as royalty, because that is exactly what God said he was.  “And Samuel took Saul and his servant, and brought them into the guest room, and had them sit in the chief place among the thirty persons who were invited.”  There would have been undoubtedly other guests outside the guest room at the high place.  The room is conjectured by many authorities to probably have been a tent raised on the high place where sacrifice was made.  The guests were already waiting while Saul had been discussing payment for the seer with his servant outside the city and across the valley.  How wonderful to see Samuel participating and partaking of Gods foreknowledge with such sanity and sobriety.  The famous and well received man of God was giving place to this, “unknown,” and treating him as if he were his moral and spiritual equal, if not superior.  Did the invited guests have a clue as to what was happening?  Just what was whispered among the people as they sat, and as the awe inspiring Samuel  gave precedence to this youth and his servant?  (If tradition is correct in suggesting that Saul’s servant was Doeg the Edomite, this was also his first foretaste of royal treatment and high office).  They obviously knew that Saul was somebody important in God’s economy, but did they know he was to be king?

And Samuel said to the cook, “Bring the portion which I gave you, of which I said, set it aside.”  So the cook brought out the shank and what pertains to it and placed it before Saul.  Samuel said “See, you are being served what was set aside for you!  Eat; even before I invited the people, it was reserved for you until the appointed time.”  Thus did Saul eat that day with Samuel?” That is all that happened as per the translation of most popular versions.  The purpose of this section is to entrench it all in our heads that the entire proceedings of the day was known beforehand and catered for by Samuel.  He saw everything before it had happened.  Even the trivial side issues of the day were foreseen and prepared.

e11db-0004david

.

Many commentators assume that Samuel told the people that, “This man will be king.”  Whereas my own opinion is that he did not.  If he did, why wait until they were alone on the following morning to anoint him with oil?  If he told them, why is it not recorded that he told them plainly?  Also, if he told them and it was plainly and publicly mentioned, why hold the lottery later on to select the king?  I am convinced  that Samuel told them of the celebrity status of the Benjamite, but mentioned nothing of the nature of what comprised his celebrity.

“Then they came down from the high place, and he conversed with Saul on the roof.”  The meal it would seem lasted the whole day.  Not only was it common to put favoured guests up on the flat roof of one’s home, but it was always the privileged and esteemed guest who was offered the favour.  It was here that the prophet had a long and, undoubtedly, in depth dialogue with the divinely elected Saul.  Samuel’s secret and lengthy discussion with the newly chosen man would have been wonderful to know.

What did they discuss?  The decline of Israel?  The purpose of God to make Israel the head and not the tail in local international relations?  The need for Israel’s leadership to be a spiritual  one?  Because of the nature of his actions and words the following morning, I cannot see Samuel discussing the office of King per se, or the dignity of the call.  It would seem that after the revelation from God, and the fulfilment of the word he received, he was wanting to tutor and encourage the future monarch in all things spiritual,  as much as he could.  He would have undoubtedly taught Saul the evils of idolatry and witchcraft, for he banished the practice of both during his reign.  He would have talked of the dire necessity of Israel and its leaders being true to the revelation and covenant give by Yahweh, and those instructions that Samuel would give him from time to time being followed literally and completely.

7. Ramah to Shiloh

.

As Saul, it seems, previously lived outside of all religious and spiritual circles, so he seems to have been entirely wanting in that great quality that was needed for a king of Israel i.e. undying loyalty to the Heavenly King.  It was here that the difference between Saul and Samuel was so galactically huge.  Loyalty to God and to God’s nation was the rock solid foundation of Samuel’s existence. Anything that even vaguely resembled self seeking was alien to Samuel’s psyche.  It was this characteristic that injected so much solidity into the prophet’s character.  In these aspects of character, however, Saul seems to have been somewhat lacking.  Words of counsel, and questions that would discover the makeup of the man from Gibeah, would have been the purpose of the night’s discussion.  If the future rule of the Benjamite was discussed, Samuel would surely have pressed the point that the prophets bring the word, and the monarchy is to perform the word given. The delivery of the word to Israel, and the performance of the word were the roles of prophet and King respectively.  Not for Samuel’s word to have pre-eminence, but for the word that he delivered to have pre-eminence.  That was surely one of the reasons Samuel created the schools of the prophets.

Was Samuel pleased with what he saw and heard?  We shall never know.  Whether or not his response was positive, he had received his instructions from heaven, and so he followed them, to the letter.  The intense and consistent godliness of Samuel was probably the characteristic that, in the perception of the public, was what they loved him for the most.   Saul’s worldliness, however, attracted the masses more when he became a famous and publicly known figure.  Yet it was the godliness of Samuel that had delivered them from the Philistines, and it was the handsome, “film-star-ish” Saul, that was to lead them back into bondage to their, now, long-time, foes.  But we jump ahead of the chronology.

They arose at the spring of the day.  Samuel called to Saul on the roof.  “Up and I will start you on your way.”  So Saul got up and together they went out, he and Samuel.  The time was to the day what spring is to the annual calendar.  I imagine Samuel seeking God further during the night while Saul slept.  It doesn’t say so, but the language suggests that Samuel had a further revelation to impart to Saul, that, for some reason, Samuel had not imparted during the nights conversation

Prologue

.

As they reached the city limits. Samuel said to Saul, “Tell the servant to go on ahead of us,” and he went on, “but you stand still here, and I will acquaint you with God’s message.” This was Samuel’s third recorded interview with the goodly youth.  This time he spoke intimately with personal application of the very word of God whispered in his own ear.  Samuel actually accompanied the two out of the city.  He sent away the servant that he might whisper things for no other ears but Saul’s.  Samuel spoke to the young man’s inmost soul.  Samuel’s heart was in each syllable of each word.  And if it was ever true – and it was always true- that God never allowed Samuel’s words fall to the ground, here was the greatest example of economic use of prophetic and inspired verbosity.  I hear his tone, his drawing of breath as he speaks.  I hear love and yearning toward the young man.  It was the prophet’s passion for his nation, for God’s word and instruction, and for the man that God had chosen..

Likewise with myself and my readers.  “Bid the servant pass on.”  Stop all your activities and stop awhile to hear what God would say.  Let the servant move on, but you, also,“Stand still.”   God also wants to speak to you about a kingdom in which he wishes to elevate you to kingship.  The word of God was seen by an anointing.  The word of God predicted a new heart if obeyed and submitted to.  When a man is about to commence an office for which Jehovah has especially appointed him, he needs to hear the word of God.  I don’t  think Saul stood still often. That’s why Samuel made such an issue.  “I want to acquaint you with God’s message”, meant , “the sum total of all this palaver for the last twenty four hours is summed up in what I am about to impart.”

 “Then Samuel took a flask of oil, poured it upon his head and kissed him.  He said “Has not the Lord anointed you to be prince over His possessions?”  The message was an act as well as a statement.  There is such a thing as a Word encounter; a power encounter; and/or an allegiance encounter.  This moment was, I believe, all three.  Only two people are present at this moment of destiny.  The utter simplicity of the scene would seem to be contradictory.  It would even seem unauthenticated.  There was no human witness apart from the two parties concerned.  The only guarantee Saul had was Samuel’s reputation, and his subjective experience of what happened to him while Samuel was talking to him, i.e.’ the reception of a new heart.  It is my opinion that many knew, at the end of the feast, that God had something special for Saul.  It is also my opinion that nobody, not even the servant knew what that “something” was.  This was the moment of revelation for Saul.

The suggestion of election was delivered as an interrogation.  The word was confirmed by predicted occurrences that were not in themselves wordless.  The asses were found.  He had been told that the previous day by Samuel.  He was to learn by others that same news.  The news was also told, prior to normal means of intelligence, that his father was worrying for him.  His route home was foretold, although that in itself is nothing to marvel.  It could have been Samuel’s instructions to take a certain route.  The nature of his casual meetings as he went were then revealed in advance.  The prophetic guild, of which I am convinced that Saul knew next to nothing, was in his pathway, and the Spirit of God was to take him, involuntarily almost, to speak the word of God. Saul’s jaw must have dropped.

Explanation on how Samuel can be legitimately called, "The First Prophet."

.

“When today you have left me, you will meet two men near Rachel’s tomb on the Benjamin border at Zelzah.  They will tell you that the donkeys you searched for are found, and that your father has ceased thinking about the matter of the donkeys, his concern is about you.  He says “what shall I do about my son?”  Life is full of tombs that we need to pass to get home; it is strange that Jeremiah 31:15 also links Ramah with Rachel.  Nobody knows where Zelzah is. The deaths of the past and the losses of the past are to be reduced to insignificance.  When seen in the light of Samuel’s announcement to the young country farmer, the history that surrounded Rachel’s tomb, the history of the search for the asses, and his father’s present concern for his “lost” son would seem insignificant,  simply because the encounter was foretold him, while the previous holy anointing oil of kingship was running down his face.  The experience of consciously, intelligently doing what comes naturally and have it it all foretold must have been stunning to the spiritual perception of Saul.  A place mentioned; men mentioned that probably hadn’t even yet arisen from their beds, and the information they would carry.  This was too, too much to take in.  The ultimate message was this: The temporal things of farming and family are not now your priority and will look after themselves, but thoughts of destiny and national parenthood should assume high-power as with Rachel, whose tomb he was passing as the prophecy was fulfilled.  He was from now on more a national figure than a family member.

“As you go on and get near the Tabor Oak, three men will meet you on their way to God at Bethel, one carrying three kids, another three loaves of bread, and a third bottle of wine.  They will greet you as friends and give you two loaves of bread, which you will accept from them.” Life is full of hospitality, both given and received.  The message to be imbibed was that these men who had ground the wheat and made the bread particularly for the purpose of offering it to God, were about to cream off some of the devoted substance for him.  It was to be a matter of daily experience for the future.  The tree is thought by some to be the very oak under which Deborah; the nurse of Rachel was buried.  These men, on their way to meet with God, would gladly be interrupted to share with Saul.  Yet again it was a foretaste of things to come.

24. Selah. Pause and calmly think of that.

.

After that you will come to the hill of God, where the Philistine station is garrisoned.  On entering the town you will meet a group of prophets coming down the hill, before them Lyre, flute, tambourine and harp and prophesying with ecstasy.  The company of prophets were singing contemporary music that would be facilitating  the spirit of God falling upon them, or perhaps rising within them.  The lesson to be learned by the, “monarch to be,” was that the Spirit of God which would fall upon him and influence him so suddenly and unexpectedly, could just as quickly depart.  Obedience was a key issue for the stability of his future.  These were possibly the subjects of the discussion that he had had with Samuel the previous evening.  The place should best be translated the “Gibeah of God.”  Samuel sited one of his schools of the prophets here obviously.  The high sited sacrificial spot in or near this town made it ideal for the school of the prophets to conduct their meetings, or seminars, or whatever it is they conducted.  “Then the Spirit of the Lord will grip you, and you will share the ecstatic prophesying; you will become a different person.”  It was also to be imbibed that Saul would only be different, and a man with a new heart, because of this anointing of the Spirit of the Lord.  The oil was a physical manifestation of what was actually taking place in the realm of the invisible.  Saul was to join the ranks of the prophets.  These schools of the prophets inaugurated by Samuel were to be key components in the making of the future of Israel. The King of Israel was to be subject to the Spirit of prophecy, either through himself, or by some other prophet, but God’s word was paramount.  Israel was to be a, “Theocratic Monarchy,” if it isn’t a paradox.  Yes they had a visible, human king, but THE ruler was Yahweh, and it was He that really reigned over the human King.  He is after all, the King of Kings.

“As you experience these signs, do as the occasion requires, for God is with you.”  To my own petty understanding, this remark is what is the most astounding of all Samuel’s prophetic words.  What he virtually said was, “Don’t feel hemmed in by what I say Saul. Do whatever you feel is right.  Do whatever turns you on, but these three things will happen as sure as anything.”  The fulfilment of truly divinely authorised predictive prophecy needs no artificial aiding to fulfil itself.

It is at this point that something strange happens with Samuel’s word to the son of Kish.  The three signs were foretold as about to happen on that very day.  But then in the same breath, Samuel utters a predictive word that was not fulfilled until the narrative reaches 2 Samuel 13:4-15, undoubtedly several, if not, many years later.  Yet in the turn of phrase and the flow of words, there is nothing to even infer such a time gap. “Go in advance of me to Gilgal and take note, I will come down to offer burnt offerings and to sacrifice peace offerings!  Wait for me seven days until I join you and let you know what you are to do.”  All this was told Saul to impress upon him that his elevation to kingship was not a mere whim of “good fortune.”  Both Saul and the people must see the king as the chosen of God in plan and purpose.  The king must know something of the supernatural intervention of God that put him in office and therefore conclude that it would naturally be the same power that would sustain him in such a position.  His heart was to be impressed with the very fear of God that would motivate him to rule and govern according to His plan.  It was thus fitting that Saul would be made fully aware of God’s choosing him.  No doubt was to be entertained in his kingliness, and appropriateness for the position.

55a06-000prayer3

.

Saul’s must have been on an emotional high after all this.  Confused too!  He must have been in an electrical storm of thought and projection of images.  He was probably in need of some physical outlet to express his feelings as to what was closing in on him.  He wanted to shout, scream, and dance – do something to let the tension work itself out and thus relax again.  The other side of human circumstance would dominate also, i.e. the very thought that Almighty God had deigned to choose him in kingship.  Rachel’s tomb, the plain of Tabor and the neighbourhood of Gibeah now became symbols of the fact that God knew his uprising and his downsitting.  The “chance” meetings were all of  His choosing and His Heavenly planning, and yet there was still the  freedom for him to do whatever he felt was right, meaning that not for one second were his critical faculties to be suspended.

I believe it is more than likely that Saul had never had such high thoughts of God’s practicality as these previous to this moment.  But how transitory was it all to him!  It just didn’t last.  How true it is that inspiration is a light year away from regeneration.  If Balaam and his hard worldly cynicism can be a vehicle of divine truth, why not Saul?  Elevated concepts of God, and ardent enthusiasm on sacred subjects may just as easily dwell in a heart of ice and stone.  What a shocking and dreadful anomaly!  Our maimed and dislocated nature has lost the power of integral interior transmission.  We need to grasp the fact that sunlight can shine on the understanding, while chilly darkness curls up nestling in the heart.  The lines of providence are convergent and divergent indeed!  All the chronology of Saul’s life, as ours, is in the hands of the Anointed One and His anointing.

66f3f-a6a6a6caleb-dancing-rabbis

.

We know what happens next, don’t we?  Samuel being Samuel, the obvious has to be stated:  “This then happened: As he turned around to leave Samuel, God changed his heart.  All the signs mentioned came true that day.”  The prophetic word ministered so expertly and adroitly brought release to the recipient, just as it should.  So after all this, God gave him not greater intelligence, not more money, not additional personal stature, not a miraculous sign in the sky telling him of his election.  God gave Saul nothing but another heart.  Saul’s own purposes were broken off.  His heart must have been very big with hope when he received the Divine anointing, and in pursuing his later course of disobedience, he no doubt, thought to win renown for himself and Israel, which surely could have been better won following Yahweh’s words more fully.  Self aggrandisement was the internal purpose in much of his disobedience,  and then to his son Jonathan, whom he made a general in his army, as a father, he must have cherished elevated purposes for him.  He, who serves God first, is in so doing taking the best way to serve himself.

Saul later sinned beyond the possibility of repentance.  Youthful sin lays a foundation for aged sorrows.  No man lives unto himself.  What blight did Saul’s sin bring upon the hopes of Samuel? Saul too, blasted the purposes of his family.  Saul had another heart after the anointing.  He was a new man.  One cannot understand what happened in this twenty four hour period, and the whys and wherefores of Saul’s end.

Remember Isaiah prophesied the atoning death of Christ, but so did Caiaphas.  The Spirit of the Lord came upon Jesus at the Jordan, but he came also on Samson at Dan, and, what is more, upon Balaam at the side of the altar of Baal.  Saul had no longer the heart of a farmer, concerned only with corn and cattle, dairy and donkeys.  He has now the heart of a statesman concerned with crowds and cities.  But no matter how radical the change of heart, that change needs to be continually re-enforced, such is the fickleness of the human constitution.  If God advances you to another station, he will give you another heart.  But by all means, cultivate the heart that is given.  Saul did not do this.  He knew less of God than he did of Samuel, and he knew nothing of Samuel.  Some say Saul was acting profanely.  But one must know what is holy before one can act profanely.  Saul had no such concept.  He had never heard of Samuel prior to that day.  God had suddenly made a break through into the ungodly and heathenish way of life of the family of Kish.  So much so, that Saul, for the moment, was almost persuaded to become an Israelite indeed.

The rest of this section in First Samuel is to inform us what we already know, i.e. that Samuel was a prophet, and man of God, par excellence.  His words never fell to the ground.  His insights were correct.  The voice of Yahweh was known so well by Samuel, that he heard the most intimate secrets of the Almighty.  It’s a millennium or three to late to shout,  “Long live Samuel,”  but if I was there, I would have done -, and he did.  Live long, that is.What would Israel have been without him?

Categories: 1 Samuel 9:1-10, The River of God in Samuel in full flow | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Readin’ ‘Ritin’ ‘Rithmatic Dance and Prophecy.

READIN’, ‘RITIN’, ‘RITHMATIC, DANCE AND PROPHECY.

And what did you learn at school today?

The Schools of the Prophets

0001 Celebrating Yahweh

They are definitely in synch with each other

So! Can a person be taught how to be a prophet?  Well! There are “born prophets,” and there are definitely “made prophets.” There are Elijah’s, and there are Elisha’s.

At the very time where the divinely raised series of Judges was about to give way to a new dispensation, where a king would be installed by the popular cry, followed later by the royal familial succession, something strikingly new, incredibly contemporary to twenty first century Christianity,  and remarkably creative in Samuel’s day, was birthed.  Needless to say, under God’s inspiration it was Samuel’s idea.  Surely nobody else would have believed their ears if they had heard such a word from God. A sparkling new phenomenon emerged among the spiritual charismatics in Israel, facilitated and conceptualised by the son of Elkanah and Hannah of Ramah himself.  We are talking of the, “Schools of the Prophets”. The first one, presumably, being held in Samuel’s home, the Naioth. This, the earliest form of, “regular prophecy,” and, “potential prophets,” is often referred to as “nabism” for reasons we shall explain. (Nabi is anglicised Hebrew, meaning “prophet.”)

It was an aspect of the religious and spiritual life of Israel that the people either loved or hated.  It was loved by the Godly. It was despised by those that had things to hide, or were just plain sinful. Where some detected only heathen frenzy in the early prophetic schools, others saw the stirring of forces belonging to the essence of worship and deep relationship with Yahweh. Some saw in the schools of trainee prophets, people being clothed upon by the Spirit of God. It was the stirring of God’s Spirit in a person’s life, encouraged and cultivated in a manner hitherto unknown, even though it had been seen in the life of Moses’ sister Miriam (Read what happened with har immediately after Israel had walked through the Red Sea as on dry land). The worship system outlined in Leviticus was solemnly silent. The noise of music was not heard in the approaches to the Tabernacle, except for moments of euphoria when God’s hand had been seen by all moving on behalf of his people. It was of the Spirit and in the Spirit for those years in the wilderness, for it was all done in the shade of the pillar of cloud in the hours of daylight, and in the light of the pillar of fire in the dark hours of the night. So, there was no dead religion to begin with. Miriam, it would seem, was a “Nabi” in practice.

0001 Hasiddic Dance

I want to praise the Lord like him. Hassidic worship.

The peculiar feature about nabism, as described in First Samuel is that of what writers refer to as, “group ecstasy.”  Though ecstatic experiences, it would seem, were familiar among the Seers, these were things of which the early worship of Yahweh, i.e. prior to Samuel’s time, knew nothing. Miriam’s prophetic song on the shores of the Red Sea over the Egyptian military cadavers is the only vague suggestion of something similar during the earlier days of Israel’s history. Whether the music and the frenzy came with the birth of a movement that started in a fiery explosion of spirituality, and settled down later to a regular burning flame without the frenzy, I am not sure.  Surely there is absolutely nothing in scripture to suggest that Samuel received God’s word in anything but a calm and natural frame of mind, and in a normal physical disposition. One gets the general impression that most of Samuel’s words came in the middle of the night, as his first revelation did. The supernatural intercourse between God and Samuel is presented to us in scripture as if it was two old friends intimately chatting.

The prophet Samuel developed a,”School of the Prophets,” and was, as we shall see from later chapters, fully aware of the music, the dance and the frenzy that brought the scholarly groups of prophets to their reception and delivery of God’s word. It signified a profound change in the whole dynamic of spiritual life within Israel. God was doing something new amongst the people. The first wave of charismatics had come into existence. It was something new, totally different and clearly, of the Spirit of God.

As a twenty-first century  pentecostal/charismatic with deep interest in, and a strong inclination towards prophecy, I feel somewhat perturbed at the “group frenzy” aspect of these early days of the schools of the prophets.  Prophecy, I assert, does not in any way need frenzy. New Testament prophecy is never inferred as conjoined to frenzy or even requiring anything but a quiet receptive spirit.  But musical inspiration, dance and so called, “frenzy,” is definitely how these students of Samuel started in the realm of the prophetic (The word “frenzy is used by scholars and commentators, it is not really the word used in the Bible).  The passage in which a “hebel” (i.e. “School” or “Band”) of prophets (nabim) is mentioned for the first time in Israelite history, also notes that a group of them were coming down from a place of sacrifice (1 Sam 10:5). Religious, sacrificial sites are later also recorded as sites where the prophetic schools operated, e.g. Jericho (2 Kings 2:5), Gilgal (2 Kings 4:38), and Ramah (1 Sam 19:18).  So we are hemmed in to conclude, by the plain logic of the biblical text, that the Schools of the Prophets, were totally orthodox Jewish worshippers, touching and hearing God via His own Spirit and Word, and not primarily via the sacrificial system and the priesthood, yet  clearly not denying the sacrificial system of things. It was a fascinating innovation of the Spirit of God through Samuel’s genius. I am convinced that the music, dance and “frenzy” were all connected with the group dynamic of worship, and conceivably (and this is my unsubstantiated opinion) because the disciples of Samuel were youthful, energetic and lively.

0004

Praise Him in the dance

The point must be made that the contemporaneous heathen cults of excitation with the aid of narcotics, and of physical self torture was, and is, totally alien to Jewish custom and tradition. Such a practice would definitely not have been in Samuel’s tenets of the faith. Yet, whatever was happening in the ecstatic energy and excitement of the groups of prophets was not hysteria.  Perhaps it was a way in which the prophets in training loosed themselves from their own intellectual and human restrictions in order to be abandoned to the Spirit of God.  I say this in as much as I would vehemently want to deter any would be prophet of God from doing the same today.

It’s the word frenzy that makes me shudder. “Energy,” “excitement,” and “rythym” I like better.  Music,I love. Give me more of it. Dance is lovely both to enter into and to watch – as long as it is inspired by the Spirit of God. The word “frenzy,” however, suggests the loosing of one’s sense of reason. Perhaps it would be better if writers started to refer to, “the release in the Spirit that fell on them through the full expression of worship in the dance.” Frenzy? I think I reject no matter how commonly non-charismatic/pentecostal commentators use the word.

We cannot despise or put aside the fact that there is one well attested element of Israelite traditional worship which could easily turn into ecstasy, and was and still is a normal and accepted as a, “valid,” mode of worship. I refer to what I believe is referred to in Jewish circles as, “the sacred dance,” that took place – and still does – on special occasions of joy and victory.  It is clear that this religious and deeply spiritual manifestation of dance was practised by the nabim with particular abandon, and that music and song played a great part in enlivening and heightening the intensity of the prophetic Spirit that fell upon them. There is plenty of evidence in the Old Testament that the religious spontaneous dance was accompanied by singing and musical merrymaking (2 Samuel 6:5: Isaiah 30:29: Psalm 25:6: Psalm 118:27. All the verses I have listed here are very much post Samuel.) What we are talking about is something that became established as a norm, initially via the oversite and encouragement of the prophet Samuel.

The state of ecstasy, or  “the release of the Spirit that fell on them through the full expression of worship in the dance,” caused the subjects within the dance to be set free from normal physical empirical lines of thought opening their human spirits and revealed the presence of a higher kind of knowledge and insight.  They then spoke in  and of the Spirit of God. This is the very definition of prophecy. This demonstrated that their release was not so much for the dissolution of normal consciousness, but very much to facilitate an endowment of higher power, and a consciousness of the presence of the Spirit of God.  The Nabi became the proclaimer par excellence, not only as the people who raised the act of praising and calling upon his God to its highest degree, but, as the speaker empowered by God to reveal His hidden will.  This was received and accepted as the loftiest worship of Yahweh, in virtue of which, the Nabi became the man in whom the word of Yahweh resided. David worshipped Yahweh “with all his might.” Chew on that phrase and all it suggests. It is hardly simply singing a meaningful hymn with one’s hands in one’s pockets. David’s example suggests dance, energy, excitement, pleasure, revelling in the knowledge of God, and an alignment with the Almighty. God give us more of it.

0005

He is worthy to be praised!

Once the basic features of the earliest prophetism is properly appreciated, old controversies re prophetics as a theme, appear in a new light.  It is impossible to subsume it under any religious category, classifying it in terms of such pairs of opposites as physical versus moral, or, psychic versus spiritual.  The decisive factor in any assessment must rather be its position in the totality of the religious scene at this time of Samuel’s life, and how this particular development brought individuals, and ultimately the nation to a purer relationship with God, and set people, as individuals, free.

This new dimention of experience with God and the reception of God’s word via the Nabim took many manifestations.  It is easily demonstrable from scripture that group ecstasy affords no grounds for supposing that its practitioners and adherents are to be regarded as, “Religious Officials,” Levites or functionaries of a lofty religious position.  It is an unjustifiable simplification of the Old Testament narrative to classify Nabism as a whole, as a type of official, “Man of the Cloth,” status.  In the Old Testament, apart from these schools, the prophet was, generally speaking, a “loner.”  Although it is stated that Ezekiel was  a priest, and it is thought by some that Isaiah was of royal blood, nevertheless their moving in the “office” of prophet was completely distanced from the priestly or royal functions that they were involved in. Think of Elijah or here in our present primary focus with Levitical Samuel.

How little the appeal to individual passages affords conclusive proof of the religious “official “function of the Nabim, is brought out with especial clarity in the case of Elijah building an altar on Carmel. The erection of the “Yahweh” altar is an unmistakable expression of the exclusive sovereignty of the God of Israel over the contested area. No more is it possible to demonstrate a firm, “officially” religious connection in those guilds of nabim who lived a community life, than to prove that individual prophets were in conventional “religious” offices or functions, even though it is true that their colonies show a connection to important sanctuaries. It should be noted that in all the thirty passages of scripture in which priest and prophet are closely coupled, they all come from either Jerusalem, or the southern kingdom of Judah after the division of the original Nation State. Where the word of God was sought, there were prophets  named and unnamed who spoke the word of God.

0006

.

Any discussion of this issue must take into account the ancient Israelite concept of Ruach (Spirit or breath), which is presented as the force behind the nabim. By this, Jewish Rabbi’s refer to the sudden, almost erratic move of the Spirit of God in a Nabi. Again, Elijah is the best example.  Anyone Elijah’s day, who seriously considers the suddenness of power that fell on, or rose up in a nabi cannot but have considerable misgivings about regarding the men who depended on this gift of grace, and who were guided by it in such unpredictable ways, as “religious officials.” The general perception and acceptance of the Nabim, throughout all of Old Testament history, seems to assume that they were simply inspired charismatic characters who, by human analysis,  may speak at any time God thought necessary.

If then these mediators of the Spirit of Yahweh did in fact contract firm connections with particular sanctuaries, it should be seen as a domestic deviation from their ordinary mode of free living, dictated by peculiar local and historical circumstances, which nevertheless still left room for the continued existence of independent prophetic guilds and individual wandering prophets. Because they were “schools” of prophets, the suggestion is that “students” or “scholars” were  actually “junior prophets” and therefore not yet qualified or fully established in those things that a prophet needed to be established with.

There is more than one piece of evidence to suggest that the ecstasy was not felt to be a disruptive foreign concept in the body of the religion and worship of Yahweh, but a new impulse bestowed by God Himself. In the Canaanite religious frenzy, the demonic manifestations were alien and ungodly entities entering the body of the Shaman.  It was the struggle against the religion of Canaan and the proclamation of the will of Yahweh which united these “junior,” “student” prophets of God, who in all other ways were so very different from the idolatrous demon worshippers of Canaan.

The generally acknowledged dress of the nabi was the hairy mantle 1 Kings 20: 38: 2 Kings 1:8: Isaiah 20:2.  Whenever a nabim has his dress explained in the Bible, that is exactly how they are attired.

This “movement” was something of crucial importance in the new things that God was doing in Israel through the life and influence of Samuel. The most prominent exponents of nabism in the time of Samuel, David and Saul bear witness to their participation in the  the national struggle for the purity of life and worship of Yahweh.  It cannot be denied that the rise of group ecstasy, precisely in the midst of the frightful time of national crisis, was no accident.  It was undoubtedly Samuel’s teaching and impartation of what he had learnt and what he had experienced that had birthed this entire stream – nay- a gushing river of spirituality. David was a prophet. The biblical description of his dancing before the Lord as he brought the Ark into Jerusalem for the first time is demonstrative of the whole issue we are talking about.  Although we need to add that we are not told that David prophesied in his dance, we should note that the vast majority of David’s contribution to the body of prophecy in the Bible came through his singing and music, many of which refer to dancing, jumping, clapping and whirling.

0007

.

The distinction from mystical ecstasy may, in general, be accurately summed up by designating the prophetic experience as, “concentration and meditative ecstasy focussed purely on Yahweh,” in opposition to, “fusion ecstasy” (i.e. being infiltrated by a demonic or alien entity to gain control of something or somebody). Israel knew nothing of the prophet’s being able to thus gain mastery over God and force his way into the divine world.  Ecstasy as discovered by Samuel’s prophetic schools, with all its consequences, derived itself from a direct eruption of divine power, namely God’s Ruach, which overwhelmed a man and took him as a conscious and willing servant.  The Elijah accounts give the impression that its’ operations tended towards the enigmatic and capricious, rather than the Spirit in any way being at the Prophet’s beck and call.  It is Yahweh’s Spirit that enters into a man, and, in the days before Christ and Pentecost, it was only a repeated temporary experience – or so it would seem. Even the greatest of men of God can only have a share in the miraculous powers and superhuman knowledge because of the entry into himself of the wondrous living Spirit of God over whom Yahweh alone has ultimate direction. Prophets and prophecy are somehow touching God’s omniscience in their insights, visions, pictures, directions, predictions and declarations. In both Testaments it is graphic, directive, wonderful and intrinsically holy.

0008

“Behold a company of prophets met him.” 1 Samuel 10:10

I believe Samuel realised that his gift was desired by God to be the regular “bread and butter” of the life of those who would lead God’s people, which in his day centred on the, “church,” that was Israel.  As much of his gift as he could impart to others, he would do. I am sure that Samuel wanted more people, with a gift similar to his own, to be permeating Israeli society with an ear to God, as well as a mouth for God.

These schools affected the development of Yahweh worship and the future of the nation of Israel profoundly.  Prophets seem to have become, dare I say, almost common place.  The word, “Seer,” became more generally used to mean anybody who had connections and manifestations with the spiritual realm, whether divine or demonic.  The term prophet was used as the generations passed, instead of Seer, and was firmly set in the psyche and daily usage of the people of Israel.  The prophets that surrounded David, and spoke to later kings were commonly from the prophetic schools. Samuel birthed a means for the word of God, as he himself received and perceived it – a word for the “now and the “here” –  to be flowing and accessible for the masses.  The impact was to be profound, extremely far reaching and very wonderful.

Saul, David, and, at the beginning, Solomon, had words from those prophets who were given access to the royal courts.  The son of Solomon started his reign surrounded with young advisors. No prophets are said to have been present or invited by King Rehoboam of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. This was undoubtedly one of the keys to the decline of Israel and the general dive of spirituality in Israel’s Northern kings.  Prophets saw the division of the kingdom coming and said so, and they were still not called in by any king or queen of Israel after the northern throne was initiated.

We will see other things later, but the birth of the schools of the prophets in Israel, in Samuel’s day was utterly huge in its significance. It was clearly a God idea.

In my own experience I have visited many churches where a wise, sedate and serene pastor, often elderly – but not always, would, in a quiet and undemonstrative way lead the people of a church into worship where dance, shouts of triumph and whooping were common place and very real in terms of spirituality. In talking with members in churches of this calibre, I have found that often the exuberant and demonstrative worship commenced within the church when the, “sedate,” pastor arrived. My assumption is that many pastors, no matter how “sedate” they may be externally, carry an anointing for such worship in their hearts and impart their spirit to the people. Old age, or physical frailty may inhibit the outward expression, but ministers communicate what is in their hearts. This phenomena, this syndrome of group dynamics in worship is exactly what I believe happened in the life and experience of Samuel. The cool, calm, serene prophet of God, senior in years as well as in experience and prophetic gifting, communicated to his disciples or students what he carried. And what he carried was wild, giant and dangerous. Thus the schools of the prophets came into being.

They continued, as far as we can read right through to the days of Elisha. By Isaiah’s day the schools seem to have become part of the institution, and full of drunks and false prophets. By that time the function of the schools was finished. The days of the individual giant dangerous writing prophets had arrived.

Categories: And what did you learn at school today?, Readin' 'Ritin' 'Rithmatic and Prophecy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

There’s Never a Man of God Around When You Want One.

Samuel emerging? Or Samuel submerging?

(1 Samuel 4:1b–7:2)

1

When Eli heard that the Ark had been taken … Oh Dear!!

It started with an historic two or three days of slaughter.  Israel lost the opening battle.  Four thousand men were killed.  Imagine that on the six o clock news!  If four thousand men had died in any encounter in the gulf war or Afghanistan,  there would have been national mourning.  The narrative proves that twenty years after this, Samuel’s prophetic will was consulted on anything major on the national horizon, especially going to war.  But until Eli was gone, and there was nobody else in contention for leadership or judgeship but the young man Samuel, the military leaders tended to do their thing and ignore Eli utterly.  At least,  if  Eli protested, he was ignored.  Samuel, perceived so clearly as waiting in the side aisles as a great forthcoming leader, had not yet arrived, as it were, as the godly decision maker of the Hebrew people.

The Israelite military leaders were not to be put off by this initial trouncing and loss of four thousand men. However, they were more foolish than brave!  Determined to beat off the threat of the Philistines, they sent messengers hastily the twenty four mile trek in a south easterly compass point to Shiloh.  They demanded the presence of the Ark of the Covenant.  They believed, superstitiously and wrongly, that the ark could be used as some kind of talisman – cum – lucky charm to bring defeat to their most dread enemy.  Hophni and Phinehas were the unfortunate guardians of the ark in this context.  So where the ark went whilst on its travels, there were the two sons of Eli.  They probably saw in this venture an opportunity to have their name down in one of the Israeli annals.

2

In this picture Eli has fallen and is dead, and in the background it looks like the wife of Phinehas is starting in labour with “Ichabod.”.

The Israelites were hyped up to fever pitch with the Ark’s arrival in camp the following day.  They shouted and partied so loud, it actually put even more backbone into the Philistines.

A second battle ensued.  Israel lost again.  Not only were the survivors humiliated by running all the way back to their homes, but thirty thousand (30,000) died on the battlefield.  We are talking, “Major National Disaster.”  They also lost on the same day, as Jehovah had foretold, Hophni and Phinehas.  To cap it all, the Ark was taken.

When the battle weary Israelite survivors fled to their homes, one Benjamite, traditionally thought by Jewish Rabbi’s to be the man that was later their first King, ran to Shiloh to break the news.  Eli was sat in the city gates, anxious and nervously waiting for the news of the Ark.  The narrative states that he was trembling for the artefact.  It is this line of the text that informs us that they had taken the sacred box to the battlefield against Eli’s will; yet he could do nought to prevent the war lords, or his dastardly sons, doing what they wanted.

As the skeletal story of scripture is told, the picture revealed is startling.  Firstly the soldier ran straight past Eli and into the city to tell the general population.  Why did he do that?  Is it a symbolic suggestion of how Eli was not considered by the populace.  There is uproar in the city as the messenger spreads the news.  Everybody, it seems, knew before the inter regnum High Priest.  Then the soldier returns to Eli as he leaves the city of Shiloh.

“We’ve lost the war, and fled before the Philistines!”  That is extremely bad news.  But Eli sits and waits for more.  I paraphrase.  “There’s a great slaughter!”  Whether or not he knew the numbers is not mentioned.  30K is indeed somewhat of a slaughter, and a national disaster to put it mildly.  But Samuel soaks in the shocks and still waits for more.  “Your sons Hophni and Phinehas are dead!”  Yet again the liquid grief that is thrown at him is absorbed by the sponge of his experience and foreknowledge, given by the word of the Lord. “And the Ark of God is taken!” The prophetic words had hinted at catastrophe and hissing ears, but nothing so earth shattering as this.  With the blasting shock of the messenger’s last remark, Eli fell off his seat backward.  We are then informed that he died with such a fall because, “he was ninety-eight years old and was quite rotund.”  He broke his neck and was taken to wherever God took the righteous dead in the Old Testament days. (That’s another story; so I leave that remark alone for today!)

Strangle!Strangle!Strangle!Strangle!

Too late my friend. 98 year old Eli is dead.

Phinehas’s wife, probably in Shiloh, broke into labour with the news of the death of both her husband and brother in law, and now her father in law.  The child she bore was unfortunately named, “The glory is departed,” or “Ichabod,” with her dying breath.  Catastrophe’s indeed!  And all this in one day.

Sure enough, Jehovah had revealed to Samuel that the ears of anybody who heard the story would hiss, and this is exactly what happened to the old adoptive father of Samuel for those last few seconds before his death.  He knew of shocks coming, like the death of his sons on the same day.  Nothing, however, could have prepared him for the loss of the gold covered box.  National outbreaks of Tinitus set in.

History, as told by archaeological findings, tells us that Shiloh fell, “shortly,” after the taking of the Ark. I rather think it was actually, “on the same day.”  The account in First Samuel omits any remarks about the occurrence itself.  However, Psalm 78:59-64 reads:

God heard it and his anger burned; He deeply abhorred Israel.  He forsook the dwelling at Shiloh, the tabernacle which he had pitched among men; Yes, He delivered His Ark into captivity and its glory into the hand of a foe.  He abandoned His people to the sword and poured His anger on His inheritance.  The fire consumed their young men and their maidens were not serenaded.  The priests fell by the sword and their widows made no mourning. 

Jeremiah also refers to the catastrophe while addressing the goings on in Jerusalem in his generation (7:12, 14-15);

“…then I will make this house like Shiloh, and this city I will make a curse to all the nations of the earth.  Then the prophets seized Jeremiah and said: “You shall surely die!  Why have you prophesied in the Lord’s name saying! This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city will be desolate without an inhabitant.” And the people were gathered around Jeremiah in the Lord’s house.” 

But back to things when they were at the absolute rock bottom for Israel.

For the next seven months Yahweh  himself broke out among the Philistines in powerful judgment.  The Ark was the, “Ark of the covenant.”  It was not to be entertained and held by uncircumcised and non covenantal people.  Disease and more disease, idols bowing down to Yahweh, topped by deep and debilitating fear ravaged the nerve of the nation of the pentapolic nation of giants, and the ark was finally returned with deepened and solidified superstition and a mind boggling fear of God.  Finally, after moving via Beth-Shemesh, a town in southern Israel, the covenant box of the Almighty rested at a village called Kiriath-Jearim.  A man called Abinadab received it into his home.  He set his son Eleazar to guard it.  It was in Abinadab’s front room (where else would you put such an item? The Attic?) for possibly up to a hundred years.  (It may have been removed and then replaced on occasions, for Saul, later, at one time asked to consult the sacred box).

So: where on earth was our hero and prophet  for this, possibly the most dramatic aspect of our narrative?  From the latter part of 4:1 through to 7:3, Samuel is just not mentioned.  Query!

6 philistines_take_ark_to_dagon27s_house_1186-96

The Philistines come home to the first church of Dagon to exult in how much greater than Yahweh is their fish freak of a “god.” Little did they know about the line that they had crossed.

What happened while the prophet was on this, “vacation,” was the very catastrophe that ultimately presented Samuel with the opportunity to shine and move in the full stature of his gifting some twenty years later and thereafter.  But where was he all this time?  Did he run?  Was he in hiding?  How come the man was not in high profile prophetic activity while this, the greatest national catastrophe since the plagues of Egypt, was taking place?

Samuel, in the context of our story, is now an adult. He is acknowledged as a prophet.  Although he undoubtedly could have spoken into the nation’s situation and brought a semblance of healing, there is no report of any “Samuelian” input.

Yet again we are reduced to conjecture.  Any of the following ideas are equally possible.  Some have a slightly stronger argument of logic to support them than others.

As a first suggestion he may simply have been ignored.  Yes! He was acknowledged as a prophet, but the state of the people’s hearts in the nation was such that, perhaps, such a realisation did not mean too much to them at the time of the loss of the Ark.  A sort of, “If Samuel is a prophet of God, how come he didn’t speak up and stop the Ark from being stolen?” attitude. It was a spiritually shell shocked people that Samuel was left to deal with.  They had known centuries of decline with the priesthood.  A generation of evil anarchic conduct at the tabernacle by Hophni and Phinehas had developed a breed of Israeli’s that had no concept of Godly and powerful men handling the sacrificial system instituted by God Himself.  Eli had not exactly shown an example of dynamic leadership and farsightedness.  And now all the religious crutches of pomp, ceremony, ancient artefacts and national pride were virtually nonexistent after that fateful, horrific day at Aphek where so many had died along with the missing Ark.  On top of all this, there was thirty-four thousand; leaders of men, and people from all ranks of life missing after the slaughter on the battlefields of Aphek.  So, now all they had was a man – this fellow named Samuel ben Elkanah. “Other nations have systems, temples, national Gods and strong High Priests,” they could have complained, ”Our God doesn’t even fight for us.”  Even as a prospective judge Samuel didn’t fit in to the battling, fighting, field-marshal mode.  Therefore, my hypothesis number one is that Samuel may have been left to grow and develop quietly back in his native Ramah out of the public eye until such a time as, either the nation asked for him, or God told him to stand up and speak. Could be!

Or, secondly, did he just ignore them?  Did Samuel reflect the anger of God as suggested in the biblical quotes concerning the fall of Shiloh above?  Get hold of Samuel’s emotional responses.  Remember the later story of the elders asking for a king and Samuel’s emotional hurt?  Recall the even later account of his feelings when King Saul turned his back on obedience.  Recollect his grief over the state of the nation under a tyrannical Saul, prior to the anointing of David.  This definite, “gift,” of, “feeling as God feels,” and living with such intensity of feeling, was a common experience for Samuel.  It is a common experience of prophets; period (full stop). In such a context it is easily conceivable that God’s anger was such that He refused to speak until the people sought for Him.  Of course the Spirit of God would be hovering and brooding as ever He had been over the covenant people, urging them to draw near.  But such was their coarse evil in taking the Ark into battle with them, and their general lack of spirituality, it may be that God withdrew, through the person of Samuel, to ignore them until repentance was evident.  Consulting God, via Samuel, was not, as yet, on the agenda of the tribal or community leaders. Possible!

7

What a coincidence that the first night the ark is in their idolatrous place of worship, The idol itself falls on its face and its joints fall off. I wonder why?

My third hypothesis, of course, is that Samuel was neither ignored, nor ignoring.  Suggestion “nummer drei” is the possibility that after the loss of the ark, the death of Hophni, Phinehas and Eli, and the fall of Shiloh, Samuel was extremely busy, in fact, I suggest he may have been worked off his feet.  For reasons that shall be explained as the story continues it is feasible to discern that though he was undoubtedly ignored immediately prior to the fateful losses at Aphek, he was busy circulating the nation like some travelling evangelist preaching repentance and comfort to all the tribes of Israel.

Of all these suggestions, number three has most to commend itself.  In God’s economy generally, authority must be given, as opposed to taken.  Whatever had been divinely planted in Samuel was not yet physically seen.  The tender plant of Samuel was not yet in full bloom. He was gifted by God, yet not elevated and given position by the people with whom he was in so much favour.  Accepting this hypothesis, we project a more general thesis as to what happened to Samuel throughout this tragic low ebb of Israel’s fortunes.  There are certain accepted facts that serve to frame our conjecture.

I assume, as fact, that Shiloh fell immediately after the taking of the Ark.  The ruins of Shiloh have been found.  The experts pronounce 1050 BC as the date about which it was razed.  This calamity is referred to in one or two points of the bible (see above), but is not explained with words that assist dating. I reckon Shiloh fell the same day, or very soon after Eli had died.

The second fact is that the Philistine’s aggression during this brief period of time won them territory eastward from the coastal plain, almost down to the Jordan. So we observe that the nadir of all Israel’s grief’s was reached with the following series of catastrophic events, both biblical and extra-biblical:  The death of Eli; the annihilation of thousands upon thousands of its bravest sons; the loss of the Ark; the sacking of Shiloh; the taking of its strongest and most strategic military garrison points by the Philistines and the total fulfilment of the Philistine dream, to own the west bank and all between it and the Great Sea (The Mediterranean). Israel was in virtual submission to an idolatrous demonically inspired culture.  All this served to blanket the nation with Humiliation.  It was, indeed, the end of civilisation as Israel knew it at the time.

8

And again.

The memory of this moment was never lost throughout the history of the Old Testament.  It is our assertion that at that instant of time, “The Lord awakened”, as one out of sleep, to give them the matured and mentored man of God: Samuel.  Prior to Samuel standing up and taking leadership it seemed that nothing could stop Israel from fading and ultimately being wiped out. There is absolutely no doubt about this national collapse.

But we still have not answered our own question:   Where was Samuel at Israel’s darkest moment?

I believe our man was out and about,“finding” his destiny.

We need to give a rationale as to why we make such a conjecture.  I start with a list of acts.  But I prefix this list showing the palms’ of my hands to the reader saying;  “I have not the faintest idea of the times or chronological order of these events!”  But don’t throw my thoughts away, for nobody else knows either, apart from God Himself.

Somewhere in the midst of all this, Samuel was married.  Somewhere after that, he had children; at least two sons; more than that is guess work.  Again, somewhere in the middle of all this cataclysm and the passing of the years, Samuel moved house.  He flitted back to the area of Ramah and lived there. The book says he lived at Naioth.  “Naioth,” is Hebrew for, “home.”  Jewish notes and writings always refer to, “Naioth,” prefixed with the definite article. It is always, “The Naioth.” It was also around this time also he commenced his school of the prophets, much more of which we shall say later.

10

Archaeologists seem to have proven that Dagon was half fish, half man.

God had been gradually conditioning the people and their perception of the man, so that when his moment of destiny would arrive, it would be easy for them to receive him as the God given national chieftain.  As with all the, “end of the world,” cataclysms that took place in the continuum of Israel’s history, it ended as the birth of a wonderful new era.  This particular, “worst ending,” undoubtedly and unarguably prefixed the, “best new beginning.”

The fact is recorded that the Ark of the Covenant was at Abinadab’s  home for nigh on a hundred years, known only to have been removed by Saul for a time.  The first twenty years of this hundred or so years were filled with revival burning in the hearts of the people of Israel.  There is something very touching in this note of two decades.  I have a feeling that we hear Samuel’s own words here.  The unwearied prophet of God found the two decades a wearisome test of his patience; a veritable trial.

The statement immediately following the darkest day in Israel’s history says: “And all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord.”  I don’t think its right to suppose that only after twenty years did the nation start seeking God.  I perceive it as a gradual groundswell of people growing in number, fervency and understanding that took two decades to explode into the time when Samuel, “stood to his feet.”  It was indeed a stern time of trial.  These twenty years, however, were essential in the educational maturing of Samuel’s posture and gravitas before God and the people.  Samuel was circuiting the country during these two decades.  If Samuel was not travelling he had others who would do it for him.  I am bound to link Samuel’s activity as a prophet and preacher to the spiritual revival that took twenty years to come to full blossom.  It was two hundred and forty months of underground activity, until it finally broke out as a volcano of godliness throughout the country.

9

The history of the Ark of the Covenant from Joshua’s day through to its situation in Solomon’s temple.

The early zeal and dreams of his boyhood were scattered to the wind.  The desolation of Aphek and the sacking of Shiloh had laid Israel submissively under the jack boot of the Nazi like xenophobia of Philistia’s inhabitants.  The oppressors made their presence bitterly felt.  The returned Ark did not suggest the slightest slacking of their grip on the throat of the twelve tribes of Israel.

Taught by the bitter lessons of adversity, it seems to have dawned on Samuel that it was not a Samson, or a Gideon type action, but a national all round thorough grounding in Godliness that would turn the tide of oppression.  Something deep down and wholesome would be needed before the battle cry of the lions of Judah, or the war cry of Ephraim could take place in victory.  Samuel had faith in people personally turning to God en masse.  It was his vision of this sort of battle that made him what he was. Samuel saw, a thousand years before Christ, that the real battle was for the hearts and minds of people to be turned to God.

Whatever else he did, or could have done with his life during these twenty years we are not told.  It is conceived by some that he was a fugitive from “Philistine justice.”  It is thought by some that it was he who is mentioned in Hebrews eleven as, “hiding in the caves,” as he furtively travelled the area teaching and preaching a heavy statement of repentance.  Personally, I cannot perceive of him in hiding with the entire context of First Samuel in mind.  Preaching and teaching I am sure he did, though to what size audiences we cannot say.  Whatever the truth was, gradually their came a spiritual awareness that the nation was sensitive to, and prepared for, by the time that Samuel started speaking to Israel en bloc as a full blown national prophet.  Critical mass had arrived. The bomb was about to explode.

9 Old Jewish men on their usual Sabath walk to the KotelSabbath walk 1

Two elderly Jewish gentlemen taking their regular Sabbath walk to pray at the Kotel. Photo taken in 1935.

“The house of Israel lamented after the Lord.”  The Syriac version suggests that they all flung themselves down on the ground before God.  Some brains suggest that they merely gathered together in some communal demonstration of repentance.  Others say that it means, “Israel quieted themselves in a period of quiet devotion to Yahweh.”  The King James Bible is best on this.  This lamenting, or “hungering” after God, was a work of the Spirit of God, via the preaching and prayer ministry of Samuel.

It was twenty years of comparative silence where God had his man ready for a high destiny.  Oh, how we would like to rush the account and let Samuel, “at them,” and in harness immediately.  True revival, however, takes time to root itself and become a way of life, rather than just to give the froth and bubble of an overnight splash that wets everybody yet still leaves the people thirsty.

Where is the man of God when you most need him?  This man of God was busy and active, waiting for that moment when God would whisper in his ear, “Now!  This is the very moment that they need you the most Samuel!  Stand up and prophecy.  Say:  “This is what the LORD God of Israel says……”!”

Abraham had long spaces of silence if his story is dated properly.  We have little of Isaac’s life considering the age at which he died.  Jacob also had many years in silence.  The difference, however, with Jacob is that the biblical cameras don’t leave him.  He left his father and mother planning for a few days away, and finished up not returning for twenty one years.  He never saw his mother gain.  As far as Isaac, the carrier of the promise, was concerned, Jacob was away and hidden, as was Moses after him, and as was Samuel after him.  Joseph had a long time of incubation.  David also experienced the same, running around the caves and hills of Israel, Philistia and Jordan, hiding from the madness and despotic fervour of Saul.  There are historical spaces in Elijah, and Elisha’s life.  In fact Elijah appears on the biblical scene of time full grown.  His previous life is totally hidden, and we have not even the slightest hint into his upbringing.  By reading the dates given in Jeremiah’s prophecy, and more emphatic still in the book of Ezekiel, we have years of silence betwixt some of his dated Words.

Without doubt, the principle of incubation and long term secret development is an element of character breeding and progression that needs to be seen and observed in scripture.  Many modern day prophets have similar accounts that leave the world wondering what it had missed while the man of God was in the hot-house of the school of the Holy Spirit.

God leaves men of God sometime to mature on the lees like expensive and costly wine to ensure the taste is universally received and appreciated.

5 tunis girl new 1900

A Tunisian Jewish girl arriving in Jerusalem. Coloured by hand. Photo taken in 1900.

Categories: 1 Samuel 4 verse 1 – 7 :2, Samuel emerging? Or Samuel submerging?, There's Never a Man of God around when You Want One | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Matured In The Keg

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

(1 Samuel 3:19–4:1a)

10 artist's impression of the tab in Shilo

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

 

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

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

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

11 tabernacle_shilo_gallery

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

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

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

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

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

12

.

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

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

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

13 Samuel ie TV actor

TV Actor playing Samuel the prophet.

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

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

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

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

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

19 Shira_ErevSuccot-018

Samuel’s tomb today.

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

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

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

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

Environs of Jerusalem. Mizpah (Nebi Samwil)

A photo of Samuel’s tomb conceivably pre 1900.

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

I See Through The Smog a Bright Future On The Horizon.

I SEE THROUGH THE SMOG A BRIGHT FUTURE ON THE HORIZON.

A secret glimpse into God’s plans both dark and bright.

(1 Samuel 2:27-36)

1 shiloh_tabernacle_drawn_lg

This is the exact spot, so the archeologists say, where Shiloh was located, and the layout of stones and ridges suggesting where the Tabernacle was placed.

And then; still in this same period of Samuel’s life, a visitor arrived.

The man is left nameless.  He prophesied.  Was he therefore a prophet?  The Prophetic word he was given to pass on to Eli was a bombshell that must have shaken the old man to the foundations of his character.  It was on a personal level: to do with his family.  On the other hand, if the man was talking of Samuel with his opaque promise of some kind of a future successor, Eli had potential excitement to his finger tips at the conceivable glimpse of how the youth was going to turn out.

Whatever dialogue transpired prior to the delivery of the, “Word,” is not revealed.  Because of the seriousness and the far reaching effects of this message, we shall quote it phrase by phrase.  He opened with, “Thus says the Lord.”  In the Old Testament when God communicated in a slightly different manner than in the New, this prefix was the weighty precursor to many a Divine deliberation from prophets.  The assertion is that, “This is what Almighty Yahweh says, and the message I am about to impart was received by me in exactly the same words as I shall speak.”  Weighty stuff indeed!  Prophets, do not use this word lightly – ever! Recipients,“Ignore this phrase at your peril!”

This, incidentally, is the first biblical sight of a prophet since the days of Deborah.  We are talking of possibly a hundred years or two since the likes of this had last occurred in the biblical narrative real time.

I have ransacked several versions of the Old Testament to gain the general consensus of what went on here.  Some of the sentences are extremely difficult to translate, according to the experts.  On top of that, once you have settled the translation, the interpretation of the message and its long term meaning becomes an even higher obstacle.

2

.

“Did I plainly appear unto the house of your father, when they were in Egypt, in Pharaoh’s house?  And did I choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to offer upon my altar, to burn incense, to wear an Ephod before me?  And did I give unto the house of your father all the offerings made by fire of the children of Israel?”  These rhetorical questions that Eli would have silently nodded to, commenced this terrible prophetic dirge of doom.  We paraphrase this opening simply as : “Did I not swamp your family with privileges and blessings to an amazing degree?”

Eli knew that the nameless visitor was referring to historical facts of Israel’s youthful but stunning history.  The answer was a knowledgeable, “Yes”! to all the questions posed.  From this the knife of God’s judgement pierces Eli’s heart.

“Why do you kick at my sacrifices and at my offering, which I have commanded in my habitation; and honour your sons above me, to make yourselves fat with the chiefest of all the offerings of Israel my people?”  In plain English; “Your lack of discipline on your son’s abuse of the sacrifices, demonstrates how you honour them more than me.  Why?”  God’s logic is like a steamroller to crack a nut.   It is irresistible in its damnation.  Ungainsayable!  “For this reason the Lord God says, “I said indeed that your house, and the house of your father, should walk before me forever”: but now the Lord says, “Be it far from me; for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.  Behold the days come, that I will cut off your arm, and the arm of your father’s house, that there shall not be an old man in your house”.”  It sounds like the damnation of accidental, or murderous deaths to all the descendants of Eli’s family.

3

.

God now thrusts deeper still.  My version:  “I promised that you would be priests forever.  But this abhorrence of Me and My sacrifices, means I shall deal with your family, take its power away, and all your progeny shall die whilst young.”  It seems amazing that the misconduct of one man in one generation, should  affect so many in future generations.  This word came to pass in Saul’s reign as Eli’s grandson and great grandson came to early demise in those days.  The power was removed from them when Solomon took the throne and displaced Eli’s descendants with Zadok, the true High Priestly line through Eleazar.

The heavily complex Hebrew language of verse thirty two of this chapter has translators in total disarray.  From version to version it says what seems like totally different things.  Having read through eleven translations, as well as various commentaries, I am still not sure if there is any one I should prefer.  So; using the principle that when the experts disagree the layman is free to choose which he thinks is wisest, I hereby choose the lot of them, and come out with the following notes.

The prophet explains that God will give Israel wealth, blessing and pleasure in the future.  Good will be done to Israel.  This is reference to the future with David and Solomon, the foundation of which was built on Samuel’s teaching.  However, Eli’s family would not partake of these blessings and will – it is predicted – be envious of those in the outpouring of prosperity.  There may even be suffering and trouble for his family.  Eli, or maybe just his future family, shall see shortage, need and distress in God’s House while the prosperity spreads.  The intrigue and “grabbing lifestyle” of those that “wore the Ephod,” (another term for those who were priests) is open to public dispolay in the reign of Saul and the life of David.

4

Eli tutoring Samuel.

An adversarial enemy shall be seen in the habitation of God.  It is described by others as, “distress,” but Eli shall actually see it.  This must refer to the taking of the Ark, for Eli was not alive to see the sack of Shiloh, or indeed anything thereafter. The news of the stolen Ark of the Covenant is what socked him, leading to his death almost instantaneously. This will occur in the midst of the blessings given to Israel. The blessing I believe were of the nature of a man in particular; his name was Samuel.

Then comes the pronouncement that all and sundry of the translator’s fraternity agree on: henceforth, nobody of Eli’s family will live to old age.  One man translates the word, “old man,” as, “noble.”  To make the prophecy even harder on Eli and his posterity, the prophet adds that even those that live the longest of his family shall grieve their own heart. Jewish tradition believes that Eli was 100 years old when he died.

The doom and damnation is set.  If only father had spanked the two when they were little and gained enough discipline and respect from them so that they would obey him in adult years, things could have been so different for the entire future of Israel.

A sign is then promised by the itinerant prophet as a token that the entire message shall come to pass.  The sign is that the two wayward sons shall perish on the same day.  This final aspect of the message was relevant to Eli for less than a minute.  Years later, less than sixty seconds after the news was broken to him of the death of his two sons, he was dead.  God’s economy is bigger than the first and most prominent meaning of this shocking message.  The fact is that God knew that this prophecy would gain fame by being repeated and repeated over and over again through the following years.  How else could the writer of First Samuel know that this prophecy was spoken.

The man of God closed his errand with a prediction that must have been as heart-warming to Eli as the former was chilling. “I will raise up for me a faithful priest that shall do according to that which is in my heart and in my mind:  and I shall build him a sure house; and he shall walk before my anointed forever.” 

As per usual there are two ways of interpreting what was said.  There is , of course the immediate historical perspective, and then the long term prophetic insight to the words, referring in some way to the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Was this about Samuel? Or was it about Christ? Or, more likely still: Was it about them both?

This fits Samuel as well as the Saviour.  In fact it fits Samuel more than it fits Christ.  All but the last phrase suits the two.  “He shall walk before my anointed forever,”  cannot refer to Christ, as He was the anointed.  Referring to Samuel he would walk before Saul during his lifetime revealing God’s heart to him.  Saul was the Lord’s anointed.  But Samuel would walk before Christ in eternity.  Christ was the archetype of the Lord’s anointed.

5 eli and his sons

Eli trying to correct his sons.

The more I try to put my mind in the place of Eli’s as he was being spoken to by, “Nameless,” the more I think that this closing promise would be the silver lining on the dark clouds of doom.  He had done a good job on Samuel, even if he had failed miserably in the way of Hophni and Phinehas.

“And it shall come to pass that everyone that is left in your house shall come and crouch to him for a piece of silver and a morsel of bread, and shall say, “Put me, I beg you, into one of the priest’s offices, that I may eat a piece of bread.”

The meaning of this is plain when seen in the context of the extra difficult verse 32. Those that are of the priestly family, yet in poverty, will be asking the trustworthy and faithful priest (Samuel) for a job so that they can earn a little money and a little food.

The prophet that delivered this message is never referred to again.  He disappears off the face of the biblical narrative.  But his words are there for us to squint and wince at three thousand years later.  Eli must have been “blown away.” The Account informs us that Eli was blind and overweight.  Whenever his position is mentioned he is either lying or sitting.  How he survived this news I shudder to imagine.  Of all the shocks and knocks that this man met through life, this pronouncement eyeball to eyeball would have done the most to suck his life from him.  Many people would have given up at the point at which he had arrived.  The harshness and the finality of the heart of God towards him and his diabolical duo would surely have stilled and stopped the heart of the majority.  This prophetic word was set in concrete.  The future was, to a degree, revealed.  Terrible things at the Tabernacle were to come.  Hophni and Phinehas were to die on the same day.  No more old age in the family; and his offspring were already adult.  Familial poverty. National prosperity.  A divinely raised faithful priest. Stuff to chew on. Stuff to ponder long and hard. My heart goes out to Eli at this point.

Man has a failing (or is it a blessing?) to see most things in the context of his own immediate history.  In Eli’s mind these heavyweight prophetic statements must have also been seen in his immediate context.  Correctly, or incorrectly perceived by the old man, the, “Enemy in the dwelling of God,” could only be his sons, the godless of Israel, and/or the ungodly nations among whom they lived.  The faithful priest could only be Samuel.  Did Eli have a vision of the Messiah to come. Oh!  If only he had been a different sort of parent.  If only he had stood up to the wickedness of his sons earlier in life.  If only!  If only!  The most painful moments of anybody’s life are those spent contemplating what could have happened if they had done something correctly, which was in actuality done wrongly or badly.  Those regrets are heightened to a most hurtful degree when the repercussions of their wrong doing bring desolation, hurt and damnation upon others.

7

.

At this point of time Eli must have wept.  He must have been in an inward state of heartbreak.  Death became him more than life.  Annihilation was preferable to an eternity counting the cost of his own “non-action.  Poor Eli!  No words could comfort a man in such a scenario.

Related articles

Categories: 1 Samuel 2 verses 27 - 36, The prophet with no name | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ramah to Shiloh. Across the world in 6 hours.

RAMAH TO SHILOH

Across the world in six hours. 

(1 Samuel 1 verses 1 – 9)

1 4 Rachels'tomb as one leaves Ramah

Rachel’s tomb ahead. The view as one has just left Ramah on the way to Shiloh.

In the twenty first century with unleaded petrol as the norm, power steering, and all mod cons in even the average car, and with speedometers that suggest to the driver that the normal car could cruise at 80 kilometres per hour, a fourteen mile trip on a modern motorway cut through a few hills and with flyovers in the valleys is neither here nor there. A fifteen-minute comfort cruise in an air-conditioned modern saloon. Quite a pleasant thought really. I have a friend who used to take his baby son for just such a drive 2 or 3 times a day just in order to help the child sleep in his comfortable baby seat in the back of his vehicle. Not a problem.

In the biblical days we are about to negotiate, the fastest travel available to the masses was a well-fed donkey with an attitude. The “sports model” of the donkey was an animal called the “horse” (No Israelite owned a horse until Solomon’s time, and that was about 120 years later than the time we are thinking of).  It is true that some of the upper classes, or the wealthy, may have had camels, but asses and donkeys were the normal, “family saloon model,” notwithstanding the more commonly used, “Shank’s pony.”

Roads were definitely not cut through hills in the days we are travelling to. In fact, most journeys had no roads at all. It was simply a matter of pointing one’s donkey in the direction of the required destination, then keeping him moving toward the same compass point, until one arrived where one was expected. The Bible does indeed talk about, “Highways,” at the time, but each occasion one reads of such a phenomena, more often than not, especially in preDavidic times, such terminology simply refers to a well-worn track that was just easy to follow.

Stargazing camels..

So, imagine yourself on a sweltering day in the footsteps of our man of the moment: Elkanah, Samuel’s “father to be.” Travelling fourteen miles accompanied by two women and at least four children, would have made such a six to eight hour trip a little pressured for any husband. Food, personal hygiene, diapers and travel sickness, as well as toileting needs, would have creased the brow of the hardiest family man. Landau Forte had not started their chain of hotels yet. Refreshment oases, apart from stopping at other towns and cities, were just not in existence, and one could not depend upon a warm welcome, even from an Israeli town, for another Israeli.

This is the scene where our inquiry commences. Time wise we are somewhere between 1080 and 1050 B.C. Biblically, we are at the opening verses of the ninth book of the Old Testament. Geographically we are in the depths of the Ephraim hills, in the territory of Benjamin, about five miles north of the city we now know as Jerusalem, in those days, known as Jebus. We see this man and his family leaving a place called Ramathaim–Zophim, it is called Ramah for short. ( Modern Ramallah?).  It is swelteringly hot. The journey raises dust that sticks on the face and in the throat.

We suggest that there were at least two donkeys for the wives to mount, and possibly others, depending on the age and maturity of the children. This was the full count of the family of Elkanah as at this moment. The full-blown opening statement of First Samuel’s opening two verses tells us all this – and more.

The family detailed situation is best theorised in this way: Having married early for love of a woman named Hannah, Elkanah discovered through the passing of time that no children were forthcoming. His wife just would not become pregnant. It was inconceivable, pardon the pun, for him to think that it was his male incapability that prevented issue. As heirs were all essential for the sake of property and future wealth, and as the years were passing, Elkanah took for himself a second wife, probably chosen from a particularly fertile familial tree, or even the widow of a relative that had died. His end was achieved. Voile! Children again and again, via wife number two.

1 1

A far distant view of Shiloh today

On this family outing, a journey he had vowed to take annually, there were both sons and daughters of this second wife. Peninnah was her name. (This Hebrew word carries a similar meaning to the English word “Margaret”) We are not told of the names of her offspring.

The tension between the brace of spouses was a bitter thing. Peninnah is specifically listed as Hannah’s, “adversary.” The journey must have been a silent one for the ladies; apart from interaction with the children of course. To put it mildly, these two women were not the best of friends.

There were other social issues, ripened fruits contributing to the stew of contemporary circumstances that would have deterred many from a trip such as Elkanah was taking. Foreign and volatile powers occupied the land. For one, Canaan was not rid of wild beasts, for another Wolves and Hyenas prowled about at night.  Even Lions had their lairs in the forest cum jungle, which lined part of the course of the Jordan. There was also the omnipresent danger of robbers and thieves in the fastnesses of the hills.

1 2 Shiloh

Shiloh

To encourage them on their way, there would have been other families making the same pilgrimage. Numbers? Think of any! We can all but guess.

Then there was the main driving force that would carry some through thick or thin to get to the place called Shiloh, namely faith in God, and the desire to worship at the annual feasts as commanded by the Law of Moses.

In the days of the Judges, there were several neighbouring societies and cultures with religious beliefs and practices that made the average God fearing Israelite cringe with horror. The weak in mind among the children of Israel actually joined their heathen neighbours. Idolatry, human sacrifice, rampant hedonism and a love of war, together with raping, pillaging and general sacking of enemy nations was the absolute norm for national self-esteem.  The Canaanites, Hivites, Amorites and all the other “ites,” as well as the Philistines were a godless lot by modern perspectives. From another viewpoint, one could say that the problem was that they all had too many gods.

Jehovah simply wanted Israel to settle in the land that he had given them, and to live happily ever after on a true worshipful lifestyle. The previous inhabitants were not on the Divine agenda for longevity. He had promised to help Israel chase out the seven evil inspired cultures, and demonically ravaged nations. They could have had the Land all to themselves, but they would not. God rescinded the commitment to drive out the Canaanites before them because of their unbelief (see Judges 2:1-6). They were, therefore, through lack of faith and character, forced to be like the other nations, if not worse. These were definitely days when, “Every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” And that attitude was the very rot of the nation.

Ramah and Rachel's Tomb 1836 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

Ramah and Rachel’s Tomb 1836 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

This is the cosmos into which Samuel first became a proverbial, “Twinkle in his mother’s eye.” The picture we are etching while Elkanah rambles up to Shiloh was probably similar to the very moment when the first “twinkling” of Hannah’s eyes began.

Hannah wanted children with a longing and a yearning that is reserved for those “mother like hearts” in like circumstances to hers. Our story will explain how the “first wife’s” most sensitive and agonising deprivation became the seed of her own, as well as the nation of Israel’s greatest asset since Moses.

She was chosen. Abraham and Sarah at one elongated point of time had no children. Isaac and Rebekah new the same deprivation over a twenty-year period. Manoah likewise. So with the Shunamite woman, and not omitting Zacharias and Elizabeth in the New Testament. And here also, we read that Hannah had no children. In this light, it comes to nothing short of a mark of special election and high calling. In fact, it seems to my mind to be a very special calling of servanthood for God, to have no legitimate children at a certain point of prolonged married life. The Divine choice, of course, for this process is beyond human manipulation or bias.

Hannah’s determination to overcome sadness and emotional devastation, and how she achieved to climb such a sheer rock face of character challenge, is the very fulcrum of our observations concerning Samuel’s family roots. Hannah’s deep, “gut- ache,” is where this story truly begins. Samuel was longed for by his mother, before he was even conceived. I seriously doubt that Elkanah ever understood Hannah. As character goes, she was priceless. Her deprivation made her better, as opposed to bitter. Hannah’s husband came from stock that one would have thought had the insight to see her pain. Unfortunately it was not so with him.

1 11

.

Elkanah Was a Levite derived from a branch of the Levitical family known as the clan of Kohath. The Kohathites were scattered all across Judah, Benjamin, Simeon, Ephraim, Dan and Manasseh. In the opening stanza of First Samuel, Elkanah is referred to as an “Ephrathite,” which, amongst other things, meant that he was born in Ephraim, somewhere near to Bethlehem. According to the family tree offered to us in 1 Chronicles 6:22 – 33, Elkanah was the nineteenth direct descendant from the Patriarch Jacob, via Levi. Levites were the priestly clan. All Levites were intended by God to run the entire worship system that revolved around the Tabernacle. That was a system that was outlined in considerable detail in the books of Moses. In times of spiritual decline, of course, there was never enough work to go around, and so Levites had to take up other professions. It would seem that secular employment was Elkanah’s lot in life. More than likely, he was probably a farmer.

Though the people of Israel as a whole were tainted with unbelief and/or idolatry, including the priestly ranks, with all those vices most hateful to the prescribed  law of God, there must have been many, like Elkanah, who were God fearing  and held family life in strict reverence. The vast majority of religious and political guides of the time were weakly fragmented in purpose, and godless in heart. At least, by the account we have, we are assured of committed spirituality of this particular husband and his first wife.

Because of the contemporary dangers of travelling as explained from above, a lot of families only chose to go to one feast a year. They did not have a choice to go elsewhere. Elkanah lived nearer than most. Fourteen miles and six hours still seemed like the other side of the world to a man with two wives and a quiver full of offspring.

In the Bible, there are many names given to God, and the book of Samuel here in the first chapter, 3rd verse uses a certain name here for the first time. It is a name that was quite commonly used in later generations. It says that Elkanah went to worship, “The Lord of hosts.”  “Yahweh Sabaoth. For the uninitiated it simply means that God had (and certainly still has) an army. Some are human, yes, but he also has a few battalions and divisions, if not quite a few full armies that are not human. We are talking about Angels.

1 9 shiloh

Historical site as it is today. Shioloh.

The Ark of the Covenant that was kept in the now ever-darkened room at Shiloh, was only ever lit up when God chose to appear there. When He did appear, it was over the top of the lid of this Ark, between a golden effigy of two cherubim (Cherubim is plural for Cherub).  We do not mean the cuddly little naked baby type, “cherub,” that western culture caricatures on valentine cards every year. We mean the real thing. Six wings, four faces, hands of a man and feet of an animal. We are talking awe-inspiring splendour and glory. They surround His throne in heaven. Ezekiel saw four of them. Isaiah and John saw the same four also. Here, on the ark, was the likeness of two of them carved in gold.

To say that I would like to know exactly what the Ark of the Covenant and its “Mercy Seat” looked like is a gross understatement. Does a human being desire to breathe? This Ark was the very crux of worship for Israel and the Israelite. It was never seen by any but the High Priest, but was so famously treasured, that God was actually known and referred to as “The Lord that dwells between the cherubim.”  Jehovah actually appeared there, at that very spot. The entire concept is truly breathtaking. In moses day it would have been the brightest spot on the face of the earth. These days it was merely a box kept in the darkness, providing a form of godliness and somehow, because of the people, it was denying the power of Yahweh and their faith in Him.

1 12 the sad Hannah

Sad Sad Hannah

There are twin stories told throughout the early chapters of First Samuel. If it was filmed the same as the story reads, the scene would keep flitting from Elkanah and his wife Hannah, to two of the most unsavoury fellows in the whole of Israelite history. These two men were so evil, and so influential in their evil, that we are actually told that God had made up his mind to kill them.

Hophni and Phinehas were the two sons of the acting High Priest.  They were the equivalent of both the atheistic, sensual lager louts of the late twenty first century, and the disaffected, delinquent “Hooray Henry’s” of the privileged classes. In the context of the spiritual heritage of Israel, they were a “dreadful Armageddon type judgement” just waiting to happen.  And how they would “happen!”

As the story progresses over the years, one realises how impossible it is to fully tell Samuel’s story without bringing in these two apostle’s of evil. Hophni and Phinehas were so evil and so bad that God just had to kill them. To take the drama and tension away from their death, God arranged for the sacred Ark to be stolen on the very day they died. The acting High Priest Eli also passed away to his reward when he heard the news. Shortly afterwards (I think, on the same day as the Israeli army retreated from battle) Shiloh was razed to the ground. The theft of the Ark, and its later return to the outer perimeter of Israeli life, caused the maturing Samuel to ask God about how future worship was to be arranged. That is the very issue, which caused the genius of the man to arouse itself from latent and dormant purposes.

In another line of dominoes, it was the evil of these two real sons that, I believe, made Eli determine to make an excellent job of parenting Samuel. Their continued evangelical godlessness was being perpetrated simultaneously to the growth of the lovely little lad, being brought up with Eli in “the nurture of the Lord”. The Godly Samuel developed in the environment of the wicked.

That is just how it works folks! Environment may oppress and depress. But environment is only one issue in a macro of things that causes people to stand or fall. Adam and Eve fell in a perfect environment. Samuel grows and stands in Godliness and purity in an environment that no parent of today would dream of subjecting their child to, especially in their absence. Modern Social Services policy would undoubtedly have forbidden Hannah from leaving Samuel with Eli. How great and marvelous is God’s grace.

The fact that only these two priests are mentioned is not to lead us to think that the Tabernacle needed only Eli and his two sons to function. Far from it. The congregation would have undoubtedly been considerable in size, yet only a small percentage of the thirteen tribes would have utilised the old tent of worship. These were Godless days after all.

1 13 Peninah taunts Hannah

Penninah taunts Hannah. Wicked Woman.

We picture the people dancing and merrymaking, though not in, or near the Tabernacle. They used to dance in the Vineyards around Shiloh away from the sacred tent. Dance means music, gaiety, laughter. We know also that there was lots of eating and drinking. In part of the ceremony of offering  one’s sacrifice, some of the cooked sacrificial meat was returned to the offerer for eating, and was passed from the husband as the family priest, on to the family. Whatever the measure of meat to feed his wives and children, Elkanah did something here that was, sociologically speaking, a catastrophe. Elkanah had two wives. That is bad enough. But fasten your seat belts as I tell you something much much worse. Elkanah had favourites. Actually, only one favourite wife. One is all that is needed to bring catastrophe. In whatever way the husband sliced up the joint for feasting, he gave “one” slice to Peninnah, and one to all her children. He probably had just one slice for himself. Then, in open view of all, he gave “double” to Hannah. I read it, and I read it, over and over again, and I find it so hard to believe. Was Elkanah in his right mind? How on earth could he vex Peninnah so?

Annually Elkanah came. Annually Hannah was abused by Peninnah. Annually he gave his “favourite wife” the double portion. In the vicinity of the Tabernacle, just near to the spot where Joshua had thrown the Lots for the tribal inheritance, Peninnah chose this moment and place of dedication to taunt Hannah “adversarially.” Was Elkanah simple? Was he deranged? Was he so ignorant of human nature? Was he so crass as to not know anything about the two human beings he had married? There you have one woman who would make the perfect mother. A woman with character and piety, yet utterly distraught through her childlessness. And then we have the woman who had the children (four in fact), yet, as the story will reveal as we proceed, no character. The point is that people too often home in on what they don’t have rather than what they do have. So we have Hannah longing for children, and, oh, dreadful picture that it is, we have Peninnah craving the love and primary place in her husband’s heart that Hannah obviously had. “I have given him 4 children!  She has given him none! Why doesn’t he love me?” Was ever a domestic earthquake easier to foretell than this?

Things happen to us in life, good bad and ugly. We respond. Our response trains us, and sets us up as to the way we handle blessings, curses and tragedies later on in life. Those with character handle the bad and still grow into greatness. Those with deepset negative responses find it difficult to count even their blessings, but to be sure they will list the details of what they consider to be curses. These two ladies, in the same household, epitomise the two polarised extremes of these trained responses.

What happens while Elkanah plays the fool in handing out the meat? Any five year old could write the script. Hannah says, “Thank you!” for the extra food, while the hunger for the food of motherhood keeps her pale and wan. Peninnah acts happily, “normal,” while simple, undiscerning Elkanah is watching. But the moment the man of the house leaves to go to the bathroom, the lovely doctor Jekyll of Peninnah, turns into the monstrous Mrs Hyde and taunts Hannah where the pain is at its worst possible threshold. “At least I have the children! You can’t even satisfy your husband with heirs! He only gives you extra food because he feels sorry for you!”

fe9ec-0009-3

The stairs at Samuel’s tomb.

She no doubt taunted Hannah that she was under God’s curse, Gods anger and even God’s punishment. What on earth could Peninnah be thinking of, approaching the altar of God with a temper full of malice and envy, as well as a tongue, “set on fire of hell.” In her heart of hearts, Hannah perceived the extra portion of food as for the child, as yet unborn – as yet not conceived. To her it was as if Elkanah was saying, “You are as precious to me as if you had a child. Here is an extra portion of  meat for the son you desire.”

After reading the story over and over again there are certain images in my mind that I feel compelled to hold on to, and the more I read, the clearer these images become.

The first image is that Elkanah genuinely and honestly treasured Hannah for who and what she was. Hannah WAS a charactered, Godly woman. I think she was probably a Hebrew beauty too, but to be factual, nothing at all is mentioned of her outward appearance, as per the biblical norm – generally. It was his outright preference of love for Hannah that drove her enemy so strongly against her. I don’t think Elkanah could hide it. The look of his eyes, the tone of his voice, his gentle manner when he addressed Hannah. Peninnah would have seen it and ached for it, as much as Hannah ached for a child. Peninnah wanted those looks and gentle words so much, she ached with the knife twisting realisation that those expressions were just not there when he approached her. Character is not always displayed by trials, but it very much results from them. Both prosperity and adversity are states of acknowledged temptation. Peninnah fell here on this hard rock. Hannah stepped upward to heaven with her trial.

Oh, the anomalies of present and perceived providence. We  talk of people being blessed or cursed. But here – which is which? First a woman eminently fitted to bring up children, yet having none. On the other hand we have a woman whose temper and ways are fitted to ruin children, entrusted with the rearing of a quiver full of offspring.  Surely, such unsettled and unresolved anomalies of life point to a future judgement, where the God of absolute and perfect justice will reconcile all issues of this world.

Some anomalies, however, are reconciled  here in this life in our time/space world.

3b2fa-0007

.

The  second image I see is a video of the very moment that Elkanah says to Hannah, “Am I not worth ten sons to you?” If I was writing the screenplay to the film, I would have Elkanah whispering the words gently to his childless lover, whilst in the blurred background, out of focus, but in colours striking enough for the audience not to miss, Peninnah  is standing in the doorway of their tent hearing every word. I believe this, because only an educationally sub normal man would speak such words to one wife knowing that he was being overheard by his other spouse. No one could really be that crass . . . could they? Nevertheless Peninnah overheard his words.

Hannah’s adversary was peculiarly unprincipled and ill-disposed. There is a considerable difference between the feeling and the expression of partiality. The one is much more under our power and control than the other. The display of it in human relationships is often prejudicial to the object.

The third image, I cannot help but fasten on to, is one of the, “male chauvinist pig,” mentality of Elkanah. Why did he ask such a question? Was he genuinely not aware that a woman’s desire for children could assert itself to be  the most consuming passion of most wives?  Was he not perceptive enough to understand the basic bottom line of his first wife’s needs? Could he not comprehend that no matter how many times he made love to Hannah, for her the aim of being impregnated was the principle of her goals, rather than his arms around her in physical union?  Sadly, I believe the answer to all these questions is an emphatic, “No!” I see in Elkanah, a clear “no!” written on Elkanah’s forehead concerning all these fundamental marital understandings. I believe that the strongly impressed culture that demanded that the women bare children, and “stay in the kitchen,” robbed Elkanah, along with the vast majority of his contemporary male clones, of insight into basic human understanding and male-female relationships.

The same cultural demand also heightened Hannah’s grief. Their, “culture implanted mind sets,” screamed that Hannah was, “not a proper wife,” that she had, “let her husband down.” She felt herself as a, “woman without respect.” She could not party and dance, and lose herself in trivial chit chat as the rest of the crowd were doing here at Shiloh. She felt herself almost as a social non-entity.

The emotional pressure was too much. She could take it no longer. Leaving the party, and the celebratory cries of dancing and “whooping it up”, unnoticed by husband, wifely rival and brood, Hannah retires. The fact that she was unnoticed in her discreet departure only served as proof to her of her uselessness. She must get away.

The crux of life to anybody who has the slightest parallel to Hannah’s agony is the answer to this question: What do you do when you get away from them all? The woman is at her most vulnerable. She hurts to the point where she is not acting “normally.” She is beside herself with grief. She is fearful of her future. She is afraid of her present predicament. She despises her home life. She feels utterly trapped in her woeful misery. What on earth will she do? Suicide? Seek Counselling? Run away? Take a lover? Seek Divorce? Slit her wrists for attention? What does this woman escape to?

Her answer to these questions changed her life, and truly secured Israel’s prosperity and future at the time when the tribes, as a single national unit, were hanging on by their fingernails to their existence and destiny.

This woman’s self discovery, and God discovery, is a monumental appeal for others to follow the footprints Hannah laid in the sand of her life. We shall in these pages tread in the heat and depressed sand of that same footprint.

Categories: 1 Samuel 1:1-9, Across the world in six hours, Ramah to Shiloh | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

How to Reverse a National Mess

HOW TO REVERSE A NATIONAL MESS. 

The reality of the power of Christ and genuine men and women of God.

0001

.

The book of First Samuel, and the life of the prophet Samuel, and all that happened in his life speaks to us directly. In fact it violently confronts us and the way we see things and think about issues. Israel was in a complete and utter cess pit morally, spiritually, politically and relationally with the rest of the world. In fact, as I see the nation of Israel in the book of Judges and the early chapters of First Samuel, I see the UK in exactly the same situation, only worse at this very moment. It is worse because every time we hit the rock bottom, instead of crying to God for deliverance and the raising of a man or woman to sort stuff out (that is what the Judges did, and who they were in the context of Israel), Britain hits the bottom, and then digs a deeper and darker hole, for the coffin of what was, “Great Britain,” to sink and drop even further. The issue is so untidy and huge as to defy proper definition of the parameters of the situation.

In 1 Samuel we read of a nation hitting the bottom 50 fathoms deep, and then burying itself even deeper under the sand. They had lost their social cohesion, their spiritual roots, they had forgotten the Godly manifestations of power that had brought them into being, and allowed their faith in God to become a whimpering withdrawal into their own proverbial shell. They defended their borders, but totally without the conviction, faith and determination in the promises of Yahweh. They sunk into atheistic, yet religious, powerless superstition. The Ark of the covenant was like some superstitiously held talisman, like some witch doctors power stick with which they thought they could shake at foreign invaders, in the hope that they would disappear and die. And when all that was “religious” about Israel, that could be seen and handled, was stolen and destroyed, they fainted by the wayside, and were left for dead. It was only the prophet Samuel that was to be their “Resurrection and Life.” That was their national revival.

0002

.

Samuel means, “Asked of God”. It is my conviction we need to ask of God  for the same. Whether the twenty first century “Samuel,” is just a return to first century Christianity, or the raising up of a new movement, stream or denomination – or whether it is a single man or woman of Samuel’s calibre, I do not profess to know. But we need an, “Asked of God,” to confront the issues that are sinking, and have sunk parts of western society.

We all like things nice and tidy in our minds. We all like to be able to cope with our own thoughts and concepts. We all remember “the good old days.” At least we think we do! I remember years ago when the Living Bible was newly released and selling like Apple computers’s in a production shortage, and one verse that literally stunned me. I have no idea or memory of the reference. I believe it was in Proverbs. It stated, “Do not keep asking for the good old days. Because if they returned you would discover that they weren’t really that good at all.” I am not going to talk about the good old days, even though many Christians might think of their own romanticised, made up memories when I tell you where I am going.

I am talking about a revival of Christianity and Godliness throughout the UK, as well as the rest of the world.

And no! I am not going to break out in a blood curdling appeal for prayer, Bible Study, fiery preachers or a successor to Billy Graham. Hold onto your seats and see where I am in this.

I have been a Christian for nearly 48 years as I write. To my mind, my home country and the state of the world as a whole has degenerated greatly. I have never seen a revival per se. So I am not going to rant here as if I am an expert and know all about definitions of revival. I have read as many books as I have been able to find on the subject, just as you probably have. I have seen films on revival. I have been in prayer meetings for revival where people have thumped the floor till their fists bled, cried to God till they lost their voices, and made victory whoops till the windows in the church cracked. I have been in meetings where I have honestly and seriously seen a cloud of glory descend and silence the people. I even thought I saw fire once, hovering in mid air in a prayer meeting, but as I am not sure about that moment I tend to keep quiet about it. But I have not seen revival. I want a revival that shakes us from our comfort zones, and breaks the barrier of people growing in Christ, in numbers, in grace, in power and in whole families. I would like Christ to be exalted and His values to be part of the warp and woof of the society in which I live.

0003

.

There are two experiences that I have relished in my life, that when they occurred, screamed to me, “Revival is here!” But it wasn’t. No I wasn’t in hysteria. I wasn’t under the influence of some industrial level medication. I was in my right mind, and in a good place in my heart and walking in strong faith in God when the two of them occurred.

The first experience was the “March for Jesus.” I joined in the marches two, or even three times, but there was one that was extravagantly huge that took place in London. I was told there was a hundred thousand marching that day. To my eyes and experience, the marching line went on and on and on. It was like London had wall to wall people marching past Westminster, down Whitehall, past Downing Street and environs. There was no hysteria at all. (How is it possible, anyway, for thousands of people to rise into ecstatic hysteria marching on a freezing cold rainy day in the UK?) The march was one of the most powerful things I ever participated in, and I was convinced the secular world would never be the same again. We sure enough had reports that things improved financially, morally and in the general atmosphere of the Stock Exchange and the City of London business centres. But that only lasted for a week or two after the march. Incredible! Serious commitment by so many Christians. Perhaps I was naive to think that the March was the turning point for Britain. It was positively traumatic that day. Heavenly. Powerful. But no revival ensued.

0004

.

My second experience lasted for slightly more than three years. I went to live and work in Africa. I was living on campus with the Pastor and his team in the Synagogue Church of All Nations, in Lagos, Nigeria. The pastor was a man named T B Joshua. I was part of the extensive ministry team. I loved him. Still do. I loved the work he did, his ministry, and was astounded on a daily basis at the miracles, the power, the restraint of Godly character in how he handled the adulation from man, as well as the grace that fell on him from God. There were astonishing wonders taking place, daily. Huge crowds regularly. Thousands upon thousands attending every time the doors were opened. And what happened was astonishing. Deliverances of phenomenal proportions and in large numbers, personal prophecy that was seriously personal, and always accurate, healings of some obscenely deforming diseases, as well as instant healings of mad people, blind people, deaf  people and the crippled filled my life every day – yes – every single day. Presidents and politicians came from all over Africa to seek the pastor’s counsel. Everybody I met, anywhere in Nigeria, knew about him. It was a phenomenal experience. I was convinced it was revival of a kind that I had always hungered for. There was, definitely, what I would define as a revival, whereever the pastor was. But, no! From a distance the impact, though huge, was not what we are talking of as we read about Samuel. Even T B Joshua has not turned Nigeria around. Or perhaps it just takes many more years of such a life to be manifested to impacted an entire nation. He still ministers under what seems to me as an ever increasing anointing.

I am aware of the almost infinite differences when one compares Israel, just over a thousand years before Christ was born, with twenty first century western “civilisation”. I am au fait with the fact that Billy Graham in his lifetime has preached to 100 times the number of people that were even alive in the world in Samuel’s day, never mind how many Jewish people lived in little old Canaan. But I choose to suggest that the impact of one single Godly figure, whose character could not be impugned by his history, who moved in and around the miraculous with as much ease as the modern housewife moves around a supermarket, whose constant emphasis was character, Godliness and integrity, would do the same in the world today. A person who will be as savvy of the times we live in, with  thorough “street cred” in the eyes of all, and with a knowledge of how to get things done in modern internet times, would parallel Samuel perfectly. Samuel had great “street cred” (Credibility on the streets for the uninitiated), knew the times, and was worldly wise – just as is TB Joshua, and the people that organised the March for Jesus in London.

0005

.

I do not mean we have no men of God of this calibre today. Far from it. However, we are in a day when Christianity is laughed at, the role of pastor, minister or church leader is ridiculed in drama and the media. We live in a time and place where, in order to get God’s opinion on issues through “men of the cloth”, the men who are vague and unclear about their faith, and God Himself, are consulted and queried by the media simply because they wear clerical collars and have Academic letters after their names, and are called, “Canon,” “Reverend,” “Monsigneur”, “Archbishop” etc etc. Can they not see? Does the media not have its ear to the streets. Do they have no idea that some of the finest men of God in the country are simply called, Terry, Gerald, Adrian or Vic. Some of them have never been to Theological seminary or university …. “God forbid!” say the media moguls. “Such men might be biased God ward!”

So when a Television Interviewer states, “We have here today The Archbishop, reverend holy Father, Canon Thomas Whistlethwaite, to be interviewed on the Government’s labour policy,” all we see and hear is a man who has never done a day’s work in the commercial world, pontificating on relativities, and media clichés that are utterly nothing to do with the man on the street. The church, and the clergy are not seen as having anything relevant to say in the “religious” cosmos, never mind social and current affairs. After all, “Christianity is just for church people isn’t it?”

If the media were to interview a Samuel like character, with Samuel-like gravitas, not only would politicians rush to correct themselves before Samuel could speak about their activities, but I feel confident in asserting that he would be invited to the studios on the grounds of his own kudos and persona, and invited to speak his own mind. “If you could address Britain today Mr Samuel-like person, what would you like to present to them?” That sounds more like a man of God impacting the world.

0009

.

We have, in Samuel, a man whose outlook, philosophy and aura turned a nation around. After he died, his legacy still oiled the machinery of society  for the next eighty years or so. Government and societal influences that he had started functioning, without any official position, government officials, army or manifesto worked and satisfied the people for eighty years or so after his passing.  Quite like Christ really!

It was an entire lifetime of solid hard work and persevering teaching. He obviously believed in and experienced the instantaneous and miraculous manifestations of the power of God, yet did not become so irrational as to expect God to do what he himself could do, energised by what God had put in his heart.

I have read of the 1904 revivals, and Duncan Campbell in the Hebrides and others, ad infinitum. I know of people in an entire district being touched by God and brought to faith by nothing but  the mighty presence of the Spirit of God, and even without a preacher. I have read about it. I believe it. I would  give a lot to see it. Samuel had such personal visitations of the Almighty. But after those things, he just plodded on and on and on, preaching, teaching, praying and advising. He did the miracle stuff, but take note, Samuel was master at the routine mundane stuff too.

To sum up, in contemporary terminology, Samuel was what we now call, “a very together person”. He was an all round, sane, Godly, intelligent, rational and forward thinking man. I do NOT mean that he would be loved and cherished by everybody. In today’s secular world, he would probably have death threats for his singular thoughts about the necessity of submission to, as well as reverence for God.  But let us move on in our thoughts, and study a template that fits comfortably in our day, our times, and our twenty first century needs, personally, familially, communally and nationally as we read about Hannah’s son, and the world he was born into.

God send us, in our twenty first century morass of sin, a man like Samuel.

Categories: How to reverse a National Mess | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.

theministersmrs

New Adventures as a master of my own ship.

TB Joshua Watch

A comprehensive resource on TB Joshua and SCOAN

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

And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth.

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