Posts Tagged With: Christ

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

The  Master Builder who Left a United Israel.   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 Nebi Samuel

Nebi Samuel

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

13 Samuel ie TV actor

TV Actor playing Samuel the prophet.

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

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

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

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

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

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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

The Foolish Wise Old Man

Is passivity ever right?

(1 Samuel 3:15–18)

7 to the Synagogue

On the way to Synagogue in Jerusalem; circa 1900 I believe.

I cannot make my mind up. Was Eli wise with a little foolishness thrown in? Or was he mainly the fool, with a little wisdom given to spice up his character?  There are times I like the chap, and other times I am not sure. It is only because of Samuel, and the way he turned out in the end, that one is pressured to give the, “thumbs up,” to surrogate Big Daddy Eli.

In debating with myself about this old man, I always give him a big fat zero out 10 often for what went on the following morning after Samuel’s first revelation.  Domineering, and rude.  Insensitive and loud.  “Tell me!  Tell me!”  And no sign of, “How did it go last night, son?”  After all, it was only the first revelation of its kind in Israel for centuries.  It was only Yahweh Himself manifesting His presence and His word to a young man in the tent.  I am all for keeping spiritual people humble, but Eli’s approach was too crass, too foolish to do him credit.

Then again, perhaps he was afraid of dying any moment. I don’t say that facetiously. With the practices of his sons, with his acknowledgement of his own culpability in their upbringing and lack of discipline, and with the earlier prophetic promise of familial demise of power, and no, “senior citizens,” ever to be amongst their ranks again, it would seem logical that he considered himself as about to, “pop his clogs.”  “Any day,” might have been the word Eli could have used.  With that understanding we could, perhaps, understand the hurried, “Tell me quick, Samuel!  I might not be here to hear it all!” Honestly! I am not trying to be funny with that one.

See what I mean! There! I’ve done it again. Now I condemn the old man; now I exonerate him.

 “Samuel, my son.”  The young man must have dreaded this. Probably the first conversation of the day. Not even waiting for the breakfast table talk, Eli attacks.

Here I am.”  Are there any imperfections to the attitude of this young, “prophet,” in the making?  How many people, especially if they were a child (Remember, I, personally, am not sure he was.) would keep the message to themselves? The excitement! The burning inside! The drama! The interest!  But if Samuel had been that kind of character, he would not have been told what he had been told, would he?

“What is the thing that the Lord has said to you?  I beg you hide it not from me:  God do so to you and more, if you hide anything from me of all the things that he said to you.”  Eli’s words betray him. He had guessed already what the message was. Only if there was heavy destructive judgment in the air could Eli have said, “God do so to you and more if you hide it.” He knew alright!  What had happened is that Eli had been eating, sleeping and drinking the, “Hammer Horror Film” of prophecy that was laid on him by the nameless prophet earlier.  It was profound and shattering, both to his family, and the nation. After all; he was the inter regnum High Priest.  As the bad news he had received from the nameless prophet had not yet been fulfilled, he felt it was surely a repetition, or perhaps even, some appalling enlargement of what had earlier been predicted.

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Elderly Yeminite Jew in Jerusalem circa 1900. Hand coloured.

This understanding puts me back on Eli’s side very strongly.  I am impressed with the thought that Eli had thought of nothing else since the day the prophet spoke to him.  Surely that was the fact of the matter. Whether it was a week earlier, or a decade previous.  Eli was in a state of agony. Limbo! “Is this the day that I leave this mortal coil?”

Regrets are awesome tyrants when they are left to roam free in one’s memory.  Dictators!  Taskmasters!  I believe they often make people physically and/or mentally ill. If regrets are chewed on too much and too strongly, they are a veritable danger to health. This assumed fact made Eli’s continued existence on planet earth very tenuous.

But how on earth could he have possibly ignored the two sons for so long?  They weren’t always grown men, uncontrollable, lustful and anarchic. They were once on his knee, they were once asking, “Daddy,” to play with them, and tell them stories. They were babies, toddlers, and little children once. Oh, the agony of lost time!  How deep the pain of neglected opportunities!  How bloody are the consequences of missing the greatest of all God’s calls: the call to parenthood?  Anybody with normal physical functions could sire children. It takes a man to be a father. Of all the roles we play on this planet, the key role of being a mother or a father is the heaviest and the most responsible, and Eli had, sadly, fluffed it.

Samuel, being the person he was, did as he was told. He explained to Eli everything and hid nothing, for that is what he was ordered to do.  Picture the pain of the speaker. Feel the pain of the listener. Then listen to the pathos in the old man’s response. I hear the priest as in a daze. I perceive him numbed with grief for his wayward, perverted, yet nevertheless, beloved sons. I feel his heart almost stop beating, and smell the salt of his tears as the words are torn from his guts like some pillaging Philistine tearing out his stomach. “It is the Lord. Let Him do what seems good.”  

No justification of self. No condemnation of God, or his sons. Complete submission!  One of the greatest gems that God ever whispered in this writers ear was the concept of justifying God first and foremost at the outbreak of any personal catastrophe. The quiet, though agonised acceptance with which the elderly priest received the intimation of certain earthly doom seems to indicate that Eli, so confident of the love of the All-Pitiful Almighty Yahweh, looked for some other means of salvation devised in the counsels of Yahweh, the Eternal friend of Israel. He had his sight fixed on that by which his deathless soul, after the earthly penalty, would be reconciled to the invisible King.  Surely he looked on to the one sure hope.  The blood of bulls and goats could not help him now.  But the blood of a better covenant would. Eli, it seems to me, knew his eternal future because of his faith in the God of Israel.

Eli was probably nought but a pawn in his sons’ dealings since their adulthood.  But Eli was still their father.  Eli was their head.  Eli was the High Priest and spiritual head of the nation.  However, Eli had sown to the wind, and had reaped the whirlwind. Passivity with his own son’s upbringing had brought damnation.

8 Home from Synagogue

Home from the Synagogue in Jerusalem.

Categories: 1 Samuel 3:15-18, Being a Prophet is a privilege, Definition of a Prophet, Is Passivity ever right?, Samuel's first prophetic word., The Foolish Wise Old man | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Self Denial

SELF – DENIAL

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Whether or not she was aware of it, and I rather fancy she did not, Hannah was a giant of the faith. She penetrated heaven, touched God and aligned herself with the Almighty’s eternal plan. God had Samuel in mind and was about to bring him into this time space world. Hannah just wanted a baby. Her legitimate God given maternal instincts that wanted to embrace and love her own offspring and embrace the fruit of her womb, was sharpened and heightened by the animosity and insults of Penninah. The sharper her pain, the more cutting her prayers. The deeper the despair, the greater Hannah’s reach into heaven. The more she was buried in her circumstance, the higher she arose as a woman of the Spirit.  She finally touched the heavenly throne and received the answer via an elderly man who “happened” to be watching her.

Hannah had obviously made her vow before Eli had spoken. She was driven by a higher power than simple human desire for motherhood. Motives make things clean or dirty, holy or unholy. Hannah’s motivation could not have been purer. In her desire for a son, it is as if she stripped herself of any ulterior motive that would disgrace God and righteousness. As much as Peninnah had stabbed her a thousand times with jibes about her barrenness and twisted the knife in the wound incessantly, Hannah did not just want a child to shut her up. If that was all she wanted she would never have given Samuel to God’s service. She could not have wanted a child just to prove to Elkanah that she was not a “cursed” woman, or to let him know that she was a normal lady. She did not need to make any vows concerning any child that she might have conceived; the whole world was full of mothers who had never made any such vow. The desperation in her heart for motherhood somehow aligned herself with God, that even if she had ten children, they were all primarily God’s gift, and so the principle of the first fruits took hold of her. If God was to give her several children (or even if He was not to do so), she believed it was the right thing to do to give her son back to God.

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Her vow was a very Godly and holy act of self-denial. She wilfully decided that for the sake of God’s own eternal purpose, and the worship of Israel as a nation, she would deny herself the heart filling joy of having her own son to embrace each day and kiss good-night every evening. She denied herself all the outward bounty of being seen by friends and neighbours as a mother with her child. She denied herself the vengeance of being with Peninnah for the rest of her life being able to simply point at Samuel every time she made any snide remarks about her.

I do not believe it is right to see Hannah’s self denial as an isolated character trait that had nothing to do with her prayer-life. It was Hannah’s rationale behind her motivation that desired motherhood that designates her of one of the greatest ladies in the Bible.

In the first part of Luke 9:23, Jesus said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself …” Even though Hannah gave birth to Samuel something a little over a millennium before Jesus spoke those words, self- denial has always been part of Godly living. Hannah was, in this respect a woman ahead of her time. It seems to me that she immersed herself in a lifestyle of self-denial. I have no doubt at all that her character, philosophy and general attitude to the subject of denying one’s self was such that impacted Samuel’s world view greatly.

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This term, “self denial,” means a whole range of things to different people. It is my aim in this slot to define not only what Self-denial is, but what it is not, and to see it in the life of both Hannah and her offspring son.

As Charles Grandison Finney would say, self-denial is not giving up one’s favourite form of selfishness for a less liked form of selfishness. To give up selfishly indulging one’s self in, say, over eating, is not helpful if one adopts selfishly starving one’s self. Such things have nothing to do with the kingdom of God or His righteousness. It is not the victory over lying giving way to silent deception. Self-denial is nothing to do with stopping a certain sin because one fears one may be discovered and found out. Anything that indulges self, or seeks self protection by unrighteous and secretive motives cannot be self-denial as Jesus Christ defined it. To be sure, externally, one may be complemented for self-denial when people hear of what one has given up or denied themselves of. People in general hear of a person denying some pleasures and they measure it by their own internal yard-stick of what is righteous and what is not. They would be utterly unaware of the motivation behind such self-denying – if indeed it was self-denial. Self- denial is not stopping one thing because other people are doing such a thing and one wants to be one of the main stream of people in a certain fellowship. And needless to say Self-denial simply cannot be the cessation of some action or deed for the sake of being congratulated for so doing. By its very nature such an action is in no way self denial, but very much self indulgence.

We need to add that cessation of any form of self-indulgence because the doctor has said that a practice is ruining one’s health, or shortening one’s life, cannot, in the context of the words of Christ, be termed as self-denial. It is in its primary motivation, self-protection, and therefore a form of common sense and healthy self-indulgence.

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If in any action, or the cessation of any action, there is the slightest motivation for self indulgence, self-interest of self-promotion, it must be crossed off the list as being in the process of self-denial. Quoting Finney again, he said, “It is impossible to deny self for selfish reasons.”  Could it be plainer? One cannot deny self for the benefit of self. One cannot reject self for the promotion of self.

We are born selfishly crying. “Feed me!” “Hold me!” “Indulge me!” I am not being silly when I say this. I am very much aware that a child fresh out of the womb has no concept of self-denial, nor selfishness, but simply does what comes natural on the arrival into a strange new world. However, crying out in the same way when one is an adult, asking to be noticed, fed, indulged, and/or loved is exactly the same motive.

Common sense tells us not to do things, say things, or use things that will harm or hurt us. That is common sense, not self-denial. If I give you a book that I have owned for forty years, yet never read more than the Preface because I dislike it so much – I am not denying self as I hand it to you. The constituent parts that comprise self-denial simply cannot be soiled with anything that is done with self indulgence as part of the motive. Even giving oneself as a sacrifice can be done as a selfishly motivated act.  If Paul says that one can give oneself to be burned without love, and that if one was burned without love that action it would be worthless toward God and/or man, we have to examine the biblical definition of self-denial and work at it. Christ’s own definition of self-denial has love towards God and man as its primary constituent. Love and self-denial were what built His entire life. One cannot love as Jesus loved without self-denial. One cannot deny one’s self as Jesus did without love. They are conjoined twins. They are two separate bodies of truth with the same heart, the same backbone and they walk on the same legs.

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Hannah’s act of returning Samuel to God, by placing him in the hands of a feeble old man who could not parent his own sons properly, noting that she did so without pressure or prejudice towards any other reason of gain in any way, apart from doing it wilfully for the glory of God, gives us an incredible glimpse of true Christ-like self-denial. She gained nothing in the action. In the end of it all she gained the satisfaction that she had seeded her son for the elevation of the nation of Israel and God’s people.

Notice also, that living a life of self denial could not possibly be anything to do with forsaking sin or pernicious habits and ways. Why do I say this? I declare it, simply because Jesus Christ lived a life of total self-denial. He had no sin to forsake. Having said that, we have to also see that sin, by its very nature is self indulgence. We commit sin because we have pleasure in doing so. That is self surfacing. Self-denial must by its very nature be the act of choosing to deny one’s self the pleasure of sinning.

True self-denial is to do something for God and to other people, with absolutely no motivation for self gratification, other than the satisfaction of having done something that was right to do. Self-denial is to commit an act, that is utterly free of self-interest, self-indulgence, self-glorification.

True self-denial loves God for His own beauty and magnificence. Make no mistake that when Jesus talked of denying self, supremely selfless surrender to God was the primary presupposition in the words of the Master. If we love God in such a way that we do things to exalt Him and please Him, and that we do these things whether we like it or not, such an action is solidly founded on the rock of self-denial. When we deny ourselves of some quite legitimate blessing in order to bless other people, and that act of denial is done happily, and contentedly because it is making somebody else more content or to know that they are appreciated, we have touched the heart of Christ. This is exactly what Hannah did in her surrender of her beloved son Samuel. It needs to be seen in its Old Testament context, and to be noted as one of the greatest characteristics of an incredibly great woman – Hannah. Jesus said, “It is better to give than receive.” Long before Jesus said such a thing, Hannah gave the most precious thing she had.

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From Hannah’s example we can see that true self-denial could commonly mean giving up something that is both useful and precious to us.  We see from Hannah, also, that there was no pressure upon the giving of the child, other than her own heart wanting to do that which she considered to be right and good. Hannah gave Samuel freely. If it had been done under pressure or moral blackmail of any kind, the heavenly ingredient of self-denial would not have been in the soup of her gift at all.

By reading the text of the presentation of her son, and her annual visits, we are made to be keenly aware of her acute joy in the gift. That in itself is a vital ingredient in the recipe of Christ-like self-denial.

The end of Luke 9:23 is the call of Jesus to take up our cross daily, and follow Him. In this we see the ultimate statement in the defining of biblical self-denial. It comprises the merciless death of selfishness. Self-denial and selfishness are like oil and water, they are incapable of mixing or living together.

Hannah’s self denial was an act of the purest selflessness. But this spirit of self-denial ruled Hannah’s life before Samuel was even conceived. Her self-denial in the face of her enemy and rival was also a remarkable example of a human spirit submitting to God and the circumstances He had created, and not responding to the fallacy of Penninah’s interpretation of the situation. The appetite of selfish justification must have been staunched at the root as Penninah taunted Hannah about her womanhood in being childless. Selfishness as a general trait was what dominated Hannah’s rival. Self-lessness was Hannah’s prime characteristic.

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The selflessness Hannah shows us, and manner in which she was discovered praying by the elderly Eli gives us the knowledge that her beauty of character was rooted in a firm faith and confidence in Yahweh. The gift of the son to God’s service was, by the very life and impact of Samuel’s life, vindicated as a thing of the Spirit.

She now was without a son at home for a while, yet had silenced the other woman who could taunt her no more. Hannah had taken the higher ground. In giving up the privilege of bringing up Samuel, Hannah selflessly gave up the most precious thing in the entire world. Elderly Eli announced another blessing on Elkanah’s erstwhile barren wife, and she conceived 3 more sons and 2 daughters, making six in total (1 Samuel 2:20-21). As already mentioned in our notes, Jewish tradition has it that Peninnah lost all her children. That is Jewish tradition for you, not the scriptures.

Self- denial is one of the basic graces of proof of following Christ. It was basic to Abraham, even though he was not always consistent with the principle. It is the overriding grace that determined the character and motivation of the apostle Paul. And no matter how out of synch’ the biblical teaching of self denial is with the spirit of the world, we need to take note of its importance to us in determining our Christian life-style. Christ’s crucifiction and death was the greatest act of self-denial ever. We all need to take up our cross and follow Him with a life of self-denial.

Categories: Self-Denial | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

No Greater Love Than a Mother Laying Down Her Son

NO GREATER LOVE THAN A MOTHER LAYING DOWN HER SON.

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

(1 Samuel 1:24 – 2:11)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hannah bringing Samuel to Eli

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

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

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

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

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

Hannah Brings Samuel to Eli

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The lamp of Israel was flickering and near to failing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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First Prophet? Samuel?

First Prophet? Samuel?

LAST JUDGE.

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Romanticised art supposedly some of the Judges. No prizes for guessing who the lady is then. Choose your favourites for the three men.

The title of this blog is “Samuel – The Last Judge, The first Prophet.” Really?

It cannot be argued against, that Samuel was indeed the last Judge.

When we use the term, “Judge,” we are referring to those God given, Holy Spirit raised leaders that were all divinely anointed for the benefit of the nation of Israel in that biblical volume we refer to as, “The Book of Judges,” and a few years after those days, as per the book and the person of Samuel. The title of the seventh biblical volume, and the intrinsic nature of “the Judges” themselves  has not so much to do with their wisdom in judging what we would refer to as, “courtroom,” type cases (although there are indications of that kind of function being fulfilled by one or two of their number) – as their anointing and gifting of God to set Israel, or sections of Israel, free from various types of tyranny and bondage. We are talking, quite literally of a series of both spiritual and physical fighting people.

There were several periods of repetitive significance in the book of Judges, and each of these periods of time had the same order of repetitive occurrences. Firstly, the people would habitually and purposefully sink into an idolatrous morass of evil. Next, this depression into sin would result in some other nation of idolaters invading part of the Israeli’s promised land. Thirdly, in the midst of the poverty, hardship and shame that the various occupations brought to the Israeli’s, somewhere in the heart of the twelve tribes was the memory of Yahweh, and they thus prayed from their hearts for deliverance. Finally, each time this happened a man (and on one occasion a woman) emerged from their own ranks, who had some gift, some plan and/or some commission from heaven, and some even had supernatural gifts, that would rid them of their evil taskmasters. A period of peace and rest and prosperity would then smother the nation for a while. The people would walk with God until the joy of their supernatural deliverance had subsided, and then the people got back to idolatry again, and the circle restarted. The highs and lows of this graph were of different lengths of time, just as each of  the charismatic Judges were each totally different than anybody who had gone before. These collapses and occupations by other nations was not always  nationwide in Israel.  Some of them were quite local to a single tribe.

The Book of Judges refers to twelve characters who functioned as Judges.

Othniel, Judges 3:7-11

Ehud, Judges 3:12-30

Shamgar, Judges 3:31

Deborah (and Barak) Judges 4,

Gideon, Judges 6, 7,

Tola, Judges 10:1-2

Jair, Judges 10:3-4

Jephthah, Judges 11, 12:1-7

Ibzan, Judges 12:8-10

Elon, Judges 12:11-12

Abdon, Judges 12:13-15

Samson, Judges 13, 14, 15, 16

Even though neither Eli, nor Samuel are mentioned in the book of Judges, the two of them are added to the list by scholars and academics, making fourteen judges in all.

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It was an incredibly dark and dramatic period in Israel’s history, something similar to the dark ages of the church. Several times, Israel seemed to be on the verge of, at worst, annihilation, or at least, assimilation into the godless cultures around them. It was a seriously confused time in Israel’s history.

The word translated as “Judge” could also legitimately be  translated as Deliverer, Leader, or even Saviour.

Samuel was judge in Israel during the transition between those dark and rough days that the book of Judges portrays so starkly, and the introduction of the first king that Israel had pleaded for, begging Samuel to, “negotiate with the Almighty,” and supply them with the sort of man they wanted.  So! “Last Judge” Samuel definitely was! No problem! He could not have been anything else.

FIRST PROPHET?

But, hold on now!  “First Prophet?”  Any five year old Sunday school scholar would hurry to raise their hand and excitedly exhibit their basic Bible knowledge by saying, “Excuse me, sir! What about Enoch, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph? What about Moses and Joshua? It is plainly not correct to call Samuel, “The First Prophet!” And one would have to give the child a gold star for accuracy and factual understanding. We, obviously, need to define our terms.

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So; why am I referring to Samuel as, “The First Prophet”?

Let me defer your problematic queries about this appellation being awarded to Samuel. I point the finger at somebody else who is by far superior in knowledge and authority than you or I, namely, the apostle Simon Peter. It was the apostle Peter that made this claim, not Keith Lannon.

In Acts 3 : 24, in only the second New Testament sermon ever recorded, the Apostle Peter declared, that, “From Samuel onwards …,” there was something special and particular going on in the general ministry of the prophets. He couldn’t have really deemed that Moses was not a prophet before Samuel, as he had only seconds before referred to Moses and quoted scripture that infers clearly that Moses was indeed a mighty prophet. And Moses lived centuries before Samuel. “From Samuel onwards all prophets have talked of Christ’s suffering” declared the apostle.

 

So what did Peter actually mean when he said, “from Samuel onwards?” In what way did it all start with Samuel?

In a nutshell, Samuel was the very first prophet to address the entire nation of Israel in the land of Israel. Israel as a nation, of course, could not have been in existence before Jacob was born. Although all prophets in someway refer to Christ, Samuel was the first who stepped forward and spoke what God gave him to the delivered twelv tribes living in the Promised Land, and the entire nation of Israel acknowledged him as a prophet. That context, I believe is why Peter refers to him as the “The First Prophet.”

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In his sermon in Acts 3, Peter makes vital  statements concerning the person of Christ and the kingdom of God. To teach the people that he was not  inventing his teaching, and was perfectly orthodox and consistent with their scriptures, he explains the whole issue of Christ’s suffering, death, burial, resurrection and ascension by referring to the Old Testament prophets.

Verse 18 of Acts 3 informs us that, “Those things, which God before had shown by the mouth of all His prophets, that Christ should suffer, he has so fulfilled” (A.V).  As I write, I have an issue  with what Peter says, for I scour through the whole of the Old Testament and there are some prophets that I study long and hard, and in my heart and mind, I cannot find references directly or indirectly, plainly or cryptically to the sufferings of Christ. Obadiah for instance. What about Elijah and Elisha as well?  My eyes are dim on this one.

It is my conviction that Samuel was the first prophet that modelled that lofty, precious, prophetic  gifting in the same manner as all those later prophets did addressing Israel, and giving prophetic instructions on how heathen gentile nations were to be treated, yet in a manner that was utterly dissimilar to those that had gone before. Moses talked with God “face to face” and dialogued with God in a different way than prophets of later days did. If we give credibility to the Book of Enoch, the “seventh from Adam” also interacted with God and with angels, with a level of intimacy on par with how we today chat with our next door close friends or neighbours.  Abraham also had several Theophanies of God and angels in his “prophetic dealings.” God actually told the Pharaoh of Egypt at one point that, “He (i.e. Abraham) is my prophet.”  There are those that fight for God, and there are those that God fights for.  God fights for His prophets. These early prophets, even though it is clear that they all received words from heaven that were pointing to Christ, did not have the same modus operandi as Samuel and all the prophets that succeeded him. Samuel was a unique and lone servant to the nation.

Samuel was the first prophet to be addressing the entire nation in the prophetic office, as received and acknowledged in that office by the whole nation of Israel. “From Samuel onwards,” there were many Hebrew prophets who did the same – and in this Samuel was clearly the prototype. It is undoubtedly correct to perceive Moses and Joshua as prophets, but Samuel was the first after the settling into the promised land to lead the nation by a prophetic gift. Joshua’s prophetic gift was always in the context of possessing the Land that was promised the Israelis.

So we assert with Peter, Samuel was the first Hebrew prophet in the land of Israel.

The prophet Samuel was the first of his kind addressing all the tribes of the nation of Israel, and acknowledge to be so by the very force of his character and gift. He was like John the Baptist who fearlessly spoke the words of God without regard to his personal image or reputation. Samuel was a spiritually minded man with unwavering absolutes. He listened to and obeyed the voice of God alone, providing a godly example for the nation of Israel to follow.

Samuel, the first prophet, emerges to preside over the rise of Saul, Israel’s first king, to be the agent of Saul’s rejection, and to anoint David as Israel’s second king and the first established head of a Hebrew royal dynasty. The book of 1 Samuel captures the work of God through the life of Samuel within the interplay of all facets of life, ie: what people refer to in the twenty first century as the socio – political forces of the day.

By this explanation, we assertively justify our title; “Samuel. The Last Judge. The First Prophet.

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Prologue

Nebi Samuel. Samuel's tomb.

Nebi Samuel. Samuel’s tomb.

PROLOGUE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Samuel judging his people

Samuel judging his people

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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