Posts Tagged With: David

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

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

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

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

Hail Samuel! Mighty man of God!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After a Century of Rebuilding a Nation Single Handed the Great Man Passes

State Funeral in the Nations Great Loss.

(1 Samuel 25:1)

Samuel died, and all the Israelites were gathered together and lamented him.”

4 Nebi Samuel

Nebi Samuel. The Prophet Samuel’s Tomb.

Here we are at the dreaded, yet sadly expected line of 1 Samuel 25:1. We can’t discuss this without digging into death, dying and what is left behind after a person has died. We are talking of bodies! Cadavers! We are face to face with the dust we came from, and the dust we return to. We are also confronted with the loss of greatness. A giant! More than a giant! A man continent had left the planet! The hole in the national psyche and confidence was enormous. Samuel died!

Since David left Samuel with Saul lying on the ground prophesying to the sky, as well as anybody else that happened to be in hearing distance, the two survivors of that trio had travelled quite some distance on their Timeline of life.

David and Jonathan had renewed their covenant of friendship having come to an accurate perception of the state of mind as well as the full motivation and rationale of Saul against David. Jonathan was truly trapped between a rock and a hard place. He was compromised by a deep and loyal love towards his father, and his brotherly love towards David. How hard must it have been for Jonathan to maintain both those relationships?  As a “by the way,” the discussions that some have concerning whether or not David and Jonathan had a homosexual relationship with all their talk of love and commitment, the shedding of tears and David’s comment of how Jonathan’s love surpassed the love of women, I personally find ridiculous.  The lifestyle and culture of David’s day, and the biblical context of morality and what was right and wrong, render the thought so utterly insane as to be beyond belief. There were prophets and men of God around David enough to have pointed the finger and told the king, “You are the man!”  If God shared with the prophet Nathan the facts of David’s adultery and murder because of an immoral heterosexual relationship, Gad or Nathan would have visited David very quickly about an immoral homosexual relationship. Both David and Jonathan were married in a heterosexual and relationship at the time.  Closeness of relationship with two people of the same sex is not a problem at all with God. It is the physical acts of a sexual nature between two people of the same sex and/or sodomy that scripture condemns.  But that is another subject for another day.

Nebi Samuel 5

A sign that speaks for itself

Moving on! David had taken the sword of Goliath from the priest Ahimelech at Nob while Doeg was secretly listening to them. He saw and heard the whole conversation and exchange of goods.  David knew that Doeg was there, as it happened, and suspected that he would report Ahimelech’s “treason” to the severity of the King. Ahimelech had no thoughts of disloyalty at all towards Saul, a fact which, if Doeg had been a man of integrity, he would have made plain to Saul. However he did not. If there was any sin involved in the discussion between Ahimelech and David it was David telling lies about having been on a secret mission for Saul in order to get the bread of the presence to eat and the sword of Goliath to carry. Doeg presented that story in such a pejorative manner that Saul ordered Doeg to kill Ahimelech and a huge number of Levites who were working with him.

David had also gone through the utter humiliation of pretending to be mad, i.e. insane, to save his life before the king of Gath.  Thereafter David stayed for various lengths of time at many different places. Adullam was one of the first camp sites he stayed at where up to 400 men joined him, including his brother’s and his father’s household. This suggests that the big house at Bethlehem, where David had been brought up, was deserted until David became king. The vacated home was of necessity for familial safety. Saul was after the family of Jesse. Then he went, strangely, to Mizpah in Moab, where his father stayed for safety by permission of the Moabite king.  This part of the story is oh so weird to this writer! Why?  Simply because it informs us that David’s parents were safer in the hands of a heathen king than they were in Israel in the hands of the king of Israel.

After that, the prophet Gad had a word from Yahweh that David should return to Judah, in the forest of Hereth.  It is at this point the scripture tells us of the horrific murder of 80 valiant priests simply because Ahimelech had given David Goliath’s sword and some bread. This word from the prophet Gad we later find out was extremely wise and propitious for David’s cause. When redistributing the gold and other items of booty taken from the heathen cities and nations that David had conquered or destroyed, he sent it to those towns, villages and cities that had looked after him while he was in his wilderness years. Many are listed;

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The tomb itself inside Nebi Samuel.

“David sent it to those who were in Bethel, Ramoth Negev and Jattir;  to those in Aroer, Siphmoth, Eshtemoa and Rakal; to those in the towns of the Jerahmeelites and the Kenites; to those in Hormah, Bor Ashan, Athak  and Hebron; and to those in all the other places where he and his men had roamed.” (1 Samuel 30:27-31). What horrible days they must have been. That word, “roamed,” sounds lonely, distraught and desperate.

Back in David’s camp the plot progressed by David slaying many Philistines while stopping the Philistine occupation of the Israeli city of Keilah. We are also told that Abiathar, the rightful High Priest joined David’s ranks and had brought with him the High Priest’s ephod.

In the latter end of 1 Samuel 23 and the whole of chapter 24 we have more details of Saul’s relentless pursuit of David, together with his army. What an incredible waste of manpower and national resources over the years. David left Keilah and was hiding and camping in as secretive manner as one could with what were now 600 men. The scripture says that David was moving, “from place to place.”  He stayed in the desert strongholds and then in the hills of the Desert of Ziph. During all this time he was being pursued by Saul and his forces. He stayed for a while in Horesh of Ziph. There Jonathan came to tell him that the king was on the way having found out where David was. Jonathan and David reconnected with the covenant between them and separated. That was the last time David and Jonathan ever saw each other in this life. David finished up in the Desert of Maon after the people of Ziph had betrayed him to Saul. After acting on this vital piece of information, Saul and his army were on the cusp of taking David when news arrived that the Philistines were attacking somewhere else in Israeli held territory, and so Saul had to leave his obsessive search for David to defend his own people. How ironic that, if it was not for that timely act of the Philistines, David would have possibly been killed. David moved to and lived in the strongholds of Engedi after that fracas.

After what was obviously a prolonged period at Engedi, Saul finally discovered David’s secret hideout and took his crack troops to attempt more time to take and kill the son of Jesse.  It was here that, arguably, Saul’s most humiliating experience occurred. He stopped at a certain cave to relieve himself. Soldiers were expected to go to the toilet on the road side whether urinating or defecating, or be shrouded in bushes if there were any. But that was not appropriate for the king. So we have the remarkably graphic story of Saul actually walking alone into the cave where David and his men were hiding. It was obviously a very long and tunnelled cave. While Saul threw his cloak aside and crouched to toilet, he actually had his back to David and was within striking distance for murder. The word picture that the scripture creates could not in any way put Saul in a more embarrassing, humiliating or vulnerable position. Famously, David cut off the corner of Saul’s cloak. His conscience was sensitive to what he had done, but he told his men that he flatly refused to endanger the life of “The Lord’s anointed.” A lesson he had obviously learned from Samuel. Thank God for the living word shared by a prophetic heart.

All these things must have taken several years to have occurred between the point of time that David left Samuel, and the point of time when Samuel passed on.

Samuel died at a ripe old age. Some Rabbis say he was ninety-eight while others affirm he was more than a hundred. He had been Israel’s thirteenth judge and its first prophet to the whole nation within the parameters of the Promised Land. All of Israel mourned Samuel’s death, and many turned out to see him buried in the grounds of his own family home in Ramah, probably in a tomb already prepared for him. Nebi Samuel (Samuel’s Crypt) still stands today.

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Inside Nebi Samuel.

David lost an important and influential friend, mentor, prophet and father figure too. How he must have wished to have Samuel’s mind on many issues!

Did David attend the funeral and join in with the national mourning, as he absolutely would have wanted to do?  Authorities differ in opinion. Those that believe David attended the funeral press the point of culture and decency, saying that Saul’s animosity would have been dropped for the duration of the mourning for the great prophet. “Jewish culture,” they say, “would have demanded that this is what would have happened.” Those that think David could not possibly have been allowed at the funeral, stress the opinion that Saul’s demented hatred of David was far too intense to be dropped for a funeral, no matter how deeply times of mourning were part of the psyche and cultural norms of Israel.

I have not the slightest idea as to which side of this debate is correct. My own opinion, however, is to say that if David had gone to Samuel’s funeral, I believe it would have been clearly stated in the scripture. I do not feel confident to assert my position any more than to make that statement.

Samuel is like a shadow of John the Baptist. Samuel and the Baptist are twin brothers in this regard. Both of them were great prophets. (Jesus said John was the greatest of them all). Both of them were forerunners of a great king. Both of them were Nazarites, and involved with preparation of a new age and culture that was to sweep over and beyond their mortal lives. All of Israel mourned for Samuel, while Christ Himself expressed grief at John’s death. John was killed because of rash words by mad king Herod who actually liked him. Samuel would possibly have been killed by a mad king if he had not experienced Yahweh fighting for him. Just like David, Samuel knew that King Saul would have loved to see him dead. Remember it was Samuel that asked Yahweh, “How can I go? (to Jesse’s home) if Saul hears it, he will kill me” (1 Samuel 16:2). In exactly the same way, the Lord kept David from the hands of the wicked. It is clear that Saul feared Samuel in much the same way as Herod feared John the Baptist. When both these kings had their respective prophets out of the way, they would have both been free to be as barbaric as they pleased.

2 Nebi Samuel

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No matter how far back in history Samuel’s demise may have been, no matter how slowly news was circulated in Israel during those days, the entire nation was informed and was in distress with grief. The whole of Israel felt the tragic impact of the bereavement of one of God’s greatest. All of Israel was very profoundly moved by the departure of prophet Samuel ben Elkanah. We have no hard figures or statistics of how he was or was not listened to, of how people were or were not turned to faith, but there could not have been many who had not come to revere the man who turned the political, spiritual and social state of the nation around. He had become such a conspicuous figure in his lifetime to the degree that he impacted the destiny of the nation long after his death. He would have been greatly missed, and much spoken about and thought of, especially during the days of the nation mourning for their loss of him. Even now from the lofty future, some 3,000 years ahead of Samuel’s life and death, we can still see and understand the power and influence of the child who was given to God as the firstborn of an erstwhile barren Hannah.

Samuel’s awesome influence and impact on Israel had been of the same ilk as Moses. Hannah’s son exerted an influence on the nation of a similar status to that which stands connected with the prophet of the Exodus. He may have not been associated with such a stirring existential crisis in history as Moses was, but Samuel moved in the supernatural for a longer period than Moses, and the nation was clearly in slavery to a different kind of taskmaster than was  present in Moses’ hour.  As for the nation of Israel, as it was when they left Egypt and stayed in the desert to enter Canaan as an orderly theocracy – the experience can be compared as to the similar parallel situation of the chaos that Samuel was born into, and the kingdom it had become by the time of his death. It is arguable which of the two prophets had the more stubborn generation to contend with. Moses laid the foundation of a sacrificial system and theology that would stand until Messiah came.  Samuel laid foundations of which the superstructure of David’s and Solomon’s reign was solidly based. Moses left Israel with the book of Deuteronomy to guide the nation, while Samuel left them with a kind of written constitution in place, for kings right throughout the centuries to consult. The fact that Jerusalem was razed to the ground and the royal family was bundled off to Babylon did not in anyway mean that God had rescinded the monarchy. Christ was and still is the rightful heir of David’s throne when He was born, and will sit on David’s throne when He returns. Samuel punched his seal on a long generation by the same deep spirituality and relationship with God that Moses swam in. He hoisted the same high flying banner of intense reverence for Yahweh as Moses did. He was conjoined to the same profound belief in the reality of the covenant between Israel and Yahweh, just as Moses was. On top of all that, by pawing over every word that Samuel ever spoke we cannot miss the truth that he was gripped by the same conviction of the inseparable connection between a pure worship towards God, that brought a wonderful holistic flow of prosperity on the one hand of obedience, and an idolatrous defection and national calamity on the other if the covenant was broken. Walking with God precipitated Israel’s national prosperity. Idolatry was nothing but incipient poverty for the entire Israeli population. On all these issues, Moses and Samuel were identical twins conceived by the same seed and wearing the same clothes.

1 Nebi Shmuel

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When reading the entire Old Testament, it can be said that nobody, had ever done more to rivet this truth on the minds and hearts of the people than Samuel, excepting the man that came down from Sinai with the Decalogue under his arms. It was the life mission of Samuel to show Israel that it made a huge cosmic difference to them in every conceivable way how they responded toward Yahweh, in worship, trust, and obedience, or without those godly traits. Samuel declared out and out battle to the death on the cold worldly idolatrous spirit, that permeated Israel in his early days – a spirit that is so natural to us all when we slacken our hold on Christ.

No doubt with many people of Israel, Samuel would be associated with a severity that would be said to push spirituality too far. But now Samuel had died many would be thinking they had not pursued God and the covenant far enough. Human beings have a trait of only counting their blessings, as those blessings die. “All the Israelites were gathered together and lamented him.” It would have been a huge State funeral in a nation utterly bereaved. It was the man that could not be replaced. His weight, insight and character was such a thing that nobody else could be promoted or “put in office” to replace him. Samuel was so unique that all Israel could do was grieve for his going.

Nebi Samuel 9

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What an incredible testimony Samuel had been for all that was good and holy. If it was not for this man’s character Israel could have been under the jackboot of another heathen invasion and praying for God to raise up yet another Judge to lead them into freedom.  As one writer puts it when considering 1 Samuel 25:1, “What a living temple, what a divine epistle, written not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart!”

Where was Israel going now? What had they got now that Samuel was missing from the picture? All they had was a demonised king that seemed to spend most of his time chasing the hero of the people around the caves and strongholds of the hills and mountains of Israel. Whisperings and rumours that Saul was to be replaced by somebody else were rampant. It is no wonder the nation mourned and lamented the departure of one of Israel’s greatest sons. Perhaps the greatest! It was probably voiced, discussed and gossiped about that David should be the next king, however at the moment of Samuel’s death, it must have seemed like Saul was going to live interminably.

We feel almost sure that Samuel’s death could not have been properly responded to by David because of Saul’s issues about both he and the demised prophet. Saul may have even been relieved at Samuel’s passing. We shall see, soon afterwards however, that whatever Saul’s feelings and thoughts were at the point of Samuel’s death, he was later extremely desperate to know what the dead Samuel’s advice was on matters of State

It may have also been rumoured that David was simply in hiding or even dead. Nobody in Israel rightly knew the truth. It could not possibly have been known that he was moving towards actually living with some Philistine king in a Philistine city. That would have been a closely held secret at the time.

In Samuel we have the ultimate of a servant spirit, trained and disciplined from infancy to smother his own will and pay unbounded regard to the will of his Father in heaven. Samuel is the picture of the serene and holy believer, enjoying unseen fellowship with God, and finding in that fellowship a blessed balm for the griefs and trials of a wounded spirit. His conversation was in heaven. Samuel sowed to the Spirit, and of the Spirit he reaped life everlasting.

“Samuel died, and all the Israelites were gathered together and lamented him.”

Categories: 1 Samuel 25:1, An Acorn becomes a Mighty Tree., History teaches everything including the future., The Great Man Passes | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Samuel approaches the light of death. David leaps into the darkness of running for his life.

King to be and Mentor Separate for the Last Time
(1 Samuel 19 :18 – 20:1a)
They say that “all good things must come to an end.” I don’t really believe that. It only applies in certain circumstances. Unfortunately this watering hole for the future king of Israel was about to dry up. Nothing at all to do with Samuel or David. Everything to do with demonised king Saul.
“And it was told Saul, Behold, David is at Naioth in Ramah.” The king’s network of informers finally got the news to him. Just down the road from Gibeah to Rama was the young man he wanted dead.  David had not left in cowardice. He had gone with full knowledge that this difference between him and the king could conceivably split the nation.

Saul’s fear and trepidation re Samuel overwhelmed him, and prevented him from going himself to see Samuel.  Saul was surely becoming  aware, now that David – his character and calling, had been out in the public domain  for several years, that David  was a prime candidate as his successor. However, I am not sure it is possible that he knew that Samuel had anointed David to be king to succeed him. Whatever Saul’s state of intelligence on the matter, he had thoughts of murder no matter what. David had to die.

“Saul sent messengers to take David.” I believe Saul was just downright afraid to go himself. Any visible sighting or eye contact with Samuel might entice the prophet to damn him further. Saul would undoubtedly have, for the rest of his life, the sound of Samuel’s voice echoing in his sub conscious that, “The Lord has torn the kingdom from you and given it to somebody better.”  Oh the regrets and the torturous thoughts of, “If only I had not done that!”, or “If only I had done it another way!”
Saul’s anxiety was such that he sent others to get hold of David and bring him back to Gibeah. However, something quite remarkable was taking place in Naioth. It was Samuel’s main centre for the schools of the prophets that he had instituted.  One cannot help but get the impression that the inspired music, dancing  and resulting nabism (the manifestation of prophets and prophecy) were long term items of activity at Naioth, as was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the hearts of prospective prophets also, commonly manifesting  in and upon anybody who happened to be passing.  It is as if the Spirit of God filled the very air around Naioth as the worshipped and danced, and anybody who breathed the atmosphere (perhaps I should say “spiritual stratosphere”)around Samuel and his music were mugged by the very blessing and power of the  “Spirit of prophecy,”  and thus they  prophesied animatedly. It was a phenomena.
We are not told of the contents of the prophetic utterances delivered in and around Samuel’s schools of the prophets, but we can be sure that it was full of deliberations and declarations concerning God’s heart and mind concerning the nation of Israel, it’s kings, both present and future, and the mind of God about it all.
The messengers of the king, probably soldiers, drew near to Naioth, and before speaking to either Samuel or David, they caught a glimpse of a group of young men, with Samuel sat over them as the head of the “school,”  overseeing  the apprentices in their prophetic dancing, music, singing and  prophetic declarations. “When they saw the company of the prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as appointed head over them, the Spirit of God came upon the messengers of Saul and they also prophesied”. It was as if God Himself was preventing Saul’s messengers from getting their hands on David. Perhaps they prophesied  themselves about who was to be the future king of Israel, or the fact that Saul’s kingdom was torn from him. It was a remarkable occurrence. We are not told whether or not Saul’s messengers caught a glimpse of David.
How long it took these messengers to “recover” from what happened we are not told. Perhaps they finally “sobered” up and returned to Saul, without David. If they did return to the king, I am sure Saul would have remembered when a similar thing had happened to himself the same day Samuel had anointed him.  Would his experience of being like a drunkard under the power and influence of God’s Spirit  have caused him to excuse the messengers for their unsuccessful visit and their otherwise, “unlikely,” story of why they neither spoke to David or Samuel, nor returned with the son of Jesse. I am convinced that they did not even return to the king at all. My thoughts are, that having been overcome by the Spirit of God, they would have heard each other (if not themselves) prophesying certain relevant things about the issues that were enveloping Israel at this time. Saul’s kingship for one, the rise of David as another.  Having “tasted the power of the world to come” in such a glorious manner, my opinion is, they asked Samuel if they could stay and become part of the prophetic guild.
Whatever the truth of the matter was,  we have one of those strange repetitive items that arises in several biblical accounts. “When it was told Saul, he sent other messengers, and they also prophesied. And Saul sent messengers again the third time, and they also prophesied”. “When it was told Saul”, suggests clearly that it was not the messengers that told him.  Saul’s response to the situation strikes the reader  that he did not know what had happened to his first group. Otherwise, why send a second group? And then there was the same situation  with the second group. What was the logic of sending a third group of messengers? Unless, of course, they had not returned. He had heard that they had prophesied. He wanted to retrieve his servants. He must have been  annoyed and frustrated that, as king, even his simplest and plainest orders were not being obeyed. It must have been intensely annoying that the man who had declared that his kingdom was torn from him, was now, by the same Holy Spirit that had torn the kingdom, tearing away his own servants while attempting to obey his monarchical commands. Perhaps he did not see it as God tearing his crown from him. Perhaps he simply thought it was Samuel having a pique of temper.
Perhaps he thought the story he was told was a deception. After all, Saul was beginning to descend into fits of psychosis and neurosis. Three sets of trusty servants, to manhandle, arrest and return with David. Three failures. Could allhis servants be trying to deceive their master?
Whatever Saul was thinking, we are told nothing excepting  that finally, “Saul himself went to Ramah”. The king decides to expedite the whole thing himself. Nothing will stop him. He had decided to overcome his fear of Samuel and to just ride in to Naioth and snatch David from Samuel’s influence. He undoubtedly took a group of soldiers with him.  Between Gibeah and Ramah he “came to a great well that is in Secu.” This is a completely unknown location.  The well, at Secu must have been well populated at whatever time of day it was that Saul arrived. And so,“He asked, Where are Samuel and David? And he was told, “They are at Naioth in Ramah.” So he went on to Naioth in Ramah, and the Spirit of God came upon him also, and as he went on, he prophesied until he came to Naioth in Ramah.”  He had further evidence that David was definitely at Ramah.  But the Spirit of God came upon him, as He had done to his own messengers.This meant that his mind and heart was otherwise too occupied by the glorious breath of the Spirit of God, to bother about David. For the last time in scripture, we hear that king Saul submitted to the hand of God upon him.

The scripture is graphic. Saul enters Naioth declaring the plan and purposes of God as inspired by the Holy Spirit to prophesy, possibly words that were to his own detriment. The king approaches the home of the old prophet, “uncontrollably” making statements before that must have been heard by all at Ramah and within the Naioth. He could not have actually seen Samuel, or David. The day that Samuel told Saul that the kingdom was torn from him, the scripture states that Samuel did not see Saul again until the day Saul died. And that meeting was in no way a natural meeting, it was after Samuel’s death. Saul came for David, yet saw neither Samuel nor David. What  kind of anointing was it that clothed Samuel, that induced such responses from people?  Saul then, “took off his royal robes and continued to prophesy before Samuel. He lay down stripped thus all that day and night.”

There must have been, from the anointing of the Spirit that rested on Samuel, what I can only explain as a contagious influence built up and developed through years of faithful preaching, praying and prophesying. Samuel had worked and exercised the muscles of his anointing for a lifetime. The commission on the life of Samuel the prophet was to set forth the Divine Oracles; to speak to the people of Israel the word which proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord, and to lead them out of the darkness of the days of the Judges, into a bright new future. In the case of the prophetic utterances of Samuel, this word was derived from immediate intelligent inspiration from heaven, received by what seemed like man to man conversations with God. So wonderful! So sublime!  
Both the messengers of Saul, and Saul himself, were constrained by a strange and irresistible impulse of the Holy Spirit to prophesy as they fell before the anointing of Samuel that seemed to pervade the air at the Naioth. In this seizure and ecstasy of mind, Saul, previously bent on the prosecution of a hostile purpose, stopped and indulged God himself in receiving words from heaven that needed to be heard by all that were around in the Naioth. There was, no doubt, something miraculous, something that must not be confounded with the ordinary operations of the Holy Spirit taking place. The picture is almost surreal.  It is not only wonderful to read about in the scripture, it was wonderful for the recipients of the phenomena. Men said, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” The basic character of spirituality, sadly now, sat strangely and unwontedly upon this furious and worldly prince. So marvellous in men’s eyes was the transformation in this kind of visitation, that “Saul among the prophets” passed into a proverb of awe. The man who had come with murder at the top of his agenda, was lying naked and prostrate a whole day and night declaring words from God. Don’t be confused by it. Just stand in amazement at God’s grace.
In the case of the messengers, we are distinctly informed that it was not until they saw the company of the prophets prophesying and Samuel standing as appointed over them, that they also prophesied. What sight is so infectious, if we may be allowed to use the term, as that of a congregation of persons joyfully musically assembled for Divine worship, and joining, as with one heart and one tongue, in the sacred exercises of praise? When we see the company of the prophets prophesying, and our “Samuel” standing as appointed over us, the Spirit of God is upon us, and we also prophesy. The testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy. The Master Himself said that, “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.” The parallels and the lesson is unmissable.
It must have been an incredible sight. The king of Israel stripping off his royal robes, lying on the floor and prophesying for such a prolonged period of time.  Samuel must have been  laughing all the way through the episode. Perhaps the prophet watched from a slit in the window of his home. I wonder what David was doing? Secretly watching the scene with Samuel? The other prophets in the school had ceased in their supernatural declarations and gone to bed – perhaps. Yet the king of Israel was lying alone all night prophesying of things beyond his own natural knowledge. I cannot help but wonder what he spoke of.
David must have wondered what Saul would do to Samuel if and when he “recovered” from his Divine spiritual invasion. Under normal situations it might have been understandable to reckon that this visitation of grace on King Saul would soften his attitude towards David. Whether Samuel or David entertained the same thought we are simply not  told. We know nothing of any dialogue between Samuel and David while this strange occurrence took place. We understand that Saul initially fell in the courts of, or the community square in the Naioth as he prophesied. We are not told that Saul’s messengers, or Saul himself, even caught a glimpse of David at the Naioth, we know for sure that he did not see Samuel.
I believe that both David’s and Samuel’s opinion was that Saul was not going to change his attitude, even though he had seemingly been immersed into the blessing of the Spirit of God along with the whole school of the prophets.
For Samuel’s sake, and for everybody else’s sake that lived at Ramah, because of the unstable character of Saul, and to keep people safe from his anger and murderous spirit, David took the kingly decision. He knew he had to simply disappear. He must not allow Saul to see him. He must say,”Farewell,” to father Samuel. Oh the pain! Oh the chagrin! Perhaps they embraced. Perhaps there were tears. Perhaps nothing was said. Two kingly spirits such as Samuel and David would have known it was the right thing to do.
David packed whatever was the equivalent of a rucksack 1,000 years BC, and fled Ramah, just as he had fled his marital home.
1 Samuel 20:1 simply tells us, “David left Ramah.” David left in the dark of the night, aptly symbolic of the dark years that were to follow him. Samuel was left in the brightness of his home, possibly peeking through his window at a lost king prophesying into the darkness. Perhaps it is possible that David left without a word, leaving Samuel not even knowing that for his very life’s sake, the son of Jesse had left.
Whichever picture you choose, that picture of Samuel is the very last image we have of him alive in the scripture.
Samuel continued on with his school of the prophets till the day he died. He probably sent Gad to accompany David before he passed away.
It was truly the last few days of Samuel’s life. David would emerge out of the darkness and death of persecution into the glorious resurrection of kingship. But that was years away in the future.
David and Samuel never met again in their lifetime.
Categories: 1 Samuel 19:18- 20:1a, Samuel approaches the light of death David leaps into the darkness of running for his life. | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kingmaker – Prophet and Future King have Quality Time Together.

Minutes of the Meeting?

(1 Samuel 19:18-20:1a)

The most important interview since God spoke to Moses through the burning bush on Sinai! That’s what I think, anyway. David is about to have a time of interaction with Samuel. We enter into, what is for us, an unknown, but truly a very wonderful period of time for David. The number of days this time of refreshing lasted is, alas, indeterminate. But whether it was days, weeks or as long as a full month, it must have been one of the most precious times in the whole of David’s life. It was like minds mingling. It was visionaries together mingling their hearts and anticipations borne of their respective understanding of their faith. It was two men of God running the race of life with unified hearts minds and vision. It was Samuel passing on the baton to the leader of the next generation. It was the elderly prophet who was the divinely anointed kingmaker, sharing his last thoughts with the young royal dynasty maker who was also a prophet. Whether either of them was aware that this would be their only time together … who knows? It was Samuei, saying Good-bye in the late Winter of his life, sharing everything he has with David in the first days of his Spring. This is big. This is a destiny making gathering of two men who were both key in Israel‘s future. Samuel would not only be passing on knowledge by conversation and fellowship, but by impartation of the Spirit with which both of them were so heavily endowed and anointed. I am serious when I assert that this meeting was priceless  and  vital to the future of the nation of Israel and the kingdom of God.
 

Whatever we know, or hypothesize about their talks together during this period, the important thing was an issue that transcends the agenda of these two great spirits. It was deep fellowship in the Holy Spirit. It was a time of awesome change for Israel. It was transition time into a phase that would impact the entire future of the world, and the summing up of the universe in their far distant future. Jesus Christ is King of Kings because of many things, but the fact that He is the rightful heir to David’s throne is one of the most important. I wonder if Samuel’s prophetic insight allowed him to see that far.

So, in the midst of the emotional and spiritual chaos caused by the king who had reneged on his early submission to the will and plan of God, the two greatest revolutionary thinkers and men of God of their time were destined to meet for a brief few days. Oh! The importance of this “conference!” I am sure that as a conferring and sharing time together it would have had its periods of prayer, of musical praise and worship, as well as prophetic input and lengthy hours of discussion.

The text of scripture tells us plainly; So David fled and escaped and came to Samuel at Ramah and told him all that Saul had done to him. 

David did not go in a relaxed holiday mood.  He “fled.”  He “escaped.” Hear the language of the writer of these scriptures. With all the caves and mountains, the deserts, the cliffs and rock faces near the Dead Sea, even way up North to the city of Dan and beyond, there were so many places where David could have gone, within Israel’s borders, in order to hide from Saul. There were innumerable options of hideouts where he would have been safe from the countless eyes and ears of the spies of the murderous king of Israel.  These were places he assuredly would have years to utilise hereafter, between the “now” and “the people making David their king.” Yet, in his newly arrived adult vulnerability and loneliness, of tormenting persecution and rejection by the king, the young man went straight to Samuel, only two to three miles up the road. A man with the anointing seeks like hearts to fellowship with.

In his purity, to say nothing of angry desperation of mind and motive, the son of Jesse wanted answers. In his heart he wanted God’s take on the circumstances that were seeking to bury him. While he was hated and plotted against by the king, he could not go back to his wife, Saul might kill her. David was aware that murder was nothing to Saul, he had already made attempts to kill him several times. He could not go home to Bethlehem, the evil King might slay all his flesh and blood family. In fact wherever he went, anybody that became his companion, could conceivably be blacklisted and killed by Saul. On top of that, some people that he knew and loved, may submit to the temptation to betray David for any reward that Saul might hand out to those that would help the king rid the world of the person he considered to be his worst “enemy.” Yet, even if he was free to go and tell some of his friends, family or acquaintances about  the true state of their king’s mind and spirit, would he want to kill the hopes of Israel simply for the sake of getting sympathy and support for himself? That was something that we discover in scripture that David would never do.

So, David went looking for Samuel, the man who, under God, was the single tangible causative factor that had brought him to this point. Now, that is wisdom!  He wanted a father’s insight. I mean,  the perspective of the father of the nation. He went to the most informative source that he knew of, of God’s dealings with men, and for that reason, possibly, hopefully,  the safest place on the planet for Israel’s “king elect.” He went alone. It was Samuel who, under God, had anointed Saul to be king. It was the same prophet who, by the same Spirit of God, had anointed David.  He must have answers to this chaotic mess of destinies that were seemingly crossing, clashing, and even cancelling each other. What could the answer be?

Nobody else knew where the sweet psalmist of Israel had gone. David had not seen Samuel since the anointing well over a decade earlier, and being anointed as the next king, while the present king still lived, it was neither sensible nor politic to let it be known in the circles of the royal court of his whereabouts. For those reasons, it does seem almost certain that nobody would have suspected that David had rushed off to the mighty, yet elderly prophet who lived only a couple of miles away from the Naioth – Samuel’s home. After all, hadn’t the prophet retired from public life? Wasn’t he having musical praise and worship together with prophetic pronouncements everyday at Ramah? There was not any reason even for a “rebel” soldier of the king to see Samuel – or so the rest of Israel thought.

David’s first line of intelligence and insight, however,  lived at the Naioth, in Ramah. The songwriting, bear and lion confronting, king in waiting, went running to the arms of the spiritual guardian of a generation. Full of fear, apprehension and lack of understanding concerning his present circumstance, David sat down with the prophet and told him “all” that Saul had perpetrated against him.

Apart from the anointing of David in 1 Samuel 16, this time of discussion, debate and devotion of Prophet  and prospective king, is the only recorded time they ever had together. David went to stay with the prophet for an unknown length of time, yet it was, in God’s plan, one of the most essential inter-actions in the entire history of the Jewish people. That is neither an overstatement or an exaggeration. I am speaking the exact truth.

One can almost sense the tears, the tension and the anger, as well as the confusion emanating from David.  I  read between the lines and hear David plead with a vehement query, issues like; “Father Samuel, Sir, you anointed me and told me I was going to be king of Israel. Since that day everything I touch has been wonderfully used of Yahweh, except with things to do with His Majesty king Saul. He hates me. Even while I sing to soothe his spirit, he is trying to kill me. What am I supposed to do? Will he let me live to become king after him? Can you still tell me that God wants me to be king one day? Would it be right for me to fight against Saul? Surely it cannot be right for me to respond violently towards him? Should I surrender to him? Should I kill him? Help me please! Give me some answers!”

How long was Samuel’s answer to David’s breaking heart and strained  understanding? A day or two? A week? A month? There was definitely no more than a month for this secret convocation of two great hearts and minds.  I say this because immediately after David had to leave Samuel, for reasons we will soon discover, David had a chat with Jonathan. In 1 Samuel 20:5 David says to Jonathan, “Tomorrow is the New Moon festival, and I am supposed to dine with the king.” That quotation surely could not have been spoken if David was absent from Saul for even one previous New moon. This writer is convinced that David’s time with Samuel was no longer than the length of time between two new moons, ie: a calendar month. Other than those maximum limits, the reader’s guess at the minimum time they spent together is as good as mine or anybody else’s.

Street of Prophets, Jerusalem. Looking West

It is amazing that Samuel and Saul lived only 2 or 3 miles apart, yet no dialogue ever took place between them after Samuel had pronounced to Saul that the kingdom was torn from him. The deathly silence betwixt existing king and prophet undoubtedly meant that Samuel would be the last person the king would ask about where David was “hiding.” This writer believes that Saul had no knowledge of the day Samuel anointed David as a little boy. Saul was only wanting rid of David because of his soldiering success and his popularity within the nation. Such success could have suggested to the demented king that the people might rise up against him and make the most popular soldier in Israel their new king. Saul had heard Samuel pronounce the loss of his dynasty. His agony was that he had not the slightest idea when he was to be removed. Would it be by forced abdication? Through death? Would the people of Israel reject him? On top of those tormenting questions, Saul obviously considered anybody who was loved by the people, or more successful than he, to be a threat. He must have looked at many of his warriors and repeated to himself many times  the question; “Could this be the one to replace me?” As time progressed after Samuel’s death, it must have dawned on him that David was the man in line to the throne. That does not mean, however, that Saul ever knew of the anointing of David as a young boy.

This prolonged “summit” meeting between David and Samuel was undoubtedly precious to both parties. Samuel had anointed a young lad. Now, some 15 or more years later, in walks an emotional grown man who informs him, “I am David, the son of Jesse. I am  the boy you anointed in Bethlehem.”  The embraces must have been prolonged. The tears must have been profuse. The greeting must have been emotional.

And he and Samuel went and dwelt in Naioth.  David had known where to find Samuel, even though he was not  directly at home. If the historians are correct Rama (full title Ramathaim Zophim of 1 Samuel 1) was the city of Samuel’s home (Naioth means “home” or “habitation” in Hebrew). Samuel’s home was within the city. It would not be correct to imagine Rama as anything more than what we today would refer to as a walled Hamlet. This statement  of scripture, alone, lets us know fully the heart and mind of Samuel towards the son of Jesse. The most senior leader of the nation, arguably above the king, received his own as well as Saul’s successor into his own home. The elderly yet majestic Samuel took the youthful, undoubtedly confused and traumatised David to his home, and thus to his heart. He had secrets to disclose to the future king. It was a series of secrets that could not be shared with Saul, nor anybody else in the kingdom. The secrets of the Lord were with Samuel, the man who feared Him. He was about to impart some of those secrets to the man that God Himself described as, “a man after His own heart.”

As a “by the way,” for those who insist that the word Naioth here is strictly plural, I see it as meaning that Samuel’s home was possibly surrounded by the homes of all those that were members of Samuel’s school of the prophets. Samuel was ever surrounded by music, praise and prophecy.

There are moments in the narratives of scripture where dialogue was obviously going on, yet the reader is not allowed to know the contents. There was Moses with two forty-day periods up on Sinai. Yes, he returned with the Decalogue, and from his intelligence from the Almighty we believe he wrote the first five books of the Bible on his return. However, surely  eighty days, alone in discussion with the Everlasting All knowing God leaves the imagination to run wild on what was discussed throughout the whole time. Nearly three months alone in the Shekinah glory with God Himself! The very thought of what could have been discussed is incredible.

Centuries later, Peter, James and John, overheard Moses and Elijah discussing Christ’s “exodus” from this life. What treasures would they have shared in the hearing of those three departed, heavenly men? And, believe it or not, the three disciples nearly fell asleep while overhearing their discussion!

The Lord Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, met believers at various times during the forty days between the resurrection and the ascension. What were the “infallible proofs” that Luke talks about, that Christ showed his disciples cum apostles, during those days? Apart from the Great Commission, what transpired between Christ and the group of 500 that saw Him at one time? Where were the other 380 when the day of Pentecost was fully come? Oh! To have overheard some of the dialogue in those days and been able to hear the logistics of Christ’s words and the disciple’s responses.

There is another awesome dialogue, of which we are told nothing. Paul went and stayed with Peter at his home in Jerusalem for two weeks. How infinitely priceless would the transcripts of their conversations be?  Then again, what did Paul preach about every day of the week for three whole years at the school of Tyrranus in Ephesus?  Over a thousand sermons, or thereabouts? Was it all précised in Ephesians?

We could go on. And In the same spirit of hungering for spiritual treasure, I would dearly love to know the depth of conversation between Samuel and David during the time David was staying at the Naioth with the elderly prophet. When they first met in 1 Samuel 16, we are given the impression that no words at all passed between them – probably because of the age of David at the time. If one takes the bear narrative of scripture as the full content of the meeting when the prophet anointed David, Samuel did not even talk to David, neither was David actually named.

But now the two of them were together as grown rational, spiritual men.

Samuel must have somehow expected this meeting. I do not say that Samuel knew David was coming in the circumstances that he arrived in, although that is not beyond the realm of probability. If Samuel knew the entire story behind his first meeting with Saul the day before he arrived into Samuel’s life, I do not find it difficult to assume he knew all about David’s arrival before David arrived on his doorstep. I do say, that because of what transpired between them, Samuel was ready with divinely received information that required a face to face meeting with David, as it was to be shared with David alone, before he, Samuel, was to leave this life.

The ruins of Saul’s fortress

This writer believes firmly that there are some things that David effected when he was king that he could not have known about, nor would he have implemented, if he had not received instruction and wisdom from Samuel on those very issues. And these days at the Naioth were the only opportunity that we know of, where Samuel could have shared them with the future greatly loved king of Israel.

We can piece together from scripture some of the issues they definitely discussed together during this period. There are some things that can be extrapolated intelligently from the biblical text that they probably talked about. There are also some issues that seem logical to suggest that they would have shared together but are here just hypothetically presented. None of these things about which I am referring could have been discussed in David’s innocent youth the day he was anointed in his father’s home at the age of around 10 -12 years old..

The man who was a soldier, earning a king’s respect in battle, who had come knocking on Samuel’s door in confusion, was ready to hear the full blown truth concerning his future. There was no, “pink and fluffy,” talks between Samuel and David. This was a time of rough, tough, “man to man” exchanges, both giving the discussion content “straight from the shoulder.” Samuel would have shared the full picture with David, and left nothing out. Samuel must have expected his time with David to be brief. The dialogue and interaction between Samuel and David was to plant seeds that would build David into the kind of man that was worthy of ruling Israel. I think even the “small talk,” must have been over huge issues. What was discussed was to prepare David for the incredibly hard time that was to be his lot in life for the next 5 years at least, before he was to become king of Israel.

Let’s plough through what I perceive as the agenda of this “Summit Meeting”.

AGENDA ITEM 1. THE SURETY OF DAVID’S KINGSHIP.

Samuel must have assured David that he would definitely become king of Israel. This is rock sure fact simply because the scripture tells us so. No matter how the demonic rages of Saul ranted against him, David would be king. 1 Chronicles 9 tells us in verses 21 – 23, “So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and David made a covenant with them in Hebron before the LORD; and they anointed David king over Israel, according to the word of the LORD through Samuel.” This prospect was still at the very least five years away in the future from these moments that Samuel and David had together. “According to the word of the LORD through Samuel,” some commentators believe, means simply that he could not become king until he was anointed, as per the book that Samuel wrote. That is too weak an interpretation to refer to it as “according to the word of the LORD.”  This writer is confident that it meant that what happened at Hebron was predicted by Samuel. We have nothing in scripture that tells us that Samuel said any such thing apart from the anointing of David before the eyes of his father and his brothers. In retrospect, we of course, are fully aware of what went on when Samuel anointed Jesse’s youngest. But we cannot be sure at all that the family that was present knew what was happening. For this reason, Samuel, logically, must have spoken this word to David during this period at the Naioth. I believe that somewhere in their inter-action Samuel gave David the top most important message:  “David you will be king! The people themselves will anoint you!”

We are not actually told that Samuel said anything all to David in 1 Samuel 16, or to Jesse and his other sons. It was possibly understood to be a king’s anointing. Such anointings as David received with the precious oil, were reserved only for prophets, priests and kings (not that I can find any man being anointed with oil in scripture in order to become a prophet). I am not sure we can be certain that Jesse and his household knew what we know today about how being anointed with oil was reserved for prophets, priests and kings only. However, Jesse was not a Levite, so David could not have been anointed to be a priest. That would make a nonsense of the Mosaic law. They would not have thought of it as being a prophetic anointing, for prophets were rare at the beginning of Samuel’s life, and only increased in number and presence because of Samuel’s drive to initiate the schools of the prophets. Logically, therefore, if they considered it at all, they may have assumed that he was anointed to be king. I have to add, however, the reception David received from his brothers when he brought them food from home and was introduced to the ranting of Goliath, suggest that they had no insight at all as to David’s future, even though they were present when Samuel poured the oil (1 Samuel 17: 28-29). My thesis is that the family just had no idea what Samuel’s anointing of David was all about. It was nothing but the passing of time that educated them about David’s destiny.

It was possibly Samuel’s first major issue after they had got down to business with David at the Naioth. The prophet must have poured into David’s heart the deep and certain assurance of his destiny.

The prophet’s rationale as to the persecution thus far that the king had inflicted upon David would have been hard. It is Samuel who would have taught David to, “Touch not the Lord’s anointed,” and to “Do His prophets no harm.” Saul, David and Samuel were each of them anointed, and each of them had prophesied. We know Samuel was acknowledged as a prophet (Acts 3:24), and so was David (Acts 2:30). Saul had prophesied several times in his life (1 Samuel 10:10 -11. 18:10. 19:23). That is why it was said, “Is Saul also amongst the prophets.” However, we have to add the rider that, all prophets prophesy, but all those that prophesy may not necessarily be prophets.

Receiving his throne after much hardship must have been Samuel’s prophetic word to David. Oh the agony of the hard truth!

AGENDA  ITEM 2.THE TEMPLE.

Even though the Temple would not be built in either Samuel’s day, nor David’s life time – in fact it was not built until something like 60-70 years in the future after David’s time at Naioth – we are absolutely certain that Samuel talked at great length to David about the Temple that we now refer to, in hindsight, as Solomon’s. This was certainly on Samuel’s agenda. Allow me to explain why I say such a thing.

We know that booty and loot from many successful battles and wars was taken and dedicated for the building project of the temple. 1 Chronicles 26:26-28 states that, “… Shelomoth and his relatives had charge of all the treasures of the dedicated gifts which King David and the heads of the fathers’ households, the commanders of thousands and hundreds, and the commanders of the army, had dedicated. They dedicated part of the spoil won in battles to repair the house of the Lord.  And all that Samuel the seer had dedicated and Saul the son of Kish, Abner the son of Ner and Joab the son of Zeruiah, everyone who had dedicated anything, all of this was in the care of Shelomoth and his relatives” (NASB). The house of the Lord obviously referred to the Tabernacle as well, but I find it hard to believe that the mighty Samuel would even sanction worshipping at the place that was created to house the Ark of the Covenant, whilst for well over half a century the Ark of the Covenant was infamously not there. Samuel had king, kingdom, and a king’s city in mind -as well as a magnificent Temple.

This means that the Temple was, “in the air,” even from Samuel’s day. We are not told of it in the books of Samuel, but the plan was afoot to build a permanent temple of the Lord, and Samuel was the earliest name mentioned in 1 Chronicles 26:26-28. Because the collection of treasure with which to adorn the Temple was obviously done whilst folks were alive, Samuel was collecting the loot from battles for this purpose, and it would seem obvious to assume that Samuel gave the same instruction to Saul as “Saul ben Kish” is on the list of contributors. Samuel must have also passed on the idea to David. Because it is inconceivable that Samuel might have told David when he anointed him as a child, and because we only have two meetings between Samuel and David recorded, we have to deduce that at the second meeting, while they talked together at the Naioth, Samuel shared the idea of any looted treasure being dedicated for a future temple. Because of David’s battles and victories, and the blood on his hands, God did not allow David to actually build the structure during his reign. But David did make sure that the entire facility was prepared for before he died.  In his very last days he passed the plans for the temple over to Solomon. This could only have been in David’s heart through the sharing of hearts and minds with Samuel. I often wonder if it was Samuel that suggested to David that Jebus (now known as Jerusalem) would be the best place for the temple to be built. But that is just a little bit of my own speculation.

Although Samuel and David discussing this issue is extrapolated from the verses that inform us that they planned together the singers for Divine worship that were to be ministering 24/7 around the ark at both “David’s tabernacle” and “the temple that Solomon built,” it presupposes self evidently that it was in the context of building a permanent temple that the loot was gathered and kept safe.

The things dedicated to the temple were the spoils of battle from Samuel, Saul, Abner, Joab and David during a period of between 80 and 100 years or more. That is  prophetically extremely longsighted by Samuel. This is yet another reason why I believe that Samuel is generally underrated as to his importance in Israel’s history.

AGENDA ITEM 3. THE IMPERATIVE NEED TO ENCOURAGE PROPHETS AND THEREFORE THE SCHOOLS OF THE PROPHETS.

As we plough through the agenda of the meeting between Samuel and David at the Naioth in Ramah, we need to see that we are touching some of the issues which, to my mind, puts Samuel even above Moses. We are talking about aspects of his ministry of innovation and creativity which changed the spiritual face of Israel over  a couple of hundred years well beyond his life span. The Temple, the music of praise and worship, the abandonment to the Spirit, the desperate imperative of the prophetic word – all these things and more came from and were instituted by Samuel. It was the son of Hannah that received the ideas from heaven, had them fertilised  by the prophetic Spirit that abode on his life, and then brought into manifestation, some of it in his own life, some left for David, and one major item that had to be left for Solomon.

The schools of the prophets were one of the most influential projects that Samuel initiated that went on far beyond his generation, as well as David’s and Solomon’s.

We have quite a few mentions of these schools in the Old Testament. As David settled down for a month or so of fellowship with Samuel, we get the picture of a company of prophets living at Ramah, under the management, leadership, or whatever term one should use, of Samuel. The members of this group I venture to suggest lived in a common home, or homes, in the same vicinity where Samuel had his own house at Ramah (1 Samuel 7:17). I understand that within Ramah was the Naioth. Naioth means home. It is sometimes plural, as here in 1 Samuel 19, giving the impression that the home of the prophetic school, and the home of Samuel, were in the same area, if not in the same block (1 Samuel 19:18).

The detailed origin and history of these schools are lost in obscurity. But logic absolutely demands that it was Samuel who created them. According to 1 Samuel 3:1, before the call of Samuel to his role of prophet, the prophetic word or vision was “very rare in Israel,” and prophecy was not widely heard of at all. It is absolutely certain that these schools- groups – unions of prophets arose during Samuel’s life time under his guardianship. They were seemingly called into existence by the chief prophet of Israel at that time, that could be nobody else but Samuel.

There is, however, uncertainty concerning Samuel’s leadership of, and participation with other such unions in different parts of the land beside the one that conducted its business right under the auspices of Samuel’s physical presence. For instance, in 1 Samuel 10:5 and 10:10, we find a band of prophets, utilising their gift and carrying on with their business at Gibeah, coming down from the sacrificial height there, and descending in order to meet Saul. I hasten to add that the text does not state that this company had its Naioth (home) at Gibeah, although the name of “Gibeah of God” causes this writer to acknowledge the significance of such a possibility as the prophets were active there. If there was a school at Gibeah, I see it as likely that, once Saul’s demonic depressions set in, the school would have uprooted itself and joined the group at Ramah for the physical safety from the king who lived at Gibeah. Once Saul’s demonic anger matured and the whole of the  Israeli public knew he was against Samuel as well as David, any School of the prophets at Gibeah of God would have had to change their country seat.

It is my thesis that both Gad and Nathan turned up later to be with David from out of the ranks of the school of the prophets at the Naioth in Ramah. In fact I am of the  feeling that it was Samuel that seconded Gad to minister to David, after David had left Samuel and Ramah. Gad turns up with David shortly after David left Samuel (1 Samuel 22:5). Gad was David’s prophetic Seer (2 Samuel 24:11) who gave the word of the Lord to David quite often, and sometimes at crucial moments.

Samuel’s tomb

After this reference here in 1 Samuel 19, there is no mention again of these “schools” until the days of Elijah and Elisha. They had by then evolved into the new generic term of “the sons of the prophets” ( 1 Kings 20:35). It seems that they were living in considerable numbers at Gilgal, Bethel, and Jericho at least ( 2 Kings 2:3, 2:5. 2:7, 2:15, 4:1, 4:38, 6:1, 9:1).  According to 2 Kings 4:38- 43, about a hundred sons of the prophets sat before Elisha at Gilgal, and took their meals together. The number at Jericho may have been not quite as great; for fifty men of the sons of the prophets went with Elijah and Elisha to the Jordan (2 Kings 2:7, 2:16-17).

These passages tell us that the sons of the prophets also lived in a common house, as it seems to me, they did in their days of their origin at Ramah with Samuel (2 Kings 6:1). A practical point is raised with this observation, namely that only the unmarried could live in a common building. We know of prophets in scripture that were married, and therefore must have lived in houses of their own (2 Kings 4:1).

We have to take note, of course, that it cannot be logically assumed that all the prophets of the time, from Samuel and onwards, were compulsorily initiated into their gift, or office, through attendance at a school  of the prophets, exactly parallel to the fact that not all contemporary ministers of the gospel have necessarily been to Bible College or Theological Seminary.  It is not possible to prove unequivocally that these schooling groups continued uninterruptedly from the days of Samuel down to the times of Elijah and Elisha, yet logical extrapolation strongly suggests it was so. The historical line which can be traced in the influence of prophecy from the time of Samuel on, can only be practically and easily explained from the uninterrupted continuance of these colleges of prophets in training. The huge numbers of prophets, already in the land when Elijah first appeared, points to the existence of such unions as these already in existence ( 1 Kings 18:13). The use of the numbers being in “50’s” is strongly reminiscent of 2 Kings 2.

The darkness of the days of the Judges meant that Samuel was born in a time where prophets and prophecy were very rare. Samuel started the schools, and the written history of Israel screams at us that the Old Testament Hebrew prophets were very strong, very influential and incredibly numerous. They were much more numerous than twelve minor prophets and four major prophets suggest (Jeremiah wrote Lamentations as well as the book we know of as “Jeremiah.” Thus four major prophets).

My own thoughts are that Samuel kept his ear to the ground, as it were, in his ministry circuit throughout his life, talked to many people, and invited those that he discerned had some prophetic gifting, to join him with other like minded people in the dormitory home he had set up in Ramah. These schools were called into existence by chosen instruments of the Lord, such as Samuel, and later Elijah, and Elisha, whom the Lord had called to be mighty prophets, and endowed with a peculiar measure of His Spirit for their particular calling, that they might check the decline of spiritual life in the life of Israel, and bring back the rebellious “to the law and the testimony.” The name “schools of the prophets” is the one which expresses most fully the character of these groups. And we must not think of them as educational institutions like we have today, in which the pupils of the prophets received instruction in prophesying or in theological studies with a certificate at the end. No! No! No! The academic thirst for book knowledge is as far as the east is from the west when considering Eastern life style, and the man Samuel himself. The tuition was solely of the word and the Spirit. In fact there was nothing else to be considered. Hearing accurately from God, and dividing rightly the scriptures that were given by God was the only issue on the table, as far as Samuel was concerned.

Prophesying, and, indeed, being a prophet can neither be taught nor communicated by instruction, but is a gift of God which He communicates according to His free will to whomsoever He wills. And God, more often than not, chooses people that we would not. From the purely human point of view, that choice often seems utterly arbitrary. But God is not arbitrary at all with the moving of His Spirit. The divine impartation of such spiritual matters presupposes a mental and spiritual disposition on the part of the recipients as fitted them to receive it. In short, God looks on the heart. The exercise of the gift required a thorough acquaintance with the law and the earlier revelations of God, which the schools of the prophets must have promoted. It is therefore justly and generally assumed, that the study of the law and of the history of the divine guidance of Israel formed a part of the curriculum of the pupils of the prophets, which also included the cultivation of sacred music and lyricism, and united exercises for the promotion of prophetic inspiration.

That the study of the earlier revelations of God was entered into, may be very safely inferred from the fact that from the time of Samuel onwards the writing of their sacred history formed an essential part of the prophet’s labours. The cultivation of sacred music and poetry may be inferred partly from the fact that, 1 Samuel 10:5 informs us  that musicians walked in front of the prophesying prophets, playing as they went along, and partly also from the fact that sacred music not only received a fresh impulse from David, who stood in close relation to the association of prophets at Ramah during this period of time with Samuel, but was also raised by him when he was king, into an integral part of public worship. Music was by no means cultivated merely that the sons of the prophets might employ it in connection with their inspiration and prophecy, but also as means of awakening the human spirit as well as emotions of the soul after God, and of lifting up the spirit of God, and so preparing it for the reception of divine revelation (2 Kings 3:15). We are forced to include, among the spiritual exercises that took place in the schools, prophesying in companies, as at Gibeah and Ramah (1 Samuel 10:5 and 19:20).

We cannot but see the prophet Samuel as the major seminal instigating genius of this “movement” of the Spirit of God. The time of Samuel, and the very character of the man creates a radical turning-point in the development of the Old Testament history and theology, as well as in the kingdom of God overall. While Samuel was still a boy priest, learning his craft as a prophet, and how to hear God, the judgment of the Almighty fell upon the sanctuary, profaned by the shameful conduct of the priests, the sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas. The Tabernacle was made bereft of the ark of the covenant, and ceased in consequence to be the scene of the gracious presence of God in Israel. National worship, it seems, insanely, carried on in the Tabernacle with no Ark within. Ridiculous in the extreme!

The mission fell upon Samuel, as prophet of the Lord, to found a new house for the spiritual life which he had ignited, by calling and gathering together those who had been awakened by the word of God that he taught. This gathering of likeminded  souls was not for the promotion of their own prophetic inclinations under his direction, but also for joining with him in the spread of the fear of God and obedience to the covenant. A true prophet has an all round ministry of presenting truth to people. This means that they would have been preaching prophets.

I believe Samuel’s casual attitude to getting the Ark of the Covenant back to the Tabernacle as a solid indication of his forward thinking. The Ark, though sacred and real in its carrying of the divine presence, was still only a symbol. The spirit of God  moving in the prophetically inclined men of Israel was the substance of which the Ark was a shadow.  Though he was a Levite, Samuel was also a prophet, and his prophetic roll was master over his Levitical priestly understanding.

Samuel knew the need  for  1. Prophetic input in everything that king and country did. And  2.Once the monarchy in Israel was allowed to reach its peak, a king’s city with a permanent temple would be required in which to house the Ark of the Covenant for the purposes of holding the nation together.

But just as, in the days of Samuel, it was the fall of the legal sanctuary and priesthood which created the necessity for the founding of the schools of the prophets; so in the times of Elijah and Elisha, in the northern kingdom of the ten tribes, it was the utter absence of any sanctuary of Jehovah which led these two prophets to support and sustain groups of prophets, and so furnish true worshippers of Jehovah with places and personnel of edification, as a substitute for what the righteous in the kingdom of Judah possessed via the prophets, the temple and the Levitical priesthood. Samuel, to my understanding was much more far sighted prophetically than even Elijah or Elisha.

There was a higher reason still, which must not be overlooked in our examination of these groups, and their importance in relation to the kingdom of Israel. We learn that those disciples under Samuel were found prophesying (1 Samuel 10:10. 19:20), and that they were seized by the Spirit of God in order to facilitate their prophecy. We also discover that the Divine Spirit which moved them, exerted a powerful influence upon all who came into contact with them (ie: with Saul and his messengers).  We need to declare that the Holy Spirit thinks and moves regardless of any human crisis or need, and always inspires people according to His eternal purpose. What I mean by this, is that over and above the sociological imperatives as explained above, there was God working out His purpose at His pleasure. God does things at His initiative and time. He moves in a manner that is not caused by, or required by any sociological phenomena that complicates the human situation. God pours out His Spirit when He says it is time. If God responds to human societal phenomena, that is His divine prerogative, but I feel as I write, that it is not quite correct to suggest that God moved, like a knee jerk reaction, simply because man turned away from Godliness at that time.

The music that precipitates the outpouring of prophecy amongst the prophets, which then flowed over Saul, and even Saul’s messengers that he later sent to Ramah to find David, is a fabulous biblical introduction to the concept of the Spirit of God being poured out, presupposing a group reception of the outpoured Spirit. The move of the Spirit in this manner is always in a group.

Consequently the founding of schools of the prophets is to be regarded as an operation of divine grace, which is generally observed to be manifested with all the greater power where sin mightily abounds. It was by no means an accidental circumstance that these groups are only met with in the times of Samuel and of the prophets Elijah and Elisha. These times resembled one another in the fact, that in both of them idolatry had gained the upper hand; though, at the same time, there were some respects in which they differed essentially from one another. In the time of Samuel the people did not manifest the same hostility to the prophets as in the time of Elijah. The darkness of the days of the Judges brought a light out of that very same darkness – that light was Samuel. The darkness that infiltrated Israel during the days of Ahab and Jezebel also brought great light out of the belly of that darkness-namely Elijah leading to Elisha.

Samuel stood at the head of the nation as judge even during the reign of Saul; and after the rejection of the latter, he still stood so high in authority and esteem, that Saul never ventured to attack the prophet even in his royal madness. In the circumstances of Samuel, what had to be done was to bring the nation to a recognition of its apostasy, to foster the new life which was just awakening, and later to remove whatever hindrances might be placed in its way by the monarchy. After he was gone, the schools of the prophets would continue, following the footsteps of their master, Samuel.

I believe Samuel, if not by word, definitely by example, would have impacted David in a very positive manner towards supporting the schools of the prophets.

AGENDA ITEM 4. MUSIC IN PRAISE AND WORSHIP.

The Levitical worship and sacrificial system was done in silence. Only the crackling of the fire, and the groans of the animals being sacrificed could have been heard. The worshippers were not even encouraged to confess their sins by word of mouth, but merely to lean with their hands on the head of the animal that was to be sacrificed. The introduction of music for worship was undoubtedly utilised as early as Moses’ sister Miriam after the crossing of the Red Sea. To use music as a norm for inspiration and public worship, however, is not seen in scripture until Samuel’s reference to the group of prophets that would meet Saul after his anointing, and when David played before Saul while he prophesied.

It seems to this writer as a definite extrapolation from the book of psalms, and the intense musical work rota that David instigated in Jerusalem, that the doctrine, the atmosphere  and the absolute imperative of musical praise and worship was discussed between Samuel and David during the days of David’s brief touch down at the Naioth. David was already known as a fine musician, so what we are suggesting may actually have already been an aspect of David’s understanding of the spiritual life. But Samuel’s utility of music to inspire the prophetic would obviously have impacted David. The son of Jesse must have already perceived this truth during his playing for, and singing to king Saul (1 Samuel 18:10).

David’s love of music was profound. He wrote songs, and sang them under a heavenly anointing of freedom and deliverance. Saul’s calm may have been only temporary after David sang and played the harp to him, so we cannot claim that Saul was delivered from the demon that pursued and clung to him, but it pacified Saul, and caused the demon to a dormant state at least. However, David’s songs of praise and worship were undoubtedly one of the contributing factors in  the soup of what created Israel’s halcyon days under his reign and Solomon’s as king. Samuel must have impressed the need for music in public worship upon the future monarch. When one realises the role that corporate musical worship played in David’s days, and in the early days of the temple, one cannot but see the hand of Samuel at work in David’s thinking. I perceive this as a self evident fact. When David set up the worship in Jerusalem, there was worship with music 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That is difficult to comprehend as normal practice. I know many churches that have held a “praise-a-thon” for a day or 2. I know one church that had praise and worship for three days without a stop. But most of these events that I have heard of were attempting to raise funds for one project or another. But to have a full band playing, with prophetic singers, on shift work that activated a rota that was without end is to my mind, phenomenal. Twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, without any time off for feast days or Bank Holidays! It is a difficult thing to image. Samuel, however, imaged it, and David happily implemented it after he brought the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem.

It was Samuel that had a revelation of how music that was sung from the heart, with words not only addressed to God Himself, but declaring truths about the person of Yahweh, would break through from the physical and carnal into the spiritual and the invisible releasing the blessing and power of God. The prophetic Spirit that came upon  the schools of the prophets, was entered into by this very means.

The first time we hear of the Schools of the prophets is significant. The  Principle of First Mention is a sharp point of observation for many Bible scholars. The principle states that the first time any subject, or doctrine, or practice is mentioned in scripture, it has, contained in that first mention, many aspects that comprehensively explain the meaning of that issue whenever it is mentioned throughout the rest of scripture. We hear of the schools of the prophets initially in 1 Samuel 10:5.

The text recounts how that Saul, soon after his anointing by Samuel would meet a procession, or group of prophets coming down from the peak of the hill at the place that Samuel refers to as “Gibeah of God.” Surely this was the Gibeah from which Saul was domiciled. Saul would see them with lyres, tambourines, flutes and harps leading the group, and those following would be prophesying. The Spirit of the Lord that was on the group would come upon Saul as he approached them.

Why is this significant?

  • It tells us that even though the word of the Lord was rare in the early childhood of Samuel (1 Samuel 3:1), after years of circuiting around Israel, preaching, teaching, prophesying and judging, the ministry of Samuel had birthed not only a hunger for God and the prophetic, but a whole generation of prophets that were being trained under the mentoring hand of Samuel. 
  • Music was an essential and integral part of the prophetic movement that was beginning to blossom. This was no, “Instant Result” manifestation, but the fruit of a long hard period of ministry that had taken time to grow roots and be planted. Everything big starts little. This group of prophets at Gibeah was the first fruits of Samuel’s vision. Though they are not mentioned again until the days of Elijah and Elisha some 120 or more years later, it is this writer’s conclusion that the schools of the prophets continued for years even beyond Elisha. The  contagion of the prophetic that was sown through these schools probably led to the likes of Elijah and Elisha, Isaiah, and even Jeremiah. Isaiah himself had a school of prophets, referred to as his “disciples.”  Not that these giants of the prophetic  world necessarily attended a school of the prophets, but by their presence in the land they released something of the Spirit of God that caused a hunger and a passion amongst true believers for the secret things of God, and the prophetic word from heaven. Music of a certain kind causes the Spirit of God to move, and the prophetic spirit of man to rise up and receive Him. That is the thing to search for. 
  • The Tambourines being present suggest that the music was somewhat lively and rhythmic. We are not talking of whispered, slow songs of devotion. The suggestion is that the music was quite wild. Where translations use the word “Shigganoth” for some of the psalms of scripture, the Hebrew translation of the word plainly suggests it being what twenty first language refers to as “Rock and Roll.” Check for yourself. 
  • The word used for”prophets” here is “Nabi’m.” Foundationally, and etymologically meaning to be in a trance and speaking from the impact of that trance. 
  • The fact that Saul caught the “atmosphere” of the prophetic was basically a statement from God that he wanted the prophetic gift to be spread to many. It was God’s desire from the very start of things, to pour out His Spirit on all flesh, that they may prophesy, and have visions. It could not properly be done until the resurrection of Christ, and the pouring forth of the Spirit in Acts 2. It has not been properly fulfilled to this day.

The building of, and the work within the Tabernacle, and later the Temple was strongly on Samuel’s agenda with David. 1 Chronicles 9 is a brief genealogy of some of the tribes of Israel, as well as a list of people who were appointed to work at the “Tabernacle.” The singers listed, however, all lived in Jerusalem. This presupposes that the arrangement was made, in Samuel’s day, between David and Samuel, that these families of trained and worshipful singers would be the backbone of the perpetual worship that was instigated in Jerusalem around David’s Tabernacle, to where the Ark of the Covenant was brought in David’s reign (2 Samuel 6). These people, and their families, were installed into office, and were fully functioning worshippers ready for when the Temple was built. How did they get these jobs? In what way were they qualified? Under whose authority were they called to worship? 1 Chronicles 9:22 says, “These were enrolled by genealogy in their villages, whom David and Samuel the seer appointed in their office of trust.” So we know that David and Samuel shared on this issue.

AGENDA ITEM 5.  DANCE IN WORSHIP.

The picture is plain concerning the worship that was conducted within the school of the prophets, both from 1 Samuel 10, and 1 Samuel 19. The music was being played before the prophets, that is, in their presence, but it is clearly connected that the music, the tambourine, and the inferred rhythmic response, or dance somehow facilitated an open heart and mind to receive the prophetic words. Samuel was the overseer of this practice as witnessed by Saul himself and the messengers he later sent to bring David into the courts of Saul’s “justice.”

Surely the majority of modern Christianity, with the dead restraint of the sobriety of western Christianity would deride this practice as an occult practice.  I have even heard one preacher say, “It smacks of the demon worshipping witches and wizards of Haiti playing demonic, heavily rhythmic music for incredibly long periods of time, dancing and jumping until they leave normal consciousness and move into a trance like altered state.” It leaves us with a problem that needs addressing to explain.

  • The music, the lyrics and the rhythm of the tambourine were clearly and definitely not demonically directioned. The music must have been God directioned, ie: sung towards God. The rhythm was to encourage a release of the human spirit, and when the lyrics glorified God and expressed the desires of the human heart to praise Him and worship Him, somehow the Spirit of God met with them. It was the dynamic of things in Samuel’s day, and it is the dynamic of things today. This writer is sure such a status quo has always been so. 
  • The inference is made by many commentators, that on the two occasions Saul entered “into the fray” of what was happening with the schools of the prophets, Saul seemed to prophecy, as it were, against his will. Nowhere in the scripture is it mentioned that Saul’s own will was overridden. I have an alternative answer.  Saul was wanting the blessing of God. On both occasions that he mingled with the prophets school, or entered into the geographic location of their activity, the Spirit of God that was upon the prophets came upon Saul, and so he willfully, spontaneously decided to submit to the anointing of the Spirit of God that came upon him. When the Spirit of God is poured out on a group, geography is part of the equation – vicinity is important.  The outpouring presupposes a geographical parameter.                                                                                                                                                                
  • Even within the release of New Testament Christianity, people who did not know what to expect, when receiving the Holy Spirit reacted in a manner that would, by normal parameters, be called strange. In Acts 2, the whole initial motivation of Peter’s sermon was to counter the charge that they were all drunk, as well as speaking in languages that they did not know. They were doing things , and acting in a way that was not in accordance with their normal modus operandi, nevertheless it cannot be said that it was against their will. 
  • Without precedence and foreknowledge of what it meant to, “receive the Holy Spirit,” in Acts 8, Peter and John laid their hands on Christians in Samaria, and although it is not stated whether they spoke in tongues, prophesied, or acted as if they were drunk, something visibly and tangibly took place, so much so that Simon Magus offered money so that he could lay hands on people and get the same response as when Peter and John ministered. Whatever happened could not possibly have been what they expected. 
  • Again, in Acts 19 when Paul baptised and laid hands on “about twelve” disciples in Ephesus they all spoke with tongues and prophesied. It could not have been what they expected, but this does not necessarily suggest it was against their will. 
  • On all those three occasions, people who had no previous experience of “what to expect,” even though they were hungry for more of God, were all immediately thrown into an expression – an experience – that they gladly submitted to, no matter how much their response was unlike their normal modus operandi. I believe this is what happened with Saul in 1 Samuel 10 at Gibeah and  1 Samuel 19 at Ramah. 
  • The moving of the Holy Spirit upon an individual causes phenomena in a unique and life changing way. Unbelieving people, or even Christian people, who do not encourage or entertain the supernatural breaking into the act of worshipping Christ and His Father, shy away from such things. Yet, Samuel was now a seasoned prophet, a man of character, depth and profound Godliness. From the understanding of the situation  of the music, the rhythm  and the prophesying, it was Samuel himself that had instigated the whole thing. When Saul came looking for David in 1 Samuel 19, he obviously entered into a meeting of the prophets where there was music, rhythm, dance and prophecy. Both times Saul stripped off his outer garments. This certainly suggests active and exertive dancing and movement. And Samuel was overseeing, undoubtedly with approval, the whole scene. It is the character of Samuel and his “stamp of approval” that demands this to be a legitimate practice. 
  • What is strange is that nowhere in the whole life of Samuel are we given any suggestion that the music, the dance and the stripping of the clothes, was done by Samuel himself, in fact we gain quite an opposite picture. Samuel’s interaction with Yahweh always  seems calm and very conversational, especially in his first receipt of a prophetic word in 1 Samuel 3, when God calls and the boy Samuel thinks that it is Eli speaking. 
  • My explanation of that phenomena is to assert that Samuel was a Holy Spirit “Carrier.” What do I mean by this? I mean that the gift of God that sat upon Samuel was so powerful and rich, that some way, in a manner not unlike Peter’s shadow falling on people who were ill and their receiving healing, Samuel’s praying, anointing and speaking were things that released the Holy Spirit to whoever was receiving  from him. 
  • The gift of God that sat upon Samuel was so phenomenally supernatural that while he could relax and smile at his prophetic scholars, something was imparted to their spirits that released them into the realms of the prophetic. 
  • In the world of the medical there is such a phenomenon as a “disease carrier.” This is a person who carries a virus, perhaps even one that could kill, yet the carrier has no symptoms at all. However, if that carrier mixes with other people, the disease he carries could be transmitted in the natural way. If we talk about the anointing and power of God, Samuel was a carrier. He obviously could impart something of that prophetic anointing that would have in its DNA the requirement for music, dance and rhythm to manifest the full parameters of what had been imparted by him. 
  • Our point is to explain how Saul entered into the prophetic umbrella that was shed abroad by Samuel’s gift onto the school of the prophets that were under his pastoral care.  In 1 Samuel 19, Saul prophesied, and was stopped in his tracks as far as the primary purpose of his visit was concerned. He came looking for David. He arrived and was somehow impacted by the Spirit of God. He danced and stripped off his outer garments. Supposedly exhausted, he lay naked on his back all night long and prophesied. No trance is presupposed. Saul’s heart was open for what happened. Saul was among the prophets.  
  • This is called, in the Hebrew, Nabism. A Nabi is a prophet. The people created a proverb, “ Is Saul also among the “Nabi?” This break out of the Spirit of God was initiated under the authority of Samuel the ultimate Nabi. 1 Samuel 3:20 tells us that all Israel acknowledged that Samuel was Nabi. So Nabism was not necessarily restricted to the dancing, frenzied like schools of the Nabi’m. (1 Chronicles 29:29 also refers to Samuel as a seer. All seers are prophets. Not all prophets are seers.)

This is so important in order for people to grasp the impact of prophets  and prophecy on Israel. Samuel initiated a move that was to increase over  several generations. This prophetic move came out of a dark period, ie: the days of the Judges. Remember that Samuel was the very last of the Judges.  It was at the very time when the disorganized charismatic leadership of the nation (ie: the Judges) was beginning to give way to a new era in which, to start with, men of princely and prophetic dignity were confirmed in their position by a method of popular elective support, and by arrangement with the elders of the people. First Samuel, then Saul, then David. This new phenomenon of Nabism also emerged from among the spiritual charismatics of the time.   What we are seeing here is the earliest form of the prophetic, referred to by all academics as nabism.  It at once attracted attention, and evoked criticism as well as enthusiasm, as it still does today. Where one person detects only heathen, demonic  frenzy, another sees the stirring of the very Spirit of God belonging to the essence of true worship as God desired. I am definitely among the latter.

The peculiar feature  of it, that really needs to be understood, is that of the group prophesying together in something that seems to the scripture reader, as an ecstatic experience.  Though ecstatic experiences were already familiar among the seers, these were things of which the earliest worship for Yahweh knew nothing.  The passage in which a group of prophets, is mentioned for the first time in Israelite history also notes that this band was coming down from the place of sacrifice (1 Sam. 10.5).  Furthermore, cultic places are later recorded a sites of the prophetic guilds e.g. Jericho (2 Kings 2.5). Gilgal (2 Kings 4.38) Ramah (1 Sam. 19.18).

It needs to be noted, for the clarity of thinking of many who struggle with this phenomena in scripture, that  occultic  excitation with the aid of narcotics or physical self-torture was always completely and totally anathema and unknown to Israelite custom, and always has been.  On the other hand, there was one well-attested element of Israelite worship ceremony, which could easily, and legitimately turn into ecstasy, and that was “the sacred dance.”  It is clear, moreover, that dance  in worship was practised by the nabi’m with particular abandon, and that music and song played a great part in heightening and enlivening its intensity. To add to this,  there is plenty of evidence in the Old Testament that the cultic dance was accompanied by inspired hymnody (2 Sam. 6.5 30.29; Psalms. 25.6. 118.27). Note also, as a side line, that Peter had fallen into a trance in Acts chapter 10 when he received a startling revelation that impacted the entire church.

A state of ecstasy enabled many to impart information in the name of Yahweh in a way which revealed the presence of a higher kind of knowledge – I mean prophecy.  This demonstrated that frenzy was not merely dissolution of normal consciousness, but an endowment of a  higher power, ie: the anointing of the Holy Spirit.  The prophet/nabi became the preacher par excellence, not only as a man who raised the acts of praising and calling upon God to the deepest depth, but as the prophet cum spokesman empowered by God to reveal His hidden will.   They demonstrated, what was considered the loftiest worship of Yahweh, in virtue of which the nabi’ becomes the man in whom the word of Yahweh flows.  (1 Sam 28.6; 2 Sam. 16.23, where “to seek a word from God” is equivalent “to enquire of the prophets.” (1 Kings 17.24; Hosea 12.11)

These are the basic features of the earliest dynamics of the biblical prophets.  It is impossible to render the issue under any general religious category, classifying it in terms of “physical versus moral,” “Godly or ungodly,” “right or wrong,” or even,  “psychic or spiritual.”  The decisive factor in any assessment of this practice must rather be its position in the totality of the particular relationship with the word of God to Israel, and the volume of its contribution, or lack of it, to the kingdom of God within the kingdom of Israel.  The scary thing, of course, to the Levites and the people as a whole, is that the prophets arrived without a certificate of achievement from anybody. All had to judge within themselves, “Is this a prophet or not? Is what has been said from heaven, or not?”

AGENDA ITEM 6.  KINGLY CONDUCT.

Finally, I think Samuel would have at least shown David the book he wrote concerning how kings should behave. In 1 Samuel 8 the prophet warned the people what a king would do. Verses 11-18 are a list of a king’s prerogatives that was intended, I believe, to scare them off wanting a king.  He declared that a king would do the following:

  1. He will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots.
  2. He will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties,
  3. He will take some to plough his fields and to reap his harvests, and to make for him his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots.
  4. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers.
  5. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants.
  6. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants.
  7. He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to do his work.
  8. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves.

I am sure that he would have encouraged David to avoid these things that would cause unrest in the land of promise.

Samuel and David must have talked until their mouths were dry about the issues above, and other stuff that we have not touched upon. The spiritual father of the nation would have poured as much of himself into David as his spiritual son could take. Their fellowship in God, and the inspiration they brought to each other must have been immense. The two of them must have wished they could be together for  years to fathom the depths of what they had in common through the Spirit of God.

The fellowship gave them a sense of eternal destiny. How long would these glorious days of revelation and teaching go on. Perhaps it could last for the rest of Samuel’s life.

How long? How long? What is it that could separate them?

 

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Categories: 1 Samuel 19:18- 20:1a, Dance, Kingmaker Prophet and future king have quality time together, Schools of the prophets, The sacred dance, The Temple | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Lonely and Confused Life of the King in waiting without a Mentor

The Greater “King to be” learning how to handle the dethroned “king in situ.”
(1 Samuel 19:18-20:1a)
The ten to twelve year old child who Samuel had drenched with a full horn of oil, was now a man. The fresh faced youngster that reminded Samuel of the days when he was first hearing the word of God from the divine Lord, was now a bearded soldier.  The arms of the child that embraced the lambs, now swung a sword, as well as a sling, better than most in Israel. The sheltered and excluded youngest son of Jesse was now a bar-mitzvah’d and engaging young man possibly in his early to mid twenties. The youth that once surveyed and studied the lives of sheep, was now a leader and teacher of men, who surveyed the whole nation of Israel in his meditations. The innocence, and lack of knowledge of childhood, had dissipated into a deeply spiritual and perceptive man of God, exploring deep things of the Spirit, not to mention the hardships of life, with every breath he took. All this had developed without any mentoring or teaching from Samuel, just the mentoring of the Spirit of God who sat and remained upon him, and his own listening ear.
Just where had Samuel gone after that day he anointed the child David? Where had he been for those 15 years or so? Didn’t David need him?

At this point of the real-time of our story, this fighting, fearless, anointed, future king was under more pressure than he had ever been hitherto in his lifetime. He had been bold and courageous for Yahweh, and had destroyed Goliath who had intimidated thousands of warriors and blasphemed God. He had walked in purity of spirit all his life hitherto. The fact that people sang, “Saul has killed his thousands, but David his tens of thousands,” in no way had spoilt David’s frame of mind. Stuff like that didn’t touch the future monarch, it was nothing but the popular voice that could praise him today and want him dead tomorrow. Crowds have always been the same. It was best to ignore it, and David did just that. Even with He who was far greater than David; it was, “Hosanna! Blessed be He who comes in the name of the Lord” on Sunday, and “Crucify Him!” less than a week later. But Saul allowed that same pop song to rot his very soul. He brooded over it. He allowed the words to keep him awake at night. On top of that he kept company with an attached demonic spirit that encouraged and fed the jealous impulses of hell within him. This thing from the devil’s bosom had come only to kill, steal and destroy. And he was doing a great job with Saul. The jealousy that Saul’s heart vomited with every thought of his lost dynasty, went spiraling downwards to a bottomless well of hatred.

 
The son of Jesse was utterly innocent in this regard. As far as the scripture tells us, Saul’s thoughts were actively plotting and planning against David. It seems, however, that nobody, at first, had a clue of the animosity Saul accounted against the sweet psalmist of Israel. Perhaps he was projecting the animosity he held against Samuel, towards David instead. He was afraid of expressing that animosity against Samuel. David seemed easy prey. Who knows the depths of the psychology of death and corruption that was encrusting the soul of Saul ben Kish? At first the court of the king, as well as the general public, thought that Saul appreciated David in the same way as they did. It was Saul that invited him to stay with him, to look after the royal suit of armour and to sing to the king when appropriate. It was Saul that promoted him within the ranks of the military. It was Saul who seemingly wanted David to be his son-in law … seemingly! Seemingly, Saul loved David. Little did the populace know.  But where was Samuel while Saul’s environment of intrigue was getting darker and stickier, and David’s life was in the balance, never mind his sanity?
 
The demonic plots of Saul to rid himself of the man that was more popular than he was, were rampant in his creative evil. At first David was welcomed into the family circle. Saul kept David with him from the day of Goliath’s death (1 Samuel 18:2). No ill motive is indicated at that point.  Although the malice of the king is not mentioned until the ladies of the nation started singing their song, with all things considered, if the King, who was the tallest man in the whole State of Israel, had trembled for nearly six weeks under Goliath’s braggadocio, surely it would be inconsistent with the overall biography of Saul, to think he kept David with him simply because of love and appreciation. Perhaps Saul was merely subscribing to the philosophy that calls on a person to keep one’s friends close, but to keep one’s enemies even closer.
Fear of any superior seeming character must have touched him from the moment Samuel told him that the kingdom was going to another who was better than him, even if it was subliminal at the beginning.  He was the tallest, and he was the king, and he had, to a point, shown himself to be brave in battle. Yet for nearly 6 weeks (40 days) he had failed to act and lead the armies of Israel out into battle against Goliath and the host of the Philistines. This youth, in his mid teens, had done what nobody else could or would do. If jealousy was not birthed in Saul between the moment that Goliath fell to the ground, and the next moment when David decapitated the giant, I would suggest that King Saul was walking in New Testament apostolic grace – which he definitely was not. Chagrin, fear and jealousy must have gripped Saul’s heart when he saw the giant fall. But how silly, for a mature man who must have been on the throne for around 25 years at the time of 1 Samuel 17, to fear a 15 year old. Saul must have fought a dreadful and bloody battle within his mind and lost. Should he love David for his music? Or despise him because of his popularity? The balance of Saul’s mind was under siege, and there was a demon that desired to push him off the scales.

David was coming to grips with the battle’s of life while Samuel was off the national and international scene, as far as we know. What was Samuel thinking? How did he keep himself busy? Why hadn’t he seen David at all during the fifteen years since he had anointed the little lad?  

David’s anointing brought him success in everything he put his hand to.  When David told Saul that he had killed lions and bears whilst defending his sheep, it undoubtedly took place after the anointing that Samuel performed upon him (1 Samuel 17:34-37). Once David reached 20, and joined the ranks of the military, he was incredibly successful in every sortie he was sent on.  David was promoted to a high rank in the army because of his valour and leadership, and the text suggests he was famous, known and sung about all over the country (1 Samuel 18:5). He was even extremely popular amongst all the senior military leaders of Israel. I find it also difficult to believe that Saul smiled all the way through David’s ascent into battle glory as well as into the hearts of the nation. Samuel must surely have heard of the national joy and merry making of the up and coming son of Jesse. He must have known what was happening in the court of the king as affection and support was heaped on his new general. Did the people have any love left for Saul?

What Saul missed completely, was what was most obvious. David’s success, popularity, and development of love, support and followers, was not a natural thing at all. It was a God thing. It was an anointing that just sat upon David’s life. Success and victory just followed him like a lap dog wherever he went and whatever he put his hand to. Saul must have had the mental facility to see and perceive this, as it was the very same process and exactly the same Spirit of God that had been with him when he had been chosen, anointed, in his early days as king. The demonic cloud that now pervaded his understanding simply held him back from seeing it or understanding who David was. The eyes of his understanding were utterly blinded to the phenomena of David’s personage and the trail of success and blessing that he left behind him wherever he went. His insecurities and fears caused him to see David as nothing but a young, “upstart,” that was challenging his own popularity. Oh the evil contrivances of a spirit of jealousy. Oh the exceeding sinfulness of sin.

It was in the earlier days of David’s ascent that Saul heard the hit song about David doing better as a soldier than he was. It was from Saul’s first hearing of the popular ditty that the king finally allowed his tormented spirit, and the demonic stronghold that was filling his mind, to take over. It was, “all demonic systems go,” in Saul’s heart from 1 Samuel 18:8 onwards. From that very moment Saul kept a jealous eye on David (1 Samuel 18:9). “Kept,” means it was a continuous, sustained eye on the man who was to be his successor. 24/7.  “Kept an … eye on David,” means that his animosity became an obsession. It suggests it was Saul’s secret addiction. The fact that this compulsion was birthed in and sustained by jealousy means it was from hell. Jealousy led to lusting for David’s death. That spirit of murder lead to sinful murderous actions. Those actions would take Saul’s self control away from him.  Oh the anguish of the situation! Quite literally, an animalistic tormented  spirit of murder was ruling Israel in the person of the king.

Sentiments of death were ruling the promised land of life and prosperity. David, at that early point of time was completely ignorant of what Saul’s thoughts were feeding on, as, I suspect, was the entire royal court. Was Samuel made aware of the king’s dissipation of character and mind? I wonder! Did Samuel have any idea how the little lad whom he had anointed to be king, was faring? I feel certain that Samuel was either told from heaven, or by his those people who reported to him. Did Samuel know all of David’s bundle of life? Does a fish swim in the sea?  Does God do anything without telling His prophets (Amos 3:7)? I am convinced when I chew over the sacred text, that Samuel knew the whole story.

Saul had weakly and wilfully opened the door. Demonic infestation quickly followed. The very next day an evil spirit came on Saul, “forcefully.” That is exactly what the scripture tells us. His darkness was complete. Note the moment that the demon burst upon Saul. It states that “Saul was prophesying in his house.” The gifts of God, without the character of God within, are no protection for an evil heart. The jealousy made it legal for the spirit to enter. Saul was prophesying whilst David was playing music to soothe the King’s mind. The scripture says, “…as he usually did.” David played to Saul regularly, and it did not only subdue the demon and allow Saul to prophesy, but through the prophesying Saul’s reason and perception obviously returned. So in the midst of anointed music and prophecy, the demon breaks out of the routine of normalcy, choosing to surface in Saul’s consciousness,  and decides to take hold of Saul; and the Javelin/spear that Saul had in his hand that was being tape wound, perhaps, or admired, suddenly became active in the mind of Saul as a weapon of death. Of a sudden, like being struck by a death blow, Saul thought to himself about pinning David to the wall. The spear was thrown at the musician in a blatant attempt to kill him.

1 Samuel 18:11 says that David eluded the throw of Saul’s attempt at murder twice. Whether it means twice in the same day, or on different occasions we are not informed. But we now have the rising star of Israel’s hopes on the battlefield, having to hide from the king of the nation he served. What an incredible anomaly! In his early twenties, how was he to process his own desperate situation in the machinery of his own understanding? What was David’s state of mind under this kind of pressure? Was he going to lose his integrity in the choices he had to make in order to cope with death threats from – of all people –  the king? By any standards, it must have seemed utterly surreal to the young soldier. It was such a paradox of reality, it must have seemed like a contradiction to David. It was a complete oddity. The man who had lost the anointing was on the verge of killing the one who would succeed him. There was an absurd ambiguity in the fact that the one who had lost the kingship was in a superior position, trying to use the people of the kingdom over whom David was to rule, in order to kill him. How was David handling the enigmatic inconsistency of being pursued to death by his own people? What was going through David’s mind as Saul’s priorities developed to the point where at times he was to ignore the Philistines and other enemies of Israel, and drag the armies of Israel along with him in pursuit of the outlawed son of Jesse?

The monarch was afraid of David, because he could see that consistent success and achievement was with him, that same achievement and victory that had left him because of his shocking series of choices. So now, Israel had a king filled with jealousy as well as fear, both of which characteristics were stirred and blended into a murderous obsession towards David. Didn’t Samuel have something to say that would pour oil on these troubled waters? Where was the prophet of God when he was so desperately required?

What should David do? Where should he go?

 

 

Categories: 1 Samuel 19 :18 - 20:1a, The greater pursued by the lesser, The Lonely and Confused Life of the King in waiting without a Mentor, The madness of King Saul, The silence of Samuel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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

(1 Samuel 16:15-19:17)

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Heart! A Heart! My Kingdom for a Heart! That Heart! That Heart! My Kingdom to that Heart!

A HEART! A HEART! MY KINGDOM FOR A HEART!      THAT HEART! THAT HEART! MY KINGDOM TO THAT HEART!
The Entire Horn Full of Oil Brought the Full Anointing of the Spirit.
(1 Samuel 16:4-13)
0001 JessesSons

Jesse’s seven sons meet Samuel.

OK! This is the big one for Samuel. It is also the last one. It is not the last we hear of him, but it is the last commissioned job that we know of given to him by God. Samuel was on his way, by divine instruction to a place called Bethlehem. It means “House of Bread.” It was in this place that He who said He was the “Bread of Life” was born.  And the big house that was undoubtedly at the centre of Bethlehem was clearly Jesse’s, and undoubtedly the place where the Bread of Life was born.

Most readers will instinctively respond to that last sentence by asking, “How on earth can this writer know that Jesse had the biggest house in Bethlehem?” Here is my answer. Can it be gainsaid?

Bethlehem is about 6 miles or so south of Jerusalem. Bethlehem was within the territory given to the tribe of Judah. Rahab, the woman who was  an innkeeper (not a harlot) in Jericho was grafted into the people of Israel because of her faith, and her actions that sprung from that faith in Yahweh. She married a man named Salmon, of Judah. Salmon must have lived in the big house in Bethlehem. I know that, first of all, because Salmon was the son of Nahshon. According to Numbers 1:7 Nahshon was at least 20 years old when Israel left Egypt led by Moses. He was a prince in Israel. Salmon lived in the biggest house in Bethlehem. We can be sure of that because he and Rahab had a child whose name was Boaz.  Boaz is the “mighty man of wealth” who owned most of the land around Bethlehem. He was well respected and godly. Boaz having a gentile mother, had no scruples at all about marrying a beautiful and godly gentile woman whose name was Ruth – as in “The book of Ruth.” Boaz  and Ruth had a son called Obed. We don’t know who Obed married, but he had a son called Jesse, who had a son called David. Catch the thread, and in so doing, catch the point about the huge dwelling place that was the family seat.

Because family, property and homes  and tradition were held tightly and firmly through unchanging customs and many generations, it is an assertion, generally agreed to by middle eastern people in the know, as well as statements made by historians, that Salmon of Judah who entered the promised land with Joshua, who would have actually known Moses, lived in the same home that David lived in as a child. The house would have undoubtedly been extended and/or “improved” through the generations, but it would, without question, have been the same familial house over  those first half a dozen descendants. It is possible (although I personally doubt it) that there are names omitted from the biblical line of descent, so it may have been over more generations. Bethlehem, it is believed, was known as the house of bread because of the far-famed fields of Boaz, which were corn, wheat and barley fields that had no parallel in Judah. The land given to Nahshon, or if he had deceased, to Salmon, by Moses must have consisted of a house and lands extending down the valley on the eastern flank of Bethlehem and embracing the celebrated fields.

0002 SAMUEL INSPECTS-JESSE'S SONS-234

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Bethlehem is a town in the Judean hills fifteen miles north of Hebron and Mamre, six miles south of Jerusalem and the border of Benjamin, and twelve to fifteen miles, depending on which road one takes, west of the Dead Sea. These distances seem trivial, but it must be remembered that, in a day where the average rate of travel is three miles an hour instead of fifty as it is today, these miles must be multiplied by nearly 17 to represent the real time it takes to get from one place to another. This place that progressed to be a town was called, since the days of Naashon, “Bethlehem-Judah,” Jewish people in the area tell the story of how, as soon as the temple was built on Mount Moriah, the weaving of the veils and curtains of the temple and its courts became part of the work of the town and was reported to be especially carried on by the family of Jesse. How that is known, I fail to understand. I would have thought that once David had ascended the throne, and then afterwards when Solomon had entered into an established wealth and grandeur, making curtains would have been the last thing that the royal family of Jesse would do. But, legends are legends.

When Ruth entered into what are now the hallowed precincts of Bethlehem, we are given a unique insight into the life of the time. We learn how Boaz added to his already great wealth the whole property of the late Elimelech and his two dead sons, and then he takes in marriage the Moabitess, Ruth. It seems to have been a done thing in the tribe of Judah to marry “alien” gentile women, Judah himself, the son of Jacob, married Shua, a Canaanite (1 Chronicles 2:3), and to this royal tribe Boaz belonged. It is also fascinating to note, that in scripture the Moabites were under a deeper curse than the Canaanites (See Deuteronomy 23:3). We refuse to bite the bait and follow that strand – in these pages at least.

0003 shepherds outside Bethlehem

Shepherds outside Bethlehem

But, concerning this building that was the home of Boaz, Jesse and David I would just like to digress a little, and add a postscript concerning what happened to the place. In the biblical account of David – the boy Shepherd who became the great king of Israel – when he was nearly sixty years of age, King David had to flee from Absalom his son over the Mount of Olives and then right away to a northern city of refuge called Mahanaim in Gilead, the other side of Jordan some 100 miles north-east of Jerusalem. Here he met with three great sheikhs who cared for him, and one of them, Barzillai, came back with him on his return to Jerusalem as far as the Jordan. The elderly and humbled King pressed Barzillai hard to come back with him to the capital and take a place at the royal table. It was, however, Barzillai’s eightieth birthday, and he said he could not come, but must return to be buried by his father and mother’s side in Gilead. Although Barzillai could not accept the offer, he asked David if his son Chimham could take his place. David accepted. So the King  returned with Chimham and treated him very much as his own son, and commended him to Solomon when he died. Chimham, therefore, lived all his life as a son of David. The next mention of Chimham is in Jeremiah 41:17. Rebels, who had murdered a man appointed as a Jewish leader by Nebuchadnezzar after Jerusalem’s fall, were fleeing to Egypt. On the way they stopped at the place where Chimham lived. And we read of Chimham in connection with Bethlehem. It speaks of the habitation (or inn) of Chimham, which is by Bethlehem. This “kahn,” or inn was at the same site of Boaz and David’s house, “by Bethlehem.” The inns, or kahns of the day were always the largest building in the town. Most English translations refer to the “habitation of Chimham,” the Masoretic text refers to the “kahn of Chimham.” Straightforward logic would therefore suggest that the grand old home of Jesse, David, and his seven brothers had become the possession  and home of the king’s adopted son, Chimham. There is simply no other way to account for the presence of Chimham in Bethlehem.

A sanitised image of Samuel anointing David

A sanitised image of Samuel anointing David

We must therefore suppose that David gave Chimham his house at Bethlehem, according to his promise to do all he could for him, to whom he became so much attached, as is seen by his message to Solomon (1 Kings 2:7); and thus we can readily see how Chimham got his habitation there. That this was so, appears all the more probable in that, as we know, the dwelling was large and spacious, and well fitted to be converted into a khan or inn sometime after  Chimham’s death, as would appear from Jeremiah. Chimham must have made a reputable name for himself for his name to be sustainably used through many generations as the identity of the place. A khan always gave great financial benefit to a town. People local to Bethlehem claim that this khan was one of great importance, as being the “starting-place” of caravans off to trade in Egypt. Alfred Schofield, when not producing his “Scofield Bible,” is on record as saying that “To give a khan to a town in those days was equivalent to giving a park or a hospital to the community now.” I find biblical trails like this, absolutely fascinating.

And there’s more!

The occasion in Jeremiah 41 where Chimham’s kahn is mentioned is also striking.  At this time a man called Ishmael, of the Jewish royal house, killed Gedaliah the Babylonish governor of Nebuchadnezzar. Johanan, another Jewish leader, fearing the wrath of the King of Babylon, fled southwards to Egypt  with a mixed multitude, and in so doing, forcibly dragged the daughters of Zedekiah the king, as well as the prophet Jeremiah, and his companion Baruch. But at Bethlehem, in the khan of Chimham, where the caravan had to be made up, he stayed some little time, during which Jeremiah was asked to pray for guidance as to whether the people should flee into Egypt or no. Jeremiah prayed for 10 days in the old house of David, ie: Chimham’s kahn. Jeremiah told them that the answer was a firm “No!” Nasty Johanan, however, was determined to go on. He declared that Jeremiah had lied and that God had not spoken to him. He then proceeded on his journey with all his company, including Jeremiah. This particular caravan of people, including Jeremiah, returned no more to the land of Israel.

But we haven’t yet finished. We know nothing more about the house that David lived in,  until, nearly six hundred years later. Down the road to Bethlehem from Jerusalem, a man called Joseph and a woman called Mary came to be taxed. Bethlehem was so near Jerusalem that it was always filled at feast-times, and Joseph found no room for them in the only khan, the very well-known khan that now, because of population growth and land expansion, was actually within Bethlehem. Those who know the East and its history, understand very well that the inn ” of Luke 2:7 could be none other than the khan of Chimham, the house of David and the dwelling place of Boaz, the house where Salmon lived with Rahab. It may be fading now, since modern global village culture bites into the traditions of men all over the planet, but  it was so in biblical times of both Testaments, that in any eastern district there was only one khan, and its site and name never changed through the centuries.

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Bethlehem. Could this be where Jesus was born?

Returning to the thrust of our focus, and the elderly prophet Samuel, we follow him into Bethlehem.  As in 1 Samuel 16:4. Samuel had felt it hard to bow to the decree of God concerning Saul being torn from his future dynastic line.  It grieved Samuel as much as it had grieved God Himself.  He had, however, sorrowed so much as to have received a rebuke from the Almighty — the only one recorded as spoken by God to him.

The grief might not have lasted so long with Samuel if he had known the future. That is something that is true of us all. God gives us insights into some aspects of the future. There is biblical prophecy explaining end times. These sections of the scriptures reveal all about the future of the world, heaven and hell as well as the reign of Christ on earth. I have also known and experienced, sometimes as being the subject of personal prophecy from prophetic ministers, and more often as a spectator, when a definite statement has been made concerning my own future. When such personal statements have been made by prophets to myself, I have acted on those words, even though they assumed that a certain point of life was going to go in a definite spoken direction.

As an example, many years ago, I had nine points on my driving Licence in the UK. I was in court for a fourth speeding offence, at which point I would have been banned from driving for three years or so. The possible ban had frozen all decisions of travelling and visiting friends and family. I was not going to stand before a magistrate for 3 or 4 months. It sounds trite as I think of it now, but at the time it was huge. It would have meant, of course, that I would lose my job, as the work I did at the time entailed  around 40,000 miles a year driving.

I was in a church service where a prophet who neither knew my name, my job or anything else about me, stated that, “There is a man here who has a court case coming up about fast driving. You will not lose your job. You will not lose your car. You will leave court with no “hold up” to your future.” I believed the prophecy and immediately made plans that assumed I would have the car and would be driving. When I stood before the magistrate It went exactly as the prophet had foretold.

Knowing the future is a wonderful thing at times. I am sure that knowing the day we will die, or the day our loved ones would pass away would be a torturous thing. But knowing something good is going to happen would bring utter release.

Samuel’s grief was not only because of Saul’s disobedience. It was all about an inner cry of, “What will happen to Israel without a king? Will they go back to the horrible days of the Judges? Will anarchy follow Saul’s death? How is it possible for Israel to progress?” This was the heartbeat of Samuel and his passionate pastoral care for, as well as his prophetic input to the nation.

The grief had stopped the very moment God told Samuel to go to Jesse of Bethlehem and said to the prophet, “I have chosen one of his sons to be king .” There must have been as much joy in his heart as there had been grief the moment earlier.

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Bethlehem Market place in 1907

Imagine also, as an overlay to this story, the fear of Saul in Samuel. I cannot perceive that Samuel did not want to fulfil the God given mission  because of a complaint, but he wanted to know about Saul. He shrunk from this task which added all that was required to confirm the doom of Saul. He sought to shun the duty by expressing apprehensions for his safety should Saul hear of the transaction.  “How can I go? If Saul hears it he’ll kill me.” Samuel lived just a couple of miles from Gibeah of Saul, and if he  went off with a saddled donkey and a pack donkey, Saul’s spies would know he was up to something and would attempt to stop Samuel in his tracks.  It makes logical sense, that if Saul and his followers were now in fear of Saul losing his throne, not knowing the mind of God or Samuel, there must have been a whole raft of random ideas in Saul’s head. “Will Samuel hack me into pieces as he did with Agag? Will he inspire somebody to rebel against me and wage a civil war? Will he  surrender me to the Philistines? Worse of all, will he pray against me in public?”

God’s instruction to Samuel was to take a heifer with him, and to tell folks that he was going to hold a feast with the people of Bethlehem. So here he was at the house of Bread. The difficulty of thoughts of danger to his life had been removed, and he was guaranteed Divine wisdom to direct his conduct. We can all walk safely when we have the counsel of God, when we are assured of strength and wisdom according to our day! The Lord opened up a clear way for Samuel by suggesting an exercise that concealed his chief object. He was to take a heifer with him, and call Jesse to the sacrifice and feast. This seems to have been not an unusual occurrence. A similar occasion took place when Saul was first told of the kingly dignity awaiting him.

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Bethlehem Old Market Place in 1907

Samuel was a living legend. It was quite an event in Bethlehem that the venerable son of Hannah should be there. The people held him in the very highest esteem, and felt an awe upon their spirits in his presence. His was entirely, so far as they were concerned, a spiritual mission. They trembled at the sight of him, crying in anguish, “Do you come in peace?” They had probably heard of his words to Saul. They had undoubtedly had some of the young men in their town present when he prayed a prayer that distressed the Philistines. They knew not to mess with God’s prophet. So, before any words were passed, “Do you come in peace?” seemed the right question to ask,

He declared his purpose. “I am come to sacrifice unto the Lord; sanctify yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice.” They were to wash their clothes-indicative of the spiritual cleansing of the heart which was essential to the right observance of any sacrifice. The text tells us that Samuel himself consecrated  Jesse and his sons and invited them in particular to the sacrifice. Samuel led them, he performed for them the priestly service as he was a Levite. That sacrifice at Bethlehem had its joy in a feasted meal and undoubtedly some good talks with the prophet. The day would be long remembered in the local chat for the sacrifice and the meal with Samuel. Some would be telling their Grandchildren, “I met and talked to the prophet Samuel.” It was a huge event, locally, and as the most important man in the nation was there, he would, of course stay in the largest house of the wealthiest family in Bethlehem. This happened to be the property of the man called Jesse. But before they sat down to feast upon the offered heifer, Samuel had another job to perform.

The great prophet sought a special interview with the sons of Jesse, that he might set apart one of them for a high dignity in the future history of the Hebrew nation. Up to these moments, nobody on the planet was aware of what was to follow, apart from Samuel himself. It wasn’t so much that Samuel would interview any of them before the choice of king, but perhaps, although there is none recorded, he would have the chance to enjoy a chat with the recipient of the kingly anointing after the choosing, as he did with Saul. A man to man talk between prophet and future king would be just what Samuel needed to assure himself of the nation’s future – that is with the assumption that a grown, intelligent man would be the choice.

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Samuel anointing David with onlooking brothers.

We have no idea of who was there when this moment of destiny arrived. Was it just Jesse and his sons (minus David) at first? Or could it possibly have been in the presence of other members of the elders of Bethlehem?  We are not told. I feel brave enough, however, to state that because of the state of mind of Saul, and the danger to all who would dare whisper the results of Samuel’s visit to the house of Jesse, nobody else was there but the members of David’s immediate family. What was about to happen would endanger people’s lives if it was discussed in the wrong company. For these reasons the camera of my mind sees, in glorious Technicolor, Samuel possibly in Jesse’s home just prior to going out to make the sacrifice, or possibly just after the sacrifice and before the feast, seeming to have asked Jesse to introduce to him all his sons. Whether they lined up before him, or were brought into the room one by one we are not told.

However it occurred, while Samuel stood with Jesse, in came Eliab his eldest son. Eliab was a soldier of Israel who was later fighting with Saul’s troops when they were paralysed with fear because of Goliath. He was obviously, tall, strong and able in appearance to look like a king.

We are here allowed into Samuel’s mind. Does this mean that Samuel wrote the text while he lived? Or was it his retelling of this memorable day that allows us into the great man’s thoughts? “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.” But then Samuel heard Yahweh say, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

0009David is anointed by Samuel as seven brothers and his father watch.Oh! How often have I read these lines and found myself utterly immersed in several points of observation.

  1. Samuel saw everything as “before the Lord.” That is because he himself lived in the presence of God, therefore “before the LORD.” We are not talking here about, “God is everywhere therefore wherever I am I stand before Him.” This is the reality of living in the Spirit, in the manifest presence of God. But because of Samuel’s very essence being in the presence of the Lord, he sees Eliab as, “Before the LORD.” The cusp of the supernatural, the threshold of the doorway between what is flesh and what is spirit, at the opening betwixt Heaven and Earth. Sublime!
  2. Samuel can tell the difference, instantly, between what are his thoughts, and what are God’s thoughts. He is aware, almost instinctively, where his words finish and where God’s words start. He thinks Eliab is the one to be anointed, and immediately the voice of God corrects him. Oh Lord, take me there!
  3. The ESV has Hebrews 5:14 saying, “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” This instant hearing of the voice of God shows Samuel’s spiritual maturity. It shows us that his powers of discernment were trained by constant practice, in fact it was a lifelong practice learned since that night in the tabernacle when, as a child God first called him.  Samuel’s gift for distinguishing between what was good and what was evil, what was man and what was God, what was self and what was the Spirit of God, was learned by practice and being practical in his responses to God.
  4. It causes me to believe that God is speaking constantly to all believers in this fashion. It must grieve the heart of God how rarely some of us hear him.
  5. It also informs us how close were Samuel and Yahweh. It’s like best friends walking together. One says, “I think this is right!” and the All Knowing Friend replies, “No! That is not right, because …,” and then gives the friend the reasons for the correction.
  6. If a man of Samuel’s maturity and gifting gets it wrong when he thinks from his own human resources, how much more do I?  The answer Samuel received to correct his error is one of these divine statements which, even without the context of this story is weighty, is simply one of those eternal truths that allows us to rest in our awe of the character of God.  “Man looks on the outward appearance. God looks on the heart.” The application of this principle is phenomenally ubiquitous.  This is the reason, of course, God could not leave the choice of the new king to Samuel, the correct choosing depended solely on God speaking to a man that was able to listen to what God was saying, and to do what the Word said.
  7. The Lord said to Samuel, “Look not on his appearance, or on the height of his stature: because I have refused him: for the Lord sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”  God  knows fully all that characterises the inward and spiritual nature of man. O heart, heart, what are you? A mass of foolishness and absurdities, the vainest, craftiest, wickedest, most foolish thing in nature.

00010 David_anointedSo Eliab stands there with Samuel shaking his head as if he was talking to an invisible other party, which he was. Then Abinadab, Jesse’s second born child entered the room, and passed by in front of Samuel. We are not told what Yahweh whispered to Samuel this time, but we are told plainly that he uttered the words, “The LORD has not chosen this one either.” This meant, assuming that Samuel spoke out loud, that Jesse, Eliab and Abinadab were now aware that Samuel was looking for someone for a special purpose. Could they have guessed what that purpose was before Samuel made it plain? Then entered Shammah (stated in 1 Chronicles 2 to be Shimea). “Nor has the Lord chosen this one,” were Samuel’s spoken words. So now we have father and three sons knowing that on this day God has chosen somebody for something. They probably concluded that it must be somebody of the family, but the biggest and best of the bunch were now excluded. Where was Samuel going in his search?

Verse 10 gives me a problem. It states that, “Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said, “The LORD has not chosen these.” Why does it give me a problem? Because the verse could not possibly imply that the youngest who (as we are all aware) was out looking after his father’s sheep, and was so young as not to be included even in Jesse’s thoughts for anything to do with “Grown-ups Business,” was one of the seven. It leaves us to believe that David had seven brothers. I cannot see how anybody could disagree with me there. But that would mean that the list in 1 Chronicles 2:13-16 gives a deficient list. It says, “Jesse begat Eliab his firstborn, Abinadab the second, Shimea the third, Nethanel the fourth, Raddai the fifth, Ozem the sixth, and David the seventh.” We are then told of David’s two sisters, “Now their sisters were Zeruiah and Abigail. And the sons of Zeruiah were Abishai, Joab, and Asahel-three.”  Great! No problem! But why does 1 Samuel 16:1o say that seven sons passed by Samuel, not including David?   Ah well! That is a question for when I get to see God’s face.

So all 6 or 7 sons have past Samuel, and while listening to God, the prophet has shook his head at each one of them. What next?

00011 Bethlehem today.

Aerial view of Bethlehem today.

There must have been a pregnant pause. Seven fine strapping young men, and God says, “No!” to them all. Jesse and his sons must have deduced that Samuel wanted to be introduced to Jesse’s sons because God had told him that one of them  was to be king. So, surely, Samuel must have misheard the Divine voice? But he knew full well he had not misheard at all. Therefore, logically, there must be at least one other son.

“Are these all the sons you have?” asked Samuel. Then we have Jesse’s classic answer, “There is still the youngest, but …”  Ah! “But…” Samuel had asked to see Jesse’s sons. Jesse assumed that the man of God acts on the way things are, and not on the way things will be in the future. Surely the prophet was after a man, a fighting man, a man’s man, no matter what the purpose of the search was. But God was looking into the future. Tomorrow’s kingly man, was today’s junior playing in the yard. Tomorrow’s mighty man of valour and integrity, was today’s “innocent” looking after the sheep. Tomorrow’s leader whose word the masses would hang on, is today’s little boy who is told to shut up, stay away from the men’s business and just look after the sheep.  Jesse did not even use the boy’s name. “There is still the youngest, but he is tending the sheep.” I can see Samuel’s eyes opening wide while he stares at Jesse, and Jesse attempting to justify himself. “He is of no consequence Samuel. He is young, small, good for nothing but the sheep, he is not a man that you or I can talk to. He is not a fighter to recount acts of bravery. He is a little lad.” Enough said!

“Send for him,” says Samuel. “We will not gather round, or be seated until he arrives.” So Jesse sent a servant, it does not suggest one of the sons was asked to go, and the father had this nameless child brought into the house, and the room where they were all stood waiting. We are told that when he entered he was noticeably ruddy, fine and handsome. The NIV tells it as “He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features.” The NLT: “He was dark and handsome, with beautiful eyes.” You get the picture. One commentator is convinced that the word “ruddy” is informing us that David was a red-head. Whatever the actual strict translation is, David was a striking looking young boy with external features that projected a warm and open heart.

BibleAs the unnamed boy enters, Samuel hears God clearly and distinctly. “Rise and anoint him. He is the one.” Thank God that Samuel could hear the divine instruction so promptly. It seems the brothers and the father remained standing whilst Samuel sat.  In front of the whole family, at least all the male members of the family – we are not told if this unnamed boy’s mother or two sisters were present, it simply reminds us that it was in front of the boy’s brothers – Samuel stood up, removed the cap of the horn that was filled with anointing oil, and poured the contents all over the boy’s  head.

It is at this point that the Bible tells us the name of this stripling of a boy, and makes a remarkable statement. “From that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power.”

This child was to become the man after God’s heart. This future king, who was a boy after God’s heart, at last was found!  This youngster was to be captain of the people of Israel, who would submit to God in all things, who would fulfil in his rule all the will of God. The new king of Israel had been selected. The great type and the earthly progenitor of the Messianic King, and the pledge of Israel’s greatness, had stood out before the prophet’s eye. God had said, “I choose that one!”  Samuel’s grief must now have been utterly assuaged.

We are now introduced to one whose personal history and typical character are of undying spiritual interest to Bible students everywhere. We can see Christ throughout the life of David if only we search for Him. Genius was born in this youngest fruit of Jesse’s loins. Music and poetry were a part of his nature. Both received a high development from his constant attention to his gift. His harp often sped on the slow moving day or the stationery night, as he watched his flocks. David was a poet, and sang his own Hebrew melodies to his tuneful harp. He was godly, and dedicated his music to the praise of Yahweh. He was profoundly acquainted with the word of God, and while setting many of its heroes of faith and events of grace to music, he was permitted to add largely to the volume of inspiration. Samuel rejoiced in David from the day of his anointing, though he saw not yet all things put under him. In like manner may the believer rejoice in the Son of David and the Son of God, though he sees not yet all things put under His feet. We have a pledge of his future government of all things after God’s own heart in what He has already done.

The job was done. What else was there for Samuel to do. We can but assume that the sacrifice and the feast continued with Samuel present. The moment must have seemed like a surreal aberration. Imagine the memory banks of Jesse and his older sons. The legendary prophet Samuel had appeared to make sacrifice and hold a feast. He calls them all in one by one, and shakes his head, saying to Jesse, “Yahweh has not chosen this one! Nor this one! Nor this one!” Then when the troublesome little sibling enters the room, the elderly man bursts into action and pours an entire horn of oil over his head.” We don’t know what Samuel said as he poured the oil. Perhaps he was actually saying, “I anoint you to be king over Israel,” similar to what he did with Saul. The oil poured over Saul’s head had the same effect as that which was poured over David’s head. Then, before they could ask Samuel, debate, or inquire, it simply says, “Samuel then went to Ramah.” In plain English, Samuel went home  – in more ways than one. Samuel could not have even had a heart to heart with such a youngster. We are not told that any words had passed between the prophet and the king elect. The future was set. It would obviously be years before David could become man enough to be king. Samuel must have left Bethlehem half convinced that David’s enthronement was something he would never see.

The only factual observation they could discern that left them all without a doubt as to what had happened was that David was a changed boy. From then on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David. No one could say it was David’s mind, or adroitness in his natural progress and development. Everybody who knew him could see – it was God.

Samuel must have sighed as he reached the Naioth again. Was his life over? Was there anything else for him to do?

The elderly prophet who had served as a slave to benefit the people of Israel, was now estranged from the present king because of animosity from him. Samuel was estranged from the king to be, through age, and the need for him to sit under parental and sibling education. What was the retired life to be like?

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

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

WRONG CHOICES ARE DESTRUCTIVE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shiloh. Taken from the west.

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

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

Saul battling the Ammonites.

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

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

One artist’s impression of Samuel anointing Saul.

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

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

Surrealist portrait of Saul

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

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

When news had reached King Saul he had responded by chopping up the cattle he had been working with, sending some part of the bloody carcase to every tribe in Israel, and threatened to do the same with anybody else’s precious herds who did not join the battle for the nations’ dignity and security, to save Jabesh Gilead. 
Oh!  This was excellent!   Absolutely excellent!  The monarchical system was biting!  Ladies and gentlemen, for Saul-ben-Kish, to show himself a true king, opportunity had knocked loud and clearly.
It was received on various levels of understanding.  Jabesh-Gilead was quite a large settlement, and if that was to fall, there was no telling how many attacks, or how deep an inroad Nahash might want to make into Israel’s eleven other tribal distinctions.  On top of that, if Jabesh was neglected as a seemingly “remote” outpost, how many other warring hordes might start to pick off “outpost” cities.    
Also, it would seem that the Ammonites were quite numerous, and the inference is made in the biblical narrative, that it would take a nationally recruited group of fighters to match Nahash’s army.  No mention, however, or indication is given of the numerical size of Nahash’s troops.
All the pre-discussed grounds for wanting a king had come into play with the first national crisis of Saul’s reign.  And like the dream set of a Hollywood movie, the scripture says: “and the fear of the Lord fell on the people, and they came out with one consent.”  The unity and resolve to follow their king to battle was a startling new social and spiritual phenomenon in Israel.  It was as much a spectacle as the selecting of the monarch. Bezek lay about sixteen miles from Jabesh.  The Israeli camp in Bezek had a spirit, an anticipation, an expectation all of its own.  Saul numbered,  mobilised and arranged his men. “And when he numbered them in Bezek, the children of Israel were three hundred thousand, and the men of Judah thirty thousand.”  Now that is a wonderful army to go out warring with on your first battle as King of Israel.  Could he possibly lose?
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There is an amazing amount of undertone of all shapes and sizes in every line of the scriptural narrative.  It is primary to note that 330,000 men was the army amassed to slay the Ammonites, suggesting how big an attack on Jabesh-Gilead the Ammonites had mounted.  The Ammonites were obviously not intending to return home after taking Jabesh Gilead. Jabesh would be their home – and so it does reveal to us, that in defending Jabesh, the masses were fighting for their own freedom.  To be objective however, whether or not 330,000 men matched Nahash, or totally overwhelmed them is not explained.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

God save the King

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

More Troops Than You Can Count? More Like: More Troops Than You Can See.

MORE TROOPS THAN YOU CAN COUNT?  MORE LIKE: MORE TROOPS THAN YOU CAN SEE.

Relax and let the angels take the strain.

(1 Samuel 7:6–12)

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Elisha saw more angels than human soldiers (2 Kings 6)

For something like a quarter of a century Samuel had been the principle personage among the people of Israel, and had, no doubt, long exercised the varied functions of a Judge of the nation of Israel.  But their tribes were scattered and broken, many of their fortresses were under the jackboot (as it were . . . sandals really!) of their enemies. There was scarcely any communal national life per se in the existence of the multiple tribal identity 0t the one nation.  In this, the first general assembling of Israel for several generations, the first public acknowledgement of Samuel’s towering character of leadership and authority was finally enacted.  Together, en masse, he, alone, was postured by the unanimous Israeli national will in a leadership frame of reference.

The inter tribal unity was at its highest level since they had entered the Promised Land prior to the days of the book of Judges. Some reckon that to be more than 400 years previous. For the moment their parochial self interest was abandoned for the national good.  Not that all jealousies were dropped.  There are several times in the days of Saul, and later in the days of David and Solomon where the northern tribes continually show their displeasure at the favour granted to Judah and the southernmost tribes (Benjamin and Simeon) as opposed to the northern peoples.  This inferiority complex or “North-South divide” existed until both the Hebrew kingdoms of Israel and Judah were exiled, something like five hundred years after the day of which we are now speaking. This residue of hate was never cleansed from the barrel of the cosmos that was Israel, even in Samuel’s day. However, Samuel’s strength of character and purposeful input into the various tribes must have repressed all outward expressions for a while.

The anti-Judah jealousy was probably still existent in spite of Samuel’s strength, in as much as he spent his life in Benjamin and Ephraim. His circuit was in the same area, and only once do we actually have word of his travelling further north, and that was because enemy forces drew him there while our prophet was chaperoning Saul on his early monarchical prerogatives.

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With a new God consciousness, and without the intemperate ideas of the idols and the licentious acts of worship that the priests of such false deities demanded, Israel came innocently and unarmed to a simple worship gathering at Mizpah, called and convened by Samuel himself. This in itself was an act of repentance.  It was a total abandonment of all the things the Canaanites loved most, especially the Philistines, namely armed violence and pillaging.  After twenty years of toil, Samuel had actually opened the eyes of the covenant people as to why they had suffered so much misfortune.  Without any weapons of war, they congregated to worship. With no idols to hinder their prayer, the convocation of the masses commenced.  The abandoned false gods represented the productive power of nature.  They were generally worshipped with a wild and wanton devotion.  Now they commenced their worship by pouring out water in the sand, although, it does not say Samuel did so.  Did the people act apart from his instructions?   It must be conceded that it was a brand new tradition typical of Samuel’s creativity.

The King James Bible suggests that all the people gathered water and poured it out before God, enacted with fasted hungry bellies, saying, “We have sinned against the Lord.”  They were thus enacting their spiritual posture that owned themselves as water, poured and soaked into the sands of time which cannot, under any circumstances, be re-gathered.

The seventh chapter of John’s gospel tells of a major ceremony that was conducted on an annual basis in the temple at Jerusalem, where the very same pouring of water took place.  The event was such a major one that drains and conduits were awkwardly put into place  within the Temple area simply to facilitate the procedure.  Reasoning from the King James Bible,this striking action which drew forth Jesus cry, “If any man thirst let him come to me and drink,”  seems to voice the same meaning as what happened at Mizpah that day. The nation of Israel was unified in seeking heavenly refreshment.

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The Chaldean version of the same verse reads: “They gathered together and poured out their hearts like water in repentance before the Lord.”

It is still exciting to contemplate.  The fasting and the actions, whichever is the truest interpretation (and why not both?) brought them into a place of righteous standing with Yahweh.  God accounts faith as righteousness to people, and has always done so.

After a day’s active repentance, the bible says that Samuel judged them there, in Mizpah.  His judgement was undoubtedly on things spiritual as well as temporal. Things religious as well as civil.  Things criminal as well as things concerning the people’s walk with God.  He was, to them, the embodiment of the expressed word and wisdom of God, and they acknowledged him as such.

There would be times when he sat to hear their cases.  There would be times when he rose to address them. “He judged them.”  The vast congregation would have gathered around the man as he arose to address them. He had led them ad hoc for twenty years, but now he was THE leader, acknowledged, exalted and followed by all. It was official in the hearts of the people, although there was no written contract of role. Samuel took responsibility as and when he was required to.

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Angels met the shepherds when Christ was born.

Samuel would have assured them in God’s name of the pardon of the nation’s sin upon their repentance, and that Yahweh was reconciled to them. It was a judgment of absolution.  Whereas before he acted only as a prophet, now he began to act as a magistrate, to prevent their relapsing into those sins which they had lately renounced. It must not be forgotten that he was also of the tribe of Levi – and therefore was a legitimate priest.

Picture the sheep as they gather needfully around their shepherd.  See the man Samuel at his full stature. This was true spirituality in a haven like context far from the violence and murderous war like disposition of the surrounding populations.

However, while these days of national corrective assessment were taking place, there was a severe rumbling in the valleys immediately beyond Mizpah.

The Philistine war lords were listening to their spies and their counsellors.  To them it seemed that revolution and warfare were in the air.  The economy of the Philistine cities had taken a turn for the worse.  The intermingling with the Israeli people at the shrines had decidedly decreased, and well nigh ceased.  There was news in the Philistine Five Cities of idols being burnt and shrines being neglected or destroyed amongst the people of Israel.  The breaking down of the idol memorials would have been seen, at the very least, as a revolution. “You burn our gods and idols? You obviously are planning war!” This would have been the conclusions arrived at by all the uncircumcised, heathen nations and peoples that were still living among them in Israel’s promised land. And now to confirm all their worst nightmares and fears, the entire nation of the Israeli tribes had met at Mizpah.

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Elijah and the chariot of fire. A painting by Emerson Farrell.

There is really only one conclusion a war minded cynical idolatrous heathen could arrive at.  This so called “religious meeting” at Mizpah was undoubtedly a rallying point for inciting war.  They were beseeching Yahweh to aid them to defeat the Philistine ranks, and any other ranks about them. There could not be any other explanation, given the understood Philistine Paradigm.

To an idolatrous mind, and to someone who tenaciously clung to the concept of a national god who fought only for the nation who owned it, it was a call to arms for the Philistines. The five Philistine kings would have taken heart that Yahweh “obviously” had his weak point, as they had defeated the Israelis twenty years earlier at Aphek, and had stolen the Ark of the covenant. The Philistine priests had experienced the power of Yahweh, and for that reason they had returned the Ark to the Hebrews, but to ensure that there would be no national resurgence of religious fervour, they had razed Shiloh to the ground.

By the normal theology of the nations round about Israel at that time, it was a sure sign that Israel’s God could not help them.  If the Ark and the tent were not being utilised for national worship, then to their mind, Yahweh could not be appeased, and therefore they would be at a great advantage on the battlefield. With all these deliberations assuring them of victory, at least to their heathen satisfaction, they set out to finish the Israelis off whilst they were still bowing the knee in prayer at Mizpah.

When the Hebrew sentries on the fringe of the incredibly large gathering looked down the valleys and saw the dark shadow of Philistine forces moving across the green land toward them, they were absolutely petrified.

The brief, minimal language of the bible cannot hide the tension and the terror that gripped them all.  Naturally speaking, they were without a chance.

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“Let all the angels of God worship Him.” Hebrews 1

However, in the midst of the fearful screams the reality of their spiritual renewal surfaced and dominated their thinking.

They dared to ask for the seemingly ridiculous; an invasive, intrusive miracle.

The unarmed and mostly untrained people shouted together asking Samuel to pray for them. “Isn’t Samuel equal to Moses, or Joshua?”  Why not make such a request?  Picture the panic!  See the screaming society of farmers hallucinate on the horror of their terror! They had not been to war for twenty years.  After all 34,000 soldiers who were lost in a couple of battles with the Philistines so many years earlier had knocked the life out of Israel, as well as the desire to fight even for their land. Too many families had lost too many loved ones. They had arrived at Mizpah with their wives and children with nothing but the picnics and clothes they stood up in. They had gathered for spiritual warfare, not physical battles. They had nothing but their prayers, tears and repentance to fight with. But always remember that repentance and faith are surely the most powerful weapons in the whole of the cosmos. Their new spiritual posture was proven to be properly rooted, as they remembered the old days of Moses and Joshua. And so, with no other option, apart from running for their lives of course, they, as one man asked Samuel to pray.

Never could an injurious attack have been more in season.  Never were Israel better prepared to receive their enemy.  Samuel was never perceived as a military man, nor as a mighty man of valour in the, “Stand up and fight with your sword,” interpretation of that phrase, yet they asked for his help. However, Samuel was a mighty man of valour in a different battlefield than that of Aphek or Socoh. Samuel had a different kind of sword with which to decapitate Israel’s enemies. The prophet had a different army to mobilise.

From the heights of Mizpah they could see the Philistines approaching.

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Samuel acts without a word. God must act  here and now in miraculous power and glory, or this is the end of Israel as well as their prophet. He quickly sacrifices a single suckling lamb. It was a burnt offering, i.e. nothing eaten or reserved for human benefit. Totally God’s.  The entire animal.  One instead of hundreds – for it was the heart that God looks at, not the amount of blood that was shed.

One cannot but feel the urgency in Samuel’s actions.  He sacrifices the lamb and screams aloud in prayer. The thing seems to have been done hurriedly.  Time was short.  Death was near approaching in the cloud of the Philistine war whoops.  The rites and practices imposed by the law could not be followed to the letter here, there was nothing like enough time.  Perhaps the fact that Samuel only offered one lamb was for no other reason than the shortage of time that they had.  The Philistines were almost upon them.

He was a Levite, not an Aaronic descendent to act as High Priest.  He was, however, raised as a prophet.  And thus, because of the uniqueness of his calling, and the tenderness of his heart towards the Almighty, God Himself sidesteps the formalities of the law. The moment was unique and extraordinary.

At the moment of the sacrifice God blew, and then overthrew.  As Samuel prayed, and while the smoke of the sacrifice was still ascending, the first line of the Philistine storm troopers appeared over the top most slope of Mizpah.  But, at that very moment a terrible portentous hail storm broke out, with earth shaking peals of thunder.

The Philistines immediately felt (to put it mildly) that this change in the weather was not to their benefit. They may have even concluded that it was Yahweh- fighting on Israel’s behalf. If they thought that, they would have been correct. They turned, in great disarray and pandemonium.  The wind blew, and the rain fell, the Philistines flew and many of them also fell.  The men of Israel suddenly understood.  Yahweh of the angel armies was fighting on their behalf. There are those that fight for God, and there are those that God fights for.

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The Angel of the Lord, as William Branham knew him, hovering over his head.

With an awesome resurgence of courage and faith, they all started chasing the enemy as fast and as far as they could.  Israel chased and abased their enemy. As in the battle two decades earlier God had justly chastised the people of Israel with two profane priests carrying the Ark of God on sinful shoulders, so now He graciously accepts their humble dependence on the prayer of faith from the mouth and heart of their pious prophet.

Once more as in the days of old.  The glorious arm of Yahweh fought without need for swords and shields.  The awful storm bursting over the formerly combatant hosts of Philistia, the storm probably beating in the face of the erstwhile advancing armed forces, utterly defeated them.

The children of Israel had started with little hope, if any, but were solely gripped with a great desire for God.  Desire for God is always the better part.  Desire for God is the quintessence of all that creates hope.  The tribes welcomed the squall of bad weather as the answer to the prophet’s prayer, and with wild enthusiasm charged down and broke up the intense ranks of their oppressors, simply by running at them. They were without arms.  Josephus adds to the scene and says there was also an earthquake.

Each crash of thunder, each wild and fresh gust of wind and hail was welcomed by Israel as a fresh onslaught on the part of the unseen army fighting on their side.

The men of Israel that had ran off so suddenly after the Philistine enemy forces were probably not seen for a couple of days at least. Any arms used by Israel were obviously those that were taken from the Philistine cadavers scattered all over Mizpah’s valley and Israel’s extensive plains.

The Philistines were chased as far as an unknown centre of population knows as, “Beth Car.”  Wherever this place is on the map, it is obviously mentioned in order to make the point that the Philistines ran until they could run no more. And The Israelites chased them until there was no one else to chase.

All victories are sweet. But victories against a longstanding foe, on the same field as a previous humiliating slaughter was, dare one use the word in the context of warfare, almost “healing” for the nation.

The sense of release within the people of Israel must have been tremendous.  The consciousness of Divine blessing must have been overwhelming.  The eulogising of Samuel was surely so intense it would have been repeated every night around the camp and house fires until every survivor of that day had passed away.

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Samuel was not, however, fooled into any kind of sense of his own “importance. As we would, by now expect of the man, he quickly instructs the people to set up a monument that would ensure the memory of that day would abide in the psyche of the nation, and strengthen the faith of Israel for generations to come. It was erected on the same field where such a tragic defeat had been inflicted a generation or so earlier. The scene of carnage reversed, now received the name of, “Eben-ezer,” meaning literally,  “The stone of help.”

Samuel announced as they set up the monument, “Hitherto has the Lord helped us.” Somewhere between Mizpah and Shen the stone was placed. I wonder if it is still there.

This was not so much a solitary victory, but the sign of a new spirit in Israel. Samuel fully realised the importance of the day.  Neither Shen – “the Tooth”, nor Mizpah – “the watchtower” have been definitely identified.  The description probably denoted some famous landmark of Samuel’s time.  It was essential for the building of their future.

The man of God knew that every “hitherto” with God has a “henceforth” wrapped around it.

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Categories: 1 Samuel 7 verses 6 – 12, More troops than you can count? More like: More troops than you can see., Relax and let the Angels take the strain | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Biblical Definition of a Prophet

A Biblical Definition of a Prophet.

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So, how is a prophet defined from scripture?

We have the prophetic gifting, and the office of a prophet modelled for us by many people in the Bible. Using them as the template of a definition, we cannot but be on safe ground. Yet, each one is so different! Each biblical prophet has their own character, their own modus operandi, and their own emphasis. If there is one thing that is uniform about them all it is that there is no uniformity betwixt one and another. The human character of each is an incredible variable when attempting to define exactly what a prophet is in biblical references.

Prophets hear God in ways that are so diverse from, “normal Christians,” that at times people are tempted to utterly disbelieve them. Most people would rush to conferences and teaching sessions on, “How to Hear from God.” Or “How to know what God is saying.” But prophets have no problem with that at all. Their issue is what to do with what they have so clearly heard.

As a prime example, there is Moses. The interview with God at the burning bush is one of a simple explanation of how Moses would make himself plainly understood in explaining what God was saying to Pharaoh, as well as the children of Israel. Moses had an issue with how to make the point clear. He complained that he had a stutter, or something similar, and asked what to do if he was rejected.

In response to Moses’ complaint, God said something that explains God’s own definition of what one of His prophets is. A prophet of God stands before God in the same relationship that Aaron had as he stood before Moses his brother.  Yahweh said to Moses, “Your brother Aaron shall be your prophet” (Exod. 7:1-2), and “you shall be to him ‘God ” (Exod. 4:15,16). Whatever God said to Moses, Moses received it alone. Then he had to repeat it word for word to Aaron with all the same nuances of tone and feeling that God had shown in relating it to him. This means that every time we read in Exodus that,“Moses said to Pharaoh,” it was never actually Moses that did the saying. It was Aaron speaking for Moses, as Moses, I assume, would have stood by watching the events in silence.  No wonder Pharaoh was so angry! He must have been wondering why Moses did not want to speak to him. Moses would have spoken to Aaron in Hebrew, even though he could speak Egyptian. Pharaoh would have heard Aaron speak in Egyptian while thinking that the man Moses was ignorant of the language.

This relationship takes us into an uncharted and rarely understood concept. There are those that fight for God, and there are those that God fights for. God fights for and defends his prophets. Just as he did with Abraham in protecting him from the wrath of Pharaoh and Abimelech for lying, just as he did with Isaac when the fear of God fell on all the Canaanites so that they dare not touch him, just as God warned and prepared Jacob to leave his cheating uncle Laban, even though Jacob himself was known as a supplanter; and just as God fought for and watched over Joseph throughout those last chapters of Genesis.

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Another observation concerning prophets is that they know by relating to God and hearing from God what non prophetic people only know by book reading or sermon listening.  I know that prophets often hear things that nobody has even thought of before, but when they speak of commonly discussed subjects, they often have a completely new perspective. This gives them an authority that cannot be matched by academic learning. The man with an experience with God is never at the mercy of a man that has an academic appreciation of God. Elijah was incredibly assured when he announced that there would be no rain until he said so. That could not be understood by any book learning. No climate prognosticator could match Elijah in 1 Kings 17.  He was confronting the political authority of a king when he said it. He had disappeared from King Ahab’s presence before the wimpish king could ask, “Elijah! How could you know such a thing and have the authority to do what you are saying?” Moses did the same when he spoke to Pharaoh. Moses did not politely ask if the people of Israel could be excused from duty. It was, “This is what God says; “Let my people go!””  “But Moses, how could you possibly know that this is what God wants?” Prophets are rarely Politically Correct. Even Nathan, when confronting the much loved King David about his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah, did not quietly and respectfully ask if he could have a moment out of David’s busy day. “You are the man!” Nathan said to the King. One cannot really imagine those words being spoken without Nathan pointing straight at David’s chest. A prophet has a word and it’s a burden upon him until he delivers it.

Spontaneity is another trait of prophets. Not that every single prophetic word takes them on the spur of the moment, of course. That is just not true. But many things are spoken by prophets in the Bible that, when seen in their context, must have happened on the very spur of the moment. Abraham’s, “The Lord will provide Himself with a lamb,” is a prime example. Samuel’s declaration to Saul, “The Lord has torn the kingdom from you,” immediately after Saul had torn Samuel’s garment, must have been a word given him in that very moment. Isaiah 38:1-5  tells us how Isaiah, having told Hezekiah that he was about to die, was sent by God to return to the king and retract his words. Instead of dying in the immediate Hezekiah was told that he had 15 more years to live.

Prophets are gifted with a penchant for knowing what God is thinking about issues, people and circumstances of life. They seem to pick out of the air some thought or statement that seems trivial in one moment – and then seismic when it is understood. They see something or perceive something in the Spirit, then quickly with a throw-away line they impact a person’s life, their relationships, or even a nation. What they say with their gift is what God is saying. It does not matter in the slightest whether it is spoken with drama or lack of it. It is not more inspired because it is said with a strong clear rhetoric or stuttered and stumbled over with a speech impediment. The word of the Lord is the word of the Lord no matter how it is delivered. It is the receiving of that word that is more important than the delivery. I am talking of a true prophet. How often have any of us seen this?

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So prophets have a form of intimacy with God that most Christians do not grasp the nature of. I do not mean that other Christians do not have intimacy with God. A pox on that thought! But prophets have a particular intimacy with God that facilitates them to hear what God’s thoughts are. I believe God is whispering to the hearts of all Christians all the time. It is simply that millions do not know how to hear the voice of the Almighty. “Let him that has ears to hear, hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches.”

In the Old Testament “Thus says the Lord” is stated around 3500 times. As far as mankind is concerned, prophets are “Tellers”  and the “mouth” of God (Jeremiah 15:19).  Prophets are “impelled” and compelled by God Himself (II Peter 1:21). God deliberately and wilfully lays His thoughts in the mouth of a prophet (Deuteronomy 18:18; Jeremiah 1:9). God quite literally speaks through them (II Samuel 23:2). Their messages are the “utterance of God” (I Peter 4:11). Prophets were essential for the development of revelation and the purposes of God in the Old Testament. It is my solemn conviction that they are just as essential in the New Testament church today.

Prophets see things that millions of Christians don’t glimpse or even have a clue about. That is why they are sometimes referred to as seers (I Samuel 9:9; I Chronicles 9:22; Isaiah 30:10). All seers are prophets. Not all prophets, however, are seers. Seers must first see the message before they can pass it on (I Chronicles 29:29; Isaiah 30:10). Isaiah’s entire 66 chapters are referred to as a vision (Isaiah 1:1), inferring that he saw something even when he does not say so.

When contemplating the issue we are negotiating, whoever it was that wrote Hebrews starts with, “God who at sundry times and in diverse and various manners, spoke in times past unto the fathers by the prophets…” (Hebrews 1:1). The modes of the prophetic experience were definitely at sundry times and in varied and diverse manners.

There are, in scripture prophecies, the sources of which were physically, tangibly seen. The prophet hears and sees with his normal bodily senses (Numbers 12:8). They see things, when in company with others, that nobody else sees. Moses sees and hears at the flaming bush (Exodus 3). Samuel hears, but sees nothing, even though the text informs us that “The Lord came and stood there, calling as at other times.” (I Samuel 3:10). In another place Daniel sees things, but hears nothing (Daniel 5:25). Abraham, meanwhile both sees and hears (Gen. 18). These men were all prophets.

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There are also in scripture prophetic words received that are spiritually pictured and seen. The prophet is, “in the Spirit,” in what suggests itself as somehow out of the body, or at least in a different realm (Revelation 1:10). When this happens, it seems that to physical and worldly things, the prophet’s eyes and senses are simply closed down. The eyes of the prophet’s spirit however are open for business and very much alert (Numbers 24:3). Inwardly a prophet receives exactly what he, “sees” or, “hears.” Through inward sight a prophet receives a picture of some kind of revelation, a vision if you will,  which no matter how clearly he sees it, it still requires God Himself to interpret what he has seen (Amos 7: 7; 8: 2; Zechariah 1:9; 4:4; Daniel 8:15). Something is seen, then heard, and then the prophet repeats to people what he has both heard and seen.

There are prophetic deliveries also that are seen in visions, dreams or even trances. God intensifies dreams to people so that they are aware of a divinely delivered word, as with Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar and both of the  Joseph’s in both Testaments. There are songs of praise that people sing where they take off and enter the prophetic realm as with Hannah (I Samuel 2), Mary and Zacharias (both in Luke 1).

But these are mechanics that can be read in any book and heard from any Bible teacher. What are the defining aspects of prophets which cannot be read about?

Prophets rarely seem to tow, what we may refer to as, “The Party Line.” They always seem to go contrary to what people want to hear and go down paths not even contemplated by the masses. There is nothing whatsoever that is pink and fluffy about them. In fact, it is possible to make the case that the Hebrew writing prophets, both Major and Minor, were actually speaking against Israel. They were Jewish, but definitely not run of the mill Jews.  It cannot be argued with that the prophets, both the writing kind and the non writing kind collide head on and scream against the Jewish way of life in every generation in which they lived and prophesied. The prophets without favouritism or partisanship strike out at the sins of the nation. One can read through them all and not grasp the weight of the corrective message of all the writing prophets combined. They address greed and materialism (Isaiah 5: 8; Amos 6: 4-6; Micah 2: 2), excessive interest in money lending amongst themselves, in which context Interest on loans to Jews was actually forbidden, hiring of thugs, extortion (Ezekiel 22:12,13), exploitation of the poor (Isaiah1:17; Micah3:2,3; Amos 2:7; 4:1; 5:11; 8:4-6), oppression of widows and orphans ( Jeremiah 5:28), bribery in courts of law (Isaiah1:23; 59:4), false weights in business deals (Micah 6:11; Ezekiel 45:10-12), arrogance and lack of propriety in female fashion (Isaiah 2:12-17; 3:16-24), idolatry and foreign customs that contradicted the biblical concepts (Ezekiel 8; Hosea 7:11; 5:13; 11:2; Isaiah 2: 6), false holier than thou attitudes in the midst of godless religiosity (Isaiah 58: 2-5; Jeremiah 7: 4; Hosea 7: 14; Micah 3:11), self-righteousness (Malachi 1:6 : 2:17; 3:13), dead formality (Isaiah 1:11-17; Malachi 1:1O; Amos 5:21-23; Hosea 6: 6). These “attacks of Israeli culture at different points of time was always in order to bring the nation under God’s wing and into faith.

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A prophet does not succumb to the love of money (Micah 3:11). Daniel 5:17. Ezekiel 13:19). Plainly there were no Iying prophets amongst the writing prophets. Christ tells us that every single one of them died because of the contents of what they heard from God. It was the faithful declaration of what God shared with them that led to their deaths.

Prophets must be compelled and drawn along by the Spirit of God. A prophet carries an inner compulsion.  A prophet is “persuaded” of the Lord” (Jeremiah 20: 7). The ministry of a biblical type prophet is under a “necessity,” laid upon him or her from above.  As one writer puts it, a prophet does not have the message – the message has them. “Woe is unto me if I preach not,” is the way it is with them (I Corinthians 9: 16). These are the things that make a prophet a prophet.

They were so “pro” integrity truth and Godliness that they spoke against villainy, lack of integrity, godlessness and hypocrisy at any level of society. The prophets could never be accused of being “pro Zionism,” or “anti- gentiles.” They just spoke the truth as delivered to them from God Himself. Even when the greatest of all their national heroes failed, it is the prophets that highlight those sins and failures. What other nation of Old Testament times would even dream of highlighting their king’s acts of murder and licentiousness. Martin Luther knew the realities of this sort of thing and defied death itself when he wrote of the popes letters and decrees as, “The fartings of the Pope.” He practiced what he preached when he declared that a true historian must be a man, “with the heart of a lion to write the truth completely and defy the consequences.” None of the biblical prophets present legends of glory and bravery, purity and holiness – but they tell it as it is. Their legendary historical figures are not deified heroes that make one doubt their humanity. By all the accounts of all the prophets, even the greatest people in their history are simply tools in the hands of God (e.g. Cyrus, Isaiah 45:1), and the “saviours” and deliverers of the nation are people with faults like everybody else, “raised up” of the Lord (Judges 3: 9; II Kings 13:5; Nehemiah 9:27). They are open and truthful enough to mention what is good in the lives of the wicked (e.g. Ahab’s repentance, I Kings 21:27-29), and honest enough not to keep silent on the evil in the lives of the saintly (e.g. Abraham’s half-lie, Moses’ impatience, David’s adultery, Solomon’s idolatry and Elijah’s despondency.). Truth is the absolute essence of God’s word in the scriptures, and is part of the characteristic of a true prophet’s message.

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To the Hebrew prophets, their national history was a writhing, living entity that spoke clearly, giving directions for the present, and setting goals for the future. All of history impacts the now, and even more so is this true of Israel. Read my previous sentence and remember it the next time you negotiate any of the prophetic books of scripture. God lives outside of time, and so the prophets talk in ways that are so excitingly violent in their movement, things were happening at that moment, precipitating incredible things for the future – and it is all related to their history.

Prophets know how to repent. Repentance is a key plank of their message. Because of that fact, never speak evil of a fallen prophet. Even when one has fallen from grace, repentance, which is the Christians mightiest weapon, will cause them to rise again. “Touch not the Lord’s anointed, and do His prophets no harm.” God says no such thing concerning Pastor’s, evangelists, teachers or Apostles. There is no record in the Bible of a prophet who fell and did not recover.

In the New Testament we are told to weigh up the spirits and not to receive everyone who speaks to us claiming to be “In the Spirit.” We cannot and must not ever differentiate the weight of a person’s gifting from their character- that is New Testament teaching.  That aspect was slightly different in the New Testament. We have wicked Balaam hired as a prophet, and he spoke the word of the Lord. Jonah had some ungodly motives. The prophet of 1 Kings 13 was a liar – but he was a prophet.  In the New Testament it must not be so. The person having the divine spirit from above must be meek, peaceable and humble. What comes from above is above all. Prophets are called to refrain from all impurity of this world. They are content with fewer of the wants and needs that other men desire. This is the biblical characteristics of a prophet. These aspects of character impact the message he delivers.

The Spirit speaks and so the prophet speaks. If the Spirit does not speak, the prophet has nothing to say. Prophets act in a way that makes healing, deliverance, blessing, prophecy and breakthrough seem to come at their own whim and fancy. Such a thought, of course, is a lie. True prophets will never pray or speak prophetically without the Spirit’s intimation and suggestion.   Some Christians are always ready with something to say or pray.  Jesus, the ultimate of all prophets, could not even leave to go to a Jewish feast until He had been prompted by the Spirit (John 7:6).  A true prophet only moves as per the will of the Father. A true prophet will speak what will happen, or, unknown to him, what has happened. What he says is by the intimation of the Spirit. No intimation of the Spirit, no word from the prophet.

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Prophets are endued with a degree of authority over death. Faith in Christ, in its very essence confronts death. The one who has faith in Him that conquered death hell and the grave must have some degree of grasp over death itself. Abraham’s faith defeated the deadness of both his own body and his wife’s. Elijah defeated death altogether by not dying, Elisha called somebody back from death, Moses went up a mountain to meet death as it seems nothing about him was diminishing with old age. Isaiah gave one king extra years of life, virtually telling death to keep its distance from Hezekiah for another fifteen years. Both Peter and Paul emulated their Master and brought the dead back to life. Paul was left for dead, but then rose up and returned to the city of those who had “killed” him.  John went up higher and saw the souls of the dead. Prophets deal with death, and they deal with it savagely.  Departure from this life can be delayed by prayer or by waiting on God (Isaiah 38:4. Luke 7:2). We will all continue to be challenged by issues that violate our conscience or lead, we suppose, to our deaths. Human assistance or sympathy will not and cannot delay anybody’s departure from this life. Departure from this life, death itself, is on the way to meet us all one day, but can be delayed. On top of that, people can die before their time (Ecclesiastes 7:17).

When a prophet hears from God, things may seem spontaneous to him, but are well planned by God. Some things that seem too profound to be spontaneously delivered, are exactly things that just fell on them at that moment. The prophet will strike the axe to the root of a person’s problem. How many times have I heard people say that “A” is the problem they need prayer for, while the prophet answers, “I cannot even see issue “A” but I know that issues “X”, “Y” and “Z” are dominating your life. That is the prophet laying the axe to the root of a person’s problem. That strike will shake the leaves, rot the roots and lay the offending tree very low. The true prophet will open people’s spiritual eyes as he gives what has been given from above.

Having said all these things, we have to add that anything that seems to stereotype a true prophet has an empty ring about it. All prophets a radically different characters and have their own idiosyncrasies that, if majored on more than they should be, can lead people astray.

If we reduce it all to its naked minimum, a prophet is a man or woman of God, that hears exactly what God is thinking and saying to certain people, or on certain issues and he simply says it “as it is.” A prophet must be a Christian who is relating to the Father through Christ and in the power of the Spirit. He  or she will hear things from heaven that the majority do not.

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Categories: Being a Prophet is a privilege, Definition of a Prophet | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

You Cannot be Serious! Samuel who? For what?

YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS!

Samuel Who?

For What?

2 the-kingmaker-logoIchabod!” “The glory has gone!” The glory had indeed gone. The Ark of the Covenant, the palanquin of truth and liberty was stolen from Israel while the “hero of faith” that we are about to evaluate was only developing in pre-pubescence. At the very moment that the Philistines ran off with the Ark, Samuel was probably just a small boy. There is a chance he may have been in early youth. Whatever! His character was still unfolding and maturing when this catastrophe, with more repercussions than the bang of Krakatoa, took place. Chaos and confusion covered the land. In the midst of it all a dying mother screamed “Ichabod”, as her son “blinking, stepped into the sun”. The cry was assumed to be the name for the child given by the mother. And as it was her last word spoken, indeed, her very last breath, the locals accepted it. That same word, that name, that cry, has been taken by theologians, historians, Rabbi’s and preachers to be a profound and accurate commentary of the era in which the child was born.

These were indeed the days of Ichabod. When Israel cut herself loose from her ancient moorings of faith, as she was in the days of which we are speaking, the nation was decimated by a tidal wave of  anxious uncertainty, and was only piloted back to its anchorage of safety by the man of whom we are hopefully to discern a little: Samuel.

I remember back in late 1974 when a completely unknown politician ran for the Presidency of the USA. He was so unknown that when he appeared on a TV game show where the panel had to discover the occupation of various mystery guests. Even though he was governor of a State, the panel was defeated. That man was Jimmy Carter. His lack of profile in his home town was such, that when he announced his candidature for the election, the paper ran the famous headline, “JIMMY WHO? FOR WHAT?” I remember the striking clip where he held the Newspaper up high for the crowd to see. He then quietly and humbly said, with that incredibly infectious grin of his, “My name is Jimmy Carter. And I’m running for President”. And wow! Did the crowd cheer!

In the same vein of under estimated, and undervalued persons, you might ask me, “What’s the fuss? Why write about such a man? I answer, “His name is Samuel. I think he’s the greatest”. That is why I am writing these pages. Samuel ben Elkanah has my vote for the most influential man of God in the whole of the Old Testament. Yes! Even rivalling Moses.

8 Home from SynagogueFor Israel, Ichabod meant a crisis. Crises in many nations, at pivotal points of history have produced their greatest men and women. Some are remembered forever. This man Samuel, virtually single handedly, under God, saw Israel through a dilemma of identity.

It could be argued that because he has two books named after him in the Old Testament, and because his life is suitably noted in scripture, that this man is well remembered. But, I ask, is he recalled in the full context of his culture and time? Is he perceived in any way other than in the simplest of cursory observations i.e. that he was the man  who poured oil on David‘s head? As a general rule I suspect not.

Think on the following facts.

POLITICALLY
He led Israel from a loose aggregation of semi Bedouin tribes to a unified nation with backbone. He led them through the torturous crisis of being an ill behaved theocracy to a well disciplined and better landed monarchy. From a people long harassed by their warlike neighbours, they became very definitely the “head and not the tail”. All this came about under Samuel’s leadership.  The “glory” was restored to the nation, climaxing in David and the early days of Solomon some fifty to seventy years after his death.

Samuel’s leadership, however, was not voted in through a well used democratic system. He was not sought after nor did he seek the position he assumed. An entire nation just acknowledged him as their authoritative leader on the simple basis of his awe inspiring relationship with God, his lifestyle and his character. They all viewed him. Talked about him. Thanked God for him, and one day – a day that we will discuss later, they submitted to him as a leader of incredible impact. This fact alone makes him an incredible Deliverer. Samuel was a giant character for God in his lifetime, and afterwards.

7RELIGIOUSLY
Again, Samuel virtually, single handedly, led them through a time when they were without the steeling and unifying factor of the Tabernacle and the high profile activity of the priesthood; a time without the solidifying presence of the Ark of the Covenant. After seven months  in Philistine hands (during Samuel’s younger days) the next hundred years without the proper use of the Tabernacle had the Ark resting in somebody’s front room (Where else would one put God’s box?) in an Israeli backwater, gathering dust, seemingly neglected (King Saul attempted to reinstate the priesthood and the ark once Samuel had disowned him, but with little impact or success).

In such circumstances what form should the formal worship of Jehovah take? How were the people to worship when the very means ordained by God for that worship  were just not in proper  placement. The Tabernacle was without the Ark. So what use was that? The Tabernacle was created simply to house and centre the worship focus around the Ark. No Ark, really suggested no Tabernacle. So – as ludicrous as it sounds- with no Ark, I believe for most of the time people were still sacrificing at the Tabernacle. We shall enlarge on that later. So what next? No single alter? Where to now for worship? The answer was wonderfully supplied  by Samuel, and the baton of his teaching passed on to David, and the prophetic guild that surrounded him – a prophetic guild that was inaugurated by Samuel. It is arguable that without Samuel, David would never have risen to the heights of popularity that he did after Samuel’s death, nor would the later Temple worship have been so ordered, nor would David had started  to collect all the “battle booty” with which the later Temple was furnished.

At the opening ceremony of the Temple, known popularly as “Solomon’s,” the glory, quite literally returned. Viva la Samuel.

SPIRITUALLY
Samuel was the last of the Judges (Acts 13 verse 20). But he judged Israel in a way that no other did. He did not enter into battle himself, yet the manner in which he personally put an end to Agag the Amalekite shows that there was absolutely nothing sissy about the man. He judged them in a regular circuit through years of comparative “peace”, though constantly in political tension and fear, possibly even of death. Samuel, unlike other Judges, judged the entire nation of Israel.

The “sin, sorrow, repentance and revival” syndrome, so common throughout the days of the earlier Judges was broken in Samuel’s life time. He brought consistency and stability into the spiritual experience of Israel. All the other Judges were just part of the “revival” moments in the centuries of those saviours and/or deliverers. All the other Judges, only delivered the losses of parts of the nation. Samuel took oversight of all twelve tribes, as well as the Levitical aspect of the people, and became the Apostle for Israel that rebuilt the entire structure of an entire wayward Israel.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs well as being the last Judge (Acts 13 verse 20) Samuel was noted as the first of the prophets (Acts 3 verse 24). This is strange as there were obviously other prophetic figures before his day. Unlike the other Judges who were Samuel’s predecessors, this man’s prophetic output was the archetype, prototype and the ensuing stereotype of what an Old Testament prophet was all about. He foretold the future as well as having a very definite and awesomely accurate insight into the contemporary scene. He was God’s PR man and he certainly knew his business, as well as knowing His business.

Samuel acted in a priestly roll. It seems from the book that we know as First Samuel, that he assumed the most vital and lofty roll as “main” priest of the nation, although he is never referred to as High Priest. Ahitub, the grandson of Eli assumed the role in the days of King Saul, so the rightful heir of Eli’s line to the position of High Priest was living at the same time Samuel was “strutting his stuff” on the wet cement of Israel’s history. Yet, Samuel was never challenged concerning the lofty roll he played in Israel’s life. Samuel was in his lifetime, plainly, the virtual none legitimised, non constitutionalised leader of the nation, “High Priest” by default, prophet by calling, cum-king  by authority. His righteous character brought the glory of God back to Israel.

SOCIALLY
The nation of Israel’s confines altered in Samuel’s days from the occupation of the odd hill or valley, in a land that was Divinely goaled to be all their very own, to true and total ownership of nearly all that God had promised. Israel’s influence, in David’s day, was acknowledged over a great extent of the continent of South Western Asia. Samuel was the catalyst that made it all happen for David, who bequeathed the glories of the Israeli empire to Solomon.
CULTURALLY
From a cultureless, inartistic dark age of degeneracy, by Samuel’s actions at the head, the body of Israel had arisen to a place where the arts, literature and general affluence were keenly cultivated. A culture that was definitively their own was birthed and started to develope in Samuel’s life time. Learning in general, together with a complex system of government and worship was conceived by Samuel, gestated via Saul, birthed by David and reached its zenith of maturity in the first half of Solomon’s reign.
The first book of Samuel tells us that the prophet Samuel wrote a book, the only one that is mentioned, about the role and activity of the king that was “to come,” after a monarch had been asked for, and before one had been chosen. This was Samuel’s directives that finished up, of course, addressed to David about the worship that brought about the temple and its worship system. Is it any wonder that Jeremiah placed Samuel on par with Moses? Samuel’s life’s work and character mark him as a man of heavenly glory.

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Rachel’s tomb in the 1890’s

What strange chain of events had spawned this metamorphosis from Ichabod into a period that even today the Jews refer to as the “Golden Age” of their people. How could a single human being, even under the inspiration of God, set in motion events that would change the course of his nation, and thus, the world?

HOW DO WE HAVE THE BOOKS OF SAMUEL?

It is conjectured by some of the professional scholarly types that a scribe from the school of the prophets at the time of Solomon was commissioned by his peers to answer such questions as stated above, and to put them in a book. The title of that book, this theory continues, is what we know as the first book of Samuel.

The rest of this study is an examination of the life of Samuel from the first verse of First Samuel ending at chapter 25 and verse 1 in the same scroll. This is an attempt to discover Samuel’s true worth in the history of Israel, his concepts of the prophetic, and his understanding of the spiritual. The man’s characteristics and emotional depths will be plain for us to see. Familial roots will be open to scrutiny and reveal a lot about the personal make-up of this giant of the faith.

The glory had certainly departed during Samuel’s youth. It is the glory of God  we are referring to. That same glory had surely returned in a huge measure by the time of Samuel’s death.

We will drink deep of the Spirit as we go. There is lots to chew on: Prophetics; Soteriology; Pneumatology; Psychology; Psalmody; and even a little Eschatology. Whatever we discover  the Spirit has to say on these issues, let’s have ears to hear it. We will discover secrets of faith, Godly character, and the prophetic personality as we relive the story. We will glimpse the white of the Philistine eye, and the gleam of the Amalekite sword, as well as the lusty kingliness of the son of Jesse. And we shall also mentally image the sorrowful persistent routine of Hannah’s son; Shmuel ben Elkanah, the last Judge and the first prophet

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

Craig T. Owens

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

Center for Evangelists

SOS Events - a life saving ministry

hocuspocus13

Magickal Arts