Posts Tagged With: Elkanah

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

Never In The Field of Human Conflict Have So Many Owed So Much To So Few – Namely One.

 Just Face the Facts People: If it Was Not For Little Old Sammy here, You Might Not Be On The Map, or Even Exist
(1 Samuel 12) 
Edna Hibels' famous picture: "Samuel the Kingmaker."

Edna Hibels’ famous picture: “Samuel the Kingmaker.”

So here we have Samuel, after having returned to Gilgal, and after sacrificing to Yahweh in religious ceremonial pomp, indulging the nation in celebration of the person who was now king.  The King-maker from Ramah then delivered a public address after the solemn re-instalment of Saul, before the convention at Gilgal separated.  It was a speech that needs to be chewed on to enable us to grasp the heart of the son of Elkanah and Hannah.

Our prophet, it would seem, was stuck between a rock and a hard place.  The whole asking for and granting of a king had grieved him as it had grieved God.  And still, here he had seen a sight that if continued and persisted in would at least keep the nation in the pursuit of the ways of Yahweh.  The King that they should not have asked for had led them to victory after submitting to the Spirit of God that came upon him, and was strongly supported by the masses because of it.
So what Samuel had now, was, paradoxically, the acceptable face of an unacceptable situation, that had to be accepted (if you get the gist!), and the bad and unwanted situation made irrevocable.  To explain:  For Israel to have a king was not good.  It was an external expression of an internal rejection of both God and his prophet.  But if they were to have a king, at least to have one who loved Yahweh, kept His covenant, and knew how to hear God was, of course, to be desired. And that is what they had – or so it seemed at that very moment.

Samuel perceived that, at least, the newly arrived at status quo was a, “making the best of a bad job!”  If Samuel was to put the reins of the nation into the hands of another, his God anointed nature was such that he had to be happy with the reasonable future projections given the data that the prophet now had to base any rational, human foresight upon.  He had seen for himself that by the Spirit of God coming upon Saul – and nobody knew the dynamics of such a phenomenon more than Samuel did –victory over the Ammonites had been achieved.  Saul’s anointing had put backbone, efficiency and courage into the nation, and a long standing enemy had been thoroughly vanquished.  All this left the national fighting resources free to concentrate on those nasty, gigantic ever present villains, the Philistines.  The eastern border of Israel was to a greater degree calmed. The western border of Saul’s kingdom however,  was still bristling with potential war.  (1 Samuel 14:52 tells us that “the war against the Philistines was severe ALL the days of Saul; and when Saul saw any mighty man, or any valiant man, he attached him to his staff.”) (Italics mine)

Hitherto, as far as Hannah’s son could see, and by what the nation had experienced, the covenant people seemed to be in safe hands with the son of Kish, and Samuel could, to a degree, relax his governmental role as Judge, and lead a life that strongly concentrated on seeking God, worshipping Him, and initiating the prophet’s own “religious” or spiritual projects.   But most of all, being free from governmental affairs, he could now feel free to release Saul into practical rulership, and withdraw himself to a position that would be, in public presentation at least, “two steps behind the king.”  (For the uninitiated the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip, always walks two steps behind the Queen on British State occasions.)  Samuel had to become a priest and prophet only, and renounce all his governmental practices of Judgeship and quasi-kingship.
2 the-kingmaker-logoSo, while Israel’s military were present at Gilgal, along with the elders, or, put another way: while Samuel had the most influential contingency of the nation’s mind, partying before his eyes – while they reminisced the marvellous victory over the Ammonites, the prophet from Ramah, hushed the people and jumped into the most amazing interaction with the vast crowd.
Samuel said unto all Israel, “Behold I have hearkened unto your voice in all that ye said unto me, and have made a king over you”.  This is yet another instance of Samuel’s great wisdom and integrity.  He did not earlier launch into a heavy duty reproval for their sin in asking for a king whilst Saul was unsettled in his kingdom, lest through their accustomed negativity and reactionism, they should as hastily cast off their king, with as much superficiality as they had desired him.  But he had waited for the right moment. 5 Samuel-at-MizpahAnd this was that moment.
This was a moment that, if rightly handled could bring the nation to properly see and understand the fallacy of having rejected Yahweh’s direct rule.  Saul’s kingdom was now confirmed in people’s hearts by this eminent victory.  The people rejoiced greatly and even applauded themselves for their desire of, and now, their ownership of a king.  No doubt the people and the army in particular, interpreted the success which God had given them, as divine approbation of those desires and the installation of the king who was stood amongst them.
Samuel therefore thought fit to bring a little moderation to their joy, and to give the people impetus to repentance which he saw lacking, and which he knew to be necessary, to prevent the curse of the law upon their new king, and the whole kingdom.
The prophet gave them a short account of the late revolution, and of the present posture of their government, by way of preface to what he had further to say to them.
So secure was Samuel in his leadership skills and gifting, that he unashamedly and incontrovertibly stated the facts.  “You asked me for a king.  I sought God, as you wanted; I received God’s mind, as you desired;  I installed a man in kingship before you all, and I stepped back while he ruled as a king for the first time in the battle against Nahash and his hordes.”  So, although Samuel was a most charismatic leader, he owned up to the fact that he had given them exactly what they asked for.  This was the spoonful of sugar dosed out to help the medicine that he was to feed them with a few moments later, go down.
“And now, behold, the king walks before you.” He undoubtedly had Saul standing next to him when he made this remark.  I envisage Samuel even sat down on some kind of bench that gave deference to the prophet’s age and fragility.
“I am old and gray headed”  This was possibly a note of comparison to the people, i.e.  “Here am I old and gray presented before you, sat down to speak to you, and here is your king the very picture of strength, youth, vitality and authority.”
“Behold, my sons are with you”.  I find it difficult to understand this contribution to his valedictory address.  I cannot see it as being to highlight their lack of integrity as Judges.  It was more likely to profile them to the people as adults, and therefore identifying both his sons and himself with the masses.  His sons would undoubtedly have been in the army fighting to save Jabesh Gilead.
“I have walked before you from my childhood unto this day.”  He is recounting to the mass of soldiers, the present political status of national leadership, and how it had been arrived at.  To paraphrase, the, “aged P,” of Israel, while aligning himself with, and visibly comparing himself to the new king, he blatantly declared: “To the king I have fully resigned my governing power, and own myself as one of his subjects, even though I have, since childhood been an acknowledged prophet, and later a quasi-king over you all.  I am old now – and therefore unable to bear the burden of government.  My sons are among you, private persons, as you are”. 
Samuel's Preaching, Teaching, Prophetic and Judging Circuit.

Samuel’s Preaching, Teaching, Prophetic and Judging Circuit.

There are inferences to be seen behind even these opening words – a, “reading between the lines,” if you will.  These are the thoughts and insights that, even though they are not spoken, are communicated to the audience of hearers, or in our case, readers.  “If my sons have injured any of you, the law is now open against them; any of you may accuse them, your king can punish them, I do not intercede for them.  I have walked before you, that is, I have been your guide and governor; partly, as a prophet; and partly, as a judge but the autumnal days of my life lead me to say these few words to you.  As my sons are with you, you may, if you please, call them to account for anything they have done amiss.  They have not, upon this revolution, fled the country.  They are on level with you socially, subject to the new king as well as you and I. If you can prove them guilty of any wrong intent greater than you own in requiring a king, you may prosecute them now by a due course of law, punish them, and oblige them to make restitution.’

The reference to him having walked before them since childhood would have brought to the surface his track record and the nation’s long and wonderful memories of the previous few decades.  Samuel embodied all that Israel was at this snapshot and moment of history.  As soon as he had been illuminated with the light of God’s revelation, and the prophetic word in his early days, he began to be a burning and shining light to and for Israel. “And now my best days are done: I am old and gray,” therefore their unkindness to cast him off for the sake of a king, was all the more obvious.  Yet he was the more willing to resign, finding the weight of government heavy upon his stooping and rounded shoulders.  He was old, and therefore the more able to advise them, and the more observant they should have been of what he said.  “Days shall speak and the multitude of years shall teach wisdom.” Also, there is a particular reverence due to the aged, especially magistrates and ministers of God who have served long and in integrity of heart.  “I am old, and therefore not likely to live long, perhaps I may never have an opportunity of speaking to you again, therefore take notice of what I say.”
Behold, here I am: witness against me before the LORD, and before his anointed: whose ox have I taken?  Or whose ass have I taken? Or whom have I defrauded? Whom have I oppressed? Or whose hand have I received any bribe to blind mine eyes therewith? And I will restore it you.”
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My paraphrase is blunt.  “Behold – I here present myself before the Lord, and before your king (whom he refers to as “anointed of the Eternal.”)  ready to give an account of all my administrations.”  In this protestation, Samuel insists his integrity, not out of braggadocio,  but for his own just vindication.  He did this so that the people might not ever defend their own lack of integrity or reproach his government of previous years at a later date.  Samuel knew that being publicly acquitted from all faults in his government, he might a little later in his speech, more freely, reprove the sins of the people, and, particularly, that sin of desiring a king, when they had so little reason for it.  Samuel’s speech and character is here seen as being wise, transparent and Christ like.  God wants this kind of confession to be a pattern for all who have any responsibility, especially in public service.

“Witness against me, whose ox have I taken?”  Observe his design in this appeal.  He intended, to convince them of the injury they had done him in setting him aside, when they had nothing amiss to charge him with (his government had no fault but that it was too cheap, too easy, and perhaps too righteous for them).  He also wanted to highlight the injury they had done themselves in turning away from one that did not so much as take an ox or an ass from them, and then to put themselves under the power of one that would take from them not only some Oxen, but their fields and vineyards, as well as their very sons and daughters; so unlike Samuel’s manner would the manner of the king be.
Chuck Swindoll's take on an outline of 1 Samuel. Good stuff!

Chuck Swindoll’s take on an outline of 1 Samuel. Good stuff!

He also intended to assert his own reputation for the present generation and thus for posterity.  Those in future years, that heard of Samuel being rejected, would be ready to suspect that, “he had certainly done some evil thing, or he would never have been so ill treated.”  “There’s no smoke without fire,” say many.  It was therefore necessary for him to make this challenge, that it might appear clearly in the written records as well as the oral traditions of the nation, that it was not for any iniquity in his hands that he had been laid aside, but to gratify the dissatisfaction of a wilful and headstrong people, who could not have had a better to rule them, only they desired a bigger.  There is a just debt which every man owes to his own good name, and Samuel was paying it.

Samuel also designed hereby to leave his successor a good example. Let Saul sing after Samuel’s song, and he will sing well. Samuel also wanted to reprove the people.  And so he begins with this vindication of self.  He that wants to tell another of his sin must see to it that he himself is clean. So let’s look close and see what Samuel acquits himself from.
Firstly he had never, under any pretence whatsoever, taken that which was not his own, ox or ass. He had never seconded their cattle for tribute, fines, or forfeitures, nor used their service without paying for it.
Secondly he had never defrauded those with whom he dealt nor oppressed those that were under his power.
Thirdly he had never taken bribes to pervert justice, nor was ever biased to give judgement in a cause against his conscience.  This was amazing.  Knowing human nature as we all do, if he had offended just one family in the whole of Israel over the period of decades that he had been the Judge over the twelve tribes, that one instance would have never been forgotten by the victim, and this forum would have without doubt heard every detail of the facts as well as a few added exaggerations.  But the crowd remained silent in response to Samuel’s appeal for any accusers..
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See how, with great passion and controlled emotion, he calls upon those that had slighted him to bear witness concerning his conduct:  “Here I am.  Witness against me.  If you have anything to lay to my charge, do it before the Lord and his anointed, the proper judges.”  So adroitly circumspect is Samuel’s delivery that he gives elevation and honour to King Saul, by owning himself accountable to him if guilty or any wrong.

By this appeal he is, of course, honourably acquitted by all present.  He did not expect that they would do him honour at parting, though he well deserved it, and so mentioned none of the good services he had done them, for which they ought to have applauded him, and returned him the thanks of the nation.  All he desired was that they should do him justice, and that they did, readily owning that he had not made his government oppressive to them, nor used his power to their wrong.
And they said, “You have not defrauded us, nor oppressed us, neither have you taken ought of any man’s hand.”  Samuel, having challenged a review of his public life, received a unanimous testimony to the unsullied honour of his personal character, as well as the justice and integrity of his public administration.  This writer for one has stomachache yearning for such character and wishing for such a testimony.
So “he said unto them, “Yahweh is witness against you, and his anointed is witness this day, that you have not found ought in my hand”.  And they answered, “He is witness”.
Samuel's tomb from the air.

Samuel’s tomb from the air.

By their own acknowledgement,  for a second time, he had given them no cause to weary of the divine government by judges, and that, therefore, the blame of desiring a change of government rested with themselves.  All this that I comment on was only insinuated.  But I feel confident in asserting that they did not fully perceive his drift or where he was leading them in their thoughts and conclusions, and the vociferousness with which they acclaimed his character.

He had not made it costly to them all through life as prophet and judge.  Like Nehemiah, he did not require, “the bread of the governor,” had not only been righteous, but generous, and had coveted no man’s silver, gold, or apparel.
This honourable, “solid gold” testimony borne to Samuel’s integrity is left upon record to his magnificent godly character.  Note, the testimony of neighbours, and one’s own conscience that one has lived honestly, will be one’s greatest strengths under the slights and contempt that may be thrown at us in life.  Samuel was like another of whom the scripture says “Demetrius was a happy man, that has a good report of all men and of the truth itself”  3 Jn.12.

 

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Samuel said unto the people, “It is Yahweh that appointed Moses and Aaron, and that brought your fathers up out of the land of Egypt.  Now therefore stand still, so I may reason with you before Yahweh of all the righteous acts of Tahweh, which he did to you and to your fathers.  When Jacob was come to Egypt, and your fathers cried unto Yahweh, He sent Moses and Aaron, which brought forth your fathers out of Egypt, and made them dwell in this place.  When they forgot Yahweh their God, He sold them into the hand of Sisera, captain of the host of Hazor, and into the hand of the Philistines, and into the hand of the king of Moab, and they fought against them.  And they cried unto Yahweh, and said, We have sinned, because we have forsaken Yahweh, and have served Balaam and Ashtaroth: but now deliver us out of the hand of our enemies, and we will serve You.  And Yahweh sent Jerubbaal, and Bedan, and Jephthah, and Samuel, and delivered you out of the hand of your enemies on every side and you lived safe.  And when you saw that Nahash the king of the children of Ammon came against you, you said unto me, No; but a king shall reign of us: when the LORD your God was your king!

I paraphrase the same as,  “Since you grant your inability to lay any ill to my charge, come on now, and listen while I speak freely with you.  You have been guilty of great sin against Yahweh, in asking for a king.  It behoves you to remember that our grandfather Jacob went down into Egypt, by reason of a famine, with only seventy in the family, and that their posterity multiplied to a couple of million, whom the Egyptians brought into slavery and hard oppression.  Note also, that God Himself, upon the prayers of our fathers, sent Moses and Aaron, and gave them grace to deliver Israel from their distress, and all this without a king.   These brought us into this land which you possess.  Now, whilst enjoying these blessing from God, you betrayed him.  Moreover, when you were brought under your enemies, he delivered you, first by rendering you superior to the Midianite and their forces, he then made you to overcome the Ammonites and the Moabites, and last of all the Philistines; and these things have been achieved under the conduct of men like Jephthah and Gideon.  All this done, and without a king.   What madness therefore possessed you to fly from God, and to desire to be under a king?  – Yet have I ordained for you the very king whom he chose for you”.
“I will reason with you.”  Learn that pursuing God has reason on its side.  The work of the Word of God is to reason with minds, not only to exhort and direct, but to persuade, to convince men’s judgements, and so to gain their wills and affections in submission to its precepts.  Let the reasoning of the Word rule men, and they will be good and Godly.
Empty Things - some people.

Empty Things – some people.

Samuel puts them in mind of God’s favour to this present generation, in giving them a king, when they cried to God, via the prophet, for such a one to save them out of the hand of Nahash king of Ammon.

He shows them that they are now men behaving godly, they and their king.  He did not want to let them think that they had now cut themselves off from all dependence upon God, and that having a king of their own, the making of their own “fortunes and dates,” was in their own hands.  No!  Still, their judgement must proceed from the Lord.  He tells them plainly.
“Now therefore, here is the king whom you have chosen, whom you have desired!  See!  Yahweh has set a king over you.  If you will fear God, and serve him, and obey his voice, and not rebel against the commandment of Yahweh, then shall both you, and also the king that reigns over you, continue following Yahweh your Elohim:  But if you will not obey the voice of Yahweh, but rebel against His commandment, then shall the hand of Yahweh be against you, as it was against your fathers.
Observe how the promise is expressed:  “Then you shall continue following Yahweh your God,’ that is, “You shall continue in the way of covenant with God, which will be your honour and comfort.”  Take note!  Following God is a work that is its own wage.  It is a matter of promise as well as of precept.  “You shall be after the Lord”, so it is in the original, that is, “he will go before you to lead and prosper you, and make your way plain.”
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“Don’t think that having a king will secure you against God’s judgments, and that having in this instance made yourselves like the nations you may sin at as cheap a rate as they.  Israel is special to God.  As Matthew Henry puts it: “We make a mistake if we think that we can evade God’s justice by shaking off his dominion.  If God shall not rule us, yet he will judge us.”

Bedan – The Septuagint reads “Barak”,  and for “Samuel” some versions read “Samson,” which seems more natural than that they prophet should mention himself to the total omission of the most dramatic of the judges.
God shall still go before you, as he hath hitherto done, as your leader or governor, to direct, protect, and deliver you; and he will not forsake you, as you have given him just cause to do.  Sometimes this phrase of going, “after the Lord,” signifies a man’s obedience to God; but here it is otherwise to be understood, and it notes not a duty to be performed, but a privilege to be received upon the performance of their duty; because it is opposed to a threatening pronounced in case of disobedience, in the next verse.
“Now therefore stand and see this great thing, which Yahweh will do before your eyes”.
He had just told them stand and hear; but, probably because he did not see that his reasoning with them affected them (so stupid were they and unthinking), now he bids them stand and see. 

 

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“Is it not wheat harvest today?  I will call unto Yahweh, and he shall send thunder and rain; that you may perceive and see that your wickedness is great, which ye have done in the sight of Yahweh, in asking you a king.  I will call upon the Lord, and he will send thunder, and will send it just now, to confirm the word of his servant, and to make you see that I spoke truly when I told you that God was angry with you, for asking a king.”

Wheat harvest in Israel occurs at the end of June or beginning of July, when it seldom or never rains, and the sky is serene and cloudless.  There could not, therefore, have been a stronger or more appropriate proof of a divine mission than the phenomenon of rain and thunder happening without any prognostics of its approach, upon the prediction of a person professing himself to be a prophet of the Lord, and giving it as an attestation of his words being true.
We move into an awesome exercise of the miraculous.  He told them what he was going to do, and the doing of the act brought the predicted result.  The response of the people and the magnificence of the word picture painted by the bible in great simplicity must have drawn form the masses a response similar to the disciples of Jesus when they saw and heard the words, “Peace be still!”  They saw it, but they were not quite sure they believed what they saw.  Then, when the “penny dropped,” they were suddenly God conscious like they had never been before, and in a breath-taking state of awe.
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Possibly this moment, more than any other in his life, vindicated Samuel to all of Israel’s fighting men as God’s prophet. Samuel made it clear not only what a powerful influence God has upon this earth, but also what a powerful interest he, himself, a man, had in heaven.

He showed them their folly in desiring a king to save them, rather than God via Samuel, promising themselves more from an arm of flesh than from the arm of God, or from the power of prayer.  Could their king thunder with a voice like God?  Could their prince command such forces as the prophet could by his prayers?  He intimated to them that however serene and prosperous their condition seemed to be now, that they had a king, like the weather in wheat-harvest, yet, if God pleased, he could soon change the face of their heavens, and persecute them with his tempest.
They greatly feared both the Lord and Samuel at that moment. That is an immense understatement.  Though when they had a king they were ready to think they must fear him only, God made them know that He is greatly to be feared as well as his prophets for his sake.  Now they were rejoicing in their king, God taught them to rejoice with trembling.
They owned their sin and folly in desiring a King.  Samuel did not extort this confession from them till the matter was settled and the king confirmed, lest it should look as if he designed by it rather to establish himself in the government than to bring them to repentance.  Now that they were flattering themselves in their own eyes, their iniquity was found to be hateful.

 

I would love to see this signpost in reality.

I would love to see this signpost in reality.

“Pray for your servants, that we die not.”  They were apprehensive of their danger from the wrath of God, and could not expect that he should hear their prayers for themselves, and therefore they beg Samuel to pray for them. Now they see their need of him whom awhile ago they had slighted.  “Pray’ to the Lord your God; we know not how to call Him ours, but, if you have the slightest investment in Him, move it for us.” 

He did not want the terrors of the Lord to frighten them from him, for they were intended to frighten them to him.  “Fear not; though you have done all this wickedness, and though God is angry with you for it, yet do not therefore abandon his service, nor turn from following him.”  Every transgression in the covenant, though it displease God, does not throw us out of covenant, and therefore God’s just rebukes must not drive us from our hope in his mercy.
Moreover as for me, god forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way.” They asked him to pray for them at this time, and upon this occasion, but he promised to continue his prayers for them and not to cease as long as he lived. To Samuel’s mentality it would have been sinful to ever stop praying for Israel. He may not have been the High Priest, yet even though he did not have the twelve stones of the twelve tribes on his heart and shoulders, he did, in absolute reality wear the entire nation in his heart of love and carried them on his broad shoulders of responsibility.
They asked him only to pray for them, but he promised to do more for them, not only to pray for them, but to teach them; though they were not willing to be under his government as a judge, he would not therefore deny them his instructions as a prophet.  He puts them in peace with an assurance that he would continue his care and concern for them.  He might have said, “Go to Saul, the king that you have put in my room, and let him pray for you.” However, so far is he from upbraiding them with their disrespect to him  that he promised them much more than they asked.  They asked it of him as a favour; he promised it as a duty, and is startled at the thought of neglecting it.  “Pray for you?” says he. “God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in not doing it”.
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“And do not turn aside: for then will you go after vain things, which cannot profit you nor deliver you, because they are vain.”  The hand of God on Israel, and the practical effects of the effectual word of God working in them, would keep the people of Israel from idols.  Once they neglected the revelation and the scriptures that they had been given, idolatry was the normal digressive pathway.

“For the LORD will not forsake his people for his great name’s sake: because it hath pleased the LORD to make you his people.”  
The Lord’s idea of covenant did not change by mood or convenience.  He had committed Himself to Israel and that commitment would persist. 
“Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he has done for you.  But if you shall still do wickedly, you shall be consumed, both you and your king”.
Could anything be clearer?  “Seek me and prosper!  Forsake me, and while you become subject to the nonsensical beggarly elements of the world, you will be put aside.  I, Yahweh, only relate to you by a covenantal, faith relationship.”
The Bible does not give us any details of how the gathering broke up.  I suppose it is because none was necessary.  It didn’t really matter whether or not they appreciated and accepted Samuel’s words, or whether they rejected him.  The truth was (and is) the truth, loved or hated, wanted or not.  Truth stands there interfering with all of our life.  The truth never leaves us. Truth is intrusive, invasive and totally distracting.
This was, ultimately a farewell speech like no other.  Not that Samuel was about to die, or leave the country, or stop praying for them.  He had covered all this in his address.  But it was all up to Saul to run the political side of Israel now, excepting any moment if and when God would give Samuel a word that required the king to do something.  Samuel was about to withdraw from that aspect of life.  If Saul was to carry on walking with God, following God and hearing God’s word,  ll seemed rosy and healthy.
But!
Just in case!
One never knows!  Samuel had to keep his hold on the situation via his priestly role, for the nation’s sake. Now Samuel yearned for a gentle retirement!  But would he get it with Saul on the throne of Israel?
Categories: 1 Samuel 12, Never in the field of human conflict have so many owed so much to so few | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Foolish Wise Old Man

Is passivity ever right?

(1 Samuel 3:15–18)

7 to the Synagogue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 yemenite color

Elderly Yeminite Jew in Jerusalem circa 1900. Hand coloured.

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

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

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

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

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

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

8 Home from Synagogue

Home from the Synagogue in Jerusalem.

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

Things Given. Things Developed. Things Grown. Things Matured.

Things Given. Things Developed. Things Grown. Things Matured.

0000001wolfgang_amadeus_mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

True gifts are given without prejudice to the one receiving. That is why they are called gifts.  Doh! If it is earned by any means, it is not a gift. Some gifts are given by humans to humans. The best gifts are given by God to humans. Some people are born with serious gifts of talent, insight, intelligence and even an exceptional understanding of what life is all about. Those are gifts from God embedded in the person, somehow – somewhere as conceived in the womb.

Humanly speaking, in the complete natural, some people are born so exceptionally gifted that their very existence and period of life makes history.  For example, Mozart was, “keyboard and violin concert competent,” and a major composer at the age of 5. As he grew he composed in an incredibly prolific manner. His most famous pieces were written in his later years.  Although he was given a gift by God that overshadowed almost anybody that ever lived in the realm of music, he wisely spent his entire life developing the gift that he was very conscious of, dwelling within him. What he had been born with was great. Yet he worked hard with that embedded gift as if he had no gift at all. The awesome, “gift of music,” that he developed grew in style, complexity and attractiveness, and he was still maturing in that gift when he passed away at the premature age of 35, one month before his thirty sixth birthday.

What was given him in birth, he developed. What he developed through hard work facilitated a growth in the skill of exercising his gift. The output of that effort, on top of what was given by God, matured into something quite awe inspiring. But make no mistake, the initiation of his passion and desire for music was a God given gift. The gift was embedded in Mozart’s personality and mind, making the gift part and parcel of his attributes as a human being. Incredible eh?

0000002ludwig_van_beethoven

An airbrushed image of Ludwig Van Beethoven

Beethoven spent the early days of his life much under the shadow of Mozart and was yet another gifted man in the realm of music. Like Mozart, Beethoven wasn’t just, “keen about music.” Music was his life. Composing was what he was made for, and he was so sensitively aware of what he was made for.  He tragically lost his hearing in his later years. We may feel a little sympathetic for anybody who loses their hearing, but this was a kind of, “death blow,” for Ludwig.  Imagine a footballer losing the use of his legs, or a singer losing their voice. Everything Beethoven lived for was in his hearing. The final years of his life saw his hearing all but disappearing completely. He still, however, composed symphonies.

“But surely! That’s impossible!” I hear you say. “How did he do that?” He carried on his life’s mission and composed symphonies by living in an upstairs flat with a wooden floor. Next, he bought a Grand Piano and chopped the legs off. Then he would lie on the floor with an ear hard to the floorboards. He knew what he was playing by the vibrations, not by what he heard. What effort! What passion! What purpose! What a sense of destiny! Nothing but nothing could have stopped Beethoven but death itself. I  do not think Ludwig van Beethoven had any religious convictions, at least not that I have read about, but his sense of purpose and knowledge of, “This is what I was born for,” utterly dominated his life.

My point is exactly the same as it was about Mozart. Beethoven was born with an incredible gift. But although this man had a gift that millions of music lovers would have given their right arm for, nevertheless he worked harder, studied music harder and composed longer than those that do not have such a gift. In fact one of his idiosyncrasies was that in order to keep himself awake for extremely long hours while he was composing  and not wanting to fall asleep, he would immerse his head in freezing cold water for as long as he could. It is thought by some that it was this practice that precipitated his deafness. How amazing is that?

These two men had things given from heaven, things they developed, things they grew that resulted in glorious maturation.

All human character gifting, or talent gifting needs developing. Only by development can it grow and mature. This principle is consistently true when discussing things to do with the Spirit of God when anointing the lives of people in whatever sphere. We are, here, specifically looking at the issue of prophecy and prophets.

Even though this principle is applicable to all gifting of character, or of a supernatural work of God, I am homing in on the one subject of Samuel the prophet and prophecy.  All things to do with prophecy being received and delivered are in the, “Potential for Development,” department.  No matter how ahead of others a gift may be, development is simply the priority of life.  All of life is about development, growth and maturation. Whatever a person’s gift may be, and even if in your particular field you are like a Mozart to a tone deaf beginner, development is what you are made for and the reason you are alive.

For people inexperienced in hearing God’s voice and then delivering what He has said, we need to remember Romans 12:6: “Prophesy according to your portion of faith.” The statement clearly infers that as one developes one’s prophetic gift, so the realm of faith will expand in one’s heart. By the growth of faith, the one prophesying gains the capacity to hear and receive messages of greater weight, and more directly personal words from heaven.

This concept of development is exactly what is exemplified and plainly witnessed in Samuel’s life. The principle was birthed in the son of Elkanah at his “initiation” into the prophetic. The prophetic revelation of Yahweh given to Samuel was a message that comprised all the major elements of prophecy in one brief moment of unveiling to Samuel, and suggests certain traits in the process of the giving and the receiving of the word of God that tell us so much about the man and about prophecy itself.

  • It was predictive. “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears about it tingle” (1 Samuel 3:11). Samuel’s first prophetic word was foretelling the future. Not all prophecy is predictive, but all prophecy is a declaration of God’s thoughts, will and word at that moment.
  • God’s first word was “Behold!” Or in modern English, “See!” 1 Samuel 3:10 tells us that Yahweh Himself was stood near Samuel when He spoke to him. Strangely and mystically, we are not told whether or not Samuel saw the Lord standing near him. But clearly, the inference is that Samuel had something to see as well as to hear.
  • God’s act in talking like this to Samuel was an example of the concept laid down in Amos 3:7, even though Samuel lived several generations before Amos even wrote it, i.e. “Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.”  Although it was Amos who contributed this truth to the canon in the eighth century BC, it is a truth that has always been factual since Enoch was alive in Genesis 5. We are led to believe that prophets were an incredible rarity in Israel in those days immediately prior to Samuel’s birth. God knew what and when He was to do a thing, and so broke into our time and space world to share Himself with Samuel. God knew who and what Samuel was. The word that came to Samuel in his bed was an early verification of his prophetic status. How wonderful that God could not perform His will until he had shared it with a young lad.
  • The prophecy came to a specific person at a specific time. The Lord came and stood there near to Samuel and called his name four times. It resonated with Samuel as a warm loving father speaking to him. I know that is true, because he believed it was Eli calling him at first. God draws near to those who are at rest in themselves and with Him. Calling Samuel four times says a lot about the character of God and the value of Samuel’s heart and attitude to the Almighty.
  • It was a word of knowledge. He was told things about Eli and Israel that he probably had no clue about.
  • It was a word of wisdom and deep insight concerning Eli’s lack of parental authority with his sons. The wisdom in God’s word was God’s alone. But the messenger always sounds as wise as Him that sent him in his presentation. That is why the gift is a mystery when the uninitiated hear the gift in manifestation.
  • It was a revelation to Samuel of the times he was living in. Later kings surrounded themselves with, “men that knew the times.” God Himself taught Samuel concerning the times in which he lived.

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  • Now that Samuel was the carrier of such an intimate portion of God’s planned activities, he was marked as one of God’s prophets. God had chosen him, and from then on his life’s gifting, developement and obvious maturation convinced the entire nation of Israel that Samuel was a prophet of God.
  • His gifting made him famous. Fame clearly did not spoil his character.
  • Because Samuel was the carrier of the message it would seem to some that he could speak God’s word at anytime and anyplace at his own whim and fancy. This is perhaps the biggest error that Christians generally hold concerning prophets and the prophetic. The easier a prophet moves in the prophetic, and the more prolific he is in that gift , the more some people are misled into thinking that they can ask a prophet at any time to give them “a word.” The ease and spontaneity of their gift is definitely NOT a sign that they can deliver prophetic words on demand. This is a huge issue in the minds of many sincere Christians. However, the rider must be added, that of a prophet is walking in continuous fellowship with the Holy Spirit, he could, conceivably answer the issues of life with a continuous sustainable flow of the prophetic.  I have heard several prophets say that once they step into the flow of the anointing, they can prophesy all day long. I have even heard some say that once ministry is finished, they find it difficult to step out of the anointing and come “back to earth,” as it were. The anointing flows like a river.
  • It demonstrated Samuel’s great faith at that point of time. The New Testament talks about people prophesying according to their portion of faith. Samuel was predicting something hugely impacting on the future of Israel.
  • Samuel in his youthful innocence was fully accountable to a father figure. He held nothing back from Eli, but told him everything.
  • Eli had been and was an ongoing mentor to Samuel right up to the point of Eli’s death. Even though Samuel’s initial prophetic gift at its birth was beyond Eli’s, nevertheless Samuel submitted to a human authority that was older than him, but not above him in gifting. Character is always more important than gifting. Being under authority is always more necessary than being in authority.
  • All the above, and the account of the call in 1 Samuel 3 lets us know that Samuel was not consumed by any kind of arrogance or pride about his prophetic words or his intimacy with God. To open the gates of the Temple i.e. the Tabernacle for worshippers, even before Eli was up and out of bed, and then to reveal the complete revelation to him shows his freedom from pride or a maverick independent spirit. Eli’s harsh bullying words to get Samuel, to tell him the message he was given were hardly necessary to the gentleness of Hannah’s son.
  • Samuel was tested and proven here on issues of character. Because of the incredible influential power of the prophetic it is seriously vital to the purity of the prophetic gift that the character who speaks on behalf of God carries the appropriate character requirements that befit the office of prophet.

All this – and Samuel was still a “lad.” The gift, and the man with the gift, must have spent his entire life on a learning curve that never ended until he died. What he had and treasured, what made him a key figure in Israel’s history, was given him from heaven. His biblical biography screams at us that what was given him was developed. The ever increasing breadth, depth and scope of his prophetic ministry show how he had grown in that gift by an ever deeper submission to God.  His anointing of David, and the impact of his later time with him while the son of Jesse was on the run from Saul, shows the calm yet supernatural nature of the prophet.

Whatever gift a person has, whether it be preaching, singing, prophesying or even praying, that gift can be developed, grown and matured. It is a complete fallacy to think that because a person may have a gift that few have, then that gift must have been given to a person in a state of full development. No!

There are things happening in the body of Christ today that are ever expanding the borders of faith as well as church practice of the faith. It is proof that whatever has been given to the church needs developing by the church.  Since about 1900 there has been much preaching and teaching of the restoration of things that were lost to the general body of believers on the planet in the early centuries after Acts 2.  As general examples, we have teaching on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, the gifts of the Spirit, the five-fold ministry gifts, team ministry and many other closely linked biblical truths. The apostle Peter talked of the, “Restoration of all things,” and another translation has it as, “A time when God restores things.” Many bible teachers believe that the last thing lost is the first thing restored and that the first thing lost is the last restored. Apostles and apostolic ministry, the ministry of the miraculous, deliverance and prophecy were some of the first truths to be neglected after the passing of Paul and the twelve apostles of the lamb.

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In all that has been restored in the church worldwide in the last century or so, the glorious manifestation of the apostle  and the prophet are two strong, wide planks that have never been put into the flooring of the twenty-first century church.

To grasp the prophetic properly we must understand the tension between two principles. Firstly, all prophecy, if it is true prophecy, originates and is initiated by God alone. That is an absolute. If the word is not sourced in God it is not prophecy as scripture tells it. 2 Peter 1:21 says plainly, “For prophecy never has its origin in the will of man, but men spoke for God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” God as the source is the absolute. Man as the recipient is the ear clearing, mouth training developer of the heavenly treasure that comes to him.

It is sometimes difficult to keep hold of this fact when a prophet that has much experience and deep understanding prophesies quickly, prolifically and spontaneously, almost seeming to speak at his own whim and fancy. Prophetic words might flow like free running water, but the source is still God Himself. In the New Testament we see that not only is God the Father the source of all prophecy, but that the Holy Spirit is the agent. The testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy. Prophets are conduits of what God has delivered. The Spirit is not only operative in the delivering of the prophecy to the prophet, but manifest, evident and powerful in the very proclamation of the prophecy. Because relationship with God was the true source of Samuel’s faith, as it is the source of the Christian faith, calling prophets “conduits” suggests that they are passive and even unfeeling towards the messages that God gives.  Jeremiah, however, wept as he prophesied, Jesus Himself wept over some prophetic words He uttered, Moses was deeply angered with some things that he was given to deliver. It is my observation of life that true prophets feel their message as well as hear and speak it. The feelings that accompany their prophetic words are God given emotions that communicate God in the telling of the message.

2 Peter 1:20 says, “Above all you must understand that no prophecy of scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation.” For prophecy to be clear and pure living water it must not be mixed with personal doctrinal hobby horses, or human moods and frames of mind.  Prophecy was greatly interfered with in the days of Jeremiah and Ezekiel. These two prophets were contemporaries even though they lived hundreds of miles apart. There were “prophecies” that Jeremiah heard that were from, “another spirit” (Jeremiah 23:13), and that came from some men’s “own stubborn heart” (Jeremiah 23:17). Jeremiah said that some false prophets spoke, “from their own mind” (Jeremiah 23:16), and others, “the delusions of their mind” (Jeremiah 23:26). Some things he heard were, “Stolen Prophecies” (Jeremiah 23:30) and, “plain lies” (Jeremiah 23:25). Ezekiel said that men spoke from their “own imagination,” as well as, “their own spirit”(Ezekiel 13:2-3). This makes it absolutely clear that prophets and indeed anybody claiming to have the word of the Lord, must be discerned by the receiving body of Christ for dividing between what is truly God speaking and what is not.

My interlinear Hebrew Bible asks, in Jeremiah 23:18, “Who is standing in the deliberation of Yahweh?” That means who is there standing in the presence of God. “And who is he that is hearing and seeing the word?” The word has to be heard in the presence of Yahweh. It has to be perceived and marked from the very presence and counsel of the Almighty, and then delivered.  Such a practice of being in His presence and counsel, hearing His words, perceiving His words, and telling His words, is a gift to be developed, grown and matured. No matter how much developing, growing and maturing goes on, the message must still be, and perceived to be the gift of the prophetic word from God Himself, nothing less, nothing more and nothing but.

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Categories: Being a Prophet is a privilege, Definition of a Prophet, God's own Training School., Things Developed, Things Given | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Self Denial

SELF – DENIAL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Greater Love Than a Mother Laying Down Her Son

NO GREATER LOVE THAN A MOTHER LAYING DOWN HER SON.

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

(1 Samuel 1:24 – 2:11)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hannah bringing Samuel to Eli

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

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

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

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

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

Hannah Brings Samuel to Eli

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Will Not Let Him Go Until I Wean Him.

I WILL NOT LET HIM GO UNTIL I WEAN HIM

Three years to make a man of God.

 (1 Samuel 1:21 -23)  

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One year after that amazing day in Shiloh, and Elkanah is getting ready and encouraging his family to hurry in preparing to go with him on his annual trek. He’s off  to Shiloh again. This time, however, we have a slightly different scene than the one we encountered twelve months earlier.

So what is similar? What is different? Whether or not Peninnah had yet another child, we are not told. Jewish rabbinical tradition states that Peninnah lost all her children one by one to illness, accident, and pillaging lions, rampant along Jordan’s banks at the time. There is no conclusive source evidence for accepting this. It is not stated in scripture. Always remember that the Talmud oozes the spirit of Judaism from Rabbinical minds. The scriptures come from the Spirit of God. That is two opposite sources. Frankly,  God Could not remove children for the sake of their mother’s awkwardness and lack of grace; millions in the world would be reduced to childlessness if that were the case. We shall assume that Peninnah is the same selfish person, though now looking for further reasons with which to taunt her “enemy”, as her previous plank of attack had been divinely removed.

Hannah is beaming. She is the very picture of contented womanhood. She dotes on, but definitely does not spoil little Samuel. Elkanah encourages her to bring the, “little fellah,” with her, to Shiloh. She answers her husband in a startling manner. She declares her plan to finish weaning him, before taking him to Shiloh to present him to the Lord, “that he may appear before the Lord, and there abide forever.”

It is an easy thing to make a vow. It is another thing to faithfully keep that vow, especially when the vow that was made was so costly and, according to what we read, not known by any other human being at that particular moment. She openly explains the vow to her husband, and so stays at home.

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It was an explanation that came out of sheer love for God. Why not keep the child? God would not be so unreasonable as to ask for something that no one else had ever been asked for. Isn’t it quite natural and normal for a mother to keep her child close until adulthood?  She could hold little Samuel to her bosom all her days, even when he had become, “big,” Samuel, and nobody would guess she had said anything to God that had not been fulfilled.  Why should she, “give him away”? But that would not be the way of integrity. Hannah had vowed. She had made a statement to God that if He were gracious enough to grant her a son she would give him back to the Lord, “all the days of his life.”   The son had been given, the child had arrived; and how she loved him.  She had determined to keep him as long as weaning was necessary.  As soon as he was free of his mother’s milk, Shiloh would see him given back to God and His service.

Honesty towards God and herself forbade her to keep him any longer. The selfless dedication of Hannah to God first, even before her children, is a principle simply taught throughout scripture and assumed as the Godly and biblical norm.  It is still a marvelous thing to behold.  Not that mothers are expected to have their sons take board and lodging elsewhere, as Hannah had imposed on herself and her firstborn.  But loving God before all people is the normal Christian life.  Children should be dedicated to God, simply because God comes first.

In many ways what Hannah did was utterly unique.  In another manner at looking at this account, it is a universal application of a Biblical injunction that addresses us all.  Our children are God’s before they are ours. In the days of the book of Maccabees, from the apocryphal inter-testamental period, it seems that Hebrew women suckled their children for the first three years of life.  If this evidence is indicative of conduct in Samuel’s day it infers that Hannah had three years to influence and teach her little toddler all she could toward the Nazarite vow and the special nature of the circumstances of his conception and birth.  That is, three years to put into him the sort of spirit and attitude that would bind his will and heart to the Lord all the days of his life.  That is thirty six months or so to teach him that he was special; he was chosen; he was to be God’s person; that Yahweh Himself would be a father and a mother to him when he was to be placed with God and Eli at the tabernacle in Shiloh.  That is one thousand and eighty days to produce the incipient Man of God.  What an amazing job she did.  Hannah trained her little Samuel to recognise himself as utterly dedicated to God; and as we shall soon see, she did not have long to wait for the child’s personal, wilful and responsible ratification of her vow. All this because of a vow made in the context of earnest prayer and intercession.  She surely could have pleaded that she was a little, “out of her normal presence of mind,” to have made such a promise when she was praying that prayer, even the High Priest considered her drunk.

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If such a case was put to Hannah, I feel sure she would reason that she had never been in such total control of her volition and frame of mind as she was at that moment of “drunken” prayer in Eli’s full vision.  She would undoubtedly consider that the particular prayer made that day with Eli thinking her drunk, and the vow made whilst saying that prayer, was one of the sanest moments of her entire life.

With all the years of reading and soaking in this story I am left with only one problematic area of thought which I find difficult to come to grips with.  If Hannah was the down to earth intelligent mother I believe that she was; and if she was aware of life around the Tabernacle and its priests, and I believe she was; and if she was aware of the misconduct and godlessness of Hophni and Phinehas, and I believe she was; how on earth could she trust Eli the man so undisciplined in the role of father, to bring up her first and highly treasured son?  He couldn’t even discern whether she was praying or just rambling in a drunken oblivion. Was there no other legitimate way to fulfil her vow? We obviously have here some aspect of faith that transcends her own sense of motherly responsibility.  The vow overrode even her most primal maternal instincts.  Samuel was, in her purpose, to be reared by an elderly, rotund, nearly blind old man, with two wayward adult sons that would not listen to him, and by inference, never had!  How could she do such a thing?  Surely such a step was catastrophic for Samuel’s future and irresponsible on the side of Hannah. Even if we could imagine that Hannah did not know of the wickedness’s that went on at the Tabernacle, her husband, a man of the world, and of the priestly group would surely have known.

According to Moses instructions, if on the day that Elkanah discovered the nature of the vow that his wife had made he, as husband, had disapproved of that vow, he was in a position to cancel the vow utterly and have it annulled.  Then Hannah would have been honestly, and with integrity,  free of her vow. We take it that the account given in verses 21-23 of the first chapter of the first book of Samuel is the first time Elkanah had heard of the vow.  However, he rescinded it not at all.  In fact he even blessed the words of Hannah and her commitment to God. Samuel’s future was set.

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To Elkanah and indeed to the normal significance of language, God had accepted the covenantal vow made by him and his wife.  This acceptance of the, “business contract,” inferred God Almighty had accepted the fact that Samuel the treasured son of Hannah, was to serve Him and stand before Him all his life.  For this reason, Elkanah pronounces: “The Lord establish His word.”  With that paternal response, the last chance saloon had been passed for Samuels’s possible escape from a parental rearing by an elderly man that had, thus far, not exactly achieved a track record of successful parenting. Oh dear!

Faith can  turn human logic on its head.  If an example of such is needed, here is probably the best.  We are talking of long time rearing of a young child by a man who is not a member of the family, excepting by distant joining of forefathers many generations previous.  What was Samuel going to turn out like with such a jumbled mixture of primary adult relationships?

Take very special note: God’s purpose overrides all human decisions, wise, unwise, thoughtful or thoughtless. And Samuel was proven, in the long term, to be God’s man for his generation.

None of the characters in this drama had a clue of the blessing that was being unleashed by Hannah’s strong and willful choice. Not Hannah! Not Eli! Not Elkanah! Samuel himself could not possibly be aware of what was ahead, apart from the fact that he obviously loved God with everything he had, as we will see in later pages.

Oh!The awesome wisdom and ways of God in people’s lives! In one woman’s heart and faith was seeded something – somebody – that would bring to order the entire future of Israel into a new vision and a new understanding . Sh’muel ben Elkanah had arrived on planet earth. Jewish tradition tells us that he was here amongst  us for one hundred years. It was not the length of the material of his life that really mattered. It was the deep lush spiritual quality of his life in the Spirit that really mattered. Watch out world, Samuel is on the way to your confusion. Stand up and be respectful. Samuel is passing by.

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Categories: 1 Samuel 1:21-23, I will not let him go until I wean him, three years to make a man of God | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Give me Children or I Die.

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

(1 Samuel 1 :9-20)

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Give me childre or I die

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ramah to Shiloh. Across the world in 6 hours.

RAMAH TO SHILOH

Across the world in six hours. 

(1 Samuel 1 verses 1 – 9)

1 4 Rachels'tomb as one leaves Ramah

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

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

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

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

Stargazing camels..

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

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

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

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

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A far distant view of Shiloh today

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

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

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

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Shiloh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Historical site as it is today. Shioloh.

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

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

1 12 the sad Hannah

Sad Sad Hannah

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 13 Peninah taunts Hannah

Penninah taunts Hannah. Wicked Woman.

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

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

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

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

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The stairs at Samuel’s tomb.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preface

Eulogy to “The Last Judge. The First Prophet” – Shmuel ben Elkanah.

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A TOUCHING REPRESENTATION OF THE BOY SAMUEL REVEALING HIS FIRST PROPHETIC WORD TO THE ELDERLY ELI.

I swear I have seen him! I know what he looks like! I have caught a glimpse of his elderly gait. I have heard the tone of his voice. I hear him speak in English, even though it was ancient Hebrew he undoubtedly spoke. I have even overheard him muttering to himself concerning his own decision making processes, and his God. For these notes I have read the biblical account of his life and pondered over it again and again; it may even be in the area of three figures. I have read every book I can get my hands on that mentions him or discusses him.

Who are we talking about? For me personally – the ultimate in Old Testament biblical prophets. The supreme forerunneer of those who started their days work by declaring, “Thus says Jehovah”. The Father figure for other generations of prophets to follow. This man is the nearest thing to a benchmark amongst the widest mixture of human types that ever sought the same interest – I am talking of the incredible bunch of men we refer to as “The Old Testament Prophets”. We are discussing a man mountain – nay – a veritable continent.

I have grown to love this man despite him annoying me. He has had the lack of consideration to wake me up at night, to perplex me as to why he uttered a certain sentence, or why he did or did not do a certain action. He has, through the years, made me late for appointments while my reflective juices “squandered” time and pondered some of his rationale and motivations. He has at times kept me entwined in his bundle of life whilst my drink or food has gone cold while I merely “finished typing the thought of the moment” – for another hour.

 

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SAMUEL’S HOME AND TOMB.

I have depressed myself wondering how he responded  and felt about his corrupt children. I have been stunned at times as it continually dawned on my soul more and more that the sheer dynamic force of his righteous character and creative teaching that he brought to his generation impacted Israel for the next two or three generations. In fact there are certain aspect of his world view that still impacts us today in the 21st century New Testament church. I have been amazed at the degree of intimacy and relaxed spirituality he had with his God.

All this, and more, have left me at moments  in my prayer times crying out with acute heartache, “God give me at least some of what this man had.”

I am referring to Samuel ben Elkanah.

Samuel the prophet! Samuel the Priest! Samuel the Kingmaker! Samuel the Apostle to his generation! Samuel the Old Testament Evangelist cum revivalist! Samuel the Shepherd of a nation! Samuel the teacher of a people who, initially in his early days, were lost in idolatry and synchretism joining Yahweh with casrved idols! Samuel the Judge! Samuel the monarchical constitution writer! Samuel the personal confidante of the Almighty!

And that’s just for starters.

3We are talking of a man whose Godliness was so powerful it clearly corrected not only his own generation but the following century or so after his demise.

Oh Samuel! Samuel! I feel like a toddler having a tantrum and throwing his Teddy out of the buggy. I fell like a spoilt child who is angry because he cannot have his way. But I shall still bang on the floor with my fists and cry out to God from the depths of my guts. “Lord! Give me just a little bit of what Samuel had and was”.

The following notes started as a devotional notebook of a diary on my PC over 20 years ago and was not intended for public perusal. It grew and grew. It finished up as what I am editing here on this blog.

May God use it to communicate to you my reader, something of what I see of a man who, to my mind, towers above all the biblical men of God – even Moses. And my goal is not just to impart something concerning Samuel, but most of all, the God who Samuel served.

1 yemenite color

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Apologetically, Yours....

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

Prema Sunder Raj's Blog

Tamil Christian Family Bible Study Devotions

Break Away

Lifestyle | Food | Art | Faith | Music

God Running

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

Kingdom EMC

Info about Kingdom Evangelical Methodist Church in WV.

Knowing God through His Word ... Day by Day

Read the Bible through in a year....

Blake Williams

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

Raining Truth Bible Trivia

BIBLE TRIVIA FROM THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENT

Daba

cos family is where it all begins!

Narrow is The Way Ministries

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

Craig T. Owens

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

Center for Evangelists

SOS Events - a life saving ministry

hocuspocus13

Magickal Arts