Posts Tagged With: God

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

The  Master Builder who Left a United Israel.   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 Nebi Samuel

Nebi Samuel

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

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

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

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

Hail Samuel! Mighty man of God!

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

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

00000Sam4

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

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

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

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

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

00000Sam3

.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

00000Sam1

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

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

An incredible Taboo broken by Saul.

(1 Samuel 28:3-24)

The witch at Endor 1

The Witch at Endor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The witch at Endor 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stereotypical classic witch pose.

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

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

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

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

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

tHE WITCH AT eNDOR 10

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

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

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

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

The Witch at Endor 12

Not so skilled with dark and light.

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

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

tHE Witch AT Endor 13_(Nikolay_Ge)

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

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

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

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

The Witch at Endor 14 edward-henry-corbould

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

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

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

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

The Witch at Endor 15 -benjamin-west

But did the two servants actually witness the apparition.

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

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

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

tHE wITCH AT eNDOR 16 1375-496

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHjdf2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I go further.

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

The Witch at Endor 19

How David decisively missed the battle of Gilboa.

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

One evangelical writer states :

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

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

Another writer states:

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

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

Yet another:

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

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

The Witch at Endor 21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6RSSa2

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

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

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

State Funeral in the Nations Great Loss.

(1 Samuel 25:1)

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

4 Nebi Samuel

Nebi Samuel. The Prophet Samuel’s Tomb.

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

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

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

Nebi Samuel 5

A sign that speaks for itself

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

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

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

Nebi Samuel 6

The tomb itself inside Nebi Samuel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nebi Samuel 8

Inside Nebi Samuel.

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

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

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

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

2 Nebi Samuel

Click on this Map to read its content.

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

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

1 Nebi Shmuel

.

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

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

Nebi Samuel 9

.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kingmaker – Prophet and Future King have Quality Time Together.

Minutes of the Meeting?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Street of Prophets, Jerusalem. Looking West

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The ruins of Saul’s fortress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AGENDA  ITEM 2.THE TEMPLE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Samuel’s tomb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AGENDA ITEM 4. MUSIC IN PRAISE AND WORSHIP.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why is this significant?

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

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

AGENDA ITEM 5.  DANCE IN WORSHIP.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AGENDA ITEM 6.  KINGLY CONDUCT.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 Related articles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What should David do? Where should he go?

 

 

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

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

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

(1 Samuel 16:15-19:17)

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Related articles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Samuel meets Shepherd Boy David.

 

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

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

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

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

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

Dark shadowy days were ahead for King Saul.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saul’s route to destruction.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Oh the affliction of being God’s prophet.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Being a Prophet is a Privilege, but it is also an Affliction and Oh how Great is that Affliction.

The Agony and the Tears of a True Prophet.
(1 Samuel 15:10-11)
Saul is partying, making merry and generally living it up. He had left what used to be the Amalekite territory and made his way up to Gilgal. There was only one single Amalekite left alive, as far as Saul claimed (Trust me when I tell you that what Saul believed was simply not true), and that was the worst one of them all. On the way to Gilgal, Saul had stopped at Carmel and it seems, made some sort of statue, memorial perhaps, or even a celebratory structure in order to commemorate his “victory.”
Oh dear! Little did he know what he was getting himself into.
Samuel knows nothing of what has gone on across the, “killing fields,” of Amalek. Yahweh sees all things. In the context of time, no matter how well He knows things before they have happened, the Almighty waits until Saul has decided to keep the best animals and rescue Agag from death, supposedly the only living Amalekite. God waits until the sin has been perpetrated. Then Yahweh Himself is pained. And, if it doesn’t sound too strange a question, who does God lean on when He is distressed at something? Answer: His prophets. Or in this particular case, His prophet –singular.

While Almighty God was thinking thoughts of judgement and finality with Saul, the man himself is exulting in believing that he has done a great job. How incredibly painful to consider that God was righteously judging Saul for sins that he seems to have believed were not sins. At least that is how this writer sees it. The man had some kind of “accountability blindness,” or  even, “Responsibility Short-sightedness.” Either way, by all the dialogue of Saul that we read of in scripture, he seems to have thought he had done the right thing until Samuel confronted him with his actions.  But more of that later. 

Because of the saving of King Agag, and the rounding up of the best livestock, God looks for somebody to talk to. “The word of the Lord came to Samuel,” immediately. Imagine the concurrent scene in three different places.

Down somewhere between the Amalekite region, Carmel and Gilgal, it is the blood-bathed warrior’s “Happy Hour.” These soldiers are celebrating in keeping for themselves what used to be Amalek’s choicest live stock – both herds and flocks. Perhaps Saul, foolishly, did not tell them of the exact instructions that Samuel had delivered to him from God. Saul later explains to Samuel that the livestock he kept alive were for sacrificing to God. My thoughts are that the situation was utterly out of King Saul’s control, and that the soldiers were doing what they wanted irrespective of anything Saul had ordered or “suggested.” Telling the king what they were doing, left Saul utterly paralyzed with fear or ignorance – or was it apathy and despair. Saul did not know how to handle the masses.  Scene one, therefore, is drunken debauchery in celebration of, “A job well done!” that was not actually done at all.

Scene 2 is Samuel (probably at home in the Naioth in Ramah) praying, worshipping, “getting things on,” with his school of the prophets. He is heavy in heart because he has been left stranded in a kind of limbo. He has, by the Spirit of God, told Saul that he will definitely lose his kingdom to another. He was not told whether or not the change of dynastic family would take place during Saul’s life, or after his death. The limbo of not knowing the future must have weighed on him extremely heavily. As a prophet of God, Yahweh could, and ultimately would, reveal how things were to be in the future after Saul had vacated the earthly throne room of Israel. But even that was to be only partially revealed. Samuel was aged and in the autumn of his days. There was, as far as we know, no other, “up and coming” prophet at that moment who would assume the role of pastoring the nation as he had done for so many years. He was sadly disappointed with Saul’s change of heart, causing him to dive into blatant disobedience and an insipid lack of leadership. We are not sure exactly what Samuel was doing at that moment of revelation, but we are positive he was in an emotionally pressured state. He had given Saul the divine command to rid the world of the Amalekites, and then had quickly withdrawn to his home again. He was getting on with life as he knew it, probably understanding by his human intuition that Saul was possible of anything – except the right thing.

Scene 3 is more complex to explain. We are talking about the all seeing God, seated in heaven. While Saul was merry making, and Samuel was paining in the deepest part of his being, God was in the heavenly throne room, panning His eyes over the spiritual state of Saul, and the disobedience towards Amalek.

God lives outside of time. God can enter our “Time, Space World” from any angle He wishes. God exists outside the linear parameter of time. He enters into time, and talks to us with glorious condescension, in terms suggesting an equality with man as far as existing within the limits of time. Thus, we hear of theologians and preachers arguing and debating about God being surprised, or regretting, and “repenting” of anything.  God, here, sees and knows (and as we understand God – He must have known before it happened.) what Saul had actually done in disobeying the orders to kill all in Amalek. God’s desire, at that point of time, was to speak to His man in Israel, His key prophetic figure. Things have been utterly disturbed and disrupted in the heavenly sphere. A decree of God has not been submitted to. Saul is responsible for these foaming waves of white water in the smooth waters of God’s plans. Samuel is the man to deal with the issue.

Note that God will not do anything without telling His prophets.  Amos 3:7 tells us that this is the absolute truth. God shares His feelings with His prophets. To our knowledge, as far as prophets in the earth at that time were concerned, there was Samuel and his school of the prophets at Naioth in Ramah, and surely there must have been other individuals dotted around the land of Israel, yet, God came to the prophet Samuel by His Word to prepare him for the shock he would have when he saw Agag and the livestock. God shared all He wanted to do with Israel, with Samuel, and no other. God, expressed Himself fully and succinctly to the elderly prophet.  Observe that, just as it was when the angel informed Mary she was going to bear a son, so it was with Samuel’s revelation here, inasmuch as, we haven’t a clue as to what these two were actually doing when God communicated important things to them.

Yahweh did not waste a word or a moment. His statement to Samuel could not have been more informative, neither could it have been briefer. “It grieves Me that I have set up Saul to be King; for he is turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments.” Some translations have it as, “I repent at having made Saul King.” I think the modern translations try to adjust the language as so many millions of atheistic thinkers cannot cope with the fact that, “If there was a God, how is it He can repent of anything?” The Hebrew word is better translated as, “grieves,” rather than repented.

To use modern street language, the revelation of Saul’s conduct and God’s mind on that conduct, must have blown Samuel away.  The Word of the Lord came to Samuel in the manner I believe He nearly always had, that is, Yahweh came and stood before Samuel in order to speak with him. (See 1 Samuel 3:10 “Yahweh came and stood there, calling as at the other times.)

See the reasons that caused Samuel to be in “spiritual emergency” mode.

  1. God acknowledged that it was He, not Samuel, who had set up Saul as King. That would have eased Samuel’s heart very slightly.
  2. God is, “emotionally,” involved in Israel and humankind as a whole. He was grieved at what had happened with Saul. Samuel knew God’s heart and responded to it. God was grieved. He had said so. Samuel was also genuinely grieved.
  3. The fact that Saul was the King and set on the throne by God Himself, seemed to be something that Saul had lost track of. Israel as a people, the land that was given to them, the Tabernacle that they had worshipped around (until the Ark was taken by the Philistines), the prophets that taught them, the kings and priests that proliferated in Israel, were all placed there, with their existence justified by God Himself. How could Saul have lost sight of that?
  4. God was grieved because of Saul’s lack of submission to Him and His purpose, as well as all the priorities of the safety of the nation.
  5. It was not just the occasional refusal of Saul to follow God’s ways or obey His prophet. Saul had literally turned his back on God. Saul had willfully made the decision not to listen to God, and had walked away from being under Yahweh’s divine covering over him. Saul had turned his back towards God. That would be an insult in human relationships. It is a sin to knowledgeably and wilfully turn around from facing God.
  6. God wanted kings of Israel that would follow Him without question.
  7. Of all the people on the planet, God chooses to share His feelings with the prophet Samuel.

God speaks to mankind in human terms, in human ways, often working through people, in time, and conditioning his comments contextually, relative to the period and situation of the people to whom He is talking.  Deuteronomy 9:8 informs us that God expresses emotion over the sin of people, such as anger. God also expressed things like pity in Judges 2:18,  sorrow  as in 1 Chronicles 21:15 and of course, regret here in the two verses we are considering. God shares these proper emotions at the proper time even though He knew from eternity that people, in general, would sin. He also knew that Saul would disobey against Samuel’s words, which were God’s words.

Saul had turned his heart away from Yahweh. God could see what was in Saul’s heart, He is God that sees everything.  We humans, however, only see the fruit of what was in Saul’s heart. He was now living in a spiritual status that constantly and consistently disobedient to God.

Samuel was angry, for a good reason. My Hebrew Interlinear Old Testament  says that  Samuel, “was being hot.” The “heat” is translated as anger. But whether or not you agree with me about the nature of Samuel’s anger, in the midst of the anger, Samuel did something great. The prophet took all his anger, and spent the entire night pouring out his heart to God Himself, expressing his full emotion, feelings and intelligence on Saul and the nation. Herein is the secret of Samuel’s greatness.

The heart of God moves toward any person who is broken in spirit for the sake of others. That is the very nature of God Himself. Samuel was truly touched by the pains, disappointment and struggles of Saul, and the nation he had been ministering to all his life, as their prophet.

Saul’s sin screamed at heaven, and was displayed by all he said and did. His rebellion was openly exhibited, yet Samuel only dares to speak to Saul after having wept all night over the state of his heart, and the plight of the nation. Oh! For the heart of Samuel.

Even though Samuel had heard God indict Saul, Samuel acts in a divinely beautiful manner. Accusation , even when it is based upon truth, as Samuel’s divinely imparted knowledge was, cannot be any kind of substitute for intercession. In like manner to the Spirit of God, “Who helps our infirmities…” and “makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered”, so we also are called to pray for others in their time of weakness and failings. (Romans 8:26) Paul wrote, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). Some principles of prayer, even though they are only taught and stated in the New Testament, are actually eternal unchanging principles that have always been rocks to stand since Adam first fell.

It is a wise practice  to emulate Samuel, who, before offering criticism or rebuke to another person, even though it was God Himself who had broken the news to the prophet, spent time in brokenness before God. Your intercessions, tears and grief for that person will bear much weight before God. Maybe, if we haven’t been able to weep over someone’s failings, we shouldn’t address them or judge them.

Samuel’s prayers were not nice and tidy. He cried out to the Lord all night. That means Samuel took several hours to unburden his soul before God, so he could be in the right place when he spoke to Saul. Prayers of the night, in the silence, are prayers that are pointed, focussed and concentrated I find. With Samuel we distinctly get the message that praying in this manner was his continuous lifestyle.

We catch Samuel praying in 1 Samuel  7:9. 8:6. 12:18 and 23, and here in 1 Sam 15:11. It is always intercessory prayer,  ie: on behalf of somebody else. The prophet appears to have been told by God  the result of Saul’s  probationary commission.  Saul had failed the “test.” Agitated and distressed, moved and angered, yet  not clearly perceiving it to be the fixed purpose of God that Saul should no longer reign over Israel as His recognized servant, king  and vicegerent, Samuel literally gave of himself fully and holistically to prayer. If there was a way in which to save the day, save the nation and save Saul, Samuel was determined to seek God and get such prayers answered.  It was with great intensity, if by any means of relating with Yahweh, he might avert the calamity for both Saul and the nation.  Samuel’s agonising in prayer was chiefly, on behalf of the nation’s king, though not without regard to the whole  nation, on which the rejection of the monarch seemed likely to result in disaster.

Prayer works. And well meant, intercessory praying in the Spirit is priceless and availing. We should  intercede for individuals as well as communities, groups and even nations. “Satan hath desired to have you,” said the Master who was and is the perfect example of intercessory prayer, “but I have prayed for you” (Luke 22:32). King Saul was in very great danger and peril. He was falling from high dignity, failing to accomplish the purpose of his appointment, losing the favour and help of Yahweh, and sinking into confirmed rebellion and complete ruin. “It grieves me that I have made Saul  king; for he is turned back from following me.”  The words spoken by God to Samuel have pathos and pain about them.

Samuel rose from his prostration before God in a state of holy anger  against sin, and against the sinner, in so far as he had yielded himself to the power of God’s word, arising from sympathy with God and zeal for his honour.  He was also deeply sorrowed over Saul, because of his loss and ruin in his essential personality, mingled with disappointment at the failure of the hopes entertained concerning him from the start. Saul had been so humble when Samuel first met him. He would not sin against Israel or Saul in failing to pray for them.

“And he cried unto the Lord all night,” with a loud and piercing cry, and in prolonged petition.  He was shouting. He was calling out. Surely the old home at Ramah, which had been sanctified by parental prayers and his own incessant supplications, never witnessed greater fervour as at this tragic moment.  “God, have mercy on Saul! Have mercy on Israel! Keep us from your wrath! Give us all grace to repent and walk with You!” No wonder the Psalmist quotes Samuel as an outstanding man of prayer who was heard by God continually (Psalm 99:6). These kind of moments were exactly what Samuel was created for.

Having said all that, one could suggest that his prayers were not answered. Saul did not repent, nor did Father in heaven reverse his rejection of the monarch.   I am not sure, however, that Samuel failed at all.  There are stages of human guilt which would be followed by the wrath of God, “though Moses and Samuel stood before him” (Jeremiah 15:1). The Apostle John wrote that, “There is a sin unto death; I do not say that he shall pray for it”” (1 John 5:16). Judgement had been arrived at in heaven. It was a judgement that would not have been made if there was the slightest hope of Saul returning to his erstwhile humility and submission to the Almighty and his prophet. Samuel had, “cried unto the Lord all night.” His cries had not been in vain, for they had brought Samuel himself into complete submission, and had nerved him to do his work calmly, without a quiver or a pang of personal feeling, as becomes God’s prophet. He had aligned his own spirit with the Spirit of God, and was ready to be the human instrument that would  speak God’s word to the errant king of Israel.

It is the distinguishing mark of prophets, and others, that they cry for the offences and affronts committed by others against Yahweh. Jeremiah wished that his head were waters, and his eyes a fountain of tears, that he might be facilitated to weep day and night (Jeremiah 9:1). King David declared, his tears ran like rivers, because men kept not God’s laws (Psalm 119:136). Paul wrote about having continual sorrow in his heart for his unconverted brethren the Jews (Romans 9:2). And when God would point out the grand mark by which his own were to be known, he says, “Go through the midst of the city, the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof” (Ezekiel 9:4). So we are rationally challenged to ask; when wickedness is going on in our towns, or in the secret chambers of power, in our nation, do we shut our door about us, and cry to the Lord all night?

Whether Samuel slept at all that night we are not told. We are only made privy to the fact that he rose early in the morning and set out to speak to the king.

 Related articles

Categories: 1 Samuel 15:10-11, Being a Prophet is a privilege, but it is also an affliction and oh how painful is the Affliction., Definition of a Prophet, Intercession, Prayer | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kingdom Business Carries on Bursting with Life Even Though the Kingdom has been Promised to Another. Damned and Doomed. But serving still.

KINGDOM BUSINESS CARRIES ON, BURSTING WITH LIFE, EVEN THOUGH THE KINGDOM HAS BEEN PROMISED TO ANOTHER.
Damned and Doomed. But Serving Still.
(1 Samuel 14:47–15:1-9)
Now we have had a short breather to get over that first phrase of verse 47. We can move on. We are chewing on Samuel, not Saul or Jonathan, or anybody else – not even David.  I say this for the reader to understand why I am jumping a few verses occasionally, and even chapters.
The last we saw of Samuel,  he was angry, sad, disappointed and under the pressure of a very heavy divinely given pronouncement. His last line to Saul, in the fifteenth verse of 1 Samuel 13, was telling the King that his reign or dynasty would not continue, that Yahweh had sought out for Himself a man that was, “after His own heart,” and that, whoever it was, Yahweh had, it seems, already commanded him to be the master over Israel, simply because Saul had not done what God had asked him to do. This is a marvellous example of how God talks of things that are not as if they are. Why? Because Saul’s successor to the throne of Israel had definitely not been born at the time that Samuel prophesied concerning a man after God’s own heart. After Samuel’s statement that the kingdom was not going to be his, Saul reigned for a further 37 years. Is that interesting or what?

Samuel left Gilgal, with Saul no doubt in tears and depression. Then, for no reason explained in scripture, the prophet marched up to Gibeah of Benjamin, King Saul’s home town.  There is no explanation of what happened with Saul, his six hundred men, and the huge Philistine army that Samuel had walked away from and left Saul with at Gilgal. There is not so much as a hint that any fighting took place at all. Samuel went to the place where Saul lived, and I say again, for a reason that is not given.  Gibeah of Benjamin is between 2 and 3 miles from the Naioth in Ramah where Samuel lived. That means that they both lived, “just down the Road,” from each other.

Immediately after that we have the  narrative homing in on accounts of  Saul’s battling with Philistines and being successful. That line of scripture instructs us that if there was any warring going on the day that Samuel left Saul, Israel must have beaten the Philistines. There are also accounts of Jonathan’s bravery, winning skirmishes against Philistine troops and accrediting his bravery to his father. This is followed by the strange account where, once again, Saul humiliated himself by making a strange and inappropriate vow. In the midst of a prolonged battle scenario Saul had declared, “Cursed is the man who eats any food until evening, before I have taken vengeance on my enemies.” Even a child reading the story can see that Saul was totally unhelpful to his battle weary, and very hungry troops who were risking life and limb for their king. Everybody in the camp was aware of the king’s vow, except the much loved Jonathan, the man who would have inherited Saul’s crown if only Saul’s dynasty was destined to continue. In the midst of the battle, Jonathan takes a handful of honey that had dropped out of a bees nest, and was therefore, because of his father’s vow, cursed for doing the common sense thing of eating to keep his strength up for the fight. To cut the account short, when Saul discovered it was Jonathan that had gone against his royal vow, he spoke of having his own son executed, but the people would not let him. Oh dear! Losing the kingdom in his own life time may have been less embarrassing for Saul than having the general public reverse a royal decision he had made.

The narrator leaves us with the clear impression that Samuel had gone home to hide away from Saul and his unbelieving behaviour. Samuel was grieving for the nation of Israel like parents grieve over a wayward son. Samuel, however, would not say or do anything that did not have a true, “Thus says the Lord,” behind it. He did not speak out of irritation of his words not being obeyed, or for reasons of self elevation before the people as I have read in the writings of some Jewish Rabbi’s. Samuel was intimately acquainted with God and the divine thinking than anybody. If God was angry, so was Samuel. 

It is this writer’s conviction that God spoke to Samuel in an audible voice most of his life, perhaps even saw the face of the theophanic appearance as in 1 Samuel 3:10. He could know God’s attitude, anger or pleasure, joy or sadness in the voice that spoke to him. God’s grief was Samuel’s grief.

It is seen immediately after that account is finished, that we have that phrase that was so shocking to us, i.e. “So Saul established his sovereignty over Israel.” Established? Sovereignty? “over Israel”? It is a shock because the statement comes immediately after Samuel’s pronouncement, and then because the scripture explains how Jonathan is seemingly more militarily astute than his father, as well as more loved by the people. Saul, however, just seems to carry on pillaging and plundering all the nations and their cities in the middle eastern area that surrounded Israel at the time;, Moab, Ammon, Edom, Zobah and, of course, the Philistines.  We are told that there was a fierce war with the Philistines throughout all the days of Saul. Wherever Saul turned, he harassed them all. It would seem, outwardly, that nothing has altered after Samuel’s pronouncement that the kingdom was removed from Saul’s dynasty. Samuel stated, as plainly as language can make it, that Saul’s kingdom would not continue. It seems, however, that the, “non continuance clause,” of the prophetic word was not to be physically activated till sometime in the future, somewhere over the horizon, for here we see his external circumstances of kingship booming, despite Saul’s internal issues of leadership, and popularity with his son and the people. He was a fighter, and he was winning those fights with others. However he was sadly losing the fights with his own worldliness.

The situation was definitely a strange one. Samuel had given Saul the “thumbs down,” as it were, yet the people of Israel at the time, saw nothing with their physical eyes but a battle winning, Israel leading monarch, and so many were giving him the thumbs up.  It is definitely a scenario that looks different from the human point of view as compared to the heavenly and divine point of view.   Saul seemed to be growing from strength to strength; but we know, through Samuel, that things spiritual were draining away.

Question: So what happens next?

Answer: Samuel turns up looking into Saul’s face  with another message from God.

“I am the one the LORD sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the LORD.” This opening gambit from Samuel seems utterly unnecessary and inappropriate, unless there had been a considerable period of perhaps a few months, and more likely, even a few years. It gives the vibes of Samuel still being annoyed at the manner in which Saul had caused God to reject his kingship and dynasty. It is as if Samuel is saying, “You are the king. You may have established your throne to the view of the nation’s physical eyes. But, do not forget that I am the man who, under God, put you there. Make sure you are humble enough to listen to me and do what I ask of you this time, exactly to the last letter.” The sternness jumps out at the reader as the line of scripture is thought on.

Samuel continued, “This is what Yahweh Elohim says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt.” Things like this cannot but suggest to the reader that Samuel had copies, or at least a copy of the books of Moses to study from. Amalek had blocked Israel (Exodus 17) between 400 and 500 years earlier, as they were leaving the wilderness in order to enter the promised land. Now, Amalek was to pay for their cruelty and maliciousness of some ten or twelve generations previous. I suppose that it is possible that God had spoken to Samuel without Samuel having read the scripture that gives us the account of Amalek’s cruelty. Samuel was, through natural or supernatural means, totally au fait with what had happened in Amalek’s dealings with Moses in the dim and distant past history.

Now for the details of Samuel’s orders. “Go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’” In this day and age, and a generation where the Geneva Convention is esteemed and treasured, the instructions seem austere, to put it mildly. Saul received his instructions, and having read ahead, we are sadly aware that he did not fulfil them. It was this very nonchalance concerning God’s word, whenever it was presented to him, and the cavalier attitude to God’s prophet, that was his catastrophic downfall.

Our movie camera cuts from Samuel giving his earnest instructions to the King of Israel, and we pan across to the nation of Amalek on the eastern bank of the Jordan to glance at the heathen nation, with its king, whose name was Agag, its army, its families and farmers. Little did they know what God’s intentions were for them. We should never forget that the anointed of the Lord must not be touched. Moses and his people were affronted and forced into battle for arrogant reasons, centuries before Saul or Samuel were even born. To affront Israel in that way was to affront God and His purpose. The motives of Amalek were malicious and unnecessary. And God does remember sin. I do not mean that He makes some relaxed remark in His notebook about what Amalek did in Exodus 17. I mean that God remembers it. Several generations had passed since the Amalekites had aligned their sympathy and military force with the enemies of Israel. They wilfully threw hindrances in the way of Moses as he was finalising Israel’s historic trek from Egypt to Canaan.

With the passing of at least 430 years, the record of sin against the nation of Amalek might have been regarded as consigned to oblivion, and somehow left for the Great White Throne judgement at the end of all things.  The problem for Amalek was that God had declared that it should not be forgotten, and that Amalek would be judged for their action (Ex 17:14, Deuteronomy 25:17-19). It was as if the anger of God against them had been thwarted for several hundred years until this moment.  After all this time, there broke out on planet earth the awful fiat of Almighty Justice, the ground trembling wrath of God.  Amalek were to be wiped off the face of the earth as a dirty plate is wiped with a rag. Almighty Yahweh stated Himself, “I remember that, which Amalek did.” From the Infinite glory of heaven their crime had not been in any way shape or form diminished in the mind of God. The news was shocking to every Amalekite; there had been no obliteration of their crime. As far as Yahweh was concerned their sin was as fresh and remembered as the day on which it had been committed. The sin of Amalek stood out to the divine  view. It was sin that was about to be judged.

“I remember.” said Yahweh. Seen with a New Testament, “Gospel preaching” emphasis it tells us that four hundred plus years had not softened Amalek’s response to Israel one iota. God’s grace gave Amalek time to make amends in their international relationship with Israel. God’s grace to Amalek had been met with spite and ignorance. God  had been forbearing, but that forbearance had been lost on them. Amalek were still foes of Israel. Amalek was an incredibly cruel nation, and Agag had gained notoriety it seems for hacking to death pregnant women.

These instructions given by God teach us clearly that a nation’s conduct is measured and noted by God Himself, and He has a judgement, for which each nation shall answer. Yahweh is God of the entire planet, not just the middle eastern state of Israel. But those states and empires of Edom, Amalek, Babylon, Assyria as well as Israel are all exemplifications of the fact that even large nations and empires somehow have to answer en bloc for their conduct.

“Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.” I would venture to suggest that the instructions are so violently scary as to be unforgettable. Even in the days of cruelty, violence and routine war, the instructions are breathtakingly mountainous to cope with in one’s mind. In a nutshell, apart from the beetles and insects, all life forms in Amalek were to be ended – ceased – wiped out – removed. This was the non- negotiable statement of Yahweh  to Samuel and passed on to King Saul. Samuel returned home and left Saul to obey the divinely given mandate.

It may be a difficult thing to grasp on in our twenty first century value system, but it was indeed a normal perception in Saul’s. We are not told of any verbal response from the king. He immediately jumped into action. He called his soldiers from every tribe. There were amazingly 200,000 foot soldiers from all tribes and an extra 10,000 from the tribe of Judah.

Then we have the brief account of how Saul explained what they were going to do to the Kenites who lived amongst the Amalekites. The Kenites showed kindness to Israel in Moses’ day, in fact we know that they journeyed with the people of Israel as they travelled, originally towards Canaan (see Judges 1:16). After settling in the southern reaches of the promised land, some of the Kenites separated from the fellow countrymen and moved northward (Judges 4:11).

That section who remained in the south were obviously well integrated through the centuries with the war like Amalekites. Just as the point of the war and the attack on Amalek was historically based, so, on that same historical base, the Kenites were to be informed of the plan and granted life because of their historical support and oneness with Israel.

 

There are several lessons of eternal weight and matter in this section of Israel’s history.

  1. Whatever we do, we will one day give account for. Sometimes we pay for our sins and crimes in this life. Giving an account of our deeds in this world is hard enough, but answering in the next life will be harder still for those, like the Amalekites, who willfully had no faith in God in this life.
  2. Those who live by animosity and the sword will die by the sword and rot in their animosity. Amalek were more addicted to warring, fighting and killing than most of the nations round about.
  3. We must be sure that our sins will indeed find us out. Four hundred plus years did not dry out or dim the ink of the handwriting of the ordinance that was against the evil of Amalek.
  4. As Saul and Israel spared the Kenites because of their help, assistance and brotherhood through the centuries, so it needs to be absorbed that friendship and well doing for its own sake needs rewarding, as does enmity, killing and animosity.  Amalek were divinely ordered to be put to the sword. The Kenites were released from the damnation even though some lived amongst the damned.

But we cannot just whizz by the crunch moment  and it’s build up. I mean, how is it possible to misunderstand, “Attack the Amalekites?” “Totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them. Put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.” It isn’t  like having a complicated shopping list. The orders, to the twenty first century, “civilized” mind, that’s filled with the idea of the Geneva convention, are utterly shocking, but they are shocking for their simplicity. In a nutshell it is, “kill anything that moves.” Could it be simpler. One really does need assistance of a specialist nature to misunderstand the order. Only a fool could forget it, or think it said something it didn’t.  Only a fool!!!

King Saul was that fool. It wasn’t enough that he had pushed Samuel into depression and grief at already adding to one of Samuel’s orders. He killed every single Amalekite, except the one who was the heart and mind of the evil that the Amalekites perpetrated. Any self respecting autocrat, would surely go down with his ship. How could any man see the nation over which he ruled be utterly and completely wiped out, and then wheel and deal to stay alive himself. Agag was his name, and Agag was as selfish as he was pure evil, just as Saul was demonised and pure foolishness. Saul spared Agag. It actually says, “Saul and the army spared Agag.” Was Saul sucked into the rebel rousing carousing soldiers who had gone very merry at having shed so much blood. Agag was eating, drinking and making merry with them all, or so it would seem.

But the story did not end with this evil monstrous monarch being saved. Saul and the army also spared the best sheep, cattle, fatted calves and lambs. They saved anything from which they could feast and party. Weak animals and people were totally destroyed.

So Saul, seemingly non compus mentis, was happily partying at their national success. He literally seems like a tragedy waiting to take place; an accident waiting to happen; a bomb just waiting to explode. Was he mad? Insane? Demonically inspired? Or was he just trying to prove to the people that he could think for himself, and that he was not just Samuel’s errand boy? Is it possible that he was trying to shut Samuel up and get him to stay away? Is it conceivable that the blood lust that ran through the brains of the soldiers had affected their mob rule mentality to the point where they intimidated or threatened the king? Was it a case of, “Agag says if we let him live he will give us all 30 pieces of silver, so we demand that you let him live!” and Saul felt fearful and unable to say, “No!”

 

It Cannot be argued against that Saul’s decision was quite spectacularly insane and crass, and/ or, madly foolish.

I knew a man once who was meek, mild, subservient and obedient when authority figures were around giving instructions to him and overseeing his work. Yet the moment the authority presence was absent he became the opposite person type. He became noisy, mischievous, contrary and awkward. I saw him once so carried away with his mental silliness, that the room emptied as the authority figures returned. He was out of his mind dancing on a table top, and so carried away, that when the authority figures returned and stood around the table, he carried on dancing for a minute or so before he realised that his superiors were present. When he climbed down from the table, filled with remorse and apologies, he simply could not understand why he had been dismissed. “It was so unfair!” he exclaimed with tears in his eyes. I have never met anybody to compare with that gentleman. But I sometimes imagine King Saul being something like that. 

Picture him partying and making merry, even with King Agag, although at this point of the story it is a joke to call him king. All that was left of his kingdom, as far as he knew, was the best farm animals.

What on earth will happen to King Saul? Somebody nudge him and let him know that Samuel will be arriving soon, maybe today! If the prophet was so agonizingly angry at Saul offering sacrifices and not waiting for Samuel to arrive and make the sacrifice, how will the son of Elkanah and Hannah take this bit of news, when he gets it?

Put your seat belts and crash helmets on, along with all your riot gear, and read on.

Related articles

Categories: 1 Samuel 14 :47–15:1-9, Damned and Doomed. But serving still., Kingdom business carries on bursting with life even though the kingdom has been promised to another. | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Ascendancy of the King on the Descent

THE LIFE OF THE KING WHO WAS UP TO HIS NECK IN DEATH.
The Outward Form that lacked the Inward Power in the Monarchy of King Saul the First.
(1 Samuel 14:47-52)
“So Saul took the kingdom over Israel.”
I beg your pardon!  What are we reading here?
I thought we had only just heard from the mouth of Samuel himself in the plainest of English, eh! …Hebrew that is, that King Saul was rejected!  Out! Ejected! Expelled!  The kingdom was taken from him. Another king is on the way! (Although, knowing the full story – we are aware that the king that succeeded him was not yet born.)

Note the reality.  Saul’s dynasty was to be curtailed because of his disobedience.   As God spoke to Samuel, the prophet used the past tense, for a present reality.  “Yahweh  has chosen a replacement and commanded him to be captain over Yahweh’s people.”  So, literally as Samuel was prophesying to Saul we have the concept introduced to us of another person, a child, not yet born, who was to be a much younger contemporary of Saul, living life to the full with the idea of God’s covenant faithfulness and His never ending Chesed (love) filling his vision, ruling Israel and taking the captaincy over the nation.  Captaincy as all Israeli’s knew, meant kingship.

From our elevated place of historical retrospect, we know that the person we are talking about would be looking after sheep in a field only a few miles away from Saul’s present home fighting off the odd bear and lion after his anointing, and being derided by his older and bigger brothers for being so little, so trivial, so naughty, and not nearly as important as they were.  But David’s birth was still seven years away from that horrific moment at Gilgal.  His elevation into royal circles as well as into the psyche of the nation had not yet even begun with the twinkle in his father’s eye, and would not be properly initiated until Samuel anointed him – I reckon, around the age of 12.  But he had not yet even been conceived in the timeline of our story.

But we jump ahead of ourselves even to mention that story.  Back to the present, and Saul.
So we have the king, with no future, battling on from day to day.  And the Bible says: “Saul took over the kingdom of Israel.”
KingSaulWhether he should have simply stopped and waited for death, which does not seem quite feasible, I am not sure.  Perhaps he understood it fully and clearly as I have just explained it, i.e. “I, Saul, am enjoying the full divine mandate to rule and reign throughout my own lifetime, no matter how short or long that may be, although I am fully aware on the basis of what Samuel the prophet has said, that another man from another family will reign after me.  Then again, that other man may be my son.  In the content of the prophet’s words my son could still reign and the word still be fulfilled.  Yet I know and understand, I am in disgrace before God” There was more light to come however, and that prophetic light would be spoken after further disobedience of Saul.
Although Samuel’s woeful prophecy was said, I am sure, in the full hearing of the three hundred soldiers, who had remained loyal and were still present with Saul as Samuel had arrived for the sacrifice at Gilgal, the king was truthfully and actually still on the throne.  The word would have undoubtedly got round the nation of what had happened at Gilgal.  It would have been a subject not to be brought up in the Kings presence, but constantly seated on the back burner of the national sub-consciousness.  The nation would have known:  “God has chosen another man.”  Saul, knowing that the people knew what Samuel had said, and the people knowing that Saul knew that they knew …. If you get the gist …. was serious grounds for a dose of deep royal depression, if not neurosis – if not total psychosis.
But, for the sake of the narrative, reader, understand:  Saul is still the publicly acknowledged national leader.  He was still the king, the anointed of the eternal, known among the people of Israel as the “son of God.”  Yet, the word of God had announced his fall and his departure. That departure was 37 years away in the future. However, God’s word was to come to pass.
If, objectively, from an impersonal distance, it confused the intellectuals of the nation, imagine the agonising trauma it subjectively permeated the king with.  Rejection by man is distressing enough, but public declaration of rejection by God is more than serious.  Could anybody’s rationale cope with such a dreadful concept in their life?  Is it possible that any human being could live life and carry out their normal work, rest and pleasure while they have forever in their consciousness that not only has God Almighty rejected them, but His verified and confirmed prophet has said so, and the masses know it.
We have the epitome of an illustration of a man in high position having the form of power and kingship, but none of the fullness of majesty of what he should be holding and walking in.  This is sad and we ask, “Could it possibly be any sadder?”  Plod on avid reader!
“So Saul took the kingdom over Israel”.  Saul established himself in the role to which he had been anointed by Samuel.  He grew into the position given him by God.  He took the kingdom, i.e.: with effort and fight, and strain and warfare.  Saul took the kingdom.
“And fought” … The full time military leader with a full time standing army employed them and himself to the full.
And who did they fight?  “… all his enemies on every side.”  Every nation that was bordered onto that tiny plot of real estate we call Israel was an enemy.  Sounds like the modern news reel: and as it was, so it is, and so it will be till the return of Christ.  Every nation that bordered Israel was set against them, and so, with Israel’s new found faith and resource of a physical as well as a spiritual nature, Saul went round chasing off the land of Israel any other ethnic group that attempted to set as much as a tent on the land that God had promised them.
The number of close set neighbours was six.  Saul fought “against Moab, and against the children of Ammon, and against Edom, and against the kings of Zobah, and against the Philistines: and where ever he turned himself, he vexed them … and the Amalekites” This was no mean feat.  The King James Bible says, “where ever Saul turned he vexed them.” Most commentators agree with Luther’s excellent translation that “wheresover Saul turned he was victorious over them, and inflicted punishment.”  In even plainer English, Lannons’ paraphrase says simply: Saul whipped the lot of them.”
BibleI know it does not sound like a king walking under condemnation, but remember if everybody was judged by the exteriors of life, Hitler was prosperous, Mussolini accomplished what he believed in and Attila the Hun was a winner.  Whether a person is blessed or cursed, that blessing or cursing refers to the end of that person. To be blessed or cursed always refers to where a person finishes, it may or may not refer to the way things are at the present. God looks on the heart.  And that very phrase was not only the rationale uttered by God to Samuel in following God’s instructions to choose a successor to Saul, but common sense dictates that that phrase gives us the very reason why Saul was rejected.
“And he gathered a host, and struck the Amalekites, and delivered Israel out of the hands of them that spoiled them.”  The host there mentioned, refers to either the standing army that he was continually recruiting for, or the actual gathering he called together in order to, “whip,” Amalek.  This story of Amalek is shortly to be referred to in greater depth.  We do however have to warn you dear reader of what is to come.
On modern TV, if a programme is about to be shown with doubtful scenes, bad language or sexual activity, or something similar, the viewer is told of them before the opening credits.  This is in order to give you the viewer the moral choice to switch off.
We know you can’t switch off here; this is a blog for goodness sake … and I would not ever advise anybody to miss a chapter in any book, especially my own.  The reader would be frustrated at the lack of continuity.  But we have to state that the following account is as emotionally tragic and filled with horror as anything Hollywood ever produced.
Saul was walking up to his neck, every single day, in insipient death.  No doubt he comforted himself with all his military successes, but what happened in Saul’s heart and the dialogue between Saul and Samuel, was, honestly and candidly, too much for Saul to handle.
If you are prepared, take a glass of cold milk and read on tomorrow’s blog.
Categories: 1 Samuel 14 verses 47 - 52, The ascendancy of the King on the descent. | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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

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

WRONG CHOICES ARE DESTRUCTIVE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.”
.

.

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..
.

.

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.

 

.

.

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.”
.

.

“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. 

 

.

.

“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.
.

.

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”.
.

.

“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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shiloh. Taken from the west.

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

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

Saul battling the Ammonites.

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

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

One artist’s impression of Samuel anointing Saul.

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

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

Surrealist portrait of Saul

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

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

.

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

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

.

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

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

.

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

.

.

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

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

God save the King

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

Kingmaker, Kingmaker, Make us a King

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

A Yeminite Rabbi named Abram. Photograph taken 1935

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

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

A Jewish man from Spain. 1920

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

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

Shlomo from the Yemen 1935

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

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

The People Know What They Want

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

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

.

Of the twelve, all received a rejection, accept the tribe of Benjamin.  I wonder if Samuel was sweating, or laid back about it all.  The celebrated Young’s Literal Translation, says simply, “and the tribe of Benjamin was captured”.

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

Saul hiding among the stuf

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

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

Samuel judging his people

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

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

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

Samuel’s parish from Dan to Beersheba.

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

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

 

The stone altar at Gilgal

The stone altar at Gilgal

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

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

Nebi Samuel. Samuel’s tomb.

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

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

Where the Ark of the covenant went.

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

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

The day the Ark came back to Israel.

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

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

The sacred Ark of the Covenant.

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

Selah – Pause and calmly think of that.

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

The Kotel (Western Wall) circa 1860

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

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

Jews in Jerusalem circa 1890

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

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

.

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

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

Samuel’s Tomb.

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

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

.

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

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

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

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

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

(1 Samuel 9:1–10; 16)

1

Lost donkeys?

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

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

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

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

2

.

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

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

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

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

3

.

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

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

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

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

7

Is this where the Seer lives?

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

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

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

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

8 saul-meets-with-samuel-1900

Samuel meets Saul.

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

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

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

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

6

Saul and his servant meet Samuel

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

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

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

5

Saul at the feast with 30 guests.

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

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

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

4

.

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

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

11

Samuel anoints Saul

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

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

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

10

.

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

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

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

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

9

.

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

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

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

14 SamuelFirst_Book_of_Samuel_Chapter_9-3_(Bible_Illustrations_by_Sweet_Media)

.

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

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

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

0002

.

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

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

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

0a361-00092

.

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

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

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

565b5-000991

.

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

2ccd9-00000003

.

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

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

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

13ab5-000003davidrachelstomb

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

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

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

e11db-0004david

.

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

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

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

7. Ramah to Shiloh

.

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

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

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

Prologue

.

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

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

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

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

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

.

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

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

24. Selah. Pause and calmly think of that.

.

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

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

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

55a06-000prayer3

.

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

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

66f3f-a6a6a6caleb-dancing-rabbis

.

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

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

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

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

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

The People Know What They Want

Don’t confuse them with the facts

An account of when Democracy gets it wrong – But God makes it turn out O.K. -Even though people mess it up again later

 (1 Samuel 8:1-22)

0009

.

The Samuelian days were reaching their zenith.  The prophet Samuel ben Elkanah, as the saying goes, was, “part of the national infrastructure.”  He had led the people, fed the people, and headed the counsel that they had followed for years.  How many years is deducible only to an approximation.

Josephus calculates that Samuel was twelve when the voice of God spoke to him for the first time.

After the call in 1 Samuel chapter 3, God continued to speak to him while he was still at Shiloh. The nation began to discern what was happening with Samuel and acknowledged him as a prophet – as their prophet.  We approximate that for the next twenty five years or so after that triple call in the middle of the night, Samuel’s prophetic role developed until the fall of Shiloh and the taking of the Ark by the Philistines.

For the next twenty years after that, we believe Samuel was a travelling preacher circulating and declaring the need of the people to renounce idolatry and religious syncretism. The figure of twenty here is a biblically sanctioned one.  His activity is our deduction and hypothesis. The bible is actually silent as to his occupation for those years.

After the rally, or rather the National Convention at Mizpah and the routing of the Philistines, we estimate another twenty five years or so when Samuel was in the full power and flight of his prophetic faculties. These were, quite literally, the days when Samuel judged and ministered and built the social, spiritual and political fabric of Israel that was present and very real by the time David rose to power.  It was the work of a Master Builder.  It was a structure that would last for a hundred years or so as he built it, and vestiges of which would survive for centuries.

00010

.

There is a trail of Samuel’s actions that reaches us even today.

On these vaguely substantial grounds, our estimations bring us to the conclusion that when the visit of the elders occurred as recorded in 1 Samuel 8, Samuel was, by standards of the day, extremely aged.  Eighty or so years old would be my minimal suggestion. Other men in scripture, even David, with his prematurely aged constitution at age seventy, was not questioned about his ability to rule as Samuel was. This fact constrains me to opine that Samuel was way over the seventy years of age when they gathered to him.

It is this writer’s suggestion that, the fact that the people came to him and made the detrimental point of his age infers that, to their mind, it seemed Samuel could soon die.  He looked outwardly as if he was on the cusp of death. Little did they know!

The man was revered and treasured as the greatest asset the state of Israel had.  They gathered around him at Ramah, or, at least, the tribal leaders and elders did.

So the narrative we are now examining has jumped on in one great leap to the prophet’s old age.  Of his marriage, family life, and Samuel’s gathering to himself the many dimensions of national affection, for which such a nature as his must have truly been beautifully fitted, we know nothing. The only hint we have, really is in the naming of two of his son’s

In the same spirit of godliness with which he called a place Ebenezer, Samuel named his firstborn son Joel, i.e. “Yahweh is God.”  This must have been as a protest against the idolatry with which Israel had been infected and polluted.

Samuel called his second son Abiah; interpreted as “Yahweh is Father.” These two names ought to give us admiring and gentle regard, as we have within them hints of the ethos of Samuel’s family life.  Yahweh conceived of as a Father is the biggest demonstration of how ahead of his day, in divine revelation Samuel was.  He was, in a sense, a millennium before his time. Samuel spent his life tasting the powers of the world to come. He was living in New Testament grace more than a millennium before the days of the New Testament were to arrive.

Both sons were intended by their father to be living lights of God’s character and Lordship.  With such a man for their father as Samuel, and carrying in the very singularity of their names the marks of their high designation as plainly as a Brahmin monk carries the marks of his caste, we might have expected that they felt a restraint from sin, and an inspiration to righteousness and holiness, making them worthy, at least of their father and grandmother. The grandsons of Hannah, and the sons of Samuel, Joel and Abiah one would have thought to have been like Timothy, whose “unfeigned faith dwelt first in his grandmother Lois, and his mother Eunice.” Alas for Samuel – it was not so. The impact of Samuel’s sons lack of character was to be the cause of a nationally held feeling that was to change the entire course of Israeli history. And oh! How this was to grieve Samuel! Just as Eli’s sons had changed the course of Israel’s story, so had Samuel’s sons.

00011

The People Demand that Samuel gives them a King.

There was undoubtedly a regular sacrificial feast at Ramah. The story we are about to recount was possibly at one of the Passovers of Samuel’s day that was remembered generations later for their size of attending numbers.

Civic judiciary issues would have been completed.  Political soundness was surely affirmed by tribal reports.  And all would have been updated on their relationships with the surrounding nations.  The Philistines, the Amorites, the Amalekites and all the surrounding peoples, of which there were a few, were all kept in peaceful continueum during Samuel’s day, i.e. while Samuel was in charge, prior to any change of leadership.  All was satisfactory.

Well; almost!

There was one problem that had started a rift amongst sections of the tribal masses, and it had filtered back to the leaders. The elders of Israel were gathered around Samuel when the sensitive subject was broached.

It seems Samuel had nurtured that laudable desire to see his sons follow in his sandals.  Samuel took a step that I cannot find elsewhere in the biblical account, i.e. a man appointing another man as judge. This seems to me as being against the principle of the raising of all the other judges that are described up to the days of which we are talking. However, no one cried, “Favouritism!”  Nepotism through the ages, and in all cultures has always been one of the grossest scandals of not a few high functionaries.  Samuel, however, was never accused of bias by any of the people when he appointed his offspring as Judges of the people. They were welcomed. Surely coming from the stock of Samuel they must have grown up with their father as a model!  Perhaps there is a sinister inference when the bible tells us that they judged at Beersheba.  This town was the most southerly point of civilisation in Israel.

00012

.

Did Samuel send them to this outpost to keep them out of harm’s way?  If so, that would  suggest that he would have wanted them away from the vicinity of Ramah so that people could not compare them with their father so readily.

Or did the sons choose to go to Beersheba?  If they did, why so far away?  Beersheba is some forty seven miles from Ramah.

And why should the two of them remain together?

I would imagine that if the account had told us they were good judges, and a chip of their father’s block, we would have concluded that they were together to strengthen each other.  As the narrative tells us that they were nowhere as upright as their Dad, the deduction is that they stayed together to strengthen themselves in any unrighteousness they might want to get up to.

The Eli syndrome, that is, the inability to control and bring two sons into line was, somehow, sadly repeated in Samuel’s life.

The best of people sometimes meet with the bitterest disappointment.  The conduct of Samuel’s sons disappointed a father’s heart and troubled the land of Israel, as well as their contemporary generation, and potentially those of the future.

As Samuel ripened into what would normally be considered in the twenty-first century, “retirement age,” his sons were proving unworthy successors. The people looked with increasing apprehension to an uncertain future.  If anything happened to Samuel, the nation would be left with the burden of his sons expecting to succeed their father in leadership roles. This draws our attention to the remarkable, but universally proven fact, that grace and noble motive are not hereditary. The depth and breadth of such characteristics are always and forever a matter of choice. Entropy does not make a child of any saint, a succeeding saint.

We have to say that we are not talking of the mere human need of Samuel for his sons to live up to their great father’s name.  Neither are we simply discussing a character weakness with maladministration, or inability in dealing with human relationships.  That would have been something easily adapted for and coped with.  We are talking of corruption of the worst kind. The sin of Samuel’s sons brought swiftly on, a subtle, but incredibly toxic national crisis, and it took on several aspects.

0005

Bribes and Filthy Lucre are what Samuel’s sons were getting whilst judging at Beersheba.

Firstly, Joel and Abiah did not walk in their father’s ways of integrity. When we witness Eli’s softness and incapacity for command, we do not wonder at his son’s going astray.  But Samuel was so firm, yet generous withal, that it indicated great depravity in his sons to abuse the example of their father’s spotless life. Their behaviour tends to show that what they learnt at home was not soundly rooted in their hearts.  Their history leads us rather to think that their sins were such as might not reveal themselves until the public life of judging in Beersheba came about.  The private lives of Joel and Abiah may not have given opportunity for the grave sins that marked their judicial position.  Hence, when they left the sacred enclosures of the domestic circle at Ramah, they had no principle of restraint from within the heart.

Secondly “they turned aside after lucre and took bribes.”  This is the breaking of the one major qualification that Moses put on a Judge’s character (Exodus 18:21). The sin of Eli’s sons was unchastity, that of Samuel’s sons was covetousness.  It really is astonishing how quickly the sin of covetousness perverts the moral faculties.  The man who dims the light of the lamp that was kindled in heaven, has already precipitated his own fall.

Thirdly they “perverted judgment.”  Their decision was not what the law of God, or conscience demanded, but what they were best bribed and rewarded to decree. “He that justifies the wicked and he that condemns the just, even they both are an abomination to the Lord”  (Proverbs 17:15). There is nothing that distresses a parent more than the misconduct of a son.  It was the grief of Isaac with both Jacob and Esau. It made many of Jacob’s years a morbid sorrow. It was Aaron’s trial also.  It was Eli’s calamity.  It was, horribly, David’s sorest wounding. The weak link of the characters of these people’s offspring was  conceivably that may not have had to bear the strain of character temptation while at home surrounded by Mum, Dad and helpers.  Life tested them on their weak side.  They yielded when the pressure came. And what the sowed, they reaped. In fact others reaped the horrors of their sowing.

0006

This is the sign at the supposed site where Moses stood to see the promised land. It’s on Mount Nebo. I do not think this sign was there for Moses to read.

Churches, Nations and official requirements would sidestep this error if offices were filled with men whose fitness had been proved by prolonged and intensive competitiveness in the area of character. It is that which is required for the post for which they aspire, as well as the post immediately above the one they occupy.  Good character should be the basic and majority requirement. Monopolies of such a high office as judge, whether corporate or individual, should be watched by the public to maintain the rights and safety of the same.

So with the wearisome opinion of the masses having been laid on the national elders, we return back to the Dramatis Personae of the brief script that changed the world and brought deep heartache to Samuel, as well as God Himself.

There was the prophet himself, playing the lead role. There were the elders of Israel, whoever they might be and in whatever numbers they might array themselves. We have Samuel’s two erring sons referred to but never actually brought into the scene by necessity.  And perhaps the least free agent of all, a handsome tall youth who went by the name of Saul Ben Kish. Although, like Samuel’s two sons, we do not see the whites of his eyes yet, in this chapter.

Over a meal, or while they were in the “parliament” of elders, they would get around to discussing the future of the nation. Direction and far sighted policy are always the strength of godly strategy. More of the God’s kingdom is built around the dining table than can be humanly measured.

“Behold, you are old”! Says one.  Is this a rod of esteem, or insult?  More likely the latter. “Your sons do not walk in your ways”, says another.  Was this news to Samuel?  Or were they repeating what he already knew. Whatever! Even with the most Christlike constitution and ripely developed Godliness of Samuel, the venom in the opening remarks could not have endeared the speakers to the elderly prophet,

0007

The sign at Beersheba. The place where Abiah and Joel let themselves down.

“Now make us a king to judge us like all the other nations.” Ah!  Whatever else was on the agenda, this minute of the meeting was to be noted for thousands of years afterwards as a watershed in bad decision making and world affairs.  God Himself has not noted any other item on their programme of that day.

However, do you see what I see? Imagine the nobility, the stature, the very kingliness they all saw and credited Samuel with, when they ask him to, “make us a king.” Surely he who makes kings is higher than the king whom he is invited to “make.” This shameful moment of faithlessness to the covenant of Yahweh, has this one glorious spark of revelation in their foolish talk. Samuel was more kingly than a king. Viva la Samuel! Oh mighty man! I daily as my Almighty God to endow me with some of what you had.

To secure a possible constitutional concession, they adopt manners and methods full of insult and ingratitude to Samuel, and sacrilege and impiety toward God.  The political blunder as well as religious crime, of the Israelites was in charging their basic social complaint, not so much upon corrupt magistrates and popular lawlessness, but on their national constitution.

Decline in theocratic belief and life was ever the one sign of weakness in the Israelite commonwealth, and the one and only dissolver of their otherwise impregnable security.  Their liberties were invincible against internal or external foes so long as they were faithful to inspired covenant morality as they were under Samuel’s leadership. But sadly, apostasy ever made them vulnerable, and ultimately exposed their national life to a deadly wound.  This prayer for a king was incipient apostasy (Psalm 118:9), and it exposed them to bondage under the prince of this world.  This prayer for a king was the outburst of an hereditary vice. This was a rejection of the sovereignty of God. It was practical idolatry.

0008

Beersheba

The original government of the world designed by God was neither a monarchy, an aristocracy, nor a republic or democracy.  None of them are compatible with the individual sovereignty bestowed in the creation of man.  But the Israelite Theocracy was above the ethical culture of the people, too sublime for the moral education of their children.  The large personable liberty conferred by the Mosaic constitution degenerated into social lawlessness and weak administration. Foreign spiritual infidelity penetrated and corrupted the religious beliefs and national manners of the people.  The moral status of Israel was unworthy of the free government that God had given them.  Perpetual spiritual unity under the direct sovereignty of God was more possible than under a human dynasty.  Scepticism and infidelity are the sure signs of mental and moral degeneracy in any civilisation.

Centralised government, with power in the hands of a strong leader who could act quickly and decisively against their enemies, seemed to many to be the only reasonable way out.  They aimed at a centralisation of power that would combine the tribes for defensive purposes. In their unbelief they perceived that there could be no successor to Samuel. Even though their most recent history had case after case of God raising up the right person for the right time (i.e. read the book of Judges), they could not envisage a likely successor.  They believed Samuel’s sons might make claim for their father’s role after his demise. This had never happened with any Judge previously. Why should it happen now? Perhaps they thought it might happen  simply because Samuel had already given his two sons room to manouvre? Perhaps they remembered Eli’s sons marching to meet the Philistines with the Ark of the Covenant on their shoulders and 34,000 sons of Israel dying in two battles. Could there be some kind of diabolical repetition?  Thus, they built their case against the status quo. “Make us a King,” they demanded.

0001

.

The elders of Israel, outwardly, had an argument.  But it was in reality asserted from a frivolous pretext, namely Samuel’s age, and his two son’s naughtiness.  They were genuinely concerned for the nation.  They saw the two sons of Samuel going astray from their father’s lifestyle.  They came to the man when he was old, and told him of the apostasy of his sons.  If ever men had a simple straight-forward common sense case, the Israeli elders had one.  What was woefully wrong was their decision to remedy the renegade judges. Why not just ask Samuel to “sack” them? Samuel would have asked God for the way forward.

Their legal application was unjust to Samuel, short-sighted in vision, and reactionary to a negative scenario beyond their understanding.  It was influential, because, from the biblical text, it seems to have been unanimously made.

No man likes to see his entire life’s work disregarded, and his wisdom thrown away ruthlessly. Young activity and youthful revolution must have been very distasteful to old Samuel. It was something he saw in Hophni and Phinehas, but never entered into himself. We shall be, however, as was Samuel, most mighty when we are most yielding.

It was with the wish to resemble other nations; they asked Samuel to make them a king.  They were “dazzled” says John Henry Newman, “with the pomp and splendour of the heathen monarchs around them, and they desired someone to fight their battles for them, some visible succour to depend on, instead of having to wait for an invisible Providence which would come in its own way and its own time.” The kings around them?  There was Agag the Amalekite!  There were five Philistine Lords!  There was Nahash king of the Amorites!  They had seen their splendour when confronting these nations in battle.  There was the great splendour of the Egyptian Pharaohs that they would have glimpsed at times.  Could one believe it? The elders of Israel actually envied the heathen states that surrounded them. But the heathen had idols and false gods! Israel had Almighty Yahweh! What was going on?

0002

.

They would have, “Soldier-Kings”, and they intended to get their wish.  But, in retrospect, on our part, how few of them were better than Joel and Abiah, or even superior to Hophni and Phinehas. And from the first to the last of them – which of them, including David, were fit to unloose Samuel’s sandals?

The sad truth is that from the first, the God governed commonwealth that was associated with such names as Moses and Samuel was a conception of political and social order that the people of Israel never cared to appreciate.  This very demand of the people had been foreseen and publicly predicted three hundred years previous to this moment in time by Moses.  And yet, this whole proceeding was, at the moment of time that they approached Samuel, wrong.  It was premature and hasty.  It was conducted without reference to the overruling will of Yahweh.

God’s providence does not constrain any man’s iniquity.  Foreordination in this respect has nothing whatsoever to do with free-will.  When Gideon at God’s call lead them to victory, the only use of that victory they made was to atheistically ask Gideon to rule over them, “and your son, and your son’s son also”, they called.  Gideon’s answer: “I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you, the Lord shall rule over you.” How wise was Gideon there. How perceptive was he, and how consistent was he with the covenant with Yahweh.

Both Abraham (Genesis 17:7-16) and Jacob (Genesis 35:11) had been promised that they would be fathers of kings.  Moses had anticipated their clamour for a king in his final address (Deuteronomy 17:14-20) The idea of royalty was a true conception of Messiah, but it was clearly wrong when the call for a human monarch came, because the request was made by forgetting their covenant relationship with God.  It is this that I believe upset Samuel so much.  They wanted to legislate for happiness and contentment without the reformation of their hearts. They looked to receive from written  legislation what only comes from righteous living.  Almost every time there was a corporate or national sin in Israel, there was some neglect of the covenanted relationship.

0003

.

It is true to say in this case that Soldier-Kings and soldiering nationalities held together by the sword are not God’s preferred agencies, rather they are his penalties.  But having made that point, we also must state that the divine order is not in favour of any one form of government.  Political forms are means not ends.  Stable governments are growths, not manufactured forms. When King Murat demanded of Lord Holland to make him a constitution, the wise statesman replied “you might as well ask me to build you a tree.”  All righteous government should aim for general virtue and intelligence in the governed.  All government systems must develope!  What would become of some undemocratic countries if they were forced to change immediately?  The Divine order is not committed to any standard statement of economic prosperity.  The Divine order is committed eternally to righteousness.  There is many an enriching serendipity that flows from Godly living.  This was the constant cry of the prophets.  There was a greater need to depend on God to save them from the system that they were now clawing for.

The history of the human race is one constant record of the accommodation of the Divine ideal to human frailty.  Never was there a narrative that proved so convincingly that each age exerts a very considerable influence on that which follows it.  The degeneracy of communities, it must not be forgotten, is after all, the degeneracy of individuals in multiplication and in unity of misplaced motives.  From where did these elders of Israel sat around Samuel learn their low esteem of God, but from those that went before them?  They lived and chose a pathway for a future age, and virtually had the character of all their descendants in their hands, even though the future generations had their own choices and decision to make.

With all these thoughts, Samuel was displeased at the request of these nationally revered figures.  The man of God was against a monarch for many reasons.  First of all, the same logic they used to have a king, was possibly the same logic that militated against a king, i.e. corrupt sons in succeeding generations.  We can scarcely imagine the feeling of Samuel as he listens to their uttered desire. He is alone. The companions of his youth are gone. He is sad, the younger end of the adult nation of the day has no sympathies with his grief, but is striving to sever the old man from the last tie that binds him to his boyhood, namely his delight and manly leadership for the covenantal Theocracy. “Samuel we want a king because your sons are not like you!” But what are they going to do when they have a good king whose son’s are not like him? The fallacy of their logic screams loudly against their shortsightedness.

It was an affront to Samuel, and he resented it personally. We know that is true, simply because of what God said to him. Samuel told the Lord.  To him prayer was a kind of breathing process. It was ready and as spontaneous as any love and committed relationship is.  Samuel turned towards the elders of Israel, heard their story, and then turned his face about and told God concerning the whole thing, although undoubtedly not while in their presence.  This was Samuel’s lifestyle and practise, and it made his words weighty and cautious.  He must be a high and Great Spirit that undertakes to serve the people in body and soul, for he suffers the worst danger of unthankfulness and being taken for granted, and ever rejected.  Samuel was, indeed, of a high and great spirit.  Nobody rejects a prophet of God, who faithfully performs his function, until he has truly first rejected God.

0004

.

Samuel saw what we would call the fact of the case.  God saw the truth of it.  Many cannot distinguish between fact and truth.  Fact is the thing done, the thing visible.  Truth underlies the fact of a thing.  The fact was that the Israelite elders imagined that their temporal aggrandisement would be to their advantage; that a king, and pompous sycophantic retinue behind him, would greatly enhance their importance, their status and their destiny.

The Lord explained the case to Samuel; “They are only making a tool of you; you have become to them a mere convenience, or as it were a scapegoat.  They profess to be concerned about the spiritual decision of your sons, but in reality they do not care a single pin point about them.  They are simply glad to be able to seize onto any issue to colour and shade their case”.  What an explanation that is!  That means that the character of his own, precious two sons is nothing to do with the catastrophe. That relieves the trauma on Samuel’s heart concerning rejection because of his sons, or his age.  How kind is Yahweh. How truthful is Yahweh. So there are two kinds of judgment of the case in the world.  Man makes his case and gives his reason.  That’s the fact, and purported “truth”.  God comes with the explanation.  Now that is the truth.

Israel’s request was granted, but at the same time the people were earnestly warned of their error.  The truth is of course, that no earthly advantage can give peace to the soul or secure its bliss without the sanction and blessing of God Himself. Rejecting Divine Providence is rejecting Divine government, and forfeiting a measure of Divine favour.  Samuel acted in this crisis as a true man of God.  He did not selfishly appeal to the forbearance of the people. He did not vent his grief in ungovernable rage, but calmly asked the aid of heaven.  He received Divine permission on their behalf, together with a Divine protestation.

0001

.

Samuel warned them of the future possible abuses if a king was appointed.  He was foretelling that they would have a king with a despotic character.  A boy never had a knife without wanting to cut something with it, and as likely as not something that did not need cutting.  So too, a nation or a military caste never has a big gun, without wanting to shoot it, and more likely than not, it will be fired at something or someone that did not need shooting at.

The judgeship of Samuel was the rule of right, and knowledge and regard, above all things, to the ends that God had in view, namely the covenant between the nation of Israel and Himself. The “soldier-king” request was the, demonstrative rule of the strong hand; the elders that came to Samuel would have had the chief gain.  The people also would have been glad for the outward appearance of respectability and a dignified king.  In a nutshell, this personal trouble was intimately connected with amore overwhelming one, i.e. the disaffection and the spiritual lack of the people.

When about to frame the Tabernacle in the wilderness, Moses was specially instructed by God to make it after the pattern which had been shown him in the holy mountain.  When Jeremiah was set apart to the prophetic office for which he confessed himself unfit, God said, “You should go to all that I will send you, and whatsoever I command you that shall you speak (Jeremiah 2:7). The rule with respect to the preacher of the gospel is after a similar form; “If any man speak let him speak as the oracles of God” (1Peter 4:11).  “It is required of stewards that a man be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2).  Full spiritual fidelity and integrity is the full declaration of the word of God to the conscience of men around. “Who is a true and faithful witness”? Asked Latimer.  “He is true, he is faithful, that looks for no new money, but seeks it ready coined of the good man of the house; and neither changes it nor clips it”.

0002

.

“And Samuel told all the words of the Lord until the people.”  Samuel did not tell the people what a king ought to be – that was told in the Law of Moses – but he told them what he would be like.

We are discussing political transition here.  The reaction of the human thought of Israel is both sudden in its nature, and extreme in its tendency.  This impetus of change sweeps down upon the soul with such power that it reels for a time, is then caught by the current and carried contrary to the intention of his calmer moments.  Thus, as we gaze upon the picture, our wonder is excited that a people so seemingly strong, at least in their outward respect for things Divine or spiritual, should now conspire to dethrone their authority by establishing the human in His place.

This king they ask for would disregard life’s dearest relationships.  He would sever families from their sons.  This king they desire would initiate arbitrary distribution of property.  This king for which they are in uproar, would impose several burdens of service.

How bitterly the nation, especially in the glory days of Solomon, felt the pressure of the royal yoke so truly predicted by the last Judge, is shown in the history of the times which followed the death of Solomon. The public discontent at the brilliant but despotic rule of Solomon split the nation into two.  God was hereby announcing his withdrawal of Divine sympathy for the perpetrators of this error.  But as present desire pushes unrelentingly on the sceptical minds of the people of Israel, future repercussions seem ethereally unreal.  They in their error perceive Samuel to be feeble with the cares of the nation, and the unworthiness of his offspring Joel and Abiah increased the popular discontent.