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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

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

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

Samuel Believes What Israel Believes. Israel Believes What I believe. I Believe What Samuel Believes. So Ask Him.

SAMUEL BELIEVES WHAT ISRAEL BELIEVES. ISRAEL BELIEVES WHAT I BELIEVE. I BELIEVE WHAT SAMUEL BELIEVES. SO ASK HIM.

Your God? My God? Or everybodies God?

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Did ever Samuel look so regal?

Just “a word” on Samuel’s theology.  And not a brief one.  I believe it appropriate here to get inside Samuel’s “little grey cells” and work out what made him do the things he did, and say the things he said over the following years after 1 Samuel 7:2 and on to his dying day.

What a man believes dictates his actions. What Samuel believed dictated his actions. If Samuel was a true prophet of God, and he was; if he reflected the heart of God, and he did; his understanding of what was going on and what God thought about it all must have been more accurate than the general rank and file of Israel at the time.

If he was angry, we need to see why, for, as a prophet, we must assume that God was angry for the same reason.  That’s what a prophet is all about.  It was not just a matter of thinking: God wants somebody to be killed”, or “We must war against this nation”, leaving Samuel to pass on the information without expending any emotional or spiritual energy at all. The prophet receives God’s heart on a subject, not just his word. God’s word without God’s heart is somewhat of a delusion.  If God is grieved, the prophet is given revelation and insight to the point where he also grieves. The true prophet of Yahweh is a living embodiment of what Yahweh is thinking and feeling at a given moment in the human time line on a given issue – providing, of course, that God has spoken to him or her about the issue. Samuel was deeply disturbed when the people asked for a king.  He was wildly angry later on in life at Saul’s disobedience.  He was annoyed at Saul losing the kingdom.  He was eager to see the right man assume the throne when he anointed Jesse’s son.

This means, self evidently, that Samuel must have received and held an entire body of understanding and beliefs that tore at his soul concerning God’s purposes, and Israel’s responses to those purposes.

So, my question is this:  What did he think God’s purposes were?  What did he believe? What was his theology?

EASTERN RELIGION & CULTURE OUTSIDE ISRAEL.

No presentation of Samuel’s Theology (or indeed any Theology of the Old Testament) can be properly made without constant reference to its connections with the whole world of Middle Eastern religion as we understand it to have been at the time. I do not mean to parallel Israel’s worship of Yahweh with any other religious system at the time, but to see how Israel’s concept of God was affected by the idolatrous nations’ gods and belief systems.

Coupled to this presupposition, I believe we need to observe and search out  how the understanding of Israel, and its prophets and writers in the Old Testament, move on progressively according to the light that God gave them right on up to and into the New Testament. This is known very creatively as, “Progressive Revelation.” The term needs no explanation.

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Judge Samuel in court (in his latter days seemingly)

Sounds easy doesn’t it. But difficult practicalities are seen when trying to state the facts as these presuppositions demand. It becomes a task of some not inconsiderable amount of scholarship to definitively unearth what was believed at a certain time and what was revealed later, or earlier than any specific time in Israel’s history. My issue here is simply; “What did Samuel believe in his lifetime?”

There are however, thankfully, certain dates and chronologies that are unmovable from certain high points of God’s revelation to the people of Israel in history. With these sequential anchors we can home in with some kind of certainty on peripheral issues related to those matters we are fixed on, chronologically speaking. For instance, before the law was given to Moses there was no understanding of the issues the law brought up.  Using this approach we can get some idea of those things that must have been uppermost in Samuel’s paradigm. It is true, we have to note, that there are times in the biblical narrative when the progression of revelation and the worship of Israel towards Yahweh seems to become static and grinds to a halt, hardening into a rigid system set in rock. It is like some athletic man caught in the running position by the fall of larva on the city of Pompeii. One moment alive, active and moving forward at great speed. Then when studied generations later, it is seen to be stuck rigid in the same position of activity, yet motionless. The form of movement and progress is illustrated in the posture of the figure, yet it is strangely still, dead and immoveable in solid rock. There are times, like the days of the Judges, the days of the division of Israel after Solomon’s death, the exile of Israel into Babylon, or the inter-testamental period prior to the birth of Christ, periods that, generally speaking, were times of spiritual “creeping death” as far as the contemporary masses were concerned.

Thankfully there is always a breakout of robust creative characters, like Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Daniel, and others of the prophetic ilk, that get things moving again. One of these startling characters of life and innovation in the realm of the Spirit was the son of Ramah, the man of our present investigation.

3 Grape Harvest1

Grape Harvest in ancient Israel.

But where did these wonderful characters come from? Who birthed them into their radical faith?  Who taught them their revolutionary doctrine?  Who instilled in them those aspects of faith and courage that turned families, tribes, even nations around?  Where did the teaching come from that had never been heard of before?  Who imparted the solid character into Moses? Who imparted faith and power to Elijah? Who passed on their insight into biblical prophecy to Daniel? Who baptised John the Baptist? We can only turn to history, archaeology and primarily of course, the bible to see what people were discussing and believing at any given point of time.  Our formula for the answers we seek is much more black and white than the application of that formula.

THE KINGDOM OF GOD.

That which binds together indivisibly the two realms of the Old and New Testaments – different in externals though they may be – is the awesome eruption of the Kingship of Yahweh into this time space world, and the establishment of that Kingship in individuals, families, movements and ultimately nations, to culminate at some future time, of course in the establishment of that Kingship on a global scale in the person of the King of all Kings Himself – the Lord Jesus Christ.

4 palestfarmer400-2

This man is breaking the Mosaic law. Can you tell why?

God affirms and acts, both in Old Testament laws and New Testament grace, pursuing one and the very selfsame great purpose i.e. the building of His Kingdom.  We must see that only this comprehensive statement does justice to the essential relationship of the two testaments. The Old is in the new revealed. The New is in the old concealed.  The Law of God is peppered with grace.  The grace of God is based on the pronouncements of His law. Christ came to fulfill the law.

ORTHODOXY WITHOUT FAITH.

It was just at this point of history i.e. at the time Samuel was walking around the fields of Benjamin and Ephraim, that the old orthodoxy, in spite of having a sound idea of the correct course, had the misfortune to lose its grasp of the living reality and to slip back into the procedures of mental and merely physical demonstration of a “religious system.”  In plain language, the rituals and ceremonies that were intended to come from an intense experience and understanding of God, were carried out without practical faith being even present. There were, as there always will be, those that walk and live in faith like Eli, Hannah and Elkanah, but generally their days were days of spiritual darkness and godlessness. Whilst we are reading of this actually taking place in the history of First Samuel, it is difficult for the cursory bible reader to perceive this as a fact. The spiritual status and practise of the majority of Israel at the time of Samuel’s youth, and the lifestyle of Eli’s sons, actually conceal rather than clarify the relation between the Old and New Testament.  Spiritual stagnation had set in and stultified so many things.  The religious institution of Eli’s day was something similar to parts of the state church today in the UK.  It strongly influenced the nation by virtue of its ineffectiveness, as does institutionalised religion today, yet it still searched for true orthodoxy. The worship of Yahweh, instead of being a dynamic, “Direction Setter” for the surrounding gentiles to follow, had become a motionless message of malignancy. The light had gone out. The life had left.  The glory had departed. The ceremony continued; the vitality of the formality was vitiated. It was a form of Godliness that simply denied the power thereof.

5 Copy_of_nvpatriarchcourtyard

Ancient home in Israel

We need to dissect this before we put the scalpel to Samuel’s brain and find out what was in there. Although in my life time some Christian ministers have said the opposite to me,  I assert that God was never simply into pomp and ceremony in the Old Testament. Far from it.  The ceremonial melodrama of the tabernacle was of sacred symbolism and significance to the godly Israelite. It still teaches us, of course for that very reason. Because of the New Testament we can easily read the actions of the Priests and worshippers into New Testament teaching. It took a little more savvy for the Old Testament Israeli to perceive what we take for granted. Christ is our High Priest (Hebrews 3:1), our Tabernacle (John 1:14), our atoning sacrifice, and our burnt offering. Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us (1 Corinthians 5:7). This is not Christian teachers straining at lessons for their congregations. The Tabernacle and temple, the High Priestly office and the sacrificial system were all instituted by God for the specific purpose of teaching us about Him who would come later.

We said earlier,  “Archaeology helps our understanding.” Archaeology is an amazing, if extremely imprecise science.  Historical discoveries are, I detect, often the support of theological finds in the Old Testament. We have to be a little bit careful of its statements concerning its terrestrial findings however.  We must not divert Old Testament theology so easily to easier understood channels of historical stories and archaeological finds.  This incubates the concept that once historical problems are resolved, everything has been done to resolve theological questions.  How silly to think so!  Archaeology can, however, aid theology.

Why is Archaeology an inexact science? At the time of writing there is a great debate in the field of Egyptology to do with chronology and dating. The debating boffins all handle the same findings from mother earth.  One professor thinks it was from a certain time and another equally learned chap says they were actually left there three hundred years later than the previous professor stated.  The articles found are factual; opinions are relative. This is important when archaeology tells us what it thinks people knew at a certain time and what they did not.  But archaeology shall be appealed to as we go along in our search for Samuel’s understanding of God. If my reader wants an utterly enthralling example of what I am saying here, I suggest that purchasing David Rohl’s “A Test of Time” will make what I say crystal clear.

e11db-0004david

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With all the above said, our sheer rock face to conquer is how to understand the brush strokes of Samuel’s beliefs as a body of theology, a Yahwehist paradigm, a pure set of Godly belief. We want to see also, by examining on the one hand his religious environment, and on the other his essential coherence with the New Testament, and how to shed light on his deepest meaning and significance to his own generation as well as ours.

THE TEACHINGS OF INDIVIDUAL CHARACTERS.

It is an awkward fact that the unique quality of Israelite worship of Jehovah, and the teachings that issue from it, obstinately resist all efforts to subject it completely to systematic treatment and a Systematic Theology. The revelation and understanding of Yahweh seems to take leaps forward and around its own concepts each time a brand new figure fills the written page of its inspired history books.  If there was one feature that “Yahwehism” exhibits more than any other religion, it is an abundance of rugged faith filled, word filled, Spirit filled personalities, who are closely involved in the historical experiences of the people, and the consecutive progressive revelation of God.

 THE CONSISTENCY IN THE ENTIRE COVENANT.

The series of covenants and promises instituted by God with Abraham, Moses at Sinai, Moses re the land, and Joshua re the occupation, were the concepts on which Samuel’s convictions, and Israelite thought in general, gave definitive expression to the bonding of the people to God. By those means they received solidly from their start their peculiarity of knowledge of Him. Israel were a people of the covenant and the promises, and the oracles of God. That is how and why they still exist today.  However, perceived from Abraham’s day, right through to the fiery revelation of God at Sinai where the Mosaic Fiat was an insertion and addition to the Abrahamic covenant, all the covenants made prior to their birth are a major key to the understanding of many of the teachings of the great Old Testament figures.  It is this idea that was simultaneously Samuel’s light and glorious joy, as well as his heaviest burden i.e. Israel were in covenant with Yahweh.  The failure of the people to run with this concept angered him massively.  Repentance of the people was always with the aim of bringing them back under this umbrella.  Samuel would have been taught the first five books of Moses from Eli, having gained the basic “children’s stories” from his mother as a toddler.  He himself would have had access to the scrolls and their contents as he grew and developed.  His beliefs would have gained strength, and been configured more as a river broadening its flow than of cement hardening with time.

So what did he perceive and believe that made him the mighty man of God and prophet that he was?

21. Readin' 'Ritin' 'Rithmatic and Prophecy

How wonderful to worship God with such abandon!

He would have foundationally ascribed to the making of the covenant, the realisation that its establishment especially emphasised the factual, historical, time and space revelation of God Himself.  God is in the here and now.  Yahweh is in the “here and now” and interested in “my personal circumstance,” as well as the circumstance of the nation of Israel. Knowing Yahweh was not and is not a philosophic or academic exercise, but a relational experience where Almighty God enters our time and space world and addresses issues in a concrete and physical fashion, even though He is Spirit. This was not only a fact that Samuel gloriously discovered when God appeared to him at his first revelation, this is true for you and I today. The Christian’s creed is a set of physical, historical factual events. It was the same for Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua and each of the Judges. God stands, moves and speaks in our time and space world.

Beyond that, as far as God’s plan, purpose and will are concerned, in the terms of the Mosaic covenant, a clear discernible Divine will becomes plain. Caprice of inscrutable acts of God are excluded from the mind.  God has a definite long term goal, yet unfulfilled in Samuel’s day.  Much of it still unfulfilled  even today.

The intent of the will of Yahweh, thus defined in the covenants, shows its formative power by the way in which it makes the human being party to the covenant and aware of his unique position before God.  God wanted Israel as a nation to display his glory and holiness.

21. Readin' 'Ritin' 'Rithmatic and Prophecy

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The life of the nation, all thirteen tribes that comprised it, derived its power to bind together the individual component tribes solely from the idea of the authoritative will of God as expressed in the Mosaic and Abrahamic covenants and nothing else.  The Mosaic covenant was its sole foundational reason to exist as a single nation.  The promises to Abraham, and the covenant with Moses thus subordinated the national life of Israel totally to the sole purpose of that promise and that covenant.

So when we stated earlier that the God of Israel, the faith of Abraham, the tabernacle of Moses and the Ark of the Covenant were the very hub around which the wheel of Israel’s existence existed, through our lengthy deliberations here, we realise how exact our statement was.

In another chapter we referred to the surprise that many people would have to discover that many of the, “people of Israel,” were not actually “Israeli” by birth.  Our present explanation uncovers how it should not be such a surprise after all, when one perceives the birthing process that brought the tribes into the bonding of a nation.  The terms and demands of the covenant as prescribed by Yahweh Himself meant that the decisive requirement for admission to, “the people of the covenant” (vis a vis, “the nation of Israel”) was not primarily natural kinship but spiritual kinship, i.e. readiness to submit oneself to the will of the Divine Lord of the covenant and to vow oneself in obedience to Jehovah.  This was achieved by the rite of religious circumcision after the surrender of the heart and will of the person.

3. What a total anarchic mess before Samuel arrived

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It is this reason that caused one New Testament writer to say that, “Not all Israel is Israel.”  A non Israelite, submitting to Yahweh’s demands and purpose was more an Israelite than a blood born Israelite who was not submissive to the Lord of the covenant.  The substance of the Mosaic Covenant, therefore, in fact created a kingdom domain with an overlord and subjects. The substance of the Abrahamic covenant tied whoever has the same faith as Abraham to an ever deepening relationship with Jehovah by that faith.

From the first utterance from heaven of Genesis 12:1-3 the Kingdom of God was launched. From the moment the covenant was instigated, the idea of the kingdom of God was in the air.  God’s purpose and will began with Abraham the father of  the nation of Israel. That purpose developed with this nation of Israel but was intrinsically bigger than any nation.  It was not confined to the borders of the Promised Land, or the genealogies of Israel. God is Lord and King of His Kingdom. Whosoever submits to Him becomes part of that Kingdom.

NO “NATIONAL RELIGION”.

For all these reasons there is therefore no question of a, “National Religion,” or “National God”, per se in the accepted sense of the word. Yahweh was not fighting for Israel, but for the manifestation of His kingdom through his covenant people (which was, however, basically in the context of the people of Israel).  Israel, when submitted to God was part of the kingdom.  The kingdom is and always was bigger than Israel.  It therefore did not necessarily mean that Israel’s goals were God’s goals, or vice versa. A fully converted generation of the nation of Israel is still God’s goal. But such is the nature of the promises to Abraham, that if or when the entire nation of Israel walk in unbelief and against God’s purposes, God will judge them harshly before bringing them back to faith and obedience.

Yahweh fights for what is right, not primarily for Israel. Samuel must have learnt this at an early age. Was this part of his theology that he learned through experience? The iniquitous conduct of Hophni and Phinehas, and the subsequent Philistine taking of the ark, with the accompanying lost battles and death of 34,000 men, taught him that the Supernatural dealings of Yahweh, with which he was becoming more than well acquainted, were primarily for holiness, righteousness and morality than they were for Israel, per se. God was still fighting for righteousness and His Kingdom, even thought it mean the transitory loss of glory from Israel. God and His people would have the last laugh, even though the heathen were laughing at the ineffective double mindedness of Israel at the time of Samuel’s youth.

ISRAEL, THE COVENANT PEOPLE WERE GOD’S PEOPLE

Already implied in all this, however, is the conclusion that faith in the covenant God assumes the existence of a remarkably parochial and superior attitude to history by the people of Israel.  However little, or much Samuel understood of the surrounding nations, it mean that the present and future rule of Yahweh the King, the fulfilling of all His purposes and goals were birthed, and to his understanding, still embryonic, in his people, Israel, the people of the covenant.  His perspective on world history to that time was as perceived in Genesis through to Deuteronomy.  God’s purpose as perceived and revealed at the time of Samuel were therefore wrapped up in a good understanding of the Mosaic covenant.

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Hence it is the ideas of election and covenant and, closely associated with them, the divine lawgiving, which becomes the decisive rationale of Samuel’s perspective of history. His entire paradigm is Theocentric, and covenant based.  His history lessons with his mum and “Papa” Eli could better have been labelled as “Israelite Cosmology.”  As he, as an individual, was divinely chosen for no other reason than God’s prerogative, so had the nation. God wanted his glory to shine to the world, via the nation submissive to and in obedience to God and His Sinaiatic covenant, not with the nation hedged in as if it was a purpose in itself.  Israel indeed had a long term kingdom purpose, and was part of the kingdom.  In times of spiritual decline, however, the nation’s leaders and priests considered the border of Israel to be the borders of the Divine kingdom. That was absolutely not a sound tenet to their belief system.

So, in tandem with this world view, stood also certain safeguards against an identification of religion with the pure national interest. This is where Samuel’s eyes pierced so cleanly and clearly.  It was too clear for some. It frightened many around him.

THE BIRTH OF ISRAEL UNLIKE OTHERS.

It is an invariable mark of the rites birthing a “religious” covenant with other nations of the period of 1 Samuel, that those ceremonies had to be continually repeated, since their initial, covenant making sacrifice was effective only for a time – usually a year. The Israelite sacrifice to Jehovah that birthed their covenant however, could not be repeated, but created the covenant relationship for “all Time”at its first performance.  The primitive rituals of the nations around them were perceived by the Israeli masses as to be without a moral basis and orientation. They were not directed at the establishment of a personal communion between their god and the people of the nation, as their covenant with God was. With Israel, however, this was something that God had entered into freely and which He on His side may have dissolved at anytime.

7. Ramah to Shiloh

A scene near Shiloh today.

This understanding of the covenant, I believe, was Samuel’s standing strength.  By reading through Samuel’s speeches and words several times, it strikes the reader plainly that Samuel saw what the covenant was in its basic nature, and how deleterious the infiltration of alien philosophies of religion were to it. The blending of religious ideas did not purify Israelite perception of Yahweh. Their historical experience hitherto had proved that the addition of some invented deity would greatly harm and damage the spiritual life of the nation bringing it to stagnation. After the stagnation had set hard, a Divinely raised prophetic character (any of the Judges) would shake the people with a revelation that seemed to be always based on this foundational concept of God’s covenant with His people, even though many of these characters never even use the word “covenant.”  The revelation was not always a “theological” one as we would understand the term. To them, however, the raising up of a leader who would drive out the Midanites, Hivites or Philistines was based solidly on a theological premise.  It wasn’t Midianite people that God was against, but the godless culture.  When Israel neglected their “Yahwehistic culture” for idolatry, they suffered hardship and defeat, as did their enemies. Godliness and the true worship of Yahweh was at the heart of the entire drama of the covenant and the kingdom. That sentence incorporates a sound interpretation of the entire Old Testament.

Time and time again, the tide of spirituality in Israel waxed and wained, ebbed and flowed. What caused the ebb tides in Israel’s history? What stages took them from walking with God to the rank and file indulgence with demons and sin? How did the people of the Covenant, the Oracles and of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob sink down into the muddied quagmire of religious synchretism?

32. Being a Prophet is a privilege, but it is also an affliction and oh how painful is the Affliction.

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THREE STEPS TO AN EVIL AND FULL ORBED SYNCRETISM.

The sickening and unrighteous assimilation of Israel’s religious concepts with Canaanitish ways basically evolved through means of a “triple whammy” which, in the Canaanitish days that dynamic leadership was missing, floored the nation of Israel to the demonic dust of spiritual syncretism.

It happened with these steps:

  1. 1.   SOCIAL ASSIMILATION.

Assimilation on a social level led to the acquaintance of the people of Israel with the invented “sugar daddy” deities of Canaan.  There were obviously, as when modern cults meet true Christians, an overlay of certain terms.  The terms suggested to the untaught a certain degree of parallel understanding between the revelations. The incomparable Yahweh was now compared with Baal and Dagon, Moloch and Milcom.  The alien national deities seemed to be, “not quite so bad” to the untaught.  Sacrifice, God, prayer etc were all  still relevant to their demonically inspired idol worship. The consequence for the concept of the covenant is that the dependence of the covenant on Yahweh’s moral conditions was glossed over, since it was part of the very nature of other national deity’s  that they must distribute his gifts to the inhabitants of that particular land, regardless of the character of the recipient of those blessings. Morality was a dirty word to most heathen religions of the time. For the false gods and idols of the area around Israel,to support the nation of which he was owned was his one essential function, without which he cannot even be imagined to exist. It was therefore in the imagined deity’s own interests not to overstress any demands, but to suit them to men’s natural requirements.  The entire religious ethos of the idolatrous heathen was artificial and superficial in its demand on its adherents, and at the same time extreme in its cruelty.  A minority, even of their own children could die hideous sacrificial deaths, enabling the majority to live with little discipline.  Their mentalities were riddled with concepts of appeasement, light years distant from atonement as stated by Yahweh.

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2.   POWERS OF LIFE ARE OUTSIDE OF GOD.

A new idea grew from this. This idea was natural to the surrounding nations.  It was the full height of their covenantal understanding and experience.  But when Israel imbibed the concept they slipped into deception and error.  The covenant actually became an expression of the fact that the god, the people of that particular deity had been thrown together through inscrutable means, beyond the power of the deity himself, and that neither deity nor native could well survive without the other. Their invented gods were gods of area, nations and tribes. And sometimes their explained “theology’s” suggested that their god was there because of things that were out of their control. This was a commonly received paradigm in Canaan and all heathen nations of Samuel’s period, and indeed for several centuries afterwards.  Archaeology tells us this plainly how common this was in Samuel’s age.

3  RELIGIOUS CONTINUUM BECOMES THE GOAL.

Following the pathway of thought of this deviation of Israel’s covenant, we see how it soon came to be perceived, by this distortion, in a more parochial parameter to Israel. This accepted belief transformed the covenant relationship into a locally limited community relation. The covenant was therefore deriving itself from the necessities of the nature of the god himself.  This thought received murderous reinforcement from the one sided development of the ceremonial aspect of religion in conformity with Canaanite and general Middle Eastern customs.  As a result the social and moral aspects of the divine demands, never properly there with alien religions, were drained out of Israel’s religious soup altogether, dulling their spiritual taste buds even further.  So they would say: “God wants blood of bulls and goats.  We do it to appease him, and keep him happy. God isn’t in control anyway.”  The concept of forgiveness through faith and relationship with Yahweh is thus trodden under foot.  The spiritual reality of Yahweh is dead to their thinking.

31. Kingdom business carries on bursting with life even though the kingdom has been promised to another. Damned and Doomed. But serving still.

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The far reaching decline into this state of Israelite culture took a firm root with the passing of time.  It started in the days shortly after Joshua’s demise, and continued its slide into the days of Samuel’s early adulthood.  These things, together with the social divisions caused by multi religious syncretism, did not a little to increase this dangerous slide, as is shown by the picture which First Samuel draws for us of the piety of his nation.  We see all the typical features of religious mass-movements, omitting nothing of their darker side.  Frankly, the surrounding nations had no lighter side at all.  In some of these deities, it could be said in parody of scripture; “In them was no light, nor variableness of darkness.”  “In them was darkness, and without them was there no darkness that existed”  in their national scenarios.  As far as the covenant with Yahweh was concerned, all this brought the hard unbelieving externalisation of man’s relationship to Him, and transformed the practical aspects of the worship of God into a, “do it whether you are good or bad” religion, where the divine gift is bound to reciprocate human performance, regardless of faith, forgiveness or fealty.

39. Kingmaker Prophetand future king have quality time together.

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This legalistic distortion of the covenant relationship which denigrated it into a commercial contractual arrangement between parties of “equal status” before the law, rendered all genuine intercourse with Yahweh lifeless, as it was with the nations surrounding Israel with their truly lifeless gods.  This scenario trained men in an irreverent calculation of divine obligations, which made any attitude of trustful surrender, impossible

By these degenerative steps the spiritual values originally mediated by the covenant were degraded and the covenant concept itself became nothing more than a protective cover for irreligious self seeking

WHO RULES? THE KING? OR THE PROPHETS WORD?

This deviation was later worsened in Samuel’s lifetime by Saul’s failure to arrive at any satisfactory adjustment between the national power consolidated in the state, and the will of God with its absolute demands as present via the prophet Samuel.  That was totally Saul’s error and nought to do with Samuel.  David adjusted wonderfully being surrounded by prophetic voices, and obeying them.

The evolution of the title of King being given to Yahweh, could not but give further impetus to this train of thought; for now that the relation of the people to their King as projected on to that of Yahweh, the latter connection also appeared as something simply given and not as founded in the first place by a special act of condescending grace.  The point was that the rank and file of Israel spent too much time with gentile idolaters and then superimposed the concepts learnt at their religious shrines and ceremonies onto their worship for Yahweh. It was time with idolaters that their own law absolutely forbad. So the Almighty Yahweh was reduced to an invisible “tin pot god”, something like a tempestuous badly behaved child, i.e. totally unpredictable and utterly unreliable, but nevertheless needing recognition for the good or bad deeds attributed to Him.  At least the other nations could see their gods in their idols.  Israel had no idols of their reduced and belittled Yahweh.

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From that understanding, or rather misunderstanding, the covenant is no longer regarded as an inconceivable gift of grace.  It is not perceived as the benevolence of a God who is supreme above all earthly and heavenly power, and who in this way gives his sovereign decrees to His people. Instead it is grasped as a more or less modified version of a natural relationship between two partners dependent on one another. “He is not better than I”.  When, however, the original concept of the covenant was caricatured and distorted in this way by assimilation of Canaanite thought, the prophets, the minders of the true understanding of Jehovah, were compelled to take stock, and take action.

This is the place from which Samuel launched his lifelong ministry.  It was this foundation, this bottom line understanding of the covenant, and God’s relationship to the covenant people, that brought Samuel to such heart rending insights and actions throughout his life.

These beliefs steeled his attitude and moulded his outlook and responses throughout his adult life.

It was this constant struggle of ministry to bring to light in the eyes of Israel those same shafts of light which had illumined himself to such an amazing degree.

So with these thoughts, we see the nature of Samuel’s convictions in the backdrop of Israel around 1010 B.C.  We can understand how and why Samuel, with these truths burning in his belly, stood up to be counted, and why he was Jehovah’s man for the days of darkness he was living in. He knew he had come to the kingdom for such a time as this.  His convictions carried him forward in an attack on godlessness and religious synchretism.

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Shiloh now

But how to perpetuate the move?  It is true that a man is called only to serve his generation, but with thoughts of the next generation after his, Samuel’s genius blossomed.

If the living voice of the living God had turned the nation round to such a degree in his life time and ministry, what could he do to perpetuate the voice of prophecy throughout Israel?  How could he ensure that the worship of Jehovah would continue at one altar for the nation?  How could he fasten the wisdom of God and the revelation of god to flow through future generations?  What could he do to absolutely guarantee, as far as is humanly possible, that the future elders, rulers, nay –  possibly even monarchs, would hear the voice of God regularly?

His passion for the people of Israel and the Kingdom of God, together with a ready ear to Jehovah, and a fertile creativity, brought answers to all these questions later.  But those structures, when they came, were solidly planted on the foundation of the Mosaic covenant with Almighty God, and the relationship that they had with Him.

During this period that we have arrived at in the chronology of our story, the “Schools of the Prophets” becomes possibly Samuel’s most enduring and powerful legacy.

How else to tutor the nation into hearing from God than to gather those that wanted to hear from God, and then sift out those called by God.  Tuition both practical and spiritual was needed.

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The itinerating prophet discovered during these twenty years of seed sowing another secret, I believe.  Worship!

The first mentioning of the schools of the prophets links them strongly with music and abandoned worship./

These, as we shall later explain, were what we believe to be two of the major revelations and practical legacies of Samuel’s life.  Their significance shall be expanded on later, but we mention it here as a basis to what comes further on in Samuel’s visionary life.

Samuel’s vision for a temple must have also started to develop about this time. The battles and victories over other nations in the locality during Samuel’s early leadership started him collecting gold and silver, and all items that he needed to make the temple of Jehovah the most awesome sight on the planet. The booty was collected in his day, probably during Saul’s reign, and definitely during David’s reign, and all were utilised in Solomon’s final construction of the temple in the books of Chronicles and kings.

So we have a good idea of what Samuel believed and what he projected form those beliefs.

But how to perpetuate all this beyond his own life time?  Samuel was getting to that.

Categories: Samuel believes what Israel believes. Israel believes what I believe. I believe what Samuel believes. So ask him., Your God? My God? Or everybodies God? | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

My Own Definition of a Prophet

My Definition of a Prophet

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I was a Christian for over 30 years before I ever met “a Prophet.” I have met many who were referred to as prophets by their denomination, movement or stream, but none than struck me as the real thing. I was not one hundred per cent sure what I was looking for in a prophet, but I was ninety per cent certain that those whom I encountered were not what I was expecting from a New Testament prophet. They were always disappointingly falling short of, what to me, was the biblical criteria. I have met those who referred to themselves as prophets who struck me as too shallow in their prophetic words to be called such. What actually was I looking for?

I had been, at various points in my life, spoken to, addressed, prophesied to by “prophets” in public meetings. There pronouncements were so abstract and full of cryptic remarks that I honestly did not know whether what they said was past, present or future, irrelevant, important or vital, and most of all, I could not even discern if what they said was true or false. I was never impressed, yet I often felt intimidated to go along with the viewpoint of church leaders and denominational leaders who were extolling the prophetic virtues of these people and their prophetic gift. I kept my mouth shut, held on to my convictions, and went quietly with the flow.  Perhaps, after all the studies,  discussions and sermons I had trawled through about Prophets and prophecy had led me astray. Perhaps those “prophets” were the best western Christianity could come up with. Western culture makes it very difficult, I believe, for a wild dangerous, giant prophet to be raised up.

My eyes were lifted up gently, but significantly, by experiences from which I learnt an awful lot.

One church meeting that I was convening in the late seventies to early 1980’s had Suzette Hattingh as the speaker. It was a lovely spring Sunday morning. The building was full with around 400 people. For those that are not aquainted with the ministry of Ms Hattingh, I believe at that point of time she was the prayer organiser for Reinhard Bonnke’s ministry. I have never met her since the morning that I am referring to, although I would like very much to meet her again and pick her brains a little.  During the early part of the service she very respectfully stepped up to me and whispered in my ear while I was leading the worship, asking me if I would give her the authority to move in the gifts of the Spirit. I answered, “Of course you may! Take the platform now!” I think she was surprised at my instant response, but I closed the singing and hastily handed her the microphone. For ten to fifteen minutes she spoke prophetically to six or seven members of the church of which church I was part of in aclosely knit ministry team. I was almost traumatised by the depth of detail and the accuracy of her statements, and how she had not only seen into the complexity and resolution of their issues, but either spoke their deliverance or prayed with them to be free, all at the same time. I knew each of the persons concerned.  I can declare publicly that none of those people ministered to were ever the same again. They were healed, set free and delivered in the most glorious manner. However, Ms Hattingh never even suggested she was a prophetess. “Just a servant of the Lord doing whatever He asks me to do,” is what I heard her say. Mmmm! Thank you Suzette! At last I had seen the prophetic reality. At that time I did not know how to differentiate between prophecy as a gift of the Spirit dispersed  within the body of the church, and a prophet as the gift of Christ. But I was astonished that this minister of the gospel, moving in the gifts of the Spirit spoke with more clarity, power and authority than those who were acknowledged to be one of the five fold ministries and a prophet. What was I to do with that experience. In my heart of hearts I had disparaging thoughts of the “prophets” I had hitherto met. The new benchmark was more like Jesus and the apostles – and she insisted she was not a “prophetess.”

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I remember also in the late eighties being addressed in a meeting I was convening with several hundred in attendance by a man named Charles Slagle. He was (is) an American who addressed me over several minutes and recounted my past, some issues of what was at that time my present, and spoke of my future. I was utterly astounded. This was prophetic and profoundly personal. Everything he said about my past was absolutely true, and as for my future, thirty years later I can say that he was accurate in the predictive content also. Thank you Charles! He is now a Facebook friend of mine. I have never actually met him since that day, but I was incredibly, positively impacted by his prophetic message. He, like Ms Hattingh insisted that he was definitely not a prophet, but simply had stepped into a prophetic gift of the Spirit that he discovered, as I remember, whilst ministering in Mexico. It was a blessing to many, so he pursued that line of ministry.  At that point of time I was even more perplexed. In a similar experience to my morning with Ms Hattingh, here was a man who claimed he was definitely not a prophet, yet was much more accurate, pointed and real than all the “prophets” I had listened to in their preaching and prophesying previously. What was I to do with this anomale?

There’s more!

There was another moment of my life in the year 2000 when I was prayed for by a man who I consider to be one of the greatest Bible teachers alive today. His name is Andrew Wommack. I stood in a prayer line and was set to ask him to pray for something – I forget what. He joined a group of ministers that were praying for a long line of people and came straight to me. I was the first person Andrew prayed for that day. He didn’t ask me what to pray for. He just ran off in prayer and started laughing while he prayed for a whole line of things that were, “about to happen to me.” I was taken aback. To cut the story short, everything he prayed about took place within the following three years, things that at the time I had no idea about, and had no intention of doing, together with places I had no intention of visiting. He prayed over plans to move to another country, and to move in the miraculous. There was much more to it than what I can here explain, but he simply prayed prophetically. There was no, “Thus says the Lord.” He did not prefix his prayer with, “I have a word from God for you!” He simply prayed in a laughing tone. It was so strange that I remember the entire thing so clearly. Later that year, I was preaching in Lagos Nigeria to several thousand people, just as Andrew had prayed that day. I must add that when he prayed for me I had never heard of TB Joshua, the Church of All Nations, or anything to do with Africa. Thank you Andrew! But I know that Andrew would never refer to himself as a prophet, but merely moving in the prophetic Spirit at certain moments. It changed my life’s course. Or was my life’s course already set? And in the prophetic spirit he simply, accurately, spoke into being what was ahead of me.

All this is to say that having experienced moments of high inspiration when I myself have prophesied as well as having received prophecy, the benchmark of a prophet that I saw in the Bible, examining both Old and New Testament was so far above the prophets I encountered around the UK, that is, the ones I was introduced to, that to me they beggared the title “prophet” to my mind. I am not a judgemental person by nature, but I am telling the world exactly where I was in all this.

There was all this preaching, teaching and writing about rediscovering the prophetic gift along with the restoration of the prophetic office, and sadly, I had filed it away in my memory banks as “General Evangelical Rhetoric,” and stamped the file with a stamp that said, “IRRELEVANT.”

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A person moving in prophecy as a gift of the Spirit I could get hold of. In the context of the “gifts of the Spirit” I could perfectly grasp how one person could move with more authority and depth than another. It was received in the body of the church where there are those who are strong, and those who are weak who are moved upon. That I could file and process and say “Amen!” to.

However, for a person to be affirmed by his peers as “a Prophet,” I just felt compelled to suggest that there must be a bar of performance that one must climb above before a person could be labelled as such. I know there is deep, deeper and deepest in things of the spirit, but surely even the lowest performance of a prophet must strike the observer as speaking things that are divine. A true prophet, surely, would leave believers and non believers alike in no doubt that God was speaking through them. Was I being too pedantic – too black and white?

I believe there is a difference between somebody who occasionally prophecies as per, “the gift of the Spirit”, those who are prophetically inclined, and even those who are prophetically gifted, before we reach the level of prophet. I have heard the syndrome likened to a triangle with the apex at the top. At the bottom of the triangle is the level where people prophecy in the body of the church in the divine administration of what we refer to as “the gifts of the Spirit.” The broadness of the base of my triangle is also to suggest that the accuracy level is not always verified.  But as we ascend the triangle, the level of inspiration increases by means of regular use of those who I would refer to as, “prophetically inclined.” This is still within the gifts of the Spirit. But then we go higher to those who are prophetically gifted and aspiring to become prophets. The level of inspiration should be deeper, and the vision and delivery is now getting sharper, more accurate and with less “waffle” in the midst of the prophetic word. Then we reach the apex of the triangle where the prophet dwells. He may have less to say when he prophesies, but it is accurate, life changing and faith building. I had never seen it, nor heard it, but that was my internal expectation level of a true New Testament prophet.

With the above concept, firmly fixed in my psyche, it seemed to me that more often than not in the west, the prophets were near the bottom of the triangle, and it was those moving in the gifts of the Spirit that had more prophetic weight that any prophet I had heard or met. I did not know how to biblically and consistently, before God, file this in my memory banks.

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My mind was slowly opened as the years passed. On tapes, videos, DVD’s and Youtube, I was, and still am, impressed with the prophetic gift as exemplified in the likes of men like John Paul Jackson, Paul Cain, Bob Jones and one or two others. These men are much maligned and criticised by many. As a by the way, it always strikes me that most of the people that criticise and demonise prophets are those that do not believe in the gift of prophecy as a constituent part of New Testament truth for today, or people who do believe in the gift, but have no track record themselves.  However, I wish to assert that these men, irrespective of the negatives that some label them with and the circumstances that one or two of them have encountered, all impress me very positively with the prophetic gift that they carried – and still do. The testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy. I see it as something that should be the basic bread and butter of all New Testament ministry.

I have to add that, no matter how people shy away from discussing William Branham because of his obvious doctrinal aberrations, the prophetic gift that sat on him was as astonishing as any of the above mentioned characters. No matter how doctrinally poor his ministry (to my mind) was, the healing power and prophetic words that he invariably saw were phenomenal.

But why were (or “are”) these kind of men and gifts so rare? Why was it that in the UK, those men I encountered who were “prophets” were so much “less” than those who claimed not to be prophets?  I was resounding very much with Leonard Ravenhill’s classic remark when he said, “We are so thankful when visiting evangelists and high profile ministers have colleagues with them that tell us how great these men are, because, if they hadn’t told us how great they are before they ministered, we definitely would not have known it afterwards.” In the same vein, if I hadn’t been told that brother or sister so and so was a prophet, I would not have known it after they had “prophesied”.

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Oh dear! I was in thispredicament on the subject of prophets – until 2001. I was personally seeking a prophetic breakthrough. It is my strongly held conviction that a visible manifestation of the Holy Spirit should be the normal diet of all New Testament ministry.  The gospel is something to see as well as something to hear. Healing, deliverance and prophetic pronouncements that break through bondages and strongholds in people’s lives have to be seen as the norm. They were clearly the norm in the New Testament narratives.

So I was gripped by a conviction of various strands of biblical teaching, the tangible substance of which I only glimpsed on few occasions. Where was I to go? What was I to do apart from pray to receive it myself?

And then…!

Late in the year 2000 I was handed some videos (before DVD’s were invented). I watched and listened to TB Joshua the pastor of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) in Lagos Nigeria. I was so astounded I remember crying as I watched and listened to the three hour film. I emailed Lagos immediately, saying I would like to meet the man himself. He responded by sending me around twenty video’s of the ministry in Nigeria, and an official letter of invite with the details and instructions of how to get there. I was warned off by many people not to go. Many of my, “carers,” in that regard were Nigerians I knew who had never ever met TB Joshua, or attended the congregation of many thousands that he had built. I conferred with a couple of ministers that I considered sound and stable, who had visited SCOAN who heartily endorsed my desire to go. I was financially divinely assisted in getting to Nigeria, and so I met TB Joshua himself. The reality was even more impacting than the video’s. Everything I had believed from scripture and yet had never fully seen in my life (nor anybody else’s) was fully embodied and manifested. I was pleasingly astonished. I confess that after attending the first service in Lagos, I cried with delight for over four days. It was a spiritual experience that was life changing. Truly. My travelling companions thought I was ill crying over meals, and even in happy discussions. I was crying with utter delight and freedom.

What did I see?

I saw out of a huge congregation of many thousands, a prayer line of around 500 or so people. In those days it was a service every Wednesday and every Sunday.  Everybody asking for healing prayer is interviewed before the service starts. This takes many people several hours to plough through. The vetting starts 6-00am every church service day. Many people lie about their sicknesses or backgrounds. Muslims and witch doctors expect to be turned away, so they tell untruths and say they are Christians or give false “western sounding” names. Many Muslim leaders attend the services in western dress hoping that they won’t be detected. Witch doctors, manipulated by the spirits with which they ruin other people’s lives, come with their own lives ruined by those same spirits, having become  ill, or even dying by their own demonic bed fellows. HIV people are not prayed for unless they have official letters that explain that they are HIV positive, or even full blown AIDS. The AIDS victims are interviewed on camera together with the letter that they bring. The integrity of the process is full proof.

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The sicknesses are, by western standards, outrageous. Rashes that cover the whole body, weeping sores that create holes in the body to the point where bones are exposed, women with swollen breasts that are so enlarged it is frightening, were the norm. 500 people in a prayer line, and possibly a couple of hours to pray for every single person.

The smelly sickness and the painful ones are always prayed for first. By the stretching of the prophet’s hand the pain is relieved and the runny sores just begin to dry up. And I mean every single one. Some of the sicknesses are demonic manifestations and with the casting out of the demonic, health instantly returns. Young and old, male and female, black and white including everything in between, the rich and the poor, the Nigerians and the foreigners, all take their place in the line and wait for prayer made in the Holy Spirit. Whole families living under curses line up together, mothers with babies, pregnant women, childless couples, people with “moving objects” in their bodies -meaning demonic infestations of certain kinds, disappointments, poverty, blighted ambitions and repeated accidents.

In the end I “sold up” and moved there. My intention was to stay there for the rest of my life. But after two years my life took a turn and I left. I personally did not ever see anybody leave a prayer line unhealed. Some were healed quietly and undramatically. Some screamed as they were set free. Some fell unconscious as the sickness left their body. Some people vomited away the diseases, some even urinated their complaints out.  But, with integrity, I can say that in my observations and study of the whole scenario, all went away content that they had met with God. I cannot say I talked with them all, but I know what I saw and overheard of others that spoke English. And then I heard TB Joshua say that he was a prophet and not a healer at all. I was astounded.

What about the teaching and the belief system that was and is taught at SCOAN? In the ten years that I have known TB Joshua I personally have found him to be utterly biblical, Christ centred and God glorifying. As a person he was humble, meek and amiable. I can assert that two years with him taught me more than the previous 30 years of teaching had done. My one to one’s with him, of which I had many, but not enough, I consider some of the highlights of my life, simply because of the revelation and biblical insight I gained from him. There are many web sites and people on YouTube who malign his character and his teaching who simply lie without ever having met him or attended the church where he ministers. People make criticism from things they have never properly enquired into.

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I met three Nigerian pastors, once, in the UK who were attending a Bible Teaching conference that I also was attending. When they heard that I had attended the services at SCOAN and was quite free in my commendation of Prophet Joshua, they accosted me. They accused him of being a witch doctor and a muslim. I said that he teaches nothing but the Bible. They said he was trying to trick me. I said I had been with him for two years and found he knew the Bible very well and had no truck with Islam. Their remarks were ridiculous. They said he wasn’t a true Christian and that he preached error. I said over two years I don’t think I had ever sat under a more Christ centred, Holy Spirit energised teacher. “You must know what I say is true if you have ever sat under his ministry,” I countered. They replied that none of them wanted to hear false teaching. They said that the power he moves in was too much to be of God. I remember laughing and saying something like, “Oh! So you think the devil gives people more power than Jesus does? It sounds to me that you are the ones who are unsound!” At that point they revealed to me that because I was a white Englishman I would not know a demon if I met one, and that as Nigerians they were more experienced in the demonic. The discussion was closed when I suggested to them that they should be careful of being jealous of another man’s ministry, as well as being very cautious about defaming any man before they had met him. These pastor’s I have to say are similar in mind to many that I have met.

Justification by faith through the atoning work of Christ was explained, preached and taught repeatedly and consistently all the time I was there. Critics generally speak from a platform of ignorance.

Pastor Joshua has always insisted that he is not a healer (Jesus Christ is the only Healer), but a prophet. Some of the most heavenly moments of revelation in Lagos are when he points to a section of the congregation and says that, “There is somebody over there with an issue!” Sometimes he will call their name, or occasionally say something like, “You carry a gun in your red handbag” or a statement that shocks you with its clarity. Then he will recount a long story of things that the person had either perpetrated, or what had been perpetrated against them. He would then call them out for deliverance. I did not ever hear him deliver such a word where the person did not respond. He was spot on every single time. The intricacy of the stories that he saw in the Spirit were phenomenal, some of them almost too complex and bizarre to believe. Yet there was always somebody who came forward and said that it was absolutely true in every single detail.

At last I witnessed and experienced a prophetic gift that was startlingly accurate, and could be manifested to Christians and out and out sinners alike. There are literally thousands of people who are members of the Synagogue who came to Christ through jaw dropping prophetic words that revealed a persons life as God saw it.

I discovered that healing, deliverance and prophecy comprised the most comprehensive ministry that was representative of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and that all I saw in Lagos had already been matched and modelled by Paul, by Peter, and most significantly by the Master Himself in the New Testament.

From this I declare that I had at last, in 2000 met a man that ran with and exemplified all that I had come to believe, understand and expect from my reading of the New Testament. This man was, and still is, my personal definition of a New Testament prophet. I have met him, spoken with him, studied him and made copious notes of him.

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I know him as a gentle, amiable, sociable man. He is quietly spoken and enjoys company. I was more than reciprocal when I discovered that he enjoyed my company as much as I enjoyed his. I watched him when he was deified, I watched when he was demonised. I have seen him emotional and near to tears, I have seen him angry like a lion when confronted by demonic  forces.

The force, the accuracy, the anointing, and the release of his prophetic, deliverance and healing ministry is a phenomena. To my experience, studies, and deep thoughts and discussion over a period of forty plus years, I believe I have met a prophet.

But that is all my own testimony!

What about a more biblical statement of the definition of a prophet.

That’s for the next time.

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Self Denial

SELF – DENIAL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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No Greater Love Than a Mother Laying Down Her Son

NO GREATER LOVE THAN A MOTHER LAYING DOWN HER SON.

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

(1 Samuel 1:24 – 2:11)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hannah bringing Samuel to Eli

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

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

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

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

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

Hannah Brings Samuel to Eli

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Will Not Let Him Go Until I Wean Him.

I WILL NOT LET HIM GO UNTIL I WEAN HIM

Three years to make a man of God.

 (1 Samuel 1:21 -23)  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The lamp of Israel was flickering and near to failing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Categories: A circuit to reconnect the national spiritual circuitry, The Teaching Concept We All Hate | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Prophetic Imperative for the Conception Birth and Life of Israel.

THE PROPHETIC IMPERATIVE FOR THE CONCEPTION, BIRTH AND LIFE OF ISRAEL.

No Prophecy! No Israel! No prophecy! No Church!

6e330-a8a8a8jewish-manIt is necessary to perceive the importance of prophecy in the life of the nation of Israel. Israel was conceived through the prophetic words spoken to Abraham. God Himself spoke to Abraham. The Source of all prophecy spoke directly to Abram when he was still in Mesopotamia. The text informs us also that, “The Word of the Lord came to Abram”. In normal parlance that would simply suggest that a thought from heaven had dropped into Abram’s mind. But when talking to Abram we realise that the “Word of the Lord” that came to him was a person (whom I understand to be He who was the Living Word who was with God and was God i.e. The Lord Jesus Christ.). It is commonly understood by Bible readers and scholars that, as well as the Angel of the Lord (understood by many to be a Christophany) uttering God’s Words over him about his seed, the Land and the nations, he would be the father to, and the ownership of that land for that nation in perpetuity. This tells us that the nation of Israel was conceived through prophecy.

It is important to note that just as the prophetic word spoken to Abraham brought Isaac into being, as against Ishmael; and just as the far flung future of Abraham’s people in Egypt and their deliverance was given prophetically to the patriarch; and just as the prophetic word to Rebekah brought Jacob into focus as against Esau, and again, just as Jacob and the 70 members of his people went down into Egypt as foretold to Abraham, so the essential nature of the prophetic word was embedded into the DNA of all Jews. Moses was the deliverer whose mission was foretold in prophetic circles. The deliverer who would set Israel free. It was the word of God prophetically delivered by Moses that set the nation in order as they approached Canaan from the Eastern bank of the Jordan.

The entire gestation period of the nation, the birth and the battles, the sojourning in the desert and the settling in the promised land was soaked in prophecy and directives from heaven.

0081a-00david5Israel as a nation was preordained, predestined, predicted and prepared to possess the land of Canaan, to be innumerable in their multiplied numbers, to preserve the oracles of God, and to be the people to whom the Messiah would be given, and from whom a virgin would produce the Messiah.

Prophecy birthed them, maintained them, re invigorated them at times and condemned them at others. Israel, throughout the entire Old Testament period, was a hotbed of prophetic pronouncements, prophetic characters, prophetic fulfilments, and prophetic historical events. God speaking to them, through them, for them and for the world. Israeli prophets and prophetess’s heard God, and spoke. And we read them today and tremble at their authority.

Christ Himself was the ultimate fulfilment of all the ultimate prophecies of human deliverance. The Old Testament prophets foretold not only the coming of Messiah, but without understanding their own words, predicted that the whole world would submit and be held accountable to Messiah. Yes! The gentile church was spoken of, even though Peter tells us they did not know of what they were speaking. The church age was prophesied, though not seen or understood by Jewish people, or even those prophets that gave the utterance.

We need, at this early point of our Samuellian considerations, to understand the absolute essential and imperative nature of prophecy to Israel. Prophecy concerning Israel’s existence, prophecy re the Land of Canaan becoming the home land of Israel, and never forgetting that prophecy re Messiah and the church is what the Old Testament is all about. Then after Christ’s ascension and the descent of the Spirit of God, prophecy was still common within the church. Saul was sent out as a missionary minister and became the Apostle Paul through the means and direction of prophecy. We need also to be clear concerning the vast body of prophetic statements and predictions within the corpus of Hebrew prophecy that vast swathes of biblical prophecy have not yet been fulfilled. Christ will return. Jerusalem will be the centre of his millennial reign. Nation states, still existing in Christ’s earthly reign, will make pilgrimages to Zion to sit at His feet and learn.

All this cannot be ignored or refuted. These facts embedded in the DNA of the entire bible, and in the genetic structure of the beliefs and practices of the heroes of faith in the scriptures, are voluminous meant to feed us, set us to be spiritually aglow, and to live lives that prophetically present the gospel.

We need to grasp the whole vista that is prophecy.

Categories: The Prophetic Imperative for the Conception Birth and Life of Israel. | Tags: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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