Posts Tagged With: Moses

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

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

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

Hail Samuel! Mighty man of God!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Biblical Definition of a Prophet

A Biblical Definition of a Prophet.

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So, how is a prophet defined from scripture?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Testament Application of Old Testament History.

NEW TESTAMENT APPLICATION OF OLD TESTAMENT HISTORY

History comprises interim reports issued periodically.

Or:

History teaches everything, including the future

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We need to make some twenty first century sense of the scene setting I have laid out for Samuel. I want to digress for a chapter here to explain something about History. I have always loved History. Any kind of history gets me hooked. I have stood in the very bedroom where John Wesley died. I have stood on the spot (or underneath the spot) where Charles I was beheaded in Whitehall. I have walked around Oliver Cromwell’s place and got carried away into other world’s by doing so. I have never been to Israel, yet, but I promise you, if you go – take my wife and I as companions and guides and I will give you the tour of the Holy Land that millions would envy.

For me, History lives. For me, the world is full of history that speaks, teaches, and challenges. However, History is NOT history unless it is the truth. History does not ever repeat itself, per se, but the historians generally repeat each other. Somebody said, “Any fool can make history. It takes a genius to write it.” Not so sure of that one. But I do believe history needs to be told, and history must be written by, of and for the survivors. The past is always a rebuke to the present and this is what we are about to discover.

The previous chapter was all about the history of the nation of Israel from the books of Joshua and Judges. Therefore, what dare we learn from that brief cursory recounting of what went on for the first few centuries of Israel occupying Canaan?

A great key to grasping the book of Joshua is the revelation by some deeply spiritual character similar to an F.B. Meyer, Dean Frederick W Farrar, or J Sidlow Baxter. I am not actually confident who it was that first opened up the scriptures by suggesting that Joshua is an Old Testament parallel to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians in the New Testament. I don’t know what that says to you, but to me I am suddenly flooded with insights, perceptions and ideas of thought that open up scripture in the Old Testament widely. If you are not au fait with either book let me say briefly that they are incredibly similar in the message content.

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In the books of Exodus and Joshua, God’s people have a geographical promised land to occupy. To get there the people have been slaves in Egypt for hundreds of years, and they have to pull up their roots and slog it for 40 years across the Sinai desert and beyond to take Canaan. This Promised Land is fully inhabited, walled and protected by some horrible cultures and seven nations. Having been supernaturally delivered from the external hold of Egypt, Israel spends 40 hard years, yes- a whole life time for some, trying to escape from Egypt internally (with all its culture and ways). There are nations to fight on the way. That is the entire story of Exodus, prior to Moses’ death, after which Joshua takes over. (I believe I have already noted somewhere, that “Joshua” is Hebrew for the name “Jesus”).

Again the supernatural power of God (it is only supernatural to us – it is His normal day at the office) facilitates Joshua leading the people of Israel into the Promised Land. There follows a generation of fighting, battling, warring and struggling. God told Israel that He would supernaturally lead them, guide them, and bring victory to the people of Israel. Every single man, woman, child, dog, cow and horse (if there were any) that belonged to the Canaanite nations  had to be killed, and then Israel were to take over the land with God’s blessing. As they lived according to God’s word and way they would become richer and richer, blessed and more blessed and incredibly numerous. However, the story tells us that Israel lost heart. They conquered “parts” of Canaan, and killed “some” of the Canaanites. Joshua died, the people ran out of “fight”, and they all tried to settle down as best as they could with Canaanites and Philistines being an absolute thorn in the flesh for Israel, preventing them from the destiny originally intended for them by God.

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Jerusalem.

So follow me when I say; “For Egypt, read the worldly culture outside of any Christian principle or faith. For the entire deliverance from Egypt and the seven nations that filled Canaan, read the world the flesh and the devil.  For walking through the Red Sea, read being baptised into Christ at conversion. For crossing the Jordan, read the baptism in the Holy Spirit. For the battles, that Israel entered into on entry to Canaan, read the Christian life and the search for Christ likeness and holiness. If you have understood what I am talking about here, I guarantee that the book of Joshua and explaining the concepts of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians will never be the same again, and will clearly not be as difficult to grasp.

The main issue is this: ISRAEL SPENT THOSE FIRST FEW HUNDRED YEARS IN COMPLETE MISERY LIVING WITHOUT THE FULL RAFT OF GOD’S  PROMISES BEING FULFILLED. THEY WERE LIVING BENEATH THE DESTINY AND PLAN THAT GOD HAD SET FOR THEM.  In addition, we need to know why this happened. It is my assertion that the church of Jesus Christ has lived far beneath the promises given to her, the authority inherited by her, and that the “promised land” of Spirit filled living is only partly enjoyed with lots of omissions.

Therefore, in this curriculum of lesson learning, we want all readers to grasp what it means, and how it happens that we possess our possessions. Our rightful possession is the baptism of the Holy Spirit, healing, health, prosperity, living in the power of the Spirit, the discernment of the Spirit, and a Christ-like life style that makes the world stop and shout, “Wow! How do they do that?” Those things have been given to those in Christ. How many of us see, hear or know about all those blessings. And trust me when I tell you that my list above is nothing more than the tip of a very large mountain of promises.

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Looking North on the Street of Prophets.

So, what do we say about this? Does history repeat itself?  I would prefer to answer that there are certain principles at work that are universal. When people succumb to these principles in a negative way, the same syndrome that plagued Israel, and has plagued the church of Christ over two thousand years, works its mischief to assist people miss their highest destiny. What are these principles? I cannot and will not ever be able to claim that I know each of these principles, but I observe and know of some very powerful ones in my life, the lives of others, and in the Bible, I see this working powerfully in Old Testament Israel and in a few New Testament believers.

I am going to randomly head these principles in a trio of thoughts. They are in random order of importance, priority and power. I do not know if one of these principles is any more powerful or important than the other two. But they all work extensively positively or negatively. It is you and I that make these principles positive or a negative in our lives. They are:

  1. Finishing with the past.
  2. Fighting in the present,  and
  3. Faith for the future.

Whatever cause and purpose you follow, these principles bite. I will briefly highlight how this philosophy worked, or did not work, for Israel and has or has not been working for the church of Jesus Christ universal in recent generations.

33. 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.

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God Himself had to announce that Moses was dead because no other human was with him when he died. No one could move until Moses was dead. Moses was the leader. Yes, he had passed his “office” to Joshua, but Joshua could not “inherit” until Moses died. They were stuck on the banks of potential greatness, as well as the banks of the river, and on the cusp of possessing their possessions – but no more progress could be made until Moses had departed.

God Himself buried Moses and He announced the fact to Joshua. “Moses is dead, therefore arise and go over the Jordan,” says Yahweh in Joshua 1:1. Moses had to die.   There are three things to note in the lives of individuals, churches and movements before new territory can be taken.

A. Acknowledge the fact that some “Moses” person, place or thing, or even a “Moses” experience has to die. “After the death of Moses …” Joshua 1:1). The past has to be dead and buried. The good as well as the bad. I am not talking of burying all consciousness of your “Moses”. I am talking of acknowledging that you are about to enter a new era, a new experience, a new lifestyle under a new voice of leadership and drive.

B. Wait for God to announce that Moses is dead before the new life can assert itself.  The more the past is left alive to dictate with its old talk, the less the new can be entered into.

C. Remember, always, that who and what we are in Christ starts from us standing on the shoulders of those that have gone before. God told Joshua “You will enable this people to inherit the land I vowed to their fathers to give them” (Joshua 1:6).

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

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This principle was a success point with Israel. They all submitted easily to Joshua. Joshua led them on. The weakness  was that the death and burial of the past was limited. Idols so easily were admitted into Israeli life. It was a part of Egyptian life that raised its ugly head after Joshua had gone on to his eternal reward.  This is something Samuel would have to deal with later on, and he did.

In the book of Acts, and throughout the letters of Paul we discover that the church found it extremely difficult to, “bury Moses,” as it were. Judaistic slaves of the Mosaic Law held the church back from entering into its full freedom in Christ.

It is the same with individuals as they move on in life to follow Christ with deeper levels of commitment. Unresolved conflicts, especially unresolved youth conflicts, can plague Christians into their senior years of serving Him. It even curtails some from serving God after only a few years. I know several men who were strong in God, who turned away from him when they fully realised that they couldn’t let their old life die so easily.

We are highlighting this principle as it plagued the life of the twelve tribes of Israel, and was something that Samuel dealt with strongly. Burying the past and turning ourselves around to live a new kind of lifestyle should be a high priority with all Christians.

Fighting in the present.

This is something that needs to be activated every moment in life until we pass over. Effort was needed to take the land of Canaan, and death defying effort was to be the norm until Canaan was populated by nothing and nobody but Israeli’s. That is the sort of effort needed for Samuel to get Israel into conquering mode. That is the sort of effort and attitude that was needed for the church of the New Testament, and that is the kind of effort you and I need to exert to “squeeze all the juice” out of knowing God. Life is a battle. And whether we like it or not, 24/7 and 365 days a year, morning, noon, or night, the intensity of that battle never lets up.

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

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The certainty of God’s promises is pivoted on the means to gain the fulfilment. That was true for Israel entering Canaan. It was true for Samuel, teaching the nation of Israel, in the story we are about to delve into. It was also true for the preaching of the crucified Christ in the New Testament. It is definitely true concerning ourselves and the progress of you and I achieve “in Christ”. God has given us something that has the broadest spectrum of His power and salvation in Christ, but the God given means to appropriate what has been given, still need to be utilised.

God told Joshua that he and the whole nation needed to be employed in fighting for the land. Samuel, too, needed helpers as we shall see. The church needed to move forward as a body of believers. Even Christ required disciples to accomplish His long term goals. You are obligated either to take somebody with you, or to follow somebody in your personal pursuit of the promised land of God’s salvation. “Lone Rangers” are an illegality in the Kingdom of God, in the church.

God also told Joshua in chapter 1:2 of the book that bears his name, that they were to go and take “the land which I give them.” That means specified, tangible, measurable goals were needed for Israel, and are an essential for you and I.

Without these precepts and concepts biting into our lives and targets, we will lose momentum in our battle of life and be defeated.

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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A privilege is a special right to something, and/or an advantage upon and over many other people. Yahweh actually said to Joshua, in verse 3, “Every place on which the sole of your foot shall tread, I have given you.” God tells them “now” – that is, “in the present” and what Joshua would do in the now was to build and determine what will happen in the future, but He uses past tense as to the fulfilment. “Go now, Joshua!”, “Wherever you will put your feet…”, “I have already given it to you!” God lives outside of time. He comes into time and talks in our linear existential terms so that we can understand Him, but know this; Wherever your future is …He is already there. If we tread “there”, understand that He has given us “there”. Know this also, that what God said to Joshua, when applied to my life, suggests that if I do not tread there, I shall never own there. Fears, anxieties, ignorance and other issues may befall me and stop me appropriating there. We might just get too tired to fight on, as did Israel. There can be no loopholes in the area where we tread. If there is, understand that the area of the loophole will be the area that causes us to fail.

There is no loophole in His promised land. God told Joshua that it was from the River Euphrates down to the river of Egypt (Joshua 1:4). Not one square inch was excepted. As Samuel was going to do in his lifetime, as the church needs to do, as Paul did, and as you and I need to do; grasp the fullness of the parameters of God’s promise. Know what His Word teaches. Know what God’s prophetic Rhema word to you is. Know what, in the battle and conflict of life, is lawful under God, righteous and in His will. Then take it by faith.

The Parameters were not only Northward and Southward, but east and westward also. “The land of the Hivites up to the great Western sea (that is the Mediterranean Sea).  “None will hold out before you all the days of your life” (Joshua 1:5). So there are no loopholes in the personalities that will confront you. Samuel was to learn this, the church of Christ generally today needs to know this, and you and I need to take hold of this. We are talking about man, woman, demon, political force, death, hell, the grave and anything else in all of creation. Nothing can withstand the power, the force and the idea of God’s promise to a person, persons, the church, or the nation of Israel. However, the recipients of the promise will always need to fight with the means given by the Almighty, in order to appropriate what has been given, that is, to possess one’s possessions.

33. 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.

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“As I was with Moses, so I will be with you.” So, there are absolutely no loopholes on issues of comparison with previous generations of spiritual fighters or leaders. There are also no loopholes concerning God’s provision to facilitate the taking of the Promised Land, for He also says to Joshua, “I will never fail you, and I will never forsake you.” Ultimately, after all this, there can be no loophole in the concept of success or prospering in the task.

There is a huge responsibility in holding these truths and being armed with God’s promises. A responsibility is a moral or legal obligation to take care of something and to be accountable for it. Three times in Joshua 1:6, 7 and 9 God tells Joshua, “Be resolute and strong,” “Only be very resolute and strong,” and, “Have not I commanded you, be resolute and strong.” Therefore, there needs to be a setting of not only external measurable and tangible goals, but also goals and targets set in the heart that are consistent with God’s own heart. Resolution and strength as commanded to Joshua are essential and pivotal to the whole progress of gaining what has been promised. Therefore, there can be no loopholes in character. One huge loophole in Samuel’s character nearly undid all he worked for – but we shall see that when we get to it.

“You will enable this people to inherit the land that I vowed to their fathers to give them” (Joshua 1:6). If Joshua, Samuel, the Apostles, and you and I, carry the responsibilities as well as the privileges of receiving the promise, we will take others with us. That is the heart of God talking. Passing on the baton that God put in your hands, to the next generation, is part of the kingdom of God’s principles. In short, there is to be no loopholes in understanding the premise for which you are here in this life.

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

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“…keep practicing the whole law which Moses my servant commanded you…” (Joshua 1:7). There are no favourite doctrines, or comfortable emphases, or hobbyhorses to peddle to your followers or yourself. There can be no loopholes in integrity.

In summary, there are imperatives in the realm of the Spirit to facilitate holding truth in the heart for you and me, and anybody else in the world. Joshua 1:8 gives us the aerial view of all these principles. The word of promise needs to be totally at home in the mouth, in the heart, in the all round lifestyle, and in the success and prosperity that meditating on the Word brings.

Therefore, there is a need for resolution, strength, fearlessness and courage to enable people to take what God has promised them.

All these principles would have worked for Israel, Joshua, Joshua’s successors, Samuel, the Apostle’s, and they will work for you and I in this generation. It is the spoken and written promises of God, and the divine accompaniment to apprehend their fulfilment that is the ground of assurance to this call for a life of “daring do.”

The historical setting of Samuel’s arrival, to fulfil his role in life is a veritable word from God to our hearts. May we receive it fully and act on it.

Categories: History teaches everything including the future., New Testament Application of Old Testament History. | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

First Prophet? Samuel?

First Prophet? Samuel?

LAST JUDGE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Othniel, Judges 3:7-11

Ehud, Judges 3:12-30

Shamgar, Judges 3:31

Deborah (and Barak) Judges 4,

Gideon, Judges 6, 7,

Tola, Judges 10:1-2

Jair, Judges 10:3-4

Jephthah, Judges 11, 12:1-7

Ibzan, Judges 12:8-10

Elon, Judges 12:11-12

Abdon, Judges 12:13-15

Samson, Judges 13, 14, 15, 16

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

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

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

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

FIRST PROPHET?

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Explanation as to how Samuel can be legitimately called The First Prophet. | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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