Posts Tagged With: Old Testament

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

The  Master Builder who Left a United Israel.   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 Nebi Samuel

Nebi Samuel

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

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

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

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

Hail Samuel! Mighty man of God!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kingmaker – Prophet and Future King have Quality Time Together.

Minutes of the Meeting?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Street of Prophets, Jerusalem. Looking West

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The ruins of Saul’s fortress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AGENDA  ITEM 2.THE TEMPLE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Samuel’s tomb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AGENDA ITEM 4. MUSIC IN PRAISE AND WORSHIP.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why is this significant?

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

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

AGENDA ITEM 5.  DANCE IN WORSHIP.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AGENDA ITEM 6.  KINGLY CONDUCT.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Samuel meets Shepherd Boy David.

 

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

The Ascendancy of the King on the Descent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shiloh. Taken from the west.

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

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

Saul battling the Ammonites.

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

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

One artist’s impression of Samuel anointing Saul.

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

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

Surrealist portrait of Saul

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

God save the King

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

Selah – Pause and calmly think of that.

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

The Kotel (Western Wall) circa 1860

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

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

Jews in Jerusalem circa 1890

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

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

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

Samuel’s Tomb.

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

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

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

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

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

(1 Samuel 9:1–10; 16)

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Lost donkeys?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Is this where the Seer lives?

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

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

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

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

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Samuel meets Saul.

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

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

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

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

6

Saul and his servant meet Samuel

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

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

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

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Saul at the feast with 30 guests.

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

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

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

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

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

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Samuel anoints Saul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. Ramah to Shiloh

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

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

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

Prologue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

24. Selah. Pause and calmly think of that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Readin’ ‘Ritin’ ‘Rithmatic Dance and Prophecy.

READIN’, ‘RITIN’, ‘RITHMATIC, DANCE AND PROPHECY.

And what did you learn at school today?

The Schools of the Prophets

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They are definitely in synch with each other

So! Can a person be taught how to be a prophet?  Well! There are “born prophets,” and there are definitely “made prophets.” There are Elijah’s, and there are Elisha’s.

At the very time where the divinely raised series of Judges was about to give way to a new dispensation, where a king would be installed by the popular cry, followed later by the royal familial succession, something strikingly new, incredibly contemporary to twenty first century Christianity,  and remarkably creative in Samuel’s day, was birthed.  Needless to say, under God’s inspiration it was Samuel’s idea.  Surely nobody else would have believed their ears if they had heard such a word from God. A sparkling new phenomenon emerged among the spiritual charismatics in Israel, facilitated and conceptualised by the son of Elkanah and Hannah of Ramah himself.  We are talking of the, “Schools of the Prophets”. The first one, presumably, being held in Samuel’s home, the Naioth. This, the earliest form of, “regular prophecy,” and, “potential prophets,” is often referred to as “nabism” for reasons we shall explain. (Nabi is anglicised Hebrew, meaning “prophet.”)

It was an aspect of the religious and spiritual life of Israel that the people either loved or hated.  It was loved by the Godly. It was despised by those that had things to hide, or were just plain sinful. Where some detected only heathen frenzy in the early prophetic schools, others saw the stirring of forces belonging to the essence of worship and deep relationship with Yahweh. Some saw in the schools of trainee prophets, people being clothed upon by the Spirit of God. It was the stirring of God’s Spirit in a person’s life, encouraged and cultivated in a manner hitherto unknown, even though it had been seen in the life of Moses’ sister Miriam (Read what happened with har immediately after Israel had walked through the Red Sea as on dry land). The worship system outlined in Leviticus was solemnly silent. The noise of music was not heard in the approaches to the Tabernacle, except for moments of euphoria when God’s hand had been seen by all moving on behalf of his people. It was of the Spirit and in the Spirit for those years in the wilderness, for it was all done in the shade of the pillar of cloud in the hours of daylight, and in the light of the pillar of fire in the dark hours of the night. So, there was no dead religion to begin with. Miriam, it would seem, was a “Nabi” in practice.

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I want to praise the Lord like him. Hassidic worship.

The peculiar feature about nabism, as described in First Samuel is that of what writers refer to as, “group ecstasy.”  Though ecstatic experiences, it would seem, were familiar among the Seers, these were things of which the early worship of Yahweh, i.e. prior to Samuel’s time, knew nothing. Miriam’s prophetic song on the shores of the Red Sea over the Egyptian military cadavers is the only vague suggestion of something similar during the earlier days of Israel’s history. Whether the music and the frenzy came with the birth of a movement that started in a fiery explosion of spirituality, and settled down later to a regular burning flame without the frenzy, I am not sure.  Surely there is absolutely nothing in scripture to suggest that Samuel received God’s word in anything but a calm and natural frame of mind, and in a normal physical disposition. One gets the general impression that most of Samuel’s words came in the middle of the night, as his first revelation did. The supernatural intercourse between God and Samuel is presented to us in scripture as if it was two old friends intimately chatting.

The prophet Samuel developed a,”School of the Prophets,” and was, as we shall see from later chapters, fully aware of the music, the dance and the frenzy that brought the scholarly groups of prophets to their reception and delivery of God’s word. It signified a profound change in the whole dynamic of spiritual life within Israel. God was doing something new amongst the people. The first wave of charismatics had come into existence. It was something new, totally different and clearly, of the Spirit of God.

As a twenty-first century  pentecostal/charismatic with deep interest in, and a strong inclination towards prophecy, I feel somewhat perturbed at the “group frenzy” aspect of these early days of the schools of the prophets.  Prophecy, I assert, does not in any way need frenzy. New Testament prophecy is never inferred as conjoined to frenzy or even requiring anything but a quiet receptive spirit.  But musical inspiration, dance and so called, “frenzy,” is definitely how these students of Samuel started in the realm of the prophetic (The word “frenzy is used by scholars and commentators, it is not really the word used in the Bible).  The passage in which a “hebel” (i.e. “School” or “Band”) of prophets (nabim) is mentioned for the first time in Israelite history, also notes that a group of them were coming down from a place of sacrifice (1 Sam 10:5). Religious, sacrificial sites are later also recorded as sites where the prophetic schools operated, e.g. Jericho (2 Kings 2:5), Gilgal (2 Kings 4:38), and Ramah (1 Sam 19:18).  So we are hemmed in to conclude, by the plain logic of the biblical text, that the Schools of the Prophets, were totally orthodox Jewish worshippers, touching and hearing God via His own Spirit and Word, and not primarily via the sacrificial system and the priesthood, yet  clearly not denying the sacrificial system of things. It was a fascinating innovation of the Spirit of God through Samuel’s genius. I am convinced that the music, dance and “frenzy” were all connected with the group dynamic of worship, and conceivably (and this is my unsubstantiated opinion) because the disciples of Samuel were youthful, energetic and lively.

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Praise Him in the dance

The point must be made that the contemporaneous heathen cults of excitation with the aid of narcotics, and of physical self torture was, and is, totally alien to Jewish custom and tradition. Such a practice would definitely not have been in Samuel’s tenets of the faith. Yet, whatever was happening in the ecstatic energy and excitement of the groups of prophets was not hysteria.  Perhaps it was a way in which the prophets in training loosed themselves from their own intellectual and human restrictions in order to be abandoned to the Spirit of God.  I say this in as much as I would vehemently want to deter any would be prophet of God from doing the same today.

It’s the word frenzy that makes me shudder. “Energy,” “excitement,” and “rythym” I like better.  Music,I love. Give me more of it. Dance is lovely both to enter into and to watch – as long as it is inspired by the Spirit of God. The word “frenzy,” however, suggests the loosing of one’s sense of reason. Perhaps it would be better if writers started to refer to, “the release in the Spirit that fell on them through the full expression of worship in the dance.” Frenzy? I think I reject no matter how commonly non-charismatic/pentecostal commentators use the word.

We cannot despise or put aside the fact that there is one well attested element of Israelite traditional worship which could easily turn into ecstasy, and was and still is a normal and accepted as a, “valid,” mode of worship. I refer to what I believe is referred to in Jewish circles as, “the sacred dance,” that took place – and still does – on special occasions of joy and victory.  It is clear that this religious and deeply spiritual manifestation of dance was practised by the nabim with particular abandon, and that music and song played a great part in enlivening and heightening the intensity of the prophetic Spirit that fell upon them. There is plenty of evidence in the Old Testament that the religious spontaneous dance was accompanied by singing and musical merrymaking (2 Samuel 6:5: Isaiah 30:29: Psalm 25:6: Psalm 118:27. All the verses I have listed here are very much post Samuel.) What we are talking about is something that became established as a norm, initially via the oversite and encouragement of the prophet Samuel.

The state of ecstasy, or  “the release of the Spirit that fell on them through the full expression of worship in the dance,” caused the subjects within the dance to be set free from normal physical empirical lines of thought opening their human spirits and revealed the presence of a higher kind of knowledge and insight.  They then spoke in  and of the Spirit of God. This is the very definition of prophecy. This demonstrated that their release was not so much for the dissolution of normal consciousness, but very much to facilitate an endowment of higher power, and a consciousness of the presence of the Spirit of God.  The Nabi became the proclaimer par excellence, not only as the people who raised the act of praising and calling upon his God to its highest degree, but, as the speaker empowered by God to reveal His hidden will.  This was received and accepted as the loftiest worship of Yahweh, in virtue of which, the Nabi became the man in whom the word of Yahweh resided. David worshipped Yahweh “with all his might.” Chew on that phrase and all it suggests. It is hardly simply singing a meaningful hymn with one’s hands in one’s pockets. David’s example suggests dance, energy, excitement, pleasure, revelling in the knowledge of God, and an alignment with the Almighty. God give us more of it.

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He is worthy to be praised!

Once the basic features of the earliest prophetism is properly appreciated, old controversies re prophetics as a theme, appear in a new light.  It is impossible to subsume it under any religious category, classifying it in terms of such pairs of opposites as physical versus moral, or, psychic versus spiritual.  The decisive factor in any assessment must rather be its position in the totality of the religious scene at this time of Samuel’s life, and how this particular development brought individuals, and ultimately the nation to a purer relationship with God, and set people, as individuals, free.

This new dimention of experience with God and the reception of God’s word via the Nabim took many manifestations.  It is easily demonstrable from scripture that group ecstasy affords no grounds for supposing that its practitioners and adherents are to be regarded as, “Religious Officials,” Levites or functionaries of a lofty religious position.  It is an unjustifiable simplification of the Old Testament narrative to classify Nabism as a whole, as a type of official, “Man of the Cloth,” status.  In the Old Testament, apart from these schools, the prophet was, generally speaking, a “loner.”  Although it is stated that Ezekiel was  a priest, and it is thought by some that Isaiah was of royal blood, nevertheless their moving in the “office” of prophet was completely distanced from the priestly or royal functions that they were involved in. Think of Elijah or here in our present primary focus with Levitical Samuel.

How little the appeal to individual passages affords conclusive proof of the religious “official “function of the Nabim, is brought out with especial clarity in the case of Elijah building an altar on Carmel. The erection of the “Yahweh” altar is an unmistakable expression of the exclusive sovereignty of the God of Israel over the contested area. No more is it possible to demonstrate a firm, “officially” religious connection in those guilds of nabim who lived a community life, than to prove that individual prophets were in conventional “religious” offices or functions, even though it is true that their colonies show a connection to important sanctuaries. It should be noted that in all the thirty passages of scripture in which priest and prophet are closely coupled, they all come from either Jerusalem, or the southern kingdom of Judah after the division of the original Nation State. Where the word of God was sought, there were prophets  named and unnamed who spoke the word of God.

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Any discussion of this issue must take into account the ancient Israelite concept of Ruach (Spirit or breath), which is presented as the force behind the nabim. By this, Jewish Rabbi’s refer to the sudden, almost erratic move of the Spirit of God in a Nabi. Again, Elijah is the best example.  Anyone Elijah’s day, who seriously considers the suddenness of power that fell on, or rose up in a nabi cannot but have considerable misgivings about regarding the men who depended on this gift of grace, and who were guided by it in such unpredictable ways, as “religious officials.” The general perception and acceptance of the Nabim, throughout all of Old Testament history, seems to assume that they were simply inspired charismatic characters who, by human analysis,  may speak at any time God thought necessary.

If then these mediators of the Spirit of Yahweh did in fact contract firm connections with particular sanctuaries, it should be seen as a domestic deviation from their ordinary mode of free living, dictated by peculiar local and historical circumstances, which nevertheless still left room for the continued existence of independent prophetic guilds and individual wandering prophets. Because they were “schools” of prophets, the suggestion is that “students” or “scholars” were  actually “junior prophets” and therefore not yet qualified or fully established in those things that a prophet needed to be established with.

There is more than one piece of evidence to suggest that the ecstasy was not felt to be a disruptive foreign concept in the body of the religion and worship of Yahweh, but a new impulse bestowed by God Himself. In the Canaanite religious frenzy, the demonic manifestations were alien and ungodly entities entering the body of the Shaman.  It was the struggle against the religion of Canaan and the proclamation of the will of Yahweh which united these “junior,” “student” prophets of God, who in all other ways were so very different from the idolatrous demon worshippers of Canaan.

The generally acknowledged dress of the nabi was the hairy mantle 1 Kings 20: 38: 2 Kings 1:8: Isaiah 20:2.  Whenever a nabim has his dress explained in the Bible, that is exactly how they are attired.

This “movement” was something of crucial importance in the new things that God was doing in Israel through the life and influence of Samuel. The most prominent exponents of nabism in the time of Samuel, David and Saul bear witness to their participation in the  the national struggle for the purity of life and worship of Yahweh.  It cannot be denied that the rise of group ecstasy, precisely in the midst of the frightful time of national crisis, was no accident.  It was undoubtedly Samuel’s teaching and impartation of what he had learnt and what he had experienced that had birthed this entire stream – nay- a gushing river of spirituality. David was a prophet. The biblical description of his dancing before the Lord as he brought the Ark into Jerusalem for the first time is demonstrative of the whole issue we are talking about.  Although we need to add that we are not told that David prophesied in his dance, we should note that the vast majority of David’s contribution to the body of prophecy in the Bible came through his singing and music, many of which refer to dancing, jumping, clapping and whirling.

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The distinction from mystical ecstasy may, in general, be accurately summed up by designating the prophetic experience as, “concentration and meditative ecstasy focussed purely on Yahweh,” in opposition to, “fusion ecstasy” (i.e. being infiltrated by a demonic or alien entity to gain control of something or somebody). Israel knew nothing of the prophet’s being able to thus gain mastery over God and force his way into the divine world.  Ecstasy as discovered by Samuel’s prophetic schools, with all its consequences, derived itself from a direct eruption of divine power, namely God’s Ruach, which overwhelmed a man and took him as a conscious and willing servant.  The Elijah accounts give the impression that its’ operations tended towards the enigmatic and capricious, rather than the Spirit in any way being at the Prophet’s beck and call.  It is Yahweh’s Spirit that enters into a man, and, in the days before Christ and Pentecost, it was only a repeated temporary experience – or so it would seem. Even the greatest of men of God can only have a share in the miraculous powers and superhuman knowledge because of the entry into himself of the wondrous living Spirit of God over whom Yahweh alone has ultimate direction. Prophets and prophecy are somehow touching God’s omniscience in their insights, visions, pictures, directions, predictions and declarations. In both Testaments it is graphic, directive, wonderful and intrinsically holy.

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“Behold a company of prophets met him.” 1 Samuel 10:10

I believe Samuel realised that his gift was desired by God to be the regular “bread and butter” of the life of those who would lead God’s people, which in his day centred on the, “church,” that was Israel.  As much of his gift as he could impart to others, he would do. I am sure that Samuel wanted more people, with a gift similar to his own, to be permeating Israeli society with an ear to God, as well as a mouth for God.

These schools affected the development of Yahweh worship and the future of the nation of Israel profoundly.  Prophets seem to have become, dare I say, almost common place.  The word, “Seer,” became more generally used to mean anybody who had connections and manifestations with the spiritual realm, whether divine or demonic.  The term prophet was used as the generations passed, instead of Seer, and was firmly set in the psyche and daily usage of the people of Israel.  The prophets that surrounded David, and spoke to later kings were commonly from the prophetic schools. Samuel birthed a means for the word of God, as he himself received and perceived it – a word for the “now and the “here” –  to be flowing and accessible for the masses.  The impact was to be profound, extremely far reaching and very wonderful.

Saul, David, and, at the beginning, Solomon, had words from those prophets who were given access to the royal courts.  The son of Solomon started his reign surrounded with young advisors. No prophets are said to have been present or invited by King Rehoboam of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. This was undoubtedly one of the keys to the decline of Israel and the general dive of spirituality in Israel’s Northern kings.  Prophets saw the division of the kingdom coming and said so, and they were still not called in by any king or queen of Israel after the northern throne was initiated.

We will see other things later, but the birth of the schools of the prophets in Israel, in Samuel’s day was utterly huge in its significance. It was clearly a God idea.

In my own experience I have visited many churches where a wise, sedate and serene pastor, often elderly – but not always, would, in a quiet and undemonstrative way lead the people of a church into worship where dance, shouts of triumph and whooping were common place and very real in terms of spirituality. In talking with members in churches of this calibre, I have found that often the exuberant and demonstrative worship commenced within the church when the, “sedate,” pastor arrived. My assumption is that many pastors, no matter how “sedate” they may be externally, carry an anointing for such worship in their hearts and impart their spirit to the people. Old age, or physical frailty may inhibit the outward expression, but ministers communicate what is in their hearts. This phenomena, this syndrome of group dynamics in worship is exactly what I believe happened in the life and experience of Samuel. The cool, calm, serene prophet of God, senior in years as well as in experience and prophetic gifting, communicated to his disciples or students what he carried. And what he carried was wild, giant and dangerous. Thus the schools of the prophets came into being.

They continued, as far as we can read right through to the days of Elisha. By Isaiah’s day the schools seem to have become part of the institution, and full of drunks and false prophets. By that time the function of the schools was finished. The days of the individual giant dangerous writing prophets had arrived.

Categories: And what did you learn at school today?, Readin' 'Ritin' 'Rithmatic and Prophecy | 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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

Matured In The Keg

Vintage prophet fruit to be squeezed slowly and left to stand in silence.

(1 Samuel 3:19–4:1a)

10 artist's impression of the tab in Shilo

One artist’s extremely sanitised image of the tabernacle at Shiloh. Although referred to as Temple, it was undoubtedly The Tabernacle tent left their there for a prolonged period.

 

“And Samuel grew.  And the Lord was with him, and didn’t let any of his words fall to the ground.  And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established a prophet of the Lord.  And the Lord appeared again and again in Shiloh: for the Lord revealed Himself to Samuel by the word of the Lord.  And the word of Samuel came to all Israel.”  

“And Samuel grew.” Childhood is now certainly behind.  We now have a very definite adult profile. Still helping Eli?  I think so; even though we are not told. Old man Eli is known for what he is: the inter regnum High Priest (How and why he gained the office, we have no idea). His strong virile aide Samuel is acknowledged, uniquely, as something that Israel had never really had since Moses, i.e. a full blown prophet of God.

One translation has: “And Samuel kept on growing.”  Many Bible scholars refer to what is known as the “principle of first mention.”  Crudely defined, it states that there are usually, inherent and intrinsic to the first mention of any major topic or subject in the Bible, the details and depths of the entire subject encapsulated in those opening remarks and is enlarged upon with more detail as the subject  continues and is developed throughout the scriptures.  I am not so positive that it is an inviolable law, but, on occasions, the perspective that such an understanding holds is found to be quite accurate.

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An artist’s sanitised perspective on Hannah praying for a son.

I mention this “principle,” simply because it applies here, with Samuel.  We are talking of the first defining character and circumstantial profile of a biblical prophet. Samuel was the first writing prophet of Israel since they had landed in the promised land. That is why I refer to him as, “The Last Judge: The First Prophet.” We have here the original and genuine article. The prototype of any Elijah, Elisha, or Ezekiel. The archetype over any Hosea, Joel or Amos. The stereotype of any Isaiah or Jeremiah.  That, in itself, is quite amazing.  Anybody who has plunged into the deep waters of the biblical prophets knows only too well that it is extremely difficult to find a more diverse group of characters and personalities. Finding things common among them is quite a discovery.

So what do we see here in our story so far?  Samuel kept on in the process of growth. It has a little more substance to the normal concept of “growing up”. We have a prophet. Samuel was a prophet when he received the word about Eli and his family. But he is still in the process of becoming a prophet, for he has light years to travel to attain his full stature of prophetic flow.  He “was,” and  yet, he was still “becoming.”  And what he was and what he did in maturity leaves the opening revelation about Eli in pale wanness as to the weight of his future, “words.”  In fact, in comparison to what he will be, it would be true to say that he is clearly not a prophet yet. Is this all Chinese to you?

Let’s abbreviate it.  The truly prophetic ministry is a continual ongoing process. 

The process for Samuel probably started at his home in Ramah. The first we see of it however is when his mother presented him to Eli. At that first meeting, it clearly says, “he worshipped the Lord there.”  The process was at least in its proper conception and gestation at that moment, if not before.  We cannot and must not separate the fact of Samuel being called as a prophet, and the fact of him worshipping God at the age of three.  The thought of a three year old openly and publicly worshipping God without any adult prompting is a deep revelation of the character of Hannah’s son, a character that is integral to the call of the Most High. The call of God is a preeminent presupposition for a man who is to be a prophet. But many a called person to many a different sphere has, “lost it,” because of “failed training.” Samuel learned his responses from early childhood and developed uprightly for the ministry of a true prophet.

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We are not inferring that if you did not worship God at age three you cannot be a prophet. Tosh to that thought!  There are born prophets (e.g. Samuel) and there are made prophets (i.e. Elisha). What we are saying is, that being a worshipper is a definite precursor to maturity in prophecy, or any other spiritual gift for that matter.

The prophetic starts with attitude and state of heart. The truly prophetic is not simply a matter of passing on what God says. It is that of course; but it is a matter of what sort of vessel is handling that word. It is not a clinical matter of: “I don’t really care about the substance of this message, but I thought I’d better tell you anyhow.”  As if, while nonchalantly and laughingly having a Big Mac and a milkshake, I can thoughtlessly inform you the secrets of God’s heart and purpose for the person, the family, the church or even the nation to which that prophet is talking.  God wants his heart plainly impaled and draped over every word of God that is prophetically shared. We are talking of Divine passion.  If you are not into such concepts, methinks that you’d better stand from afar and watch the drama, the tears, the joy and sadness as the prophets of the Old and New Testament, as well as those of today, impart God Himself to those to whom they are bidden to speak.  It really is an awe inspiring matter.

In these days of charismatic outpouring and the resurgence of teaching on the fivefold ministry gifts of Ephesians 4, the abundance of the prophetic, and the emergence of true prophets are making it essential for the rank and file church member to be au fait with the principles and defining traits of so called “Prophetics”.

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TV Actor playing Samuel the prophet.

This growth in Samuel was plain to all.  The public ministry in which Samuel was already a permanent fixture gave his character high profile among the worshippers of the nation.  This process of change and development in the man they saw as a, “prophet,” pointed to basic conclusions that the nation made concerning Samuel.  “The Lord was with him.”  That sounds a little bit of an obvious statement to some, and a religious cliché to others. The fact is that the presence of the Lord manifested itself in a most remarkable way in the every day relationships and negotiations of Samuel’s life.

“He did not let any of his words fall to the ground.” This is said of no one else in scripture.  It was obviously true of Christ. The inference of this statement is quite staggering. It meant, first of all, that in matters of moral integrity Samuel was impeccable. We are not discussing the whys or wherefores of sinless perfection in a man born a sinner.  We are talking about a wilful trained habitual conduct that meant his, “Yes,” was, “Yes,” and his, “No,” was, “No.”  We are looking at honesty and accuracy in his terminology and phraseology. Nothing more, nothing less. None of the, “I told you a million times,” stuff.  None of your, “I bought tons of food for the weekend,” overstatement.  Samuel was too real.  What he said was exactly that.  None of his words fell to the ground.

But such a concept takes on a broader perspective, because this man was a prophet.  In the next breath, the narrator of First Samuel tells us that, “All Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established a prophet of the Lord.” The inference is plain. Whatever Samuel said, happened.  If he was to say it would rain, it rained.  Nothing of his verbal output fell to the ground and failed.

We are talking here of the ultimate in trust, intimacy and constant open relationship between God and man.  This phrase does more than any other single statement establish the nature of Samuel’s Godliness. This could not have happened if God did not trust him.  It would seem logical to suggest, that if the rank and file of humanity had everything they said coming to pass and not falling to the ground, that people would be either (a) terrified of opening their mouth, or (b) they would go around cursing their enemies and blessing their loved ones and predicting great health and happiness for themselves.

But that is not how God works! The fact is that God would not have allowed that to be said of Samuel if he did not trust Samuel in the context of words. Would God trust you with what you say?  But the narrator is not simply expressing a personal opinion that is neither heard nor thought of by others. “The whole of Israel from Dan to Beersheba,” knew that Samuel was a prophet. He was, “established,” as a prophet.  Some translators have it as, “Commissioned,” as a prophet.  He had become part of the national psyche. He himself had become a national institution. Samuel was a hero. He was a plumbline for others to follow. He was God’s man and God’s voice. It was assumed and taken for granted.  Samuel WAS God’s prophet for their generation.  In Old Testament days, that counted for everything.  The power that would have been wilfully given and surrendered to him by the people; the sycophants that would have surrounded him, the space that was given him to say what he wanted and when he wanted, was, in comparison to today’s democratic principle, unreal.  If Samuel spoke, they would jump.  Samuel was free to expend and abuse as much power as the people would give him.  But no abuse occurred. At the end of his days he asks for anybody who believed he was corrupt in anyway to step forward. Nobody budged. Nobody could point a finger.

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Samuel’s tomb today.

This aspect of God trusting the character of Samuel, and the definite statement backdrop that God would bring to pass anything Samuel said, is, to this writer, the most significant statement of Samuel’s character on one of the most basic characteristics of a man, i.e. his speech.  This trust was added to, with lots of further revelatory gifts.  The King James Bible states that “God appeared again in Shiloh.” Another version has it that, “God continued to appear to Samuel in Shiloh.”  We have development and growth in the understanding of what God was saying.  Note that the Bible does not tell us what was said at all of those revelatory moments.  The open vision was being returned to Israel by the gift of God, and we can be sure that whatever it was that God said to Samuel on those occasions was obediently followed and repeated at the right time, in the right places, and to the right people.  Whether it was personal words to one man, or national directives to all the tribes of Israel, or anything in between those two extremes, God always spoke first to Samuel.

Now for another word that needs tightly grasping.  “For the Lord revealed Himself to Samuel by the word of the Lord.”  God spoke to Samuel via Christ.  “The word became flesh and Dwelt amongst us.”  The word also means the message.  In the simplest of terms God kept the word for the moment flowing to Samuel in this developmental process.  Samuel delivered those words, and those words were received to such a degree that, “The word of Samuel came to all Israel.”  The word of the Lord, in Samuel’s mouth became the word of Samuel, received by the people as the word of the Lord.

Samuel was trusted and accepted. No one argued about Samuel’s prophetic output or input. The prophetic juice from the fruit of abiding in the tree of God’s life was dripping its delicious drops. The longer Samuel drank of the sap of God’s tree, the more it developed a mature and health giving flavour. The slump of unhappy unrighteousness was about to start its upward path to happy godliness and true national prosperity. While Samuel hung on the tree, his words were ripe for the moment and right for the people and rife across the land.

The flower of Samuel’s character was beginning to bloom, and the juice of the fruit of his gift was beginning to nourish the land.

Environs of Jerusalem. Mizpah (Nebi Samwil)

A photo of Samuel’s tomb conceivably pre 1900.

Categories: 1 Samuel 3:19-4:1a, Matured in the Keg | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Foolish Wise Old Man

Is passivity ever right?

(1 Samuel 3:15–18)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Elderly Yeminite Jew in Jerusalem circa 1900. Hand coloured.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Home from the Synagogue in Jerusalem.

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

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

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

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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

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

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

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

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An airbrushed image of Ludwig Van Beethoven

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Categories: Definition of a Prophet | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Samuel’s Introduction to the Prophetic

SAMUEL’S INTRODUCTION TO THE PROPHETIC.

“Thus says who?”

 (1 Samuel 3:1–15a)

9 7 YEARS OLD

Just to accentuate my point that nobody can be sure about the age of Samuel when God revealed Himself to him look at the figure of Samuel in all these works of Art. In this one he is about 3-4 years old.

When does a “child” stop being a “child”?  How old does a “lad” have to be before he stops being a “lad”?  If I had the answer to these abstract questions I would be content with this account we are about to jump into.  Books and commentaries always picture Samuel as a sweet little boy when the awesome events of First Samuel chapter three take place.  I am not sure that they are right.  The Hebrew word, Anglicised, is commonly spelt as “na’ar.”  It is translated as “babe,” “child,” “boy,” and “lad” in various places in the Old Testament.  One would think that would settle the issue.  But there are other times when it is translated, “Youth,” as well as many times being, “Young man.”  To make things even more complex, there are several occasions when it is translated, “Servant.”  Reading through the context of some of these verses of scripture, Jeremiah referred to himself as a, “na’ar,” when full grown.  And Zadok the full grown High Priest was a, “na’ar,” full of valour.  The story already referred to concerning Hophni and Phinehas’s servants who were adult and brutish enough to threaten worshippers with violence has the word, “na’ar,” in its plural state for the “servants.”  So what are we saying?   We conclude that a, “na’ar,” is therefore quite obviously any male youth from birth to late twenties, possibly even early thirties.Translators have had to use their discretion as to how to translate the word that, frankly, has no single English equivalent. Josephus tells us that Samuel was twelve years old when the story of God’s initial revelation took place. We insist that he was quoting mere tradition.

The fact that age is not mentioned means that in God’s economy it is not vital that we know how old Samuel was.  The fact that Samuel could have been, to our mode of definition, a man when this account occurred is not important. The lesson is not whether it is or isn’t, “prophecy to a child.”  The lesson is, “Introduction to prophecy.”  It is a matter of, “first revelation.”  The fact that the biblical word used is vague concerning age, suggests we can all learn and seek God on what is taught whether we be young or not so young.

We have in these pages built a picture of Samuel as faithful to scripture as we know how.  Whoever wrote the First Book of Samuel gives us only a matter of what constituted the upbringing of this character, who is, I suggest,  equal to Moses in Old Testament history. Brief as it is, it leaves  us with no misunderstanding as to the atmosphere and ethos of the lads emotional, and spiritual environment.

“The child (na’ar) Samuel ministered unto the Lord before Eli.”   Eli must have given of himself to this youthful treasure in an earthen vessel in a way that his two sons never received of him.  Perhaps Eli learned some expensive lessons at the cost of Hophni and Phinehas’s indulgence.  Who knows?  Certainly, Samuel was beautifully trained for his future life of high profile public service.  Was it Samuel’s humble reception, or Eli’s tutored giving?  Probably a bit of both I suspect.

The Infant SamuelSir Joshua Reynolds, 1776

5 or 6 years old in this one.

The difference between the raw profligacy of the priestly homes of Hophni and Phinehas, and the, “holiness seeking”  Eli and Samuel is striking.  Samuel was, more than likely, rarely out of Eli’s presence. Eli needed constant attention.  Hophni and Phinehas, the grown men, prostituted the work of God to their own ends;  “The child ministered before the Lord,” amid the silence and the awful mystery of the Divine protection which seems to have ever surrounded the physical and social environment of wherever the ark was placed.  It was amidst this silent, sacred mystery, apart from the disorders of his priestly sons, that rotund and sightless Eli taught the boy the story of his ancestors, with only the dark curtains of the sanctuary hanging between master, pupil and the mystic golden throne of God on which his visible Shekinah glory was sometimes pleased to rest.

The word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no open vision”.  In this instance we are talking of a Rhema word, i.e. a personal word form a personal God.  It seems that between the days of Deborah and the word spoken by Eli to Hannah, no inspired voice spoke to the chosen people apart from the prophetic visitor referred to at the end of First Samuel chapter two.  This is linked to the account of the dirty oil of awful debauchery that trickled from the priest-head, down to the social hem of Israel’s national adornment.

“No open vision”, seems to suggest that there was a veritable cessation of prophetic theophanies, dreams and visions.  “Open vision” perhaps as opposed to “closed vision” means that God spoke to individuals but did not reveal himself to families or tribes or nations with words similar to what Moses or Deborah delivered. “Open vision” as opposed to –“narrow vision” perhaps. Words applicable to smaller judgements, directives and predictions were possibly still a normal thing, as per Eli to Hannah.

Picture the scene. The day is ended. No traffic passing as there is commonly in this century.  No ghetto blasters to pierce the hush. No TV’s or radio’s turned up to intolerable levels. Just pure, calm, silence and peace.

“Eli was laid down in his place.”  We are not told where “his place” was, but it was obviously in earshot of Samuel. Lights were out with Eli in more ways than one. “He could not see”  Was this darkness of the night, his physical blindness that scripture refers to, or his spiritual ineptitude. “Ere the lamp of God went out”  The lamp of Eli was not quite put out ere the lamp of Samuel was lit.

6 15 YEARSOLD

10-12 years old Samuel in this one.

It was a long night in the sanctuary.  Samuel actually slept in the tabernacle.  In the centre, on the left of the entrance, stood the seven branched candlestick, now mentioned for the last time in the Old Testament, superseded in Solomon’s day by the ten branched candle stick, revived however, after the exile in the smaller Temple.  It was the only light of the first room of the tent, night or day. It was solemnly lit each evening, and, according to rabbinical tradition, it was then extinguished just before morning.  Moses’ words, however, in the Pentateuch, suggest that it was lit in perpetuity. I do not understand.

In the deep silence of that early morning, before the sun had risen, while the sacred lamp was still burning, there came to the ears of an innocent Samuel, the doom of the house of Ithamar. “The Lord called to Samuel.”  The voice came from the visible glory, the Shekinah, which on that solemn night of the calling of the young prophet, no doubt rested on its chosen earthy throne – the mercy seat of God – which formed the top of the ark, and which was overshadowed by the wings of the golden cherubim. But we have reason to believe that Christ Himself stood in the presence of Samuel and called him.

The Lord called. “Samuel!”. God knows everybody’s name.

Note that God’s voice must have sounded fatherly for Samuel’s response to be such as it was. The boy (or youth, or young man) heard in the voice, Eli’s tones. Typical of so many, “He knew not the Lord”.  He was Godly, he was moral, he was upright. Still he did not know God.

The story is told in such a natural manner that the supernatural and the natural do not jar. The common life of the sanctuary is so wonderfully and consciously in view while the Almighty bears his heart. “Will Jehovah do anything with revealing it first to his prophets?”  asked the prophet Amos rhetorically, three hundred years after this nights Divine revelation.  At this stage of Israel’s progress, or rather their lack of it, it seems that there was only one that God perceived as a prophet.

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13-15 year old Samuel by this artist.

“Samuel!”  The boy hears.  Would it have been audible to you and I had we been there?  Modern day prophets testify to both audible words as well as strong impressions which seem audible. The sweet humility of the boy that arises so quickly to see what it was that Eli wanted, was one of those characteristics that gave Samuel so much favour in Jehovah’s sight. This willingness to serve; this openness to leave his comfort zone (and what could be more comfortable than a warm bed just prior to sun rise) gave God so much pleasure.  This trait is an insight into the recesses of what made Samuel tick. He shouted, “Here I am!” and then got up and ran.

Eli was awoken by Samuel.  Was his slumber so deep that He could not have heard the call of the Almighty?  The High  Priest was not required on this occasion of revelation. God operates on the basis of heart condition, not external position. God moves towards the open in heart, not necessarily the mature.  Samuel’s heart was clean, and ready to serve.

“I called not!”  Eli insisted in a puzzled tone. “Just a dream!”  “Just a whim or fancy!  “Lie down again my boy!”  He was not interested even in checking, in case there were intruders around the sacred tent.  The lamps creation of long shadows did not put fear in Samuel, with the thought of somebody calling him who was yet unseen. The lad returns to bed.

The call is repeated. The response of Samuel is repeated. The reply of Eli is repeated. Eli is not aware of what is happening. Or is he?  Perhaps he was sharper than what we credit him with being, and thought that if Samuel was slow enough on the uptake, God would refer the word to him.  After all he was the High Priest.  But we think not! God looks on the heart, not the external position.

The narrator then explains to us that, “the Word of the Lord” had not yet been revealed to Samuel. This was, therefore, his first revelation.  Jehovah was reaching out to him.  Samuel was not aware of who or what it was.

The third time the whole thing is repeated, and the proverbial “penny finally drops” with Eli.  I think it remarkable, and yet another token of Samuel’s character that he had, even for a third time gone running to Eli without the fear of being told off.  It is the epitome of the very definition of the servant spirit. He heard his name called and so instinctively ran to him who called him most.

Eli speaks, at last, with a spiritual perception of what is happening. “Go and lie down; and it shall be, if He call you, that you shall say, “Speak Lord , for your servant hears”  Practical instruction on how to hear from God!  We all need it!  I wish I could have sat down with Eli and “asked for more” on this subject.

2 CIRCA 19-20

Young man Samuel, perhaps touching 20 in this dramatic work. There is passion in Samuel’s expression while Eli sleeps. One can almost hear his snoring.

Samuel obeyed to the letter. In the silence, Jehovah had manifested Himself audibly to this youth.

He was about to manifest His presence a fourth time and make known what was to be probably His most significant act since the crossing of the Red Sea. The Shekinah was beaming again after all these years?  God was visiting his people?

Then, before the very eyes of Samuel, as he lay and waited for the voice to call again, came something – Someone – that stood before him.  The scripture starkly states:  “The LORD came, and stood, and called as at other times.” A Question naturally rises.  What form did this manifestation of the Almighty take?  The Bible usually reveals such things.  Abraham received a travelling man.  Moses talked to the burning bush.  Joshua interviewed an armed warrior. Manoah saw an angel. In this way God met with them all.  Was it just the glory of God that came near to Samuel?  Was it the same glory upon which Moses gazed up on Sinai?  Was it indeed the same glory that hovered over the ark of the Covenant in the days of Moses and Aaron?  Was it the bright glory of God that filled Samuel’s sleeping chamber, the chamber that was also an integral part of God’s tabernacle? Or was it Christ in a pre-incarnate Theophany? We are deliberately not told. But we are told that Yahweh came and stood, and called.

God calls Samuel’s name twice this time, as if He took a particular delight in the sound of it. Samuel responds with a, “Speak for your servant hears.”  Some seem to infer that he did not repeat exactly what Eli said, because he was not sure that it was indeed Jehovah speaking to him. One or two translations actually include the name, “Jehovah” in Samuel’s response, suggesting that it depends which of the thousands of pieces of manuscript one receives as the ultimate authority. The scene was set for dialogue with the divine.

Then the revelation!  The prophecy!  The Word!  Whatever descriptive noun one wishes to use, God now imparts to Samuel a message.

1 CIRCA 25

In this graphic Samuel the grown man runs to tell Eli what he has heard.

The very nature of the statement made by Jehovah to Samuel reveals a conversational style that is exhilarating to observe. Amos was correct. It is as if the Almighty, All-sufficient, Omnipotent, Omniscient, everlasting God just wants somebody to unburden his heart on.  Not by shaking universes and moving galaxies and causing the earth to tremble, but by having a quiet chat in somebody’s ear about what He is about to do. God loves fellowship. He will not do anything without revealing Himself to His prophets. But the one He chooses as His prophet has to have a heart that is trained to carry the impartation of the Divine heartbeat. He wants a man to feel as He feels, see as He sees, and speak with the ethos and direction with which He speaks.  That is why He chose Samuel.

God was bearing His heart to Samuel, regardless of his age.  He may have been a young lad, or a mature man, the age is irrelevant.  The academic stature is irrelevant. The state of heart is all.  Young or old is not an issue. Eli was not bypassed because of his age, but because of his heart. It was the whole man – everything that when heaped together comprised the human being that was Samuel ben Elkanah, that made Him God’s delight. God loved what He saw, and chose him as his particular friend on whom He could unburden His heart. God spoke intimately to Samuel.

“Behold, I will do a thing in Israel, at which both the ears of every one that hears it shall tingle.”  With our privileged perspective on history we can see that the Almighty refers to the most unspeakable tragedy of the capture of the Ark of the Covenant by the Philistines. The fact that Eli was about to die was not an ear tingler. The news that his two  sons would die together on the same days as their father, was a shocker, but still not an ear tingler. The Divinely foreseen routing of the Israeli troops by the Philistines with the thousands upon thousands of Israel’s precious sons dying simultaneous to all this misfortune, was sickeningly horrid, but still not an ear tingler. The capture of the ark, and that alone would reduce the majority of Israel’s people to a stunned case of chronic tinitus.  If the British NHS was in existence in Israel, there would have been thousands of Israelis pouring in for tablets, counselling with debilities grounded in the shock of the news.  The ark was to be actually out of the hands of Israel, and in the hands of the uncircumcised Philistines. It isn’t totally spelled out to Samuel, for it is doubtful that he or anybody else could have swallowed a prediction of what was shortly to take place.

7 -yeh

My favourite. Although I do not want my readers to think that my favourite picture vouches for the age of the Samuel figure.

“In that day,” God continued, “I will perform against Eli all things which I have spoken concerning his house: when I begin, I will also make an end.” In modern parlance: “Everything I have said to Eli and his family shall occur on the same day“. We know, sadly, that in this instance the day was a literal twenty four hour day.

The predicted occurrence seemed to suggest that God had indeed forsaken Israel.  Samuel however, as the story unfolds, did not perceive it as such.  He saw deeper, and knew better. This judgment was indeed awful. To be comprehended as compatible with the weight of Eli’s crime, it must be understood that the misconduct of his undisciplined offspring, was either emulated by the masses, or caused Jehovah’s offerings to be abhorred. The effect on the faith, spirituality and conscience of Israel was incalculable.  And all for the sake of authoritative paternal discipline in their childhood. Such is the price of a father that reneges on his responsibility. In one day the judgment would be complete.  Awesome! How awful!  How utterly dreadful!

Jehovah does not even hide the shame of the old man from the youthful Samuel.  God is not into cynicism, nor fanciful hero worship that is lacking in honesty. God is not into building legends for their own sake.  God wants truth. The prophet shall hear all He has to say.

“I have told him (Eli) that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity that he knows; because his sons made themselves vile and he did not frown on them.”  Eli’s shame is made plain to the old man’s servant boy, and delight of his heart. “And therefore I have sworn unto the house of Eli, that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be purged with sacrifice nor offering forever”.  

Samuel’s insight is clarified on the limits of the Mosaic sacrificial system.  This particular sin of Eli’s had, literally left Samuel’s own father figure, and his dreadful sons outside the pale of God’s forgiveness. They had gone too far even for the grace of the Almighty. Surely it led Eli to the place of crying for mercy from the source of another altar.  Surely he cried to God with his mind searching for the idea of a sacrifice and atonement that would cover even his sins.

We have here the mind challenging concept of a genuine man of God being judged in the same way as his totally godless sons. A righteous, how be it faulted, old man, with his ungodly, faithless sons being without any revealed redeeming features.

3 CIRCA 12-13

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Samuel’s understanding of God’s judgement was honed and sharpened by witnessing such a catastrophe in his own life.  His creed, the tenets of his faith, the doctrine upon which his faith was spread, was erected into a building of such solid material that his grasp of God’s purpose would leave the nation totally obeying and submitting to what he said in years to come.  His revelations were so far ahead of the masses, as to leave them sometimes in a daze as to his words and actions. His clarity of insight into the purposes of God would later lead him to sharp confrontations with all sorts of figures and personalities who struggled to see and understand as he saw and understood.

Salvation is of the Lord! God unburdened Himself on Samuel and we are informed that the young man lay there until the morning. See the character of the down to earth nature of this youth.  At day break he arose to open the doors of the tabernacle. God had spoken. The Almighty had chosen him of all those on planet earth to receive the data of his forthcoming actions in the midst of His covenant people.  And the lad arises as normal to get on with his chores. No delusions of grandeur. No transference into a world of non reality and superiority.  He is still on planet earth, in time and space, and answerable to his elders for the chores that are normally his. Prophet or no prophet, chosen or not, his tasks have to be done. The spirit of Samuel is one that I yearn for. Would that all Christians that experience the supernatural dealing of God had such a frame of heart. Samuel was happy to be a doorkeeper. “It is better to be a doorkeeper in the House of the Lord than to dwell in the tents of the wicked,” said the Psalmist. Perhaps David sensed the heart of Samuel when he wrote those words. Samuel was a prophet and a doorkeeper. Prophets are doorkeepers to God Himself.

Rather than suffer from delusions of grandeur we are told that,“Samuel feared to show Eli the vision.”  Oh how heavy is the prophet’s cross!  He actually wanted to spare the old man any more pain than that which he had obviously seen already on Eli’s creased countenance. Creases that were not simply the results of old age and withering. He wanted to spare Eli, and yet he had to carry the pain himself.  This is the first intimation of the prophet’s affliction on Samuel. The impartation of unwelcome, though divinely urgent truths, to the one he feared, love and respected with honour, was painful to Samuel’s spirit.  Jeremiah, centuries later, felt this particular complaint of prophetic impartations as a peculiarly hard one to bear.

The perception of an intimate, revelatory God that still leaves a human recipient of his word in such a sound and solid sensibility of normal life and all its values is a priceless gem of an observation that the Christian world needs to emulate. Samuel had received a word from God.  A prophetic word.  A word that affected his emotions, the people around him, and the nation of which he was part. The prophetic within him was brought to the threshold. That which was seeded in him was beginning to show itself above the soil of youth.  The embryonic prophetic character was now a birthed voice.  The early years of disciplined humility, were now to bear the fruit of distilled holiness.  The spirit of years of tranquil preparation, was now to exude trustworthy pronouncements.

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What an awe inspiring item the mature prophet and man of God is!

Categories: 1 Samuel 3 verses 1 – 15a, Samuel's first prophetic word. | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

I See Through The Smog a Bright Future On The Horizon.

I SEE THROUGH THE SMOG A BRIGHT FUTURE ON THE HORIZON.

A secret glimpse into God’s plans both dark and bright.

(1 Samuel 2:27-36)

1 shiloh_tabernacle_drawn_lg

This is the exact spot, so the archeologists say, where Shiloh was located, and the layout of stones and ridges suggesting where the Tabernacle was placed.

And then; still in this same period of Samuel’s life, a visitor arrived.

The man is left nameless.  He prophesied.  Was he therefore a prophet?  The Prophetic word he was given to pass on to Eli was a bombshell that must have shaken the old man to the foundations of his character.  It was on a personal level: to do with his family.  On the other hand, if the man was talking of Samuel with his opaque promise of some kind of a future successor, Eli had potential excitement to his finger tips at the conceivable glimpse of how the youth was going to turn out.

Whatever dialogue transpired prior to the delivery of the, “Word,” is not revealed.  Because of the seriousness and the far reaching effects of this message, we shall quote it phrase by phrase.  He opened with, “Thus says the Lord.”  In the Old Testament when God communicated in a slightly different manner than in the New, this prefix was the weighty precursor to many a Divine deliberation from prophets.  The assertion is that, “This is what Almighty Yahweh says, and the message I am about to impart was received by me in exactly the same words as I shall speak.”  Weighty stuff indeed!  Prophets, do not use this word lightly – ever! Recipients,“Ignore this phrase at your peril!”

This, incidentally, is the first biblical sight of a prophet since the days of Deborah.  We are talking of possibly a hundred years or two since the likes of this had last occurred in the biblical narrative real time.

I have ransacked several versions of the Old Testament to gain the general consensus of what went on here.  Some of the sentences are extremely difficult to translate, according to the experts.  On top of that, once you have settled the translation, the interpretation of the message and its long term meaning becomes an even higher obstacle.

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“Did I plainly appear unto the house of your father, when they were in Egypt, in Pharaoh’s house?  And did I choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to offer upon my altar, to burn incense, to wear an Ephod before me?  And did I give unto the house of your father all the offerings made by fire of the children of Israel?”  These rhetorical questions that Eli would have silently nodded to, commenced this terrible prophetic dirge of doom.  We paraphrase this opening simply as : “Did I not swamp your family with privileges and blessings to an amazing degree?”

Eli knew that the nameless visitor was referring to historical facts of Israel’s youthful but stunning history.  The answer was a knowledgeable, “Yes”! to all the questions posed.  From this the knife of God’s judgement pierces Eli’s heart.

“Why do you kick at my sacrifices and at my offering, which I have commanded in my habitation; and honour your sons above me, to make yourselves fat with the chiefest of all the offerings of Israel my people?”  In plain English; “Your lack of discipline on your son’s abuse of the sacrifices, demonstrates how you honour them more than me.  Why?”  God’s logic is like a steamroller to crack a nut.   It is irresistible in its damnation.  Ungainsayable!  “For this reason the Lord God says, “I said indeed that your house, and the house of your father, should walk before me forever”: but now the Lord says, “Be it far from me; for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.  Behold the days come, that I will cut off your arm, and the arm of your father’s house, that there shall not be an old man in your house”.”  It sounds like the damnation of accidental, or murderous deaths to all the descendants of Eli’s family.

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God now thrusts deeper still.  My version:  “I promised that you would be priests forever.  But this abhorrence of Me and My sacrifices, means I shall deal with your family, take its power away, and all your progeny shall die whilst young.”  It seems amazing that the misconduct of one man in one generation, should  affect so many in future generations.  This word came to pass in Saul’s reign as Eli’s grandson and great grandson came to early demise in those days.  The power was removed from them when Solomon took the throne and displaced Eli’s descendants with Zadok, the true High Priestly line through Eleazar.

The heavily complex Hebrew language of verse thirty two of this chapter has translators in total disarray.  From version to version it says what seems like totally different things.  Having read through eleven translations, as well as various commentaries, I am still not sure if there is any one I should prefer.  So; using the principle that when the experts disagree the layman is free to choose which he thinks is wisest, I hereby choose the lot of them, and come out with the following notes.

The prophet explains that God will give Israel wealth, blessing and pleasure in the future.  Good will be done to Israel.  This is reference to the future with David and Solomon, the foundation of which was built on Samuel’s teaching.  However, Eli’s family would not partake of these blessings and will – it is predicted – be envious of those in the outpouring of prosperity.  There may even be suffering and trouble for his family.  Eli, or maybe just his future family, shall see shortage, need and distress in God’s House while the prosperity spreads.  The intrigue and “grabbing lifestyle” of those that “wore the Ephod,” (another term for those who were priests) is open to public dispolay in the reign of Saul and the life of David.

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Eli tutoring Samuel.

An adversarial enemy shall be seen in the habitation of God.  It is described by others as, “distress,” but Eli shall actually see it.  This must refer to the taking of the Ark, for Eli was not alive to see the sack of Shiloh, or indeed anything thereafter. The news of the stolen Ark of the Covenant is what socked him, leading to his death almost instantaneously. This will occur in the midst of the blessings given to Israel. The blessing I believe were of the nature of a man in particular; his name was Samuel.

Then comes the pronouncement that all and sundry of the translator’s fraternity agree on: henceforth, nobody of Eli’s family will live to old age.  One man translates the word, “old man,” as, “noble.”  To make the prophecy even harder on Eli and his posterity, the prophet adds that even those that live the longest of his family shall grieve their own heart. Jewish tradition believes that Eli was 100 years old when he died.

The doom and damnation is set.  If only father had spanked the two when they were little and gained enough discipline and respect from them so that they would obey him in adult years, things could have been so different for the entire future of Israel.

A sign is then promised by the itinerant prophet as a token that the entire message shall come to pass.  The sign is that the two wayward sons shall perish on the same day.  This final aspect of the message was relevant to Eli for less than a minute.  Years later, less than sixty seconds after the news was broken to him of the death of his two sons, he was dead.  God’s economy is bigger than the first and most prominent meaning of this shocking message.  The fact is that God knew that this prophecy would gain fame by being repeated and repeated over and over again through the following years.  How else could the writer of First Samuel know that this prophecy was spoken.

The man of God closed his errand with a prediction that must have been as heart-warming to Eli as the former was chilling. “I will raise up for me a faithful priest that shall do according to that which is in my heart and in my mind:  and I shall build him a sure house; and he shall walk before my anointed forever.” 

As per usual there are two ways of interpreting what was said.  There is , of course the immediate historical perspective, and then the long term prophetic insight to the words, referring in some way to the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Was this about Samuel? Or was it about Christ? Or, more likely still: Was it about them both?

This fits Samuel as well as the Saviour.  In fact it fits Samuel more than it fits Christ.  All but the last phrase suits the two.  “He shall walk before my anointed forever,”  cannot refer to Christ, as He was the anointed.  Referring to Samuel he would walk before Saul during his lifetime revealing God’s heart to him.  Saul was the Lord’s anointed.  But Samuel would walk before Christ in eternity.  Christ was the archetype of the Lord’s anointed.

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Eli trying to correct his sons.

The more I try to put my mind in the place of Eli’s as he was being spoken to by, “Nameless,” the more I think that this closing promise would be the silver lining on the dark clouds of doom.  He had done a good job on Samuel, even if he had failed miserably in the way of Hophni and Phinehas.

“And it shall come to pass that everyone that is left in your house shall come and crouch to him for a piece of silver and a morsel of bread, and shall say, “Put me, I beg you, into one of the priest’s offices, that I may eat a piece of bread.”

The meaning of this is plain when seen in the context of the extra difficult verse 32. Those that are of the priestly family, yet in poverty, will be asking the trustworthy and faithful priest (Samuel) for a job so that they can earn a little money and a little food.

The prophet that delivered this message is never referred to again.  He disappears off the face of the biblical narrative.  But his words are there for us to squint and wince at three thousand years later.  Eli must have been “blown away.” The Account informs us that Eli was blind and overweight.  Whenever his position is mentioned he is either lying or sitting.  How he survived this news I shudder to imagine.  Of all the shocks and knocks that this man met through life, this pronouncement eyeball to eyeball would have done the most to suck his life from him.  Many people would have given up at the point at which he had arrived.  The harshness and the finality of the heart of God towards him and his diabolical duo would surely have stilled and stopped the heart of the majority.  This prophetic word was set in concrete.  The future was, to a degree, revealed.  Terrible things at the Tabernacle were to come.  Hophni and Phinehas were to die on the same day.  No more old age in the family; and his offspring were already adult.  Familial poverty. National prosperity.  A divinely raised faithful priest. Stuff to chew on. Stuff to ponder long and hard. My heart goes out to Eli at this point.

Man has a failing (or is it a blessing?) to see most things in the context of his own immediate history.  In Eli’s mind these heavyweight prophetic statements must have also been seen in his immediate context.  Correctly, or incorrectly perceived by the old man, the, “Enemy in the dwelling of God,” could only be his sons, the godless of Israel, and/or the ungodly nations among whom they lived.  The faithful priest could only be Samuel.  Did Eli have a vision of the Messiah to come. Oh!  If only he had been a different sort of parent.  If only he had stood up to the wickedness of his sons earlier in life.  If only!  If only!  The most painful moments of anybody’s life are those spent contemplating what could have happened if they had done something correctly, which was in actuality done wrongly or badly.  Those regrets are heightened to a most hurtful degree when the repercussions of their wrong doing bring desolation, hurt and damnation upon others.

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At this point of time Eli must have wept.  He must have been in an inward state of heartbreak.  Death became him more than life.  Annihilation was preferable to an eternity counting the cost of his own “non-action.  Poor Eli!  No words could comfort a man in such a scenario.

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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.

7 -yeh

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

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

Ramah to Shiloh. Across the world in 6 hours.

RAMAH TO SHILOH

Across the world in six hours. 

(1 Samuel 1 verses 1 – 9)

1 4 Rachels'tomb as one leaves Ramah

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

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

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

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

Stargazing camels..

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

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

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

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

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A far distant view of Shiloh today

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

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

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

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Shiloh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Historical site as it is today. Shioloh.

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

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

1 12 the sad Hannah

Sad Sad Hannah

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 13 Peninah taunts Hannah

Penninah taunts Hannah. Wicked Woman.

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

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

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

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

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The stairs at Samuel’s tomb.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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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.

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You Cannot be Serious! Samuel who? For what?

YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS!

Samuel Who?

For What?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Think on the following facts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rachel’s tomb in the 1890’s

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

HOW DO WE HAVE THE BOOKS OF SAMUEL?

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

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

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

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

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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.

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Preface

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

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

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

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

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

 

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SAMUEL’S HOME AND TOMB.

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

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

I am referring to Samuel ben Elkanah.

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

And that’s just for starters.

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

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

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

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

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