Posts Tagged With: Tabernacle

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

The  Master Builder who Left a United Israel.   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 Nebi Samuel

Nebi Samuel

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

The National Water Table of Spirituality.

THE NATIONAL WATER TABLE OF SPIRITUALITY.

THE NATIONAL RELIGIOUS SCENARIO AS SAMUEL’S ARRIVAL DREW NEAR  

Religion with discontentment is great loss.

 

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The revelation of God, His commandments and the ritual worship had all been centred by Moses’ orders around the Tabernacle. The worship was silent, intricate, costly and totally dedicated to the one tent, the one altar, the one holy place, and the one and only spot on planet earth where God had said that He would meet formally with Israel, i.e. between the winged  cherubim at the, “blood stained mercy seat.”  We are talking about the small, trunk sized box that God Himself referred to as “the Ark of my covenant.”

The tent that was created to house the Ark and everything that appertained to its ceremony and its ongoing silent liturgy. Was the supposed centre of the life of the camp of the children of Israel all through the forty years desert wandering. It was intended to be the same for generations after, that is, as far into the future as any Israelite could think.

The Ark was the item that was held in the middle of the Jordan while the water stood on end and allowed Israel to cross as on dry ground. It is virtually impossible to express to the secular and atheistic western mind what the tent, and especially the Ark, meant to the tribes of Israel. It was not an overstatement, at that time, to say, “no ark – no Israel.” Once it was made, it assumed a presence that was beyond description for the heart and soul of the nation. Of course, the people would still be living there in the land if the Ark had for any reason disappeared, but the spiritual significance of it all, and the very thought of no Tabernacle, and especially no Ark simply beggared contemplation to the God fearing of the nation. It was no wonder that old Eli dropped dead when he was told that the Philistines had taken the Ark. Eli heard about the thousands lost in battle, and the fact that his two sons had died and was stilled into silence – but was still breathing. Then they told him that the Philistines had taken the Ark. At that piece of news, he fell backwards and, quite literally, dropped dead with shock.

If Israel was created by Yahweh, and if Yahweh delivered Israel from Egypt for His glory and worship, and if the vast bulk of His commandments given at Sinai were instructions of how to approach the tabernacle, how to sacrifice at the tabernacle, how to worship at the tabernacle, how to be purified at the tabernacle, and how to contemplate the presence of God via the ever hidden Ark; what would happen if the tent – or the Ark – was for whatever reason, stolen? How would faith be sustained, if the whole kit and caboodle was just taken away from them? If the people of the United States of America could consider the physical and social removal of the American constitution, and the British could consider the removal of parliament, or democracy, we are just beginning to be one per cent on the way to grasping the priceless loss to Israel as the Ark of the covenant was stolen by those who had developed into their arch enemies, the Philistines.

0001But, the constitution of the USA, and the British houses of parliament are almost passing trivia to the import of the tabernacle and all its accoutrements, above all, the Ark. It was truly part of Israel’s existence.  It would be more than the end of civilisation to them. If it is possible to understand, it would be to the true, God fearing, patriotic Israelite, “The End of the World.” It was the essence of both the reason for their existence, and the motivation of their nation’s existence. This whole set up of tent, sacrifice and Ark was so important at this point of time that one whole tribe, i.e. almost eight per cent of the entire nation of Israel, were ordained by God to do nothing else but look after and maintain everything that there was about the tent and its accompanying pomp and circumstance. With this tribe (i.e. the Levites) in charge of the worship they entered Canaan  immediately after Moses’ death. Because of the logistics of fighting, warring and pillaging, a large camp was set up at a place called Gilgal, allowing Israel a bridgehead and base. As always, wherever the children of Israel camped, the tent over the Ark was raised in the centre of that immense bivouac.

Having conquered a certain part of Southern Canaan, and made headway into the northern territories, Joshua remembered that he had not yet “split” the land up between them all. He wanted the last seven and a half tribes to get their inheritance.  Reuben, Gad and half the tribe of Manesseh were given land east of the Jordan by Moses years earlier. Judah, Benjamin and Ephraim had already been given  their allotment earlier by Joshua. This left Asher, Zebulun, Naphtali, Issachar, Dan, Simeon and the remaining half of Manasseh to attain an allotment of land to live in.

Joshua sent out surveyors from a new camp site called Shiloh, to map the land and to identify certain borders and areas. The book of Joshua (18:8) tells us that when the men were ready to go and  inspect, Joshua himself charged them to make a description of the land. Then he told them, “Return to me here, and I shall cast lots for you before the Lord in Shiloh.” This gives the reader of scripture the distinct impression that the “national camp” was at that time transferred and settled into Shiloh. It is generally accepted that the Tabernacle was set up at Shiloh and left to stand there for more than a century (possibly two) at this hill called Shiloh (Joshua 18:1), later described as a city.

According to Judges 21:19, Shiloh is situated ,“On the north side of Bethel, on the eastern side of the highway that goes up from Bethel to Shechem and on the northern side of Lebonah.”  This site has  been currently identified. It is a ruined site on a hill about nine miles north of Beitin (Bethel) and three miles south of El-Lubban (Labonah?). It was excavated by Danish expeditions as recently as 1926-29, and 1932. Their results suggest that Shiloh, as a centre of population, was destroyed circa 1050 B.C.

0003 Nebi-SamuelIn the process of time this Tabernacle location evolved, to be referred to as, “The Temple.” The word used in scripture (hekal) infers that it was a permanent item, even though it was still a tent. Because of a large, “Temple-like,” ruin excavated on the site, it is thought by some that a permanent building could have been erected around the sacred tent, if not over it, explaining to the satisfaction of several scholars, why it is in 1 Samuel 1 referred to as “The Temple.” The change of words to do with the temple door, and doorposts, however, do not intimidate me, nor prevent me from suggesting that  it was still the Tabernacle, as instituted by Moses, that was being utilised for worship. This writer holds to the opinion that the tent was left for a century or two and became conceived of as a permanent structure by succeeding generations, and was therefore referred to as “The Temple.”

Even though there was overwhelming godlessness and idolatry in the days of the book of Judges, chapter 18:31 informs us how, although it should have been the only worship centre for the nation of Israel, it was reduced to the principle sanctuary during this era.

In the fearful tension and violence of this epoch, the observances of the rituals enjoined upon the people by Moses, had fallen greatly into misuse, abuse, and even disuse. When faith disappears from the hearts of the people, superstition runs rampant. What ensued was a religious mishmash that caused some of the population to perceive Jehovah as actually living inside the Ark – that is, if they believed He lived at all. It was deduced by the short sighted, of whom there were many, that Yahweh was “obviously” only a god who was on par to any other named god of the locality. It was this concept of a worldview and paradigm that was to be their complete downfall. Who said, “Theology doesn’t matter”?

0007 PhilistinesIf God lived in the Ark, as some supposed, there  was no way in heaven, or on earth that they could lose a battle – if only the Ark was present. There was, consequently, absolutely no possibility of them actually ever losing the Ark. Or so they thought! Their own scriptures and historical writings could have straightened them out on these issues, if only they had been consulted.

The following decades of religious syncretism and debauchery, therefore, did not cause the Tabernacle and the Ark to lose its  high profile, superstitious, “magical” appeal  to the majority of the nation. To those that still feared God, it was the holy place that it had always been, even if concepts of holiness held by the masses was something alien to the mind and statement of Yahweh Himself. But to the weak minded, superstitious, and religious people, they could take Yahweh and His Ark – or leave Him. “Bring Him in when there is social and/or emotional pressure. Otherwise it doesn’t really matter who, what, or how one worships; does it?”

This, “fool’s philosophy,” had even infected and infested the minds of the, “men of the cloth.” The conduct of the priests, after the crescendo of the sacrifices at the Tabernacle were visual points of contact to set the tone of spirituality for all the attendant worshippers. As the book of Samuel commences, God fearing Eli, acting as the High Priest, is “full of years,” and becoming enfeebled, and his adult sons were utterly out of his control. They were living publicly and openly in licentiousness and lewdness. They were a talking point for all the nation.

Outraged, enraged and disgraced by the crimes of its ministers, in the climactic days of the birth and development of, ”the last Judge,” worship of Jehovah sank into Israelite public contempt, and was almost, mortally “wounded in the house of its friends,” and seemed, humanly speaking, almost ready to expire. Hophni and Phinehas, Eli’s two sons, committed crimes that had such an effect of imbibed and continuous wickedness throughout the nation, that the scripture actually says, “The Lord wanted to kill them.” Is there any statement more horrific in the whole of the Bible?

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

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

How Eli came to be High Priest at this time is a complete mystery. Moses had given orders that the High Priestly role could only be continued as a lineal descendancy from his brother Aaron, down through Eleazar. Eli’s family tree was in the wrong garden. He was indeed descended from Aaron, but through Ithamar as opposed to Eleazar. Somehow, through the years that were post-Joshua and pre-Eli, the Aaronic priestly descendancy had lost its power, impact and function. It is not known what actually happened. Had the Aaronic line died out? Not at all! When Solomon appointed Zadok, he reverted to the true line. So why Eli? Was some descendant of Aaron, debauched as Hophni and Phinehas, “expelled” from the priesthood? Indeed, a stronger question would be; “Could anybody be expelled from a lineally descended priestly family?” All resolutions to this query are pure conjecture. The public and/or the priesthood made an alternative choice for this most important position in the spiritual life of the nation of Israel (at least in this generation to which we are referring).

A picture says more than a thousand words. The family tree we are now discussing grew something like this:

ELI

 

Obviously Eli was not in the correct side of the family to be High Priest.

The book of Samuel commences with two young men, the offspring of elderly Eli, officiating at the sacred tent and abusing the God ordained system and their office to such a degree that God told Eli twice, in considerable detail the awful fate that was to overcome them. The impact of this fate was to be the end of poor old Eli. He knew he was responsible for his lack of parental control. For this reason the names, “Hophni” and “Phinehas” are an infamous biblical byword for godlessness and corruption.

And this is the atmosphere into which the chosen vessel Samuel was placed and reared?

Categories: The National Political Scenario prior to Samuel's arrival | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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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