Posts Tagged With: Yahweh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What should David do? Where should he go?

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Samuel meets Shepherd Boy David.

 

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

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

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

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

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

Dark shadowy days were ahead for King Saul.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saul’s route to destruction.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Oh the affliction of being God’s prophet.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Routine Life Style

ROUTINE LIFESTYLE.

A Circuit to reconnect the National Spiritual Circuitry. The Acorn becomes a Mighty Tree.

(1 Samuel 7:13–17)

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Where the Philistines Trod

There are ages in the history of nations that are referred to by the names of the people who made the biggest impact during that particular generation. We talk of the Victorian and the Edwardian era.  We talk of the Kennedy years, and more recently, of course, the Thatcherite as well as the Blairite days.  The Bible at this stage of the account of Samuel’s life takes a step back and gives us a typically skeletal account of the Samuelian epoch. The remarks mean little unless seen in the backdrop of the political state of the area at this period of history.

The Philistines were subdued. Tomes have been written concerning the rise of the Philistine people and their later decline. The period of time surrounding the looting of the Ark of the Covenant from Israel’s possession was probably the moment of  their greatest extension into Canaan.  From then on it was downhill all the way for the “Sea Peoples,” with only one or two moments of resurgence immediately preceding the rise of King Saul and the temporary disasters of Israel that were as a direct result of the disobedience of that king after Samuel had died. From that time on, the Philistines declined into absorption with the surrounding culture which was a strong and emerging Israeli domination reaching its peak in the days of David and the earlier years of Solomon’s reign. The absorption was such that David had Philistine Gittites (i.e. those from the city of Gath) on his personal bodyguard some sixty or so years after the victory at Ebenezer.  Back in Samuel’s day, Israel’s victory at Ebenezer left the Philistines very much under the shadow of Israel, though not quite under their thumb. They were still, however, very much a force to be reckoned with. “They came no more into the coasts of Israel” refers to incursions and taking of territory.  They still had, nontheless, fortresses amid the cities of Israel that were standing for another forty or fifty years.

Samuel demanded the cities back that had been previously lost to the Philistines. No one is sure whether it means that battles were fought in order to gain the cities back, or, the more likely option, that Israel’s resurgence of power and might left the Philistine lords with no alternative but to submit to the political pressure placed on them by Samuel to return the cities and the people of Israel within those cities, to Israeli protection and social life. The scripture mentions two of the great Philistine centres of population, saying that all the Israeli cities from one area to the other were returned to the oversight of Samuel’s fatherly eye.

The concept of the covenant and its overriding theme of “the Land” (i.e. Canaan) as being Israel’s divinely given possession was without doubt the only  biblical motivating factor of this re annexation. Canaan belonged to Israel (as, indeed, it still does). There was, however, no push to rid the world of the Philistines except when men were face to face in life or death warfare.

Israel had “peace with the Amorites” all the days of Samuel.  The significance of this statement is to let us know that not only were the Philistine people of the coastal plain subduedby Israel, but also, the strongest Canaanite tribe of the interior was corralled into submissive peace.  The peace of domination and subjugation under Israel’s God, and law was acceptable to Samuel as a, “Plan B,” option to the act of total obedience to the initial demands of Yahweh as they crossed the Jordan. At least this kind of submission brought the heathen nations to Yahweh. Not that we are suggesting that they all threw down their idols and worshipped the God of Israel; by no means.  But the rise of Israel as a powerful force in all departments of national life meant that those other races and cultures that were living among the cities of Israel were overcome by the stronger and livelier culture of the reborn nation of the covenant.  Syncretism and absorption of spiritual and religious values was as much sin as ever it was.  Now, under Samuel, Yahweh ruled and reigned, all other gods were false, demonic and/or idolatrous, and were therefore unacceptable. When those of the Canaanite and Philistine peoples turned to Yahweh, then the purpose of having annihilated the other peoples was circumvented. God did not want the other nations removed for racial reasons, but for the spiritual demonisation in their religions which permeated their culture and society. Their turning to Yahweh changed everything.

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Where the Judges trod.

The prayer life and dominating character of the prophet Samuel brought all nations into a posture of subjugation around Israel. This all began, observably, from the day of Ebenezer’s victory.

“Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life.” The influence and supreme power of Samuel did not end with his life. It impacted after Nebi Samuel (Samuel’s tomb) had been built, We know this overtly because Saul wanted him raised from the dead for the richness of his advice and counsel.

Even Samuel’s prophetic words from beyond the grave came to pass. For a very long period, probably thirty to forty years after the divinely given victory at Ebenezer, Samuel was the Judge, the Prophet, the Priest, and the man with Yahweh’s ear – as well as His mouth. Although the elders later asked for a king, Samuel’s authority never dwindled even after the coronation of Saul. What they wanted was another man with the character and authority of Samuel.  Samuel, so they thought, was about to die of old age – so they asked for a king.  From a distance Samuel’s authority looked identical to any King’s rule. Samuel would clearly have cringed at that observation being verbalised. It was his total and rank submission to Yahweh that made him the almost “absolute” authority that he had become. Like the Centurion in Luke 7 his faith was built by the clear insight that he was under authority. That sureness of submission to his higher power made him as secure as a centurion in exercising authority and power within the parameters of Israel. Yahweh was and always will be the ultimate King and authority over Israel. Samuel submitted himself to Yahweh as King. The deeper his submission to the Almighty, the greater his authority over the people of Israel. Samuel was just like Joseph in the book of Genesis, i.e. he was second only to the King. Joseph’s king was Pharaoh. Samuel’s king was Yahweh Himself.

Samuel’s character was such that even though his “loose” official role as leader of the nation ceased at the appointment of Saul, and even though he vaguely retired from public office, he promised them that he would not cease to teach them the good and right way (1 Sam. 12:23), neither would he ever cease to pray for the nation.  It was the people that were in his heart, not the position that they had given him.  Israel’s greatest and most secret weapon during these days was not the strength of their armies, nor the metal swords and shields looted from dead philistine warriors, but a single human being when on his knees, now becoming advanced in years, dialoguing  with Eternal Almighty Yahweh.  The nation grew as he grew. Israel blossomed in the world as Samuel became more and more rooted in God. Oh how great was Samuel!

Samuel arranged for an annually completed circuit where he would sit as “Judge” over the people.  Four centres, namely Bethel, Gilgal and Mizpah and his home town Naioth, were places of great religious significance and historical atmosphere – and they were all in the southerly tribal allotments of Benjamin and Ephraim.  This has led some to think that the exercise of Samuel’s power was basically among the southern tribes. The situation concerning the “anti-Judah” feeling, and the great North/South divide, has been previously highlighted in these pages and needs no repetition.  Even though there may still have been some warlike tension verbally buzzing within the encircling nations, Samuel was still strong and brave enough to travel. But even though he was acknowledged as God’s prophet from Dan to Beersheba, Dan never seems to have had the privilege of the great man’s physical presence.

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Where Samuel Trod.

Whether or not Samuel had any other reason for the choice of these four centres, apart from the fact of their place in Israel’s historical psyche, we will never know. However, without doubt, the preaching, teaching and judging circuit, together with his prophetic activities, consolidated the momentum of spirituality and dynamic faith that was rising across Israel in glorious epidemic like proportions.

The last statement on Samuel’s lifestyle over the next generation or so is concerning his home.  Samuel had fixed his abode in what had been his parent’s home city – the place of his birth.  Following the old custom of the long gone patriarchs he actually built an altar to worship at his home.

It needs to be remembered that at this time there was no national shrine to worship at, no formal seat of religion, no actual high priest (only Eli’s two young grandsons), and the Ark of the covenant was kept safely in the “city of the woods.”  We hear nothing of the Ark while it was in Kiriath Jearim, apart from one time when when Saul wanted to consult it during his reign.

Later on in First Samuel we read that the prophet was at Naioth.  There is no contradiction, merely a difference in attitude amongst the seventy translators that worked on the King James Bible, Naioth means “home.”  The word is translated as “home” many times in the Old Testament.  Why it is not done so with reference to Samuel, I cannot answer.  It probably signifies that people came to worship with Samuel and consult his advice through the medium of his prophetic gifting during his lifetime.  In Samuel’s day Naioth is always mentioned with the definite article before it, i.e. “The Naioth.” The altar was built on a high place over Ramah. It would be interesting to know if his father, and in particular his mother, were still alive in the real time of 1 Samuel 7, although it is doubtful.

That is all the scripture tells us about his days.  That is what the lines of print tell us.

However, what are we told “between the lines”?

There are many conclusions we can arrive at concerning Samuel’s life in Israel by comparing other scriptures, reading non-biblical history, and consulting Archaeology.

For instance, it seems that from 2 Chronicles 35:18, Samuel held a regular Passover.  The memory of the first Passover, as explained in the first five books of Moses, was not strictly based around the Tabernacle and its sacrificial altar.  They had no altars in Egypt on which to sacrifice to Yahweh, and the Tabernacle was not built until they had been several months out of Egypt.  So the Passover could still be accurately remembered and entered into even after the demise or secretion of the holy tent, and the secretion of the Ark of the Covenant. A great gathering of the nation  in order to hold the annual celebration of Passover would have cemented the nation together like glue. We have no idea how often Samuel held this national event, but as a strategy for building Israel into a unified nation it was a plan that could not have failed to improve the social dynamics of the twelve tribes.

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Samuel’s circuit for ministry and Judging.

The mention in second Chronicles was specifically connected to the size of the gathering. The inference is that Samuel made a successful job of gathering the entire nation to an annual Passover all the days of his life.  Strategically this was the social initiative par excellence.  It highlighted to Israel, and to any would be aggressors in the region that these tribes were one Nation. Interference with one may bring down the wrath of all.  It was also psychologically sound in uniting the nation as a single unit.  The people were made aware of the covenant plan and purpose of Yahweh for the nation of Israel, and that awareness was sustained for a generation.  Samuel’s covenant awareness undoubtedly continued to dominate his theology.

It is plainly suggested that Samuel secured public peace throughout his leadership days.  Godliness and prayer are, the bible argues, always the best defence policy for any nation.  He secured something in the spirit of the nation that lasted all through his mortal coil, in spite of Saul. That solid faith and robust spirituality added to David and Solomon’s reign for 80 to 90 years further.There were in Samuel’s time two kinds of authority; that which was sustained by force of arms and that which was held by sheer force of character and spirit.  Samuel was the ultimate example of the latter.  He was such a character that the aroma of his influence would be felt far into the future.

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A life time’s work is covered in these few sentences of scripture. Samuel ruled by virtue of what he was in himself, and he himself, was immersed into Yahweh.  He was what he was because of early training and his continuous growth in righteousness.  The “wild oats theory” is away from Godliness. The assertion that you must be profligate and a prodigal; before you can be a prince among men is a doctrine of demons.  Samuel was trained from the day of his birth. “Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart form it”.

Samuel’s life was pure. Samuel’s goal was not power.  His object was not his own personal wealth. Under Samuel the stream of social justice ran clean and full.  It was Samuel’s great business to bring the judgment seat of Israel to a standing and reputation of awe, dread and honour.  In any Nation, much depends on the proper administration of justice.  It is of the first consequence to maintain it in a state of incorruption.  In the days of David, six thousand Levites were officers and judges (1 Chronicles 23:4).  This gives credit to Samuel for causing justice and honour to reign so highly in the population’s consciousness.  I fancy that in David’s day, and the early days of Solomon’s reign, the elderly would reminisce of the “Golden days of Samuel.” The public burden was light in the days of Samuel, for Samuel taxed nobody, except God and His resources. Not that we know of at any rate.

When a thoroughly trustworthy and dependable human being becomes the perceived assuring face of government and justice, the people are safe.  It has to be said, that the Vox Populai was the Vox Diaboli when they later asked for a king. Samuel’s opinion, however, was lost in God’s.  He did not run with his own ego’s opinion once he knew God to opine differently.

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No retinue or armed guards for Samuel.  It seems he was alone when he met Saul; as he was alone when introduced to David. He was accessible.  No pomp to swamp his simple life.  The secret, whispered, personal prophecy to Saul which was kept under cover at first, was gloriously vindicated publicly by the openly drawn lot.

When the Temple was finally erected,  the Levites still ministered in its holy environs and they alone officiated in the sacred courts; the chosen race of Aaron in the family, first of Ithamar, and then reverting to the Aaronic line through Eleazar, with Zadok alone, wore the jewels of the High Priest.  But in spiritual matters, as opposed to religious matters, the tribe of Levi never again had power supreme. From the days of Samuel, the prophets, with a totally undefined role were acknowledged as the people with the regular communication and correspondence with the heavenly King of Israel.

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James Tissot’s representation of the aged Samuel judging his people.

The whole subsequent story, as well as the previous account of Dan in particular, and the other tribes, leads us to suggest that the constant ongoing revival during Samuel’s day had least impact in the northern tribes. Dan in particular was a constant stronghold of idolatry. The split of the kingdom, when it came, suggests that the weakness was in the northern response to God. Which came first,the chicken or the egg?  Who knows?”  Samuel never ventured too far northward, and the northern tribes constantly indulged their inclinations to jealousy in that fact. Samuel’s work was so less marked up north, that when the strong hand of Solomon was removed to his family crypt, the northern tribes deserted their national loyalties completely, claiming that the southern tribes were monopolising the monarch too much.

The faith and its practice, the law, and the devotion of the northern tribes was nearly always soiled with idolatry throughout Israel’s history, right through to the northern dispersion in 722 B.C.

The places mentioned where Samuel judged were all holy sites, and at the different times of the year when Samuel was in session, they were undoubtedly carpeted wall to wall with people.  It is probable that all the sacred vessels were stolen with the razing of Shiloh, for Samuel and David collected loot over the next eighty years to contribute to the splendour of the temple that was to be built by Solomon.

Samuel’s life work was joining the dots of the geography of the twelve tribes, and to get them all to use joined up writing in their tribal communications with each other. Samuel was rewiring the house for an easier flow of relationship as one family, not twelve individual tribes. He was transforming Israel from being a bag of marbles into a bag of freshly harvested grapes.

Categories: 1 Samuel 7 verses 13 – 17, A circuit to reconnect the national spiritual circuitry, An Acorn becomes a Mighty Tree., Definition of a Prophet, Routine Life Style | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a 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.

8 Home from Synagogue

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

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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Categories: PREFACE | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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