"We see, in many a land, the proudest dynasties and tyrannies still crushing, with their mountain weight, every free motion of the Consciences and hearts of men. We see, on the other hand, the truest heroism for the right and the greatest devotion to the Truth in hearts that God has touched. We have a work to do, as great as our forefathers and, perhaps, far greater. The enemies of Truth are more numerous and subtle than ever and the needs of the Church are greater than at any preceding time. If we are not debtors to the present, then men were never debtors to their age and their time. Brethren, we are debtors to the hour in which we live. Oh, that we might stamp it with Truth and that God might help us to impress upon its wings some proof that it has not flown by neglected and unheeded." -- C.H. Spurgeon . . . "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31, 32 . . . . .

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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

WALKING WITHOUT STUMBLING – PART 2 of 5: SAMUEL: FAITHFUL JUDGE and PROPHET

A Five Part Series Examining the Lives of Samson, Samuel, Saul, Solomon and the Savior

~ by James Fire

Moses had been dead a long time ago; Joshua, who led the children of Israel into the Promised Land was gone as well. In their place GOD raised up various ‘Judges’ who were defenders of the nation against foreign powers, such as the Philistines. The likes of Samson and Jephthah and others. Then came Samuel, who was also a prophet as well as a priest.
This is the account of this man of GOD; his strengths, his weaknesses, his high points and low. We begin with his mother, Hannah, before Samuel was even born. . .

1 SAMUEL 1:9-11
9 So Hannah arose after they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the tabernacle of the LORD. 10 And she was in bitterness of soul and prayed to the LORD and wept in anguish. 11 Then she made a vow and said, "O LORD of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head
" (And Hannah makes good on her promise as we see in vs. 22, 27-28).

The old priest, Eli saw Hannah, prostrate and speaking softly under her breath, her lips moving but not hearing any words from her – he assumed she was merely drunk, but in the house of GOD? He rebukes her, but she responds:

1 SAMUEL 1:16-17
16 "Do not consider your maidservant a wicked woman, for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief I have spoken until now." 17 Then Eli answered and said, "Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition which you have asked of Him."

1 SAMUEL 1:19-20
19 Then they rose early in the morning and worshiped before the LORD and returned and came to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the LORD remembered her. 20 So it came to pass in the process of time that Hannah conceived and bore a son, and called his name Samuel, [one heard of GOD] saying, "Because I have asked for him from the LORD."

Samuel’s mother was a godly woman; read her Magnificat in 1 SAMUEL 2:1-10. The LORD blessed her for her willing sacrifice of her only son, by giving her five more children: three sons, and two daughters (1 SAM 2:21). Samuel from a very young age, ministered to the LORD in the tabernacle and gained the favor of the LORD and the people; they soon recognized Samuel as a prophet (1 SAM 2:26; 3:19-20).

Meanwhile, the sons of Eli were corrupt and greedy priests (1 SAM 2:12-17), and Eli did very little to correct his sons, except to chide them (1 SAM 2:22-25). Eli was visited by a prophet who prophesied over him and all his house, including his two despicable sons (1 SAM 2:27-36).

As a small child, Samuel learned to discern the voice of the LORD (1 SAM 3:1-10) and the LORD told Samuel what would become of Eli and his lineage (1 SAM 3:11-14) and later Eli compelled the child to reveal to him what the LORD had spoken (1 SAM 3:15-18).
A great many years passed by, and the story picks up when Samuel was well established as a prophet and was accounted as one of the elders of Israel (1 SAM 4:1), and during that time Eli and his sons died (1 SAM 4:11,18).

About this time Israel was greatly distressed because of the war-mongering Philistines who wanted Israel out of Canaan and were all too willing to engage the Hebrews in battle and rid themselves of this perceived threat (they had heard of the power of this Hebrew God and how He destroyed Egypt!).

Samuel admonishes Israel to put away the false gods and the Ashtoreth’s and return to the LORD and serve Him all their hearts and then GOD would deliver them; they obeyed the voice of Samuel who then interceded for them (the people also fasted before the LORD) and sacrificed a lamb to the LORD (1 SAM 7:3-6,8-9). Much of the land that the Philistines took from Israel was restored during Samuel’s watch as their judge, priest, and prophet; he ministered faithfully all of the days of his life (1 SAM 7:13-15); he resided in Ramah and had built an altar to the LORD there (1 SAM 7:17).

We learn that Samuel didn’t do much better as a father than Eli did:
1 SAMUEL 8:1-5
1 Now it came to pass when Samuel was old that he made his sons judges over Israel. 2 The name of his firstborn was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beersheba. 3 But his sons did not walk in his ways; they turned aside after dishonest gain, took bribes, and perverted justice. 4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, 5 and said to him, "Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations."

On the one hand, Israel really hadn’t had very strong leadership for many years, and while Samuel was faithful – he was old and wouldn’t be around much longer – and his sons weren’t worth much. So, Israel wanted a king.

Samuel prayed to the LORD GOD, Who told His prophet that it wasn’t him only that they were rejecting, but the LORD Himself; GOD told Samuel to give the people what they’ve asked for, but to also describe in detail how this King would abuse his authority, take advantage of the people, and tax them heavily (1 SAM 8:7-22); the prophet was obedient and revealed everything to them, nevertheless, the people insisted on having a king.

Samuel was offended on behalf of the LORD; feeling GOD’s pain because of Israel’s rejection of His rightful and holy reign. After all that the LORD did for them, and they’d prefer an abusive human king, over their Creator – the One Who covenanted with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, promising them the land that Israel had more recently inherited. Where was their thanksgiving, their appreciation, their worship?

A godly leader will always identify with the heart of GOD: What blesses the LORD will bless the leader; what grieves the LORD will grieve the leader.

In chapters 9 through 11 Samuel anoints Saul, who began very meekly and was changed into another man, that is, the Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he did great exploits in defending Israel from her enemies. So valiant and faithful was he that Israel swore an oath, demanding that those who despised and rejected Saul as the King should be put to death, and Saul barely restrained them from doing so!
Meanwhile, Samuel at this point is very aged and wants one final address with the people of Israel:

In 1 SAMUEL 12 he calls Israel to testify against him, if he had taken advantage of them, was unfaithful in his ministry or was guilty of oppressing the people in any way. His character was regarded in the highest degree by Israel as none of them could being a single accusation against him.
He then testifies against them in the name of the LORD:

1 SAMUEL 12:6-22
6 Then Samuel said to the people, "It is the LORD who raised up Moses and Aaron, and who brought your fathers up from the land of Egypt. 7 Now therefore, stand still, that I may reason with you before the LORD concerning all the righteous acts of the LORD which He did to you and your fathers: 8 When Jacob had gone into Egypt, and your fathers cried out to the LORD, then the LORD sent Moses and Aaron, who brought your fathers out of Egypt and made them dwell in this place. 9 And when they forgot the LORD their God, He sold them into the hand of Sisera, commander of the army of Hazor, into the hand of the Philistines, and into the hand of the king of Moab; and they fought against them. 10 Then they cried out to the LORD, and said, 'We have sinned, because we have forsaken the LORD and served the Baals and Ashtoreths; but now deliver us from the hand of our enemies, and we will serve You.' 11 And the LORD sent Jerubbaal, Bedan, Jephthah, and Samuel, and delivered you out of the hand of your enemies on every side; and you dwelt in safety. 12 And when you saw that Nahash king of the Ammonites came against you, you said to me, 'No, but a king shall reign over us,' when the LORD your God was your king. 13 Now therefore, here is the king whom you have chosen and whom you have desired. And take note, the LORD has set a king over you. 14 If you fear the LORD and serve Him and obey His voice, and do not rebel against the commandment of the LORD, then both you and the king who reigns over you will continue following the LORD your God
.

15 "However, if you do not obey the voice of the LORD, but rebel against the commandment of the LORD, then the hand of the LORD will be against you, as it was against your fathers. 16 Now therefore, stand and see this great thing which the LORD will do before your eyes: 17 Is today not the wheat harvest? I will call to the LORD, and He will send thunder and rain, that you may perceive and see that your wickedness is great, which you have done in the sight of the LORD, in asking a king for yourselves." 18 So Samuel called to the LORD, and the LORD sent thunder and rain that day; and all the people greatly feared the LORD and Samuel. 19 And all the people said to Samuel, "Pray for your servants to the LORD your God, that we may not die; for we have added to all our sins the evil of asking a king for ourselves." 20 Then Samuel said to the people, "Do not fear. You have done all this wickedness; yet do not turn aside from following the LORD but serve the LORD with all your heart. 21 "And do not turn aside; for then you would go after empty things which cannot profit or deliver, for they are nothing. 22 "For the LORD will not forsake His people, for His great name's sake, because it has pleased the LORD to make you His people.

This was a man after GOD’s own heart – declaring before the people their sin, and warning of further rebellion, but also expressing the mercies and faithfulness of GOD. As ministers of the LORD, priests of GOD which includes all the body of Christ, we must measure our words carefully, expressing the “full counsel of GOD” as it were – declaring the righteous judgments of the LORD against sin, and pointing to the sins of people, warning them of coming judgment, but also revealing the plan of salvation through Christ.

Seeing GOD Who is the Truth, and walking in the light of Truth, while bringing people to such light, will ensure that we will walk with integrity, without stumbling.

Things become serious in the kingdom of Israel when this king begins to neglect his responsibilities and increasingly becomes unaccountable. However, this righteous prophet calls Saul into account in Chapter 13, because Saul offered a sacrifice in the office of a priest – something that was strictly forbidden to any king in Israel. GOD specifically ordained the offerings and sacrifices to be administered by the tribe of Levi as the LORD’s official and anointed priesthood (similarly, no priest was to function in government as a leader, i.e., a king as this was ordained by GOD to be performed by the tribe of Judah (while in this instance, He permitted this king to reign over Israel, Saul of the tribe of Benjamin).

A faithful witness for GOD will confront even those in high office as confidently as they would the common man in the street. It’s been said, ‘He who kneels before GOD can stand before anyone’. We recognize that GOD is the ultimate authority and that all power in reality belongs to Him (PSALM 62:11); He dispenses that power to people in stewardship and holds them accountable for the proper use of that GOD-given power. Any abuses will receive condemnation just as faithful use will receive commendation by the Judge of all the Earth! Saul would be condemned, Samuel – commended.

Two chapters later in 1 SAMUEL 15, GOD through the prophet Samuel commands king Saul in the following:

1 SAMUEL 15:1-3
1 Samuel also said to Saul, "The LORD sent me to anoint you king over His people, over Israel. Now therefore, heed the voice of the words of the LORD. 2 "Thus says the LORD of hosts: 'I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he ambushed him on the way when he came up from Egypt. 3 'Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.'

Yet Saul, while seemingly intent at first in obeying completely GOD’s command (1 SAM 15:6), he actually sparred king Agag as well as the choicest of the livestock (vs. 8-9). The LORD expresses His regret in setting up Saul as king over His people (vs. 11) and His prophet recollects what Saul was like at the beginning of his reign:

1 SAMUEL 15:17
So Samuel said, "When you were little in your own eyes, were you not head of the tribes of Israel? And did not the LORD anoint you king over Israel?

Saul passes the proverbial buck and blames the people for his own disobedience – he was unwilling to be accountable and to own up to his own failures (unlike David, who when he was rebuked, repented! See 2 SAM 12:1-13) and confess his sin until it was too late (vs, 24,30).
For this, the prophet Samuel was faithful to the LORD in pronouncing condemnation over Saul and the stripping of his authority. Those that are careful to call people out for their misdeeds, must make it a priority to examine their own lives first, so that no charge of hypocrisy can be laid against those who come with a rebuke.
GALATIANS 6:1-5
1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. 2 Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. 5 For each one shall bear his own load.
This is a dreadful task; anyone with a tender heart is reluctant to dispense correction, especially if it means rebuking and disciplining of the more drastic sort. Nevertheless, as leaders (in any capacity, be it as pastor, husband, father, employer – all of the godly sort) we are obligated to follow GOD’s commands as Samuel did, because all of us are accountable to the LORD – the one being corrected as well as the one doing the correcting. Always though, may we do this “in a spirit of gentleness”.

1 SAMUEL 15:22-28
22 Then Samuel said: "Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has rejected you from being king." 24 Then Saul said to Samuel, "I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. 25 "Now therefore, please pardon my sin, and return with me, that I may worship the LORD." 26 But Samuel said to Saul, "I will not return with you, for you have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel." 27 And as Samuel turned around to go away, Saul seized the edge of his robe, and it tore. 28 So Samuel said to him, "The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today, and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you
.

Attitude matters. We can do all the right things, say the right things, but GOD looks on the heart, as we read earlier when Samuel was sent to choose the LORD’s anointed (David). GOD was far more concerned with the king of Israel obeying Him from the heart, than any beasts – even those of the choicest, without spot or defect (a requirement for Tabernacle sacrifices by the way!). Israel was later judged for this very thing:

ISAIAH 1:11-16
11 "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?" Says the LORD. "I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams And the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, Or of lambs or goats. 12 "When you come to appear before Me, Who has required this from your hand, To trample My courts? 13 Bring no more futile sacrifices; Incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies-I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting. 14 Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; They are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them. 15 When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood. 16 "Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil,

AMOS 5:21-23
21 "I hate, I despise your feast days, And I do not savor your sacred assemblies. 22 Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them, Nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings. 23 Take away from Me the noise of your songs, For I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments
.

After much pleading with Samuel, the prophet finally did go along with Saul to worship, but if you notice carefully, while the prophet attended him, he did not enter into worship with the king – he would not partake of the worship of GOD with a rebel (see vs.30-31); the prophet obviously had something else in mind:

1 SAMUEL 15:32-34
32 Then Samuel said, "Bring Agag king of the Amalekites here to me." So Agag came to him cautiously. And Agag said, "Surely the bitterness of death is past." 33 But Samuel said, "As your sword has made women childless, so shall your mother be childless among women." And Samuel hacked Agag in pieces before the LORD in Gilgal. 34 Then Samuel went to Ramah, and Saul went up to his house at Gibeah of Saul
.

And witness Samuel’s heart towards Saul:

1 SAMUEL 15:35
And Samuel went no more to see Saul until the day of his death. Nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul, and the LORD regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel
.

We carry the wounded with us in our hearts; the old adage that parents would often quote before disciplining their child is true: “This is going to hurt me more than it’s going to hurt you!” 

Samuel carried this grief for so long, that it seems almost to exasperate even GOD’s patience: we cannot allow personal sentiment to interfere with the work of GOD.
In the next chapter, GOD has His prophet on mission: to anoint the king that the LORD intended on becoming leader of Israel all along: David, the son of Jesse!

1 SAMUEL 16:1
Now the LORD said to Samuel, "How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and go; I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite. For I have provided Myself a king among his sons."

Samuel expresses some fear because of Saul (vs. 2) – that if the current king gets wind of what the prophet is up to, it could cost him his life, and perhaps here we might find a lack of faith on Samuel’s part. If GOD directs us to do something, regardless of any potential consequences, we can obey and not fear, for the LORD is with us.

While at the house of Jesse, Samuel scrutinized the sons of Jesse, looking at the outward – (“Who would make a good king?”) and seeing the eldest son, Eliab, he said to himself: “Surely the LORD'S anointed is before Him.”. But the LORD rejected every son of Jesse, until the prophet asked if he had any other sons. Samuel was careful to seek out every avenue, in seeking GOD’s will and not resorting to his own understanding. Upon seeing David with his healthy complexion, fair-colored eyes and handsomeness, the LORD spoke to the prophet – “this is the one! Anoint him!” And the prophet was obedient to the word of the LORD!

Later in 1 SAMUEL 19, king Saul recognized that the favor and anointing of the LORD was upon David and sought him harm; David flees to Ramah where Samuel lived and the aged prophet keeps the young man in his company, sheltering him from Saul’s hostilities. Everywhere in Scripture when we witness GOD’s displeasure with His people, it typically revolves around two issues: insincere worship of the LORD, coupled together with the sincere worship of false gods as well as the oppression of the defenseless by the powerful.

If we are to walk without stumbling, may every idol be struck down – anything that seeks a priority over that of GOD – and may we be vigilant in seeking out the safety and security of souls that are being oppressed not only by mere flesh and blood, but against the Oppressor of all – Satan himself that ever seeks to keep lost souls in his POW camps!

The king discovers David’s whereabouts and sends messengers to get him, but instead, the Spirit of GOD came down upon them, and they prophesied. Saul sends two other groups of messengers but with the same results, until finally he himself goes, and he ends up prophesying and stripping himself of his royal garb and laid down on the ground all that day and that night as well.

This was the last act of Samuel the prophet, priest, and judge of Israel before he died (1 SAM 25:1-3). One might believe that’s the end of the story, but I’m one who believes there is yet another chapter where Samuel – though he was dead – deals with Saul the Rebellious Benjamite!

1 SAMUEL 28 finds king Saul deep in anxiety and dread over the armies of the Philistines and he inquired of the LORD, but to no avail. GOD was silent. In desperation, Saul commanded his men to find him a medium, by which he could (hopefully) speak with the deceased prophet of GOD, and they found one for him:

1 SAMUEL 28:8-20
8 So Saul disguised himself and put on other clothes, and he went, and two men with him; and they came to the woman by night. And he said, "Please conduct a seance for me, and bring up for me the one I shall name to you." 9 Then the woman said to him, "Look, you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off the mediums and the spiritists from the land. Why then do you lay a snare for my life, to cause me to die?" 10 And Saul swore to her by the LORD, saying, "As the LORD lives, no punishment shall come upon you for this thing." 11 Then the woman said, "Whom shall I bring up for you?" And he said, "Bring up Samuel for me." 12 When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice. And the woman spoke to Saul, saying, "Why have you deceived me? For you are Saul!" 13 And the king said to her, "Do not be afraid. What did you see?" And the woman said to Saul, "I saw a spirit ascending out of the earth." 
14 So he said to her, "What is his form?" And she said, "An old man is coming up, and he is covered with a mantle." And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground and bowed down.

 15 Now Samuel said to Saul, "Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?" And Saul answered, "I am deeply distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God has departed from me and does not answer me anymore, neither by prophets nor by dreams. Therefore I have called you, that you may reveal to me what I should do." 16 Then Samuel said: "Why then do you ask me, seeing the LORD has departed from you and has become your enemy? 17 "And the LORD has done for Himself as He spoke by me. For the LORD has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, David. 18 "Because you did not obey the voice of the LORD nor execute His fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore the LORD has done this thing to you this day. 19 "Moreover the LORD will also deliver Israel with you into the hand of the Philistines. And tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The LORD will also deliver the army of Israel into the hand of the Philistines." 20 Then immediately Saul fell full length on the ground and was dreadfully afraid because of the words of Samuel. And there was no strength in him, for he had eaten no food all day or all night.

This woman seems shocked to see Samuel, but if she was a genuine medium, wouldn’t she be accustomed to seeing departed spirits? Unless she was a fraud. I believe GOD allowed this to take place – a complete contradiction to the law in which GOD forbade Israel from seeking out necromancers (DEUT 18:10-11). I believe this was the exception to the rule; because GOD wanted to put a fine point on His rebuke of Saul, the prophet Samuel was raised up (spiritually, not physically – interesting however, that in spirit form, the medium was able to discern Samuel’s likeness as he had been in life). Samuel went one step further and informed Saul that he and Jonathan both – would be deceased and the armies of Israel defeated at the hand of the Philistines!

Faithful to the end and even beyond, was the witness of Samuel! May we likewise seek the LORD and maintain such a faithful witness by the grace of GOD!

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