Posted in christian life, eli, holy, prophet, samuel

Samuel’s retirement as Judge of Israel and the lessons for us today

Gerbrand van den Eeckhout (1621–1674)
Hannah presenting her son Samuel to the priest Eli

Samuel had been a faithful man of God since his mother Hannah had presented him to Eli in the temple when Samuel was three years old. You might remember Hannah’s prayer. The LORD had closed her womb, and desperately Hannah wanted a child. She prayed in the temple, promising to deliver a child that the LORD gives her, back to Him for His glorious service. The LORD was pleased with this. He opened Hannah’s womb, and the child born was Samuel.

Samuel served for many years as Priest, Prophet and Judge.

The day came when Samuel was going to retire as their Judge. The People had clamored for a King instead, and God acceded to this. So Samuel gathered the People, and spoke to them in farewell.

And Samuel said to all Israel, “Behold, I have obeyed your voice in all that you have said to me and have made a king over you. And now, behold, the king walks before you, and I am old and gray; and behold, my sons are with you. I have walked before you from my youth until this day. Here I am; testify against me before the Lord and before his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Or whose donkey have I taken? Or whom have I defrauded? Whom have I oppressed? Or from whose hand have I taken a bribe to blind my eyes with it? Testify against me and I will restore it to you.” They said, “You have not defrauded us or oppressed us or taken anything from any man’s hand.” And he said to them, “The Lord is witness against you, and his anointed is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand.” And they said, “He is witness.” (1 Samuel 12:1-5)

I find this profoundly beautiful.

When the LORD called little Samuel into service, you’ll remember the scene. Sadly, old Priest Eli was dim of eyesight, and as we’ll see, dim of hearing also. The visions to Israel were rare in those days. The LORD called to Samuel.

Then the Lord called Samuel, and he said, “Here I am!” and ran to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. (1 Samuel 3:4-5)

Three times the LORD called and three times Samuel answered “Hear I am!” It took three times for Eli to figure out that it was God who was calling Samuel. Samuel opened his service to the LORD with those powerful three words, ‘Here I am’. As a parallel, when the LORD called Isaiah, Isaiah also responded with, “Here I am!” (Isaiah 6:8).

Samuel ended his service as their Judge with the same phrase he began service, “Here I am.” We know that when we are before the people of the Lord, we are before the Lord. (Acts 5:4, Acts 9:4).

Before Samuel spoke last words to prompt them to remember the LORD and all He had done for them, Samuel did something first. He checked his relationship with the People. He asked them if there was any blight in his behavior to cause a stumbling, to cause an offense, to have come between them and him. He would make amends. The People answered, “No”. Samuel had not defrauded, had not oppressed, had not cheated, had not bribed.

Samuel went on with his message, bringing all the Lord had done to the Israelites’ mind. Samuel closed with this-

Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you. But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king.” (1 Samuel 12:24-25).

It is such a parallel to us today. Now, the Old Covenant and the New Covenant distinguishes us from the OT Israelites and the NT Christians. Further, there are not Priests, Kings, Judges, or Prophets of Israel anymore. However, the principles are the same. For example,

1. Samuel was a faithful servant of the LORD all his days. He was attuned to God’s will, he was diligent to follow His voice, and he was faithful to God’s people. Eli’s spiritual hearing had grown so dim, he failed to hear God calling to Samuel. Yet Samuel was attuned all his days. Are we attuned to the Lord? Are we available to perform service to Him? Do we diligently and actively comply when we do hear His voice (through the scriptures)?

2. Samuel lived a holy life before His people. We are called to do the same.

Source: Elegant Finishes by Gina

Living holy and blameless before the Lord means living holy and blameless lives before His people, too. I’d said a moment ago, ‘We know that when we are before the people of the Lord, we are before the Lord.’ (Acts 5:4, Acts 9:4). I’d used those two verses from Acts to show the truth of my axiom. When Ananias and Sapphira lied about the portion of money they had pledged to the church, they were not lying to Peter. They were lying to the Holy Spirit (who is IN Peter). When Saul was persecuting Christians, he was not just persecuting some people who happened to be living in the Middle East, he was persecuting the Spirit IN the people. That’s why Jesus said, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?”

When we are before God’s people, we are before God.

3. Samuel’s call to charge him so he could make amends, before he got to the business of reminding them of what God had done, is similar to today’s New Testament charge to cleanse ourselves before we approach the Lord’s Table for communion. We are not only charged to cleanse ourselves before the Lord but to clear things with any of the brethren. If there are any outstanding sins, we must rectify them first.

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. (1 Corinthians 27-29)

It is a call to be reverent, holy, and mindful of all Who God is and what He has done. Attempting to be reverent about what Jesus has done for us though a filter of unconfessed sin or through the muck of grudges and bitterness against one in the Body, is not behaving in worthy manner. Samuel cleared the decks first. We must do the same.

Old Testament or New Testament, we are called to live holy lives.

but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:15-16, cf Leviticus 11:44, Leviticus 19:2)

Samuel’s call to the people to charge him with any wrong he had performed so as to make amends was not only holy but humble. In that way, it was a beautiful moment. God, grant me the humility and ability to live a holy life as Samuel did and as You call us to do.

Posted in dependence, israel, prophet, repentance, samuel

Always depend on the LORD Jesus

I’m reading through 1 Samuel right now. The Old Testament is such a majestic book.

1 Samuel 8 is the time when all Israel called for a king to lead them. Ole Samuel had been in service to the people since Hannah weaned him at age three and delivered him to Eli at the temple. All his days, Samuel walked before the LORD and served. He was their Prophet. He was their Judge. Yet when Samuel was old and gray, the people grumbled that they wanted a king ‘like the other nations.’ (1 Samuel 8:20)

Of course, the people had the best king there could be, God Himself. He was their King and they were His people. He protected them:

So the Philistines were subdued and did not again enter the territory of Israel. And the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. The cities that the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron to Gath, and Israel delivered their territory from the hand of the Philistines. There was peace also between Israel and the Amorites. (1 Samuel 7:13-14).

He delivered Civil peace:

Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. And he went on a circuit year by year to Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah. And he judged Israel in all these places. (1 Samuel 7:15-16).

He instilled spiritual peace: (the people were sorrowful of their sins and repented in deep humility)

From the day that the ark was lodged at Kiriath-jearim, a long time passed, some twenty years, and all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD. (1 Samuel 7:2)

Everything was orderly and calm. Yet the people weren’t satisfied and wanted a king they could see. The pleaded with Samuel. Samuel warned them and prophesied to them what would happen if they got a king.

And Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.” (1 Samuel 8:6b-9).

The people clamor for a king.

And Samuel told them. A king would do terrible things to them. He would take their maidens, he would take their lands, he would take their men for war. He would take their oxen. He would take their grain. He would make them slaves.

The people still cried out for a king. God granted it. (1 Samuel 8:22)

There are many deep theological lessons in this chapter and in the entire books of 1 and 2 Samuel. The obvious ones are these:

1. Pray to God always for advice and to seek His face. Samuel did. The people didn’t.
2. Be grateful for continued peace in your nation and in your hearts. Israel forgot, and became discontent.
3. Listen to the voice of God, He tells the truth. The people heard Samuel repeat God’s words, that their kings would lead them wrongly. They rejected His word. Today we don’t have a prophet to listen directly to the voice of God to tell us His ways, but we have the bible. Believe it. God tells the truth. He always tells us ahead of time. The axiom still is in force: “If you do this, then this will happen. If you do not do this, then that won’t happen.”

“If… then…” statements are linking words that introduce conditions. For example: “If you obey me, then you shall be my treasured possession” (Exodus 19:5). The condition of being God’s treasured possession, is that his people were to obey him. That of course has massive bearing on the whole OT and God’s dealings with his people. (source)

4. Always depend on God. Always depend on God. Always depend on God. Always depend on God. How many times must we say it and believe it? The Israelites depended on God for many years and for many years and decades peace reigned. To this very day under the New Covenant, depending on God brings the most blessing, the most growth, the most pleasure to God and the most benefit to us.

Our Jesus is our High Priest, deliverer, protector, sustainer, provider, friend. Always depend on Him.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9)

Posted in 1 kings, jeroboam, man of god, prophet

A man of God and an old prophet

In reading 1 Kings 13 an interesting side note to Jeroboam’s life occurs.

Jeroboam was the first king after the split into two kingdoms, Israel and Judah. He ruled the northern kingdom. He told people not to go to the temple at Jerusalem and instead built a golden calf in the north and the south and urged people to worship there and offer sacrifices to the idol.

Of course God was not pleased and He sent “a man of God” to tell Jeroboam a few things. (1 Kings 13:1-3). The exhortation made no impression on King Jeroboam, and he stretched out his hand toward the man of God, and said “Seize him!” (1 Kings 13:4).

Immediately the King’s hand shriveled up. The sign that the man of God had prophesied came to pass, and then the man of God told the King to beg the Lord for his hand to be restored. The King did, and the King then asked the man of God to come to the palace and eat with him at table. (1 Kings 13:6-9)

And here it gets even more interesting. The man of God replied to the King that God had said for him not to eat nor drink nor even to return the way he had come. So the man of God refused the King’s food and drink, and went home another way.

You might think the story ends there. But it doesn’t.

The man of God (who is never named) went home another way. So he’s walking along, having accomplished his courageous act. He had confronted the King! He had been used of God in a mighty work! He had escaped without being killed! I guess the man of God was feeling relaxed by now. He might have let out one giant “Phew!” He might even have thought he was safe.

Just then…the enemy comes!

“Now an old prophet lived in Bethel. And his sons came and told him all that the man of God had done that day in Bethel. They also told to their father the words that he had spoken to the king. And their father said to them, “Which way did he go?” And his sons showed him the way that the man of God who came from Judah had gone. And he said to his sons, “Saddle the donkey for me.” So they saddled the donkey for him and he mounted it. And he went after the man of God and found him sitting under an oak. And he said to him, “Are you the man of God who came from Judah?” And he said, “I am.” Then he said to him, “Come home with me and eat bread.” And he said, “I may not return with you, or go in with you, neither will I eat bread nor drink water with you in this place, for it was said to me by the word of the Lord, ‘You shall neither eat bread nor drink water there, nor return by the way that you came.’” And he said to him, “I also am a prophet as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the Lord, saying, ‘Bring him back with you into your house that he may eat bread and drink water.’” But he lied to him. So he went back with him and ate bread in his house and drank water.” (1 Kings 13:11-18).

First: what was an old prophet doing living at Bethel? That was one of the towns where Jeroboam put one of the two golden calves! By choosing to live there it was like he was tacitly approving of the idolatry. At the very least, a true prophet would be tortured in spirit by such daily blasphemy. Not so the old prophet. He had sons and a home and a donkey for transportation, and he lived quite well in idol central.

Second: the old prophet’s sons came to him and told what happened in Bethel that day, and “the words that he had spoken to the king”. Now that is hitting close to home! To use a phrase, ‘something is disturbing the force.’ Evil likes its evil and anything fresh and of the Light makes it very angry. The sons and the old Prophet investigated immediately.

Third: the old prophet still had a choice at this point. If he had a heart for the LORD he would have repented and offered a sacrifice at the Temple for his lax and evil ways. Even when he asked “Which way did he go?” he still had a chance. Perhaps he was seeking the man of God because he wanted first-hand knowledge of the incident to learn more and then to repent. I mean, at some point the old Prophet needed to acknowledge how far he was from God.

Fourth: It was not to be. He deliberately sought out the man of God (and not God Himself) and it was not to learn more and repent. It was to lie. His initial lie was hidden, he at first simply asked the man of God to come home and eat with him. And the man of God is still doing well, because he resisted. He’d been chosen, he performed courageously and he’d obeyed. And now at this point he was still obeying.

Fifth: And here is where satan shines. Just as he did in the garden, using the serpent, the old Prophet lied and said that an angel had told him to come eat with him. The man of God listened. And that was his undoing.

When you trade the word of God for word of man, you’re undone. Perhaps in the man of God’s defense he wanted to honor the old Prophet because of his office. Perhaps he wanted to defer to him because of the man’s age. However,  motivations are never enough to set aside the word of God. The man of God should have resisted again. But finally, finally, he succumbed. Just like Eve listened to an angel, the man of God listened to an old prophet who said he had a message from an angel.

Paul reminds us, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:8).

If God says something a person or an angel cannot contradict it. He spoke in His word and we should listen to Him, not dreams and visions, not our desires and not an angel who says something different than the Word does. Only the Word of God is authoritative and thus it is the highest word of all.

Anyway, back to the scene, 920 BC or so. The man of God went with the prophet and ate at table with him. Perhaps the man of God was feeling relaxed or even self-congratulatory, certainly he felt relieved. But God chose to use the instrument of the man of God’s downfall to pronounce his judgment: the word of the LORD came to the old prophet and he pronounced that the man of God will die that day and not lay in the tomb of his fathers, but instead lay a strange land. And indeed when the man of God left the house of the old prophet, a lion came and killed the man of God. And the donkey stood by and the lion did not eat the man of God and did not eat the donkey. The animals simply stood sentinel.

When the old prophet heard the talk of the strange behavior of the animals, he knew what had happened. He went and retrieved the man of God’s body and laid it in his own tomb, and ordered that when he died to lay his body on the man of God’s. Isn’t that justice, the man of God forever entombed with the man of his undoing. Both sinners, and hence the old Prophet mourned “my brother!”

The chapter is rich, and there are many lessons here, and many to learn from men who write better and have a more incisive perspective. But for me, I learned first, not to relax after a spiritual battle. When the immediate job is done it’s not done. Satan comes any time and all the time. He will persist and persist and he will lie and he will confuse you and he will seek you out. Remember, the old prophet saddled up the donkey and specifically asked where the man of God was, and then went to get him.

Prophets (preachers) of today lie. They seek out the unwary and they get them and they in effect offer them to lions. Watch out! Don’t relax!

Through the passage, we also learn that God means what He says. When He says do not eat or drink until you get home, don’t do it. Or whatever the LORD says not to do, don’t do it. If you do, there will be consequences. Disobedience bring consequences! One reason I believe the people of today love their visions and dreams is that they can make up a God to obey more comfortably and obey what comes from their head and not from His mouth. But there are consequences to disobedience.

Sometimes the consequences are immediate, as evidenced by the man of God’s death that same day. Sometimes the consequences are latent, as evidenced by the old prophet. We don’t know what happened to the old Prophet but he didn’t die that day, did he? But he sure knew that God’s word comes to pass, as verse 32 records the old prophet saying, “For the saying that he called out by the word of the Lord against the altar in Bethel and against all the houses of the high places that are in the cities of Samaria shall surely come to pass.”

Last, I learned that the chapter ends with recording that none of this affected Jeroboam’s attitude. He still installed priests in the high places and it’s inferred that they still sacrificed to idols. Even if the man of God had lived and had not disobeyed God, he would have seen that his message would have had no apparent effect. But God uses his people to show His holiness unto repentance and He uses His people to show that even if they do not repent they are without excuse when His Day comes. Either way, whether it’s accepted or rejected, we still have to proclaim His word.

So that is my foray into 1 Kings chapter 13. The Lord’s word is tremendous. As a matter of fact, it is the only way to grow. What are you reading these days?

Posted in God, holy, name, prophet

The power and comfort of the name of Jesus

This is about what the Lord does in times of apostasy and it is about why He does it.

There are false teachers out there, and they are not coming in singly anymore, but brazenly, in packs.

They are corrupting the precious faith, and with curling lips and sharp teeth, they are dragging off many an unwary person. For those of us who warn and cry out, seeing these captured ones fail to heed and become devoured prey is heartbreaking- and that word doesn’t even cover the spiritual sadness at knowing there are so many who fell, are falling and will fall to satan’s wiles.

However, despite there being so many false teachers we praise the Lord because He does not leave us without good teachers! He is always raising up someone to teach, preach, and exhort! God continues to call preachers and teachers and the Holy Spirit still empowers preachers and teachers to speak the Word to the sheep.

Look at the time of Isaiah. In 739 BC, King Uzziah died after having been King for 52 years. Isaiah was called to preach that same year. The LORD gave him a unique opportunity at the time of his call- a vision of Himself in the Holy Temple! Isaiah was devastated at this, seeing the glory of the LORD and his own sinfulness. But it’s an astoundingly tender moment, the angel cleansed Isaiah’s lips and he was pronounced clean, his sins atoned for. (Isaiah 6:6-7).

Tiepolo: The Prophet Isaiah

The LORD then gave Isaiah his commission; preach doom to the people. Preach their abandonment. Preach their judgment. Preach ruin.

Isaiah asked how long he was to do this. The LORD answered, “Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is a desolate waste.” (Isaiah 6:11) In other words, until the end, until you die, for all your long life. Not so seeker friendly, is it?

However, the LORD left Isaiah with some hope, despite the difficulty of what He was called to do. God said a tenth would still remain in the Land.

God showed Isaiah what He was going to do amongst these people:

“Go, and say to this people:
“‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
Make the heart of this people dull,
and their ears heavy,
and blind their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.” (Isaiah 6:9-10)

Matthew Henry’s commentary says of verse 9, “Many hear the sound of God’s word, but do not feel the power of it. God sometimes, in righteous judgment, gives men up to blindness of mind, because they will not receive the truth in the love of it.”

This is called the wrath of abandonment. John MacArthur preached on this same notion, (here, here, and most recently, here) as seen not only in Isaiah 6 but in the NT book of Romans 1. At a certain point, God gives a nation or a vast populace over to their blindness and stubbornness.

Art by Borislav Sajtinac

Though seasons come and go where it seems the great amount of people believe and live according to His Word, there are also seasons of time that come where it seems that the great amount of the people do not believe in Jesus nor live His word. Those times are now. It is my opinion, that it is the last cycle of apostasy directly before the time leading to the Great Apostasy. (2Thessalonians 2:3). It’s hard.

Matthew Henry’s commentary reassures us over the wrath of abandonment, “Christians need not fear this awful doom, which is a spiritual judgment on those who will still hold fast their sins.”

But it’s no harder for us than it was for the first century Christians who lived in a time where everyone was apostate, being the only Christians on earth!

During this time of apostasy it stands to reason that some apostates will be teachers. Yes, there are many bad teachers. But God has raised up good teachers, as shown in the example of Isaiah himself. Even in a time of wrath and abandonment, He sent an anointed one to preach to the people, and in today’s time He has done the same. He raises up good teachers to edify us or in some cases, remind us of the wrath of God. Either way, God is faithful.

There are many reasons for this, but here is one reason God raises up good teachers even in a time of abandonment.

I find it in Ezekiel. In Ezekiel 2-3 God is raising up Ezekiel and calling him top prophesy. However the task would be hard, as it was for Isaiah. God told Ezekiel in Ezekiel 3:7,

“But the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to me: because all the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart.”

So why does God go through all that if He knows they will not listen, or even as in Isaiah, He has already turned them over to blindness and dullness?

“And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them.” (Ezekiel 2:5)

On the Day, no one will be able to say ‘But, but, You didn’t tell us!’ They will know that He sent a prophet to be among them.

Even more glorious,

HE DOES THIS FOR THE SAKE OF HIS NAME!

As God said in Ezekiel 2, whether they hear or refuse to hear, they will know a prophet has been among them. You see, He not only sends prophets and teachers for our edification, but He does so on account of His OWN Holy name- so that they will be without excuse. He magnifies His holy name by being the living embodiment of faithfulness, holiness, and justice.

Read Acts and be stunned and overwhelmed by the number of times they mention THE NAME. Why? Because the overwhelming theme running through the entire book becomes clear when reading, it is all about THE NAME. Thirty times I read a verse where it was all about His name- the name, in His name, for the name; in verse 19:13 they even tried to co-opt His name. The acts of the apostles were to spread the good news that salvation is now here under the name of Jesus. Everything they said, did, and accomplished was for that purpose and empowered by that name.

In Acts 4:17 the aggravated Sanhedrin asked Peter and John about a man they’d healed. They asked, “By what power or what name did you do this?” 

No matter that we are in apostate times and growing worse each day. Take heart! He raises up men to preach His word! Even in the Tribulation when He has removed the Holy Spirit from His restraining ministry, He will send 144,000 to preach the word, (Revelation 7:1-4, Revelation 14:1-5) and He will send His angels to preach the Gospel to the whole world (Revelation 14:6). This is for the sake of His name.

What a comfort to know that He magnifies His own name. He is faithful to Himself and therefore will never falter. He will never fail.

Look at the fruit He bears for His name:

“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9-10)

The LORD is mighty and He raises up men to speak His truths, He sends His spirit to regenerate new believers, He magnifies His holy name from heaven and throughout the earth. And we are a part of that. (Ephesians 1:4). We have His name, being adopted into the family of God.

“Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.” (1 Peter 4:16)

Did you know that on the television show on cable channel A&E called Duck Dynasty, the family prays at the end of each episode over the family supper table. They also mention God in some in the middle of some of the shows, too. When it comes time for the prayer at the end, they begin the prayer to Heavenly Father of Good Father or just Father. They pray in Jesus name at the end, or they mention Jesus. Father and God are rarely edited out. Jesus is always edited out. Only two times did you hear the name of Jesus on the show. God is a powerful name and so is Father but it is the name of JESUS that sends the non-believer into a frenzy. Friends, mention the name of Jesus whenever you can.

So never fear. He raises up good men to preach, This magnifies His name. If we are in His name, we can magnify Him. “According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.”

He will not abandon us because He will not abandon His name. Magnify Him, trust Him, honor Him. His name, Jesus. THE NAME. There is no other.

“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”” (Acts 4:12)

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