Samuel, the Last Covenant Keeper: #20
Before the entrance of every judge, we read, “Once again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord.” Most judges were filled with the Spirit of God. The judges freed the people from their enemies. And during the duration of their life, they advised the people to obey God’s Laws. These individuals displayed tremendous courage and faith. The Book of Judges lists the following: Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar (he was not a judge), Deborah, Gideon, Tola, Jair, Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon, the colorful Samson and of course the devout Samuel.
Success had a tendency to attribute praise to men, rather than praise to God. The Israelites wanted to reward Gideon and have him and his Descendants to rule over them. Gideon refused by saying, “I will not rule over you neither will my sons rule over you. The Lord will rule over you” (Judges 8:22-23). Instead Gideon asked for gold and jewelry, so that he could make himself an idol and worship it. Then, Gideon’s illegitimate son Abimelech murdered seventy of his brothers, and he had himself crowned as king at Shechem. Later, he annihilated the very people, who made him king. His end came quickly when a woman dropped a stone on his head and Abimelech’s servant ran him through with a sword. Israel’s first king proved to be a disaster (Judges 9).
Jephthah, like Abimelech, was illegitimate. And Jephthah was picked by the people. He turned out good, except he overstepped his bounds by hastily promising to sacrifice for his success to the first thing that would meet him when he returned from defeating the Ammonites, which happened to be his only daughter. He also warred against his own people (Judges 10-12). Samson, of course, literally lost his head over Delilah. Samson was not a judge, but he was a one-man’s army and a pain in the neck of Israel’s oppressors, the Philistines (Judges 13-16).
Things went from bad to worse. The historian records, “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit” (Judges 17:6). And what they did makes modern dictators look mild. There was a man by the name of Micah. He made his own idols and he hired a Levite to legitimize his idolatry. Some six hundred Danites confiscated his idols. And the priest fell on a peaceful region and killed all the inhabitants, settled with their new gods and worshiped them until the days of their Assyrian captivity (Judges 17-18).
Men of the tribe of Benjamin committed the most heinous crime at Gibeah. A stranger’s wife was sexually molested by so many men that she died. The husband divided her into twelve pieces and shipped these to the twelve tribes. This incited the Israelites to avenge the crime. When it was all over, the Benjamites were all killed except for six hundred, who had fled to the mountains. Israel had lost 38,000 soldiers. To obtain virgin wives for the remaining Benjamites, the Israelites killed the population of an entire city. To their dismay, they only found four hundred virgins. The remaining two hundred Benjamites were told to steal their maidens from an annual festival of the Lord at Shiloh. All of this was justified by a vow that they would not give their own daughters to the Benjamites (Judges 19-21).
In addition to immorality, idolatry, and oppression there was also a famine. This motivated Elimelech to move his family to Moab. Elimelech died and his sons, Mahlon and Chilion, married Orpah and Ruth, Moabite girls. The sons also died and left Naomi, their mother, childless. Orpah stayed with her people, but Ruth went with Naomi, who returned to Bethlehem. It was Ruth who enticed Boaz to become her husband. They became the parents of Obed, the grandfather to Jesse and the great grandfather to David, the king (the Book of Ruth).
Samuel was forced to Replace God with a King
The man that began to change the political scene of Israel was Samuel. Jeremiah the Prophet said this regarding Samuel:
Then the Lord said to me, ‘Even if Moses and Samuel were to stand before me, my heart would not go out to this people. Send them away from my presence! Let them go!’ And if they ask you, ‘Where shall we go?’ Tell them, ‘this is what the Lord says: Those destined for death, to death; those for the sword to the sword; those for starvation, to starvation; those for captivity, to captivity’” (Jeremiah 15:1-2).
These conditions prevailed during the judges and the monarchs. Samuel tried to salvage what was left of the “Theocracy.” He was a gift to a childless wife, who returned the boy to the Lord to be brought up by Eli the priest, who had mismanaged his office. Like Joshua, Samuel was an Ephraimite and gifted with hearing God’s message. The editor began, “The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.” It was on the third call that Eli told the lad to say, “Speak for your servant is listening.” The Lord’s first message to Samuel was, “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle.” It tingled against the house of Eli and elevated Samuel as judge, prophet, and priest. He lived in Ramah, but he had offices in Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah. Under Samuel, “Theocracy” was at its best because Israel and their enemies feared the Lord Yahweh. Samuel secured peace with the other nations; however, the Philistines felt cursed by it. Therefore, the Philistines returned the Ark of the Covenant to Israel.
Samuel, like his mentor Eli, could not manage his sons and the people began to demand a king, the second tingling (I Samuel 1-8). The elders demanded that Samuel appoint a king to lead them. Samuel objected and argued that the king would be too costly for Israel. The king, too, would take ten percent of everything they had including their sons and daughters and their livestock. It was all to no avail, and the Lord God told Samuel:
Hearken to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for hey have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. According to all the deeds which they have done to me, 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, hearken to their voice; only, you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them (I Samuel 8:7b-9).
Both, the warning and the cost of a king did not dissuade the people from wanting to be like the other nations. Samuel was led to anoint Saul, son of Kish of the tribe of Benjamin as king. Saul became dysfunctional and Samuel was instructed to replace Saul with David, son of Jesse of the tribe of Judah. Samuel was the last of the “Theocratic” leaders. Saul and David replaced God as king over Israel. What was tragic was that there were not enough people willing to retain God as their king. Israel began to harvest what they had sown, and it was against the will of their God.
Samuel: A Man in God’s Spirit
Samuel was second to Moses in the history of Israel as a nation (Jeremiah 15:1). He represented the end of Moses’ “Theocracy” and the beginning of Israel’s “Monarchy.” Samuel was the most flawless person in the Old Testament. Unlike Samson when God’s Spirit endowed him occasionally, Samuel constantly lived in the Spirit of the Lord. He too had to learn that God did not go against the will of the people. They too had to learn by trial and error. Without God’s Spirit and without God’s Laws, man has to depend on his trials and errors. Hence, many are called, but few are chosen, who realize that trials and errors are endless and lead to nowhere. Man needs more than an occasional “Presence” of God’s Spirit.
Samuel, too, was a miracle child. His father, Elkanah of the tribe of Ephraim, love Hannah even though she was childless. The second wife, Peninnah had children and was abusive toward Hannah. Hannah took her problem in prayer to Shiloh, where Eli was priest and judge over Israel. She moved her lips while she prayed and the priest thought that she was drunk. Hannah answered:
No my lord, I am a woman sorely troubled, I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. Do not regard your maidservant as a base woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.” Then Eli the priest said to Hannah, “Go in peace and the God of Israel grant your petition which you have made to him” (I Samuel 1:15-17).
Hannah’s prayers were answered and she bore Samuel. She weaned her son until he was old enough to make it as a servant in the house of the Lord. And Hannah put him in the care of Eli to train the boy in the service of the Lord. Young Samuel flourished in assisting Eli, whose sons were disgracing the ministry and their father. A man of God was sent to Eli to inform him that his days were ended. Eli had neglected to preach. And the Word of the Lord and special visions were rare. Thus, when young Samuel heard a voice, he assumed it was Eli calling him and he ran to him. On the third time, Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy and told him to say, “Speak, Lord, for thy servant hears” (I Samuel 3:9). From then on, Samuel’s ears and heart were open to God’s disclosures (I Samuel 1-7).
Young Samuel was fond of Eli and the first vision that he received was that the Lord had taken away Eli’s role as a priest and given it to another. After that painful duty, we are told:
And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established as a prophet of the Lord. And the Lord appeared again at Shiloh, for the Lord revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the of the Lord” (I Samuel 3:19-21).
The word “prophet” meant that Samuel was a constant recipient and spokesman for God, like Moses before him and others that would follow, in whom the Spirit of the Lord was always present. Being full of the Spirit of the Lord, at all times, was and still is rare. Apart from Jesus, God’s servants required repeated filling of the Spirit of the Lord, like Samson, and Jesus’ disciples, and king David. We have to guard against regarding our human spirit against being the Holy Spirit. If my spirit allows me to make a remark that may offend someone, then my spirit was not subject to the Spirit of the Lord. The wonderful promise and truth of the Lord is that His Spirit is always available, but also that the human spirit is capable of behaving in the likeness and image of God. That is why the spirit of man has to be reborn, and not the Spirit of the Lord (John 3:5-8). God’s Spirit does not replace a man’s spirit. However, God’s Spirit does assist man in the work of transformation from a sinner to a saint. A saint is one whose spirit no longer allows his flesh to yield to temptation, which is damaging to the human spirit and to the human soul and to others. We shall study these cases in our search for truth regarding man’s spirit and the Spirit of the Lord. Our next cases are King Saul and King David.
Samuel provided solid “Theocratic” leadership. The Philistines were subdued, the Ark of the Covenant was returned, and Israel had peace. Samuel, however, was getting older and the people worried over their future. The people demanded a king to lead them, like other kings were doing. Samuel argued against choosing a king, because the people had no idea what a king would need to function. The cost of a king would bankrupt the nation; far worse than that, the king would take the place of God in the nation’s life. Samuel’s greatest fear was that the people would become more accountable to the king than to the Lord God of Israel. The king would decide what spirit he and his people would follow. The Lord told Samuel to let Israel have a king and anoint Saul, son of Kish of the tribe of Benjamin to be their first king (I Samuel 8-14). Samuel poured oil on Saul while he was looking for his lost donkeys. Samuel told Saul while he was on the road, that he would meet up with prophets and he too would joined them and prophesy:
Then the spirit of the Lord will come mightily upon you, and you shall prophesy with them and he turned into another man. Now when these signs meet you, do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you (I Samuel 10-6-7).
Everything that Samuel promised came through. God changed his heart, empowered him with His Spirit, and Saul was made king over Israel at Mizpah.
The first king of Israel had the appearance of a king, but not the spirit to be one. He was handsome and a head taller than most men; yet, he hid when he was told that he was also chosen by lot to be the king of Israel. He simply did not make use of the power of the Spirit of the Lord, nor did his hand forcefully take the kingdom; nor did he bravely face his enemies. Saul’s first challenge came when Jabesh Gilead was besieged by Nahash the Ammonite and gruesome stories reached the king and “the Spirit of the Lord came upon him in power, and he burned with anger.” Saul took a pair of oxen, sliced them into pieces and sent messengers to all the tribes. And three hundred and thirty thousand men joined in destroying the Ammonites to a degree that no two men were left together. As a result of the slaughter, Saul was confirmed king, but his anger cost him the support of Samuel and also the Spirit of the Lord. Saul became a completely helpless leader. Success of kng Saul came from his son Jonathan and his son-in-law, David. Instead of waiting on Samuel to do the sacrificing, Saul did it himself and therefore he displeased the Lord. It was his son Jonathan that initiated a victory against the Philistines. And Jonathan, unknowingly, ate a little honey his father had forbidden to eat before their enemies were subdued. Saul wanted his son to be sacrificed to keep true to his pagan vow of human sacrifice. However Saul’s men refused to obey the king. Saul became mad and they had to find people who could calm his nerves. Unbeknown to him, Saul’s people employed David to play the harp right after Samuel had anointed David to succeed Saul as king. The writer of Samuel concluded, “And the Lord was disappointed that he had made Saul king over Israel” (I Samuel 15:35).
For years, David had to live in the shadow of Saul and watch his back before he became king over Judah, and then over all of Israel. David received the Spirit of the Lord in power, on the day Samuel anointed him to be the next king. However, David did not use that power against Saul or against any of his fellow Israelites, but only against the enemies of Israel. David, himself, believed that God could remove transgressions from him, “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12), but Saul, himself, was not the forgiving kind, and he left the punishing of those who hurt and insulted him to his son Solomon (I Kings 2). As far as king Saul was concerned, David did not have to lay his hands on him because the evil spirit was destroying the king with rage, jealousy, and the lack of self-confidence. After David slew Goliath, he rose in popularity with the people and married the king’s daughter. The king, then, spent all his energy and resources to apprehend and dispose of his son-in-law. Meanwhile, the Philistines grew in power and forced Saul to consult the witch at Endor. Saul suffered defeat and fell on his own sword (I Samuel 28, 31). If anything is to be learned from Saul’s life and service — it was and it is that “evil feeds on a person’s weakness and evil self-destructs.”
In contrast to Saul, David had built up the belief that God was with him all the time, and that God helped him develop the ability to defend himself, his sheep, and his people. He was mentally and spiritually motivated to become skillful with a sling to slay a lion and Goliath. David had confidence in what he was doing was honoring the God of his fathers. He believed that all his success was granted to him by God and he let his enemies know it. Before he took on Goliath, David said this to the Philistine:
You come to me with sword and with spear and with javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defiled. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down, and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves.
David’s weapon was “the fear of the fear Lord.” Samuel’s service ended with the fall of Saul and the rise of David.