1 SAMUEL 7:1 – 9:27 and LUKE 13:1–21
1 Sam 7
The men of Kirjath-jearim brought the Ark from Bethshemesh and placed it in the house of Abinadab. They wisely brought the Ark under the care of the priest Eleazar who assumed its responsibility. The Ark was now in the hands of a priest during a time when there was great lamentation in Israel. This was a dark period for Israel due to losing battles, losing territories and most importantly losing the Ark to the Philistines. Would there ever be a reawakening; a chance to hope again in the Lord? This was the season when Samuel began to come into prominence in Israel. He was a priest that provided a light in the midst of all the uncertainty since the time of Eli. When Eli died the glory of the Lord departed from Israel (1 Sam 4:21). The Ark began a journey through enemy strongholds bringing destruction wherever it went. It was a victory over the foe without any accompaniment of priests. What we see now is a transition taking place; a transition of a better priesthood and a transition into a season of kingly rule.
Samuel now instructs the people to return to the Lord with all their hearts and to put away their idols; serving God only. His message resonated and they did so resulting in the putting away of the worship of Balaam and Ashtoreth (vs 4). You can see the thread of Balaam’s sin ever since he introduced the plan of mixed marriages to the women of Moab. This plot took place as Israel was about to enter into the land of their inheritance. Satan, through Balak found a way to inject his poison into Israel through a man who wanted to both please God and man. What a powerful and illustrative lesson this is for us today. If a leader is not whole hearted he or she can fall prey to his wiles via compromise. This allows for an open door to the enemy at the exact time God is looking to move in a significant way on behalf of His people. The plague of Balaam was not limited to his day; it will continue to play out through the reign of the kings. The warnings also apply to the last day church as seen in the letter to the church at Pergamos (Rev 2:15). Samuel was a true priest, a product of a consecrated mother who dedicated him to the Lord all the days of his life (1Sam 1:11). What a contrast to Eli and his two sons. Samuel taught Israel, led them in fasting and repentance in addition to his role as a judge (vs 3-6).
The Philistines again gathered against Israel to do battle at Mizpah which put Israel in typical fear. They approached Samuel that he would pray for them, which he did (vs 8-9). Samuel provided a burnt offering unto the Lord. Remember, the burnt offering speaks of a consecration to the Lord involving ones strength. It is a picture of loving the Lord with all our heart, mind and strength (Mark 12:30). This is the manner of approach to the Lord that Samuel was advocating. There was no presumption or false sense of security as seen before.
In the midst of this offering God thundered against the Philistines resulting in their being smitten before Israel. The children of Israel made full pursuit against their foe and smote them unlike some of their recent battles. You can see Samuel restoring that which God instructed them to do from the time of Moses. He was a priest who heard the voice of God and did it. He was also a priest who ensured that a memorial was made so as to not forget who was responsible for the victory, especially as they were looking to get back on track. This memorial stone was named Ebenezer which of course means “hitherto the Lord helped us” (vs 12).
It is interesting to see how God began to move quickly on behalf of Israel now that the Ark was under proper custodial care and the overall leadership being in the hands of a priest like Samuel. This battle was complete and thorough, so much so that the Philistines never caused problems while Samuel was leading Israel. This is the way it should be, the way God intended His people to be led.
Israel also reclaimed the territories that were lost to the Philistines after they lost the Ark. They also had peace with the Amorites. (vs 14) Samuel was a righteous judge and priest to Israel all the days of his life. He also circuited throughout Israel from year to year judging and teaching along the way. Samuel established schools which can be likened to our version of Bible Schools today. He was the appointed man of God for this transition that is now beginning to take place. Samuel judged Israel; he did not rule like a king as other nations did but he led them. He also taught them as a priest. His teaching ministry as a priest is along the lines of Moses and Ezra who would come later. It demonstrates to us the absolute need for teaching as we are transitioning and preparing for the last days. Samuel is truly one of the great men of the Bible. We need Samuel’s today.
1 Sam 8
A period of time has gone whereby Samuel, at an old age appoints his sons to be judges over Israel. This will now set the stage for an interesting sequence of events. Israel has had peace in the land and favour with God but now there is another transition that is about to take place. Samuel was hoping that his sons would be able to carry on his work further building upon the foundations that he established. The problem is that his sons were corrupt and were utilizing their position to take on bribes while perverting judgement. One can only imagine how difficult this would be for Samuel. Was he not a good father while judging Israel? The Bible is silent about his wife and the affairs of his family so we best not speculate. What is evident at times is that godly people have no guarantees of godly offspring. This provided Israel the opportunity to ask Samuel for a king to now reign over them. Now it must be said that it was God’s intention for them to have a king. This seems like the perfect time seeing that Samuel’s sons would not be able to carry on their father’s legacy. Samuel though was displeased with their request; why was this?
First, they were asking to have a king for the wrong reasons. They looked around at how other nations were being governed and they wanted to be like them. I feel they recognized that Samuel was an ordained leader of God to judge and lead them but you get the impression that many were looking to the day when Samuel would pass on. This was a good opportunity seeing that his sons were not upright. Their motive for asking was wrong.
Secondly, if they truly honoured Samuel they would have hearkened to his counsel. I believe God ordained this vulnerability to expose the heart condition of some of the leaders of Israel. Simply put, they were asking for a king for the wrong reasons. We see this in the days of the Lord in the midst of His miracles and powerful ministry. The people wanted to make Him king after providing the loaves and fishes for the thousands (John 6:14-15). The Lord transitioned His message to that of the Cross and the cost of truly following Him. The result? Many disciples turned back, some became offended while only a few embraced His message (John 6:68-69).
The Lord told Samuel that the people were not rejecting him but that they were rejecting the Lord that he should not reign over them, their hearts. This is the issue; The Lord wants to be Lord and King over the kingdom within us, Lord and King over our hearts. The Lord then instructs Samuel to inform Israel the manner of king that will rule over them if they persist in the matter. This goes to show that many respected Samuel but looked to take advantage at this opportune moment. It seems that the Lord allows for opportunities to come along that showcases what is actually in the heart. This is where the concern comes in and it is something we need to take strong note of. God may well give us what we ask for is if we persist in asking. This is seen throughout the Word of God and this is one example that truly stands out. Samuel could not have been any clearer as to the consequences of asking for a king (vs 10-19). At the end of it all they still insisted in having a king to reign over them; a king likened to what they were seeing in other nations (vs 20). Samuel rehearsed their words before the Lord resulting in God telling him to make them a king according to their voice.
Do we realize what is happening here? The Lord is allowing their (Israel’s) voice and desire to supersede His counsel. We better take strong note because it is a precedent that will become more prevalent in our day.
1 Sam 9
The people have settled on having a king reign over them. There is now a situation developing where the Lord will arrange a circumstance where Samuel will meet with Saul; the man whom God is about to appoint as king. He is described as a man who was outstanding in looks and ability; a man who had what it took to be a king. He was of the tribe of Benjamin. This in itself is an indicator that this would be a person of man’s choosing seeing that the tribe of Judah was given the promise of bringing forth the sceptre (Gen 49:10).
Still, God is now going to allow a man from the tribe of Benjamin to be Israel’s first king. We have mentioned earlier that Samuel was a priest, judge and teacher but we also see him as a prophet (vs 19). The Lord spoke to Samuel and made clear as to whom the king would be. Samuel, from a child had the ability to hear the voice of God. The relationship he had with God became more intimate as the years passed by. He was clearly the man that God was able to use in this season of transition for Israel.
Samuel treated Saul with honour seeing that he was the man who God has chosen to become Israel’s king. This whole scenario is surreal to me seeing that God had already spoken to Samuel who spoke to the people what their king would begin to do. The people rejected God’s counsel so we see God and Samuel moving forward on the matter of Saul as if nothing happened. We really need to ask God what the end of the matter is and pray for the grace to heed His counsel. This is something one in leadership oftentimes learns. The leadership may have counselled on a situation and have given warning, yet the counsel goes unheeded. What does a leader do in such a situation?
A good example involves a marriage of a young couple whom we know. The couple were both believers and they were insisting on getting married against the counsel of leadership. It was felt that the timing was not right and some did not feel comfortable about them as a married couple. They were both believer’s so it was acceptable in that regard. They still persisted even after considerable warning. The Lord then gave sanction for the pastor to marry them and to follow through in a way where seemingly all would be well. It is unfortunate in seeing how things have played out in this marriage to date.
This is a similar scenario here with Israel. God warned them about asking for a king at this time yet the people persisted. God said to Samuel here is the man I have chosen for them. How many times have we made the statement that God may well give us what we ask for? The question we should always be asking is “What is the end of the matter”? This question honours God and allows for Him to speak His pleasure. It may not be what we expect but we learn to trust Him seeing that he knows the end from the beginning. If we did not know the events from chapter 8 where Israel rejected God’s counsel we could rejoice in what is playing out in chapter 9. It’s as if chapter 8 does not exist; this is what makes all of this so sobering. God may go along cooperating and accommodating a people’s agenda. Please understand there are things we are to constantly pray and cry out for; there is a posture of importunity that is appropriate.
I feel there are many in the church today that would applaud Israel’s approach in asking for a king. They may say that they caused God to change His mind. This decision is then validated in seeing how everything comes to pass in the matter of Saul being anointed king. What is happening here is that Israel is pressing for something that God is preparing for them to later have which is in fact a king. They are pushing for something that circumvents God’s foreknowledge of what Saul would do. There is no way that any man would see this coming unless given by revelation as Samuel experienced it.
The Lord extends every courtesy to Israel and to Saul in accommodating the desire of the people. Can we see how foolish it is to by-pass God’s foreknowledge? Don’t you think we would be on safer ground in bringing God into the picture on matters of such significance? God wants to be involved, much more involved in our lives than we make allowance for. He can be trusted and it is to those who approach Him in such humility that will see the His favour and blessing. It will be for our protection as well in these volatile days. We must be very careful in how we live. Josiah, a righteous and godly king stepped beyond boundaries and lost his life prematurely as a result. If it can happen to someone like Josiah it most certainly can happen to us. This is why we see such intimacy between the Father and the Son, especially in the lead-up to His final days. As long as He was under His Father’s will He did not need to fear, even when forces were afoot to try and kill Him. Our God is a faithful God and he is ever willing to speak, lead and guide. May we hear His voice and have the grace to accept His verdict regarding decisions of significance.
The matter of personal repentance is addressed by Jesus as there are those who continue to try and trap Him by His Words and actions. The account that is referred to may be able to be linked to Acts 5:37.
Act 5:37 After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed.
This was an event that occurred about 20 years before Christ. It relates to some Galileans under Judas of Galilee who led a revolt against Pilate on the subject of taxation. These men would have been under Herod’s jurisdiction that at that time did not get along with Pilate. In any case Jesus put the focus upon them and their need to repent; not allowing Himself to get caught up in dialogue that might put Him in disfavour with Pilate. In verse 3 He clearly states that “unless ye repent” you too will perish. He then refers to an event where 18 Jewish people died when a tower fell upon them. Was it because they were sinners greater than the Galileans mentioned in the previous example? Jesus put the focus directly upon them, “unless ye repent”. There is a tendency to think of one group of people as being greater sinners than others. This somehow exonerates others from being judged from their own actions. We can say that we do not do the kind of evil things that other men do, which may be true, but we still have to give a personal account for our own actions. This is what Jesus is dealing with here. There can be that tendency to see ourselves as better than others; we focus on the gross misdeeds of others while glossing over our own issues.
There is an account of a woman who had some sort of spiritual infirmity for 18 years who was in the synagogue on the Sabbath where Jesus was teaching (vs 11-17). The Lord healed her which drew the ire of the ruler of the synagogue. He spiritualized the Lord working on 6 days; healing could be sought on any of those days, but not on the Sabbath day. He more than likely envied the Lord for this miracle seeing that the crowds were with him. Jesus then rebuked him and the other chief priests to their shame. When ritual and tradition trump compassionate ministry to the needy we know we are in trouble. Just think of this for a moment! Here is a woman with a known binding condition of 18 years. She is singled out by the Lord out of compassion and love for her and heals her from this bondage. The Lord gave an immediate rebuke which shamed the priests and caused those gathered to rejoice.
There is another interesting truth I feel to bring out in this chapter. The number 18 is mentioned in two different accounts and I feel there is significance. There were 18 killed when the tower of Siloam fell upon them. The height of the pillars that made up Solomon’s temple was 18 cubits. (1 Kings 7:15) One of the connotations of the number 18 is that of “strength”. The number 18 is also seen in the woman who was bound for those numbers of years. The number 18 also has the connotation of “being hidden”. These were the number of years that the Lord was hidden (from age 12 -30) in the quiver of His Father (Isa 49:2-3). Every work in these last days will be tested. What kind of foundation are we established upon? Today people and churches are being tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine (Eph 4:14). Secondly, there is a hidden work that God is often accomplishing that we cannot always appreciate. Jesus was off the public radar for a period of 18 years but it was during this time where the Father was preparing Him for His mission. Though the subjects of Strength and being hidden are not directly addressed in Luke 13 the truth regarding the number 18 is resonating in my Spirit.
The sobering reality of eternity is seen in verses 24-30. There comes a time when the door closes and there is nothing more one can do to change the situation. While we yet have breath we have opportunity to make changes or alter our condition. Once the threshold to eternity is crossed it is over, our eternal fate and destiny is sealed. Jesus says that we are to strive or labour to enter through the strait gate. What does this mean?
Mat 7:13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:
Mat 7:14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
I would like to look at this thought from the context of the Book of Romans. The following is an extract from a series of teachings I have been working on entitled “The Two Streams” It is a study where you can see a clear dividing line taking place in the church in multiple areas. The Book of Romans helps to clarify where and how the separation on these issues takes place. It also helps us to better understand what Jesus is saying regarding the narrow way that leads to life as opposed to the wide way that leads to destruction. The dividing line can be found along the Roman highway. Hopefully this brief extraction will help in seeing a bigger picture. (Extraction in italics)
The Book of Romans Highway
Let’s introduce our study by presenting the Book of Romans in a way you probably have not seen it before. If I were given only one Book in the Bible that could be taught from it would be Romans. This masterpiece contains all of the essential Christian ingredients in its 16 chapters. Paul’s method of approaching this letter is absolute genius. Actually, it would be better to state that it was anointed by the Holy Spirit both in its approach and application. Let’s think of the 16 chapters of Romans as being likened to a highway. Further, let’s look at Paul as the conductor and tour guide on a bus that is traveling along this highway. The journey begins at Chapter 1 where all of the travellers are on an equal footing. By the time the journey ends (Chapter 16) things are much different. Specifically we see different groups of people. What happened on this highway that resulted in a separation of people? The answers are clearly threaded through the roads and junctions of the Roman Highway.
The first segment of our journey takes place between Romans chapters 1 through 3. Paul, as our conductor and tour guide brings the travellers through a dark and sobering experience. He gets right to the point in alerting the passengers as to how they are all sinners and that there is no hope in of themselves. Isn’t that a wonderful way to begin a journey? By the end of chapter 3 all are condemned suffering under the immeasurable weight of sin. The next two chapters (4 and 5) signal a whole new picture. Suddenly, there is hope and the weight of sin is removed as the people see themselves as being justified by faith. Everyone recognizes their need for a Saviour after the first section of the trip. A clear contrast is presented between the first and second Adam. How glorious it is to know that one has been justified by His faith. Like Father Abraham all that needs to be done is to acknowledge our need for a Saviour (The purpose of Romans 1-3) and receive Him by faith. The just shall live by faith.
The next section of the Romans Highway (Romans 6-8) is unique in that a divide or an alternative path can be seen. We will call this alternative path “The Romans By-Pass” Upon further contemplation it becomes evident that a vast majority of the travellers are opting for this passage. The by-pass only lasts for these three chapters before reconnecting with the main highway from Chapter 9 onwards. Interestingly, the two groups can be seen travelling together after chapter 9 but there is a marked difference between them. In short, there is a difference between those who stayed the course on the main highway as opposed to those who opted for the by-pass. Please do not see this allegory as a silly exercise in trying to make theological points. Spiritually this divide is real and this illustration in Romans helps to give an even greater thrust to our theme of The Two Streams.
So what is it about Romans 6-8 that helps to better define the Two Streams? What relevance and message does it present to us today? This article is only an overview of where we will be heading however the following themes will be picked up as seen from these significant chapters.
1) The Cross
5) Free Will and Choice
Hmm, do you think there is a measure of controversy on some of these themes today? There is a clear line of demarcation that can be seen at the base of Romans 6. There is a road, a narrow one (Math 7:13-14) that leads through the heart of these chapters. It is not an easy road; it requires consecration and commitment requiring a price. Many men and women whom we have come to know in the Bible have taken this road and our lives have been enriched as a result. The by-pass is a road that can circumvent the heart of the above issues. It is an easier way yet one that enables a traveller to continue onward in his or her journey. This is the crux of the message of the Two Streams. It is at this line of demarcation where we can make clear distinctions of the Two Streams flowing through today’s worldwide church. We will use this road of demarcation to examine Biblical events and people. This line of demarcation will also help to give clear understanding of the 5 themes shown above. The heart of the Book of Romans, (the Romans Highway) helps to bring into clear view these debated and misunderstood subjects. How we approach and apply these themes will determine our final destination. After all, the road we are on today as believers is leading us towards our own eternity.
This series will also address two streams seen throughout the whole of scripture. These examples will be familiar however they will be better understood when applied to the Roman Highway. Each of these messages will help us to gauge where we are as believers. It will help us to see if we are among those who take the narrow way through the heart of Romans, having its message applied at a deep level or one who is taking the by-pass. In some examples you may see yourself on the narrow road having allowed God to work in deep areas of your life. Some of the other examples may see you more inclined towards the by-pass. Here is a sampling of what will be examined.
1) The Two Offerings (Gen 4)
2) The Two Coverings (Gen 3)
3) The Two Congregations (Exo 31 and 32)
4) The Two Confessions (Num 13:30-31)
5) The Two Prophets (Jer 28)
6) The Two Priests (Eze 44)
7) The Two Messages (John 6)
8) The Two Solomons (1 Kings)
9) The Two Visions (Gen 13)
Each of the above subjects contains two very distinct streams that can be seen. The key is to try and place yourself within each narrative with an honest heart and then see how you measure up. We will first examine the heart of the Romans Highway and examine the 5 primary themes that are evident. We will also look at the Romans Highway from chapter 9 onwards and see how both groups (streams) function in their ongoing journey. They can be identified and seen today.
Dr. Bailey, in his 1981 message on the Two Streams emphasized over and over that the church in the last days will divide. We have seen it happen and it is continuing today. God is after a purified church, a bride without spot or wrinkle. He will not tolerate a middle of the road type of Christianity. For too long the church has sought to have it both ways, trying to manage the best of both worlds. This is no longer the case. Will we hear what the Spirit is saying onto the churches? Are we willing to allow God to lead us through the narrow passage, to embrace the message and power of the cross so that we can be changed? Are we willing to pay the price for something far greater than ourselves? May we, by the grace of God find favor in being able to flow in that stream that leads from righteousness unto holiness. (Rev 22:11) The time is at hand to no longer halt between two opinions (1 Kings 18:21).
The primary point that I am trying to make above is that Math 7:13-14 can be placed at the foot of Romans 6-8. Those who allow God to bring them through those chapters are those who will come face to face with the Cross (Rom 6:6, 11) while coming to understand the realities of the Law, the true definition of Grace, the power and consequence of Sin as well as the power of choice as to whom we will yield our members to. Many opt for the by-pass around these chapters which are accommodated by clever doctrines that circumvent true heart related issues. I am not trying to over-spiritualize this truth but I find it to be true. A person who fully embraces chapters 6, 7 and 8 of Romans is one who strives to enter in at the strait gate. This kind of person will be markedly different from a person who chooses to take the by-pass or easier way around these chapters. There is a door of opportunity that is before us today and we need to press in, to avail ourselves of all available grace. Lord, please teach us to apply our hearts unto wisdom and to press in while there is opportunity.