Thursday, August 21, 2008

Prophet Samuel (2) - Defeating Philistines

Samuel led the people to repentance and guided Israel to a great victory over the Philistines.

And Samuel said to the whole house of Israel, "If you are returning to the LORD with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the LORD and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines" (1 Sam 7:3).
The people did repent, so the Lord delivered them from the Philistines.
The Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the LORD thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites (1 Sam 7:10).
This demonstrates the correct way for a Christian community to defend itself. The first step is to repent of all sin. This releases God to confuse the enemies and make them flee.

The victory over the Philistines was a wonderful prophetic incident, but closer reading reveals several blemishes. Firstly, the Israelites responded to God’s victory, by slaughtering the fleeing Philistines.
The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Car (1 Sam 7:11).
God had not commanded the people of Israel to engage in this destruction. He had promised that he would deliver Israel, so their actions added human works to God grace. A great victory by God was spoiled by unnecessary vindictiveness.

The second blemish on this incident was Samuel’s behaviour.
Then Samuel took a suckling lamb and offered it up as a whole burnt offering to the LORD. He cried out to the LORD on Israel's behalf, and the LORD answered him (1 Sam 7:9).
Samuel was correct of cry out the Lord, and the Lord answered his prayers, because Israel had repented. However, Samuel came from the tribe of Ephraim (1 Sam 1:1). Only the descendents of Aaron were authorised to offer sacrifices on behalf of Israel, so Samuel was acting presumptuously, when he offered the sacrifice. Although Samuel was called to be a prophet, he slipped into the role of high priest. This is the flaw in Samuel’s character. When he was successful as a prophet, he began to take on other ministries that were not assigned to him. A prophet to the nation must be careful not to go beyond their calling by acting as priest or judge.


Gene said...

Samuel himself Levite of the family of Kohath, (1 Chronicles 6:28) and almost certainly a priest, was the instrument used at once for effecting a reform in the sacerdotal order (1 Chronicles 9:22) and for giving to the prophets a position of importance which they had never before held. Nevertheless it is not to be supposed that Samuel created the prophetic order as a new thing before unknown.

I lifted this, but I would submit particularly as Samuel and Saul over the premature Saul Sacrifice that Samuel didn't only come to watch over the sacrifice, but to administer it.

Samuel was priest and Prophet

Ron McK said...

Good spotting Gene.
I had not seen that verse, but it does not change anything. Even if Samuel was a Levite, he was in the wrong line. He was not a son of Aaron, so he was not authorised to make a sacrifice.

Some people like to say that Samuel replaced Eli as High Priest. That is not correct, as God clearly appointed him as prophet. There is nothing in the scriptures to say that God appointed Samuel as high priest.

In Chronicles 9:22, Samuel was functioning as a prophet, giving advice to the king. Of course, I am not sure that the king was authorised to reorganise the temple, but that is another question.

The point is that neither Samual nor Saul should have been offering the sacrifice. God had not commanded it. He had told them how to win the battle, so they did not need to make a sacrifice. By making a sacrifice, they were slipping from grace into works.

Slipping from grace to works is a common mistake that we all must learn to avoid.