THE WORD OF SAMUEL
1 Samuel 3:19 ¶ And Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground. 20 And all Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the LORD. 21 And the LORD appeared again in Shiloh: for the LORD revealed himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the LORD. 4:1 And the word of Samuel came to all Israel. Now Israel went out against the Philistines to battle, and pitched beside Ebenezer: and the Philistines pitched in Aphek. 2 And the Philistines put themselves in array against Israel: and when they joined battle, Israel was smitten before the Philistines: and they slew of the army in the field about four thousand men. 3 And when the people were come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, Wherefore hath the LORD smitten us to day before the Philistines? Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of Shiloh unto us, that, when it cometh among us, it may save us out of the hand of our enemies.
In the last verse of 1 Samuel chapter three we have the phrase, “the word of the LORD.” And in the first verse of chapter four we have the phrase, “the word of Samuel.” These two phrases should have been kept together as making up verse twenty-one of chapter three.
Therefore chapter four should begin with the words, “Now Israel went out against the Philistines to battle, and pitched beside Ebenezer:” But as it stands, it gives the wrong impression of both Samuel and Israel in this situation.
First of all, Samuel’s word was “the word of the LORD.” For the Lord did not allow any of Samuel’s words to “fall to the ground.” That is, everything that the Lord revealed to Samuel, Samuel repeated to Israel. And the Lord made sure it all came to pass. Consider the following verses:
Joshua 21:45 There failed not ought of any good thing which the LORD had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass. 23:14 And, behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth: and ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the LORD your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof.
Isaiah 44:26 That confirmeth the word of his servant, and performeth the counsel of his messengers; that saith to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be inhabited; and to the cities of Judah, Ye shall be built, and I will raise up the decayed places thereof:
And secondly, Samuel did not instruct the people to go “out against the Philistines!” He was a prophet, not a king. Therefore he was responsible for conveying God’s word to them, and for representing them before the Lord as a mediator, and not for leading an army against their enemies. Therefore one can clearly see that, as has been noted, chapter four should begin with the second sentence of verse one in our Bibles.
We must see that the loss of four thousand men was considered to be the Lord’s work against Israel. For in verse three of our text we see that the elders related that loss as being that the LORD hath smitten us! They did not relate this tragic loss to any bad instruction from Samuel. In fact, as our text clearly shows, Samuel was established to be a prophet of the LORD. For the only word that Samuel had from the Lord is given in 1 Samuel 3:10-14. Let us list it out for you.
1 Samuel 3:10 And the LORD came, and stood, and called as at other times, Samuel, Samuel. Then Samuel answered, Speak; for thy servant heareth. 11 And the LORD said to Samuel, Behold, I will do a thing in Israel, at which both the ears of every one that heareth it shall tingle. 12 In that day I will perform against Eli all things which I have spoken concerning his house: when I begin, I will also make an end. 13 For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not. 14 And therefore I have sworn unto the house of Eli, that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be purged with sacrifice nor offering for ever.
And this is exactly what happened as Israel went out against the philistines to battle. For when they included the ark of the covenant as merely a ‘good luck charm,’ there was then thirty thousand footmen who were slaughtered. (4:10). That certainly made both ears of every one that heard it to tingle!
And included in that number were the priest Eli’s two sons. And also the ark was taken captive by the Philistines. 1 Samuel 4:11 And the ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain. Also along with that, when he heard the news, the priest Eli fell backwards from off his seat and broke his neck and died. 1 Samuel 4:18 And it came to pass, when he made mention of the ark of God, that he fell from off the seat backward by the side of the gate, and his neck brake, and he died: for he was an old man, and heavy. And he had judged Israel forty years.
And finally, when Eli’s daughter-in-law heard that the ark was captured and her husband and father-in-law were dead, it forced her into labor, and she bore a son as she died. But she named the new born son, Ichabod, which means, “the glory has departed.” 1 Samuel 4:19 And his daughter in law, Phinehas’ wife, was with child, near to be delivered: and when she heard the tidings that the ark of God was taken, and that her father in law and her husband were dead, she bowed herself and travailed; for her pains came upon her. 20 And about the time of her death the women that stood by her said unto her, Fear not; for thou hast born a son. But she answered not, neither did she regard it. 21 And she named the child Ichabod, saying, The glory is departed from Israel: because the ark of God was taken, and because of her father in law and her husband. 22 And she said, The glory is departed from Israel: for the ark of God is taken.
Therefore we see that the only word of Samuel that the Lord had given him had come true. And just before we read that everyone in Israel knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the LORD, (3:20), we read that he had begun to set forth the only word of the Lord that he had been given at that time, which set forth the Lord’s wrath against the disobedience of Israel. 1 Samuel 3:17 And he said, What is the thing that the LORD hath said unto thee? I pray thee hide it not from me: God do so to thee, and more also, if thou hide any thing from me of all the things that he said unto thee. 18 And Samuel told him every whit, and hid nothing from him. And he said, It is the LORD: let him do what seemeth him good.
Upon Eli’s insistent instruction, Samuel was brought out of his timidity, and again followed Eli’s instruction to tell all he had seen and heard from the Lord. And this is in line with the Lord’s dealings with all His prophets. Ezekiel 40:4 And the man said unto me, Son of man, behold with thine eyes, and hear with thine ears, and set thine heart upon all that I shall shew thee; for to the intent that I might shew them unto thee art thou brought hither: declare all that thou seest to the house of Israel.
This is also the bond between the Lord and his truly God-called ministers in the new testament age. Here is how the Apostle Paul explains it: 2 Corinthians 5:18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. 20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.
Here again are two phrases linked together in the revealing of how the Lord’s servants declare his word. For they are said to be given both the ministry of reconciliation (restoration), and the word of reconciliation. Therefore it is as if God did beseech (make his appeal) you by us. This is one of the reasons it is called “the foolishness of preaching.” For to the outward ear of the intellect it sounds foolish. But when accompanied by the effectual revelation of the Holy Spirit it is life!
1 Corinthians 1:18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. 21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. 23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
But Samuel’s death marked a dramatic change in the nation of Israel. For now they moved from the era of the judges, with it’s prophets instructing them, into the era of the kings. And so it is in spiritual Israel – the church! Consider these words: Hebrews 1:1 God, who at sundry times (in separate revelations), and in divers manners (different ways), spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; 3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;
This reveals the two periods of God’s revelation. There was that spoken of as in time past. And now we read of the other period of time as, in these last days. Therefore there are but two dispensations of God’s revealing himself to mankind. And the dividing agent was the cross of Christ! John 12:28 Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. 29 The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him. 30 Jesus answered and said, This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes. 31 Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. 32 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. 33 This he said, signifying what death he should die.
The Father had glorified his name by the preaching of the prophets in times past. And now he would glorify it again in the accomplished redemption and exaltation of his dear Son. For as he was lifted up upon the cross, so now he has been highly exalted, and sits as ruling king!
Philippians 2:8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
For it is the sovereign word of the presently reigning Son of God that shall determine the eternal plight of every living soul! John 12:48 He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. 49 For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak. Revelation 1:1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him,
But we must not fail to see that their inclusion of the ark of the covenant as just some good luck piece to ensure a good outcome of the battle, only helped give the Philistines a stronger resolve to fight against Israel. And this turned the battle against Israel. For they lost both the ark and thirty-thousand footmen.
1 Samuel 4:6 And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shout, they said, What meaneth the noise of this great shout in the camp of the Hebrews? And they understood that the ark of the LORD was come into the camp. 7 And the Philistines were afraid, for they said, God is come into the camp. And they said, Woe unto us! for there hath not been such a thing heretofore. 8 Woe unto us! who shall deliver us out of the hand of these mighty Gods? these are the Gods that smote the Egyptians with all the plagues in the wilderness. 9 Be strong, and quit yourselves like men, O ye Philistines, that ye be not servants unto the Hebrews, as they have been to you: quit yourselves (that is, conduct yourselves), like men, and fight.
That ark represented the presence of Almighty God with the peoples of Israel. Exodus 25:22 And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel. But reread verse three of our above listed text. Israel said, “it may save us.” That is, the ark was looked to for deliverance. They had lost the significance of its purpose.
It was supposed to bring to them an awareness of the Person of God. It was wood overlaid with gold. Jesus Christ is humanity overlaid with Deity. Within the ark was the stone tablets upon which were written the commandments of God. Our complete obedience to God is imputed to us by Christ’s perfect righteousness alone. We must be careful not to allow the practice of religion to be substituted for Christ alone!
Pastor Gene Breed
October 4, 2019