by Stephen Kaung
After Israel entered the Promised Land, as seen in the book of Joshua, they could not wipe out their enemies in order to possess the land, as shown in the book of Judges. God was able to drive out their enemies if they had kept His commands and followed Him. Instead, they became unfaithful and strayed from God. Hence, they could not drive out their enemies and were oppressed by their enemies.
Then Israel cried unto the Lord, Who in turn raised up a Judge to deliver them. But each time a Judge died, Israel went astray again, and their spiritual condition became worse with each failure. "In those days, there was no king in Israel; but every man did what was right in his own eyes" - a phrase mentioned four times in Judges (17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25). Judgeship was temporary and was only an emergency measure, but Kingship was permanent and was definitely related to God's purpose. Judgeship could never solve man’s problems. God was always looking for an earthen vessel to bring the purpose of His Kingship. Finally, God found such a vessel in Samuel.
Now we have been living in the church age for 2,000 years. God through His beloved Son has given us much grace. We are not under the dispensation of law, but we are presently under the blessed dispensation of grace. God gave us His Son, through Whom we are redeemed.
At the beginning of the church age, the 120 prayed in one accord for ten days in the upper room. In one Spirit, they were all baptized in one Body. Then, for 37 years during the history of Acts, the gospel spread from Jerusalem and eventually unto the ends of the world, which was Rome at the time. Here the church was like Israel in the book of Joshua, for the church entered into her possession and enjoyed the riches and power of Christ.
But later, history indicated that the church did not maintain the fullness of Christ. The church had been blessed with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ (Eph. 1:3). It was the will of God for her not only to be placed in Christ, but also to enjoy the riches of Christ (Eph. 3:8). But because of the church's unfaithfulness, she was not able to enjoy the riches of Christ. It was not because God failed to keep His promise, but because the church was unfaithful and became oppressed by her enemies. The church was not ascendant, but instead, she was oppressed.
Then God heard the church's many cries and in response sent her the mercy of revivals. Hence, God's children enjoyed a little of the riches of Christ and gained some spiritual ascendancy over her enemies. But these revivals did not last long, Like the emergency measures during Israel's history in Judges, God gave the church some temporary relief in her history.
After 2,000 years of the church age, we are now on the verge of seeing God bringing in His Kingdom. He is about to bring us from the Age of Grace to the Age of Righteousness. For this, God is looking for an epoch making vessel. In the past, the vessel was one person, but in these end-times, it is a corporate vessel. God is looking for a corporate epoch making vessel. The world is coming to an end, The Lord's coming is imminent. A change is bound to come. What is the Lord looking for among us? He is looking for a vessel to change the times.
1. THE BIRTH OF AN EPOCH MAKING VESSEL
Read 1 Samuel 1:1-20
God raised up Samuel to be God's epoch making vessel. In these meetings, we will see in Samuel: 1- The Birth of an Epoch Making Vessel, which we are covering in this message. 2 - The Making of an Epoch Making Vessel. 3 - The Ministry of an Epoch Making Vessel.
Elkanah had two wives: Hannah, whose name means "grace," was barren; Peninnah had many children. Under the law, Hannah was considered cursed because of her barrenness. And Peninnah, who was ungodly, was blessed with many children. Hannah, who was God-fearing, stayed true to her name, for she was gracious and true to the Lord, even though she was unhappy about her barrenness. Peninnah provoked Hannah for being childless, saying that it was due to sin.
But Hannah's situation was a spiritual issue, which was unexplainable. According to the Law, she was the kind of person who should have been blessed. Yet she was barren. Among God's people today, some who love the Lord should be blessed, but instead they suffer and find no relief from the cross. Others - who are saved and zealous and yet are not seeking the Lord - are both supposedly blessed and fruitful. How do we explain this puzzling situation? Hence, it is easy to be offended with God, for apparently it seems as if God does not keep His Word.
However, Hannah did not give up and was never offended with God, She went to God again and again, inquiring why she was barren. Meanwhile, God was working in her heart. Because of her persistence, God eventually answered her. According to this principle, God requires that He must be sought after. So we should never give up. God is working on a higher principle. Let us still earnestly inquire after Him.
God was going to change the times - from Judgeship to Kingship. This temporary measure of Judgeship will soon be over, and God's final solution, which is found in His King, will shortly be coming, So God is looking for an epoch making vessel. God's eyes and His heart are on Hannah. He dealt with her differently from all other women. God found that Hannah was never offended and never gave up, but was always pursuing His purpose. She always prayed for her own need, but God also has a need of His own. Finally, it was her need that will supply God's need. Her seeking was not only for herself.
So, she prayed that if God will give her a man-child, she will give him back to the Lord. This was how Samuel was born. It was a miracle of God. His birth was due to his mother's prevailing prayer. A universal law of life is that without travail, there is no birth. If you want a birth with the coming of life, there must be travail. Because of Hannah's travailing prayer, Samuel was born. This is a principle of life - if you want a birth, there must be travailing prayer. Organization does not need a birth, because it does not need life.
The birth of the church is through the travail of the triune God. The Lord Jesus not only travailed in prayer at the Garden of Gethsemane, but also on the cross. In great darkness, He cried out, "My God, My God, why has Thou forsaken Me!" This darkness that hid the sun reveals that God the Father reveals that God the Father also travailed. The Father's heart was pierced just as His Son was pierced by the cross. Also, on the Day of Pentecost, the hearts of the 120 were traveling with a "hard breathing" from above. So the church was born by the travail of the triune God. The 120 also prayed with one accord and cooperated with God. They responded to God's travail. Wherever there is a true birth of a church, a real travail was behind it.
Today, we also can experience this. For example, when a person gets saved, someone had the burden to pray. Augustine was such a person. He was a young man going astray, but his mother prayed for him with many tears. Her travailing prayers were what it took to prevent him from persisting in his own way and to bring him to the Lord.
When God was forming an epoch making vessel, Hannah cooperated with God in several aspects. The first important thing is grace. An epoch making vessel comes by grace, and grace comes to the humble. It is grace in us which enables us to labor in prayer until a birth comes. Hannah demonstrated this principle of grace. Grace brought her to a place where she was never offended with God. If God does not respond to us, we are tempted to be offended by His delays. But grace enabled Hannah to never be offended with God and to always travail in prayer for God's answer.
Second, Hannah was a woman of faith. After Eli told her that Jehovah would answer her prayer, immediately the countenance of her face was changed and immediately she began to eat (1:17-18). This shows her strong faith.
Third, Hannah was a woman of intelligence. Her prayer in 1 Samuel, chapter 2, is one of the great prayers in the Bible, and it shows her spiritual intelligence. She began her prayer with praising God for His salvation. Her prayer also reveals the way of God. She discovered that God first puts down before He lifts up. First, He puts us to death; then He exalts us (2:6-8). Instead of being offended, we should worship God for His way. The cross leads to the crown. How often we despise the cross and misunderstand God. We need spiritual intelligence to know the way of God.
Fourth, Hannah was a woman of purpose. In her prayer, she discovered God's purpose. She realized that God will bring in the King (2:10b). Her son will become God's epoch making vessel.
Fifth, Hannah was a woman of faithfulness. She faithfully fulfilled her commitment. She gave her own son back to the Lord as she had vowed. So we are now living on the bridge of change, and God is looking for an epoch making vessel. We need to be like Hannah who brought forth Samuel as an epoch making vessel. Without Hannah, there would have been no Samuel.
There is an example of this principle in the New Testament found in the lives of Zechariah and Elizabeth. Zechariah was a priest, and his wife Elizabeth, like Hannah, was barren. Both were God-fearing and prayed much. Zechariah in his old age was serving in his priestly office, just before his retirement. Before daybreak, priests usually cast lots for their various services. The most blessed lot that was cast was for the person who would burn the incense at the golden Altar of Incense, which was the closest place to God's presence. Any priest who received this particular lot was to do this only once in his lifetime. Zechariah never had the chance to do this. In fact In fact many priests had never found the opportunity to burn the incense.
In Luke 2, Zechariah was given the opportunity to represent the nation of Israel and to burn the incense at the golden Altar. But was this a time for him to pray about his personal need of a son? No, for he was to pray a national prayer for the need of the nation of Israel. This need could only be met by the coming of the Messiah. Strangely, an angel told Zechariah that his prayer was answered - and, that he will get a son. So like Hannah's prayer, Zechariah and Elizabeth prayed for a son who will be born as an epoch making vessel. Like Samuel, John the Baptist was that epoch making vessel who brought an end to the law and the prophets and ushered in the Messiah.
Now what is the Lord expecting of us? He expects us both to be and to bring in the epoch making vessel, So we must be Hannah before we can be Samuel. Let the principle of grace work first in our lives. God gives grace to the humble. God will use many things to humble us. As Hannah was placed in a humble position, so we must be willing to be humbled, and even humiliated. There is a book entitled, "Beyond Humiliation." It means to be humiliated to the point where we can't be humiliated anymore. This will bring us into the position of grace. Because of grace, we are able to receive the cross, which the Holy Spirit has arranged for our lives. And out of the working of the cross and by bearing the cross, God will answer our prayer, bring us into travail, and reveal His purpose. Then, in answer to prayer, an epoch making vessel will be produced. May the Lord give us the burden to persist in prayer, to travail in prayer, to bring in His kingdom, and to make us offer ourselves as an epoch making vessel.
[This summary is a condensation of a timely message given by Stephen Kaung in Westminster, California, January 4, 2002.]
And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:13, NASB)