The Making of an Epoch Making Vessel
by Stephen Kaung
Reviewing the Birth of an Epoch Making Vessel
In the last meeting, we mentioned the birth of Samuel as an epoch making vessel. We began with Hannah, not Samuel. Samuel must be put together with Hannah in the forming of this vessel. God was dealing with Hannah on the principle of grace In fact, Hannah means "grace." She was truly a woman of grace, for she was both gracious and God-fearing. Under the Law of Moses, one who feared God would be blessed with many children, and the one who was cursed by God would be childless. So it is strange that Hannah, a God-fearing women, was childless, and that Peninnah, who was not a God-fearing woman, had many children.
Here a problem was created in the family, because Hannah was provoked by Peninnah, especially during the time when the family went to Shiloh for worship, It became more of a spiritual problem than a human one, Nevertheless, Hannah was never offended with God, and was desperate to seek Him. Usually, people get offended with God when He fails to keep His promise, because they think God is supposed to be always faithful to His Word. It's not easy to be offended with God. But when we think we have certain rights with God and He doesn't honor them, then we get offended.
Apparently, it seems God failed to fulfill His Word with Hannah, because He promised many children to those who keep His laws. Instead of being offended, she continued to pray and trust Him to fulfill His promise. God was dealing with Hannah, this woman of grace, with a higher principle. He knew she was worthy of special treatment.
The grace Hannah received was sufficient for her to stand the test. She, instead of trusting herself, relied on God's grace. Finally, in her last prayer for a child, she promised to give back the son God would give her. Because she refused to be offended and prevailed in prayer, God revealed His own need. God needed an epoch making vessel, which must be born by the principle of grace. When Hannah began to understand God's way, she prayed for God to give her a man-child. She became willing to give him back to God as a separated, consecrated Nazarite unto God, who will serve God's purpose for life.
The same principle applies today. God has given us much grace and expects us to understand His ways. He wants us to be delivered from ourselves, be burdened with His purpose, and respond to His heart. Often this happens by the way of suffering. The cross is the way to bring Christ in. Through our prevailing prayer, a vessel will be born. Because God has a purpose for our life, He will treat us differently.
But, when we become objects of His special treatment, it is very easy to misunderstand God. The more we love Him, the more difficult the way gets. The more we pray, the more our problems continue, In the eyes of the Christian world, we appear cursed of God. While other people have a smooth-sailing life, we find ourselves weathering many stormy situations. Are we offended with God? Do we understand that His dealing with us is special? Are we able to continue and travail in prayer? But we need spiritual intelligence to know God's way. We need the enablement of grace to fulfill His will. This is what God is looking for and expects among His people today.
THE MAKING OF AN EPOCH MAKING VESSEL
Samuel means "asked for of God" or "heard of God." He was the result of travailing prayer. He was born a Nazarite to be given to God for his whole lifetime. To be born is one thing, but for Samuel to be made complete is another. How can he be made into an epoch making vessel? (Cf. 1 Sam. 1-3)
First, Samuel worshipped
After Samuel was born, Hannah said to Elkanah her husband that she would not go to worship at Shiloh until Samuel was weaned (1 Sam. 1:22). Then she would give him back to the Lord. When Samuel was weaned, he was already a boy. Weaning a child in those days took several years. It gave Hannah time to put into the head of this boy the thought of God and His purpose.
The same thing happened to Moses. He was raised by his mother before he was weaned and sent to Pharaoh's palace. His mother had the chance to plant a seed in his heart which could never be taken away.
The same opportunity happened to Samuel. Hannah told him how he was born, would be loaned to God, and be consecrated as a Nazarite for life. Train a child according to God's way, and he will not depart from it when he is old (Prov. 22:6). It is important for mothers to train their children.
A mother told me when she prayed, she had her unborn baby in view. After the baby's birth, she had him with her when she had her quiet time with the Lord. Although the baby could not understand anything, he was influenced by her. This is the way to make an epoch making vessel and instill something of God and His purpose into the heart of a child.
Samuel was weaned and taken to Shiloh, where Hannah loaned him to Jehovah (1 Sam. 1:28). She had promised the Lord that Samuel would be a Nazarite for life. She was faithful to her vow. She then left the boy at Shiloh in the house of God.
And "he worshipped Jehovah there" (1:28, Darby). It was not Hannah, but a little boy who worshipped God after he was left in the house of God.
Worship is the highest art, but it is also an instinct. When God created man, He put an instinct of worship in him. Man instinctively knows he needs to worship Someone higher than himself. After his conscience is awakened, the first issue is worship, because man was created to worship God (Cf. John 4:16-24). Human history shows it is inherent in both civilized and barbarian people that man needs to worship something. Samuel was taught by his mother Hannah about the only true God, and he learned to worship Him.
What is worship? It is "worth-ship," meaning that God is worthy of our worship. Worship is to put God in His rightful place and to put ourselves in our rightful place. Samuel worshipped God, though at the time he did not yet know God personally, because he did not recognize God when first called by Him. He had not experienced God yet. But he knew of God because he was instructed by his mother. So he knew instinctively to worship God.
The first thing that makes an epoch making vessel is to worship the true God, to realize God has His proper place, and to know He is worthy of our worship.
Second, Samuel ministered
Here the boy Samuel ministered unto the Lord (1 Sam.2:11,18; 3:1), But what can a boy do? His service was to open the doors of the house of God. Usually, boys like to sleep in late. If doors are not opened early, people cannot come in to sacrifice and worship. It seems insignificant, but it is an important work. At first, we do not know much, but one thing we can do is to open the hall, arrange chairs, and pass out hymnbooks. Everybody can do some small thing. But we must remember that when we do these things, we are not doing a little job, but we are ministering unto the Lord. God is the objective of our ministry.
In Ezekiel 44, there are two kinds of ministry - one to the house, and the other to the Lord. The Levites became unfit to minister to God because of their idolatry. So they can only minister to the house or to the people. Their objective became outward to things and people. But the priestly sons of Zadok were faithful to God when Israel went astray. So they were allowed to minister to the Lord.
What or who should be the objective of our worship - things and people? Or God? Should we minister to the people by doing many things, or should we minister to the Lord? But young Samuel, while he was serving in little things like opening doors, or serving people like Eli the Priest, he ministered unto the Lord. The Holy Spirit in the Word has emphasized his heart's attitude - that he ministered before the Lord. Always before him was the Lord Himself.
Also, the Word tells us that Samuel ministered in the presence of Eli. We want to minister unto the Lord, and yet we need to go through a period of learning - an apprenticeship. Even our Lord called 12 disciples for a time of learning.
Years ago, Angus Kinnear, author of AGAINST THE TIDE, was about to go to India as a young missionary and work with Amy Carmichael. Before his departure, Watchman Nee was visiting England. He asked Watchman Nee for some advice. He advised him to put on a big "L." Watchman Nee had observed that all new drivers had a big, red "L" on their license plates, warning everybody to be cautious, because these drivers were learners. Some missionaries think they have a big "T" on them, indicating "I am going to Teach others, not Learn from others." We all need to be learners.
Once, somebody asked Watchman Nee how many disciples he had. "None," he replied. He meant that all disciples belong to the Lord; none belong to him. Yes, the Lord has allowed some of His workers to disciple us, but we are not their disciples. We are to learn Christ - not them. Sovereignly, the Lord does allow some of His more advanced servants to help us.
It was just like Samuel when he was ministering unto the Lord in the presence of Eli. Samuel had to learn obedience, It was not easy to be in the presence of an old man, whose eyes were dimmed, whose ears were deaf, and whose spiritual condition was declining. Eli could not manage even his two sons. Rather, he listened to them.
What would be your reaction if you were serving an apprenticeship under such a man? We think that if a person is perfect, we can respect him, listen to him, and obey him. But what can we learn and how can we submit to such an old man? God's ways are mysterious. How often has God sovereignly arranged for us to be under imperfect men? But under such circumstances, we can really learn some lessons. Samuel respected Eli. Eli probably called on young Samuel often at night, yet he learned to obey and go to him. But here, he learned obedience.
When God is making us His vessel, He will often give us special treatment by putting us under difficult people. What should be our attitude? Here is a true principle: To man, our submission should be absolute, but our obedience relative. To God, both our submission and obedience must be absolute. Submission is an inward attitude, while obedience is an outward act. We should always maintain a submissive attitude, but obey man only to the extent of our conscience. So Samuel learned precious lessons under Eli.
Third, Samuel grew
To be born is one thing, but to grow is another. To be useful, Samuel needed to grow from boyhood to manhood (2:21,26; 3:19).
Think how Samuel grew: As a boy, he was sent away from his home to be with Eli and his two sons. These two sons were the "big" boys. Naturally speaking, a young boy would be influenced by them. Yet the Bible says Samuel grew before the Lord. His environment was not conducive for his growth. Sometimes under the worst environment, God's grace is so great that growth before the Lord is possible. Sometimes people in good homes grow improperly, while others in bad homes grow up decently. Because of what God put into Samuel, he grow until he became a prophet - a spokesman for God,
Fourth, Samuel listened
Now we come to his calling. At the time, Samuel knew God by instruction, but not by personal experience. Our God is a God Who speaks and reveals Himself, especially to His own people. During the Judgeship of Eli, the spiritual condition of the people was typified by Eli himself, for his eyesight was poor, his ears dull, and his age old. God could not speak, because no one would listen. It kept God from the people (1 Sam. 3:1).
However, God was calling an epoch making vessel. So God called out to Samuel three times. But Samuel did not know God. He thought it was Eli who had called. So he went to Eli three times, thinking Eli was the one who had called. It took Eli three times before he woke up. His spiritual sense was so dull. Finally, he told Samuel how to respond when God calls again - say to Him, "Speak, Lord, for Your servant heareth."
The first message Samuel received from God was very negative. Samuel did not want to tell Eli. But Eli pressured him. Then Samuel told him everything. Usually, when God speaks after years of silence, His first Word would be a Word of judgment. But after judgment, God will then show mercy.
In the New Testament, after breaking God's silence of 400 years, the first word people heard was "repent, for the kingdom of the heavens draws near." From this time onward, God's Word began to come out. So, God's Word began to appear to Samuel.
Just as Samuel was called into servanthood, so we all are called to serve in different capacities and in different areas. But the principle of servanthood is the same. The first need of a servant is to have an ear to hear. In Old Testament times, when a bond slave loved his master’s house and wanted to serve him for life, he would be led to the door and have his ear pierced. Why? Because hearing - not speaking, nor doing - is a servant's first need. So when Samuel was called, he declared, "Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears."
So we all should have our ears pierced. Ladies today like to pierce their ears. Do you know what it means? It means you are a bond slave for life; so always say, "Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears." In this position, the Lord is able to use you to do whatever He wants.
Watchman Nee once said, "Suppose you have a maid in your house. She belongs to the Lord and is zealous. But when she is sent shopping, she meets people and spends hours talking. What would you think of such a maid? Or, suppose you send a maid to buy food to eat, but she thinks other things are better for you, What would you think of such a maid?"
This illustrates the need for us to focus on hearing and obeying the Lord. Then He is able to use us as an epoch making vessel, as seen in the life of Samuel. No one is a spiritual genius. We all need to go through a process of training and growth before the Lord can use us to fulfill His purpose.
[This summary is an abbreviation of a message Stephen Kuang gave in Westminster, California, January 5, 2002]
And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:13, NASB)