The Ministry of an Epoch Making Vessel
by Stephen Kaung
1. THE BIRTH OF AN EPOCH MAKING VESSEL
We saw how God changed the times from the Judges to the Kings. God found an epoch changing vessel in Samuel, who was born out of Hannah. Grace had enabled Hannah to receive special treatment from God. God had dealt with her by His higher ways by putting her through a crucible, where she had travailed in prayer, realized God's purpose, and was made willing to meet God's need. Samuel came out of her experiences.
We too are on the verge of a great change. This world is coming to an end. God is about to close this age of grace and bring in His Kingdom where righteousness will rule. To make this change, God is looking for an epoch making vessel, formed of people who will prepare the way for the Lord's return.
When God turned the age from the Law and the Prophets to the age of Grace, He looked for an epoch making vessel and found that man in John the Baptist. He was born of parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth, who like Hannah had travailed in prayer. Then God used John to change the times, to end the Law and the Prophets, and to introduce Christ to the world.
Now God is looking for a corporate vessel to end this age, and this will be composed of people born out of travailing prayer, born of grace, and given fully unto the Lord. The only kind of people God can use to change the times will be like Samuel who was given to God as a Nazarite for life.
2. THE MAKING OF AN EPOCH MAKING VESSEL
As a Nazarite, the boy Samuel grew, worshipped, ministered, and listened to the Lord. As a boy ministering in the presence of Eli, he learned many lessons of faithfulness, submission, and obedience. Then after he matured, God called and separated him to be His vessel. Then, as we see in 1 Samuel 4:1 to 25:1, God entrusted Samuel with His work.
3. THE MINISTRY OF AN EPOCH MAKING VESSEL
Foundation of Samuel’s Ministry
Let's see that the foundation of Samuel's ministry existed in his Nazarite life. A "Nazarite" means consecration or separation. Its vows were first mentioned in Numbers 6, where any one can be a Nazarite. Before this, only the tribe of Levi was separated unto God, and only the family of Aaron was separated as priests. However, this was not God's original thought, because all of God's people were to serve God as a nation of priests. But they had disqualified themselves by worshipping the golden calf. Hence, the service of God became limited to one tribe and one family.
However, God opened the way for others to serve Him by taking a Nazarite vow of consecration and separation. What was the work of a Nazarite during his days of separation? Not much is known about it, but one thing is seen - he who was separated unto God was to live exclusively for and unto God.
Moreover, a Nazarite must abstain from 3 things: One, he must refrain from eating or drinking any form of grapes (Num. 6:34). Spiritually, it means he must not seek the pleasures of the world. Wine makes people happy, forget their sorrows, and even themselves. But all of the Nazarite's pleasures and affections should come from the Lord.
Two, during the days of a Nazarite's vow, no razor shall come upon his head, and he was to let his hair grow long (6:5). Hair in the Scriptures speaks of obedience. A Nazarite lived a life of obeying the Lord. He did not beautify himself, but his beauty was in his obedience.
Three, a Nazarite could not touch any dead body during the days of his vow (6:6-8). He was completely separated from any physical death, meaning he was separated from the flesh and lived a life exclusively for God.
Samuel was a Nazarite for life, even before he was born. Only a few people in the Scriptures were Nazarites for life. Samson was a Nazarite for life, and his power was especially in his hair. Unfortunately, he was not a faithful Nazarite, for he violated his vows, lost his eyesight, and eventually forfeited his life. However, Samuel was a true Nazarite, for he was truly separated during his whole lifetime.
The word Nazarite comes from "Nazar," meaning not only consecration or separation, but also crown or diadem. The two thoughts do come together. If we are separated from the world and the flesh and separated wholly unto God, it will lead us to a crown before God.
Also, after the separation of the Nazarites in Numbers 6:1-21, then God's blessing in 6:22-27 came upon the people.
The foundation of Samuel's ministry was based upon his Nazarite vow, and this is the foundation of any ministry. Today, the redeemed are called to serve the Lord, and they must base their service upon the foundation of consecration. Consecration is so basic and important. Romans, chapters 1 to 11, tell us of the mercies of God - that Christ loved us, died for us while we were yet sinners, redeemed us by His blood, delivered us from both the habits of sins and the power of sin, and put His own Spirit in us to teach us and transform us from glory to glory.
What should be the outcome of these mercies which we have received? We are redeemed to live and serve the Redeemer (Rom. 12-16), but first we need to offer our consecration as the foundation to service (Rom. 12:1). We cannot serve without presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice. Without consecration, we will serve according to our thoughts. We may do God's work outwardly, but satisfy our rights inwardly. This is not serving God; it is serving our own selves. When we lay down our rights, we can then serve our Lord and King according to the working of His purpose in and through us. When the love of Christ constrains us, we do not live for ourselves, but for the One who died for us and lived in us.
FUNCTIONS OF SAMUEL'S MINISTRY
So the basis of Samuel's ministry was this Nazarite consecration, but the functions of his ministry were multiple. God used him in various ways.
God raised Samuel up as a prophet. God is a God who speaks and reveals Himself to His own people. But during the judgeship of Eli, the spiritual condition of God's people was such that God could only speak His Word rarely and appeared in a vision infrequently (1 Sam, 3:1). There was no spokesman for God, who could speak God's thought and reveal God's heart. The people perished because there was no Word and no vision (Prov, 29:18). Hence, everybody did what was night in his own eyes.
But God raised up Samuel as a prophet and spoke to him. Thank God, He found a vessel through whom He could speak to His people (1 Sam. 3:19-21). Today, people are hungry and thirsty, and God is looking for a people through whom He could speak His Word and reveal the vision of Himself. It's an urgent need.
What is a prophet? Scripturally, a prophet is one who not only foretells the future, but also tells forth the mind of God concerning His people. In the Old Testament, a prophet did more forth-telling than foretelling. But the main function of a New Testament prophet is not one who foretells your future, but tells forth God's mind to you.
Moreover, under the New Covenant, the Lord's people do not need to tell believers to know the Lord, because all shall know Him (Heb. 8:11). Why? Because the Holy Spirit indwells us to reveal the Lord to us, so that we all may know Him inwardly.
We may not receive the calling of a prophet, but we can still seek prophecy, which is a gift that edifies the church (1 Cor. 14:3,12). Whenever we are moved by the Holy Spirit, we can exhort, edify, and encourage people. This is another form of prophecy that is in the Body of Christ. We all must be open to the Lord that we might be able to share and edify others with what we have heard of the Lord's speaking.
Eli was not a faithful priest, but God raised up Samuel to function as "a faithful priest" (1 Sam. 2:35).
What is the work of a priest? It is to bring people to God and God to the people, to join man and God together, and to pray before God for the people. The Lord Jesus Christ is our Great High Priest who ever lives to make intercession for us and to save us to the uttermost.
The life of Samuel portrays the faithful function of a priest. For example, the Ark had been captured by the Philistines (4:10-11). Israel could not protect the Ark, but the Ark could protect itself, because the Philistines could no longer tolerate the Ark within their ranks. So they sent it back to Israel. But Israel was not ready to receive the Ark back to the center of her life. Hence, the Ark was taken to Kiriath-jearim to be hidden in the house of Abinadab for 20 long years (1 Sam. 7:1-2). In other words, the hearts of the Israelites were far away from God, because they lived their own lives without God.
But eventually why did Israel lament after God (1 Sam. 7:2)? It was because Samuel was a man of prayer who prayed for them (7:5, 8). He was truly a faithful priest who brought people to God and God to the people. In prayer, he had power with God (7:8-11).
Today, are we priests? We do not have it as a title, but as our reality. Many people have the title "priest," but do not have it as their reality. In Revelation 1:5-6, because Christ loved us and washed us from our sins in His precious blood, He made us a kingdom and priests. Again, in Revelation 5:9-10, He has redeemed us out of every tribe, tongue, people, and nation, brought us to Himself, and made us kings and priests to God. In the New Testament, the Lord recovered His original thought of the priesthood. It is no longer relegated to a special class, but it is now a universal participation in a holy priesthood of all believers.
Every believer is to serve as a priest, whose ministry is to bring God to the people and people to God. Prayer is the most powerful way to exercise our priestly function. We must give ourselves to prayer that the will of God may be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Samuel was also a Judge - the last Judge. What is the work of a Judge? In the book of Judges, God raised up Judges to deliver people from the enemy and to rule the people with righteousness.
Samuel was not .a warrior like Samson who had great strength. He did more than Samson, because when he prayed, God thundered, threw a panic, and routed the Philistines (1 Sam. 7:8-11). During Samuel's day, the Philistines were subdued, many cities were restored, and God's people governed with righteousness, It was because Samuel was prayerful, righteous, and blameless.
God has made us priests and kings unto Him. Our regenerated life is a kingly life. As kings, we must deliver God's people from the enemy. God's people today are under oppression, and who will be used to deliver them? Our warfare is not against flesh and blood, but powerful through God to overthrow all reasonings and high thoughts that are against the knowledge of God (2 Cor. 10:4-5). Our weapon is spiritual, because it is the prayer "according to God," which overthrows the strongholds that the enemy has built up in people's mind throughout the ages.
Reasonings and high thoughts against the knowledge of God are also strongholds among God's people. Why is it that God's people lack understanding and vision? Why are they in darkness when they think they are in the light? Because the enemy has built up strongholds in their minds. The only way to throw down these strongholds is through prayer. Talk is useless, but prayer delivers God's people. Brainwashing is everywhere, even among God's people. What we need is to exercise our kingship in prayer and bring every thought into the obedience of Christ.
The greatest work of Samuel was that of an epoch making vessel. God used him to change the age from judgeship to kingship. When he was doing this, he was actually bringing himself to an end so that a kingship may come forth. Although he was a Judge, he would not prolong his judgeship. In fact, God had already arranged his circumstances, because when Samuel tried to make his sons the next judges, it was a failure and not workable. So instead, he anointed a king and brought his judgeship to an end.
The same thing happened to John the Baptist, who also was an epoch making vessel. When he brought in Christ, his disciples challenged him that Jesus baptized more disciples than he did. But John said, "He must increase, but I must decrease" (Jn. 3:30). So, as an epoch making vessel, he was to bring in the King, but he himself was willing to disappear.
The same thing will happen to us. If we are willing to be an epoch making vessel to bring in the King, we must decrease so that He will increase. Only the person who is under the kingship of Christ will be able to bring in the King. Why has our King delayed His return? It is because He is waiting for a people who will hasten His return, a people who will open the way for His return. The kingdom cannot come unless people are willing to live under the kingdom. If the kingdom of Christ becomes a reality in our lives, it will hasten to bring in Christ the King.
For this reason, the gospel of the kingdom of the heavens has to be preached unto all the world before the end comes. The gospel of the kingdom is simply that "Christ is King." This is not a mere message, but a life under the reality of His kingdom reign. What the Lord is looking for in an epoch making vessel is for a people who are living under the kingship of Christ today. When enough people are living under His kingship, then the King will return. They become the people who prepare His way. So are we willing to be such an epoch making vessel? Are we willing to submit our lives completely to the kingship of Christ today? When the fullness of this reality comes, then the time for His return will arrive.
[This summary is a condensation of a message given by Stephen Kaung in Westminster, CA, January 6,2002]
And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:13, NASB)