- Part 1 - The Birth Of An Epoch Making Vessel
- Part 2 - The Making of an Epoch Making Vessel
- Part 3 - The Ministry of an Epoch Making Vessel
God's Epoch Making Vessel
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.
God raised up Samuel to be God's epoch making vessel. In these meetings, we will see in Samuel:
- Part 1 - The Birth Of An Epoch Making Vessel
- Part 2 - The Making of an Epoch Making Vessel
- Part 3 - The Ministry of an Epoch Making Vessel
1. The Birth Of An Epoch Making Vessel
Read 1 Samuel 1:1-20
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.
2. The Making of an Epoch Making Vessel
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.
3. The Ministry of an Epoch Making Vessel
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.