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Chosen to be God's ProphetHow God Works in and Through Those He Chooses
By HENRY BLACKABY
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2003 Henry Blackaby
All right reserved.
Chapter OneDefining Moments in Samuel's Life
In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes. Judges 17:6
When you read about the life of Samuel there are incredible defining moments that capture your attention. Many events that happen throughout an ordinary day are not noteworthy. There are all kinds of routines that are normal and natural every day. But defining moments of life shape the whole direction in which you go. These moments may determine where you live, who you marry, what college you attend, or what direction your occupation takes. As these defining moments come, they bring both soberness and joy to life.
Reading and meditating on Samuel's defining moments will help you take a closer look at your own life. If you will take a spiritual inventory of your life, ministry, and family, you will find there are some moments that are different from the run-of-the-mill moments. These moments are so incredibly different from the ordinary times of life that you simply cannot forget what God did in your life, to your life, and through your life. These defining moments that come in your relationship to God, your ministry, or your life itself then shape and define your life.
This book will seek to share from the Scriptures how God worked in and through a man called Samuel. Yet you must not study and observe Samuel's life without taking time to make adjustments in your own life, especially with God! When you read of how God directed Samuel, you will become aware that there is a clear word from the Scriptures for your own life also. For Samuel, God guided and shaped him to be a prophet in the midst of His people when the people insisted on disobeying Him.
National and local occurrences in our day can also be defined as times of spiritual crisis, as occurred in Samuel's day. But what are the dynamics involved in crucial times? What does God have in mind when He selects and shapes a person? How does He go about it? How does He bring His purposes to pass through His chosen servant? A glimpse into what God did in Samuel will help you see what God must do to develop the leader His people need. In turn, this will help you define God's divine moments in your life.
GOD'S INITIATIVE ... NOT OURS
The common people of this generation are not looking for professional religionists to find real answers. Professional religionists often are what turn the common person away from God. People want a deep, abiding, and real relationship with God. Yet on our own, within that relationship, every one of us can have down times and even question our calls. None of us will, at times, be immune from looking over our lives and questioning why nothing seems to be happening. We can become very self-centered. But when God chooses someone, He Himself will affirm that person before the eyes of all the people.
Would you rather try to endorse your own ministry before people or would you rather have God endorse and affirm you? You do not confirm your ministry, God does! If He does not, you are in trouble. You can launch a public-relations campaign so you will be more acceptable. However, seeking acceptance from the world is of no use to God. You do not have to announce you are going to have a big building program and then blame the people if it does not work. If God wants a building program, it will work. If you start something and it does not seem to go well, consider carefully that God, on purpose, may not be authenticating what you told the people—because it did not come from Him, but from your own head. You may have wanted to do something outstanding for God and forgot that God does not want that. He wants you to be available to Him, and more important, to be obedient to Him. God is looking for a person in whom He can entrust His leadership. The key is not what a person can do, but what God will do in and through a person's life.
We will not be looking so much at Samuel as at the God who called Samuel. We will examine what God does in a time of crisis. It is critical to understand that the time of Samuel's calling fell during the worst era in Israel's history. Four hundred years of the judges had brought them to this time. Sadly, it was a time very similar to our own as we also see what the Scripture says: "Everyone did what was right in his own eyes" (Judg. 21:25).
The culture of 1960s absolutely captured many of God's people so that they did what was right in their own eyes. God's children began to want to find "their gift" and "their ministry" and go off and do it regardless of the impact it had on anyone else. Spiritual anarchy became the defining moment of those days. Christians forgot they were a covenant people. They forgot they were part of a corporate call of God.
But God called Christians to be a holy nation. They are to corporately function together. The darkest times of Samuel's day revealed that the people of God would do what was right in their own eyes. Into that critical time God called a servant, the first of the prophets—Samuel.
In a dream to Abimelech, God called Abraham a prophet (see Gen. 20:7). But here we are seeing Samuel as the first of a long line of prophets. And so he is unique. I sense that the Christians of our day need not just preachers; they need a special kind of spokesman for God. Put the name "prophet" over him if you want.
A major part of the tragedy of this four-hundred-year period is that the leaders of the people of God never recognized that they were in a deep problem. They never recognized that they themselves were the problem. Godless thinking, especially by the leaders, put the people into four hundred years of spiritual bondage.
You have to go back to Judges chapter 2 to see the pain of the situation. To what can you attribute the problem? Is there any clue here?
I had to face this passage as a young boy, as a teenager, as a young man, then when I was in seminary, and in the first churches that I pastored. I thank God that He made me process it in my own ministry. Maybe it was because I had been a history major and had studied so much of what had happened in previous generations. If any generation refuses to study history, they are doomed to repeat it. Every generation, including ours, is preeminently tied to the activity of God in those who preceded them. "When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the LORD nor the work which He had done for Israel" (Judg. 2:10).
KNOW THE GOD OF YOUR FATHERS
There arose on the scene of the people of God a younger generation that felt they had to begin everything new without any reference to what God had done for Israel. They could not, and would not, recite any of the mighty acts of God done in other generations. Therefore, they did not know the God of their fathers. They had no reference point to the God who delivered the children of Israel out of Egypt. They hardly remembered the stories. They did not understand at all the time in the wilderness. They did not know the mighty deeds of God at Jericho. This generation determined that anything they labeled tradition was to be turned aside. Was it possible that the previous generation, who did know God, failed to adequately instruct the next generation?
In our own generation, what many today are calling tradition is really the mighty acts of God, which He has done in His people. No child of God must ever forget what God has done. If he does, he will not be able to build on what God has done previously. If you try to lay another foundation than that which has already been laid by God, He will let you. The cost of missing what God has already done will be great as you attempt to move forward in your own decisions. Understand, though, that to ignore what God has already done is disobedience. You can call it "creative ministry" all you want, but God may simply call it disobedience.
You are not to ignore the God of your fathers. You are to ask the older generation to tell you what God did in your community to start the church you are now attending. What did God do when He brought that group of people together to begin His local church in that area? Do not try to live in your generation as though you have nothing to do with the previous generation. You are a vital part of a covenant people of God. If all you see that has gone before you are men and you say, "They had their time; now we have our turn," you do not understand that it was not them who built the church; it was God! Do not confuse the men who have preceded you with the God who has preceded you. God later instructed Jeremiah to tell the people:
Thus says the Lord: "Stand in the ways and see, And ask for the old paths, where the good way is, And walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, 'We will not walk in it.'" (Jer. 6:16)
When I hear some people disparage the older generation, I do not hear them make any reference to God. It is as though they are saying, "Now that I am on the scene, God has come." But long before God called me, He was working in the hearts of those who laid down their lives to follow Him. They heard a call from God, and they did all they knew to do. They knew another generation would arise after them. The cry of their hearts was, "Oh, that they would understand the mighty deeds of God." Many of the newer generations, however, forgot the works of God because the older generation never taught or impressed on their minds all His wonderful deeds.
Such was the case in Eli's life. Eli lost his two sons. They became of no use to God because Eli would not teach them the things of God. God indicted Eli, who said he was far more concerned about his sons than he was about God. God then pronounced judgment and stated that both Eli and his two sons would die.
Then a man of God came to Eli and said to him, "Thus says the LORD: 'Did I not clearly reveal Myself to the house of your father when they were in Egypt in Pharaoh's house? Did I not choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be My priest, to offer upon My altar, to burn incense, and to wear an ephod before Me? And did I not give to the house of your father all the offerings of the children of Israel made by fire? Why do you kick at My sacrifice and My offering which I have commanded in My dwelling place, and honor your sons more than Me, to make yourselves fat with the best of all the offerings of Israel My people?' Therefore the LORD God of Israel says: 'I said indeed that your house and the house of your father would walk before Me forever.' But now the LORD says: 'Far be it from Me; for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed. Behold, the days are coming that I will cut off your arm and the arm of your father's house, so that there will not be an old man in your house. And you will see an enemy in My dwelling place, despite all the good which God does for Israel. And there shall not be an old man in your house forever.'" (1 Sam. 2:27–32)
The older generation cannot condemn the next generation for their behavior if they have not taught them. Some of you have heard me say how consistently and regularly I would sit down and talk with my children about the heritage God had given us through my forefathers. Heritage had a direct impact on my family.
God did not call out four from my dad's side of the family to be Baptist pastors, training at Spurgeon's college, only to shut it all down in my generation. When I came along, I could never forget what God did in my heritage. So I told our children all the mighty moments that God had performed in my life, so they would be sensitive to God in their lives.
I would tell them how I met Marilynn, their mother. They needed to know how I met Marilynn. They had no idea of what I said to her and how she responded to me when God put us together. I shared the wonderful way in which God made her a summer missionary in Canada before we met. I shared how the wonderful plan and purposes of God unfolded in the families we came from. I shared with them my sense of call into the ministry. I can remember talking to them and saying that when I was a little boy, probably around nine years of age, I had an encounter with God during which He convinced me that He was God and I was not!
From that day to the present my life has been radically changed. When I enter the presence of God I say, "Oh God, You are God and I am not. I am not here to instruct You or counsel You or tell You what I want You to do. I am here to acknowledge that You are God and I am not. Now speak to me, Lord. Show me Your ways."
Did my children need to know and understand the process that God has taken me through? How did their dad get to do what he is doing today? They needed to know that it was purely the choice of God. Is it any wonder that our four boys and one girl wanted to serve the God they saw and knew their dad and mom served?
What happens if you fail to tell the next generation of God's activity in your life? What happens if you feel your only responsibility is to make sure they attend Bible study at church? Or what comes to pass if your child makes a profession of faith and is baptized merely with the hope that he will at least attend church when he gets older, and there is no sense of heritage or call before God?
Thus, how did there come four hundred years of dark days for God's people just before Samuel's time? There arose a generation of people who knew neither the God of their fathers nor the mighty deeds God had done. The people of that day achieved their own goals but put their generation in bondage over and over again.
GOD'S ANSWER TO BONDAGE
Then God came. He stepped in and brought onto the scene a man named Samuel. The definitive word in the book of Judges is, "In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes" (17:6).
Do you understand how critically dangerous it is to go your own way without any reference to what God has been doing? Any generation of God's people who have a pattern in their lives to do what is right in their own eyes have lost the truth that they are a corporate and covenant people of God.
We are a part of the royal priesthood. The priesthood of the believers is never in the singular but always in the plural. No priest functions outside the corporate priesthood of the believers. In our generation many believe they can do what is right in their own eyes, without reference to anyone else.
Even the Lord's Prayer starts, "Our Father." Listen to many people pray, and you will notice they do not have a corporate dimension in their prayers. They are not thinking of their brothers; they are thinking of self and what they want to accomplish. They tend to think of their gifts, their ministries, and their abilities. Many tend to go off and do "their ministry" regardless of what anyone else thinks or says. That is totally contrary to the ways of God.
Doing what is "right in [your] own eyes" is what put the people of God in four hundred years of bondage. Then comes Samuel, and you have a brand-new story. God assigned this moment to Samuel.
"Then I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest who shall do according to what is in My heart and in My mind. I will build him a sure house, and he shall walk before My anointed forever" (1 Sam. 2:35). This verse carries with it so much that is in the mind and heart of God. (Later on, in Chapter 8, we'll see how although raising his sons should have been a defining activity for Samuel, he did fail in this crucial issue.) When I lay this verse over my own life I feel so unworthy. I do not know how to deal with it. I say, "Lord, would You do something in me to rearrange my life to meet Your will? Help me to see this from Your perspective. Help me to understand that the generation that preceded Samuel included Eli the priest. He did his own thing, and had forgotten the mighty deeds of God. He never taught his children." Chapter 4 of 1 Samuel deals exclusively with the judgment of God on Eli and his sons. Chapter 2 also deals with judgment on Eli. In the middle of this story, you hear the heart of God.
Excerpted from Chosen to be God's Prophet by HENRY BLACKABY Copyright © 2003 by Henry Blackaby. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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