“Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.” (1 Samuel 3:7)
“And the Lord said to Samuel: ‘See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears about it tingle. At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family—from beginning to end. For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons blasphemed God, and he failed to restrain them. Therefore I swore to the house of Eli, ‘The guilt of Eli’s house will never be atoned for by sacrifice or offering’. . .
“’What was it he said to you?’ Eli asked. ‘Do not hide it from me. May God deal with you, be it ever so severely, if you hide from me anything he told you.’ So Samuel told him everything, hiding nothing from him.” (1 Samuel 3:11-14, 17-18)
I had to spend a lot of time in the previous post painstakingly explaining the first revelation I received in 1980, the free sample of the fruit of the kingdom. I tried to be as honest and straightforward as possible in recounting the details because it was unusual.
(You—sotto voce—It was strange. Just admit it. It was strange.) If you just stumbled onto this blog and post, it would be worth your time to read the previous post first (and the one before that with more background). That’s because the second revelation (memo to White House advance teams, not Two Revelation) was very much like the first. It served the same purpose–revealing something in a vivid, tangible and unforgettable way–and for the most part assumed the same form, though it lasted several months, not a week or so.
The NT ministry gifts—apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher of Ephesians 4:11—exist to build up the people of God and lead them to maturity, but of course the mentor/student arrangement between, for example, pastor and apprentice pastor are implied as well. So in the Bible you find Elijah and Elisha and Paul and Timothy fitting that description.
And as you probably know, neither of the latter parties remained a permanent subordinate to the former. Elisha famously inherited “a double portion” of Elijah’s spirit as he watched him taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire (2 Ki 2:9-12). Paul said of Timothy, “I have no one else like him, who will show concern for your welfare” (Phil 2:20). According to Eusebius, Timothy became the first bishop of Ephesus.
I had been teaching in small group settings in my church for a while when I was tapped to start teaching in the full-church gatherings on Wednesday nights. That’s when the second revelation struck like lightning.
The morning of the first meeting in which I was scheduled to teach, I got up early, went down to my office, pulled out a few reference books and opened my spiral notebook to sketch out an outline. And then it rained revelation, wisdom and insight from above for about 10 minutes. I could barely keep up and had to shift to recording shorthand notes of what I received from the Spirit of God.
Before I go any further, I want to reiterate that teaching–what I did in the church for the last time about 30 years ago and what I aspire to do in this blog–came to me as a gift. It still is a gift and always will be. I haven’t “grown out of it” as a caterpillar becomes a butterfly and assumes a new nature. There are certain implications of that fact that should never be forgotten or suppressed.
Paul, having been informed that people were creating followings in the Corinthian church (“I follow Paul,” “I follow Apollos”), promptly hired a web hosting company, entered into negotiations for an eponymous study Bible and got quotes for “I follow Paul” merchandise on CafePress. Not.
Paul’s solution, which I think is genius for its simplicity and wisdom, was to tell the Corinthians:
“Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, ‘Do not go beyond what is written.’ Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other. For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?(1 Cor 4:6-7)
When it’s “raining revelation and wisdom,” how did you get wet apart from the rain? And if it was the rain, why do you boast as though it wasn’t? (So let it be written, so let it be done.)
But I also mention this because there really wasn’t a mentoring relationship between my pastor and me about teaching. It never happened. What did happen was more like the relationship between Samuel and Eli, the priest at Shiloh.
Before the compilation of the written word we have, men and women would have heard audible words from God. When we say we “heard from God” about some new enterprise, it’s a figurative expression even if we received a direct prompting from the Holy Spirit to do something. In most cases, it has a broader definition, which includes the conclusions from study, counsel of others and a sense of the Spirit’s leading that add up to trustworthy guidance. Its essential meaning hasn’t changed, only its form.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the center of the narrative that I left out of the quotes at the top of the post. Samuel heard a voice calling him (God) but mistook it twice for Eli. God persisted. Finally, Eli realized what was happening and instructed Samuel what to do and how to answer (“Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening,” 1 Sam 3:9).
The OT priest and NT (and today’s) pastors are not equivalents. But in one task there is an unbroken chain going all the way back to ancient times: Teaching men and women how to hear from God.
And by implication, but sometimes imperfectly transmitted, how to distinguish the voice of God from the voice of “the priest,” by which I also include today’s pastors, ministers, elders and whatever your church calls leaders.
If your ears are tingling because that sounds vaguely subversive—oops, poor selection of words and I should have started this sentence with Spoiler Alert!—I’m only alluding to something the Bereans did after listening to Paul preach.
They had the audacity to overlook the famous cathedral that would be built in London, the thousands of parochial schools and churches and of course the streets, lanes, circles, avenues, ways and roads in every Western city of any consequence–all named after the apostle . (And don’t forget the mercerized cotton polos at CafePress, through Sunday, buy two, get one free.)
“They received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11).
I learned to hear from God from the ministers at my church in western New York. Contrary to what some may think, it is an acquired skill, and I made my share of mistakes, which the ministers took in stride. (Or at least that’s the impression they gave. It doesn’t matter. I can take care of myself.)
I wrote previously (here and here) about the content of what I taught and the context, and I barely understood how prescient the teaching was given what transpired later. It was so repetitive (in a good way) and emphatic it was as if two hands could emerge from your phone set on Google Maps and turn the steering wheel and press the turn signal for you so you couldn’t end up on a spur that ends in a vacant lot.
When there’s that much light, you had better get it right or the fall that follows proud resistance to that light will be hard enough to dislocate your shoulder and probably break a bone or two. And that’s what happened.
It’s an eerie coincidence that the church’s name was Shiloh (see Jer 7:12), because eventually “the priesthood” and then the church itself sank like a rock. The only artifact is the Articles of Incorporation, which are in some oversized liber in the county clerk’s office. Since you have to dissolve a corporation to end it, they’re still there, with my name as one of the legally required minimum of six signatories.
What were never recorded, appreciated, or heeded were the months of teachings that foretold its end. But as with Samuel’s message, “he let none of [my] words fall to the ground” (1 Sam 3:19).