Chapter 5: Samuel: Institutionalizing the God Family Vision
The former prophets talk about colleges and education continually.
A look at history shows that when God raises up a college, He often does so in terrible times.
From what I can tell, the first college God raised in history was during the time of Samuel. Israel had just come through roughly 350 years of the judges, when everybody ignored the great God and wandered around doing that which was right in his own eyes. Acts 13:20 talks about that terrible period. But that verse also shows what brought that period to an end: the Prophet Samuel. God used this man to raise up educational institutions during this awful period because He wanted to warn Israel and give the people an opportunity to know His truth.
When Elijah later came on the scene, it was during the reign of Ahab and Jezebel. That was a horrifying time for Israel, and those twisted leaders practically wore Elijah out with their fierce persecution. Yet Elijah raised up colleges. And after he was gone, Elisha carried on with a similar work.
In this most evil end time, God raised up Herbert W. Armstrong and three splendid colleges. Now, we are in a time when God says “the transgressors are come to the full” (Daniel 8:23)—yet again, God has built a wonderful college. Why does God want this? We must be a witness to this world and also be prepared for the most burdensome job we have ever had.
The information about the colleges in the times of both Samuel and Elijah is all contained in the books of Samuel and Kings. Both books are included in the former prophets. It’s remarkable how much these books relate to education. These biblical books tell us how to become kings. And that is exactly what we are here to do. If you want to be a king for God, study these books. Together they are called the Book of the Kings or the Book of the Kingdoms.
Studying Samuel’s life and how he prepared for such an exalted responsibility is fascinating.
Don’t Let God’s Words Drop
“And the child Samuel ministered unto the Lord before Eli. And the word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no open vision” (1 Samuel 3:1). God wouldn’t reveal truth to Eli because of his family failures; the priest just let his sons do what they wanted, as if he couldn’t do anything about it. In fact, the nation didn’t have any new revelation for roughly three centuries! Can you imagine God’s Church being without revelation? What a difficult time in Israel. The people were abysmally degenerate! They had no understanding of God at all. It was centuries of exactly the kind of democratic nonsense you see in the world today.
“And it came to pass at that time, when Eli was laid down in his place, and his eyes began to wax dim, that he could not see; And ere the lamp of God went out in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was …” (verses 2-3). The lamp was going out. The same thing happened in the Worldwide Church of God after Mr. Armstrong died. The open vision—the new revelation to add and build on to what Mr. Armstrong taught—faded away.
The “lamp of God” has deep meaning. It actually should be “the lamp of Elohim”—referring to the God Family! This is the lamp of the God Family! If we focus on the God Family, the lamp is going to burn brightly!
That lamp should be bright, and that is where you come in. God is challenging you to help make the Work grow. He is challenging His people. He is challenging the students at His academy and at His college today. That is why Mr. Armstrong built the college in the first place: The Work had to grow.
Eli was failing. But God was ready to turn the state of the nation around with Samuel. The same is true of us: God has chosen you and me to help turn it all around. That is what “raising the ruins” is all about (Amos 9:11)—not just sustaining momentum, but going in the opposite direction. In the midst of terrible catastrophe, what an honor we have!
Samuel was called to his commission when he was quite young. Here is how he responded to God: “Speak; for thy servant heareth” (1 Samuel 3:10). Those are powerful words! That is the attitude we all need when God speaks to us!
God called Samuel to reveal truth to him (verse 11). He began to give new revelation—something extremely rare in Israel! God began by explaining how He would punish Eli and his family “because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not” (verses 12-13). God was angry because Eli put his sons ahead of Him; the priest’s two sons were ruling their father. God had had enough and was determined to put an end to that forever! Nothing or nobody is above God! That is the first lesson we must learn. That is the First Commandment.
If you want to get God stirred up with vehement wrath, start doing like Eli and his family did! That kind of derelict child rearing destroys a nation and tears everything apart.
“And therefore I have sworn unto the house of Eli, that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be purged with sacrifice nor offering for ever” (verse 14). God made a horrifying prophecy about this family who led Israel into sin. God is full of wrath and promises to punish that household forever!
Samuel explained this prophecy to Eli, who responded, “It is the Lord: let him do what seemeth him good” (verse 18). Eli knew God was working with this 13-year-old boy. Samuel was barely a teenager, yet God was using him. Can our pre-teens and teens be taught to obey God so He can use them? What a marvelous example!
Eli witnessed Samuel, this impressive young man, do the good that his own sons would not do. He watched Samuel condemn his own sons and his own fatherhood.
Verse 19 says, “And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground.” He was only a teenager, yet he let none of God’s words fall to the ground! Not even one! That is a marvelous description of a great prophet of God. He was hungering and thirsting for righteousness so much that, in spirit, he got it all. God loved that attitude.
That is how God educates a prophet!
At God’s college today, we emphasize this lesson and encourage our students to have Samuel’s attitude in all their classes. Do you realize how much it would empower your life if you did that? You can see why God used Samuel so powerfully. We all need more of that attitude—to make it our goal to get every word as perfectly as possible. If we can do that, you can be sure God will use us to direct and raise up colleges in the future!
Today, God speaks from His Church. Once you hear the voice of God, you are held accountable for all those words! We have seen 95 percent of God’s people let God’s words drop to the ground. We are in God’s remnant Church because we didn’t let those words drop! But we must keep improving. After all, God is going to set the world upon our shoulders! We will need every word—every little bit of education God gives us. I know that in my life, I really need every bit of the education God has given me—and still need a lot more. We are the lowly of the world, not the geniuses. So we need to be like Samuel and work to keep from letting God’s truth—truth straight from His mind and mouth—drop to the ground. Samuel knew what an opportunity he had. Do you?
Verse 20 says, “And all Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the Lord.” This was a time when there was no new revelation, and here Samuel had all this knowledge and education from God! It was obvious to everybody that God was working with this young man. Everyone in Israel knew he was a prophet! How very different from today in this country.
After the period of the judges, when all were doing things their own way, God used Samuel to start building a headquarters work that everybody in Israel would focus on.
The Stone of Help
In 1 Samuel 4, the Philistines came up against the Israelites, killed over 30,000 men and stole the ark of the covenant. The Israelites had been under the superstition that this physical object would guarantee their safety even if they were disobeying God. Their defeat proved that belief wrong (inset, “Shiloh: A Mysterious Message,” page 100).
God grievously cursed the Philistines for having stolen the ark. After seven months of misery, they returned it to Israel. But the Israelites were careless in the way they treated it, and God killed over 50,000 of them for their sin. The fearful Israelites put the ark in Kirjathjearim and left it there for 20 years! They were still steeped in superstition and idolatry.
Samuel tried to get the Israelites to turn from their wickedness. “And Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying, If ye do return unto the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the Lord, and serve him only: and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines” (1 Samuel 7:3). The Israelites responded favorably to Samuel’s leadership and put away their idols. Samuel prayed for them. They fasted and confessed their sins.
The Philistines grew concerned about what was happening and again came up against Israel. But this time, instead of relying on a physical object, the Israelites asked Samuel to beseech God for protection. “And as Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel: but the Lord thundered with a great thunder on that day upon the Philistines, and discomfited them; and they were smitten before Israel” (verse 10). What a victory! Under Samuel, things began to be done God’s way, and the nation was blessed. It was a real turning point for the nation!
Samuel wanted to cement this important lesson in the minds of the Israelites. The way he did so is very enlightening. “Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the Lord helped us” (verse 12). The name Ebenezer means “the Stone of help.”
Why did Samuel give that stone such a label? He wanted to remind the Israelites daily why they had lost those many thousands of men in battle: They had actually made an idol of the ark of the covenant. They had been looking to a physical thing rather than to God! Samuel also wanted them to remember the miraculous victory they enjoyed after simply looking to God, the Stone of Israel. So he placed before them this huge stone called “the Stone of help.” It was a strong daily reminder of how much Israel needed help and from whom they needed to seek that help!
We need to view this spiritually today. This is a formula for how to conquer the problems in your life, whatever they may be. The lesson from the Stone of help tells you how to have a successful and a happy marriage and family. It tells you how to solve your social problems, your job problems, every aspect of your life! God promises that He will empower you if you look to the Stone of help! That will make revolutionary changes in your life!
Notice an end-time prophecy about this Stone in the book of Zechariah. The context is a prophecy about the New Testament Church of God, which has seven distinct eras from the first century a.d. until Christ’s Second Coming. (These eras are prophesied in detail in Revelation 2 and 3.) In Zechariah 3:9, these seven eras are typed by “seven eyes” that are “upon one stone”—and that Stone is Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church. That is the “Stone of help” for God’s people.
Zechariah 4:6-10 prophesy about an end-time type of Zerubbabel. “Then he answered and spoke unto me, saying, This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts” (verse 6).
This Zerubbabel role was filled by Mr. Armstrong, who led the sixth Church era, called Philadelphia in Revelation 3:7-13. Mr. Armstrong knew that human talent couldn’t accomplish God’s Work. He didn’t rely on human might or human power, but on the Spirit and power of God—the Stone of help!
“Who art thou, O great mountain?” Zechariah 4:7 begins. Is there some great mountain in your life—some insurmountable problem? “[B]efore Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone.” This end-time Zerubbabel accomplished mountain-moving miracles! No mountain could stand before him. No obstacle, trial or test could stop him because God empowered him and simply turned those mountains into plains. Mr. Armstrong brought forth the Headstone. He looked to God for victory and gave God all the credit.
We need to follow that wonderful example. Bring forth the Headstone! It takes real spiritual effort to do that. God rejects lukewarm Christians. There is tremendous power there, and unbelievable understanding, wisdom, joy and excitement. The powerful Stone of help will move mountains out of your way! God will just reduce them to plains.
That is what God wants to give us if we “bring forth the Headstone” like Zerubbabel and look to the Stone of help like Samuel!
Samuel was well aware of the Israelites’ rebellious tendencies. Turning around a nightmare like the period of the judges is extremely difficult. It’s one thing to sustain something that is already going well, but quite another to reverse a nation’s direction when it is off course!
Samuel came to realize that in order to accomplish that monumental job, he had to do something dramatic. He decided he had to raise up a college so he could institutionalize the wonderful truths of God. He began to nurture an ambition to teach that truth to the whole world! He wanted to get everybody behind that goal, and the college was the way to do it.
“And Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. And he went from year to year in circuit to Bethel, and Gilgal, and Mizpeh, and judged Israel in all those places” (1 Samuel 7:15-16). Samuel made that circuit because it was in those three cities that he established colleges where he taught people to forsake doing what was right in their own eyes and instead to obey God.
He then returned to Ramah, where he lived, “and there he built an altar unto the Lord” (verse 17). Samuel was a different kind of college teacher. He built an altar to God right there at his home! He really focused on worshiping God. The inner man is renewed day by day. Samuel wasn’t just talking about religion—he had an altar of God at the center of his life, and everyone knew it. That was how Samuel made sure everyone understood that the school he founded wasn’t just another college: It was God’s college!
Samuel founded these schools for the purpose of cleaning up the priesthood. In fact, he virtually abolished the priesthood because it was so polluted. He decided to start over by raising up these colleges.
As we will see, it appears Samuel also later founded a fourth college in Ramah, where he lived.
In Acts 3, the Apostle Peter says something that shows just how valuable the educational foundation Samuel laid truly was: “And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. … Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days” (verses 20-21, 24).
Why did Peter specifically mention Samuel as the seminal individual in foretelling Christ’s return? I believe a lot of it had to do with the educational institutions he founded. God used Samuel to teach Israel powerful lessons and to train the “sons of the prophets.” Samuel emphasized prophecy and talked to his students about prophecy—just as we do with our students today. The more you study Samuel’s example, the more you see that prophetic emphasis. And he didn’t prophesy about Christ alone. He is one of the former prophets, and he gave all kinds of prophecy for this end time! He “foretold of these days.” He gave a message to all Israel, and, to some degree, to the Gentiles as well.
The Soncino Commentary states, “Samuel’s greatest claim to honor and the most permanent of his life’s achievements were the schools of the prophets which he founded, and from which in the work of the Hebrew prophets there issued the supreme creation of Israel’s religious genius. … Where the gift of prophecy existed, the schools would develop it, but the members of the schools formed a religious and moral leaven in the life of the people.”
Samuel taught those students that they had an important message from God to deliver! That is the only way they could build the college and make it as permanent as possible: They had to publicize a message to the world!
This is what motivates our efforts today. Herbert W. Armstrong College is here to support the Work, and we need all of God’s people excited about it so we can publish God’s message to the largest audience possible. We are the loyal Bride of Christ, and we have to yearn for the same things our Husband does. The first part of this commission is to get the message out to the world. The second part is to help God bring the world into His Family. Today we are just warning people as a witness, but we are getting ready to teach them so they can enter God’s Family! We are studying and holding on to education from the very mind of God, doing our utmost not to let any of it drop to the ground. And soon we will be establishing similar colleges all over this Earth! We must internalize this message and yearn for this Family of God! That must become our number one passion.
“Samuel’s interest in having such a group of students fits with the need of the hour,” wrote Leon Wood (Distressing Days of the Judges). I hope we can get our students to see that today! This college is here because of the great need of the hour—this “last hour” of the age of man!
“As soon as any one student was considered ready by Samuel, one may assume that he was assigned contacts to make himself the multiplying of Samuel’s efforts” (ibid). Likewise today, we need the college to multiply and expand the impact of the Work.
In a lecture called “Samuel and the Prophetic Office,” Arthur Penrhyn Stanley said, “In many ways does this origination of the line of the prophets center in Samuel. We may trace back to him the institution even in its outward form and fashion. In his time we first hear of what in modern phraseology are called the schools of the prophets. … But the chief place where they appear in his own lifetime is his own birthplace and residence, Ramah, Ramathaimzophim, ‘the height,’ ‘the double height of the watchmen.’” Samuel had a watchman work. He had to watch and to warn Israel, and so do we.
“[W]e may observe that Samuel himself, after the fall of Shiloh, dwelt not at Gibeon or Nob, the seat of the tabernacle and the priesthood, but at Ramah. At Ramah, and at Bethel, and at Gilgal, not in the consecrated precincts of Hebron or Anathoth, were the prophetic schools” (ibid). In this end time, God put His school in Edmond, Oklahoma—a place no one would think to look!
God Is Our King
Samuel lived and taught prophecy during a terrible time. He faced many problems. He traveled far and long doing his work. Yet, as difficult as times were for Samuel, when you read about what he accomplished, you have to be impressed. He never stopped soldiering forward. He truly was a great prophet in Israel.
Sadly, Samuel’s own sons ended up turning away from God, much like Eli’s sons had (1 Samuel 8:1-3). You young people—what are you going to do? Will you be like Samuel? Or like Samuel’s sons? It is easy for a young person to turn away from God.
The people of Israel held this against Samuel, and it soured their attitude against God’s government. They told Samuel they wanted to be ruled by a king rather than by God through His prophet.
Samuel “was at once the last of the judges and the inaugurator of the first of the kings,” Stanley said. “The people demanded a king. Josephus describes a shock to Samuel’s mind, ‘because of his inborn sense of justice, because of his hatred of kings [and what it all meant], as so far inferior to the [theocratic] rule, which conferred a God-like character on those who lived under it.’ For the whole night he lay, and we are told, fasting and sleepless ….” Samuel knew this was very bad news for Israel.
Samuel’s sons did some terrible things. But consider: Just a short time after this, the Bible gives perhaps its greatest example of how to handle things when there are problems with the leadership God has chosen. As we will see, young David was anointed to be king 17½ years before he was actually crowned, and had to run for his life many times because the king was trying to kill him! Yet he never rebelled against King Saul. He was subject to the king. That is a tremendous example. Even when David cut off a little piece of Saul’s garment, he repented of that. His attitude was, This is the Lord’s anointed. Yes, King Saul made mistakes, but God was still there.
It’s true that sometimes God does leave a church or a nation. If God leaves, then you should leave. We as God’s people must be able to see and know whether God is there or not. If you leave, you had better be careful and make sure God is moving His lamp and leading the effort. We can never afford to follow men—we must follow God!
In God’s Church during the 1970s, there were a lot of problems because of some bad leadership. But those who left at that time were dead wrong. God was still there; He was still working through Mr. Armstrong. But there were some men—including Mr. Armstrong’s own son—who were taking advantage of the fact that God’s apostle was traveling so much, and they were causing trouble in his absence. At one point, Mr. Armstrong wrote, “I refuse, dear brethren, to be like Eli.” He disfellowshiped his son three times. Twice he thought his son had repented, but after the third time, he wrote, “Never again will I bring him back. A father naturally loves his son, but too often sons do not love their fathers.” That is terrible history. Thank God we haven’t had to face that since, and I don’t believe we will ever have to face it again. But when such problems exist, we must let God straighten them out! He is very capable of doing that.
The Israelites hadn’t learned that lesson. They felt justified in asking Samuel to step aside. They wanted a king to lead them. God was upset at what Samuel’s sons were doing—but He didn’t agree with the people. He told Samuel, “[T]hey have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them” (verse 7). That was the reality! The people didn’t want the law and government of God!
This was Israel’s cardinal sin! As long as Samuel was guiding them, God was actually their King. And they rejected God as their King! How much more sinful can you be? God branded this catastrophe into the nation’s mind by allowing the sanctuary at Shiloh to be overthrown (inset, “Shiloh: A Mysterious Message,” page 100).
God is the King of His Church today! Everything will be made right if we can just have God as our King. But we must earnestly desire that.
‘A Company of Prophets’
God had the Prophet Samuel anoint Saul king. Samuel was the man God used to start the monarchy in Israel! When you understand what God is going to do with that throne, you realize that this was quite an illustrious honor!
When Samuel anointed Saul, he gave him some detailed instructions that included this: “After that thou shalt come to the hill of God, where is the garrison of the Philistines: and it shall come to pass, when thou art come thither to the city, that thou shalt meet a company of prophets …” (1 Samuel 10:5). Commentaries will tell you that this “company of prophets” refers to students and instructors at some kind of college. This is another biblical reference to the schools of Samuel.
In his book The Religion of Israel to the Fall of the Jewish State, Dr. A. Kuenen wrote this: “Nor … can it be by accident that in the history of Samuel’s life an association or a company of prophets is mentioned for the first time. It was established in the neighborhood of Ramah. … We are surely not mistaken in believing that Samuel directed that religious movement from the beginning, and that the prophets had him in view when they chose Ramah, where he lived, as a place in the vicinity of which they should establish themselves. So much is certain, that Samuel played among them from time to time to an advanced age. In this way, Samuel was the ruling mind in the association at Ramah, and perhaps also in others which rose elsewhere. …
“Men such as Nathan and Gad, who attached themselves to David and were influential during his reign, were perhaps educated in one of the prophetic schools.” I believe that is probably true: Samuel educated a lot of people, and some of them entered into the ministry. Considering how much effort he put into these schools—as did Elijah and others who later followed his example—I would say it’s likely that many of the prophets who came on the scene throughout biblical times probably came from those colleges or were heavily influenced by them.
These “associations,” this man says, “continued to exist after Samuel had disappeared from the stage of history”—although it is another 150 years before the schools are mentioned again in the time of Elijah.
William Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible says this: “So important was the work wrought by [Samuel] that he is classed in Holy Scripture with Moses (Jeremiah 15:1; Psalm 99:6; Acts 3:24), Samuel, being the great religious reformer and organizer of the prophetical order, as Moses was the great legislator and founder of the priestly rule. … Samuel took measures to make his work of restoration permanent as well as effective for the moment. For this purpose he instituted companies, or colleges of prophets.”
Today’s educational system is based on Plato and Socrates. Those men are too recent. If people want to find real education that is founded on the very Word of God, they need to go back to Samuel, and then Elijah and Elisha! That’s where people, especially Israel, should look for a model of education! It’s right there in the Bible!
Samuel started colleges because of the crises within the nation and the degeneration in the priesthood. A similar situation prevailed later when Elijah and Elisha came on the scene. These men raised up colleges because they were in the business of proclaiming God’s message to Israel. They educated God’s people to support the man God had chosen to do His Work.
I believe God inspired Samuel to build that college during a dark time in the nation’s history to make sure the Israelites would receive His message. For those who wouldn’t, that institution was a witness or a warning against them! But for anyone who wanted the truth, they could get it.
Likewise today, God raised a college because there is such a tremendous need for it. Ninety-five percent of God’s people have turned away! We have had to fight to preserve and publish God’s truth. We need students and supporters who want to publicize and distribute God’s message.
The Music of the Prophets
Notice what these students in 1 Samuel 10:5 were doing: “… coming down from the high place with a psaltery [something like our modern bagpipes], and a tabret, and a pipe, and a harp, before them; and they shall prophesy.” In their music, these students were prophesying. Their music was inspired, and it taught prophecy, and it prophesied.
At God’s college today, we hear beautiful music—and we do prophesy through it! Much of that music is about God’s Word and about prophecy.
Samuel was doing a lot of what we are doing today with our music program. He wasn’t thinking about the college just for the moment. He was thinking about a permanent college program—one that would inspire God’s people throughout the ages and forever!
Keil and Delitzsch Commentary says the education at Samuel’s colleges “included the cultivation of sacred poetry and music and united exercises for the promotion of the prophetic inspiration.” Those schools had sacred music and taught poetry. Smith’s Dictionary continues, “Subsidiary subjects of instruction were music and sacred poetry, both of which had been connected with prophecy from the time of Moses (Exodus 15:20) and the judges (Judges 4:4; 5:1).” It then quotes 1 Samuel 10:5, as well as an incident in 2 Kings 3:15 where Elisha calls on a minstrel so that he could become inspired to prophesy for God.
Many of the biblical writers were skilled and well educated. They wrote history, they wrote poetry, they wrote music, they sang, they danced, they had magnificent choirs. David is renowned for his brilliance in establishing beautiful choirs like you’ve never heard before.
Arthur Penrhyn Stanley said that in Samuel’s colleges, “Song, and music and dance were interwoven in some sacred union ….” He talked about how the rise of the monarchy coincided with “the growth of poetry, architecture and music, and all the other arts which sprang up under an established rule.” That sounds like Armstrong College, doesn’t it?
Lange’s Commentary says this about 1 Samuel 10:5: “The four instruments which accompanied them indicate the rich variety and advanced culture of the music of that day.” Unger’s Bible Dictionary says, “The cultivation of sacred music and poetry may be inferred partly from the fact that, according to 1 Samuel 10:5, musicians walked in front of the prophesying prophets, playing as they went along, and partly from the fact that sacred music not only received a fresh impulse from David, who stood in close relation to the association of prophets at Ramah, but was also raised by him into an integral part of public worship.” 1 Chronicles 25 records where David “separated to the service of the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who should prophesy with harps, with psalteries, and with cymbals …. All these were under the hands of their father for song in the house of the Lord, with cymbals, psalteries, and harps, for the service of the house of God …” (verses 1, 6).
In our weekly services in God’s Church, we have congregational songs and special music. That music gets us attuned to God, and thinking about God! Then we are ready to receive the spoken messages. There is probably a lot more of a practical reason for this than we even understand, and we need to learn more about it. Unger’s continues by saying that these students used music “as a means of awakening holy susceptibilities and emotions … of lifting up the spirit to God, and so preparing it for the reception of divine revelations.” There is a real purpose in music, poetry and art within a liberal arts college.
Mr. Armstrong established the Ambassador International Cultural Foundation for the same reasons. The foundation described its purpose this way: “By serving the cultural, educational and humanitarian needs of mankind, the foundation believes it can create in men and women an awareness of their ultimate individual and collective potential for good. As a builder of bridges between all peoples everywhere, few organizations have had such impact as the Ambassador Foundation.” That is why we began the Armstrong International Cultural Foundation, continuing in that tradition.
After Mr. Armstrong died, we had a court battle with the wcg over his literature; Joseph Tkach Jr. explained why he terminated the performing arts series at Ambassador Auditorium: because “it had nothing to do with the mission of the church.” That is the type of thinking that destroyed the church!
What did God have in mind when He created the angels to rule over the universe? Ezekiel 28:13 describes how when He made Lucifer, “the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee.” God created him to rule with tremendous musical ability—not only for the Earth; that was just the beginning. Lucifer was a universe being, created to fill the universe with beautiful music! God made him to think as He thinks, and to love and produce music that He loves. Lucifer did so for a while, but then he rebelled, and God changed his name to Satan. Now the music he makes is twisted and perverse.
Satan is influencing the minds of people everywhere, especially youth, with wrong music. That is why it is so important that we teach our children and other people the right kind of music—and the right kind of everything else! We use the college and the foundation to point people to the kind of culture that God really loves! And it orients people toward the future, when God will restore all things, including godly culture, to this Earth and eventually the universe! You can be sure God will have the most beautiful music, the greatest poetry, the most wonderful literature and architecture and other art filling the cosmos!
The Poetry of the Prophets
Closely connected to the musical art form was poetry. The Bible has quite a lot of poetry. Just about every book in the Old Testament after the books of Ezra and Nehemiah is poetry. Look through the Revised Standard Version: The biblical poetry is written in poetic verse style—unlike in the King James Version. That captures more of the sophistication of the culture these prophets had and adds more impact to the message. I believe we need more poetry in God’s college today. We need to learn more poetry.
When Winston Churchill wrote his great speeches, they were written in poetic style. You can see why they moved people and still do.
During the horrifying and murderous rule of Stalin, Russia had some illustrious poets. One was Osip Mandelstam. This man was in jail a lot of the time during Stalin’s reign. In the early days, when he still had a lot of hope, he wrote in an ode to Stalin:
Heaped hills of human heads go off into the distance.
I grow smaller there, they won’t notice me any more.
But in much loved books and children’s games
I shall arise to say that the sun is shining.
Another of these poets was Anna Akhmatova, whom one of her fellow poets called “the Anna of all the Russias.” She was so good that all the Russias listened to and read her poetry. She endured very rough times; her son also spent considerable time in jail. She wrote a poem about Osip Mandelstam toward the end of his life. Mandelstam had been exiled into a little city, where he was getting close to death, and she went to visit him and composed this poem after she left. I believe her son was still in prison at that time. She wrote:
In the room of the exiled poet
fear and the muse stand duty in turn
and the night is endless
and knows no dawn.
How sad! That has been the reality for 6,000 years of human history—an endless night that knows no dawn. But God promises that this 6,000-year night is about to end!
David had a drastically different view in his poetry! It is truly inspiring to see the poetic view of the biblical writers. David was still writing poetry—much of it inspiring and filled with hope—while experiencing some of the worst trials of his life! We can write poetry in our trials as David did.
Look how the last words of King David appear in the Revised Standard Version. Firstly, here is how they are introduced (2 Samuel 23:1):
Now these are the last words of David:
The oracle of David, the son of Jesse,
the oracle of the man who was raised on high,
the anointed of the God of Jacob,
the sweet psalmist of Israel.
That is quite poetic in and of itself! Now here are the words (verses 2-4; rsv):
The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me,
his word is upon my tongue.
The God of Israel has spoken,
the Rock of Israel has said to me:
When one rules justly over men,
ruling in the fear of God,
he dawns on them like the morning light,
like the sun shining forth upon a cloudless morning,
like rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth.
That is powerful poetry—perhaps some of the most powerful you’ll ever read. What a contrast to “the night is endless and knows no dawn”! That’s the way the world sees it—and how could you view it any other way when you think about Stalin’s style of leadership?
But notice these beautiful words (verses 5-7; rsv):
Yea, does not my house stand so with God?
For he has made with me an everlasting covenant,
ordered in all things and secure.
For will he not cause to prosper all my help and my desire?
But godless men are all like thorns that are thrown away;
for they cannot be taken with the hand;
but the man who touches them
arms himself with iron and the shaft of a spear,
and they are utterly consumed with fire.
I believe some of the poetry in the Old Testament is among the most beautiful writing in human history. It was inspired by God.
Doing God’s Work in an Evil Time
Saul had a great beginning as king—but he made some fatal mistakes. God had wanted to establish his kingdom “upon Israel for ever,” Samuel informed him. “But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart …” (1 Samuel 13:13-14). That “man” was David (whom we will study in the next chapter).
David was the one of whom Hannah prophesied. She had lived through the troubled period under Eli and his sons, and she wanted a king whom God chose!
In 1 Samuel 16, God directed Samuel to David, and these two men met for the first time. Notice what happened: “Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah. But the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him” (verses 13-14). God gave David His Spirit and removed it from Saul.
This was another terrible time in Israel. The king was troubled by an evil spirit (see also 1 Samuel 18:10-11; 19:9-10). Is it possible that an evil spirit could influence the leader of the modern Israelite nation? It has happened a number of times. The same could certainly occur in this end time, and I believe there is plenty of evidence that it has. In God’s Church, we were witness to what Satan did to spiritual Israel after Mr. Armstrong died. Satan was cast down at that time, and now Satan and all those demons are confined to this Earth! What are they doing? Their number one goal is to bring Israel down—spiritual Israel and three nations of Israel in particular. You can read more about this in my booklet America Under Attack. We must be aware of the spiritual dimension to world events.
When Saul was troubled, his servants called for David, who harped for Saul. While David played, the evil spirit would leave—but the Holy Spirit didn’t come back because Saul was still in rebellion. When you depart from God, another spirit comes right in and troubles you. If God has called you out of this world, and you have become a member in His Church, then if you get away from God, look out! The Laodiceans will continue to be troubled until they repent.
Under demonic influence, King Saul did everything he could to kill his successor. David had to flee. It is during this period that we see the wonderful relationship between David and Samuel.
Look again at Acts 13:20, which speaks of Samuel marking the end of the period of the judges. That passage continues by talking about God raising up King David, “a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will” (see verses 21-24). Samuel did much to prepare for the great King David to do his work. In fact, I believe he had a lot to do with David’s success.
These two men were very close. That is a big reason why David was such an outstanding leader. Perhaps the reverse was true as well; they helped each other.
As we will see, the biblical account shows that when David was on the run, he looked to Samuel for inspiration and direction, and also visited Samuel’s college. I’m sure he was also refreshed by his time with the college students.
1 Samuel 22 talks about a dark period when King Saul was pursuing David and was in Ramah, where Samuel’s college was. “And the king said unto the footmen that stood about him, Turn, and slay the priests of the Lord; because their hand also is with David, and because they knew when he fled, and did not shew it to me. But the servants of the king would not put forth their hand to fall upon the priests of the Lord. And the king said to Doeg, Turn thou, and fall upon the priests. And Doeg the Edomite turned, and he fell upon the priests, and slew on that day fourscore and five persons that did wear a linen ephod” (verses 17-18). Saul told the men of Israel to kill those priests, but they refused. So the Edomite did the dirty work, killing 85 priests! The king couldn’t get anybody else to do it, but he got an Edomite to.
Notice what David perceived about Doeg when he was there. “And Abiathar shewed David that Saul had slain the Lord’s priests. And David said unto Abiathar, I knew it that day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, that he would surely tell Saul: I have occasioned the death of all the persons of thy father’s house” (verses 21-22). David felt guilty about the way it all transpired. This was all done in Ramah, where Samuel built a college. The man responsible for those deaths—this wretched traitor—had been right in their midst!
These events show that the time when Samuel was teaching was still an extremely difficult period for Israel. King Saul was persecuting David—and you can be sure he was also persecuting Samuel and the schools. It isn’t easy to do the Work of God.
But think about this: Samuel brought revelation back to Israel and was disseminating it—in spite of Saul trying to kill David and stop the colleges!
This is the kind of leader God is working to create in the members of His Church! He doesn’t want people who will drift along or fear to rock the boat. He is educating and training individuals who can really have a positive impact in a negative situation.
What a lesson for us as we pave the way for the greatest glory on Earth. Yes, times are difficult—and will get more so. But we can all thank God for the college He has given us, and the Work, and the marvelous opportunity we have!
Miracle at Naioth
The Prophet Samuel recorded all this history, certainly up to his death in 1 Samuel 25. He wrote Judges, and probably edited Joshua. But who finished the book of Samuel? The evidence shows that this book is basically a product of Samuel’s college!
Notice this observation in the Cambridge Bible: “If then, the book of Samuel was compiled largely from the chronicles of Samuel, Nathan and Gad, supplemented by other records preserved in the schools of the prophets, it follows that it rests upon the best possible authority. Samuel is the historian of his own lifetime, which included the greater part of Saul’s reign. Nathan and Gad together give the history of David’s reign.” So this work was probably finished by Nathan and Gad—who were both prophets as well—and maybe others, just like we are finishing the Elijah work after Mr. Armstrong’s death. But they relied on records that were preserved at Samuel’s colleges. These prophets were at least heavily influenced by the education that had been disseminated at the schools, if they weren’t actually students there themselves.
The Cambridge Bible continues, “The events of David’s life must have been familiarly known in the schools of the prophets at Ramah. It is expressly mentioned that when he had fled from Saul, he came and told Samuel all that Saul had done to him, and he and Samuel went and dwelt in Naioth.”
That is referring to 1 Samuel 19:18, which is part of a passage that gives more important insights about this educational system Samuel established: “So David fled, and escaped, and came to Samuel to Ramah, and told him all that Saul had done to him. And he and Samuel went and dwelt in Naioth.” David was running for his life, and he fled to Samuel’s home, and they went to the college. That was a dangerous time because Saul was causing so many problems—and, I’m sure, a pretty exciting time as well. The students at the college were well aware of Saul’s treachery and surely knew that God had chosen David—that the chancellor of their college had already anointed him! I wonder if David didn’t have a lot to say to those young people when he was on the run. That was probably a thrilling day in school. David surely would have talked to them about what was happening.
Ira Maurice Price wrote, “Samuel had established his home in Ramah in the early days. There he built an altar of God, and he had built a school of prophets over which he presided. To this same place came David as a refuge from the rage of Saul” (The Dramatic Story of the Old Testament History). This is key. How much do you think Samuel taught him while he was there? What do you think they talked about? David was on the run for his life, and he went to Samuel! Samuel was his benefactor and had a lot to do with his education.
One of Saul’s men found out where David and Samuel were and informed Saul. “Behold, David is at Naioth in Ramah,” this soldier said (verse 19). David was in Ramah—but at Naioth. Verse 22 also says, “Behold, they be at Naioth in Ramah.” Verse 23: “And he went thither to Naioth in Ramah … he came to Naioth in Ramah.” 1 Samuel 20:1 says, “And David fled from Naioth in Ramah”—so he was at that place. These men were in Ramah, but what is so important about Naioth?
The reference within the King James Version says Naioth is the schoolhouse. Unger’s Bible Dictionary says that “Kyle Endelich believed Naioth to be a proper name applied to a common dwelling of the pupils of the prophets.” It was the actual building or complex where the college students attended.
One definition of Naioth in Strong’s is an “implied idea of beauty.” That word is closely related to a word that means “lovely, a home, of God, dwelling (place), habitation.” These words seem to indicate a very nice structure. This was not just a normal building. Apparently it was something like the millionaires’ homes that Mr. Armstrong built the colleges from in Pasadena. It may have been a building well known in the area.
It probably was a very impressive place. That is what God gave Mr. Armstrong. That is what God has given us. I believe it is what He has routinely done throughout the ages: God provides something that is of high quality and fine character. I would think that people were impressed by the structures of Samuel’s colleges, and the way they were landscaped and cared for, which caused some of the persecution against them to diminish.
There certainly is indication of that within this account. When Saul’s men came to try to capture David, what happened? “And Saul sent messengers to take David: and when they saw the company of the prophets [the college students] prophesying, and Samuel standing as appointed over them, the Spirit of God was upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied” (1 Samuel 19:20). Can you imagine that? These hardened soldiers came to kill David and maybe Samuel too—and they started prophesying! What was happening at this college?
Notice that verse says Samuel was there “as appointed over” the students of the school. Somebody appointed him over those students. Who do you suppose that was? It wasn’t David; it wasn’t Saul. It was God!
Unger’s Bible Dictionary says that from this verse “we learn that there was a ‘company’ of prophets at Ramah under the superintendency of Samuel, whose members lived in a common building.” At God’s college, we have common buildings—our students live in dormitories; we all eat in a common dining hall—it’s very much a family, isn’t it? This educational structure was formed “for the purpose of mental and spiritual training that they might exert a more powerful influence upon their contemporaries.” This writer recognizes that such a college can educate students to have a more powerful influence on other people. At God’s college today, we educate students for a purpose: God expects a return on this investment.
“And when it was told Saul, he sent other messengers, and they prophesied likewise. And Saul sent messengers again the third time, and they prophesied also” (verse 21). This is a mind-staggering miracle! These men who just couldn’t wait to get to David and kill him actually started to prophesy! To a great degree, God simply took control of their minds!
What are we going to do if somebody comes into this Church to kill one of us? Well they’re probably going to start prophesying right along with us—maybe singing the same songs we are singing!
Saul became so enraged he went down there himself to take care of the situation. “And he stripped off his clothes also, and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night. Wherefore they say, Is Saul also among the prophets?” (verse 24). Can you imagine Saul trying to kill David—and then taking a break to prophesy for God? That was quite a day! And this was quite a college!
God’s College Today
When Samuel spoke about his schools, he referred to “the company of the prophets.” With Elijah’s schools, the Bible speaks of “the sons of the prophets.” I believe that indicates Samuel’s college was just for ministers—more exclusively a Bible college. They were on the run at that time and didn’t have the time or the luxury to educate both men and women in all of the liberal arts training we have today. Still, Samuel certainly did lay the foundation for Elijah and Elisha, as well as for Mr. Armstrong and for our work today.
Today, we need women and men together. We need family. That is God’s way. That’s what this college is all about: God’s Family.
What a legacy Samuel created. At the end of his life, his impact was widely felt. “In Ramah Samuel died, mourned by all Israel who assembled to bury him on his own place,” Ira Maurice Price wrote. “Samuel was a Levite. His grandson was Heman, the singer (1 Chronicles 6:33) and a judge from Eli to the anointing of Saul, a priest who officiated at sacrifices, a prophet who founded and presided over the school of the prophets, a writer who prepared a history of the times. … He also gave the entire prophet movement an impetus by the bands of young prophets who lived under the influence and direction at Ramah” (The Dramatic Story of the Old Testament History). That is the history and the education we ought to look to.
Using those schools, Samuel revived the spirit of God’s people and gave them hope! So do we here at Armstrong College. We are trying to revive a spirit and raise the ruins. The fruits prove that we are getting that job done, but we can always improve. We want to have a kind of revival in the right way. We have the monumental commission to prophesy again (Revelation 10:11), raising up a work after a great catastrophe in spiritual Israel. This college has a message for the world! God promises to open the doors for us to get the job done. How important is God’s college to this Work? Mr. Armstrong wrote, “It was the development of the college in Pasadena that made possible the growth of the whole gospel Work” (Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong, Volume 2).
This college is about to introduce Christ to the world! We should be a college for all the ages! We ought to do things that will be talked about forever—just as they did in the schools of Samuel and Elijah and Elisha. We need students who are urgent, students who understand what these words are all about and won’t let any of them drop to the ground. If we follow Samuel’s example and have that attitude, we will impact this world in a way people will never forget! As Arthur Stanley said, “Happy are they who are able to perceive the signs of the times, and to answer [as Samuel did], without fear or trembling, ‘Speak Lord, for thy servant heareth!’”
God gave the job of turning the nation around to Samuel and David. They did a marvelous job, and it would have been even better if the people had followed them.
These two men were alike in many ways. What a magnificent king-prophet team David and Samuel made. They both sought all God’s will! And they really did turn the nation around by using God’s power. What an inspiration. Those became the golden years in Israel! We need to be reminded about these men, when Israel was in its glory days. How did they achieve such glory? It started with a prophet who wouldn’t let any of God’s words fall to the ground and a king who fulfilled all God’s will. Everything these men did, no matter how small the project, they wanted to do God’s way. What marvelous examples for us to follow!