"Did the Lord Instruct Samuel to Lie?"

Graham Gilmer
Bibliotheca Sacra 96 (Jul-Sep 1939)

A very earnest Christian was once discussing the difficulties of the Bible. This man believed that every word of the Bible was inspired. He had spent thirty years in a foreign country preaching the Gospel, and yet he found one place in the record very difficult for him to accept. He put the difficulty something like this: "The most difficult thing in all of God's Word for me to understand is where the Lord told Samuel in the sixteenth chapter of his first book, to go to Jesse the Bethlehemite, and anoint from among his sons a successor to King Saul. Samuel protested and gave as his reason the fear that Saul would kill him, if he did so. Then the Lord told him'to take an heifer with him and say: Ί am come to sacrifice to the Lord.' It looks to me as if the Lord were telling Samuel to say that he came to Bethlehem with one purpose while he actually came with an entirely different purpose."

If this is a true statement of the case, it is indeed a very serious difficulty. It means that the Lord instructed Samuel to tell a lie, which is unthinkable. "Let God be true, but every man a liar." It means that instead of protecting His servant by his power from the vengeance of the wicked king he told him to protect himself behind a lie. Yes, it means that he told Samuel to engage in a sacrifice as a mere sham and to cover up his real purpose by a religious deed. If this was this Christian's understanding of the incident, no wonder he was troubled.

No, there is not here the slightest indication of an untruth but we have only an example of our misunderstanding of the Scriptures. If there is a difficulty, pray and wait as you seek to understand. One day He will make all things clear. I know my Father and I know that my difficulties are caused by misunderstanding and not by His character nor by the Book that reveals that Character. For "this is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all" (I John 1:5).

The Lord's chief purpose in sending Samuel to Bethlehem was to begin there that for which the sacrifice he offered stood. The anointing of David was only an incident in that work. Our enlightenment comes as we compare one Scripture with another. The passage that helps us here is a much neglected one, the first chapters of Leviticus. Those chapters gave Israel her instruction for the offering of five great sacrifices, all of which, even in their details, point forward to the finished work of Christ. Samuel really went to Bethlehem in preparation for this work, which Christ was to accomplish.

Notice now the instructions that were given him in regard to the offering he was to offer. "Take an heifer with thee, and say, Ί come to sacrifice to the Lord.'" As you study the first five chapters of Leviticus you find that an heifer could only be offered in the Peace Offerings. This too was the only offering in which the worshiper came to the table of the Lord to eat of his offering.

Samuel really went to Bethlehem to offer a Peace Offering. Why?

Think of the condition of the nation at that time. Saul had openly and defiantly disobeyed the instruction of the Lord in regard to Amalek. Samuel had publicly announced that because he had rejected the word of the Lord, the Lord had rejected him as king of Israel. Then Samuel went into mourning. No doubt those who feared the Lord throughout the nation were in a state of terror. Sin unatoned for should bring terror to any one who has any conception of the anger of a just God. This was certainly the case at Bethlehem, for the elders of that city came to meet Samuel trembling and said, "Comest thou peaceably?" No doubt they thought that judgment for the Nation's sins was about to begin with them. Samuel assured them that he did come peaceably, for he had come to offer a Peace Offering unto the Lord. He invited all who would to come to the feast which he as God's servant had prepared and be at peace with the Lord. Samuel's real purpose then in going to Bethlehem was to start a train of events that would bring peace to all who would have it.

How was God going to bring this about? His method up to this time had not been fully revealed. Much of the method was a secret up to and even beyond this time. Samuel was to anoint the man after God's own heart. From this one was to come the real Peace Offering, the Prince of Peace. His purpose of Peace was to be made known but the One through whom the peace was to be made possible was not yet to be revealed. Today we know him. "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom. 5:1). "For he is our peace" (Eph. 2:14).

So Samuel's real mission to Bethlehem was to bring peace. It was not yet God's time for him to reveal the One through whom the peace was to come. When we compare one Scripture with another in what a marvelous way do the difficulties disappear! Instead of being a difficult passage, it becomes a wonderful message to our souls for here we come to know our Lord better and marvel at the Book through which he reveals himself.

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