Book Review: “In the Midst of your Enemies,” Part 1

A commentary on I Samuel by Joel McDurmon, 2013.

Reviewed by Andrew McColl, 5th August 2014.

Introduction:                                                                                                                          

Joel McDurmon is married with 4 children in Powder Springs, Georgia, and works for American Vision. His commentary is an important one, in that he seeks to take an Old Testament book and apply its lessons practically to today’s world. In fact it’s so important in my mind, I’m taking many weeks to steadily complete this Book Review.

McDurmon believes strongly in the development of what is commonly today called a Christian World View: applying the truths and principles of scripture, and not just in matters of the heart, the individual or the family. McDurmon sees the need to apply the scriptures to law, government, economics and taxation; to a raft of subjects that have commonly been avoided in the modern era by Christians. For me, McDurmon’s work represents an exciting phenomena!

Once again in this commentary, I have chosen a number of quotes from McDurmon’s book, with my comments being added underneath.

1. 1 Samuel addresses, among other things, the direct link between social freedom and God’s Law, national security and God’s Law, as well as specific politic issues such as biblical principles of warfare, kingship, national defence, the right to bear arms, taxation, military conscription, national greatness, political candidacy, political parties, party rivalries, jurisprudence (including biblical “common” law versus arbitrary civil or “statute” law), how to remain faithful under a regime hostile to biblical law, expatriation, political compromise, voting, the lesser of two evils, the surveil­lance state, and more. And it is simply staggering, once you understand the narratives involved, just how closely Samuel’s and David’s situations parallel our own in many ways, and how often the political expressions of modern Christians more closely align with Saul’s than with David’s (p.x).

Clearly, McDurmon is prepared to confront some major issues of modern, western society. This is important. He is really inferring even at this point of the book, that the scripture is to be the authority for all human activity. Thus all ways of thinking and acting apart from the Bible have no legitimacy; they are an affront to God.

This will mean change beginning in the church, which has actively contributed to the shift away from the focus on God’s Word as the basis for all human activity. It means radical change of the kind that John the Baptist referred to: “the axe is already laid at the root of the trees…” (Mat.3:10).

The logic of McDurmon’s position is that the world needs a Reformation to occur in the church, for it is supposed to be “…the pillar and support of the truth” (I Tim.3:15). Without that Reformation, there will simply continue to be more of the same: evil and abuse, perpetuated by government, often tacitly aided by the church.

2….We are reminded that God’s promise is the same promise from beginning to end. A seed of the woman should come and crush the head of the seed of the serpent (Gen. 3:15). Between these two seeds there shall be rivalry and hatred until that time. That promise and the themes pertaining to it are repeated throughout Scripture, and we see types and shadows of that promised seed and his adversary during momentous epochs in God’s redemptive history. 1 Samuel introduces us to one of those momentous revolutions of history (p.18).

So many times in scripture, pregnancy and birth were points of celebration. These are not merely for an addition to a family, but because of the potential of this new individual for the kingdom of God. This is what is really behind the excitement when Moses mother bore him (Ex.1:1-10), when Samson’s parents had a visitation from an angel, promising them a child though Manoah’s wife had been barren (Judges 13), when Zacharias and Elizabeth were promised a child in the person of John (Luke 1:5-25), and the birth of Jesus Himself (Matt.1:18-25). In all these cases, the promise in the background of scripture is “the seed of the woman…” (Gen.3:15), ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Himself

McDurmon shows how the birth of Samuel to Hannah, who had failed to conceive for so long, would be significant for the nation. Whilst it would be God who anointed Saul through Samuel, even before this event, God was raising up Samuel who would go on to anoint Saul’s successor. And Hannah would be used of the Lord too, not only as Samuel’s mother, but in her prayers, that the corrupt priestly leadership of the nation would come to judgment

3. While wickedness abounded all around her, Hannah was privately plan­ning revival and restoration for her nation. She had a plan that began with prayer, proceeded with self-sacrifice, and required bold public truth-telling: three jobs no one really wants in any age. But Hannah’s actions were filled with grace—the meaning of her name, after all. What looks at first like a story of a personal rivalry ends up illustrating the tremendous self-sacrificial character of Hannah (p.22-23).                     

Hannah shows that godly individuals at prayer are powerful people in God’s hands. Furthermore, godly people who know what their nation really needs, and are prepared to ask God for it, will be used of Him. And this should be a stimulus for us today. We who know that there is much wrong in the nation, must not be content to simply say, “Well, that’s the way that it is, and we cannot do much about it.”

If we believe that God knows the needs of our nation, and that He hears our prayers, we are obliged to go to Him in prayer. The Bible (in the Messianic promise if the Father to the Son) declares, “Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Your possession” (Ps.2:8). In fact, the promise of God concerning the healing of our land (II Chron.7:14) is contingent upon the prayers of God’s people.

4. The content of Hannah’s prayer also shows that she had big faith. She was not afraid to approach God for a solution to the nation’s biggest prob­lems, on a national level. This has two facets. First, she was not afraid to pray a prayer that had direct political implications. She wanted revival in the land, and that meant political and social revival. As we shall see in 1 Samuel 2:1–11, she had in mind a massive judgment of the house of God, beginning with the corrupt priesthood, and she told them so. She also envisions a Lord who kills his enemies and levels them to the dust. Her prayer for a Nazarite son was a prayer to bring about such national social change.

Yes, there was a lot of work left to do—a lot of hard work. Hannah was not afraid to confront the enormity of the problem for what it was, and then to pray for a solution on that magnitude (p.30).

It is one thing for us to understand the enormity of our nation’s problems. It is another thing to grasp the enormity of the promises of God. Like this one:

Do not be afraid little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom (Luke 12:32).

For every great and small problem, whether it relates to the individual, the family, the church or a nation, God has a solution, beginning in His Word. And we don’t need to go running here and there outside of scripture to find His solutions. Just as Hannah was prepared to shoulder enormous personal and indeed national responsibility in her day in having a son, giving him to the Lord, and in prayer, so must believers today.

For example, if there is a corrupt priesthood today, believers need to be in prayer about this. The Christian leaders of the church world-wide need to know what God did to Israel, in Hannah’s time. So they need to either repent or be judged, and that is how we ought to pray. If there is corruption, there must be change, for God will not continue to permit leaders to continue to purport to represent Him, if they are really corrupt and misrepresenting Him. He will deal with their hypocrisy, one way or the other. And this is how we ought to be praying, for “it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God…” (I Pet.4:17).