Book Review: “In the Midst of your Enemies”

by Joel McDurmon). Part 2, reviewed by Andrew McColl, 12/8/2014. (McDurmon’s comments are in italics.)

5. We must be of a similar mindset [to Hannah] in raising children. First, we must in fact desire children, but second, we must more importantly desire to have them for the work of the Lord, for the advancement of His kingdom and His dominion in the earth. To this end, we must train them theologically and prepare them for spiritual warfare in our day. All personal agendas, vicari­ous attachments of self-justification, and over-romanticized productions of Victorian pseudo-piety must be set aside as trivial at best, if not idolatrous in some cases. The child exists for the advancement of the kingdom of God and for His dominion in the earth, not for your personal satisfactions, although these come as a by-product of faithfulness and grace. And it is only the dedi­cation of our children to the work of God that will redound to ultimate joy at the end of this holy war (p.31).

There is a lot of sentimental nonsense in the church about raising children, mainly rooted in the failure of Christians to accept that our children do not belong to us, but to the Lord. We are merely stewards of their lives for a period of time. That means that we must have in mind the issue of our accountability before God, in all that we are doing with our children. I’d like to encourage every Christian parent considering their child’s education:

The child exists for the advancement of the kingdom of God and for His dominion in the earth.

This means that whatever form of preparation is necessary, we should consider. Our days as parents are numbered, and we have serious business to attend to, preparing our children for a life of service and dominion, in subjection to the King of Kings.

6. As with so many stories we will encounter throughout 1 Samuel, the Gospel is foreshadowed clearly in certain ways here. We have a child of mi­raculous birth to a mother who then praises the God of judgment, etc. We have already noted the parallel in Mary’s magnificat (Luke 1:46–56). It is not accidental. Just as Hannah was calling down judgment upon a corrupt priesthood and nation of Israel, so Mary was introducing the Messiah to the same corrupt people who would not receive Him. He ends up predicting the destruction of Jerusalem (Matt. 24) and the end of the Israelite kingdom in favour of the Church (Matt. 21:43). Both were announcing great reversals in history—Jesus, of course, being the hinge upon which all history turns (p.40, 41).

One aspect of Israel’s disobedience in Samuel’s era, was its refusal to face the issue of God’s judgments. When Samuel warned them of what the consequences would be if they did in fact get the king they wanted, they said, “No, but there shall be a king over us…” (I Sam.8:19). They were really saying, “Give us what we want, and we’ll risk the consequences that God may send.”

Regrettably, the modern church is hardly different. Mostly, it doesn’t want to acknowledge that God judges individuals, cultures and nations. It would prefer to look the other way, and talk about God’s love. Talking about God’s love and grace is legitimate, sometimes. But as Martin Luther warned, “Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved.” Consider this news report from the US:

Judge Says Man’s Law Higher than God’s Law:

 Judges around the country have become a law unto themselves. There were five church-going judges in Alabama who ruled that sodomy marriages are constitutional. Their Christianity made no difference in their lives. I don’t know who to blame, the churches they attend who separate the Christian faith from politics (and nearly everything else) or the law schools they attended that do the same thing.[1]

The failure of the church to understand God’s judgment explains the spiritual decline of the West now, for over a century. We’ve been going backwards, and hardly even known it. Not only that, it’s going to get worse before it gets better. While the church is unwilling or unable to fundamentally direct the world to the truth, it will not only inherit the world’s scorn and derision (which Jesus predicted would happen, see Mat.5:13), but it will not see the blessing of God.

Israel was in decline in Hannah’s era, in Mary’s era, and the church is in decline today, until such time as it takes its God-given tasks seriously again, and begins to “…make disciples of all the nations…” (Mat.28:19).

7. At the heart of the delusions and despair which cause our personal and social problems is often bad theology. There may be simple factual mistakes as well, but bad theology should not be overlooked. Bad theology makes for bad worldviews. Bad worldviews lead to poor decisions. Poor decisions cre­ate corrupt societies.

This began in the ecclesiastical leadership. Remember: what happened to these Israelites on this battlefield originated with a failure in worship and teaching (see 2:12–36). Perversions in the house of God produced defeat in society, law, and now international affairs. The advance of the kingdom of God had come to a halt (p.76, 77).

This much is evident: during Samuel’s childhood, God treated the corrupt priesthood of Israel like an infected, putrid appendix, needing to be removed.

Now, only a foolish person would say, “Well, what’s that got to do with us, today?” The warning from scripture is that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb.13:8), and that by God’s judgments, “…Your servant is warned” (Ps.19:11).

Cleaning up the house of God was painful then, and it may be today. But what other options do we have? We either faithfully represent God to the world, or we misrepresent Him. And when we foolishly choose or permit the latter, just as Eli, Hophni and Phinehas did, we expose ourselves to His wrath.

This means that there will need to be audits made amongst God’s people: “…great searchings of heart” (Judges 5:16). Individuals, families and churches will need to thoroughly consider beliefs and practices that we have held. We will have to say of all that we have believed and done, “Is this in accordance with God’s Word?”

This will require humbling of heart, prayer, debates, culminating in significant theological shifts, followed by changes of attitude and lifestyle. If the house of God needs a cleanout, we’d best arm ourselves with a new broom and put it to use.

Believers had best be praying, perhaps along these lines: “O Lord God of hosts, restore us; cause Your face to shine upon us, and we will be saved” (Ps.80:19).

8. What we’ve just covered [in I Samuel 7] is nothing less than an account of a national revival. From it we can derive necessary elements that form something of a blueprint.

  1.  Preaching of the Law.
  2.  The removal of false gods from hearts, homes, and the land.
  3.  Repentance, corporate worship individual
  4.  A self-sacrificial attitude among the people
  5.  Faithful response to crises (in prayer and action)                                                 
  6.  Perseverance in faithful action
  7.  Return to godly education
  8.  Restoration of predictable justice according to God’s law (p.106, 107).

McDurmon has been courageous enough to give us a blueprint. It’s not an easy one, but it is exciting. Now, a Christian leader is telling God’s people what it is they will have to do, if they are truly serious about inheriting the blessing of God in their nation. All of these changes require change among the grass-roots of every community, but beginning in the church. None of them will take place without this. We cannot say, “Well, that’s a matter for church and political leaders to deal with.” It may involve those groups of people, but if the grass-roots of a community doesn’t want to embrace the changes necessary for revival in a nation, it simply won’t happen.

No person on earth is exempt from the commands of the gospel; we are all sinners in need of the Saviour. It wasn’t merely the religious and political leaders who crucified Jesus. When Jesus came and spoke at Nazareth, He confronted people in the synagogue. The Bible tells us that “all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things, and they got up and drove Him out of the city…” (Luke 4:28-29). The very person Who could have saved them, they got rid of.

This should warn us. It’s easy to say “Yes” to God. But saying “Yes” will mean lots of changes for the rest of our lives, because God is always about up-setting the apple-carts of humanism, especially when He finds them among God’s people. And in I Samuel, this is what Samuel as the spiritual leader of God’s people, was responsible to lead the nation in.

Do we have leaders like this today? Let’s pray that God will certainly raise them up.

[1] Gary Demar, www.americanvision, 16/7/2014