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Coverings are for minors. Parents cover their children in order to protect them and care for them. Children remain under the authority of their parents until they come of age. Of course, this does not address the problem of abusive parents who do not know how to fulfill their responsibilities properly. Our present study is designed to instruct parents in the exercise of authority (Eph. 6:4), as well as children in learning to submit to proper authority (Eph. 6:1).
All authority must be subject to love, and our definition of love must imitate the nature of the God of love. Our ability to love is only as great as our revelation of God’s nature.
The most basic level is the individual, where the soul must submit to the spirit, which is, in turn, in submission to the Holy Spirit. The soul seeks dominance, but the soul is what Paul calls “the old man,” that is, one’s fleshly identity. That old man is mortal (death-ridden) and demands the right to sin. The spirit, however, is the identity of “the new man” that is perfect and has the right to rule.
If parents have changed their identity from the old man to the new, being led by the spirit (and the Holy Spirit), then they will exercise their authority responsibly in the family. Children must be trained to follow their example as they mature, because the goal is not to keep them under parental authority but to make them independent.
In a church setting, the same principle holds true. A local church carries the same parental responsibility, only on a broader level, to bring the people to spiritual maturity. The church is responsible to train the people to hear God’s voice for themselves, so that they can become independent of the religious leaders—who, supposedly, hear God’s voice.
Just as parents may abuse their authority, so also may the church abuse its authority. This usually starts with leaders who are given authority without first having the ability to hear God’s voice and be led by the Spirit. They are chosen on the basis of their talent in preaching or fundraising. Such people cannot hope to teach the people to hear God for themselves—nor would they want to do so. After all, when people begin to hear God for themselves, it is inevitable that their revelation will, at some point, differ from the leaders’ revelation. Disputes then replace discussions, and because they do not know how to resolve these problems, there are many church splits.
This is why the early church decided to formulate creeds which could not be disputed by the people. Creeds limited the people’s right to hear God in those areas. As the creeds multiplied, the people’s rights diminished accordingly.
The result was that the people were expected to remain under authority forever, and this made them perpetual minors. The goal then was to find ways to ensure that they remain as spiritual babies, helpless and dependent, so that they would never think for themselves.
So the church hierarchy sought permanent authority by keeping the people ignorant and dependent upon church membership to ensure salvation. In other words, the church seeks to cover the people perpetually. This is an abuse of authority and responsibility.
Paul tells us in Gal. 4:1-5,
1 Now I say, as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave, although he is owner of everything, 2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by the father. 3 So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world. 4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 so that He might redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
Note that minors are slaves, even if they are destined to inherit the father’s estate. But their slavery is supposed to end when the minor reaches the age of maturity.
Paul applied this principle on a grand level where the Old Covenant was replaced by the New Covenant. The era of the Old Covenant was a time of training under guardians. The training might be rigorous and even include discipline when necessary. This was not a bad thing, but neither was it to be permanent.
In my own experience, God put me in a 12-year time of training from 1981-1993 where I was “under the law.” Looking back on that time, I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but I was thankful that it ended. I know what it means to be a slave, and so I can empathize with other slaves.
Yet I have also learned a great deal about what it means to be a son. It is about learning how to exercise authority with an equal level of responsibility and accountability.
There are some who are the Lord’s prophets and others who are church prophets. Still others are the king’s prophets. It all depends on who is the prophet’s covering. We read about all of these in Scripture, beginning with the story of Samuel.
Acts 3:24 reads,
24 And likewise, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward, also announced these days.
Samuel was not the first prophet, but he was first to hold the distinct office of a prophet after it was separated from the priesthood. Prior to Samuel, the high priest also held the office of prophet, and for this reason he carried the Urim and Thummim in the breastplate.
However, in the days of Eli and his corrupt sons, the office of prophet was taken from him and given its own special office that was independent of the priesthood. This division began to be reunited when Christ came as our great High Priest, Prophet and King.
Recall that the Birthright was divided among Jacob’s 12 sons in Genesis 49. Judah received the Dominion Mandate, Joseph received the Fruitfulness Mandate, and Levi received the priesthood.
Levi’s priesthood included the prophetic office until the time of Eli when there was a further division. Jesus’ first coming reunited the Dominion Mandate (“king”) with the Priesthood, re-instituting the Melchizedek Priesthood (King-Priest). This reunification also included the office of Prophet.
Samuel’s mother had prayed for a son, and her prayer was answered. So when he was weaned—i.e., when he was five years old—she brought him to the temple, where he was raised by Eli and his household. Being adopted by Eli, Samuel became a priest, though he was already descended from Kohath, the son of Levi (1 Chron. 6:18-28). 1 Sam. 2:18 says,
18 Now Samuel was ministering before the Lord, as a boy wearing a linen ephod.
Eli’s own sons were corrupt (1 Sam. 2:12), and Eli was unable to correct them and unwilling to remove them from the priesthood. Finally, “a man of God came to Eli” (1 Sam. 2:27) and rebuked him, prophesying in verse 31 (KJV),
31 Behold, the days come, that I will cut off thine arm [zeroah], and the arm of thy father’s house, that there shall not be an old man in thine house.
The term zeroah is usually translated “arm” in the KJV, but it is actually derived from zera, “seed.” The word thus has a double meaning. Eli’s seed would be cut off, because his sons were to be killed (1 Sam. 2:34), but in a figurative way, Eli’s arm was to be cut off.
An Aaronic high priest did not qualify for that position if he had a physical defect. Lev. 21:17-19 says,
17 Speak to Aaron, saying, “No man of your offspring throughout their generations who has a defect shall approach to offer the food of his God. 18 For no one who has a defect shall approach: a blind man, or a lame man, or he who has a disfigured face, or any deformed limb, 19 or a man who has a broken foot or broken hand.
Certainly, a one-armed man did not qualify as a high priest. Eli’s physical arm was never cut off, but his seed (sons) were killed. Spiritually speaking, his arm was cut off, and this disqualified him.
Yet more than that, the prophetic office was cut off from him. An arm is one’s strength or calling. Eli had two arms, which represented the priesthood and the prophetic office.
When Eli and his sons were killed to fulfill the word of the Lord, “the Ark of God was taken” (1 Sam. 4:11). Later, we read in Psalm 78:59-61,
59 When God heard, He was filled with wrath and greatly abhorred Israel; 60 so that He abandoned the dwelling place at Shiloh, the tent which He had pitched among men, 61 and gave up His strength [oze] to captivity and His glory into the hand of the adversary.
The Ark is called God’s “strength.” The Hebrew word oze is synonymous with zeroah, “arm,” which also refers to one’s strength. So while Eli lost his strength by losing his sons, God is said to have lost His strength, “the Ark.” This is a veiled reference to the death of His Son, Jesus Christ, in whom was the glory of God.
One of the “arms” (offices, callings) held by the high priest was cut off, and this office was passed to Samuel. So we read in 1 Sam. 2:35,
35 But I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest who will do according to what is in My heart and in My soul; and I will build him an enduring house, and he will walk before My anointed [Messiah] always.
Jesus Christ is the ultimate “faithful priest” in the prophecy. But in that “he will walk before My Messiah always,” we see that there is another layer of meaning.
The first faithful priest was Samuel, who lived a righteous life “before” (i.e., in the presence of) Christ always. Yet he was also known widely as a prophet. 1 Sam. 3:20 says,
20 All Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of the Lord.
Josephus tells us that Samuel was 12 years old when he began to prophesy (Antiquities of the Jews, V, x, 4). I suspect that Eli knew that Samuel was to replace his own sons, for the man of God had told him that his natural sons would die in the same day (1 Sam. 2:34). But the prophecy said nothing of Eli’s own death, so perhaps he assumed that if the word was fulfilled, Samuel would simply replace him. We are not told in Scripture.
As it turned out, Eli’s sons were indeed killed in a battle with the Philistines (1 Sam. 4:11), and Eli himself fell backward and broke his neck and died (1 Sam. 4:18). The Ark was taken and put in the temple of Dagon for seven months. Then it was returned, but it was never again placed at Shiloh, for that priestly community was destroyed, as Psalm 78:64 tells us.
The Ark was taken to Kiriath-jearim, where it remained for 20 years (1 Sam. 7:2) under the care of Eleazar, the son of Abinadab. Yet the high priest priestly office remained with the house of Eli for two more generations in the town of Nob.
On the day that Eli and his sons died, Eli’s grandson, Ichabod, was born (1 Sam. 4:21). Obviously, he was too young to take the priesthood, but his older brother named Ahitub replaced Eli (1 Sam. 14:3). Ahitub was the son of Eli’s son Phinehas. Josephus tells us that Ahitub’s son was Abiathar, who was the high priest during the time of David. In the end, Abiathar was disloyal to David and was replaced by Zadok, a type of Melchizedek.
The prophecy of the man of God was fulfilled over a period of centuries, and it had many layers of fulfillment. Samuel was the foremost faithful (high) priest, representing a type of Christ who would take that office later. But meanwhile, Ahitub became the high priest, which then passed to his son, Ahijah.
Both Ahijah and Abiathar were said to be grandsons of Eli, so it seems that they were brothers. Yet the prophecy was against the house of Eli, so in the end, his house ended with Abiathar (1 Kings 2:27).
Eli himself represented a new dynasty of high priests, being of the family of Ithamar. Prior to Eli’s ascension, the high priests had come from Eleazar, Aaron’s oldest son. The Ithamar priests ruled from Eli to Abiathar, after which time Solomon replaced Abiathar with Zadok, who was from the house of Eleazar.
This change of priesthood foreshadowed a greater change when the Aaronic order itself would be replaced by the Order of Melchizedek (Heb. 6:20). Hence, this change of priesthood in the New Testament was embedded in the prophecy against the house of Eli.
The man of God concluded his prophecy in 1 Sam. 2:36,
36 Everyone who is left in your house will come and bow down to him for a piece of silver or a loaf of bread and say, “Please assign me to one of the priest’s offices so that I may eat a piece of bread.”
Having lost the “arm” of the prophetic office, those who remain in the house of Eli are said to desire “one of the priest’s offices” in order to gain financial support. What office were they to seek? Obviously, it was the office that was lost when the Ark of God was taken from Shiloh.
The Ark was the “oracle” of God, for God spoke from the mercy seat covering the Ark. It represented the prophetic office. The house of Eli wanted their arm back, but the corruption ran deep. The prophecy of the man of God implied that their motives were flawed.
In desiring payment (“silver”) or sustenance (“a loaf of bread”) for their services, there is a suggestion that prophets of the spiritual house of Eli follow the way of Balaam, who desired riches in exchange for his prophecy. Hence, some prophets even today use their prophetic gift to make a profit, and they never fail to beg for money. It seems to me that the prophecy of the man of God warns all prophets to learn the ways of Samuel and to forsake the ways of Eli and his sons.
What way is that? There were two sins in particular that are attributed to the priesthood of Eli—which includes their prophetic office. The first is found in 1 Sam. 2:22,
22 Now Eli was very old; and he heard all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who served at the doorway of the tent of meeting.
Secondly, they were stealing the offerings (1 Sam. 2:12-17) and taking offerings “by force.” Offerings were certainly to be used to support the priests, but this passage suggests the use of fraud.
In other words, the priesthood of Eli broadly represents theft and immoral behavior. No doubt this is just a glimpse of the overall problem. I do not want to be too specific here, nor do I want to accuse anyone in particular; however, this is sufficient to set forth the problem, whereby we may know the difference between the house of Eli, the corrupt priests, and the house of Zadok, whose name means “righteous.”
King Ahab had 400 prophets at his disposal. These were under Ahab’s authority and covering. They were supported by the king, and so they were expected to prophesy things that agreed with the views of the king.
When King Jehoshaphat of Judah made an alliance with King Ahab of Israel to fight against the Syrians, they first inquired of the Lord. Ahab’s 400 prophets prophesied: “Go up and succeed, for they will be given into your hand” (2 Chron. 18:14). But Jehoshaphat said, “Is there not yet a prophet of the Lord here that we may inquire of him?” (2 Chron. 18:6).
Here we see a clear distinction between the king’s prophets and the Lord’s prophets. The difference is their covering. The Lord’s prophets are covered by God Himself; the king’s prophets are covered by the king.
When the office of the prophet was separated from the priesthood, we soon find that God normally would call His prophets and personally train them in the wilderness. This was the hard way, but it was very effective, and they learned obedience and loyalty to the word of God, regardless of the cost.
The king’s prophets went with the flow of the culture and politics of their day. No one dared prophesy anything that displeased the king, lest they should lose their job.
Church prophets are often similar to the king’s prophets in that they are submitted to the church leaders first and to God second. The office of a prophet was separated from the priesthood (church) on account of priestly corruption.
God demands loyalty to Himself above loyalty to the church or to any man. That is why so often He trains prophets in the wilderness.
For example, let us say that a pastor/priest thinks that to build the church they ought to buy a bigger building. But let us say that a prophet receives a word that this is not what God meant by building the church. Suppose the pastor becomes indignant and reprimands the prophet for having a contradictory word.
The prophet then is faced with the choice of being a church prophet or the Lord’s prophet.
When we speak of “false” prophets, it does not mean that their prophecies are false, but rather that they are false to Christ. Balaam prophesied truth, and his prophecies form part of Scripture in Numbers 22-24. Yet God was displeased with him.
2 Peter 2:15 says,
15 forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness.
Balaam is never called a “false” prophet. He had a genuine prophetic gift that was used to make money. So also, he counseled Balak, king of Midian, to put a stumbling block in front of the Israelites, so that they would fall into the sin of immorality. Jude 11 calls this “the error of Balaam.”
Rev. 2:14 condemns those who “hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality.”
There are prophets today who teach Christians to violate some of the laws of God, as if the law is no longer in force today. Inevitably, this leads to immorality according to the biblical standard of God’s nature. Those who remain under the covering of such prophets (or priests) often find that they fall into the same trap of lawlessness, for whoever is our covering becomes our standard of moral behavior.