Samuel is not characterized by sitting on a chair, as we read from Eli (1Sam 4:1313When he came, behold, Eli was sitting on [his] seat by the road eagerly watching, because his heart was trembling for the ark of God. So the man came to tell [it] in the city, and all the city cried out.). He works diligently and has no time to become fat like Eli. Like a father to his people, he visits his children in different places. He teaches them for the good of their souls.
The four cities mentioned here are, as it were, the four stations in the life of the people of God. Our life also take place between these ‘stations’.
1. Bethel” means “house of God”. In this we recognize “the household of God, which is the church of the living God” (1Tim 3:1515but in case I am delayed, [I write] so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.), in which we find ourselves. It is the house where God lives and where we may live with Him (Eph 2:1919So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household,). The awareness of His presence will sanctify our lives. His house is characterized by holiness. In Bethel Jacob met God (Gen 28:10-1910Then Jacob departed from Beersheba and went toward Haran.11He came to a certain place and spent the night there, because the sun had set; and he took one of the stones of the place and put it under his head, and lay down in that place.12He had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.13And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants.14Your descendants will also be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed.15Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”16Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.”17He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”18So Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on its top.19He called the name of that place Bethel; however, previously the name of the city had been Luz.; 35:1-151Then God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and live there, and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.”2So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods which are among you, and purify yourselves and change your garments;3and let us arise and go up to Bethel, and I will make an altar there to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.”4So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods which they had and the rings which were in their ears, and Jacob hid them under the oak which was near Shechem.5As they journeyed, there was a great terror upon the cities which were around them, and they did not pursue the sons of Jacob.6So Jacob came to Luz (that is, Bethel), which is in the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him.7He built an altar there, and called the place El-bethel, because there God had revealed Himself to him when he fled from his brother.8Now Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died, and she was buried below Bethel under the oak; it was named Allon-bacuth.9Then God appeared to Jacob again when he came from Paddan-aram, and He blessed him.10God said to him,
“Your name is Jacob;
You shall no longer be called Jacob,
But Israel shall be your name.”
Thus He called him Israel.11God also said to him,
“I am God Almighty;
Be fruitful and multiply;
A nation and a company of nations shall come from you,
And kings shall come forth from you.
12“The land which I gave to Abraham and Isaac,
I will give it to you,
And I will give the land to your descendants after you.”
13Then God went up from him in the place where He had spoken with him.14Jacob set up a pillar in the place where He had spoken with him, a pillar of stone, and he poured out a drink offering on it; he also poured oil on it.15So Jacob named the place where God had spoken with him, Bethel.). Do we know this truth and is it always in our minds? It is a truth which concerns all believers, all saints.
2. Gilgal” means “rolled away” (Jos 5:99Then the LORD said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” So the name of that place is called Gilgal to this day.). Every year Samuel comes and preaches there. This shows us in picture that the people are told that they must constantly live in self-judgment. We must remain aware that “nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh” (Rom 7:18a18For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good [is] not.). We put the meaning of ‘Gilgal’ into practice by rolling away the reproach of the world, which means that we give up every connection with it. It is our realizing that we have been judged in the judgment that has come over Christ: “in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ” (Col 2:1111and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ;). That is also where the judgment of the world was carried out. This should be expressed in the prophetic service.
3. “Mizpa” means “watchtower” and suggests that after each decay God is gracious to make a new beginning. We must not stand by what has been removed, the flesh, otherwise we will slide back into its power. That is why Mizpa follows Gilgal. We must remain vigilant and sober, so that the enemy does not take us by surprise again. God offers a view – the function of a watchtower is to look forward – to a new beginning, a wonderful future. Mizpa teaches the believer to look forward to the coming of the Lord Jesus and to organize their lives accordingly.
4. “Rama” means ‘height’. Samuel doesn’t travel there, but lives there. It shows that it is about living on the spiritual heights we have in the letter to the Ephesians. In practice, it means that we keep seeking “the things above” (Col 3:11Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.). To this place of residence we must come after our journey along the previous places. It leads to a separated heavenly walk on earth, “for our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil 3:2020For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;).
In the place where he lives, he builds an altar. Samuel is also a real priest. He is not so busy with his service that he forgets his personal fellowship with God in worship and prayer and intercession. This spirit that works in the people of God can only be a blessing.
Service is important and necessary, but is only fruitful if it comes from personal fellowship with God. Otherwise service in an activity of the flesh. In that case success is followed by pride and if success fails discouragement and abandonment will follow. It is to be desired that every servant of Christ has his ‘altar’ in connection with his work for God and His people.