Out With The Old In With The New Chapter 3v1-4v1 Presentation 03
Introduction We have noticed that the pain of Hannah's sore domestic situation produced remarkable spiritual growth and maturity. She reached a new depth of consecration where she was able to recognise that God was more important than what had been the deepest desire of her heart. Hers was the type of pain which only after a period of mature reflection enables us to look back upon and say, "thank you God for that of for all that it has produced in me!" Presentation 03
Introduction Presentation 03 In contrast, Eli had refused to respond to a different domestic trial. If Hannah acted in the courage of faith and was prepared to put God before her son as yet unborn, setting him a part for God, then Eli's behaviour was motivated by fearful unbelief. He failed to take action when his sons began to abuse the sacrificial system and bring religious worship into ridicule. As suggested previously, perhaps he thought that he could preserve his sons’ love and respect by indulging them and by refusing to discipline them. If so he was putting them before God.
Samuel's Call Presentation 03 It is against this background that we are to understand the call of Samuel. The sentimentality which is often brought to the story of Samuel's call, can easily blind us to what is in fact happening: a.The young is displacing the old b. The faithful is displacing the faithless. Verse 1 reminds us of the spiritual bankruptcy of the nation. The scarcity of God's word is ever a sure indicator of spiritual declension cf. Amos 8. 11. Ezek. 7.26. And it is in the light of this that we need to marvel at what we might call the slowness of God in acting.
Samuel's Call Presentation 03 It is estimated that Samuel was in the temple some 7-9 years before this call to service came. God often works slowly by our reckoning but he does so because years spent in preparation makes his servants useful. Remember that both Paul and Moses were prepared during years of obscurity. A famous preacher was approached at the close of service by someone who was clearly struck by what he had heard and who asked, "Tell me how long did it take you to prepare that sermon?" The reply given was, "The whole of my life".
Samuel's Call Presentation 03 A second reason for God operating slowly is that it teaches his own people to pray. Spiritual declension and backsliding is not something that we are quick to own up to. It is as men and women discover that their lives are barren and void of the blessing of God then they are driven to their knees. Think of the Israelites stay in Egypt. It took the intensification of their cruel bondage to produce earnest intercession!
Samuel's Call Presentation 03 We read that the call of God came when 'the lamp of God had not yet gone out’ v3. This was a lamp that burned in the temple all through the night and which needed refilled in the morning. When this lamp was flickering then God called Samuel. Do you see the symbolism? The spiritual life of the nation, which had burned brightly in Joshua's day and had dimmed under the judges was now almost out. It was then God called Samuel. Deliverance often comes at the point of extremity. Just as Satan thinks he has delivered a knockout blow to the church new life is breathed into her and she picks herself up again to renew the fight.
Samuel's Call Presentation 03 Samuel hears the voice of God v4, though at this stage he is unable to identify it – he thinks that Eli is calling. Up to this point Samuel had no personal knowledge of God. This knowledge only comes as God reveals himself to us. This is not to devalue the godly upbringing and fervent prayers of his mother. However, there comes a time for a personal response to the God who reveals himself. God takes the initiative in calling to salvation and to service ours is the task of responding to the call.
Samuel's Call Presentation 03 Samuel makes repeated journeys to Eli’s bedside thinking it was he who was summoning him - who else could it have been? And it becomes very clear that backslidden Eli is slow to recognise the calling activity of God [5b,6b]. Surely a reflection of Eli's spiritual condition cf.1v14. Sinful rebellion blinds the servant of God to divine activity and stops his ears to God’s voice. You will remember that Balaam’s ass showed far greater spiritual perception that did Balaam when he was wholeheartedly determined to disobey God, Num.22v21-38.
Samuel's Call Presentation 03 A further reason for Eli’s slowness to pick up on what was happening may well have been the assumption that if God was going to speak to anyone in the temple it would be to Him. After all he was top man. This expectancy among those with spiritual status and standing repeats itself throughout scripture. God’s word came to the obscure John the Baptist and not to the high priests in the temple and contributed to their rejection of John and his message. Luke 3v1-2
Samuel's Call God calls men and women into service in a whole variety of ways cf. Gen. 12v1, Ex.3v10, Judges 6v14, 1Kings 19v19, Isa. 6v8, Acts 26v16 but it is necessary to point out that not all of God’s calls are spectacular in nature. The spectacular call is the exception rather than the rule. Indeed, the expectation of the spectacular in the realm of knowing what God’s purpose is for our lives can produce confusion, disappointment and heartache. Presentation 03
Samuel's Call A young Christian girl wondered how she could be sure of what God wanted her to do in life. She was thinking in terms of unusual and spectacular guidance. One day while walking down the street she saw an advertisement for “Teacher's Whisky” and concluded that God saying that he wanted her to be a teacher!!! She entered the teaching profession. Happily she is now able to laugh at her untutored approach to guidance. Presentation 03
Samuel's Call Presentation 03 However, like Samuel, we too must be ready to both hear and obey the voice of God. Samuel yielded himself without qualification to God. He was prepared to live his life under God's authority. He knew he belonged to another. Notice that God’s call to service came to a young man who had proved himself faithful in little things, 'he ministered before the Lord under Eli’ v1. His were menial tasks!! Such people are entrusted with more important work. Samuel's immediate task parallels that of the prophet mentioned in ch2. He communicates God's word of judgement to Eli.
Samuel's Call Presentation 03 Notice that the nature of God's message doesn't change and neither does Eli's response [v18]. There are some who think that with the passing of time God’s attitude towards their sin must surely have mellowed. No ill has befallen them since their sin was highlighted and then left unconfessed and unforsaken. The opportunity for change which they have been gifted by God is sometimes viewed as weakness or reluctance on God’s part to execute justice. But God does not change in his nature nor in his attitude towards sin. Num.23.19
Samuel's Call Presentation 03 While it is true that God does not change in regard to his nature and attitude towards sin, we do find him ‘changing’ in regard to his attitude of the sinner who repents of his sin. This is a quite different kind of change and an example is found in God’s treatment of the Ninevites who repented after responding to Jonah’s preaching cf. Jonah 3v3-10. Charnock remarks that “the unchangeableness of God, when considered in relation to the exercise of his attributes in the government of the world, consists not in always acting in the same manner, however cases and circumstances may alter; but in always doing what is right, and in adapting his treatment of his intelligent creatures to the variation of their actions and characters”.
Samuel's Call Presentation 03 God’s first words to Samuel concerned the judgement of the house of the man who had been his ‘tutor’ in the things of God. His reluctance to eagerly repeat this message to Eli is understandable. But Eli places considerable pressure on Samuel to report all he had been told v17. When Samuel has repeated God’s words, which essentially repeat the judgement of 2.27ff Eli’s response is still not marked by grief or repentance but by an indifferent submission to the will of God. Unlike the people of Nineveh, the threat of judgment did not grip Eli in a way that would produce repentance. What a sad and heart-breaking reaction.
Conclusion Presentation 03 The spiritual bankruptcy of the church was about to be reversed through the ministry of Samuel. God let none of Samuel's ‘words fall to the ground’ v19. His speech was not empty, meaningless or, optimistic mumbo jumbo. He spoke the living word of God because his life was open to the living written word of God. God revealed himself to Samuel through his word v21. The focus of Samuel’s ministry is seen in 4v1 It was the recovery of the Word of God in its fullness, a word that was characterised by power and it was this that was to be the mark of his ministry.