16 May When God speaks
1 Samuel 3:1-21
My wife loves sharing her story. That is our dinner routine as husband and wife. My wife shares her experience at work. I think most women love to do this. She told me how hard it is at work today. She tells me how nice her friend is at work. The difference between Ellis and myself is to tell one story I just need 1-2 minutes and I am done. I took the important point and told her just the summary. But when she tells the story, she explains every single detail. For me, it takes only 1 minute. But for her, it takes 5-10 minutes. Let me clarify again, there is nothing wrong with that. But, all women, you need to understand that we as a husband are human as well. There are times that we lose concentration when listening to your story to the point that we do not listen and only give a formality response “hmm.. Yes..”. On behalf of all the husbands, forgive us. The scariest part of this is when my wife realised that I did not listen to her and started asking the question “are you listening?” then followed by the ultimate question – “if you are listening, tell me what I just said to you”. This is what I learn from this. I can be sitting next to her and hearing her story but I don’t really get anything. Have you experienced that? Sitting in the lecture room, listening to the lecture but not getting anything.
This could be the reason why two persons sit side by side right here and right now, listen to the same worship, listen to the same sermon but walk away with different responses. One is joyful and affected by the full service; how God is speaking to them through our worship and the message preached. But the other is unaffected; do not get anything and feel the same.
One of the reasons why we do not really get anything is we have the wrong view of God’s word. Have you heard people labeled christian as non-fun people? Because we have too many rules and instructions. So often, that’s how we also see God’s word. Of course, there are a lot of instructions in God’s word but God’s word is more than that. God’s word is more than just a set of instructions for christians but also an invitation to have intimacy with God Himself. This is what we want to learn today from this pericope.
I will divide my sermon into 2 parts.
The Calling (v1-9)
Few weeks ago, we went on a short getaway. We went to a tiny house. It is a basically small house in the middle of nowhere. The next house is basically 15 minutes drive. It is really in the middle of nowhere. It was quite fun. The house has a big window but no blind. When the sun sets, it is really dark outside and you hardly see anything. As we arrived at the place, we were a bit sceptical whether we can survive in this house or not for two days. Everything changed when we entered the house and the house was so nice except the toilet. And, it has AC inside the house, how cool is that? It is like a hotel. As a city boy going to the countryside, the first thing that I did was turn on the heater in AC. We were reading the book. We were having quality time. After a few hours, the sun was set. The outside became dark. We were not worried as we turned on any lights available in the house plus we had a heater that had been on for a few hours now. Then, what happened is we forgot that the house was 100% run by the solar system and when the sun was set, where did the house get the energy? Nowhere. As we looked and amazed with the beauty of the sun going down, we did not realise that our electricity was going down as well. At 8pm, all electricity was dropped and we had no electricity at all. It was very dark outside. It was a bit scary. We ended up calling the staff and they showed us about the emergency light. Those emergency lights were really helpful in the middle of darkness.
This is basically what happened in this pericope. They are in the middle of darkness where in verse 1, it says that And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision. Verse 1 really put the important context to read this pericope. It says that God’s word was rare in those days. Before this time, God had actively spoken to Moses and Joshua to give direction to Israel and lead them in the wilderness. During this time – under Eli’s priesthood, Israel is in darkness because there is a lack of direction from God’s word. They walk without any direction and eventually fall into destructive behaviour. Therefore, this time was known as judges period Judges 17: 6 In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. This God’s calling to Samuel in this pericope is first calling after many many years. This word of God is like the emergency light that not only lightens everything; their path but also gives them direction.
The importance of God’s word at that time is still the same until today. Without His word, we will walk without any direction and just matter of time, we will fall into destruction at the end. The question for us today is what do you really expect when you come to church today? Do you come to church to just hang out with your friend or you are longing to find what God wants to say to you tonight? Do you see God’s word as something that is important to you? The story then continues (verse 4-9)
4 Then the Lord called Samuel, and he said, “Here I am!” 5 and ran to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. 6 And the Lord called again, “Samuel!” and Samuel arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” 7 Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. 8 And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the young man. 9 Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.'” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
Would you know God’s voice if you heard it? Obviously, Samuel did not. It is quite a funny story. God keeps waking up Samuel and Samuel keeps coming to Eli thinking Eli was calling his name and Eli keeps asking Samuel to go back to sleep until the fourth calling. Then Eli realised that that was God’s calling.
For some of you who love sleeping during the sermon, today try your best to put your best attention. You may use this scripture to say that “sleeping in the house of God is biblical”. If anyone asks you “why did you sleep during the sermon?”. You can say that “you are obeying the word of God. I am following Samuel and I am waiting God to call me during my sleep.” I am telling you if you are sleeping during the sermon, yes there is a possibility your name is being called again again. But I am pretty sure the voice is not from God but from your friend. They call your name because you are the only one who is still sitting when the rest of the church are standing up ready to worship (after the preaching)
Do you think God is still calling His people audibly? I would say “Yes” because He can do anything and there is no biblical reason why God could not speak to a person audibly today. But at the same time, we have to understand that we do not wait until God speaks to us audibly to hear His Words or we wait for the supernatural sign from God, writing in the sky. Or, you are waiting for an answer from God whether you should date this unbeliever or not then on the next day, you order the coffee and the latte art somehow shows the letter “Y” which means Yes. Or you close your eyes and use your finger to randomly pick the scripture from the Bible. The fun fact – there was bread toast that somehow has an image like Virgin Mary and it was sold for US$28,000 in 2004. God does not speak in all those ways.
These are many ways how God speaks to us; firstly, God speaks through the Holy Spirit. This is how the Holy Spirit works – John 14: 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. So the Holy Spirit speaks to us, teaching to us and reminding us about what Jesus has said. It means that there is nothing new revelation outside the scripture. Second way and also the main way God speaks to us is through scripture. Thirdly, God speaks through other people such as your pastor, your leader, your mentor or your brother and sister in Christ.
One thing we need to understand is God’s calling to Samuel is God’s gracious calling. It is in the time of judges where every man does what is right in his own eyes. It was a time of lawlessness and chaos. And this not only happens with the people of Israel but it also affects the priest which is the people who are supposed to represent his people to God. The priests themselves are corrupted in many ways as shown in the life of Eli and his sons. It went back to the previous chapter (chapter 2). During that time, people gave sacrifice to the temple. For the priests to get their rightful portions of the sacrifices, the culture at that time was the priest’s servant to stick a large fork into the pot in which the sacrificial animal was cooking and to give the priest a portion of boiled meat- So normally the priest gets the boiled meat. For some of you who love going to all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ, you know why BBQ wagyu beef is much better than wagyu that has been boiled for a long time. Same thing, these sons of Eli seem to find boiled meat is not nice, they want barbecued meat. This is what it says in chapter 2 verse 15 – 15 Moreover, before the fat was burned, the priest’s servant would come and say to the man who was sacrificing, “Give meat for the priest to roast, for he will not accept boiled meat from you but only raw.” 16 And if the man said to him, “Let them burn the fat first, and then take as much as you wish,” he would say, “No, you must give it now, and if not, I will take it by force.”
We may think that it was a problem at that time. Can you see some similarities in today’s world? Not only people do what they like and what they want but the church and its pastors are also corrupted by society. They are no longer functioning as they are supposed to. They have walked away from God and pursue money, fame, power etc.
And God has every right to destroy Israel because of their sin as it says in 1 Samuel 2:17 17 Thus the sin of the young men was very great in the sight of the Lord, for the men treated the offering of the Lord with contempt. God has every right to give up on Israel. But he doesn’t. God graciously calls Samuel to be his prophet. And Samuel is still very young. Some commentaries predict Samuel is around 12 years old at this time. God refused to give up on Israel by calling and choosing Samuel.
The Response (v10-18)
That’s what happened to Samuel at the beginning of this pericope. He was not familiar with God’s voice. He thought that it was Eli’s voice. Why? In verse 7, it says that 7 Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. This verse does not say Samuel did not know God. This verse does not say the word of the Lord never been revealed to him. It says Samuel did not yet know the Lord. The word of God had not yet been revealed to him. There is a stage in our christian life when we do not yet know the Lord. That word “yet” is good news because just a matter of time, the word of God will be revealed to you. On the other hand, the bad news is that some people do not have that word “yet” at all. They did not know the Lord. When we talk about that group who did not know the Lord, we always refer to people outside the church. But, we go back again to chapter 2, Eli’s sons are priests and serving in the temple. But 1 Samuel 2:12 says Now the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the Lord. We can call ourselves as Christian or serve God every single Sunday, but we do not know the Lord.
What is the difference between those 2 people? Two things that we can learn from Samuel.
First one is the willingness to listen to God’s Word. The difference is one does not care about God’s calling. Although Samuel did not yet know God, Samuel’s willingness to listen to God’s calling is the key for him to grow in God. In verse 10, it says that And the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.”. Do you know in medical terms there is a difference between hearing and listening? According to one medical website, hearing is through the ear. Listening is through the mind. Listening is more than hearing. Listening needs more concentration. You really pay attention. Husband, many times we are accused of this; only good at hearing but not listening. Some of us here or at home may be attending the Sunday service but we do not want to know God. We just hear but do not have the willingness to listen to God’s word.
This is one thing that we should realise that if we do not have willingness to listen to His Word, it means we use that time to listen to other voices such as television, Radio, instagram, or youtube. Some of us are more willing to listen to all those voices other than listening to His Word. Some of us are more willing to spend more time playing with their social media and listening to its voice rather than reading the Bible and listening to His voice. Are you willing to listen today? Are you willing to listen to what God says? Samuel may not know the LORD yet but he is willing to listen and it is really good news for you who has not believed in Jesus yet.
Second one that we can learn from Samuel is willingness to be led by the word of God. We have to be willing to be led by the word of God or to obey the word of God. Let’s have a look at what God asks Samuel to do.
11 Then the Lord said to Samuel, “Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel at which the two ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. 12 On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. 13 And I declare to him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. 14 Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever.”
In other words, God asked Samuel to share His word to Eli about Eli’s judgement. Let me get you in context, God asked Samuel to tell Eli who raised him, who took care of him and a man who might treat him like his son, about really really bad news which is his judgement. God wants Samuel to tell Eli that his judgement is coming. Can you imagine that? Samuel had a bit of fear to tell Eli as you can read in verse 15 Samuel lay until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the Lord. And Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. But in verse 18, it says 18 So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. And he said, “It is the Lord. Let him do what seems good to him.” At the end, Samuel obeyed and told everything to Eli. Often obedience is not easy. We could be in the same situation as Samuel where God asks us to rebuke someone that we love. It might cause hard discussion. We tend to avoid that discussion because we do not want to hurt our “Eli”. But God wants us to obey Him.
The question for us is where have you neglected the calling of God through His Word or through the Holy Spirit or through your brother sister in Christ? Are we receptive and obedient when God is calling us? Where in our life, God has been calling you?
Where is in your life God has called you and you choose to ignore His Word? If you are here today and you do not believe Jesus as your personal saviour and God has been tapping your shoulder and calling you to surrender your life to Him, but you keep ignoring Him, I hope you have been listening today.
For some of us, God might have been calling you to get baptised. God might have been calling you to serve Him in this church and you keep ignoring Him. For parents, God might have been reminding you about teaching your kids about Jesus but you keep ignoring that reminder. Stop ignoring Him and respond to His Word.
- Meditate Word of God
Have you been on a stage where you feel your christian life is so dry? You do not want to read your Bible. You do not want to go to church. Our tendency as christian to fix this issue is to serve, serve and serve but your heart is empty. We do a lot of ministry. That is our tendency, we have a tendency to “do, do, and do” or “serve, serve and serve” but our heart is empty. Instead of “do-do and do”, God wants us to stop and listen to His Word. How? Meditate the Word of God
- Proclaim the Word of God.
firstly mediate the word of God and secondly proclaim the Word of God. We can not grow spiritually without these two things. That’s what Samuel did, he did not only listen to the word of God but he also proclaimed God’s word to Eli even if it is not easy. As a result, in verse 19, it says Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And in verse 20, it says Samuel was established as a prophet of the Lord. Like Samuel, when we proclaim the Word of God, so often it puts us in an uncomfortable situation. Remember Samuel has to share bad news from God to Eli. When we proclaim His Word, this situation sometimes can not be avoided.
In verse 20, it says Samuel was established as prophet of the Lord. In the past, God spoke to them by prophets. But today, God spoke to us by his Son. In Hebrew 1:1-2, it says that 1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
And, God wants to raise many “Samuel” in our days. The people who listen to God, meditate on God and proclaim God’s word. But he does that by speaking to us through Jesus. Jesus is God’s answer to this dark sinful society. He is the word of God who came to us. He is the proof of God’s relentless grace toward his people. The word of God came and died for sins so that those who believe in him may live. Jesus obeyed God perfectly to the point that He is not only willing to listen to God but He is willing to be a perfect sacrifice so that we as sinners can have new life. Jesus is the true prophet. He did not come to bring word of judgment but He came to bring word of Grace and Truth.
- Explain the difference between hearing and listening. Why is listening hard?
- Does God still speak today? If yes, how? If not, why?
- In this story, what struck you the most about Samuel? Explain the reason to your group.
- How does this story point us to the gospel?
- God wants to use us as “Samuel” to our generation. How can we be Samuel in our personal context?