Description / Transcription
Well, we continue today our study in 1 Samuel. We’re turning today to chapter 3, 1 Samuel 3. So in the first chapter of Samuel we saw the prayer of Hannah, that God would bless her with a son and the Lord did that. We saw contrast in chapter 2 between Samuel as he’s growing up in the presence of the Lord and the wicked sons of Eli, and now we turn today to chapter 3 where the Lord calls Samuel.
Let’s read together from God’s holy Word.
“Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord in the presence of Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision. At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his own place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was.”
“Then the Lord called Samuel, and he said, “Here I am!” 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. 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.” Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.”
“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 boy. 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.”
“And the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.” 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. On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. 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. 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.””
“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 Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” And he said, “Here I am.” And Eli said, “What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.” 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.””
“And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established as a prophet of the Lord. And the Lord appeared again at Shiloh, for the Lord revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord.”
Well, dear people of God, in my previous church, much like what happens here at Christ Covenant, the elders would meet together for prayer before the worship service and they would pray that God would bless the service. They would pray for open hearts, for people to come to know the Lord. They would pray for the musicians, the pastors, and the people, and they would especially pray, just as our elders do here, they would especially pray for God to speak. Lord, may Your Word go forth.
Well, there were two quotes that hung on the wall in the room where the elders at First Byron met for prayer. The first was a quote from Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and it goes like this: “Seek Him always, but go beyond seeking Him. Expect Him.”
Do you expect anything to happen when you get up to preach in a pulpit, or do you just say to yourself, “Well, I have prepared my address, I’m going to give them this address, some of them will appreciate it and some will not.” Are you expecting it to be the turning point in someone’s life? That is what preaching is meant to do. Seek this power, expect this power, yearn for this power, and when the power comes, yield to Him.
And then one other quote. This one’s from Charles Spurgeon: “Life, death, hell, and worlds unknown may hang on the preaching and hearing of a sermon.”
Now the point of those quotes, and the reason why they were hung up in that prayer room, of course was to focus the prayers of the elders, and to help them especially as they were praying for the preaching of God’s Word. And the premise was simply this: God was going to be speaking, would we be ready to hear Him?
And I’d ask you the same question. Are we ready for the power of God to come as He speaks? Do we believe that God will do something among us as He speaks to us? Do we realize that heaven and hell are hanging in the balance on the preached and heard Word of God? That’s, you see, what is going on here right now this morning. In this very moment, God is speaking to us.
Reminds me of what a woman said to her pastor, kind of, I think, to sober him up for his preaching task. She said to her pastor, “We have come to hear from God. We need to hear from the Lord.”
And friends, isn’t that what’s important here today? It’s not my message, it’s not my sermon. I pray that God will use it. I pray that I’ll be faithful to Him and to His Word, but we need God to speak. When we gather Sunday mornings, when we gather Sunday evenings, we need God to speak to us, and what a grace when God does that. What a gracious gift from Him when His voice is heard through His Word.
We have here in our passage this morning the call of Samuel, and God began to speak again. He spoke to Samuel and through Samuel. He was about to speak to Israel and we learn from His calling how we are to listen, how we are to receive, how we are to respond, when the Lord speaks.
First of all, we find Samuel here listening for God, listening for Him. So Samuel was ministering to the Lord in the presence of Eli, verse 1 tells us. And then it goes on and it says “the Word of the Lord was rare in those days.”
You passage begins with a severe problem. God was not speaking much in the days of Eli and Samuel. God’s people were not hearing from Him. There weren’t prophets who were speaking the Word of the Lord. The Word of the Lord was rare. And visions, the common way that the Lord communicated His Word to a prophet, were infrequent. God, you see, was largely silent.
And that’s not just a matter of fact. That is a judgment statement. When God takes away the light of His Word, when God leaves us in the dark, that is a judgment from God. When God begins to shrivel up in terms of His speech to His people, that of course is not a blessing from the Lord, that is a curse from the Lord.
Remind us, doesn’t it? Of what one of the later prophets would write, Amos in chapter 8 verses 11 and 12, as God was threatening a famine on Israel, the Lord said this through His prophet: “I will send a famine on the land. Not a famine of bread nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. They will run to and fro to seek the Word of the Lord but they shall not find it.”
You see, people of God, there’s something that is so much worse than going without bread and water, and that is to go without God’s Word. When God’s Word is not available, when God’s Word is not preached, when God’s Word is not faithfully spoken, and a famine of God’s Word falls upon the people of God, that is an awful, awful thing. The psalm writer in Psalm 74, as he writes the psalm a cry of anguish over trouble that has come on God’s people in verse 9, says this: “We do not see our signs. There is no longer any prophet, and there is none among us who knows how long.”
God’s people were troubled. One of the signs of that is no prophets were being raised up. No one to speak the Word of God to the people of God.
Well, towards the end of this book, 1 Samuel, as Saul’s reign is declining, this is one of the things that became true of Saul is he no longer heard from God. Chapter 28, he says, “I am in great distress for the Philistines are warring against me and God has turned away from me and answers me no more, either by prophets or dreams.”
So this is what it was like in the days of Samuel, just coming off the period of the judges, where there was no king and everyone did what was right in their own eyes. We took a look last week at Eli and his wicked sons who despised the offerings that were made to the Lord. There was little voice, little light from God.
We even see this pictured here in the text. In verse 2 we read that Eli’s eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see. That is no doubt a comment about his age, about the infirmity of his eyesight, that more and more his eyes were growing dim, but this is also a symbol of Eli’s spiritual condition and Israel’s spiritual condition, that they couldn’t see. They weren’t here. The lights were going out. The voice of God was scarce and they weren’t listening to it as they ought to.
But friends, this is not the case for Samuel. Eli could not see, but Samuel was about to receive a message from the Lord. Eli was lying down in his own place, probably in some room off the temple, while Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. He was near, you see, the ark, the epicenter of God’s presence among His people. Samuel was right there, close to the ark, and he stayed there all night.
Verse 3 tells us that the lamp of God had not yet gone out. This lamp that was to stay lit from evening to morning. This was a time marker. It’s nearly dawn, but it’s another symbolic statement that although it was dark in Israel because God’s Word was rare, the lamp had not completely gone out. God was about to speak again.
And there was Samuel, positioned in a place to hear from God, in the place of God’s presence where the Word of the Lord could be heard.
So friends, I’d ask you this morning, are you listening for God? Are you poised? Even as you come to worship this morning, poised to hear from the Lord? You come and you say, “God, You’re going to speak. God, I can’t wait for You to speak. I’m ready to listen. I want hear from You.”
I wonder if you’ve ever been traveling. We’ve seen this before as we’ve traveled around different parts of the country, been traveling before and all of a sudden you come upon an area where there’s these huge turbines. Traveling along and there aren’t any turbines, and then all of a sudden there’s just a hundred of them. You know? Scattered about, next to each other, and they’re all making that big sweep through the air and you kind of say to yourself, why here? I mean, we’ve been traveling along and there have been any turbines, any windmills. Why here? Why did they put all these turbines right here?
And of course the conclusion is, right? This must be a windy place. This has to be a place where the wind is going, where the turbines can turn, where they can keep them moving.
People of God, if we want the Spirit of God to blow in us, then we need to put ourselves in windy places. And you know where one of those places is? It’s in God’s Word. This is where the Spirit of God blows. As we open His Word, as we study His Word, as we look to His Word, are you listening for His Word?
Secondly, we need to hear from God, and that’s what Samuel did. He was not only listening for God, he was hearing from God. As Samuel was sleeping in the temple, God called. And when Samuel heard it, he answered. He said, “Here I am” and immediately ran to Eli, thinking it was Eli who called him, and Eli responded, “I didn’t call. Go, go back to sleep, Samuel.” And it happened a second time. And then it happened a third time, and finally Eli caught on to what was happening. It was God who was calling Samuel.
And Eli said to Samuel, “If you hear that voice again, this is what you’re to say. Say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.'” And the call came a fourth time and this time Samuel received his calling.
Maybe you wonder, like me, why did it take Eli and Samuel three times to get what was happening? To figure out that this was the Lord speaking. Why didn’t Samuel tune in the first time that the Lord’s voice came to him?
And we have an answer, don’t we? In our text, verse 7. It says, “Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the Word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.”
Friends, this is not a condemnation, this is simply an explanation. So this is not a statement of judgment about the spiritual condition of Samuel, but rather simply an explanation of where he stood in his own prophetic calling. Samuel was not yet familiar with God’s voice and His Word. We’ve been told that he was growing in favor with God, but he had not yet any direct prophetic experience with God up until this point.
So he was not familiar yet with how the Word of the Lord would come to him. But that changed right here. He heard from God. His call was as direct as Moses’ call was, Moses, the last prophet before Samuel comes. Remember, Moses’ calling happened at a burning bush, and Samuel’s calling happens in front of a burning lampstand. Moses’ call, God repeat his name, He says, “Moses, Moses.” And God did the same thing with Samuel, “Samuel, Samuel.” Moses’ response to God, these words: “Here I am.” And Samuel says the same thing to the Lord.
You see a clear comparison as God is raising up another prophet. Well, how is that Moses, Samuel, and the other prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and so on, how is it that they heard from God? Well, of course, sometimes they heard God’s voice through a vision, sometimes they had dreams from the Lord, but primarily they heard from God as God spoke to them.
God’s voice came, and this is why Samuel makes the request of the Lord, “Speak, Lord. Lord, you need to speak. I’m here to listen and here to hear from You.”
Well, friends, how do we hear from God today? Well, we hear, of course, from God today primarily through His Word. That’s where we want to go if we’re going to hear from God.
2 Peter in chapter 1 writes about his experience of being on the Mount of Transfiguration with Christ. What a marvelous experience that had to be, an astounding experience. And Peter says, “I was an eyewitness of the majesty of Christ. I saw His majesty with my eyes. I was with Him on the Mount of Transfiguration when God said, ‘This is My beloved Son.'” And he says, “We heard the very voice borne from heaven on that holy mountain. I saw the majesty of Christ with my eyes; I heard the very voice that came down from heaven that day. Saw it with my eyes, heard it with my ears.”
But this is what Peter goes on to say, this is what’s amazing. He says, “And we now have something more sure, the prophetic word to which you will do well to pay attention to, for no prophecy of Scripture came from someone’s own interpretation and no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
We have there the doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture. Men were carried along by the Holy Spirit. The prophecy didn’t come from their own interpretation, from their own will, the Spirit carried them.
And Peter is saying here, “I heard the voice, I was an eyewitness of Jesus’ glory, but you have something more sure.”
Wouldn’t we have loved to have been on the Mount of Transfiguration to see what Peter saw? To hear what Peter heard? And yet God says to us, you have something more sure than what Peter experienced. You have the prophetic Word that has been spoken by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The Bible better than a personal experience, the Bible better than a privatized individualized voice from heaven. This is how God is heard, and you can be sure of this Word of God.
Sometimes we hear and we don’t hear, isn’t it true? I mean, it could be happening here this morning as you listen to the sermon. It probably happens often when we’re reading our Bibles. It happens to me. I’ve just been reading through the book of Proverbs, and what has struck me a few times in reading that is how much I’m missing. We’re not always hearing. I’m hearing, but I’m not hearing.
So we need to pray, even before we come to the Word: “Lord, help me to hear. My ears are deaf. They’re so often plugged. God, help me to hear what You’re going to say. I don’t want to just read words on a page. I want to hear from You, have my heart stirred, my will shaped, my obedience in faith kindled,” and then pray after. Pray before you read, pray after you read: “Lord, let me do what You have said to me to do.”
That leads us, you see, to number three, responding to God.
So Samuel was listening, the Lord spoke, Samuel heard, but then Samuel also responded. What was the message that was delivered from God to Samuel? Well, it was not just a calling to office, so we can’t limit this chapter just to say well, here Samuel is being called to be a prophet. It was that, but it was more. It was also a calling to a particular message. It was a call to action, to deliver the message that God had laid upon him. And that message was difficult and it was painful. A message, God says, that would make the ears of those who heard it tingle. Like their ears were on fire when they heard this message from God. And it was a message, of course, about Eli’s house.
It’s what God had spoken earlier to Eli about his home, about his family, and God is saying, “Now what I had spoken to you earlier, Eli, all of this is going to come to pass.” It’s going to be punishment. His family would be cut short. There would not be an old man in Eli’s line, and all of this because Eli had not restrained his sons when his sons had blasphemed God. They had blasphemed the very sacrifices that God had ordained for atoning for sin. You remember they had plunged their three-pronged fork into the cauldron and took the meat that belonged to God’s people and took the fat that belonged to God.
So they had blasphemed against the very sacrifices God had ordained for atoning for sin, and so there was to be no atonement left for them, God says here.
Of course, there’s an important parenting principle, that we do our children no favors, we are not a blessing to them, when we fail to discipline or restrain them when they sin.
Eli took some attempts at this, but either was not consistent, or forceful, or perhaps not direct enough with his sons. He hadn’t committed the sins that his sons had committed, but he also did not stop them.
This is just simply a great reminder to us as parents, isn’t it? And here on this Father’s Day, a great reminder to fathers. Do not do what Eli did. We need to sometimes halt our children from going any farther. And on this Father’s Day we’re so thankful to you fathers, but please lead in this respect.
And by the way, this is also the task of the elders of the church in the family of God.
Well, Eli’s sons, they wouldn’t listen. They did not respond and Eli did not respond as he should before God.
But friends, this is not true of Samuel. Samuel needed to deliver a message of judgment. What a calling he received from God. Imagine that God was calling you to the ministry. God is calling you to be a prophet. God is calling you to bring His Word, and then God says to you, “Oh, yeah, by the way, the very first sermon that you’re going to preach is a sermon of judgment. The very first word that you’re going to bring is a word against Eli, your mentor, and against his family, and against his sons, and his household.”
Kind of wonder if Samuel is saying to himself, “Well, can’t I bring some good news before I have to bring the bad news?” and yet he was obedient to God. He was anxious about it, he was afraid to tell Eli the vision, but at the prompting of Eli, he brought God’s message to him. He had listened to God, he had heard from God, now he responds to God and he told Eli everything and hid nothing from him.
And another symbolic line in this text, it says he opened the doors of the house of God to Eli. It’s like he threw the doors open as a sign God’s Word is going to go out and go forth. He delivered God’s Word to God’s people.
You know, God has specific, particular callings for different individuals. When God comes calling and places a calling in your life, it isn’t always the same calling as what somebody who’s next to you receives. I think about my own calling to the ministry. It was prompted by a woman named Irma Koetje, who went to the church that I grew up in and on the center aisle, one Sunday after the service was coming to a close, we were all done, we were standing there talking, I was probably 14 years old, and Irma Koetje said to me, she said, “Have you ever thought about being a pastor?”
I don’t remember what I answered her, I just remember going away scratching my head, saying, “Why would she say that to me?” or “Why would she ask me that question?” And then God kept working over the years, worked through an illness that my mom had, I think, to help me learn compassion, worked through an evangelistic team that came to my church that I assisted, worked through pastors that I had, and then giving me a sense for a calling to the ministry as I went to seminary, “Lord, either open or close the doors. Just make it obvious and plain to me if this is what you’re calling me to.”
Your calling probably is far different than that. It might be a calling to go into missions, a calling to serve as an officer in the church, call to serve in children’s ministry, a call to stretch yourself financially in support of a Christian ministry, to start a neighborhood Bible study. I mean, we could go on and on and on with these things. But these, you see, people of God, can be decisive moments in our lives and our fruitfulness often rests on a willingness to respond to God, and to say, “Lord, when You speak, here I am. Lord, what is that You’d have me do? Where is that You’d have me go? How would You want me to serve? Here I am, Lord. Open to Your Word.”
So there’s these individual callings, but friends, don’t ever forget there is a more general calling that all of us share in. It’s a calling that comes to us as Christians, that we must respond to, and that is a calling to share in the anointing of Christ to be a prophet, a priest, and a king. Just focus on prophet this morning.
There is a call that comes to every single one of us as a Christian and that call is to confess the name of Christ. You are a prophet if you are a Christian, meaning you are called to speak His name, and every single one of us as believers has that call to share God’s Word and His Gospel. What a wonderful calling, to tell people who are lost in their sins that there is hope in Jesus Christ for them. If they trust in Christ, they will be forgiven and can have eternal life in Him.
But it’s a hard calling, to go to people and tell them that they’re sinners, in need of a saviour, that they cannot have life apart from Christ. The kind of calling that Samuel had. And friends, will we respond, will we faithfully respond to that calling, to respond to the Word of God by sharing the Word of God?
Well, finally, you see, when Samuel responded to what he had heard from the Lord, the result of it was revival from God. The Word of the Lord was restored and it came through Samuel’s calling.
So verse 18, toward the end of our text, Samuel told Eli everything, he hid nothing from him, and Eli said, “It is the LORD. Let Him do what seems good to Him.”
None of the words of Samuel, it says, fell to the ground. In other words, all of the words that Samuel spoke to the people of God came true. They didn’t fall short, didn’t end up on the floor. But they accomplished exactly what God wanted them to accomplish.
This, by the way, is a sign that a true prophet was from God. If his words came true, his words come to pass, that is a sign that the Word of the Lord has been spoken. If they did not come true, it was a sign that the Lord had not spoken.
So our text tells so “all of Israel, from the north to the south, from Dan to Beersheba, knew that Samuel was established as a prophet of the LORD,” verse 20.
People of God, this is a promise that God had made earlier in the Old Testament, that a prophet would be raised. God had said to Moses in Deuteronomy 18, “I will raise up for you a prophet like you from among the brothers. You must listen to him.” Moses, there’s going to be another prophet who’s coming.
Well, here Samuel is established as a prophet and, in fact, he is next in line after Moses in the prophetic line among God’s people. Of course, he is not the last, because following him come the likes of Elijah and Elisha and the major prophets and the minor prophets, and so we see that Samuel was not the one who Moses was talking about, but in fact a prophet comes along much later, in the dawn of the New Testament, as we go back to that Mount of Transfiguration again, Jesus on the mountain. Who’s he there with? He’s there with Moses, who’s the great law-giver in Israel. And He is there with Elijah, who is the great prophet in Israel. You see, you have the law and the prophets. The Old Testament, as it were, there.
And then there’s the fulfillment of all of the Old Testament, Jesus Himself. And what does God say? He says, “This is My beloved Son,” and then an echo of the words that were spoken to Moses, “Listen to Him.”
Here’s the prophet, Christ. Jesus, the prophet that Moses spoke about. And that’s why Hebrews in the very first chapter, those great words that open that book, that speak about Christ, say that long ago at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, through people like Samuel.
But in these last days He has spoken to us through His Son. Jesus is the superior and final revelation from God. We need no new words from God, because Christ has come, and we have His words. We have something better than the prophets. We have the fulfillment of the prophets. God has spoken to us in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who was predicted in the Old Testament, who is recorded in the Gospels, who was proclaimed by the apostles. You see the fulfilment of all the Scriptures from beginning to end.
Samuel was the prophet who would announce a king, that comes later on in Samuel, as Saul comes on the scene and David comes on the scene, and Samuel announces it, but people of God in Christ, we have a prophet who is our king. And a priest. Prophet, priest, and king in the Lord Jesus Christ.
So you see God is not silent. God’s Word to us is not rare. We have it every Sunday, twice. We have it daily, and God in His grace is speaking right now. Christi is calling you. He’s calling you to faith. He’s calling you to trust. He’s calling you to salvation. He’s calling you to life. He’s calling you to put all of your hopes in Him, to confess your sins and to trust in Christ. He’s calling you to obey. He is calling. God is speaking.
Will you echo Samuel’s words? “Speak, Lord. Speak, for our servant is listening.”
Let’s pray together. Father, we do praise You for Your Word, for Your infallible, Your inerrant, Your sufficient, authoritative, clear Word that has been given to us, Lord, through the Old Testament and the New Testament. We thank You, Father, that in a time where Your Word was rare, You began to speak again in those days of Israel and Samuel. You raised up a prophet to speak. Father, we have the Lord Jesus Christ, something better than the prophets, the final, full revelation from God in Christ, so we have a final Word, as well. We pray, Lord, that we might be listening, that we would hear, that we would respond and so we pray that our hearts would be revived. Speak, Lord, for we are listening. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.