I Samuel 3: Are You Listening?
“Now the boy Samuel ministered to the Lord before Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no widespread revelation.” (vs. 1) NKJV The NIV says, ‘ there were not many visions.’ Remember this is in the period of the judges, when there was no king in Israel and everyone did what was right in their own eyes. It was a time of selfish, extreme individualism. They wanted their personal freedom to live they way they wanted to live, not the way God had told them to live. Do you see the conditions of that day were similar to the conditions we see in our country today?
God was not speaking to His people very often. We read the spiritual leaders were corrupt and compromised. The silence of God was the judgement of God. Why should God reveal truth to people who will not live up to the truth He has already given them? What we are seeing here is a prelude and a prerequisite to revival. We will see three actions necessary:
- Purging of hypocrisy.
- Fresh vision of God.
- The need for young people to stand for the truth.
God is sovereign. He sits on the throne. When His rule is not allowed. God overrules. It is a sad day, a tragic day when the Living God is silent. He is still speaking. But He is speaking to those who would obey Him. We need to have a servant’s heart, like Samuel did.
We read: “And it came to pass at that time, while Eli was lying down in his place, and when his eyes had begun to grow so dim that he could not see, and before the lamp of God went out in the tabernacle of the Lord where the ark of God was, and while Samuel was lying down, that the Lord called Samuel. And he answered, “Here I am!”
The ‘lamp of God’ was the seven-branched golden candlestick which stood in the Holy Place next to the veil, to the left of the golden altar of incense. It was the only light in the Holy Place, and the priests were ordered to always keep it burning and to trim its wicks when they offered sacrifices morning and night. The lamp was the symbol of God’s Word the light of God’s Truth given to the world through the nation of Israel. Remember when Jesus came, He was called the Word of God, the Light of the World.
Physically, Eli was probably suffering dim vision from the formation of cataracts. Physically, it is early morning, just before dawn as we read it was “before the lamp of God went out in the tabernacle”. This refers to the lamp of God which received fresh oil and had its wicks trimmed early in the morning, was burning low. Spiritually, Eli’s vision problem is with the lamp of his body, which is the eye. Jesus taught us in the Sermon on the Mount: “The eye is the lamp of the body. If therefore your eye is good, you whole body is full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness, how great is that darkness.”
What does this mean? To grasp the meaning of this statement, we look at what precedes this verse and what follows. The familiar verses before are about laying up treasures in heaven, not on earth. The principle is where your treasure is there will your heart be also. The verses that follows says no one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else be loyal to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
We live in a materialistic society and culture. What your eyes are on- speaks of what the eyes of your heart love. If your eyes are on things above, you eye is good and your body is full of light. If your eyes are on the things of the world, your eye is bad and your whole body will be full of darkness. I am afraid for most of us, the light of God’s Word has been dimmed by the glitz and glamor of this world. “Turn your eyes upon Jesus and look full in His wonderful face and the things of this world will grow strangely dim, in light of His Glory and Grace.” What does your heart yearn for, desire and you spend time and money on and with?
The priests ( and we are a royal priesthood) had to make sure the lamps were filled with oil each morning and the wicks trimmed or else the light in the Holy Place would go out. Are we living in a time where the light of God’s truth has grown dim? Whose responsibility is it to make sure the lamp stays filled with oil, which is a picture of the Holy Spirit.? It is our responsibility, for we are a royal priesthood.
Question: Do you arise early each morning to fill the lamp with oil and trim the wicks? How else can you see to perform your duties for the day, if this is not your first act of the day?
Notice we cannot serve two masters. We are all servants. The question is who are you serving? Eli was told by the unnamed man of God in I Samuel 2 because of Eli’s failure as a father and priest and because he honored his sons more than God by fattening themselves on the choice parts of the offering made by the people, he would lose his position and his sons would lose their lives. The ark was in the tabernacle containing the law of God, but their eyes had grown dim and the light was low, the people of God did not honor the law of God. People perish when there is no vision.
We are commanded to walk in the light as God is the light and when we do, we will experience fellowship with Him and one another and His blood continually cleanses us. (I John 1)
The Lord called Samuel four times. The first three times, Samuel thought it was Eli calling him. He did not recognize the voice of the Lord, for perhaps at his age (probably 12) he did not personally know the Lord, but knew about the Lord.
But Samuel had developed the heart of a servant which is revealed in his attentive ear and his immediate response. As soon as he heard his name called, he heard it and responded. These are (pardon the pun) the “earmarks” of a good servant.
In the fourth call, the Lord calls Samuel’s name twice. We are reminded the Great Shepherd knows His sheep by name.
Looking back in your life, can you now recall a time when the Lord was trying to get your attention? How many times did He have to do something to get your attention? How long did He have to knock on your door before you let Him in? This applies not only to salvation, but to repentance and restoration.
Samuel responds this time and says” “Speak for Your servant hears.” Now the Lord tells Samuel: “Behold, I will do something in Israel which both ears of everyone who hears it will tingle.”
On September 11, 2001, God allowed something to happen which made the ears of everyone in this country tingle. All of a sudden, we felt vulnerable. We were fearful, alarmed, and guess what? Churches were filled. People wanted someone to tell them what had happened. They wanted someone to pray. Late night comedians lost their ability to joke and make people laugh. News anchors broke down and cried on air. The Democrats and Republicans locked arms together and sang God Bless America. Billy Graham was called on to pray and bring us comfort.
It was a moment when our ears tingled. But it only lasted a moment. Why should God call you, if you are not going to respond. Samuel listened with the intention to obey. We listen. But do we hear?
We must be active listeners. An active listener will ask the Lord: “What are you saying to me? How should this influence my life so I can better conform to Your image?
First of all to hear His voice, we must turn to His Word and James tells us how then to listen:
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what is says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man, who looks at his face in the mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it- will be blessed in what he does.” (James 1)
Jesus said those who hear his word and do it will like the man who built his house on the rock. And it withstood the storms of life. Those who heard it and did not do it were like the man who built his house on the sand, and the storms came and it fell with a mighty crash.
Purposeful listening, listens with the purpose of learning, understanding, and applying the truth to our lives.
GOD IS STILL SPEAKING- ARE YOU LISTENING?
God speaks to build to us to build an intimate, personal relationship with each of us. He wants to communicate His will to us and empower us to do it. In this way God can mature us spiritually. God wants to fill you with His peace, which passes understanding as He guards your heart with all diligence.
God also likes to spend time with you. He loves you with an everlasting love. When my mother would call and ask how her grandchildren were doing, she did not necessarily want to know if they were in good health, although this would be a concern. She wanted to hear about their life, what they said, what they had done. Stories are the language of the heart. She wanted to hear stories about them. God dearly loves to hear from you. Give Him a call.
As you fellowship with the Lord, He helps you see things from His view. This view is only available through the lens of the Bible. This becomes our view of the world. He has given us His Spirit so when we open His word, we can see what He is talking about.
Now we have an enemy who Jesus described not only as a liar, but a thief who comes to steal, and kill and destroy. God has plans for us and they are for our good. The enemy wants to keep you from carrying out God’s plan for your life. He will do what he can to disrupt God’s plan and good intentions for your life. It is a spiritual battle which requires spiritual weapons. We must learn how to use those weapons to tear down strongholds and take captive wrong thoughts. God can prepare us to resist the devil, sin and temptation. First, He helps you avoid pitfalls and traps the enemy uses. Second, He identifies those triggers the enemy uses to trip us up and uproots them. He will teach you how to use the mighty weapons we have.
The Lord tells Samuel what He is about to do to Eli and his sons. Samuel was afraid to tell Eli what God’s message was. Ever find yourself in situation where you know you need to speak the truth? But you are afraid of what others will think of you or what they might say to you?
Samuel was just a boy. Eli was an authority figure to Samuel. It was bad news. No one likes to tell someone bad news.
But Samuel was faithful to obey God. Samuel we read: ‘grew in the Lord.” Obedience always creates spiritual growth. Samuel grew because of his obedience and we read: “the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.” In other words, all that Samuel spoke came to be and he was recognized as a prophet. He would become a judge, a priest and a prophet. His reputation was established because he was a faithful servant. A servant with an attentive ear, who obeyed his Master’s commands.
Israel was about to experience their own 911. It would make everyone’s ears tingle. It was a new day dawning in Israel. A thief would take something so important to them, they realized he was stealing their identity as God’s people.
Identity theft is rampant today. Gina and I have had our debit cards hacked on more than one occasion. When I travel, I notify the bank where I am going so they will not block charges.
We will see the enemy steal something from Israel which makes their ears tingle. What will be stolen is the Glory of God. We will read about it in the coming chapters. But today as we look around America we realize something is missing in our culture. Something is not right. The Light of God’s Word has grown dim.
We know God’s intentions for us are good, but we have an enemy who opposes God’s good intentions for us.
We will see- sometimes what seems to be a defeat is actually part of God’s Victory. Or as I often say: “A setback is a setup for a comeback.” And we will see in this story God comes back.
God directs history. God answers prayers. God judges sin. God rewards faithfulness.
God is still speaking. Are you listening?
He (the Lord Jesus) who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon!” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.