Monday, August 08, 2005

Here I am Lord

Sermon on 1 Samuel 3
By Terry L. Pruitt

Title: “Here Am I Lord, Let Me Speak Your Word”

Introduction

Samuel is called the last of the judges and the first of the prophets. He is the last of the judges because he led Israel until there was a King. He may not qualify as a judge in the sense that he led the children of Israel in a battle. Last week brother Badorf preached about one of God's judges for Israel. And with Samuel the days of the judges are passing by and the days of the kings and prophets in Israel's redemptive history is coming. There are a number of prophets in redemptive history before Samuel. There is Noah. He functioned as a prophet. He warned the people of God's impending judgment. There is also Abraham. God calls Abraham a prophet in Genesis 20:7 when addressing Abimelech regarding taking Sarah into his house. Moses is called a prophet in Deuteronomy 18:15. So there are other prophets before Samuel. However, Samuel marks a turning point in history of God's redemptive people.

In the beginning of 1 Samuel 3 the boy Samuel does not know God nor his Word but by the end, he is a man of God, known to be a prophet. In this story the boy is transformed from lackey to leader. He starts out receiving instruction from Eli but ends up giving Eli warnings. What makes this difference in the life of Samuel? It is the transforming Spirit of God and the transforming work of the Word of God. Samuel has been prepared for service in many ways, however, he does does not wait to begin his ministry until he is fully mature. He is obligated by his possession of the Word of God and by his ties of responsibility to his mentor Eli to declare the Word of God to him. We will see in this chapter how the Word of God transforms his servant Samuel as he ministers it to God's people.

Main Idea: The Word of the Lord Transforms His Servants as They Minister It In His Name.

Just to remind you of my method for preaching is to go verse or a group of verses and talk about the content. I try to use the natural outline of the biblical passage to create my outline. They all center around this idea of how Samuel is transformed by his experience with coming to know the Word of God. I also hope by the end, that if you are finding that you lack experience with the Word of God and do not know God, you will not wait for some day when you are more mature. I hope you will receive the Word of God now.


A. The Word of the Lord Was Rare (Verse 1)

I have never met personally someone who died from thirst. The people I have known who died, passed away from either disease or from an accident. But we know that a person can live much longer without food than without water. We can live without food for perhaps a few weeks, it really is determined though by how much fat reserves the person has. When a person goes without water, it does not depend on their size. A person can only survive without water for a matter of three or four days. The two survival situation that could cause someone to die from a lack of water are being stranded in the desert and being lost at sea. The person stranded in the desert simply has no water, but the person lost at sea has a lot of water, just none for drinking. I believe these two situations illustrate the differences of people in Israel in the days of Samuel and many in our nation who have never heard the Word of God preached. Neither of these situations today applied to those who have heard the Word of God, I'm talking about here in America there are those who have never heard nor read the Word of God. They have a million voices speaking to them, television, radio, friends and family, telephones, newspapers, Internet, movies, gossip, over heard conversations, songs, jokes, and the list goes on. But these people hear all kinds of things being said, they have not hear what God has to say. They are spiritually dehydrated. They thirst.

This illustration does not address people here in this church. It does not address the many blessed people in America. We have both the Word of God and we have it in spades. You can listen to the Word of God being preached on the radio. You can search the Bible interactively on the Internet. You can pick up the Bible in front of you and read it right now. You can read your Bible everyday. You can listen to tapes of Bible being read.

We have the Bible. It is God's love letter to us. We possess this special treasure. It is his gift to his people. It is our connection with God. It is our common heritage from the fathers and mothers of the faith. We have the scriptures. The Word of God is not rare here.

Listen to this short biography of John Wycliffe:

“John Wycliffe lived almost 200 years before the Reformation, but his beliefs and teachings closely match those of Luther, Calvin and other Reformers. As a man ahead of his time, historians have called Wycliffe the "Morning star of the Reformation."

Born in the 1300s, Wycliffe criticized abuses and false teachings in the Church. In 1382 he translated an English Bible--the first European translation done in over 1,000 years. The Lollards, itinerant preachers he sent throughout England, inspired a spiritual revolution.
But the Lollardy movement was short-lived. The Church expelled Wycliffe from his teaching position at Oxford, and 44 years after he died, the Pope ordered his bones exhumed and burned. Intense persecution stamped out his followers and teachings. It would be hundreds of years before men like Martin Luther resurrected the reforms of which Wycliffe dreamed.”
John Wycliffe was wise to know that it was not merely the printed, written word of God but also the spoken word of God. He knew that people had a need to read it and to hear it. We can thank God for giving his people in our history who have ensured we have the Word of God. Thank God for John Wycliffe and many others who have been a part of the legacy of our English Bible. I have heard complaints that we have too many translations of the Bible in English. It can be over whelming. We can have entirely too many choices when we choose a Bible. We are not in a desert nor are we lost at sea here in America, for the most part. We are on a cruise ship. All the meals and drink are paid for. We can choose tap water, or we can drink sparkling water, we can sip on spring water, or we can taste the perrie water, or we can guzzle water purified with reverse osmosis. I'm not really sure what that last one really is, but anyway, we have a lot of choices in reading the Word of God.

I told you earlier that I never met anyone who died from thirst. I have many times been present when people fainted or became ill because they were dehydrated. It is usually because the did not drink enough for the event they were doing. The dehydration come with plenty of pure water available but not drank. Likewise, we should not

Application:
I would like to give some tips for giving Bibles.

I would encourage each parent here to make sure your child who can read has a Bible that is appropriate for their age. I would not think a KJV is appropriate for a child who is in third grade. I enjoy the KJV and use it a lot. Make sure it Bible is accessible to your child while at the same time maintaining integrity of the Word.

I would also if you give a Bible as a gift that you get one is of the same quality that you would want to read yourself. Make sure the print is large enough to read. Make sure it is a solid translation.

B. Eli's Eyes Grow Dim (Verses 2-3)

Eli's eyes growing dim show his stage in life where he is declining and the coming dimming of the lights in the house of God foreshadows the future of Eli's work and life. This is not judgment necessarily, for judgment will come in the future. He is decreasing, another must increase. The natural part would be for Eli to decline and his sons to pick up the work of priesthood for the nation. Eli's work will be passed on to another.

This particular section is in contrast with the growth and development of Samuel which we see in point F of this outline.

Application:
Funny thing is that Christianity is a multi-generational institution. We pass it on from one generation to the next. Sometimes the passing of the faith from one generation to the next is successful. At other times it is tripped up. Passing the faith requires two parts, the passing of the senior generation to the younger and then an embracing of the faith by the junior. Each age must make the faith their own, but at the same time understand those who have gone before them.

Some do not have biological children but God blesses them with a work that they can pass on to. Eli fails to pass on to sons his office. But as he grows dim in his old age, he will pass the work down to Samuel.

C. Samuel Does Not Know the Voice of God (Verses 4-9)

Samuel does not know God, nor does he know the Word of the Lord. Those two things are not exactly the same. But God reveals himself to us through his Word. The scripture forbids us to have idols. We do not have a idols not because an artist might not get the statue right, but because God has his own way to let us know who he is. It does not originate with man. It is his Word. He has revealed himself by what he has done in creation and in providence. He has revealed himself in the person and work of Christ on the cross. He has revealed himself in his written word the Bible. Samuel did not know God, though he worked in God's house every day.

Though he does not know God, this is not the same thing as Eli's sons who do not know God and blatantly evil about it. Samuel is not neutral or sinless, but he has not had the transforming experience knowing God. His mother knew God. He is working in the house of God, where people come to worship the maker of heaven and earth. We often like to think we are neutral when arrive in this life. But our righteousness is not one that comes from ourselves. It never has and never will. Our righteousness is a dependent one. If we are properly nourished, it is because we are dependent upon food that comes from plants or animals. Our whole of life is a state of dependency. We can not live unless we breath, each breath means we are dependent upon our environment constantly for life, one breath at a time. Likewise our righteousness is one that does not flow from ourself, but it flows from the one who created the universe.

So our natural state is that of need. This is true when it comes to righteousness. Righteousness is a right standing before God. We need God to make us righteous. We are also in a state of need when it comes to ministry. We are dependent upon God to give us gifts, upon God send the Teacher the Holy Spirit. We are dependent upon God to help us use our gifts. We are dependent upon others to help us refine our gifts for ministry. Samuel begins his ministry here with spurts and starts. He is being given the Word of God and he does not even realize what is going on.

Someone suggested one time that when I preach here that I simply use a sermon that I have preached before I came here. There are a couple of reasons that I could not do that. I had my own spurts and starts when I began to preach. As a youth I attended a church that was very encouraging to young men who wanted to enter the ministry. Often even as a teen, I was give opportunities to preach in a pulpit during Youth Sunday. Between my Freshman and Sophomore year in college I started preaching each Sunday as a supply preacher. That meant I was not an ordained preacher but I was all they could get. To get to the church I had to drive an hour and a half to a small church near Sarcoxie, Missouri. There were only about ten people there on a given Sunday. We did not do much for hymns and so I would preach for an hour. I would preach way too long. The next summer I started preaching at a little church near my home town, Phillipsburg, Missouri. There I preached the best I could with a lot of really bad sermons. But the people were good to let me try my gifts. I had great hopes and dreams and the opportunities to see a thriving, growing church were just not realistic. It was a small town of about 170 people and six churches. Given some really bad preaching and not a lot of prospects of new members, I was frustrated. There in Phillipsburg I would preach way too harsh.

What went right? I was reading the Bible, I was praying and I was learning the things of God. I was sharing what God was teaching me with others. God confirmed my teaching gifts. I had a lot of very generous people encouraging me in pursuit of my goal of becoming a pastor.

What went wrong? I think I was enthusiastic about the things of God and I became prideful in what I had learned. When people were generous with me and said kind things to me, I felt like I knew it all. I wanted to not only preach the Word of God but preach it better than everyone else. In short I became full of myself.

God has taken me through several deserts in my pursuit of his calling on my life. Some periods where I felt like I had sinned and would never be in his favor again. In other times I felt like I was just not doing all I could to serve God.

Way back there in Sarcoxie, Missouri one the teachers gave a Sunday School lesson. She talked about a missionary who trained in college to do mission work. She applied to the mission fields but she found no opportunities. The situation became draining because she waited so long after graduation to find a position on the mission field. Finally a young man asked her to marry her. She went to a Pastor Brantley and asked what she should do. Should she turn the young man down and continue to look for a position with the missions board or marry the young man. Pastor Brantley said that she should exercise her gifts where God had put her. If she desired to do so, then she marry this young man. (I assume he was a fellow believer.) Then if she had used her training and used her gifts in a faithful way, she would be a missionary regardless of her formal position.

Application:
The application here is that we often learn to minister for the Lord by doing acts of service. We may not do them perfectly at first. We may not be the best at it. But God will use our humble service if we are open to hearing his call.

D.Samuel Receives The Word of the Lord Rebuking His Teacher (Verses 10-14)

The Word of the Lord was not all that original. It was merely confirming and expanding what an unknown prophet said at some point before. Why would God give Samuel a message that had been spoken before? There are a couple of answers to that question. One is that we often need to hear the Word of the Lord repeated. It is common to the human condition to need to hear a concept multiple times in order to understand it. We need to ponder an idea in order to embrace it. Two Samuel needs to take small steps in his initial ministry. Most children to do not simply start out their movements by running. Usually they crawl, then they walk and finally they run. One of our daughters started her movements out by rolling instead of crawling but it got the job done. I have also heard of children who sort of skip the walk stage and start out with a little trot instead of a walk. But most of us need to go through the natural progression to reach maturity. So God starts Samuel out with a simple message in order to let him speak it. It was a simple message but it was one that took courage to deliver.

Application: If you are a Sunday School teacher, youth leader, a small group leader, or a parent, do not attempt to come up with esoteric or new teachings all the time. Stick the basics. Repeat the basics often. People need the basics. A good coach drills his team in the basics all the time. A good Sunday School teacher of the Word of the Lord also repeats the basics of the faith. We should never tire of hearing the gospel. We should never tire of hearing the God's grace is large enough to cover all my sin. We should never tire to hear that Jesus died for me.

E. Samuel Tells Eli The Word of The Lord (Verses 15-18)

Now Eli has the God-give right do what many of you have been dreaming for years. He gets to tell his boss off. Come now let's hear it for telling the boss off. Well, that is not exactly what is going on here. The message he has is not one that would be exactly popular. He is going to tell Eli that judgment is coming. So he is afraid to tell speak the message that God has given him.

I remember a few years back I had eye surgery. The doctor told me that my eyes would be sensitive to bright light for a few weeks. He gave me these sunglasses that did not especially accent my best features. In other words, they were UGLY. As he handed me the glasses he said, “The good thing about these glasses is that they work with your existing prescription glasses”. I'm not sure there was a way for Samuel to put a positive spin on the message God had given. I can just imagine Samuel trying to think of a way to use the phrase, "the good thing about this coming judgment is......” It just does not work. If we as God's people speak the Word of the Lord today, it is often something that is not what we would like to deliver. And we should put a positive spin on things when appropriate. But courage to deliver bad news is as important as enthusiasm to deliver good news is a part of the job description.

Application:
We must have the courage to deliver bad news as well as bring the good news. We need to be willing to suffer for the message we bring. Now I'm not talking about being in your face rude or harsh with people.

F. Samuel Grows as a Prophet (Verses 19-20)

As we pointed out earlier, here Samuel's growth is in contrast to Eli's decline. Samuel's growth though comes through the ministry of Eli. And Samuel's growth is a positive extension of Eli's ministry while Eli's sons are a negative extension of Eli's ministry.

When this passage says that Samuel was known from Dan to Beersheba it is really talking about a national recognition of Samuel gifts as a prophet. This would not be the area allocated to the tribe Dan in the West-central part of Israel, the location of modern day Tel Aviv. Dan was a city in the far North of Israel. So the phrase refers would be somewhat analogous for us say from Augusta, Maine to Maine, Florida.
Application:
How do we grow in the Lord? First of all it is all of grace and not something we can achieve without God doing it. Like a garden, you can set up the right conditions but neither you nor I make the plants in our garden grow. That is God work.
How do we refine our gifts of ministry? Well, first we must understand what our gifts are. How do we do that? More often that not, practically speaking, we do that the same way you find out whether some new clothes fit. You see a ministry you suppose might be a fit and you try it on. For instance, if you don't know your spiritual gift but someone asks you to teach a small group study, you might try it on.

G. The Word of the Lord Comes to Samuel (Verse 21)

A lot of times we see the Word of the Lord as answering things that are particular and temporal and the Word answers more often than not issues that are transcendent and eternal. What do I mean by particular and temporal? When I am driving home from church today do I need to ask God what speed to drive. This is a particular thing that I am asking for a this one time. In reality, if I look at just a few principles, I know I'm supposed to obey the powers over me and they have posted a sign on Aquahart Drive saying that I can drive 30 MPH. So if I stop to pray to ask that, will I get an answer. Should I ask God to tell me what color of socks to wear? I suppose that is how God could deal with us. Though his speaking to mankind is a multidimensional, he speaks in the person of Jesus Christ. He speaks in his creation. But when it comes to revelation, he has spoken clearly in his Word the Bible. When we are looking for answers to the questions of life, we need to search out the Word of God for the answers. How is it right to ask God for a particular answer of something temporal when he has given an eternal answer to his people. What I'm saying is that we should count the Bible as precious. We should count that the Word of God has answer in it for this generation.

Application:
We live in a day and age where the Word of God is abundant. Living in the time of Samuel, the Word of God had passed from being rare to being common in his servant Samuel. This closes the loop in the story here. The Word of God is no longer rare, but present with the people of God at God's house. The Word of God is not rare in our day and age. We all have Bibles if we want them. We must not neglect what God has given us. We should not be foolish in partaking of the Word of God when it is abundant.

Conclusion
In conclusion, the Word of God is precious. It is powerful to change not only the hearers but also the messenger too. Each one of you here, if you are a believer, have a ministry to offer. For some of you it is simply sharing over a cup of coffee with your friend what God is saying to you when you read Bible. For others it is giving a cup of cool water to the thirsty in Jesus name. Still other should be sharing the Word of God by teaching Sunday School, a small group Bible Study or perhaps the to the youth of our church. I wonder if you will like Samuel say, “here am I”. This is the same language used in the call of Isaiah 6. Isaiah saw the need to declare the Word of God. His reply was here am I Lord, send me. Samuel was called by God. He said, “Here am I Lord”. I am wondering if anyone here is sensing a call. Perhaps your call is to have that cup of coffee with a friend or co-worker and share what God is doing. Will you say “Here am I Lord”. Perhaps it is to lead our youth ministry. If God is calling you, will you say, “Here am I”.

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