Are You Listening to the King?

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This blog post is based on a sermon I gave at Calvary Gospel Chapel a few weeks ago. I have slightly modified it for the blog. The sermon was a blessing to many people (including myself) that I decided to post it here. I hope it is a blessing to you as well.

Those of us who are old enough to remember the 90’s remember that it was in that decade that the Internet started to make inroads into every day society. As personal computers became cheaper and smaller, it was only a matter of time that the Internet and all the words associated with that technology became commonplace. Before the Internet, if you had told someone to “Google it” you would have been met with a funny looking stare, and probably be asked if that was the name of a new dance move.

With the advent of the new millennia, social media came onto the seen and has radically changed our way of communication and the receiving of information. On Oct 24, 2014, the British newspaper The Telegraph, under the title Social media: the platform that gives everyone a voice, mentioned that:

Social media has become the ultimate democratising, mass communication tool. Today anyone with access to a computer or a phone can promote themselves, express opinions and share ideas over a multitude of formats and platforms using words, images and video. It has transformed the speed and ease of news coverage and promoted the exchange of ideas in a way that was never possible. It’s a tool for individuals and businesses with a reach of truly global proportions. Facebook has 1.3bn members, 24m of them in the UK, and YouTube has 1bn monthly users. Meanwhile, 500m tweets are sent in 35 different languages each and every day. [1]

A blog site by writer Alana Golob wrote an article on Feb 27, 2014, with the title The Voice of the People, which says:

The strength of social media is that it gives everyone and anyone the platform to have a voice and make it heard. It’s scalable, it’s impressionable and it’s impactful. Social media doesn’t discriminate; you don’t have to be a celebrity or a congressman to be heard. We all have the ability to own our voice if we chose to do so. [2]

However, there is also a negative aspect of the social media that people are now starting to notice. In an article by the New York Times on May 25, 2014, it mentions that “how everyone is an expert on nothing, meaning they are skimming headlines and absorbing a handful of posts and tweets but not actually reading the article, book, or even watching the movie they have an opinion or tweet about.”[3] In other words: “Everybody wants to be heard and nobody wants to listen.”

The world of 1 Samuel begins where Judges leaves off; the last verse of the last chapter of the book of Judges (Judges 21:25) says:

In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

Things have become extremely desperate for the nation of Israel. They continually went through a cycle of idolatry, invasion of a foreign power, crying out to God, who would then deliver them, only for them to later on go right back into idolatry. Things got so bad that even the priesthood was affected. The High Priest Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, despised the sacrifices of God and also committed sexual immorality within the temple itself. In 1 Samuel 3:1, it says:

Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord before Eli. And word from the Lord was rare in those days, visions were infrequent.

Prophecy and visions (in other words, the voice of God) was extremely rare in those days. However, God was going to finally break the silence by talking to Samuel. Continuing on, we read in verses 2 & 3:

It happened at that time as Eli was lying down in his place (now his eyesight had begun to grow dim and he could not see well), and the lamp of God had not gone yet out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD where the ark of God was.

In verse three, when it mentions that the lamp of God had not gone out, reveals that God’s calling to Samuel happened in the early hours of the morning. The lamp in question was the golden lamp stand, which was to be continually lit throughout the night. – Exodus 27:20-21:

“You shall charge the sons of Israel, that they bring you clear oil of beaten olives for the light, to make a lamp burn continually. In the tent of meeting, outside the veil which is before the testimony, Aaron and his sons shall keep it in order from evening to morning before the Lord; it shall be a perpetual statute throughout their generations for the sons of Israel.

Also, the writer of 1 Samuel is helping us to fill in some of the blanks. He is preparing the scene. First of all, why mention that Eli was having eyesight issues? Well, that would mean that Eli was lying close to where Samuel was situated, so that he could call him for help when needed. Thus, when God called Samuel it make senses to the ancient reader why Samuel thought Eli had called him. Verses 4-6:

that the Lord called Samuel; and he said, “Here I am.” Then he 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. The Lord called yet again, “Samuel!” So Samuel arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he answered, “I did not call, my son, lie down again.”

In verse 7 we read:

Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, nor had the word of the Lord yet been revealed to him.

As a comparison, we also read in 1 Samuel 2:12 that:

Now the sons of Eli were worthless men; they did not know the Lord.

Some have said that both the sons of Eli and Samuel were not in saving grace. Most scholars however have rejected this. They believe that when it says that Samuel did not know the Lord yet, it just means that he has yet to know him the way he would get to know him, in a very verbal and personal manner. I believe this to be true and fit with the rest of the chapter. Continuing in verses 8-9, we read:

Then Eli discerned that the Lord was calling the boy. And Eli said to Samuel, “Go lie down, and it shall be if He calls you, that you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

One thing we can learn from both Eli’s sons and Samuel is the responses from each of them . While the sons of Eli were warned and rejected God’s calling, Samuel responded positively, actively going out to obey it. It could be for this very reason that God not only calls him again for the fourth time, but leaves no doubt who did the calling! We read in verse 10:

Then the Lord came and stood and called as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for Your servant is listening.”

This time, God Himself appears before Samuel! Then God begins the prophecy in verses 11-14:

The Lord said to Samuel, “Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel at which both ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. In that day I will carry out against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. For I have told him that I am about to judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knew, because his sons brought a curse on themselves and he did not rebuke them. Therefore I have sworn to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever.”

This prophecy was a judgment on Eli for knowing the sins of his sons and doing nothing. As pastor Bob Deffinbaugh says: “In contemporary terms, Eli is an “enabler.” He facilitates his sons’ sinful behavior rather than resist and oppose it.”[4]

That is why the text says in verse 13: For I have told him that I am about to judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knew, because his sons brought a curse on themselves and he did not rebuke them.

Many scholars believe that the NASB translation of “rebuke” is a weak translation and prefer the word “restrain”, as in the ESV and the NKJV. And they are probably correct, especially since it mentions in 1 Samuel 2:22-25 did rebuke his sons…or did he? While I agree that “restrain” might be a better translation, there is good reason to have it as rebuke as well.

In those verses, Eli did rebuke them for their sexual immorality but notice that he did not mention the sacrilege they committed in the temple, when they refused to obey God’s commands regarding the sacrifices – as found in Lev. 3:3-5, 16 and Lev. 7:29-34. Why not? It appears that it is because he enjoyed the best cuts of meat for himself as well! Which is why the man of God, when rebuking Eli in 1 Samuel 2:27-36, condemns Eli directly in 2:29 (ESV):

Why then do you scorn my sacrifices and my offerings that I commanded for my dwelling, and honor your sons above me by fattening yourselves on the choicest parts of every offering of my people Israel?’

In God’s eyes, half a rebuke is no rebuke at all! Could this also be why Eli’s rebuke to his sons regarding their sexual immorality fell on deaf ears?

This reminds me of a story someone once told me about a young man who made a lot of money selling drugs on the streets. His mother, an elderly Christian lady, suspected that her unemployed son was dealing in drugs, since he was able to purchase for her all the latest appliances and furniture, to her delight. However, his mother complained later on when he brought home his girlfriend to live with him in his apartment. He rebuked his mother, because she saw no problem with him purchasing new appliances with his drug money, so why complain about this? He saw it as the height of hypocrisy!

Also, notice that the sexual sin probably embarrassed Eli and made the priesthood look bad. In other words, it was all about him, not the honor and the glory of the Lord. Is this why he was willing to rebuke his sons for the immorality, but not the temple sacrilege? Something to consider in our own lives regarding our motives.

Back to the text, in the morning Eli pressure Samuel to reveal what the LORD said to him in verses 15-18:

So Samuel lay down until morning. Then he opened the doors of the house of the Lord. But Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. Then Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “What is the word that He spoke to you? Please do not hide it from me. May God do so to you, and more also, if you hide anything from me of all the words that He spoke to 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.”

Eli’s response is tragic. Again, Bob Deffinbaugh states:

What is most disturbing, to me at least, is the response of Eli to the prophecy. Eli is informed that judgment is coming, and this time at least, it cannot be stopped. God’s judgment cannot be avoided, but Eli can at least repent of his own sins of neglect. Instead, Eli speaks words which have a religious ring and appear to be an evidence of his submission to the sovereign will of God, but which are really an expression of Eli’s willingness to continue on in his sin.[5]

This prophecy was fulfilled about 130 years later and is mentioned in 1 Kings 2:27,35.

If you remember, in the beginning I mentioned how everyone is talking but no one is listening. Unfortunately, this has spilled over into our spiritual lives as well, and we are spiritually anemic for it. We are all content in talking but no one is listening to the One Person who actually has something important to say.

Samuel heard God speak to him and he was eventually led to the ancestor of the One who speaks now to all of us, which is King David, and King David’s descendent, the everlasting King of all, is Jesus Christ. In Hebrews 1:1-4 (ESV) it states:

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 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. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

In the past, God only spoke to certain individuals at certain times in certain ways. God now speaks to everyone through His Son Jesus! In fact, the OT points to Jesus as Messiah. Jesus said to the Pharisees, “You search the Scriptures [in this case, the OT] because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me” (John 5:39).

When Jesus showed up to Samuel, he listened, and ushered in a new era where Israel’s king was chosen. This time Jesus Himself came, listening to the Father, and ushered in a New Covenant for both Jew and Gentile; the speaker himself becoming the King of Israel, and the world.

So how do we listen and communicate with this King? Andrew Wilson puts it this way (regarding Heb 1:1-4):

In other words, we primarily hear the voice of God by encountering the person of Jesus. In itself, that perspective may not sound like it helps us very much, because it just bumps the problem from “hearing God” to “encountering Jesus.” But it actually helps us enormously, because it makes Jesus, rather than subjective thoughts or impressions we might have about whatever-it-is, the central reality when it comes to hearing from God. Essentially, we hear from God by reading about Jesus and listening to his words in Scripture, by praying and living in the ways he taught us, by remembering him in the Lord’s Supper, and by being united with him through faith and baptism. In other words, we hear from God in exactly the same ways faithful Christians have for 2,000 years.[6]

Samuel in many ways is a reflection of Jesus Himself:

  • Like Samuel, Jesus came into existence due to impossible circumstances – Hannah was barren, Mary was a virgin.
  • Just as Samuel grew in favor both with God and with men (1 Samuel 2:26), Jesus is described in a similar way (Luke 2:52).
  • Samuel replaced the old order, speaking for God; Jesus replaced the old order and is the final voice of God!
  • The two sons of Eli though that serving God meant serving themselves; Samuel thought differently – responding to God’s call as a servant; Jesus Himself is the ultimate servant of God!
  • Samuel was preparing Israel for the king; Jesus is the crucified King who rose again to bring restoration and redemption not only to all men and women, but also to restore the whole of creation back to its perfect order that will be culminated at His return!

In the final story of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, called The Return of the King, the ancient city of Gondor, Minas Tirith, was protected by the Stewards of Gondor, a family line that were to be keepers of the throne until the true king of Gondor returned. Outside the throne was the white tree of Gondor, long since dead. When the king, named Aragron, did finally return, the tree began to show signs of life. After Aragorn had defeated Gondor’s enemies and his reign and kingdom established, the white tree of Gondor was now in full bloom, full of leaves and white flowers, showing that life has returned to the kingdom through the return of the king.

In many ways the story is similar to Jesus as King. The OT was the stewards for the coming King. Christ the King has come and has fought the enemy, but instead of weapons he defeated him with his own life. Through death on a tree, he defeated death and brought life through His resurrection, ushering in the kingdom of God. The tree is starting to bloom, life has started to return. And when Jesus returns to sit on his throne, all of creation, all of society, all of humanity, will be the way it is supposed to be: full of life, reflecting God’s glory. All wrongs will be righted, all diseases eradicated, all wars will be ended, and death will be a proverb and distant memory.

So the question is…are you listening? Are you listening to Jesus? He now speaks to us through his Word. We have the account of the beginning of creation, its curse because of man, it’s restoration through Jesus on the Cross, and we even have a sneak peak to the final coronation.

Will you listen to Jesus, like Samuel? Or will you reject His voice and choose to spend what God has given for you selfishly, like the sons of Eli? You will miss out on something wonderful if you do. Samuel was privileged to see the installation of the Messianic line; the sons of Eli died in disgrace.

In closing, I wish to close with something that was mentioned by an atheist. The article is called Atheism helps my faith, from the redeemercitytocity.com blog on October 30, 2014. The author writes about a discussion he had with an atheist friend:

One evening, my friend said “You Christians think that God wrote the Bible, right?” to which I said “That’s a rather blunt way of stating it, but sure.” He went on, “Here’s what I don’t understand. I ask Christians all the time if they read their Bible and they often say ‘No.’ Seriously? If I believed I had a book written by God I would read the [expletive] out of that book!”

Perhaps this is a tad crass, but it’s a solid, solid point.

If we took seriously the inspiration and authority of the Scripture, we would actually read it on a regular basis and commit our lives to its call. If we find that we aren’t reading our Bibles, or if we aren’t letting Scripture be the authoritative norm in our lives, then its possible that we haven’t seriously considered what we hold in our hands. As I have figured out different ways to explain the inspiration of Scripture to my friend, I have found that not only my love for Scripture has increased, but also my certainty in its trustworthiness. It is an immensely valuable gift from God.[7]

Start listening to the King. You will find life if you do!

 

 

[1] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sponsored/lifestyle/innovations/11128888/social-media.html [accessed November 7, 14]

[2] http://digitalroyalty.com/voice-of-the-people/ [accessed November 7, 14]

[3] http://www.clickz.com/clickz/column/2347386/know-nothing-share-everything-the-sad-but-useful-state-of-social-media-psychology [accessed November 7, 14]

[4] https://bible.org/seriespage/4-rise-samuel-and-fall-eli-and-sons-1-samuel-31-422 [accessed November 7, 14]

[5] https://bible.org/seriespage/4-rise-samuel-and-fall-eli-and-sons-1-samuel-31-422 [accessed November 7, 14]

[6] http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/how-do-we-hear-god/ [accessed November 7, 14]

[7] http://www.redeemercitytocity.com/blog/atheism-helps-my-faith [accessed November 7, 14]