01/17/2021  Sermon

1 Samuel 3:1-20

The Calling of God: Unpleasant News

Have you ever had to tell someone something you didn’t want to but you had to do it anyway? You remember playing tag as a kid right? Well there was a time I played that game while I was in high school and what happened during that game forced me to tell my mom that my friends and I played tag. Normally such a thing would not be a problem but the thing is we all played tag after we all had our licenses. You might see where this is going. Yes, my friends and I played tag with our cars which, perhaps not surprisingly, led to a slightly dented door. In the end though, nothing really ever came of it and we all escaped consequences and, better yet, we were all made wise enough to never play car tag again.

The person we read about from the book of 1 Samuel found himself in a somewhat similar position, not in that he played car tag but that he had to tell someone he loved some very unpleasant news, though, unlike me, he didn’t do anything wrong. Indeed, the reason he was called upon to deliver the unpleasant news was that he was called by God to do it.

That is going to be the focus of our new sermon series, The Calling of God. We are going to be looking at some of the prophets that God called and what God called them to do. Sometimes, God’s people were blessed to deliver only Good News, like the angels telling shepherd about the birth of Jesus. Other times it was a mix of good and bad, like what Simeon told Mary about Jesus. Still other times it was only unpleasant news, like it was with Samuel.

This morning we are also going to see that God can call anyone. Social standing, education and wealth are as nothing when it comes to God. As we will see sometimes some of the most powerful messages someone could ever hear from God could come from the most unexpected source. Today we will see age in particular might not be a factor when it comes to God’s message.

Our account from the word of God starts out with a boy, Samuel, serving the Lord under the guidance of Eli. More than one scholar I read said that Samuel was probably about twelve at the time.

It was not a good time for Israel for there was lack of Godly leadership. Judges tells us, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” [Judges 21:25]

Perhaps even worse than that was that God rarely spoke to His people at that time, even in the temple of God in which Eli and Samuel were dwelling, though perhaps this should not be surprising because of the kind of people that were serving in the temple.

Eli was the high priest and he, as an individual, seemed to serve God with honor. For example, it was Eli himself that taught Samuel from a very young age. But Samuel’s sons were worthless mean. [1 Sam 2:12] They would regularly and forcefully steal the sacrifices the people brought to God and eat them. 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. [1 Sam 2:17] They would also lay with women at the very entrance of the temple. [1 Sam 2:22] 

Eli heard of all this. He told his sons that what they were doing was sinful but his sons didn’t listen to him and Eli took no further action. Soon enough a man of God told Eli that God was going to bring judgment on his sons and his whole family, but still Eli did nothing to stop his sons. According to word of God, Eli’s sons should have been put to death, but he didn’t even dismiss them from their priestly duties.

Maybe that was why God’s word was rare in those days. Even when it did come it was ignored.

What about us then? Is the word of the Lord rare in our days? I tell you, “No! It is not!” We have the Holy Bible. Like it says in Hebrews, “For the word of God is living and active…” And like we are told in 2 Timothy, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” [2 Tim 3:16-17]

Samuel’s life seemed to be a good one. His mother, being a Godly woman, likely brought him up to love and fear God. Also, while Eli may not have been an entirely Godly priest, he seemed to teach Samuel quite well because Samuel seemed to serve God in truth and spirit. Maybe Eli saw Samuel as his chance to do things right this time unlike he was doing with his adult sons.

So Samuel was sleeping in the temple and this where the calling of God comes in and it come to a person few would have expected, not the aged teacher but the young student. 

Samuel he heard a voice call to him, “Samuel!”  Samuel awoke and ran to Eli and said, “Here I am!  You called me.”  Eli told Samuel that he had done no such thing and to go back to the temple and sleep and Samuel did just that. 

Several things stand out here. To begin with, we can see that we have a God while being almighty also is close enough to call His people by name. Such a miracle is not just for the great people of the Bible but for you and me too. God is calling us too. As we are told in Revelation, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” [Rev 3:20] 

Samuel’s reaction shows us that he had the heart of a servant. Upon what he thought was Eli calling him, Samuel ran to him despite it being late and Samuel being awoken from sleep and without even knowing what he was going to be told what to do. The fact that Samuel ran proves it was no half-hearted measure, buy a strong desire to serve another with all his heart.

However, this also shows us that we can mistake a calling from God, though in Samuel’s case it is understandable because “Samuel did not yet know the Lord” which seems to mean God had not spoken audibly to Samuel before this night. Perhaps this means that while Samuel had no doubt been taught a  lot about God from Eli at this point, God was about to draw Samuel into a deep and personal relationship with Himself.

However, few, if any, of us have had God speak directly to as He did with Samuel. But that is not something to be lamented because we have something Samuel did not, the Holy Spirit. We are living in the times Jeremiah predicted, “they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord.” [Jer 31:34] And as Jesus said in John, “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.” [John 14:26]

The same thing happened to Samuel again. He heard his name being called and thought it was Eli and went to him, though not running this time, only to be told to go back to sleep. 

Perhaps this shows us that if God desires to reveal an important message to His followers, He will confirm it. Just look at how often Jesus told His disciples He was going die and be raised from the dead, but we followers of God can be remarkably slow to understand. This can be seen in that the disciples never understood what Jesus was saying until they touched His resurrected body.

And then God called Samuel again. It was with this third calling that Eli finally understood what was really happening.  He told Samuel that it was actually God calling him!  So Eli told Samuel to go lie back down and the next time he heard the voice to say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.” 

This is perhaps Eli’s greatest moment. It must have been hard for him to realize that God had not chosen to speak to him, the high priest, but instead speak to a young boy he was teaching. But that did not stop Eli from acting righteously.

Samuel obeyed Eli and lay down in the temple waiting for God to possibly call on him yet again and God did so and then God reveals the bad news. 

God told Samuel He was going to do a great thing; he was going to bring an end to Eli’s entire family for the sins of his sons. Eli needed to be taught of the holiness of God and it would be done in a way that would ruin him and those that he loved. It was a terrible punishment to be sure, but Eli had been warned of the impending judgment but steadfastly refused to deal with his sons.

One person I read put it like this, “Divine threatenings, the less they are heeded, the surer they will come and the heavier they will fall.”

This is a frightening idea but not one unheard of in the Bible. Hebrews says, “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.”

In Galatians we are also told, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” [Gal 6:7-8]

However, we need to be careful here. God spoke only about the earthly fate of Eli and his family. God said nothing about Eli’s eternal fate.  

After hearing the prophecy, Samuel knew what he had to do but in no way wanted to do it. Samuel waited alone till morning until Eli called him. 

Eli saw there was something wrong and called Samuel his son, surely an authentic term of love.

Still, Samuel was reluctant to report such bad news and so Eli shows his wisdom. He knew it had to be horrific news and it had to concern him, so it seems as if he had at least some love and honor for God.

So Eli told Samuel that if he didn’t tell him what God told him the bad things might well happen to him. It seems as if Eli was willing to accept God’s word from anyone, even if it was from his own young student. Strangely Samuel would have had to do the same. Samuel had to take Godly instruction from a deeply flawed man.

In the end Samuel told Eli what God told him. How hard that must have been for him. People rarely like giving bad news.  And remember that Eli was Samuel’s mentor.  Relaying unpleasant information to someone who has authority over you can be scary.  And because Samuel had grown up with Eli for some time, it is likely he loved him and saw him as a father figure.  Bringing judgment down on those you love can almost too dreadful to contemplate.  And what Samuel was to tell Eli was the worst of consequences in those times because Samuel had to tell Eli his family line was going to come to an end which was particularly terrible due to the vast importance of family in that culture. Also, there was stopping for God had already made His decision.

Yet upon hearing the judgment Eli said, “It is the Lord. Let him do what seems good to him.” What does this mean?

Was Eli being sarcastic? Fatalistic? Maybe. But it is usually best to assume the best of God’s people. So why not assume Eli’s word with the best possible intention? He was showing repentance and that he knows God is perfectly good and just and so too is all that He does even if Eli must suffer for it.

If that is true then it is here we see just who Eli truly was. He, like all of us, sinned all too much, sadly most of time on purpose, but those acts are not who he really was because who he really was a child of God.

What does Samuel’s act mean for us?  First ours sins do not define us, Jesus does. Also, God has revealed many truths to us and a lot of them are hard to hear.  But that doesn’t mean people don’t need to hear them. If we truly love one another, we can talk with each other much like Samuel and Eli did. 

One way I have been told to talk to another Christian about sin is by opening up the conversation by saying, “I know you love Jesus and want to be light for Him for others.”  Then talk about what ever possibly sinful behavior you have seen in them and then read with them the section of Scripture you think shows their sin.  That way we are telling them we know they are children of God and we are not condemning them ourselves, but showing how we think the Word of God and their behavior may not coincide.  Such a conversation may not be easy, but it is still necessary. 

However, don’t forget that all this relies on being led by the Holy Spirit and being humble.  We are all sinners saved by grace.  The only reason we should confront someone with sin is with restoration in mind. And remember no sin is beyond the grace of our Lord and savior Jesus.  His blood cleans us from all sin.

So my beloved I leave you with this:  God loves us enough to trust us to restore others.

Children's Message

Lord's Prayer