Sunday, September 15, 2013

[Matt's Messages] "Speak, LORD, for your Servant Is Listening"

“Speak, LORD, for Your Servant Is Listening”
A Heart for the Heart of God: The Message of 1 Samuel
September 15, 2013 :: 1 Samuel 3:1-4:1

This is one of the most famous of the stories in 1 Samuel, the calling of the prophet.

Other than David and Goliath, this is probably the most famous story in the whole book.

Many of us who grew up in Sunday School have heard it a million times.

I loved telling this story to my kids when they were very little.  Because Samuel is still a young’un when this story takes place, and it’s exciting.

The point of this story is that God is planning something good for Israel.  He has not given up on His wayward people. He is planning to send them...a prophet.

And, sometimes that big point gets lost when we tell this story because we focus in on the details and miss the big picture.

The primary message of 1 Samuel 3 is that God is gracious and is still speaking to His people. What’s also great is that Samuel is listening.  Today’s message is titled, “Speak, LORD, for Your Servant Is Listening.”

The secondary message of this story is the example of Samuel, of being someone who is listening for the word of God and is willing to share it with others and willing to obey when they hear it.

Our series is called “A Heart for the Heart of God.”

Having a heart for the heart of God means having a heart that wants to hear from God.

A listening heart.

And I pray that as we listen to God call Samuel, our hearts will grow in a Godward direction, as well.

1 Samuel chapter 3, verse 1.

“The boy Samuel ministered before the LORD under Eli. In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions.”

Now, that first sentences reminds of us what we have seen so far.  Samuel’s life story so far. He was a child born as an answer-to-prayer, and he was dedicated to life at the tabernacle at a very early age.

Last week we saw that he continued to grow in good directions.

But he was not in a good place. He lived at the tabernacle, the tent of God, but sons of Eli the high priest were wicked and growing more wicked day by day. They were lustful and gluttonous and thieving and blasphemous.

And Eli had not stopped them.

It was a dark time in Israel and a dark time in to grow up ministering before LORD under Eli.

But the worst part about that time was the second sentence in verse 1.

“In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions.”

That’s a sad thing. “The word of the LORD was rare.”

The people of God were not hearing from God.

“There were not many [prophetic] visions.”

And where there is no prophetic vision the people perish, things fall apart.

This was a judgment on Israel. Israel was doing what was right in their own eyes, and the LORD was letting them!

It was like it says in Amos chapter 8, there was a famine in the land.  Not of bread but of hearing the word of God.

You know there is kind of famine like that right now in our land.

But it’s famine caused, not because God has spoken, but because there is no appetite for eating His Word.

Today, we have the Bible. And we have it in our language. Multiple versions in our language. And tons of books about the Bible to help us understand it.

But there is lots of apathy about the Word of God.

People can’t be bothered to read it.

“In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions.”

But God is gracious!  He still had a plan to bless His people. He was going to speak to them again, forcefully. He was going to send them a prophet.

And so, He called Samuel. Verse 2.  Setting the stage.

“One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual 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.”

Samuel!

“Samuel answered, ‘Here I am.’ And he ran to Eli and said, ‘Here I am; you called me.’ But Eli said, ‘I did not call; go back and lie down.’ So he went and lay down.”

This is always a fun part of the story.

Do you get the picture in your mind?

These two live at the tabernacle. Probably there is a structure, like a house built onto or next to the tent itself and made into a little home for the priest and his family including Samuel.

It’s night time and old fat Eli has gone to bed in his usual place.

He can’t see much.  I think there’s a double meaning to that–he doesn’t have much spiritual sight either, does he?

And it’s early evening before the lampstand has run out of oil. Little Samuel, not sure how old he is, probably 12 or younger, has also gone to bed, but he’s attentive to the call of his master.

It’s a little spooky here. The ark of the covenant is nearby. We’re going to hear a lot about that ark in the next few weeks.

It’s dark.  Who knows what Hophni and Phinehas are up to at this hour.

And Samuel hears his name being called.

So, he presents himself to Eli.

It’s not strange that he thinks it’s Eli. Eli probably called for him a lot.

In the Summer of 1993, I traveled with a circus. And the director of that circus was handicapped and couldn’t move his legs. He was in a wheelchair during the day. When his wife had to travel away from the circus, I was asked to sleep in his room and wake up when called me to adjust his legs so that he could be comfortable.

Some nights, he had to call me a few times for that kind of help.

It was great for me to learn how to serve someone in that way.

Eli was old and blind and fat. He probably called Samuel fairly often.

But it wasn’t Eli who called Samuel that day.

“Samuel!”

“Samuel answered, ‘Here I am.’ And he ran to Eli and said, ‘Here I am; you called me.’ But Eli said, ‘I did not call; go back and lie down.’ So he went and lay down.”

“Here I am.”

What good words those are. Samuel is the picture of obedience.  “You called?”

Nope.  But he hears it again. V.6

“Again the LORD called, ‘Samuel!’ And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, ‘Here I am; you called me.’ ‘My son,’ Eli said, ‘I did not call; go back and lie down.’ Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD: The word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.”

Samuel was not yet a prophet. He had never heard the voice of God talk to Him in this way.

This is not an indictment of Samuel. He is not to blame.

He is living in a time when God hasn’t been speaking. No wonder he didn’t know what God’s voice sounded like.

And up to this time, “The word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.”

But now it is! V.8
“The LORD called Samuel a third time, and Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, ‘Here I am; you called me.’ Then Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy.”

Eli is not used to hearing from God, either.

But he finally a gets a clue and tells Samuel what to do. V.9

“So Eli told Samuel, ‘Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, 'Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.'’”

That’s some good advice.

That’s what you do with the word of God.

You say, “Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.”

A few weeks ago, I preached a message called “What You Hold In Your Hands” from 2 Timothy 3.

And a lot of you have told me that message hit home for you.

This is the word of God. God has spoken to us and we have it in a book!

We need to be opening it and praying, “Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.”

Today, I have just three words of application of this message. Three areas to work on, and they all have to do with the word of God.

Number one is simply this:

#1. HEARING.

Hearing the word of God.

It’s saying to the Lord, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

Of course, how it worked with Samuel is not the normal way God speaks to His people today.

I don’t expect that tonight any of us will hear a audible voice that we mistake for our parents but it turns out to be God booming our name.

“Matthew!”

Not that God couldn’t do that, but that He mostly doesn’t.

He mostly didn’t back then!

Now, He’s giving us this book you hold in your hands.

And the question is: are we hearing what He has to say?

With Samuel, the fourth time was the charm. V.9

“So Samuel went and lay down in his place. The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ Then Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.’”

See how patient God is?

This is a time when nobody seemed to care what God said.

And Samuel missed it 3 times. Nothing magical about the number 3 here.

But God doesn’t say, “Nope. Three strikes you’re out!”

He gracious speaks again.  And Samuel says, “Here I am. I hear you.”

“Speak, for your servant is listening.”

I think that we are supposed to learn from Samuel’s example here.

If you have a heart for the heart of God, you have a heart that wants to hear from God.

Are you reading your Bible?

Are you memorizing your Bible?

Are you sitting under good preaching?

Are you in a Bible study?

Are you praying as you read, asking God to reveal His truth to you?

Are you hearing from God?

“Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

Now, what God actually says to this young person is disturbing. It is not encouraging.

We don’t emphasize that when we tell the story to our kids.  But this is what the LORD says. V.11

“And the LORD said to Samuel: ‘See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle. [It’s going to shock them.] At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family–from beginning to end. For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons made themselves contemptible, and he failed to restrain them. Therefore, I swore to the house of Eli, 'The guilt of Eli's house will never be atoned for by sacrifice or offering.'’”

That was the first message that God gave to Samuel.

It was not good news.

The message was that the LORD is planning to carry out everything we heard Him promise last week in chapter 2.

“Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained.”

Eli and his family are going to get it.

And we’ll see that next week.

And this bad news presents the first major problem for Samuel as a prophet.

Should he share it or not? V.15

“Samuel lay down until morning and then opened the doors of the house of the LORD. He was afraid to tell Eli the vision...”

First time God talked to Him, and it was bad news for his master.

What does he do?

He told God that he was listening!

But does he tell anyone what he heard? V.16

“...but Eli called him and said, ‘Samuel, my son.’ [This time it was Eli!] Samuel answered, ‘Here I am.’

‘What was it he said to you?’ Eli asked. ‘Do not hide it from me. May God deal with you, be it ever so severely, if you hide from me anything he told you.’”

Here’s our second application word for today.

#2. HIDING.

Eli says that Samuel should not hide anything of what God has said.

He needs to give the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God.

Not just the soft message but the hard message, too.

Not just the good news but the bad news, as well.

No hiding the word of God, no matter whether it is happy or sad.

I think that a lot of Christians are tempted to hide the hards parts of the Word of God.

I know I am.

I like to preach the soft and gentle and encouraging parts of God’s Word.

I don’t always like to preach the sharp and pointy edges of the sword.

But Eli was right. We can’t trim the truth. When we do, it makes it an untruth.

We need the hard truth with the soft truth.

We need the bad news to understand the good news.

For example, to understand the gospel, you have to understand that you are a sinner who has earned judgment.

You have to know that there is a Hell to really understand how to get to Heaven.

Jesus’ death makes no sense if He isn’t substituting Himself as a sin-bearing sacrifice on our behalf.

You’ve got to get the bad news to get how good the good news is.

Is there part of the word of God that you have been hiding from others?

Not that we always say everything we know. But when we know something that they need to know, we should share it even if it won’t make us popular.

There are Christians dying around the world because they are saying what the Bible says and not hiding it under a bushel. No!

And that’s the right thing to do. Be unpopular. Die for the truth if you must.

But don’t hide the truth.

Now, hear me. Don’t be unpopular because you are just plain annoying.

Be unpopular because you speak the truth in love.

And sometimes the world doesn’t want to hear the truth.

But don’t hide the truth just because people don’t want to hear it.

Speak the truth in love. The whole truth and nothing but the truth, in love.

Thankfully, for Samuel, Eli wanted to hear the truth, no matter what it was. V.17 again.

‘What was it he said to you?’ Eli asked. ‘Do not hide it from me. May God deal with you, be it ever so severely, if you hide from me anything he told you.’ So Samuel told him everything, hiding nothing from him. Then Eli said, ‘He is the LORD; let him do what is good in his eyes.’”

And that’s Eli at his best, right there.

Accepting what God has said as the way it is and the way it should be.

“He is the LORD; let him do what is good in his eyes.”

That’s the opposite of the how things were in Israel during this time of the Judges.

Everyone else was doing what was good in their eyes.

But, “He is the LORD; let him do what is good in his eyes.”

I’m going to use this word to describe that attitude:

#3. HEEDING.

Having a heart for the heart of God means heeding the Word of God.

Accepting is as His word and obeying its call.

The rest of the chapter shows how Samuel’s prophetic ministry not only began on this day but grew and spread. V.19

“The LORD was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of his words fall to the ground. [They all came to pass.] And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the LORD. The LORD continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word. And Samuel's word came to all Israel.”

There was now a national prophet.

Not just a man of God here and there with a short word from God.

But a tested and attested man of God who spoke for God and was heard throughout the nation: Dan to Beersheba. We’d say from Florida to Alaska.

The famine was over! God was speaking to His people again.

Not because they deserved it, but because He was so gracious.

God was giving His people a prophet like He had promised to do.

“He let none of his words fall to the ground.”

Each one as it came out of his mouth, zoomed out and hit the target it was aimed at.

And the question was, would Israel listen?

Would they heed the word of the LORD through Samuel?

They should!

When God speaks, His people should heed His Word.

Having a heart for the heart of God means heeding the Word of God.

Not looking into the mirror and then forgetting what you saw there.

But having a heart like Samuel’s that says, “Here I am. Speak, Lord, for your SERVANT is listening.”

A servant is someone who does what His master says.

And how much more should we now heed what our master says when our master is revealed as the Son of God? (Hebrews 1 & 2)

Our Lord Jesus said that the authenticity of our salvation is shown by whether or not we heed His words.

He said, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

It’s not good enough to just talk the talk, we’ve got to walk the walk.

Hearing the Word of God.
NOT Hiding the Word of God.
And Heeding the Word of God.

Because we have a heart for the heart of God.


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A Heart for the Heart of God

01. Hannah's Prayers
02. Those Who Honor Me I Will Honor

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