We are surrounded by many voices and influences in our society. It’s hard to know who to trust when there are so many contradictory opinions.
Media outlets provide plenty of information and truth claims, but we simply cannot reconcile all of it into the category of “truth”.
What should we listen to and what should we avoid? How will we recognise truth when we hear so many lies?
“Trust?! Who can ya?!”
The answer to any crisis, especially a crisis of truth, is the Word of God. It’s what we need most when everything else we hear confuses or discourages us.
Samuel lived in a time of corruption, compromise and selfish agendas. Relativism and pluralism are not just modern phenomena. Israel had both in spades, especially in the very place where Samuel lived as a young man, the house of God at Shiloh.
1 – The Rare Word v 1-3
If ever there was a need for God to reveal Himself and set things right, it was at this point in Israel’s history.
The house of God at Shiloh was disgrace. The priesthood had been defiled by Eli’s wicked sons, and Eli’s incompetence.
The writer records that God’s Word and visions from Him in those days were “rare”. Not because they were highly valued and sought after, but because God’s Word had been superseded or ignored.
No one was listening to what God had already said, and they were no position to hear anything He would now have to say.
Why would God’s word be rare, especially among His own people?
There are many reasons we know it was rare in Samuel’s time, and it is the same reasons it’s rare today, even in churches.
corruption and compromise
man-made traditions given more importance than God’s revelation (2:12-17,22)
It’s a sad indictment that most of the people of God can go through motions of worship and sacrifice without noticing God’s Word has been put into the background.
If we are not obeying what God has already laid out for us, we will be deaf and blind to anything He wants us to do here and now. All that is left to hear from God when we are that spiritually blind and hard-hearted is judgement.
Without God’s revelation, there is no hope, no promise of salvation or forgiveness. Without a vision, the people will perish.
Eli was physically blind (3:2), but he had been spiritually blind as well, or at least had a blind eye to what his sons had been up to ( 3:13, 2:27-36).
There was still hope though. For all the wickedness that was taking place at Shiloh, there was one faithful servant. There was still a light flickering in God’s house( 3:3).
2 – The Revealed Word v 4 – 14
God calls and commissions Samuel in spite of all that was happening around him.
This is how God changes the course of human history, how He changes the status quo – He reveals Himself. He sends His word. – Tim Chester
“The barrenness of the spiritual life at Shiloh parallels the barrenness of Hannah’s womb, and Samuel is God’s response to both.” – Eugene Peterson
The story is familiar to us, and almost comical in how Samuel runs to Eli three times before Eli perceived that it was God calling the young boy.
The Lord is calling Samuel before he knows the Lord ( 3:7).
There’s really no other way to know God than for Him to reveal Himself to us through His Word, it shows us God’s grace.
God chooses the weak, the small, the unknown. He chooses to reveal Himself to those who don’t know Him.
( don’t despise youth)
He calls him audibly the first three times, but then the last time, he comes and stands and calls him ( 3:10). This is special to note, not just because we have already been told that God’s word and visions from Him were rare, and that Samuel is getting both, but here Samuel is one of the very few people in Scripture that have access to God’s very presence. It’s another affirmation of Samuel’s calling, and also of his authority.
God stands with those He calls. We need no other affirmation that God’s word is true and that we are His people than that He is with us.
( For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” Exodus 33:16)
Samuel’s simple answer to God’s call is to do as Eli instructed him, saying “Speak, for your servant hears”.
The first thing anyone should do with God’s Word is listen to it. It seems a nonsensical thing to point out, but when we hear God’s word, are we actually listening?
We often hear without listening.
There is reason Jesus said so often, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear”.
Servants of The Lord are willing to hear His Word, submit to it and proclaim it.
The message God has, although it is pronounced to Samuel, it is for Eli.
It is a message of judgement. Not a pleasant one. Tingling ears ( 3:11) are not always indicative of a pleasant message.
Everyone in Israel would know that God was judging Eli’s house and why. All would be laid bare. No one would miss the fulfilment of this, and no doubt would be left in anyone’s mind whose word could be trusted to come true and whose authority really mattered.
This is third time a judgement against Eli’s house has been pronounced in three chapters. In Hannah’s song (2:1-11) , and in the prophecy of the man of God (2:27-36) , and now here.
If we turn a blind eye to God’s commands and warnings, if we set up our own way of doing things, if we abuse positions of privilege, if we don’t speak out against injustice happening under our very noses, we should not expect God to have a blind eye. He sees. He knows. He will judge.
No atonement will be found for the unrepentant at the day of judgement. They will suffer the consequences of their choices to spurn God’s revealed word in Jesus and ‘kick His sacrifice’ (2:29; Hebrews 10:26-31).
“It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
3 – The Consistent Word v 15 – 4:1
Samuel didn’t exactly enjoy the message and what it meant. He was afraid to tell Eli ( 3:15).
Another lesson is here for us. Messages of judgement or rebuke must be delivered soberly, humbly. It must certainly be delivered, but we cannot assume that the messenger is ever allowed to speak with pride or lack of love.
God’s revelation to us is by grace. We don’t deserve to escape wrath, but we do by the love of God in Jesus. Our message fails if delivered without the grace with which we first received it.
Eli’s response to this word is a note of resignation. He knew this was God’s Word, because it confirmed what he had already heard from the man of God previously.
“It is the Lord. Let Him do what seems good to Him.”
The Judge of all the earth shall do right, and Eli knew it. He had scorned the sacrifices of God( 2:29), known of his sons blasphemy and didn’t restrain them (3:13) and in so doing, had refused the only means of atonement he had.
The Word of God was going to come to pass, it would not fall or fail. Nothing of what Samuel said ‘fell to the ground’ ( 3:19). Nothing of what Samuel said was worthless or meaningless. It wasn’t dirt. It was to be treasured, believed, heeded.
He was not spouting his opinions. He wasn’t starting a new movement by sharing a few clever slogans or man-made ideas. He had the Word of God and he spoke only that, no editing was necessary.
He spoke God’s word so faithfully, that all of Israel heard it and knew it to be true. Samuel was established as a prophet of God ( 3:20b) because what he heard, he spoke. Samuel’s faithfulness to God’s Word lead him to have such a standing of integrity that God’s word became his word ( 4:1).
What a remarkable commendation for anyone to have, that you would speak God’s word so plainly and consistently, that anyone hearing you speak would take your word as truth. A prophet of God is one whose words are dependably God’s word.
‘To know nothing but Christ and him crucified’ should be the foundational motivation any one seeking to proclaim God’s word.
We should never be caught out saying something original when we are speaking of the truths of God’s word.
That is where the power is. Life change happens when people hear The Word, how could we even dare to say anything else?
4 – The Final Word
“God speaks to Samuel. That God speaks is the basic reality of biblical faith. The fundamental conviction of our faith is not so much that God is, as that God speaks. The biblical revelation begins with God creating by word, speaking the cosmos into being ( Genesis 1). It concludes with Jesus, the Word of God, speaking in invitation, “Come…” ( Revelation 22:17). All the pages between are packed with sentences that God speaks – in creation and invitation, in judgement and salvation, in healing and guidance, in oracle and admonition, in rebuke and comfort. The conspicuous feature in all this speaking is that God speaks in personal address. God does not speak grand general truths, huge billboard declarations of truth and morals; the Lord’s speaking is to persons, named persons: Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Paul, and Samuel. Personal address, not philosophical discourse or moral commentary or theological reflection, is God’s primary form of speech. Whenever we let the language of religious abstraction or moral principles ( and often we do) crowd out the personal address, we betray the word of God.” – Eugene Peterson
God is after hearts. He will always seek us out personally.
What has God said to you?
Hebrews tells us plainly that God’s latest and final Word to us is Jesus ( Hebrews 1:1-2).
Jesus is the ultimate and final revelation of God that speaks to our world. You cannot look at the cross of Christ and still say, “God has not spoken to me”.
You must believe in The Word made flesh, that is our only hope of salvation.
“If God’s word is rare today, it is not because God is silent. God has spoken, loud and clear. If God’s word is rare today, it is because people will not listen and Christians will not speak. It is because God’s people have smoothed away what they do not like, or simply lost confidence that anyone will listen.” – Tim Chester
Do not change the message. God has given us a sufficient and a powerful word. It needs no editing.
Do not give up hope. The bible calls God’s word a light to our path and a lamp. It can guide us, even when others have forsaken it.
Listen like a servant. Trust it to be true. Pass it on with the same grace you received it with.