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AWAKENING TO GOD'S CALL
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
20 JANUARY 1991
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
1 Samuel 3:1-21
1 Corinthians 6:9-20
Preparation Verse: (Matthew 18:4-5)
“Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one such child in my name receives Me…”
Some of you have probably heard the discussions we have had at Federated Church concerning the serving of Communion to children.
You also may know my position: that the receiving of Communion is the receiving of God's prevenient grace, and of our love for and with God.
Additionally you most likely have heard me say that I would rather serve a child who came forth in innocence, than a hypocritical adult who comes forth in arrogance.
And you have heard me say that the age of a child does not decide when they reach the age of accountability, when they can, by their own free will and knowledge, knowingly choose to accept or reject Jesus Christ.
This morning I would like for us to consider the child Samuel, the last of the judges of Israel, who was dedicated to the Lord when he was about three years of age, and who was living and serving in the Tabernacle with Eli the high priest and his sons.
Turn with me to 1 Samuel 3:1, and hear how this young boy awakens to the call of God. And remember that at the age of thirteen, a Hebrew "boy" becomes a "man."
1. Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord before Eli. And word from the Lord was rare in those days, visions were infrequent.
Note the use of the word "boy" to emphasize the fact that Samuel is still young.
We should also understand that the rarity of the word of God and His visions is because the people were not following the will of God. Their hearts had turned away from Him.
But this was not the case with all people, as we shall see as we continue with our reading.
2. And 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),
3. and 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,
4. that the Lord called Samuel; and he said, "Here I am."
5. 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.
6. And 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."
Do you note the obedience of Samuel?
He doesn't say to the voice calling to him, "I'm tired, don't bother me." He gets up and goes to Eli.
Eli also did not respond with a "don’t bother me" statement, but he just replied, "I did not call, lie down again."
And Samuel did as he was told, for there was a mutual respect between them; a respect of the adult for the child, as well as the usual child’s respect for the adult.
The second time Samuel goes to Eli, his reply has the emphasis of love, for he calls him his son.
As we look at the next verse, I want all of you to take special note of the state of our spiritual growth when God begins to call to us.
7. Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, nor had the word of the Lord yet been revealed to him.
Samuel was not yet born again, or born of the Spirit of God. He couldn't express his faith, as we try to get our young teens to do before we accept them into full membership in our church.
Samuel simply had an open and receptive heart, and Eli didn't turn him off.
Do you remember how the Bible tells us that Mary pondered in her heart all that was said to her from the Lord, and about Jesus as He was growing up?
Perhaps we also should be patient and listening more to our children, and pondering in our heart what they say; for perhaps they, too, are hearing God's voice as we also should.
Let's ponder in our hearts what happens next:
8. So the Lord called Samuel again for the third time. And he arose and went to Eli, and said, "Here I am, for you called me." Then Eli discerned that the Lord was calling the boy.
9. And Eli said to Samuel, "Go lie down, and it shall be if He calls you, that you shall say, 'Speak, Lord, for Thy servant is listening.' " So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
10. Then the Lord came and stood and called as at other times, "Samuel! Samuel!" And Samuel said, "Speak, for Thy servant is listening."
11. And 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.
12. "In that day I will carry out against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end.
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.
14. "And 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."
Perhaps we, too, should listen more to the word of the Lord.
We should listen more to our children, and we should also rebuke more of the things they do against the will of God.
In our society we seem to have this all backwards; for we don't seem to listen to our children, and we seem to go along with the evil or ungodly things that our children do.
We see and hear very young children express a sincere sense of love and compassion for animals, and they wouldn't think of harming any of them.
Yet at the same time, most adults try to harden these young hearts and souls by hiding the facts about what really happens to most animals in this world.
They serve their children the animals' flesh and by products, wear their skin, and making a sport of killing them.
It is the soft heart and soul that really hears God's call.
And, we all need to be awakened to God's call!
And we don't need others to squelch that call by convincing a young heart that it couldn't be from God.
We ourselves, who are adults, need to believe more.
We need to have the innocence and openness of a child.
And we need to have the conviction and strength of our Lord, so that we can discern what is and what is not of God, according to His word.
Now here is this young boy, Samuel, who has been chosen by God to receive a
message for Eli, a message that has meaning far beyond the learning experience
of this young boy, as we normally judge these things.
Yet God knows that Samuel is capable of handling this message. Shouldn't we, in all of our sophistication, allow our children to advance in the ways of the Lord, as we do in other things, and perhaps even more than we do with other things?
If we allow our children to learn from video games how to kill, shouldn't we at least accept the fact that they could much more easily learn how to bring true Godly love and peace?
So what does Samuel do with all that the Lord told him? Note the following verses:
15. 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.
16. Then Eli called Samuel and said, "Samuel, my son." And he said, "Here I am."
17. And 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."
18. 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 knew the truth, and if he had responded to his own sons as he responded to Samuel, perhaps his sons would not have turned away from the Lord.
And for whatever reason, Eli never corrected his mistake with his sons.
Thus he responds as he does.
He has resolved in his heart to have the Lord punish him.
What a tragic state of mind to be in!
If we know the truth, why not do our best to live it?
None of us can correct the past, but we sure can do something about today and the rest of our lives.
Thus it was with Samuel.
19. Thus Samuel grew and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fail.
20. And all Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of the Lord.
21. And the Lord appeared again at Shiloh, because the Lord revealed Himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord.
Isn't it better to have our children serving in the house of the Lord and responding to his call, and thus turn into prophets and peacemakers, than it is for them to be turned into people who accept violence and deception as part of everyday life.
In today’s world, we have far too many Elis and his sons in our churches and far too few Samuels.
And as we see confirmed in verse 21, if we become awakened to God's call and
respond, then the Lord will make His presence known through all who are truly
I believe it’s time we take a much closer look at ourselves, our community, and the Church in general, and the way we have been living and acting.
We have many of the ills of the Corinthian Church, and Paul had to write several times to them to correct what they were doing.
In 1 Corinthians 6:9-20, we see one of Paul's many righteous living arguments. As we read this passage, note how he begins with judgment, then immediately expresses God's grace, and then goes on to express the difference between holiness living and sinful living.
9. Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals,
10. nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
11. And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.
And so were we, and so were Eli and his sons, and so was Samuel.
Samuel chose to live in the saving grace of the Lord our God.
Eli, like the leadership of the Corinthian Church, knew the truth but wouldn't respond.
Eli's sons turned their back on the kingdom of God.
What are we doing in our churches?
Let's continue to listen to Paul's words:
12. All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.
Eli may have been awakened to the call of the Lord for things in his own life, but not for himself as the high priest of Israel.
He allowed himself to be mastered by the evil ways of his sons, for whatever reason, it doesn't matter; but it definitely wasn't profitable.
The way he responded to Samuel seems to indicate that he knew what he had done and was trying not to do the same with Samuel; but he also should have corrected the ways of his sons, or at least made a stand against them and their way of life.
That is what Paul is doing with the Corinthian Church, and what every leader in every church should do, not only those behind the pulpit.
Note what Paul says, as we continue with verse 13:
13. Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food; but God will do away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord; and the Lord is for the body.
People don't see our spiritual being directly; they only see it through the effects of our actions through our physical body.
If we take into ourselves bad food, it will make our whole body sick; likewise, if we take into our body the wrong spirit, we will be spiritually sick all over.
God made our bodies, both physically and spiritually, for Himself, and we are to preserve ourselves for Him; and with that preserved body we are to carry out God's will in all aspects of our lives, and in those whom we influence.
Note verses 14 and following:
14. Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power.
15. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? May it never be!
16. Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a harlot is one body with her? For He says, "The two will become one flesh."
17. But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him.
18. Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.
19. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?
20. For you have been bought for a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
Samuel's parents listened to the voice of the Lord in their lives and in the life of Samuel.
Eli likewise listened when it came to Samuel, but he allowed himself to be contaminated with the immorality of his sons, and thus contaminated the whole body of believers.
The same thing was happening in the Corinthian Church, and the same thing is happening in the Church today.
We can bring about a change, if we desire to do so.
And if we want that positive change to continue, we must also start it in the lives of our children, no matter what their age.
Are you hearing the call of the Lord?
Then be awakened to it!
Respond to it!
We must purify ourselves as God is pure, and allow and encourage our children to do the same.