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The Voice of God Calls

1 Samuel: A Heart for God  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  39:55
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When the voice of God calls, there is only one right response—to listen and obey.

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The Voice of God Calls - 1 Samuel 3:1-4:1a

Intro: How many of you had the privilege of thinking deeply about God this morning already in Sunday school? More specifically: how and why God has revealed himself, and about some of his attributes. - Let’s begin worship together this morning with a Psalm that reminds us of how God has revealed himself through both general and special revelation:
[Scripture Reading = Psalm 19:1-3, 7-11, 14]
There is so much application in our text today that I am super excited to teach this and can’t wait to get started, so let’s PRAY and get right to it!
PRAY
In transitioning to our text for today, I’ll remind you that although the prophecy to Eli wasn’t completely fulfilled until Zadok replaced Abiathar in the days of Solomon (restoring the priestly line to Eleazar the oldest son of Aaron, instead of Ithamar), it is quite evident in the narrative here that Samuel becomes the foreshadowed fulfillment of this prophecy: 2:35a
1 Samuel 2:35a ESV
And I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in my heart and in my mind. And I will build him a sure house, and he shall go in and out before my anointed forever.
As our narrative continues we observe how God reveals himself to a young man who does not yet know him in a personal way, but who responds to God’s self-revelation obediently. God takes that submissive heart and turns Samuel into a powerful spokesman for Him. When God’s voice calls, we do well to respond with a submissive heart that listens and obeys.
Our text begins this way:
1 Samuel 3:1 ESV
Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord in the presence of Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.
Now Samuel may very well have been a youth at this time. We know bc the Hebrew word na-ar means lad or adolescent as opposed to different terminology used for a very young child. That makes sense in the chronology too as we’ve seen reference to Samuel growing physically, socially, and spiritually. (2:26)
But primarily in this verse our emphasize should rightly be on the second half, v. 1b.
In context I believe the statement here is an indictment on the times: the period of the judges, Eli and his sons, and so on. - So the word of the Lord was “rare” (scarce, precious) in those days… meaning very limited prophetic activity (during the period of the judges), and even what God did say was not widely known in Israel. So too then visions (revelation from God mediated through audible or visible form) was not common, not frequent.

When God Seems Silent (v. 1b)

That may have made it feel to some like God was fairly silent. - Often when we are hurting or struggling, God seems silent.... but He is not silent.
“God’s silence is how it feels, it’s not how it is.” - Jon Bloom at Desiring God
You are not alone. God is with you (Psalm 23:4). And he is speaking all the time in the priceless gift of his objective word so you don’t need to rely on the subjective impressions of your fluctuating emotions. - Jon Bloom
Psalm 23:4 ESV
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Cling to God, knowing that he is with you through the wilderness you face.
2 Corinthians 1:3–5 ESV
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.
So... as A. W. Tozer states in The Pursuit of God:
The facts are that God is not silent, has never been silent. It is the nature of God to speak. The second Person of the Holy Trinity is called the Word. The Bible is the inevitable outcome of God’s continuous speech. It is the infallible declaration of His mind for us put into our familiar human words…
If you would follow on to know the Lord, come at once to the open Bible expecting it to speak to you. Do not come with the notion that it is a thing which you may push around at your convenience. It is more than a thing, it is a voice, a word, the very Word of the living God.
God is speaking. - When the God of the universe reveals himself to us, there is only one right response—to listen and obey.
Now continue reading with me, and let’s take note of the details we perceive about Eli and Samuel:

Eli: An old man with physically dim sight and spiritually dull hearing (vv. 2-10)

Samuel: A young man ready to serve (vv. 2-10)

1 Samuel 3:2–10 ESV
At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his own 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, and he said, “Here I am!” and 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. And the Lord called again, “Samuel!” and Samuel arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.’ ” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. And the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.”
Notice the magnificent crafting of the narrative here such that our attention is drawn to symbolic details in the background and setting.
Eli’s poor eyesight juxtaposed to there being infrequent vision evokes in us a connection of weak spiritual insight. - A sign of the times:
Proverbs 29:18 ESV
Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.
Another example of symbolism in the setting: the lamp of God still burning on it’s golden lampstand in the Holy Place - That not only gives us a time of day (before dawn… enough oil to burn from evening until morning)... but also symbolizes young Samuel amidst a spiritually dark time in Israel. - There is even mention of the ark of God in speaking of where Samuel rests, because the ark is representative of the presence of God with his people. Samuel is, of all God’s people, closest to the presence of God.
And then when God calls Samuel:
Samuel immediately responds with “Here I am” and runs to be of service to Eli. - It is not likely a coincidence that the calling of Samuel gets a response that echoes the exact words of Abraham, Jacob, and Moses when God called. Each responded with “Here I am.” - Notice too that Samuel obediently and promptly is ready to serve each time he is called.
Meanwhile, Eli’s spiritual senses are dulled and it is the 3rd time of Samuel coming to him before He realizes that God is speaking to the youth.
Samuel, by no fault of his own, does not know who is calling bc he does not yet know God in a personal way (v. 7) - bc he hasn’t had a personal encounter with God or received any direct revelation to this point.
Finally, to Eli’s credit, he serves as a helpful mentor to Samuel and instructs him how he to respond if the Lord should call again.
And God, being both sovereign and gracious to persist, calls again a fourth time. - Two unique features of this time include reference to the Lord coming and “standing” (perhaps a reference to a theophany - physical representation of the Lord on earth)... and the emphatic call to Samuel this time by repeating his name twice, which had occured in the lives of the aforementioned heroes of the faith (Abe, Jake, Moses) at pivotal points in their lives.
Samuel gives a response that is both submissive to his mentor and pointedly appropriate to the context: “Speak, for your servant hears.” To hear - listening with attentiveness (hearing with intent to obey)
If only we would all... and always… respond to the call of God on our lives with such humility and submission. - What a way to approach God’s will revealed in his Word: Speak Lord, for your servant is listening attentively with intent to obey!
When God speaks, there is only one right response—to listen and obey.
In that same spirit, before we resume the narrative, here we are already swarmed with excellent practical application:
Spiritual dullness
Our part
God’s gracious persistence
Readiness - serving where we are with what we are given to do
How young is too young to trust God and serve him?
At what magic maturity level do we begin serving?
Turning points - critical moments in our lives
That also serves to lead us back into the storyline because although the assignment given is a difficult one, Samuel will respond obediently. This becomes a critical turning point in his life:
1 Samuel 3:11–14 ESV
Then the Lord said to Samuel, “Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel at which the two ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. And I declare to him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever.”
Cursing God, of which his sons were guilty, was an offense worthy of death. And Eli’s guilt lies in not restraining them, honoring them above God - 2:29. So God’s just determination was that such presumptuous sin could not be atoned for by sacrifice and was punishable by death. - Exactly what he intended to do.
Now you can imagine how being the recipient of such a message, his very first revelation from God, and the responsibility to deliver that message to Eli, would have been anything but easy for the young lad Samuel.

A difficult assignment (vv. 15-18a)

An obedient response (vv. 15-18a)

1 Samuel 3:15 ESV
Samuel lay until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the Lord. And Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli.
Poor kid. I doubt he slept. (insert wide-eyed emoji here :-)) - He knows for SURE Eli is gonna ask, and he’s afraid to tell Eli the vision. BTW, notice that the fear is real, but it doesn’t stop his obedience. - Courage isn’t the lack of fear. Courage is to act in spite of fear, knowing that there is something greater at stake and at work. - That’s what it means to fear God above man. When we know God for who he is we rightly fear Him. But when we know God for who he is, we also trust him in his goodness... and our awe doesn’t stop there but also causes us to love him. This is especially the case when by faith we are the recipients of his grace in Christ Jesus. We love him bc he first loved us. - And when we know God and fear him above man, confident that we can fully trust the God we love, then we also submissively obey him in spite of real earthly fears and obstacles. - There is real gospel truth here in the obedience of this youth.
1 Samuel 3:16–18a ESV
But Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” And he said, “Here I am.” And Eli said, “What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also if you hide anything from me of all that he told 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 is calling down God’s judgment on Samuel himself if he withholds anything, which Samuel does not do. He tells him everything the Lord had said.
And so as we finish the text for today we see a waning priest who for too long had allowed spiritual dullness to take over, who is now resigned to God’s judgment. By sharp contrast, Samuel is transformed from a young man whose heart is sensitive and submissive to God, to become a rising spokesman for God to his people.

Eli: a waning priest accepting God’s judgment (v. 18b)

Samuel: a rising prophet speaking for the Lord (3:19-4:1a)

1 Samuel 3:18b–4:1a ESV
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.” And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established as a prophet of the Lord. And the Lord appeared again at Shiloh, for the Lord revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord. And the word of Samuel came to all Israel. Now Israel went out to battle against the Philistines. They encamped at Ebenezer, and the Philistines encamped at Aphek.
Samuel became a prophet blessed with the presence of God, to stand and speak for God. He went from an ignorant but servant-hearted youth to being a bold and revered spokesman for God. How? He had a heart that was willing and obedient, and then God chose how to use him.
[Application] Who among you will stand when others do not; who will speak when others will not?
It is the difficult task that proves your mettle.
Will the true children of God please stand up? Who will deliver the word of the Lord? (despite personal misgivings) - Kingdom of priests, God’s messengers (ministers of reconciliation)
The Lord was with Samuel - God’s presence with Samuel reminds us that God doesn’t call us to do anything that he himself won’t provide the means to do.
Concluding summary and application reminders —
When the voice of God calls, there is only one right response—to listen and obey.
Kids, are you old enough to know and listen to and serve God?
Communing with God, daily saying, “Speak Lord, for your servant hears.”
Help from Christian mentors as to how to listen for and obey the voice of God. - Listening, responding, obeying, knowing God, being used of God...
Will you be one of the few who listens to the voice of God and obeys?
Communion
God has spoken. God’s revelation of himself reached its apex in the coming of the second person of the Godhead to earth, revealed here to us on earth as the God-man Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 1:1–2 ESV
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.
John 1:14 ESV
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Colossians 1:15 ESV
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
Hebrews 1:3a ESV
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,
Colossians 1:19–20 ESV
For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
It was this Jesus who lived among us and experienced all that we experience but was without sin. This Jesus who died on a cross to give himself as an atoning sacrifice for our sin and satisfy the justice of God. This Jesus who rose again to prove his power over sin and death. This Jesus who appeared to many as evidence of his resurrection and who returned to glory to sit at the Father’s right hand and continue forever as an intercessor for those who believe in him by faith.
Through his Word which all aims at the gospel of Jesus Christ, God still speaks.
Many of us here this morning are about to take the Lord’s supper together because we have heard the call of God and received Jesus by faith. So we do this to remember and refocus. - As we do that, now is an opportunity for you to humble yourself before God and receive Jesus as your salvation, your only means to God.
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