Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD before Eli. And the word from the LORD was rare in those days, visions were infrequent. And it happened at that time as Eli way lying down in his place (now his eyesight had grown dim and he could not see well), 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, that the LORD called Samuel, and he said, “Here I am.” 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. 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 you, my son, lie down again.” Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, nor had the word of the LORD yet been revealed to him. 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 thta the LORD was calling the boy. 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. Then the LORD came and stood and called as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for Thy servant is listening.” And the LORD said to Samuel, “I am about to do a thing in Israel at which both ears of everyone who hears it will tingle.”
Oh my! There is so much of interest to me in these verses. Samuel, still a boy and hadn’t come to know the LORD, nor had the word of the LORD been revealed to him. But God still was calling Samuel. And He kept calling until Samuel answered. In a time when the word from God was rare and visions infrequent, God spoke to a child allowing a boy to hear him. God told Samuel that what He was about to do in Israel would make both ears of everyone who heard tingle.
First, I think most of us think about the New Testament times and think on the fact that God spoke so often and Jesus walked and taught on the earth and God allowed many miracles and visions to occur among the believers. Second, I also think that we don’t consider that God really speaks very often today and there are few visions. And third, I believe that God is getting ready to make every ear that is “tuned in to Him” tingle with what He is about to do. Sometimes in order to really hear God, we need to listen as children, eager to catch a word, eager to hear what our Father has to say. I have to wonder how often we ask God to speak to us? Mostly we do plenty of talking to God – and that’s great, but it shouldn’t end there, we need to allow time for God to speak to us.
During this time in Scripture the nation of Israel was very wicked. No one was interested in listening to God, hearing His word. People were busy with their own lives, too busy breaking God’s commands. The last thing they had time for was listening to a prophet speak the word of God to them. And so, the word of God was rare. Sounds uncomfortably familiar.
You may or may not know this, but in the wake of the Revolutionary War there was a moral slump in this country. Drunkenness was epidemic; out of a population of 5 million, 300,000 were drunkards. At a rate of 15,000 per year they were being buried. Profanity was shocking and for the first time in the history of the settlement, women were afraid to go out at night for fear of being assaulted. There were bank robberies every day. Churches – the Methodist being the largest at the time – were losing more than they were taking in. The second largest was the Baptist, and they said that this time was their most wintery season. The Presbyterians met in General Assembly to deplore the ungodliness of the country. From the Congregationalists, the Rev. Samuel Shepherd in Lenox, Mass. had not brought in one single young person into fellowship in 16 years. The Lutherans were so languishing they thought of joining with the Episcopals who were even worse off. The Prostant Bishop of New York, Bishop Samuel Provost, quit functioning. He had confirmed no one in so long that he decided he was out of work, so he took up other employment. The Chief Justice of the United States, John Marshall, wrote the Bishop of Virginia that the Church was too far gone ever to be redeemed.
Voltaire said that Christianity would be forgotton within 30 years time and Tom Paine cheerfully preached this news all over America. By the way, because of his ridicule of Christianity, Tom Paine was ostracized and at the time of his death in 1809 there were only 6 people at his funeral.
Is any of this sounding familiar for our time? The great church historian, Kenneth Scott LaTourette, said that it seemed that the church was about to be ushered out of the affairs of men. The church had its back against the wall and it seemed it was about to be wiped out. But God had other plans. What did God do to change all this?
It came through the concert of prayer. In New England, there was a man of prayer named Isaac Backus a Baptist pastor and in 1794 when conditions were at their worst, he sent out a plea for prayer. In the colleges of the time a poll was taken at Harvard and it was discovered that wasn’t even 1 believer in the whole student body. A poll was taken at Princeton, a more evangelistic campus, and they found only 2 believers and only 5 who weren’t part of the filthy speech movement of the day. Students rioted, had a mock communion at Williams College. They had anti Christian plays at Darthmouth, Nassau Hall at Princetonwas burned down, a bible was taken from a Presbyterian church and burned in a public bon fire. Christians were so few on campus they met in secret like a communist cell and kept their minutes in code so that no one would know what they were doing to persecute them.
Isaac Backus addressed his plea for prayer to ministers of every Christian denomination in the United States. The churches responded, Bishop Frances Asbury adopted it for all the Methodists, the Baptist Association, the congregational, the Reformed , the Moravians, the Presbyterians joined in until America was a interlaced network of prayer meetings. The first Monday of each month was set aside to pray and it wasn’t long before God worked and Revival began. It broke out in Conn. And spread to Mass. When it reached Kentucky, it hit a temporary road block but from extra-ordinary prayer of the faithful, in the Summer of 1800 the great Kentucky Revival caught fire and 11,000 people came to a communion service. The Pastor put out a call for help and Baptists, Methodists, and ministers of other denominations came all working together – Ecumenical. The revival swept Tenn. Then burst over to North and South Carolina and throughout the frontier. That was the turning point and from this came the amazing missionary movements, social reform, education guidelines, evangelistic drive. More than 600 colleges in the Mid West were founded by revivalists.
Is the Word of the Lord rare in your life? How often do you listen to the Word of the God? How often are you able to come to public worship? What about in your own private life? Is the Word of the Lord rare in your private life? Are you too busy to have a private devotional life with God? Are you too proud, too self-reliant – “I’ve just never done that sort of thing before – I don’t read the Word of God on my own.” Or maybe you do, but it’s very quick, not much thought goes into it, because you need to get on with those things that are more important in your life.
It’s interesting to me that when people begin to drift away from God, one of the most common things they will say is: “But I pray all the time.” God just isn’t listening to me. We want God to hear us, but we don’t even consider that we should be listening to Him. We just want to do all the talking and demand that God do all the listening. Today we are so caught up in our own needs, we pay little attention to the needs of others. We could care less about the deplorable condition of people’s lives. We just don’t want them bothering us, after all, they got themselves into their own mess.
Isn’t it interesting, that verse 7 tells us that “Samuel did not yet know the Lord, the Word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.” God was still a stranger to Samuel. And so it is with so many people, God is still a stranger. We’re too busy to listen, and we pray at times when we remember, but really, we are failing to make his Word a priority in our lives. God becomes more and more a stranger to us. We make excuses, but in the end, we are sinning, and we know it.
But what happens when we stop, and listen to our God? Three times God called out to Samuel, and Samuel did not know it was the Lord. Finally Eli figured out what was going on – God was finally speaking, and Samuel was the one God had chosen to speak to. And then verse 10: “The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other time, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
From that moment on, God spoke to Samuel on a regular basis, and Samuel listened. He came to know God for who he really was, what he was really all about. He became a prophet that everyone respected in Israel, because everyone knew that God was speaking to Samuel, and Samuel was listening.
Isn’t it amazing, that we can get to know the true God, not by doing something difficult or complicated, but simply by listening? What a blessing it is when we take time out of our busy lives and listen to our God! For example, did you hear the voice of God this morning? Did you make time for Him for a moment this morning? When was the last time you confessed your sins to Him?
And did you hear what God said to you after you confessed your sins? God told you that his Son, Jesus Christ, has taken all of your sins away. God told you that Jesus, his Son, has died as a sacrifice for you, to pay for all the mistakes you have made in your life. God told you that because of his Son, Jesus, he completely forgives you for all of your mistakes, all of your sins. And not only does He forgive you, once you confess your sins and repent, He remembers them no more. Were you listening when God spoke to you and said these things to you?
These wonderful words of faith are words that we would like to feel and speak every day to our Lord, Jesus Christ. What an amazing God we have, that he would give us this kind of faith simply through his Word. What an amazing God we have, that he asks us to do nothing more than listen, to say, as Samuel says, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” Jesus told Nathanael, “You shall see greater things than these,” and Nathanael did. He eventually saw Jesus rise from the dead and ascend into heaven.
We have not, because we ask not. James 4:2
I challenge you today to ask God to speak to you – to give you visions – to fine-tune your waiting ears. I promise they will tingle with His response! And pray church! Pray like never before – and not just ordinary prayers, pray extra-ordinary prayers for if ever the church needed another Spiritual Awakening, it is now! Our backs are against the wall once again. We are in deplorable condition and we need the tide to shift from the secular to the sacred. We need healing that only God can bring. It’s time for prayer meetings, for people to care enough to go to extra-ordinary lengths to pray – giving up lunch hour, praying half the night away, setting aside and calling others to a specific prayer time – on our faces before our Holy God. All ONE body, no denominational boundries here. Here is your challenge, now is the time.
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