1 Samuel 3:1-4
1 And the child Samuel ministered unto the LORD before Eli. And the word of the LORD was precious in those days; there was no open vision. 2 And it came to pass at that time, when Eli was laid down in his place, and his eyes began to wax dim, that he could not see; 3 And ere the lamp of God went out in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was, and Samuel was laid down to sleep; 4 That the LORD called Samuel: and he answered, Here am I.
A Dark Time in Israel’s History
The condition of Israel at this time was one of spiritual and moral decline. The people did that which was right in their own eyes. They had strayed far away from the Lord their God. They worshipped Baalim and Ashtaroth, the gods of the heathen, and forsook the worship of Jehovah God. Because Israel worshipped Ashtaroth, the “goddess of erotic love and war” they were guilty of fornication, revelry, and acts of violence that accompanied the worship of this idol.
Many of God’s people today, like Israel, are devoted to the idols of this world. We want to notice just a few of these idols and the sins that they promote and propagate in our lives.
There is the secular humanism idol. This is the world’s philosophy, which teaches that man is his own god, sets his own destiny, and that he should live to gratify his selfish desires. This idol would have us throw away our Bibles, quit attending church, and quit serving God. There is the god of pleasure– eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die. If it feels good, do it. Devote all of your time and energy to pleasure. This is America’s greatest and most popular idol.
There is the secular music idol that includes rock & roll and all its modern variations, most county music, and all other secular music that promotes ungodliness. Such music is not of God, it does not praise and glorify God, and it does not encourage its listeners to love and worship God. To the contrary, secular music often encourages people to fulfill the lusts of their flesh, to abuse drugs and alcohol, to blaspheme God, to worship the devil, and even to murder their parents!
Another idol is the motion picture industry. This idol encourages all manner of elicit sex, violence, cursing, blaspheme, and every imaginable sin against God’s Holiness. Most TV programming is designed to appeal exclusively to sensual human appetites. When we listen to, watch, and take pleasure in the sinful acts of others, we are not only consenting to these actions, but we are tempting our own selves to take part of the same.
The children of Israel committed idolatry with Ashtaroth and Baal, thereby assenting to and taking part in fornication, devil worship, and even offering their children as human sacrifices to these heathen idols. When we exalt these idols in our homes, we are offering our children as sacrifices to them. Do not our children behold our devotion to these idols and the pleasure we derive from them. Our idolatry destroys our testimony of Jesus Christ to our children. Yet we ask “what is happening to our children today?”
Not only were the people living in idolatry, fornication, and all kinds of wickedness, the place of worship was also being desecrated by the servants of the tabernacle. Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, desecrated the sacrifices and offerings by greedily taking for themselves meat that was not rightfully theirs, and they committed fornication with the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle (Chapter 2:12-22). Their father Eli, who knew about his sons sins, allowed them to continue in their desecration of the worship services of God.
Many servants in churches today are profaning the worship of God by teaching and practicing lawlessness. They tell their people that they don’t have to keep God’s law– that it is alright to commit adultery, idolatry, and a host of other wicked abominable sins. They also profane God’s worship by desecrating the sacrifice. They do this by adding works to the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ, or by taking from God’s sacrifice, saying Christ alone is not sufficient for our salvation.
Because of these things the Lord wasn’t speaking to His people Israel. There was no open vision and the word of the Lord was precious (or rare) in those days. God’s presence and power were not with His people. They went up into battle against the Philistines and were miserably defeated. They even carried the ark of God into battle with them supposing that this would give them the victory (Chapter 4), but they were defeated and the ark of God was captured by the Philistines.
Israel was in a bad state. They were not only morally and spiritually corrupt, but they were at the mercies of their enemies who wanted more than anything to destroy them, and to take them captive and make them slaves. This is the enemy’s scheme– to temp God’s people to commit idolatry and fornication so that God will turn away His power and blessings from them.
The Providential Stage is Set
While Israel was descending down to the depths of despair, God is setting His providential stage for their deliverance. Sometimes things look so bad that they seem hopeless– but all the while God is working behind the scenes of the natural and visible world, setting the stage for His deliverance.
We find in 1 Samuel chapter one that God used Hannah to give birth to the child Samuel, who would become a faithful and obedient servant of the Lord. Hannah promised God that if He would give her a child, that she in turn would give that child back to Him. And that is what happened. God caused Hannah to conceive and give birth to Samuel, and afterward she gave him back to the Lord to serve in the tabernacle.
What a wonderful and godly ambition, for a believing mother and parent to give her child to the Lord. As parents today, may we hear the message of Hannah and of her love and devotion to the Lord. God uses the children of godly parents as He did with Samuel, when we are willing to give them to Him. Some Christian parents would rather see to their children’s prosperity in this world than to see to their spiritual needs of knowing and serving the Lord. May God help us to get our priorities right– our children depend on us.
Then God called Samuel, and revealed Himself to him, and showed him His plan of service for Samuel’s life. As darkness was falling upon Eli and upon his life of service, and as Israel was succumbing to the darkness of sin, God was working in Samuel to bring about their deliverance. How we need for God to deliver us this day out of our spiritual slumber and our destructive course of sin!
Before God will restore, He will purge out the sin and dross from the hearts and lives of His people. And before He will heal, He will wound us sore in chastisement that we might learn a lesson from our sinful experiences. Here we find this restoration process to be four-fold.
First, the truth was revealed to Eli and judgment was pronounced upon his house for profaning the worship. We must face the truth about our spiritual condition. Let us be assured that judgment begins in the house of the Lord. Judgment began with Eli and his sons because they profaned the sacrifices and offerings, and because they committed fornication. God will judge His ministers first if we are not faithful in preaching the truth and in living holy and godly lives before men. We who minister in the things of the Lord will be first to suffer the Lord’s judgment if we profane His worship. This is a fearful thing as our God is a consuming fire!
Secondly, in His chastisement God allowed His people to be severely defeated in battle, to the extent that the glory of the Lord was departed from Israel (Chapter 4:21). Not only did Israel lose thirty four thousand soldiers in battle, but the ark of God, which represents His glory and His presence, was taken from Israel into the land of the enemy. It is one thing to lose our lives or our honor, but it is quite another thing to bring shame and reproach upon God’s Name and His glory! Thus Israel was brought down to the very dust for all their sins against the Lord.
God will deal with us individually and collectively in His chastisement. Sometimes we go beyond the help of sacrifices and offerings of prayers and supplications for our sins, and must wait patiently for the fiery judgment of God’s chastisement to fall upon us as it did with Israel.
Thirdly, God spoke to the children of Israel through Samuel, exhorting and encouraging them to repent of their sins and to put away all the strange gods including Ashtaroth and Baalim, and to return to serve the Lord only (Chapter 7:3-6). Then the children of Israel repented and put away the false gods and confessed their sins against the Lord. They returned to the Lord and served Him only. Praise the Lord, there is restoration for the people of God, even when we wander far down that dark road of sin. There is purging of sin, and chastisement for sin, and preaching of repentance to acknowledge sin. And, praise the Lord, there is confessing and forsaking of sin by God’s people!
Fourthly, God gave His people the victory over their enemies (Chapter 7:7-14). The scriptures tell us that the Lord “thundered with a great thunder on that day upon the Philistines”. He gave them a great victory, and gave Israel back all the cities they had lost, and He gave them peace. As a part of His restoration, God will give us the victory over our enemies. He will give back the ground that was lost, and He will give us peace with Him, and even with our enemies!
(Sermon preached by Pastor Burke at the Faith Baptist Church of Lawtey, Florida)