Monday, June 20, 2016

Called

My Life Group lesson for June 12, 2016, using Lifeway's "Explore the Bible" commentary as a guide ...

FIRST THOUGHTS

“Stupid autocorrect.”

Modern technology is great. We talk into our phones and the text magically appears. We type and it completes the words for us.

Unfortunately, sometimes the message gets a bit messed up.

Anyone have any examples of autocorrect errors that were humorous and even problematic?

Spiritually, our leaders are tasked with knowing what God desires and sharing that with the people. Sometimes they fail, like we'll see with Eli today. And other times the message is loud and clear, as we'll see with Samuel.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

1 Samuel 2:12–3:21

*** Last week we began our study of the book of 1 Samuel. We talked about Samuel’s mom, Hannah, and how her prayers and faithfulness to have a child were answered after years of desperation.

*** The end of the period of Israel being run by the judges was a time of immorality, chaos and idolatry. No matter how many times the people would suffer and call out to God for help, they would go back to their old ways.

*** God called Samuel to lead the people as He prepared them for the time of the monarchy.

A VOICE (1 Sam. 3:1-10)

1 The boy Samuel served the Lord in Eli’s presence. In those days the word of the Lord was rare and prophetic visions were not widespread. 2 One day Eli, whose eyesight was failing, was lying in his room. 3 Before the lamp of God had gone out, Samuel was lying down in the tabernacle of the Lord, where the ark of God was located. 4 Then the Lord called Samuel, and he answered, “Here I am.” 5 He ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” “I didn’t call,” Eli replied. “Go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down. 6 Once again the Lord called, “Samuel!” Samuel got up, went to Eli, and said, “Here I am; you called me.” “I didn’t call, my son,” he replied. “Go back and lie down.” 7 Now Samuel had not yet experienced the Lord, because the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. 8 Once again, for the third time, the Lord called Samuel. He got up, went to Eli, and said, “Here I am; you called me.” Then Eli understood that the Lord was calling the boy. 9 He told Samuel, “Go and lie down. If He calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. 10 The Lord came, stood there, and called as before, “Samuel, Samuel!” Samuel responded, “Speak, for Your servant is listening.”

*** You better shape up, 'cause I need a man (to be a prophet).

--- Samuel was a boy at this time, possibly around 12, maybe older, taking care of tasks such as making sure the menorah kept burning through the night.

--- The Scripture makes it clear that God wasn't talking directly to His people during this time, likely due to the corruption of the religious leaders who were unworthy (1 Sam. 14:37; Ps. 74:9; Lam. 2:9; Amos 8:11, 12).

--- You can understand Samuel's confusion, then, since even though he slept within view of the Ark of the Covenant every night, he didn't know what God's voice sounded like.

(How many Christians can say the same thing, though, that even though the Lord speaks to us through His Word, it's not recognized?)

--- This is a good indication, then, that the Lord found favor with Samuel.

--- After a long period of silence, God was again speaking, and Samuel would be his messenger.

--- Symbolically the light in Israel was about to go out, but the ministry of Samuel would be the dawn of a new day and new hope.

*** Here am I, Lord, use me.

--- It takes a few tries to get through, but God kept calling until Samuel was ready to listen.

--- It can be that way for us today, too, when we are called to a task, to the ministry, to anything in God’s service, and we must yield to His call.

--- Eli had his failings as a priest (especially in how he let his sons get away with atrocious sins), but he recognized that God was speaking to Samuel and advised him on how to respond.

--- If we want to be receptive to the word of the Lord, we must not harden our hearts (As said in Hebrews 3:15 -As it is said: Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.).

--- A willing and receptive heart prepares us to hear from God.

*** Question - How can we prepare our hearts to hear God’s voice?

--- God still reaches people today, though we don’t have to wait for him to kick us awake with an angel. The Bible and the church are right here, and we grow in faith by reading the Word and gathering together.

A MESSAGE (1 Sam. 3:17-18)

17 “What was the message He gave you?” Eli asked. “Don’t hide it from me. May God punish you and do so severely if you hide anything from me that He told you.” 18 So Samuel told him everything and did not hide anything from him. Eli responded, “He is the Lord. He will do what He thinks is good.”

*** The truth hurts.

--- Eli’s sons were bringing down the whole family of Eli. They were out of control, stealing offerings and sleeping with women who worked in God’s sanctuary.

--- Eli had not stopped his sons from defiling the temple, and in chapter 2 someone called a “man of God” prophesied to Eli about what was going to happen.

--- The man said that the sons, Hophni and Phinehas would die on the same day and die young and without an heir, and then a “faithful priest” would do God’s work.

--- By the time Samuel delivered God’s message to Eli, there was no longer any room for repentance. God had determined that the time for judgment had come.

--- The next morning Eli demands that Samuel tell him what God said, and after the boy tells reaffirms everything Eli had been warned about, Eli accepts God’s will.

--- Samuel is young and has been raised by the priest, so it surely took some steel nerves to tell him everything.

--- Eli in many ways is a tragic figure. Unwilling to keep his boys out of trouble and removing them from the priesthood, he could only respect God’s verdict without complaint.

--- However, Eli’s loyalties were divided. Jesus later said that allegiance to the cross takes priority over the natural ties of life:

Matthew 10:35-37 - For I came to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. The person who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; the person who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of me.

--- Later, for Eli’s sake, when the Israelites went off to war against the Philistines, Eli was far more concerned about the safety of the ark of the covenant than he was about the safety of his sons (4:13,17-18).

--- As Samuel didn’t hide from telling Eli what God had said, when we hear God’s Word, we in turn must share it without compromise.

*** Question - How can we end up failures not by own personal problems but by the people we love?

A PROPHET (1 Sam. 3:19-21)

19 Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him, and He fulfilled everything Samuel prophesied. 20 All Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a confirmed prophet of the Lord. 21 The Lord continued to appear in Shiloh, because there He revealed Himself to Samuel by His word.

*** My buddy and me.

--- God was right there as Samuel grew up on a path of godliness.

--- We don’t know everything that Samuel prophesied, but the Bible tells us that they all happened because as Peter wrote, a prophet does not speak on his own but is carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:21).

--- Samuel’s fame spread around Israel, from Dan in the north to Beer-sheba in the south. (As we’d say, from “coast to coast.”)

--- From the perspective of the books of Samuel, it is God’s presence with someone that makes the difference between success and failure.

*** Question - Can you recall any time of crisis when one person arose with the faith and strength necessary to hold things together and enable people to make it through to the end of the trouble? Have you seen such a thing in a church, a business, or a family?

REVIEW AND TAKE-AWAY POINTS

What would life be like if God revealed His will to you audibly, giving directions at every turn, like on a GPS? (And hopefully using Morgan Freeman's voice.)

What are some questions people would like God to answer? (Ex.: Should I take a new job? or Should I move to a new city?)

While God can speak in any way He chooses, most often He speaks to us through His Word, the Bible.

As Samuel grew, Eli helped him learn to recognize God’s voice.

Today we looked at the importance of recognizing God’s voice when He calls.

***God deeply desires to communicate with His children. God communicates directly to a quiet heart that is prepared to listen and obey.

*** Look for affirmations from others that reflect the direction God is leading. Look for how others are being impacted by what you are doing.

*** Ultimately, all Christians are called. We are called first and foremost to God Himself through Jesus Christ. We must first answer the call of the Lord concerning our salvation, and then we can begin to discern what it is He wants us to do with our life.

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