FINDING GOD IN THE DARK
A study of 1 SAMUEL 3:1-10
With sight we see, but with vision we see beyond the visible. God gives us both, and though our sight will succumb to time or sickness, those in tune with God will never lose His vision for their life or God’s kingdom. Without sight or vision we are in the dark – and emerging from it requires us to listen to God. This is more difficult than mere talking to Him, which requires only that we say what is in our heart. Part of the problem is we are constantly thinking about this or that. Listening to God requires emptying our minds of the clutter; we must also open our hearts to receive God’s word. In most cases, we have already determined our course, making it exponentially more difficult for God to get a word through. It is true that ignoring God’s word carries consequences, but a person who has decided to act so has predetermined he or she will suffer them. A wonderful thing about God is He does not force; He looks for willing people He can bless abundantly and who will listen to Him. If you do not know God, or your relationship with God has withered, spend some time listening. He will introduce Himself to you, or rekindle your passion for Him. He will re-enhance your sight with His vision, thus pulling you from the dark.
Pastor Paul Glover
Much of the Old Testament chronicles a recurring theme: the hearts of God’s people grow cold toward Him; the people move away from God; He in turn allows them to experience defeat at the hands of one of their enemies; the people repent and cry out to God for help; God responds by raising up a deliverer to rescue the people, and they enjoy fellowship with God. This cycle is especially seen during the period of the judges, which ends with the beginning of the monarchy in Israel.
Samuel was the last judge in Israel history. He received his training under Eli, who had the distinction of holding the dual office of High Priest and Judge. Under the latter part of Eli’s judgeship Israel went through a dark period. The Bible declares, “In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions.” Throughout the Old Testament visions were one way God spoke to priests, prophets, judges, or anyone He chose as a spokesperson. Chapter 2 of 1st Samuel closes with God pronouncing judgment on the house of Eli for the corruption and immorality of Eli’s sons, who serve under him as priests. Eli’s sons, Hophini and Phinehas, slept with the woman at the gate of the temple and violated the Levitical laws governing sacrifices. Eli rebuked his sons, but apparently did not deal with them strongly enough. It was because of this God pronounced judgment on his house and his descendents. From all accounts, Eli appears to have been a moral man, but a weak leader. As High Priest, Eli and his family served as the template for the people, and since his house was corrupt, it gave license to the people to engage in immoral, perverse and corrupt behavior.
Where there is weak leadership, anarchy will reign.
A recurring theme of the book of Judges is, “The people did as seemed best to them.” When leadership lives above the law it serves notice to those under them that it is OK to do whatever you want to do as long as you are not caught. The lawlessness and wanton disregard for God and the house of God silenced His voice. Once a leader loses their moral authority, God can continue to use that person, but in a diminished capacity.
All people will at some point slip and fall in life. However, leaders must be extra careful to live above reproach so that their character can never be called into question.
The waywardness of Eli’s sons led people to become cynical, distrusting and ultimately tune Eli and his sons out. Hence, “In those days the word of the LORD was rare.” Samuel was God’s response to the situation in Israel. God, as He had done earlier, prepares the young Samuel to lead Israel, and to return the people to a right relationship with Him.
Whenever we veer off course, God will always send someone to set us right.
The text says, “Samuel ministered before the LORD under Eli.” One of the blessings of mentoring is you get to see the good and the bad. A mentoring relationship that is one-sided, either all the good or all the bad, leads to stunted growth.
As I was discerning God’s calling on my life and I was preparing to graduate from high school, I shared with my mother my intentions to go to seminary following undergrad. My mother said, “If you want to be a good minister, you need to experience the good and the bad of life.”
Samuel had the opportunity to observe the positive aspects of Eli’s ministry, and the negative. There is no substitute for first hand knowledge. People can recount how others have succeeded or failed, but it is much more powerful when you see success or failure unfolding for yourself. Seeing is no a guarantee you will not repeat the mistakes you may have witness, but you will at least be aware of them. I think this is especially important when dealing with children, who often have an idealistic view of their parents, believing they can do no wrong. When children discover parents are human and make mistakes, it helps them to have a realistic view of the world, and place realistic expectations on themselves and others.
I truly believed my father was the next best thing to God; there was nothing he could not do in my eyes. When I learned he was indeed mortal, I was devastated because for years I had never seen him make any mistakes, and I knew I could never live up to the standard he established. My view of human relationships was very distorted. I placed very high expectations on people, and no one was ever able to live up to the standards I set. Thus, I spent much of my teenage and young adult years alone.
God selected Samuel to get the people back on track, but first He needed to get his attention. The text shows both Eli and Samuel were in the dark; Eli had not heard from God in a while and Samuel did not know God yet.
The Bible says, “Samuel was laying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was.” This suggests Samuel slept in the presence of God since the ark symbolizes His presence. Israel believed that wherever the ark was God was also. Yet Samuel did not recognize God’s voice nor did he perceive God’s presence. How is this possible? Verse 7 says, “Samuel did not yet know the LORD: The word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.” From Samuel’s experience, we learn that a person can serve in the church, spend time in the church and still never come to know the LORD.
Attending church and participating in its life does not guarantee you will experience God in a meaningful way.
If a person is not familiar with the voice of God they can never recognize when God is speaking to them. They will potentially miss a life-changing message God has for them. Jesus said, “My sheep know my voice.”
While Samuel had an excuse for not recognizing the voice of God, more troubling is that it took Eli, the High Priest, three times to realize God was calling Samuel. Here is a man who spent most, if not all, of his adult life serving God and dwelling in the house of God, yet he was unable to discern that the voice young Samuel was hearing was God’s. It is reasonable to assume Eli dismissed as folly of a young child the first two times Samuel said God had called.
It is often pointless to apply human reasoning to spiritual matters for we generally dismiss what we fail to understand. This is a critical mistake.
When we see unusual occurrences, we need to pay closer attention because God could be attempting to communicate with us.
Very often God has to work and move in unusual ways because the routine of our daily lives dulls our senses and our ability to perceive God’s presence. We become so used to doing the same things that we blow right past the obvious. I think about Moses in the desert or Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus; could God have gotten Moses’ attention in any other way than to use a burning bush? I do not know, but it did get his attention. Could God have gotten Paul’s attention on the Damascus road without blinding him with light from heaven? I do not know, but God did get his attention. In both cases, neither man was the same after their respective experiences. While focused on ourselves, our families, or the routine of our lives, we should stop when we see or hear something out of the ordinary, for God may be trying to get our attention.
God so wanted Samuel’s attention that He called out to him four times. God can be persistent. God will typically wake you from a deep sleep to talk or reveal something to you. However, our tendency is to dismiss broken sleep and attribute it to something other than God. Notice the pattern, God called, Samuel answered, dismissed it, and went to lay back down. This occurred three times.
When God wants our attention, He will cause us to become restless until we give Him our full attention.
I have learned that whenever I wake up, I need to spend a few moments listening. There have been times I would wake up in the middle of the night and become frustrated because I could not go back to sleep, and knew I had to go to work the next day. The idea of working on less than a full night’s rest was annoying. I would generally be cranky at work and had to let everyone know that I had not gotten my full rest. I did this until I heard a preacher say that when you wake in the middle of the night and cannot go back to sleep, read the Bible, pray or just sit quiet before the LORD. There is something that God wants to communicate to you and it must be important because if it were not, God would not have woken you up.
After the third time Samuel goes to Eli, Eli then educates him. Eli says, “Go and lie down and if he calls you, say, speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.” Eli teaches us an important lesson; we have to learn how to listen to God.
May God Bless You