Saturday, February 03, 2024

1 Samuel 3:1-10(11-20); The Second Sunday after the Epiphany;

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
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. 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.”” (1 Samuel 3:1–10, ESV)
Grace to you and peace from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Eli had two sons. They were priests and they were wicked men. They abused their power, extorted the people, and made a mockery of God (the text says “blaspheming God”). This needs to be understood to come to an understanding of what the text is saying. Context, context, context. It seems the people who defined the pericope (pericope is a Greek word that means to cut out) took the word to heart and cut out all the context in favor of the line “Speak, for your servant hears.” But what the excised is what the Lord says and the context of Eli’s sons.

So, Samuel becomes a prophet, and this is the account of him coming to hear the Lord’s word. God was going to call him to a difficult task. “The Word of the Lord was rare in those days.” What that means is that God had not chosen a prophet for some time. We often get the idea that miracles and God’s Word were everywhere in Old Testament times. But this text shows us that it was not. There were times when life went on without God appearing in that way. And this was one of those periods of time. Samuel was dedicated to serve in the temple by his mother, Hannah, in response to God answering her prayer to give her a son. And Samuel was serving Eli, the chief priest, in the temple. Eli was getting old, and his eyesight was failing. In the evening “before the lamp of God had gone out.” Samuel and Eli had gone to bed. Samuel heard a voice call to him. He naturally suspected that it was Eli calling. So, he went to his master and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Eli said he didn’t call and sent him back to bed. It happened two more times before Eli realized what was happening. Apparently, his blindness wasn’t only in his eyes. He told the boy, “Next time you hear it say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant hears.’” And Samuel went back to bed.

“And the LORD came and stood, calling as at other times, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’”

Did you notice that the first two times I read the text? “The Lord came and stood.” In other words, God came in a physical presence before Samuel. He spoke directly to him. He said his name.

This only seems unusual because we have this idea that God was physically far removed from the people of the Old Testament. But when God appeared it was often in a physical form. Many of the books of the prophets begin with “The Word of the Lord came to…” And some to the time, at least, as we read on, we find it was a physical presence. That is the case here, as God, physically appears to Samuel to deliver a message. What was the message?

This is why I think the folks who set up the pericope cut it off after Samuel’s response, “Speak, for your servant hears.” You see, it is bad news.

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.” 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. 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.” 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.” (1 Samuel 3:11–20, ESV)

It was about Eli’s wicked sons, and Eli himself for not restraining them. Because they had all made a mockery of Service to the Lord, the whole family would be totally wiped out. It was not just the sins of the sons, but the sins of the father who spoiled them and allowed them to do the evil things they were doing. And then the text tells us what it is all about.

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.

In other words, God established Sammuel as a prophet of God’s own Word. And thus, the Word of the Lord was no longer rare.

So, is this text telling you what to do when your toddler comes to you in the night wanting a drink of water? It is an interesting idea, “Go back to bed and when you hear the voice again, say ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.’” I don’t think that’s going to work. Instead, we look to the book of Hebrews.

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.” (Hebrews 1:1–2, ESV)

This is one of the various ways and times that God spoke to a prophet, and then to the people “long ago.”

“But in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.”

“God told me that…” Is a phrase you hear in modern Christianity, if not normally in our circles. What is meant is something like what happened to Samuel. “God spoke directly to me, and you can’t disagree because it is God’s desire.”

Well, the truth is, grounded in Hebrews 1:1, God doesn’t work that way anymore.

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.

During his ministry one of the things Jesus did was firmly establish the Hebrew scriptures as God’s Word. We have recorded at least seven times that he quoted the Old Testament directly, with many more allusions to it in his teaching, preaching, and confrontations. And on the road to Emmus he taught the disciples that the Hebrew Scriptures were about him.

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:27, ESV)

Then [Jesus] said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”” (Luke 24:44, ESV)

And the New Testament is established by Jesus as God’s Word also. In the Gospel of John, he tells his disciples,

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26, ESV)

So, the whole bible is God’s Word, Jesus’ word. It is everything we need to know to gain our salvation. And we shouldn’t expect anything else.

The first objection you will often hear when you say God speaks today only through his Word, is that you are limiting God. I am not limiting God; God is limiting himself. God works objectively, from outside of us. That is people are saved by hearing the Good News about Jesus spoken to them. Everything Jesus did he did in history, outside of human beings, objectively. God’s Word is outside of us written on the page. It is the only source of faith and life for the church, objectively. It is outside of us, and verifiable.

The problem with “God spoke to me” is that it is subjective. It is inside of me. It is unverifiable. It is not the way God has chosen to work. The first thing you ask a person who has said “God said to me” is “Book, Chapter and Verse.” In other words, if what is said agrees with scripture we can agree. If not, we must reject it. We should expect no new revelation. Everything that is revealed has already been revealed in the Scriptures. Holy Scriptures are the only norm for faith and life in the Church.

God works “extra nos” outside of you. He did it most importantly through sending his son. Jesus became a complete human person. His life, death and resurrection are done for you outside of you. It is true that the Holy Spirit indwells Christians. Luther describes what he does in his explanation of the Apostles Creed.

But the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.

Calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies. All these are outside of us also. He calls through the Gospel. He gathers us in the Church. He helps us to understand what scripture means when we hear it. And he makes us holy through faith in what Jesus has done. He doesn’t defy God’s Word; he fully agrees with it. It is just as the Word says,

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17, ESV)

There is great comfort in our faith being founded on what is extra nos. What is inside of us is sinful. Jesus said,

For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” (Matthew 15:19, ESV)

Without the work of the Holy Spirit through the hearing of God external Word, these would reign in our lives.

God provides the truth of it all from outside of us. He provides Holy Baptism water poured over you with God’s Word, to give faith in Jesus. He provides the church, where we gather with other Christians to consol and comfort one another, especially around hearing the Word of Christ. In the church, he provides the word spoken into your ears to strengthen your faith. He provides the Lord’s Supper to pour into you the forgiveness Jesus won at the cross.

Christianity is extra nos. It comes to us from outside of us in the form of God’s Word written by prophets and apostles. It is not subject to the whims of society, as many churches claim. It is not subject to the evil that resides in the human heart. It is not subject to the feelings and desires of preachers. It is testable and sure. Doctrine can be and should be frequently tested against the Word itself.

Christianity is the only religion in the world that is extra nos, verifiable. Jesus Christ, the Son of God did come into the world on a cold winter’s night, born of a virgin. He did walk and preach on the dusty roads of Palestine. He did suffer under Pontius Pilate was crucified, dead and buried. He rose from death again. And he is coming again to judge the living and the dead. He did all of this for your salvation, for the forgiveness of your sins. He did it to bring you to himself to live with him forever. If he didn’t our faith is in vain. But it isn’t in vain. We have God’s sure Word, written on a page. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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