Sunday, June 22, 2014
"As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him, and everything he said
was wise and helpful. All the people of Israel, from one end to the
other, knew that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of the Lord.
The Lord continued to give messages to Samuel and Samuel’s
words went out to all the people of Israel.” (1Samuel 3: 19-21)
Remember the Philistines from the story of Samson? They were still at war with the Israelites. During one of the battles four thousand Israelites were killed. When they returned to the camp they began to cry to each other, “How could God let this happen to us! Why didn’t God do something?”
Just the fact that they were crying to each other and not crying out to God showed that their hearts were in the wrong place. We do that sometimes, don’t we? We complain to each other about how things are going. We say things like “Why now?” or “Why me?” and “If only!” God wants a relationship with us. He wants us to come to Him. It’s OK to cry out to God.
Well the Israelites had a great idea. “Let’s carry the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord into battle. We will surely be victorious with it!”
Do you remember the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord? Moses had the people build it as they were wandering in the desert on the way to the promise land. It was like a portable temple that they could carry with them. (Exodus 25:10-31)
They sent for the Ark of the Covenant to be brought into camp. Eli’s sons Hophni and Phinehas were priests, so they helped carry the Ark of the Covenant into camp and then into battle the next day. The Philistines heard a large cheer coming from the Israelite camp and found out that it was because of the Ark of the Covenant. They became very afraid because they remembered hearing about how God had helped the Israelites at the Red Sea and Jericho when the walls came down. “We must fight harder than we have ever fought before.” The Philistine General shouted as they charged into battle.
God is not a good luck charm. Just because we wear a cross around our neck or have a picture of Jesus hanging on our wall, doesn’t mean that everything is going to work out. As a matter of fact, if we trust in out crosses and pictures, they become idols! Isn’t that unbelievable? A picture of Jesus could be an idol? But it’s true. Some people even put their trust in their prayers instead of the One that they are praying to. God wants us to trust in Him.
During the battle, Eli had put a chair just outside the city gate so he could get the news about the battle a soon as possible. He was very old now and could hardly see. Finally one of the messengers came running from the battle with news.
“What happened?” Eli asked.
The messenger answered. "The Israelites were beaten badly. We lost over thirty thousand men. I’m sorry to tell you this Eli, but your two sons were killed. And on top of it all, the Philistines took the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord!”
When Eli heard this, he threw himself back in his chair. It fell backwards and Eli broke his neck and died. Thus fulfilling what God had told Samuel years earlier.
Tuesday, June 10, 2014
During the story of Ruth and Naomi, there was a lot going on with the Israelites. They were still battling the Philistines. Remember Samson had killed 3,000 Philistines during a celebration? The Israelites were also grumbling about how all the other countries had a king.... but they didn’t. They really had the best king of all, God, but they didn’t see it that way. So God gave them a king. He had a great prophet named Samuel anoint a king even though God knew that it was not the best thing for them.
So let’s go back a few years to when Samuel was born.
Hannah was a young Israelite woman who did not have any children. Some of the other women would tease her so much, that she would be driven to tears. One day she was very distraught. She went to the temple and prayed. She prayed that if God would give a son, she would dedicate the child and give him back to Him. She prayed with such emotion, that the priest, Eli, went up to her and said. “Excuse me, but if you have been drinking, I must ask you to leave the temple.”
“No!” Said Hannah. “ I am not drunk. I am praying to God for a son.”
Then Eli said. “God has heard your prayer. May He grant you your request!”
“Thank you!” Hanna said as she ran back home with a smile on her face.
Soon afterward Hanna found out that she was having a baby and when the time came she gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel which means “heard by God.” She kept her promise to God and when Samuel was a few years old, Hanna brought him to the temple.
Hanna took the child to Eli. “Do you remember me?” She asked. “I promised God to give my child back to Him. He will now belong to the Lord for the rest of his life.” And she left Samuel there with Eli.
God hears our prayers. If our requests are in line with God’s will, He will give us what we ask. (Psalm 37:4)
Every year Hanna would make Samuel a new coat and bring it to him in the temple. Eli would bless her and tell her that he hoped the Lord would bless her with other children, and God did. Hanna ended up having 3 more sons and 2 daughters. God is willing and able to give us more than we ask or even imagine. (Ephesians 3:20)
Samuel served the Lord with all his heart even though Eli’s sons (Hophni and Phinehas) who were older than Samuel did not. They would steal from the temple. They would treat the servants badly and they did not respect their father. They got fat from feasting on all the best offerings that were supposed to be sacrificed to God.
One night while Samuel, Eli and his two sons were sleeping, Samuel heard a voice. “Samuel Samuel!”
Samuel jumped out of bed and ran to Eli. “Yes? What do you need?”
Eli woke up and told Samuel to go back to bed. It was nothing. Then Samuel heard the voice again. “Samuel Samuel!” He jumped up and ran to Eli. “Here I am. What do you need?” Samuel asked.
I didn’t say anything. Go back to bed. It happened again and the Eli realized that God was calling Samuel. He told Samuel to stay in bed and the next time the Lord called to say. “Yes Lord. Here I am. Your servant is listening.” And that’s just what Samuel did.
The Lord spoke to Samuel. “I have warned Eli about his sons already. He hasn’t done anything, so now I have to do something.”
The next morning Eli asked Samuel what God had said to him. Samuel did not want to tell him, but Eli insisted. So Samuel told him that he and his sons were going to die in the very near future. Eli told Samuel that God was right. He had warned him, but Eli didn’t want his sons to get mad at him, so he let them get away with a lot of stuff. Now God was not going to let them get away with it any more. “Let the Lord do what He thinks is best.” Eli said as he hung his head in sadness and shame.
God has put our parents in charge. Sometimes we think that they are being mean or uncaring, but they want the best for us. We need boundaries now so that we won’t be punished later. (Galatians 6:7)