This morning, we’re continuing our new message series entitled, “Family of Prophets.” We’re rediscovering our identity as a church family this year and this group of individuals are an awesome example to learn from. Family is a group of people who genuinely love, trust, care for, and look out for each other.
Today, we’re going back to the beginning of where this family seemed to begin, the birth of Samuel.
For time’s sake, we won’t go through the details, but Samuel was a miraculous answer to the hopes and prayers of his mother, Hannah. Following the trend that we learned about last week, bad things once again happened to good people. Hannah was barren, unable to have the children that her heart longed for.
She gave a Nazarite vow (Numbers 6:2-21) that if God would give her a son, that she would give him to the Lord for all of his days. The Lord answered her prayer and enabled her to fulfill her vow.
Reading through 1 Samuel 1, we quickly see a theme surrounding Samuel’s life. Samuel was dreamed of, hoped for, prophetically foresaw, prayed for, and offered up to God all within the context and atmosphere of worship. In fact, Hannah was given a double portion of meat to sacrifice in worship year after year. The name Samuel means, “God has heard.”
Eli was the priest at that time and he was failing as a father. His two sons were also priests, but did very wicked things before the Lord. They took personal advantage of the worship of God’s people. Samuel also was raised by Eli, but chose a very different path from Eli’s natural sons.
1 Samuel 2:21b;26
…the boy Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord.
And the boy Samuel continued to grow in stature and in favor with the Lord and with people.
God send a prophet to Eli who reminded him of God’s promise to Eli’s ancestors that the members of your family would minister before God forever. The prophet informed Eli of the consequences of his choice to honor his wicked sons more than he honored God, that his sons would die on the same day and that all his descendants would have a short life span.
However, God’s promise always rings true. Eli’s natural sons may have chosen to walk away from the promises of God, but God brought into Eli’s family another son. Through Samuel, a member of Eli’s family by choice and not by blood, God’s promise would be fulfilled. As Samuel found family from his childhood in the presence of God and in an atmosphere of worship, he established a family of prophets who would continue in it. Family not by blood, but by choice. We now turn to the beginning of this family.
1 Samuel 3
1 The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.
Going through the motions. Serving God and worshipping Him because it is the right thing to do, but not really listening for His voice or waiting on His Presence. It’s dry, religion that doesn’t result in life transformation and is void of the love and zeal that we receive through relationship. This is far from God’s will and heart! He longs to meet with us. However, He draws near to us as we sincerely choose to draw near to Him (James 4:8).
2 One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. 3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the house of the Lord, where the ark of God was.
The ark of God, or the ark of the covenant, was the place set apart by God where His very Presence rested. Physically, it was just an elaborate box. However, God chose that as a place for people to meet with Him.
The Presence of God is interesting. The scriptures teach in Psalm 139 that there is no place where we can go to escape the presence of God – that He is everywhere; omnipresent. However, Moses cried out that if the Presence of God would not go with him, that he would not move. God promised to fill us with His Presence by the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
There is a very distinct and radical difference between being in God’s omniscient presence and being in God’s presence personally. It’s like the difference between being in the same room as Donald Trump versus carrying on an hour-long, face-to-face conversation with Donald Trump.
Which do we do with Jesus when we come to a church service? We can come to a church service and be in the presence of God or we can come to a church service and be in the presence of God.
We can be around God or we can have a personal encounter and experience with God. We can learn about God through His word and the testimony of others or we can learn who God is through relationship and live out our own testimonies with Him.
There is something significant about setting apart a place to meet with God.
In the beginning, people would build altars.
Sometimes, they would build an altar so that they could meet with God.
Sometimes, they met with God and built an altar as a result of that meeting.
Then, God met with mankind at Mount Sanai.
Then, God set apart the tent of the meeting to meet with mankind.
Then, God set apart the temple as a place for people to meet with God.
Long story short, then God chose to fill mankind with His very Presence through the Holy Spirit so that we might remain in His Presence and carry it with us.
There is something significant about setting apart a place to meet with God. It has to do with our focus and with our purpose. When we set apart a place or a time or anything else to meet with God, it causes us to intentionally purpose to seek after Him and to set our undistracted focus on Him.
Come near to God and he will come near to you.
Ecclesiastes 5:1[ (AMP)
[Your Attitude Toward God ]
Guard your steps and focus on what you are doing as you go to the house of God and draw near to listen rather than to offer the [careless or irreverent] sacrifice of fools; for they are too ignorant to know they are doing evil.
The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.
We draw near to God, then He draws near to us.
We are the ones who move, He is unchanging.
Samuel physically lay there before the ark of God in the presence of God. It was there with that small child where the apparent silence of God was about to be broken through a personal encounter with God.
4 Then the Lord called Samuel.
Samuel answered, “Here I am.” 5 And he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”
But Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down.
6 Again the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”
“My son,” Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.”
7 Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.
8 A third time the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”
Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. 9 So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and 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 and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”
Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
11 And the Lord said to Samuel:
Samuel was born as a result of God hearing the prayers of Hannah. Samuel was born because God heard. In fact, the name Samuel in the Hebrew means, “God heard.” Now, Samuel heard God.
God heard your prayers. You cried out to Jesus to be save you and you were saved. You cried out to Jesus to forgive you and we were forgiven. You cried out to Jesus to deliver you and you were set free. You cried out to Jesus and time and time again, He heard you.
Are you listening to the voice of God? He’s always speaking, but are we listening? Perhaps, like Samuel, we’ve just never been trained in how to hear God’s voice. Perhaps, like Samuel, we’ve never been taught how to respond to God.
It was for this purpose that Samuel later formed the family of prophets as a school of ministry where people could join together to hear the voice of God.
Three times in Hebrews, Paul writes and says, “Today, if you hear God’s voice…” He didn’t say, “Today, if God speaks…” for God is always speaking, always communicating with us, always pouring out His revelation. The question is whether or not we are listening to it.
Jesus taught it this way:
John 10:1-6 (AMP)
1 “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the sheepfold, but climbs up from some other place [on the stone wall], that one is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep [the protector and provider]. 3 The doorkeeper opens [the gate] for this man, and the sheep hear his voice and pay attention to it. And [knowing that they listen] he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out [to pasture]. 4 When he has brought all his own sheep outside, he walks on ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice and recognize his call. 5 They will never follow a stranger, but will run away from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what He was talking about.
Jesus then explained this analogy to them plainly teaching that He, Himself, is the Good Shepherd and that we are His sheep. He explained that the way to Heaven is through Him alone.
If you’ve put your faith in Jesus, you are His sheep and He is your shepherd. Through relationship, you recognized His voice. The more time that you spend together with Him, in His word and in dialog through prayer, the more that you will recognize His voice.
You can be in a room full of people talking, but your ears tune in when you catch the voice of your best friend who said that they couldn’t make it. Your heart leaps for joy and you start following their voice until you find them and rejoice together when you meet.
Anyone who visits our house could call my dogs by name to come inside and they won’t even look up. However, if I give a short whistle or call them by name, they come running tails wagging all the way.
There are so many voices speaking into our lives. Even when we’re alone, our minds run through the conversations or situations that occurred throughout the day. The voice of Jesus, however, should cause our ears to perk up in eager expectation, causing all other voices to be mere background noise.
Next week, we’ll learn some very simple and practical steps that we learn from Samuel’s life in how to hear the voice of God. May our life attitude and heart’s desire be that simple teaching that Samuel received, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”