Summary: This sermon is about drawing near to God, especially in Church!
Last Sunday I called on you to draw near to God, and He will draw near to you, and I spoke of how Enoch walked with God. Enoch became intimate and personal with God and for 300 years had a relationship with God. If you have ever noticed, that in those times that you find yourself pushing in to God; find yourself pressing in to the things of God, it is then that you find God revealing things to you that you have never understood before. In fact last Sunday, someone told me after Church that during the sermon God revealed to them something about the Scripture verse (Matthew 19:24) “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
And as I talked about feeding our appetites with the things other than God, she said this verse was finally revealed to her that it is harder for the rich man because they are so “fat” from feeding their appetites on everything else but God. And that is what happens, when you draw near to God, and get intimate with God, the things of God will become much clearer to you.
In our text today, (a) Theologian Polzin notes some things are happening that appear to be quite the opposite: Eli has grown old, and his eyesight is dim. Rather than seeing clearly, his eyesight is diminishing. It tells us up-front that “messages from the Lord were very rare and visions were uncommon”. In other words, not much was happening. Eli’s two sons, described in the previous Chapter (2) were both priests, and they were scoundrels who literally ignored the sacrificial laws in order to feed their own hunger. (2:17) told us that “The sin of these young men was very serious in the Lord’s sight, for they treated the Lord’s offerings with contempt.”. We are also told that the “lamp of God had not gone out”. Many different interpretations can be read into this, but what I believe it suggests for us this morning is that the “lamp of God”, “the presence of God” had not yet gone out, but it was “diminishing”. God was present, his lamp was lit in the Temple, but the closes-ness to God was so rare, that the Priest slept in another room, his eyesight dim, and visions and words from the Lord were rare, if not at all. And beyond that even two of the priests were desecrating the offerings made to the Lord.
1. Now Samuel, still a young boy, we learn in Chapter 2, that he “was the Lord’s helper” and “he was growing up in the presence of the Lord”. In Chapter 3, we find him sleeping near the Ark of the Covenant and near the Lamp of God’s presence. Samuel was perhaps so hungry for God’s presence that he was sleeping as near as he could. He was sleeping in the Temple. He was a boy who was dedicated to the Lord and was sleeping “near” the Lord. Something then disturbs his sleep, The Lord calling out “Samuel, Samuel!”. And Samuel jumps up and runs to Eli and says “Here I am, what do you need?”. (3:4-5)
Now get this, this is the first point I want to make, Samuel is “near” to God. He was sleeping in the Temple. Can you be any nearer than that? And yet, when God speaks to him; when a word from the Lord comes, Samuel did not recognize God’s voice. (b) “Samuel was experiencing the word of the Lord, but he did not know it.” He was “near” but perhaps he was not near enough! And it raises the question “How near is near enough?” or “How near is near”. Maybe you have pushed in and you have come to Church, and I say “thanks be to God”, but have you pushed in to an intimate relationship in which you not only hear and recognize the voice of God, but you also heed it? Maybe, just maybe you know you want to be close to God, but haven’t pushed past just sitting in the Church to actually having a real relationship with God.
2. Samuel goes back to bed when he realizes that Eli didn’t call him. A second time the Lord calls out to Samuel (3:6), and again Samuel runs to Eli, and says “Here I am, what do you need?” That brings me to the second point I want to make about our nearness with God: Sometimes we think we are near to God, even counting ourselves present in His Temple, but we put other relationships before our relationship with God. We run to find answers from other people. We run to fill ourselves up with other things. Maybe its that we are not paying attention to God’s voice, but we will follow the voice of a friend, or our own desires.