Summary: We'll look at the life of Samuel as a judge of Israel. We'll look at a six step process that he used to bring the nation of Isreal bac to God; a process that each of us can use as well.
At a 1999 conference in Houston, speaker Marti Ensign, a missionary to Africa, told of bringing some African pastors to the United States for a big meeting. During their free time, these Africans wanted to go shopping. Even though they were in a small town, Marti knew there was a chance someone might have difficulty or get lost. So she gave them her phone number for such an emergency. In less than an hour the phone rang and the African said, "I am lost."
Marti said, "Lay the phone down, go to the street corner, find out the names of the two streets at the corner, come back and tell me, and I will come and get you." In a few minutes he returned to the phone and reported, "I am at the corner of 'Walk' and 'Don't Walk.'"
Sometimes that is how life can feel doesn’t it? We’re lost at the corner of walk and don’t walk. We’re stuck in a rut but don’t know how to get out. The corner of walk and don’t walk is one that many of us have been lost at in our own spiritual journeys also. We feel like we can’t keep going the way we’ve always gone, but we don’t know how we can stop either. It is as if we are on a treadmill and the best thing we can do is just keep running without thinking about the insane reality that we aren’t getting anywhere.
We’re on our second week of a series called “The Life of Samuel” and we are taking a quick look at the life one of the greatest characters in the Old Testament. Last week we looked at Samuel as a boy, and discovered his habit of always telling God’s truth. But this week we are looking at Samuel in the prime of his life, we are looking at him as he serves his role as judge and leader over the nation of Israel.
If you remember from last week, we talked about how the story of the nation of Israel’s history through the time of the judges was one of sinning against God, God allowing them to become oppressed, the people crying out to God, and then God delivering them. It’s easy for us to look at this cycle and be critical. We wonder what their problem was that they kept repeating the same frustrating pattern. “Why didn’t they get it the after the first or second time?” we wonder, but all we have to do is look at our own spiritual lives to see that the story of Israel is really, very often, our story also.
It is very hard to maintain a steady upward trajectory with regard to ones spiritual growth. It seems that all of us are capable of slipping into a routine that is quite empty of any spiritual vitality and if we stay there long enough we soon realize that our spiritual life is really quite bland. And dare we take a more scrutinizing gaze we would likely find that we have let slip some holy habits, let drop pious principles, and let slide some saintly standards. You know what I’m talking about don’t you? Were not in open rebellion, we’re just stuck in a rut, we feel as if we are oppressed by mediocrity in our own spiritual growth. We are lost at the corner of walk and don’t walk. We don’t feel God’s blessing and yet we have hardly any emotional energy to care. Haven’t you been there in your spiritual life? Some of you are there now aren’t you?
And so we find ourselves in the same cycle as Israel. We are caught in that stage of being oppressed, caught in the goop of acceptable sins, not the hideous, outrageous bold sins that we look down on, just the invisible ones that no one sees but God. It’s not so much that we are deliberately backsliding it’s more that we’ve just stopped caring as much and while we’re not happy with how things are, we don’t know how to make things change. It is as if the radiance of God’s glory is gone and we’re walking not so much in darkness but shadows, grey, bland, shadowy, redundant routines.
This was the situation that Samuel was dealing with, a whole nation of people who were oppressed. Don’t you wish that Samuel was alive, and could stand before you now and that he could give you his council for how to get out from under the oppressive state you are in and get back on track with God? Well, although Samuel isn’t here to tell you, what I believe he would advise has been recorded fore us.
Before we read the text I want to give quick background to what has happened. In chapter 4 Israel’s enemies, the Philistines, have captured the Ark of the Covenant. It is during this battle that God fulfills his word spoken to Samuel in the previous chapter which told that Eli the priest’s sons would be killed. And when Eli hears that his sons are killed and the Ark taken he falls over and dies also. The Ark was a sign of God’s favour, His blessing and His glory and it is as if God was showing that His glory had left Israel.