Summary: Samuel represented a new generation—a righteous priesthood to replace that which was profaned. He was an uncompromised, prophetic voice of courage used by God to call the people back to His ways. God is going to raise up a new, prophetic voice of courage,
Opening illustration: A. W. Tozer pastored in the city of Chicago for many years. On one occasion when a new minister arrived in Chicago, Tozer called him and described the difficulty and spiritual warfare involved in pastoring is such a city. He said, “If you ever want to pray with me, I’m at the lakeside every morning at five-thirty. Just make your way down and we can pray together.” A day came when the other minister was troubled in his soul. He made his way to the lakeside at about six o’clock. There he found Tozer prostrate in the sand worshiping God. Years after his death A. W. Tozer continued to be a prophetic voice to the twentieth century church because he was serious about his private intimacy with God which also had public repercussions.
Let us turn to 1 Samuel 3 in our Bibles and see the role of Samuel the prophetic voice of his time.
Introduction: There was a time in Israel that parallels our current cultural climate. That time is described in 1 Samuel 3. It was a time when the lamp of God went out, the Ark of the Covenant was lost in chapter 4, and the presence of God departed the land. The priesthood of the nation, under Eli and his sons Hophni and Phineas, was corrupt and morally weak and soon came under God’s judgment. The future appeared dismal.
The priests of God were already dead in 1 Samuel 4. The Ark of the Covenant had been captured. After hearing the news of the ark and the death of her father-in-law and husband, Eli’s daughter-in-law (and wife of Phineas, the priest) named her newborn son Ichabod, meaning “the glory of God has departed.” What was it that led to this dark hour? How did it come to be that the presence of God departed the land? And what can we in the church today learn from this sobering time in Israel’s history?
The spiritual and cultural outlook in our own nation appears much the same today. Our nation’s leaders are either corrupt or standing idly by while others lead us down a morally compromised path. Our religious institutions have allowed their light to dim. Our churches are without the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. We have scarcely noticed that God’s presence is departing the land.
I cannot express the gravity of our current state strongly enough. There is a warning sounding within my spirit to prepare for the days ahead. But even as God prepared to bring judgment to the house of Eli, He was putting into place His redemptive plan. And I know that the same redemptive plan is at work today.
What is the ‘Plan of Action’ for the new Samuel generation?
1. Private Disobedience and Public Powerlessness [vs. 11-14]
As I reflected on all that had happened in Shiloh, I was struck with this sobering truth: Private disobedience causes public powerlessness. Hophni and Phineas were engaged in private disobedience. They were profaning the holy things of God, neglecting their responsibilities to steward that which was entrusted to them. They abused their priestly authority and took advantage of the people. It is likely these sons of Eli thought they could continue in their sin with no repercussions.
Like Israel, many in the church are just going through the motions, relying on traditions and practicing an institutional Christianity. But God’s presence is no longer there and our institutions are powerless. We have been fooled into thinking our private sin goes unnoticed, but what we do in private has a public, corporate effect. The enemy continues to win battles and take ground in our nation, largely while the church goes about our business as usual. We blame our losses on the government, politicians or those who disagree with us, with little understanding of the role we’ve played in our own defeat.
The key to victory is not the ark, nor our Christian institutions, but obedience. Disobedience causes the lamp to go out and the presence of God to depart. Without His presence, there can be no victory.
2. Restoring Covenant [v. 20]
Most of us are familiar with Jeremiah 33: 3: “Call to me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know” (NASB). What some may not know is that this was spoken during a time of judgment on the nation of Israel. Israel and Judah had broken ties with the Lord and had been taken into captivity as punishment for their sins. And yet in the midst of judgment upon the nation, God had something “great and mighty” to tell Jeremiah—the reconfirming of His covenant and the restoration of a nation.