Saturday, January 17, 2009

Speak, Lord

And Samuel answered, “Speak, for your servant hears.”—1 Samuel 3:10

All the children were invited to come forward in church for the children’s sermon. One little girl was wearing a particularly pretty dress, and as she sat down the pastor leaned over and said, “That is a very pretty dress. Is it your Easter dress?” The little girl replied, directly into the pastor’s clip-on microphone, “Yes, and my mommy says it’s a bitch to iron.” Much to parents’ chagrin children often speak the unvarnished truth, saying things adults would never say—at least not to their pastor!

God had a message to give to Eli the priest and it was not a pleasant one. It was a word of judgment on Eli and his sons because of the father’s permissiveness and the sons’ corruption and sexual immorality. But where could the Lord find someone who would have enough moral courage to speak truth to power? After all, Eli was a Judge and God’s Priest at Shiloh. Not many people would be willing to tell such a prominent man what needed to be said. So God bypassed all of the normal channels and gave his message to a young boy named Samuel. (Jewish tradition tells us he was 12 years old.) After some coaching from Eli, Samuel listened to God and faithfully reported God’s message to the superannuated priest, even though it was a harsh Word of judgment on Eli and his house: “Then Samuel told him everything, and hid nothing from him” (v. 18). Eli accepted his fate with resignation, though I think God would have relented had Eli and his sons repented like the Ninevites in the book of Jonah.

And the end of the chapter we read, “And all Israel . . . knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the LORD” (1 Sam. 3:20). A crucial difference between true and false prophets is that the former seek to please God more than people and the latter seek to please people more than God. Like it or not, when God speaks it’s not always to pat us on the head. If God’s voice is saying only what’s nice and pleasant and what we want to hear, we can be sure it’s not God. 

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