Friday, August 7, 2015

Serving God Effectively - A Character Sketch of the Prophet Samuel

1 Samuel 3:1-4 "Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord before Eli. And word from the Lord was rare in those days, visions were infrequent. 2 It happened at that time as Eli was lying down in his place (now his eyesight had begun to grow dim and he could not see well), 3 and the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord where the ark of God was, 4 that the Lord called Samuel; and he said, “Here I am.”

Perhaps next to Moses, Samuel stood out as the greatest of the prophets who lived before the prophet Isaiah. Moses ministered in the early years of Israel when she was being called forth as a people from bondage in Egypt in 1446 b.c. Samuel's ministry would occur some 350-400 years later. The wonderful thing about Samuel is that his very name means: "God heard" or "God answered". Before it would be all said and done, Samuel's prophetic career would embody his name. When we consider the significance of Samuel's ministry, he was the one that inaugurated the end of one era (the period of the Judges - see Acts 13:20) and the beginning of the era of Israel's Kings (chiefly Saul and David).  

Everything that could be possibly said about this man of God will not be attempted in this post today. Rather, I want to offer a thumbnail sketch of the significance of Samuel's life to readers in the form of a quick character study. What traits of Samuel's life can we find helpful in understanding what is necessary to serve God effectively?

1. Samuel heard God. 1 Samuel 3
As we mentioned a moment ago, Samuel's very name meant that God had heard. Hannah, Samuel's mother, had prayed for a child. God granted her request and thus she pledged to dedicate him to the ministry of the temple all the days of his life (see 1 Samuel 1-2). When Samuel was weaned, she brought him to the temple to begin his service. Whenever you read 1 Samuel 3, you find the account of Samuel's call to ministry. Three times Samuel heard the Lord calling his name. Upon the fourth time, when Samuel answered, God gave him his first prophetic message concerning the priest Eli. It was a hard message for this budding prophet, but he heard God and acted in obedience. 1 Samuel 3:19-21 states - "Thus Samuel grew and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fail.20 All Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of the Lord. 21 And the Lord appeared again at Shiloh, because the Lord revealed Himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord." 

The Christian is by definition one who can hear God. Like Samuel, God first calls us to Himself (1 Peter 2:9). Jesus reminds us in John 10 that His sheep hear His voice and follow Him. To hear God means to have the unwavering conviction regarding what God would have you to do or not do according to His word. Samuel had that, and so can you dear Christian. Now notice the second trait of Samuel's effective service to God...

2. Samuel obeyed God. 1 Samuel 15
Samuel would be later called to anoint the first King of Israel - Saul. Sadly, Saul did not walk consistently with God. His impetuous ways eventually cost him everything. Due to Saul's disobedience, 1 Samuel 15 records the words of God through Samuel that Saul's kingdom would be taken from him. We read the focal point of the message in 1 Samuel 15:29 - "Samuel said, “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams." 

If there was such a contrast in scripture, none hardly rivals the contrast between a disobedient Saul and obedient Samuel. As far as we know, Samuel never received a rebuke from God for disobedience. Whenever God told him to do anything, he quickly responded. You and I dear friend need to be quick responders in the realm of obedience. Quickly obeying God makes for effective ministry, and positions you to hear God even better. 1 Thessalonians 2:13 gives us a grand New Testament picture of this point of instant obedience - "For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe." So an effective servant of God hears God, obeys God and then finally...

3. Samuel's testimony of fidelity for God
What kind of testimony and legacy did Samuel leave behind? Amazingly, several books of the Bible record the testimony of Samuel's fidelity to God. I am sure some readers may recall years go how one could purchase "hi-fi" speakers. The little abbreviation stood for "High Fidelity", meaning that the sound system or speakers reproduced faithfully the sound of the original recording. Hi-fi speakers were known for being crisp, clear and faithful to the original. Samuel's aimed to imitate His Lord (compare Ephesians 5:1). Notice what other books of the Bible say about Samuel:

a. 1 Chronicles 29:29  "Now the acts of King David, from first to last, are written in the chronicles ofSamuel the seer, in the chronicles of Nathan the prophet and in the chronicles of Gad the seer"

b. Jeremiah 15:1 "Then the Lord said to me, “Even though Moses and Samuel were to stand before Me, My heart would not be with this people; send them away from My presence and let them go!"

c. Hebrews 11:32-33 "And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak,Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions."

These three passages illustrate the testimony of fidelity that Samuel had. We have his words preserved in scripture. His life is held in esteem by God as a standard of what is righteous. Then Hebrews reminds us that among the giants of the faith, Samuel stood high and strong. 

Closing thoughts:
Today we aimed to understand what it takes to serve God effectively by doing a quick character sketch of the prophet Samuel. We first noted the ability to hear God. Next we saw the importance of instance obedience. Then lastly, we saw the need to have a tesitmony of fidelity to God.