Called by God
2nd Sunday after the Epiphany
Grace, Mercy and Peace to you from God our Father and His only Son, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.
I’m going to ask you to use your imagination this morning. Don’t worry. I know it is early and, for some of you, your minds may not be firing on all cylinders, so it will not be a great strain on your mental capacity.
Imagine a society that has lost its way. Imagine a faithful, God fearing people who have gradually forgotten the One True God (see, I told you it would be easy). Imagine these people quit going to church. They started following false gods and worshiped at their idols. Imagine a people so lost that even the sons of the priest extort the members of their congregation to give them the offering so they can skim the most from it before giving the leftovers to God.
What do you think would happen to such a people? Do you think that this type of society would be pleasing in the eyes of God? Do you think God would respond in measurable way to those who cast Him aside?
In the time of Samuel and Eli, this is exactly what is happening to Israel. The priest, Eli is growing old, fat and blind. His sons Hophni and Phinehas were sleeping with the female servants of the temple and demanding the best cuts of the sacrifices for their own meals. Because Eli did not chastise his sons or curb their ways, God told him both sons would die on the same day.
As far as the people of Israel were concerned, God let the Philistines defeat them in battle and steal the sacred Ark of the Covenant. The news of the death of Eli’s sons and the loss of the Ark stunned Eli so much that he fell over backward off of his chair, broke his neck and died. This began a famine in the land… a famine of God’s word.
We, at this time in our history, are in a famine of the Word. The base reference comes from the Old Testament book of Amos chapter 8 vs. 11-12
“Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord God,
“That I will send a famine on the land,
Not a famine of bread,
Nor a thirst for water,
But of hearing the words of the Lord.
They shall wander from sea to sea,
And from north to east;
They shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord,
But shall not find it. [Amos 8:11-12]
Samuel and Eli were at a time in history where the word of the Lord was not to be found. It was such a famine of the Word that the very sons of Eli were corrupt and they did not know the Lord. [1 Samuel 2:12] They became a defeated people with no one to lead them.
It was at this time when the Lord decided he had turned his face from Israel long enough. It was time to feed his people once again with the Word. He no longer would starve the people of their hope and salvation.
It was true that there were very few people to do such a task, and the people were not so inclined to hear what God had to say. Still, those who were starving for the Lord would now be able to return to him.
We all know how hard it is to keep our faith and hope. Sometimes it feels as if we are in a time of famine from God’s holy Word. It seems the worst of times, a season of darkness or a winter of despair. We want to hear the words of the Lord, and we wander from sea to sea, from north to east seeking that word.
What do we find in its place? Poverty and perversity, despair and discord. We see our children and our children’s children being immersed in society’s apathy and even wanton depravity. We are bombarded with propaganda and lies. As adults, we struggle to filter out this wickedness, but our children do not have the advantage of our wisdom or experience. Some might even say that even we adults are lacking that wisdom as well.
Actually, there is no famine of words. The words of the unrighteous and the unjust fall on us like rain. We are blasted by the hurricane forces of deceit and deception. Why? So that we do not hear the truth. So that we do not listen to our God.
Society’s propaganda is in every home through television and it is rarely turned off. The internet allows even a wider selection of lies and deceit. The words of the world follow us wherever we go in the palm of our hands. Deviant and prurient behavior is available in just one click of the mouse or tap of an app.
In all of this we ask ourselves, ‘Where is God?’ Where is the Word that lifts up, heals our wounds and saves our souls? The question is a good one. Has the Lord turned his face from us because of our iniquity? Do we run to and fro, seeking the word of our Lord but do not find it? Is this the season of Light or of Darkness?
It may seem like we are in famine, but we are not. It may seem that our evil desires and our lust for sin has finally separated us from the love of God, but it is not so. We are not as the Israelites in the time of Samuel, Eli and Amos. They were waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promise, his covenant. We no longer are waiting.
Jesus Christ was born of the flesh of this earth to fulfill the word of our Lord. This is not propaganda, lies or deceit; this is the Good News. You know it. You have heard it. You have read it from the word of our Lord.
Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, came down from heaven to save his people. He was tortured, beaten and crucified on a cross for our sake. He took the beating that we deserve. He took the sentence of death for our sins. He suffered and died, innocent of all wrong, so that we might gain righteousness before our Father in heaven.
Yet this is not all he did. He gained our freedom from the Devil through his sacrifice, but he did not stop there. Jesus Christ raised himself from the tomb conquering death itself. He did this so that we may have eternal life.
Through our baptism into his death and resurrection, we now become members of the body of Christ; that holy and pure body that is free from the enslavement of sin. Our future is no longer bleak and dark. We no longer have to live in suspicion, greed and despair. Our hope is in Christ Jesus. This is the best of times; it is an age of wisdom and the season of Light.
It is true, our times seem weary and our sight dims. It seems that not only is Christianity fading away but also religion itself – a belief in God is dying. It seems that the word of our Lord is not among us.
Do not be deceived. The word of our Lord is amongst us. We have just forgotten how to listen. We have been so overloaded with the frivolous words of this world, that we have forgotten how to tune out the disinformation and tune in the truth. The author of the book of Hebrews put it this way in the first two verses of chapter 1:
God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world [eternity]; [Heb 1:1–2].
Like Samuel in the temple, we are being awoken by our God. God comes to his people and calls us by name. Like Samuel, we may not at first recognize the voice of the one who calls. We run to and fro seeking someone or something in this world believing they are what calls us. Yet God does not leave us alone. He comes to where we are, stands beside us and wakens us from our sleep by calling out our names.
Through your baptism you have been called. As the Apostle Paul asks, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?” [1 Corinthians 6:15a] Of course we are, and we know it. The real question is how you answer the call of our Lord.
Like Samuel, do we say “Speak for Your servant hears.” or do we roll over and go back to sleep? Could it be that the word of the Lord is so sparse because we are not speaking the Gospel as our Savior commanded us to do? Is this drought of God’s blessing and grace our failing?
It is true that God is all-powerful and does not need us to help him rule his kingdom, but it is also true that we can, and often do, reject His will and His commands. We may have been confused when He first called us, we may have not understood why He called us, but the truth of the matter is that He did call each and every one of us.
We did not have the message God spoke to Samuel in our reading today, so let me read a portion of it now.
Then the Lord said to Samuel: “Behold, I will do something in Israel at which both ears of everyone who hears it will tingle.” [1 Samuel 3:11]
The message of the Savior of the world is one that makes our ears and anyone who hears it, tingle. The next morning, Eli demanded Samuel to tell him what God had said.
And he said, “What is the word that the Lord spoke to you? Please do not hide it from me.
[1 Samuel 3:17]
This is our call, our job, to tell everyone the word that the Lord has spoken to us. We are not to hide it from them. Like Eli, there are people in our midst begging to hear. When our friends and neighbors seek salvation through the means of this world, they find only despair.
It is for us to speak the words of the Lord, to end the famine and drought. We are to speak the salvation of Jesus Christ when we are at home, at work, when we are walking down the road, in our waking up and in our lying down.
We are servants of our God, listen to His word and speak His word. God will not abandon you and He will surely bless you. Listen to what became of Samuel.
“So Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.” [1 Samuel 3:19]
God’s words will not return empty nor will He let His words fall to the ground. Serve the Lord with gladness and let these worst of times be the best of times.