The sermon for June 24 th is now available on the New Life web-site.
In this sermon, which is based on 1 Samuel 17, I talk about Facing Our Giants.
As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him, and everything Samuel said was proved to be reliable.
The boy Samuel grows up serving the Lord in the Tabernacle. In those days messages from the Lord were rare and visions were uncommon.
One night, as Samuel is sleeping, the Lord calls to him. Samuel thinks it is Eli calling so he goes to find out what is wrong. Eli tells him to go to sleep. This is repeated three times before Eli works out that it is the Lord calling Samuel.
So the Lord speaks to Samuel and warns him that judgement is about to fall on Eli and his two sons. Eli instructs Samuel to tell him everything the Lord has said.
As he grows up Samuel develops a reputation as a prophet who accurately hears from the Lord.
What a sad time in the history of Israel that very few people heard from the Lord or saw visions from Him. Samuel comes onto the scene as someone special who hears the Lord and speaks boldly for Him.
We live in such an age in the church. Very few people accurately hear the Lord, but we should all be like Samuel. The Holy Spirit has been poured out onto the church and all we who are born again and filled with the Holy Spirit should be listening for the voice of the Lord.
Unbelievers are turning to all kinds of false teachers because they are desperate for a touch from the Lord. If they cannot get it in the church they will go elsewhere.
We need to be like Samuel, practising in listening to God, cultivating and growing in the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Lord, please help me to listen to your voice. Show me how to grow in discernment and in prophecy. Let your voice be heard in the church and beyond. Amen.
In those days the Lord hardly ever spoke to people, and he didn’t appear to them in dreams very often.
Samuel is serving in the house of the Lord. One night, as Samuel is sleeping on a mat near the Ark of the Covenant, the Lord calls his name. Samuel thinks it is Eli calling him, so he goes to ask Eli what he wants. This happens three times. Finally Eli works out that it is the Lord, so he tells Samuel that next time this happens he should say, “I am listening Lord, what do you want me to do?”
So the Lord calls Samuel again, and he asks Him What so you want me to do?” The Lord says that He is going to punish Eli and his family for disrespecting the sacrifices.
As Samuel grows up his reputation as a prophet increases across Israel.
In the days before Samuel, the Lord rarely spoke to His people. This should have been a cause for some discomfort for the people of Israel, but we tend to accept things too readily.
The Lord is always speaking to us. His heart is to have relationship with us. If we are not able to hear from Him, the problem is on our side.
For some people the problem is simply lack of practice at listening. For others it might be fear or shame that makes them think that God does not have anything to say.
To start the process we might have to go back to basics. Like Samuel, we should ask, “Lord what do you want me to do?” It helps to write down what you think God is saying to you.
“Be still and know that I am God!”
Be still- and let God speak to you.
Be still- and listen to the Holy Spirit
Lord, what do you want me to do? Help me to learn to hear your voice, the still small voice of your Holy Spirit. Amen.
Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily on David from that day forward.
The Lord tells David to go to Bethlehem to anoint one of Jesse’s sons as king. He tells him to take a heifer and tell people he has come to make a sacrifice to the Lord. He is to invite Jesse and his sons to the sacrifice, and the Lord will show him which one to anoint.
So one by one Jesse’s sons are brought to Samuel. For each one the Lord tells Samuel, “This is not the one.” Finally, Samuel asks Jesse if there is another son. It turns out that there is another son, the youngest, David is out minding the sheep. When he is brought in, Jesse anoints him with oil, and the Lord fills him with His Spirit.
Anointed for the task, the Spirit of God comes mightily on David.
A human act of anointing with oil signifies the divine act of filling. David is filled with the Holy Spirit for a purpose- to be king of Israel.
Yet David must wait several years and fight for the crown. There is anointing and then there is equipping and training.
We all need to be anointed or filled with the Holy Spirit in order to fulfil the task God has appointed for us. But often the anointing leads to training which doesn’t necessarily make any sense to us.
The Lord removes His blessing from Saul, yet Saul remains as king. He gives the blessing to David, but he must wait and learn to be the Lord’s king.
There are people who receive an anointing or a calling to ministry and then immediately assume they can start the ministry straight away without further training.
There are others who train for ministry but never had any calling or gifting, trusting in their own strength alone.
Either way can be a disaster. We need the anointing and we need the equipping.
Thank you Lord for your Spirit so freely and abundantly given to all who follow Jesus. Help me to see what you have called me to, and to seek out your training for that task. Amen.
Then Eli answered, “Go in peace; the God of Israel grant the petition you have made to him.”
A man named Elkanah from Ephraim has two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. Peninnah has children but Hannah does not.
Each year, the family goes to sacrifice at Shiloh, and Elkinah portions out the sacrifice amongst the family. For Hannah this emphasises her barrenness.
Hannah goes to the temple to pray. She is so distressed that as she prays she weeps and no words come from her mouth. Eli the priest assumes she is drunk, but when she explains herself to him, he gives his blessing.
In time, Hannah conceives and bears a child.
There is a time for orderly prayer.
There is a time for desperate shouts to the Lord.
And there is a time when words and voice fail us in our distress.
Religious people are always ready to disparage the prayer of desperation, whether they are noisy shouts or wordless sobs. They want religion to be controlled and controllable, civilised and respectable.
Faith is knowing that in the middle of the greatest hurt, at the centre of the worst storm, when life doesn’t make sense, then we cling on to God knowing that He has answers for our need.
Lord God, thank you that you meet me in the darkest places. When hope eludes me and the darkness comes in like a flood, help me to hold tightly to you. Amen.
But all Israel and Judah loved David because he was so successful at leading his troops into battle.
Soon after David kills Goliath, he meets Saul’s son Jonathan. There is an immediate bond between the two and they make a covenant friendship.
Saul has David join his forces, and David does all that Saul asks of him. Saul makes David commander over all the army.
On their way home from the victory over the Philistines, some women meet them in the street with tambourines and cymbals, extolling Saul for killing thousands and David for killing tens of thousands. Consequently Saul becomes jealous of David.
The very next day Saul is overwhelmed by a tormenting spirit. On at least two occasions, Saul tries to kill David with a spear.
Jealousy of someone on our own side, even a friend, is a very debilitating thing. For Saul this resulted in a tormenting spirit that drove him mad.
David was a man of great faithfulness, and Saul had nothing to fear from him. Instead of being jealous, Saul could have harnessed David’s talent and popularity to build up the nation. Instead he gave in to fear and jealousy.
We must be very wary of thoughts of jealousy, envy, coveting the gifts or abilities of others. This is a big gateway for through which satan can get in and ruin lives, churches and even whole nations.
Father God, please protect my heart from jealousy. Let me always have a pure heart before you. Amen.