Expository Sermon on First Samuel
by Maylan Schurch
Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church 10/19/2019
©2019 by Maylan Schurch

(To watch the YouTube broadcast of this service, click the link just below. The sermon begins at the 54:55 mark)

Please open your Bibles to First Samuel chapter 2.

If you’ve attended here over the past few months at least, you know that we been going through the Bible book by book during the Sabbath morning sermons, trying to discover Jesus’ footprints in each one.

Because those footprints are there. Jesus was very present all through the Old Testament. If you glance into your bulletin, you’ll find an explanatory insert I included at the start of the series. The bottom line is that Jesus was so present in the Old Testament, that whenever you see the word “LORD” in little capital letters, that is Him.

Jesus seem to have been the member of the Trinity who interacted personally with human beings. That might be one reason why, on the Mount of Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah joined him there. These three were old friends.

So here in First Samuel, when you see the Lord speaking to Samuel, that is most likely Jesus speaking. And as we’ve been doing week by week, let’s try again this morning to find Jesus’ footprints, and follow him where He is leading us in this book.
Over the last week or so, I have read through the book of First Samuel a total of three times, taking notes as I’ve read. This is one exciting book, almost like a historical novel of the best kind.

And as I was reading along, I discovered again how wonderfully patient God is, and what a dependable leader He is. And Paul earnestly reminds us about why these Bible stories are so important. In First Corinthians 10, he mentions some of those Old Testament stories, and then says, in First Corinthians 10:11, “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.”

So when we read the stories in First Samuel – and there are several exciting ones – we need to be asking ourselves, “What can I take away from each story which gives me a new insight into what God is really like?”

Because one of Jesus’ important roles when He came to earth as a human being was to show us the face and the voice and the listening ear of His Heavenly Father. And out of the many examples First Samuel provides us, I’ve chosen just two truths I believe Jesus wants us to know about God.

Let’s jump right into First Samuel chapter 2. The first 10 verses of Chapter 2 contain the victory song of a woman named Hannah. For many years Hannah had been unable to have children. So she prayed to the Lord and promised Him that if He would let her have a baby boy, she would dedicate that boy to the Lord for as long as he lived. And God answered her prayer, and when little Samuel was old enough, Hannah brought him to the temple, where he stayed with the high priest Eli. And that’s where this part of the story begins.

2 Samuel 2:11 – 17 [NKJV]: Then Elkanah [Hannah’s husband] went to his house at Ramah. But the child ministered to the LORD before Eli the priest. Now the sons of Eli were corrupt; they did not know the LORD. And the priests’ custom with the people was that when any man offered a sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come with a three-pronged fleshhook in his hand while the meat was boiling. Then he would thrust it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; and the priest would take for himself all that the fleshhook brought up. So they did in Shiloh to all the Israelites who came there. Also, before they burned the fat, the priest’s servant would come and say to the man who sacrificed, “Give meat for roasting to the priest, for he will not take boiled meat from you, but raw.” And if the man said to him, “They should really burn the fat first; then you may take as much as your heart desires,” he would then answer him, “No, but you must give it now; and if not, I will take it by force.” Therefore the sin of the young men was very great before the LORD, for men abhorred the offering of the LORD.

And as that sacrificial meat boiled, that wasn’t the only thing that was boiling. God’s blood was boiling. For some more of what made His blood boil, glance down at verse 22.

Verses 22 25: Now Eli was very old; and he heard everything his sons did to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. So he said to them, “Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all the people. No, my sons! For it is not a good report that I hear. You make the LORD’s people transgress. If one man sins against another, God will judge him. But if a man sins against the LORD, who will intercede for him?” Nevertheless they did not heed the voice of their father, because the LORD desired to kill them.

That last sentence always gives me a jolt when I read it. I mean, this is the same God who so loved the world that He gave His only son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. Yet here we see Him regarding these two priests almost like poisonous snakes. But let’s keep reading.

Verses 27 – 32: Then a man of God came to Eli and said to him, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Did I not clearly reveal Myself to the house of your father when they were in Egypt in Pharaoh’s house? Did I not choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be My priest, to offer upon My altar, to burn incense, and to wear an ephod before Me? And did I not give to the house of your father all the offerings of the children of Israel made by fire? Why do you kick at My sacrifice and My offering which I have commanded in My dwelling place, and honor your sons more than Me, to make yourselves fat with the best of all the offerings of Israel My people?’ Therefore the LORD God of Israel says: ‘I said indeed that your house and the house of your father would walk before Me forever.’ But now the LORD says: ‘Far be it from Me; for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed. Behold, the days are coming that I will cut off your arm and the arm of your father’s house, so that there will not be an old man in your house. And you will see an enemy in My dwelling place, despite all the good which God does for Israel. And there shall not be an old man in your house forever.

If you’re taking sermon notes, here comes Sermon Point One. What does Jesus the Lord of the Old Testament want us to know about God?

God is a bitter enemy of what destroys my soul.

In those days, the priests were supposed to point people to God, and make them feel welcome when they came to worship. Some of the Psalms sing about how joyful it is to come to worship at God’s temple. But Eli’s two sons had made a visit to that tabernacle a stomach-tightening, repulsive event.

But someone says, “Maybe this anger toward these two sinful priests is just a Heavenly Father whose temper is quick on the trigger. What would Jesus do?”

Well, Jesus felt exactly the same way. When the crowds of currency-changers set up their tables in the temple courtyard and did their best to cheat pilgrims coming from far countries, it was Jesus’ blood which boiled. Several Gospel passages show Him striding through those courtyards, tipping over these tables and brandishing a whip over the heads of the merchants.

So Jesus, also, was a bitter enemy of what destroys my soul. He was in constant debate with the Pharisees over how their traditions were sucking the life out of the commandments of God. For example, they had made the Sabbath a day filled with finicky rabbinic regulations about what could and couldn’t be done on that day. God had planned the Sabbath to be a welcoming day, a day of joy, a day when we were given permission to turn away from the work and the worries of the week, and enjoy His presence. But the religious leaders had turned Sabbath into an annoying, oppressive, soul-destroying burden.

Well, back in First Samuel, this specially-appointed prophet from God finishes his comments to Eli, and chapter 3 begins with the famous story of how little Samuel is sleeping one night, and he hears a voice calling him. Samuel assumes that Eli has called him, but Eli says no. Eventually, Eli tells Samuel that it was the Lord speaking to him, and sends Samuel back to bed. The next time the voice comes, Samuel says, “Speak, Lord, because your servant is listening.”

And the Lord gives little Samuel an abbreviated but still very dire warning about what will happen to Eli’s two sons. And the next morning, Eli makes Samuel tell him what God had said. Can you imagine what it must’ve been like for Eli to hear the word of the Lord in the voice of a little child?

Several decades ago, songwriters Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice wrote a holiday song called “Christmas Dream.” But it wasn’t a “Santa Claus is coming to town” ditty. It begins lightheartedly, but turns into a wistful call for change. Here is some of it.

Watch me now, here I go, all I need’s a little snow!
Starts me off, sets the theme, helps me dream my Christmas dream,
Every year I dream it, hoping things will change,
An end to the crying, the shouting, the dying,
And I hope you will dream it too!
It’s Christmas,
We’ve got to remember!
. . .
Nights should all be silent,
Days should all slow down,
An end to the hurry, the noise and the worry!
And I hope you believe that too!
It’s Christmas,
Does no one remember?

Now, that is a very effective song. But in the Perry Como recording of it, its effectiveness became hugely more powerful when you suddenly hear the voices of children singing along.

Imagine what old Eli must’ve been feeling as he heard Samuel’s soft young voice repeating what God had said. But you know what? Old Eli—what old Eli had become–frightens me. Here’s this old man, probably bitter and cynical from all that he’s seen, an old man who has almost certainly forgotten how to turn to the Lord in tearful, openhearted repentance. He should’ve cast himself at the feet of the Heavenly Father and begged for the salvation of His sons.

But it chills me to the bone to read what he said instead, when Samuel was done speaking. Let’s start with chapter 3, verse 17:

1 Samuel 3:17 – 18: And he said, “What is the word that the LORD spoke to you? Please do not hide it from me. God do so to you, and more also, if you hide anything from me of all the things that He said to you.” Then Samuel told him everything, and hid nothing from him. And he said, “It is the LORD. Let Him do what seems good to Him.”

That may be one of the most chilling statements in all of Scripture. Here is someone who has lost hope, and has also lost the desire to turn back to the Lord to have that hope renewed.

Have you thought recently about what might be destroying your soul? This is a very serious question. What is keeping you from a closer relationship with God? Can you, like the father of the demon-possessed boy, say to Jesus, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

By the way, we need to remember to not be too proud to learn from young people like Samuel. A week from today, our large Pathfinder club will be right here, speaking to you, singing to you, encouraging you, right from this platform. Come and learn the word of the Lord from these tender young hearts.

So far we’ve learned that God is a bitter enemy of what destroys my soul. And that’s good news, just as it’s good news that fire crews are bitter enemies of fires, and policeman are bitter enemies of lawbreakers, and doctors are bitter enemies of cancer.

But now let’s turn to another encouraging truth about God.

As I mentioned, First Samuel contains a lot of stories, and it was hard to know what to leave out and what to include in this sermon. Let’s cover just one more truth about God.

This time I’m going to give you the sermon point first, and then mention a few examples. Here comes Sermon Point Two. What’s another truth this book tells us about God?

God is not only a bitter enemy of what destroys my soul. God also has a powerful supernatural toolkit to deal with any problem I’m facing.

This doesn’t mean, of course, that God will automatically and always solve every problem exactly when we want Him to. But at pretty much every Wednesday night prayer meeting we attend right here in this sanctuary, we hear about specific answers to prayer. We hear breathtaking stories about how when things seem too hopeless, God provided strength, perspective, and sometimes miraculous solutions to someone who’s been praying about it.

Sometimes you hear this kind of story, and you ask yourself, “Was this really a miracle? Maybe it was just coincidence. Or maybe it was someone using a skill he or she had learned, exactly when it was needed.”

Well, some stories might be that kind, but there are definitely hair-raising “real miracle” stories as well. We need to collect these stories from the Bible, and use them to build our faith in God. And when a true-miracle story happens to us, we need to repeat it and not forget it. The story of how I got acquainted with Shelley is one of those true-miracle stories, and couldn’t be anything else besides that. The story of how I felt the call to pastoral ministry was another miracle story.

I’m sure that you have such stories too. I wonder if old Eli even believed in miracles anymore. Eli should have remembered that standing respectfully in front of him that morning was a miracle boy. A barren woman had given birth to this boy, and additional children afterward.

All through the book of First Samuel we see God opening his supernatural toolkit and selecting just the right tool for the job. When the young David visits his brothers in the army, and when he sees Goliath striding back and forth roaring his challenge, we sometimes think that the only miracle was that well-slung stone hitting its target exactly. One try, one giant down.

But it just struck me this week that there’s another miracle in that story which to me is even more powerful. It’s the miracle of David’s courage from start to finish. Why was he so confident to everyone he talked to on that hillside? How could he stand before the king and volunteer to take Goliath down? How could he have the courage, once he had discovered how heavy and inconvenient Saul’s armor was, to drop that armor and decide to use none?

That courage, course, came from a thorough knowledge of the Bible, and lots of thoughtful meditation on how so many things we take for granted are miracles. It was David who said that human beings are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14)

And David’s courage came primarily from a miracle of the Holy Spirit as well. The Goliath story happens in chapter 17, but David had already been anointed the future king at that point. In First Samuel 16:13, it says, “Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward.”
I don’t know if it’s quite proper to call the Holy Spirit a tool used by the Lord, because Father, Son and Holy Spirit always work closely together, and are all divine. But please do not forget the power of the Holy Spirit when you are praying about the challenges you face. I know of people who are in this room right now because of the attracting power of the Holy Spirit. There’s a good chance that we are all here because of Him, in one way or another.

I like to close with a story about a radio interview I heard part of this week, with Pete Carroll, head coach of the Seattle Seahawks. I missed the first part of the interview – it was while Shelley and I were getting ready to leave the house a couple of mornings ago – so I didn’t catch why this particular topic had been brought up.

But my attention was caught by the topic of discussion. Somehow the subject of dealing harshly with football players had come up. I don’t know, maybe some other coach had been mentioned who did this. As far as I could tell, the interviewer had discussed that some coaches really “call out” players who made mistakes, really are harsh with them.

Pete Carroll said – and I’m paraphrasing here – “I could never do that. I don’t know why some coaches do that.” He said that players will make mistakes, and they need to be corrected, but they don’t deserve the harshness.

And then Pete said, “Think about if you have kids. As your kids grow, they will make mistakes, sometimes really terrible mistakes. But you never stop loving them. And I love the players.”

From everything I’ve read in the Bible, that’s how we can think about God. Jesus – whether it was doing His best to mediate for humanity in the Old Testament, or claiming that He and His Father were one in the New Testament – Jesus taught that God is our Father, our Parent, who loves His kids no matter what they do.

It’s that love that makes God a bitter enemy of what destroys our souls. And it’s that love that causes God to gladly and wisely use His supernatural resources to deal with the problems we’re facing.

And it’s that love which joyfully responds to hearts that have allowed themselves to be softened by His Holy Spirit.

Would you like to open your heart to the Spirit’s softening again, or for the first time?