Monday Musings #7, May 22, 2023
Our nation needs a renewal of faith and service to God. When I was in grade school in the 1940s, school was one of the safest places for children. The Columbine shooting in April 1999, perpetrated by two students, killed 12 students and one teacher. That was the beginning of a new era. In 2022 our nation had 46 school shootings. Gun violence also took place in shopping malls, at parades, supermarkets, and other places where people gather. Overdoses on street drugs increased dramatically, especially among young people.
But God is not dead, and His promise in 2 Chron. 7:14 is still valid: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
I’m reprinting part of a blog I posted Feb. 20, 2022. Israel was in a situation similar to ours when God chose a child to help them return to God.
THE LAMP OF GOD STILL BURNS
(Posted February 20, 2022, Sunday Chronicles # 286)
Israel, a nation God had chosen as His special people, was in spiritual decline. Sin stretched dark shadows across the land. Their neighbors, the Philistines, stalked the borders, raiding the country and robbing the people of their food supply. Eli, the nation’s spiritual head, filled the office of high priest, but he was elderly and offered little anointed leadership. His apathy in dealing with his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, who led sinful lives yet served as priests in the tabernacle, caused God to pronounce judgment on Eli and his family. The yearly sacrifice, when Israel gathered before God to seek forgiveness for their sins, was made in Shiloh, but so misused that the people went away depressed instead of uplifted. Some of the old men bemoaned the fate of their nation and thought about past days when Gideon had been their victorious leader. Even God seemed silent. “The word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no open vision” (1 Samuel 3:1).
Yet in the midst of a sinful society, some families continued to live by God’s laws. Such was the case of Samuel’s parents Hannah and Elkanah. God had been waiting, seeking someone ready to listen, searching for a heart that would yield. “And the lamp of God had not yet gone out…” (1 Samuel 3:3). The light was flickering, but it had not gone out. The menorah in the tabernacle was lit daily from fresh, consecrated olive oil and burned from evening until morning, according to Exodus 27:21.
The lamp still burned, and God’s covenant still existed. God would not be a covenant-breaker! In the dark hours, He spoke.
To whom did He speak? We would expect Him to choose an experienced leader. Israel had serious problems: lawlessness, drunkenness, immorality, and enemy oppression. Surely God’s man to restore Israel would have to be great and mighty. But how differently God chose! He spoke to a child–a lad with no commanding presence and little experience to draw on. Could this youth lead Israel back to fellowship with God?
Why did God choose the boy Samuel? Because Samuel, without knowing it, had been making preparation. Even his parents had made preparation. They had brought him to the tabernacle, and he lived there in the presence of God. He had a daily walk with God. “Samuel ministered before the Lord, being a child” (1 Samuel 2 :18).
Second, Samuel had separated himself unto God. In the midst of sin, he was clean; he lived honestly. Amid laxity and laziness, he held to a regular routine of service. It would have been easy for him to imitate Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phinehas, and take advantage of God’s people, but he didn’t. He kept himself obedient as a servant of God.
There are those who feel that separation from sin and ungodliness is getting into a corner all alone, pulling close one’s pharisaical robes, and saying to the world, “Look how holy I am.” But this is not God’s kind of separation. His plan is for us to be in the world but not of it. He intends for us to go right on serving Him where we are, being an influence for good in the very presence of evil. How beautifully Samuel did this! The writer describes the sins of Eli’s sons and then adds, “The child Samuel grew … and was in favor both with the Lord, and also with men” (1 Samuel 2:26).
Third, Samuel did what he could to keep the religious services in operation. Probably most of his labors were small tasks. He was not yet eligible to fill the big places. He showed a spirit of willingness for the numerous unseen little jobs that had to be carried on in God’s house. When God called Him in the middle of the night, he thought it was only Eli calling. When Eli realized God was calling Samuel’s name, he told Samuel to answer, “Speak, Lord, for thy servant hears.” When Samuel became aware that God was calling, he yielded. His mother, keeping her vow, had placed Samuel in God’s presence. Now it was his chance to accept or refuse. He chose to obey Eli, to listen to the Lord’s message, and to deliver it faithfully. He was willing for God to use him wherever, however, God pleased.
So often we want to yield ourselves to God for a ministry we choose. This reminds me of the little boy who, after having seen the honor accorded to a returned missionary, decided he would like to be a returned missionary. Sometimes we think we have yielded to God until He leads us into a ministry that is unnoticed and unappreciated or to things that are hard for us to do and bear. Then we feel the pull of our will and find it hard to truly say, “Thy will be done.” Often we want to yield ourselves to God for a ministry WE choose.
Several times in the last few years friends have shared with me about the lack of spirituality in their respective churches. I respond with the question, “What are you doing about it?” Some of them want to blame the minister or the leaders or simply the indefinite “they.” Spirituality begins with the individual.
If you are one who feels that your church is low spiritually, ask yourself: Have I made preparation for God to use me by spending time in His presence? Have I, in the presence of evil, lived not for self but for Christ? Have I kept my heart filled with His love? Have I yielded to God, responding willingly when called upon to serve?
When you can answer all these questions in the affirmative, the results will be felt by your church. Yes, darkness is abounding in our land, but the lamp of God has not gone out. His promise still stands: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). “When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him” (Isaiah 59:19). If you desire a more spiritual church, you can have it. But don’t leave it up to “them.” It begins with you. THE LAMP OF GOD STILL BURNS.
Personal notes. Weather forecast for Springfield, MO, today is “partly sunny and beautiful!” I’ve looked out the door and from my viewpoint, it’s totally sunny and warm. I’d like to be able to go for a walk, but that pleasure doesn’t exist for me now. So I’ll watch the birds and any other animal visitors who come to check out the food supply for today, while I read morning devotions and pray. Thank God, He is always available no matter what the weather or problems of the day.
Thanks for your comments on my “Musings.” I hope they provide a bright spot in your day, as your comments do for mine. I appreciate your e-mails, cards, visits–all the helpful things you friends do for me. Please continue to pray for strength in my physical body.
May God bless you and keep you and make His face to shine upon you! Peace, jwb