Friday, October 2, 2015

It is not too late to honor God's Word


And Samuel grew and the Lord was with him, and let none of his words fall to the ground; and all of Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was ordained as a prophet of the Lord. And again the Lord appeared at Shiloh for the Lord revealed Himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the Word of the Lord. And the word of Samuel came to all Israel. 1 Samuel 3:19ff

THEY say that drinking and driving don’t mix. True enough. Many traffic accidents, and the majority of traffic fatalities are alcohol related, but recently we learned about another bad mixture: texting while driving, which is now responsible for about 40% of all auto accidents.

There’s something else that doesn’t mix: the holiness of God and the sin of man. Once sin entered the world direct contact between man and his Creator became impossible. We learn this fact early in Genesis when our first parents, after they had transgressed, hid themselves from God because they understood that sin and holiness cannot safely co-exist. We find the same thing to be true at Sinai when God gave the Law to Israel. The people were so frightened by the Lord’s voice that they implored Moses: "You speak to us and we will listen, but do not have God speak to us or we will die." (Ex. 20:19).

So we find that from the time sin made its deadly entrance into the world, that God has been merciful to His fallen creation, not by remaining silent, or by cutting off all contact from us, the way we do when people displease us, but by speaking to us through intermediaries. He spoke to Jacob, Joseph and Solomon in dreams. He regularly communicated with His Old Testament church by the prophets. But in these last days He has spoken to us by a Son whom He appointed heir of all things. (Heb. 1:2) The steady message of Scripture is that if we want to have fellowship with God; if we want to know Him, love Him and be the recipients of His boundless mercy, then we must seek Him in His Word, and in His Word alone.

Yes, there are many things that don’t mix well, but today we learn about two things that do; two things that are so wed to one another that they must never be separated, namely, God’s Word and God’s prophets. Without the Word the prophet has nothing to say, not that that ever stopped people from trying. In Samuel’s day there were the sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, who were base and evil men. Instead of forgiving the sins of penitents who came to the tabernacle; instead of praying for them and strengthening them with God’s Word these two bad actors considered God’s people as sheep to be sheared. Scripture tells us that they extorted the people’s money and took advantage of every young woman who crossed their path. Today they would be arrested and their faces would be plastered all over the news, but then there was no one to stop them, not even Eli who was well aware of what was going on.

In first Samuel chapter three we read that, “in those days the word of the Lord was rare,” and the same could be said of our day, not because there is any shortage of bibles or churches or pastors, but because the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting is no longer the church’s proclamation. Instead churches have embraced different gospels, ones that teach men how to be happy, how to get rich or how to “save the environment” rather than how to be saved by faith in Jesus and His atoning death on the cross.

As the prophet is nothing without the Word, so the Word without the prophet lies dormant. St. Paul asks in Romans chapter ten, “how will they hear without a preacher?” In our culture there is a general assumption that pastor is expendable, merely a functionary, and that anyone with a bit of talent and self-confidence, male or female, can get up front and do what he does. But things are not as simple as they appear. Samuel did what he did because God called, authorized and equipped him to do it; and today God still authorizes men to be His prophets with a Call that is both sacred and irrevocable. Without it no man dare minister a single word to God’s people, and with it no prophet must ever leave his God-given labors undone.

For Samuel this was a tall order. His first assignment was to inform Eli the priest, who was his spiritual father, and a man to whom he was dearly devoted, that because He did not stop the transgressions of Hophni and Phinehas that the sword would never leave his house; that the lives of his descendants would be short and miserable and finally that his sons would both die on the same day. It seemed like an impossible task for young Samuel to perform but he did it. He came through with flying colors, and Eli, much to his credit, acknowledged Samuel’s words as God’s own, which indeed they were, and humbly bowed before the Lord, and accepted the bitter cup.

Yes, Samuel was a courageous and faithful prophet, but more than that, he was also a type of the promised Messiah, whose birth was yet eleven hundred years in the future. Note the similarities between the two: both had miraculous births: Samuel because his mother was barren, and Jesus because his mother was a virgin. Both mothers sang nearly identical canticles of praise at the birth of their sons. Both were children of promise, both dedicated to God from birth, and both did the difficult work of bringing God’s word to a sinful world. Samuel preached the Word, but Jesus was the Word, the word of God made flesh. As Samuel faithfully pointed men to the forgiveness of sins that God promised, the Son of God drank the bitter cup of suffering and death needed to atone for the iniquity of us all, to set us free from sin’s slavery and to make us sons forever by faith in His atoning sacrifice.

Just as Samuel served the Old Testament church he serves the New as well. Until the end of the age he provides inspiration for the Lord’s prophets to carefully hear God’s Word and faithfully deliver it to God’s people, and further as an encouragement for all Christians not to despise preaching and His Word, but rather to always hold it sacred, and to gladly hear and learn it. Amen.

 Rev. Dean Kavouras

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