Samuel: Revival Man

This entry is part 6 of 15 in the series When the Heroes of Faith speak...

Read at beginning of service:

Matthew 16:24-27 (NIV)

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.

INTRODUCTION

recap message series, “When the Heroes of Faith Speak”

Today we?re going to look at the life of a man who was dedicated to God before he was born. In 1 Samuel, chapter 1, we are introduced to him.

Here we learn that there was named Elkanah, and Elkanah had 2 wives. The first wife was Peninah, and Elkanah and her had many children. Elkanah?s second wife is Hannah, and as much as she tried, she wasn?t able to conceive a child with her husband. Her heart ached to hold a little baby of her own. Elkanah must have known how much his wife hurt because verses 4-5 tell us?

1 Samuel 1:4-5 (NIV)

4 Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters. 5 But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the LORD had closed her womb.

Hannah was a sad, hurting, disappointed woman and her husband stood beside her as she dreamed of giving birth to a child to call her own. We find out also in chapter one that Hannah was even more tormented because Peninah did everything she could to make Hannah?s life absolutely miserable.

1 Samuel 1:6-7 (NIV)

6 And because the LORD had closed her womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. 7 This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the LORD, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat.

As the story continues, we learn that each year the family would make a trip to Shiloh, which was the spiritual center of the Israelites at that time. With her hurt/pain/anguish, Hannah wandered to the Tabernacle to pray. Her tears splashed down her cheeks, and in verse 10 we learn that,


1 Samuel 1:10 (NIV)

10 In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the LORD.

She was at the end of her rope, and she cried out in anguish?

1 Samuel 1:11 (NIV)

11 And she made a vow, saying, “O LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”

Her prayers were answered, and God gave Hannah a son. She named him Samuel, which means “Heard of God” or “God heard me.” And Hannah kept her promise to the Lord. When Samuel was weaned form his mother, at 2 or 3 years of age, she took him to the Tabernacle, dedicated his life to God, and gave him to Eli the Priest to serve God in the Tabernacle. In the first 10 verse of Samuel chapter 2 is a wonderful prayer of a mother who loves her Lord and loves her child ? I would encourage you to read those verses sometime.

So this morning we?re going to look at the life of this child who grew up to be a mighty man of God ? Samuel.

Now Samuel is one of those people on the list of faith who appears a little more frequently in the pages of Scripture. By way of introduction there are a few quick comments I would like to make about him?

God shaped Samuel?s life from the start. Like Moses, Samuel was called to fill many different roles: judge, priest, prophet, counselor, and God? man at a turning point in the history of Israel.

Samuel was used by God to assist Israel?s transition from a loosely governed tribal people to a monarchy.

He was the last and most effective of Israel?s judges.

He anointed the first two kings of Israel.

While Samuel?s entire story is found in 1 Samuel 1 ? 1 Samuel 28, a very significant verse makes this observation about him:

1 Samuel 3:19-20 (NIV)

19 The LORD was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of his words fall to the ground. 20 And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the LORD.

Yes, Samuel was a great man of God and a man who accomplished much. As I approached his story in preparation for this message I found that there is so much that Samuel might say if he were here this morning ? that I didn?t know how I could narrow it all down to the time we have here today. I would never presume to be able to state to you what exactly Samuel would say to us this morning, but my attention was drawn to a major incident that happened in Israel during his tenure as judge. I believe that Samuel would have a lot to say about this event and so I?m going to zero on it this morning.

The event I?m referring to is found in our text for today ? 1 Samuel 4:1-10

READ TEXT AND PRAY

There is a popular children?s show on the Disney Channel called “Out of the Box”. The theme song is one of those songs that, once you?ve heard it, sticks in your mind all day. It ends with the words, “Out of the box, it?s really up to you what comes out of the box.”

In the business world there is a catch phrase that frequently pops up – “thinking outside the box.” It is a challenge to go beyond the ordinary and do something extraordinary.

I believe that Samuel would speak today to a church that is stuck in the box. For the most part ? the church in our society has a focus that has shifted from people to pews, from saving souls to sacred Sundays. Today when you mention Christianity most people immediately think of the worship assembly ? a church building ? or denomination. As long as we continue with this mentality we are stuck in the box without hope of growing beyond ? and fulfilling God?s mandate for us as Christians.

One of the greatest accomplishments that happened in Samuel?s life was when God worked through him to bring the nation of Israel to the place of revival. I believe Samuel would take one look at the church in Hanover and say, folks ? it?s time for a revival. I believe Samuel would say,

“If we want to experience revival in the church, if we want this family of God to grow then we must let God out of the box and back into our lives before we suffocate.”

In thinking about the them song from the Disney kids show ? “Revival, it?s really up to you what comes out of the box!”

Samuel and the Israelites had an experience similar to the one facing us today.

? The Israelites were losing a war to the Philistines like we are fighting a war against Satan. (which at times feels like a “losing” war)

? The Israelites? answer was, “Bring us God in a box.” Our answer is “We all need to go to the box (church – building).”

? The Israelites? answer brought them defeat, not Victory. Our answer will lead us to defeat unless we experience transformation by the hand of God.

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Even in a time when “the word of the Lord was rare.” (1 Sam. 3:1) Samuel led the people in Revival. I hope this morning, Samuel does the same for our hearts.

So let?s turn our attention to what he would say to us today about “the box”

You are Relying on a Box

Israel?s answer to defeat was God in a box. 1 Sam. 4:3

1 Samuel 4:3 (NIV)

3 When the soldiers returned to camp, the elders of Israel asked, “Why did the LORD bring defeat upon us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the Lord’s covenant from Shiloh, so that it may go with us and save us from the hand of our enemies.”

Notice how it?s recorded that they said, “so it may go with us” rather than so God may be with them!

By bringing in the ark they thought they had secured the presence of God.

they had attached more significance to a “symbol” of God?s presence than to the actual presence of God!

Certainly some of the Elder?s would remember the story of when the Israelites first crossed into the Canaan and the miraculous crossing of the Jordan that involved the Ark of the Covenant?(Joshua 3)

The story of the fall of Jericho (Joshua 6)

The ark was a symbol of the presence of God ? but in and of itself it was nothing powerful ? it was just a beautiful, decorated box!

Their focus was on personal success and not on glorifying God.

Their focus wasn?t on glorifying God. Their focus was on beating up the Philistines. They weren?t seeking justice ? they were seeking revenge. And they thought that by bring “the box” they could win.

Our answer to our battles as Christians (whether it be with satan/world/sin) has been far to often faith in a box.

Far too often when we face a defeat we arm ourselves with the symbols of God?s presence and walk out to battle again. When we approach evangelism ? we equip ourselves with the symbols of God?s presence and head out to witness. Folks, I want to tell you something, listen carefully ? worship (by that I mean praising God in song or speech), prayer, reading your Bible, or even gathering together with other believer?s for a ministry or service are all very important and good things. However, they are all “symbols” of God?s presence.

We associate praising and worshipping God with inviting His presence.

We associate prayer with communicating with His presence.

We associate reading the Bible with learning about His presence.

We associate coming together with dwelling in His presence, or serving in His presence.

Now, listen to me carefully I must prelude my next statement by making the following clarification, I?m not saying these things are irrelevant, or that they are insignificant, or that they are not needed. But what I am saying that you can have these things attached to your Christian utility belt and still not have the presence of God. How is this possible?

When our faith shifts from the one symbolized to the symbol itself.

For example,

when we put more faith in a style of music or a particular song, or clapping our hands, or the way we worship than the one we?re worshipping.

When we put more faith in what we pray or how we pray than who we are praying to!

When we put more faith in the act of reading the Bible than in the one who wrote it.

When we put more faith in what we are doing for God than in Him who wants to do things through us!

An example of this is found in our emphasis on going to church, over being the church! When we associate our success with “the box”

Friends, I believe Samuel would draw parallels between the Israelites putting their faith in the “box” they carried to battle against the Philistines and the “boxes” we rely on in our life. I believe he would point out that many of us are relying on these “boxes” for victory and freedom. But then, I believe Samuel would next ask a pointed question? you are relying on a box, now?

Where has the Glory gone? (1 Samuel 4:12-22)

relate the story of the Ark of Covenant being taken by the Philistines and Eli finding out the news. Then emphasize verse 19-22

1 Samuel 4:19-22 (NIV)

19 His daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, was pregnant and near the time of delivery. When she heard the news that the ark of God had been captured and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she went into labor and gave birth, but was overcome by her labor pains. 20 As she was dying, the women attending her said, “Don’t despair; you have given birth to a son.” But she did not respond or pay any attention. 21 She named the boy Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel”–because of the capture of the ark of God and the deaths of her father-in-law and her husband. 22 She said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.”

A. With the ark gone the glory was gone from Israel. 1 Sam. 4:12?22

1. Israel?s hope was gone without the Ark of Covenant (the box).

2. The sad reality is that it was a false hope. God was never really with them.

B. When people put God in a box then they lose the glory.

1. Some people associate the glory (presence of God) with “the box” (or symbols of God?s presence).

2. Some people see Christianity as a “fix” instead of a way of life.

Imagine for a moment the feeling of the Israelite soldiers when the Ark of Covenant comes into the camp. “Yah! Now our victory is assured, the Ark is here”. Imagine the confidence that they carried with them into battle that day. But then imagine the sinking feeling in their gut when they realize that they are losing! When they realize God isn?t with them!

It?s the same feeling that many Christians have experience. Myself included. Haven?t you ever asked the question ? “Where are you God”? I?ve prayed, I?ve read your word, I worked for you, I?ve worshipped you ? but where are you?

For some of you that is where you are at today. And this is why when I pose that question that Samuel might ask himself ? it brings forefront ? “Where is the glory of God?” – Isn?t it every person?s desire to experience a revival that changes their life, makes it better, gives them hope? Isn?t that the most sought after experience in a believer?s life?

I believe Samuel would begin by saying, “You are relying on a box” then continue with the question, “Where is the glory” and finally direct us to the answer?

When we decide to live for God and rely on Him (instead of for what He brings), the glory will return. Stop relying on a box!!

I want to draw your attention to where Samuel enters the picture in 1 Samuel 7:2-10


1 Samuel 7:2-10 (NIV)

2 It was a long time, twenty years in all, that the ark remained at Kiriath Jearim, and all the people of Israel mourned and sought after the LORD. 3 And Samuel said to the whole house of Israel, “If you are returning to the LORD with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the LORD and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” 4 So the Israelites put away their Baals and Ashtoreths, and served the LORD only. 5 Then Samuel said, “Assemble all Israel at Mizpah and I will intercede with the LORD for you.” 6 When they had assembled at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out before the LORD. On that day they fasted and there they confessed, “We have sinned against the LORD.” And Samuel was leader of Israel at Mizpah. 7 When the Philistines heard that Israel had assembled at Mizpah, the rulers of the Philistines came up to attack them. And when the Israelites heard of it, they were afraid because of the Philistines. 8 They said to Samuel, “Do not stop crying out to the LORD our God for us, that he may rescue us from the hand of the Philistines.” 9 Then Samuel took a suckling lamb and offered it up as a whole burnt offering to the LORD. He cried out to the LORD on Israel’s behalf, and the LORD answered him. 10 While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the LORD thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites.

Several key things happened here that resulted in revival (victory over the Philistines).

The Israelites realized how important God was to them.

Verse 2 says that, “all the people of Israel mourned and sought after the LORD.” With the symbol of God?s presence gone (and with it the glory of God) they came face to face with the emptiness and loneliness of being without His presence. There was a void, a vacuum that they knew could only be filled by God.

Friend?s I believe that one of the catalysts to relying on a box is when we start to take God for granted. When we take Him for granted we start forgetting how much we need Him. We move “out of the box” and into reliance on God when we start realizing how much we need Him and when we miss His presence. That?s the first thing that happened with the Israelites ? and they “sought” after Him.

Samuel said, “choose your sides” and stick with it.

He basically said, “If you really mean it, if you really want to return to the Lord with all your heart, then make sure it?s with all your heart!” He called for a total commitment and undivided service to Him.

Friend?s if you are really seeking God, if you are really wanting to experience His glory and come into His presence then halfway measures aren?t going to cut it. If there is something that is dividing you from your pursuit of God then that “idol” has to go!

The Israelites confessed and repented and Samuel prayed?

The first step toward God is the last step away from your sin. The Israelites confessed their lack of faith and their divided loyalties, and their sins and repented of those things (the evidence of their repentance was found in their actions). When Samuel prayed for them it wasn?t because of his choice of words, or his stature as a man of God that somehow resulted in the return of God?s presence (that would be relying on a box again!) It was because of the attitude of their hearts that God heard Samuel?s prayer.

CONCLUSION

Friend?s I believe it?s time for the church to get out of the box. I hope you?ve heard the message of Samuel this morning? What boxes are you placing God in? Are you missing the presence of God. Are you wanting His presence. Are there things in your heart/life that divide your attention to that desire? Friend?s for us to experience and witness and walk in and know revival and the glory of God in our midst we must be committed wholeheartedly to seeking Him and serving Him.

For really it?s not revival we?re after ?it?s God we want ? it?s that deep, intimate, life-changing relationship with His awesome, supernatural person. Revival is just the side-effect.

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