Who do you think was tempted to say it first? During that night of sleep interruptions in the tabernacle in our Old Testament Reading, who do you think was tempted to say it first – young Samuel or old Eli? Or maybe they both wanted to say it at the same time, “Quit waking me up!” It’s hard enough for many of us to stay asleep once we fall asleep, right? Or are you one of those people who could have a freight train run right through your room and the next morning wonder why everyone else in the house was talking about something that sounded like a hurricane hitting them in the middle of the night? If you are a person who sleeps like that, good for you, I guess, but I assume it’s true that most of us do not need a whole lot of commotion to interrupt our happy sleep and perhaps even to make us instantly crabby. It is normally not a pleasant thing to get awakened from our sleep before we are ready to get awakened from our sleep.
But what about the young servant Samuel and the old priest Eli? If Samuel had said something like that after the first or second or third time he got awakened by that voice during the night – “Quit waking me up!” — who would he really have been saying that to? He thought he would have been saying it to Eli, right? But he really would have been saying that not to Eli, who at first was likely just as confused by all this night time talking as Samuel was, but he would have been saying it to his Lord and his God. Thankfully Eli was able to eventually figure it out and encouraged Samuel to say exactly what he did say after the third time he heard the voice in the middle of the night, “Speak, Lord. Your servant is listening.”
As we listen to the Bible we often hear Jesus tell his children to wake up or to stay awake as we go through life. As we today think about our worship service theme that followers of Christ listen when God speaks – and as we take this time to install our new principal, Mr. Schramm, and our new preschool director, Mrs. Gerlach– let’s remind ourselves — and let’s remind them — to follow the encouragement of old Eli to young Samuel to listen to our Lord speak, especially when we may be tempted with all the burdens of life to instead say even to our Lord, “Quit waking me up!” As we do so, I pray that God will help us be thankful for what we can see with our eyes when we listen with our ears so we can speak with our mouths what is deep in our hearts.
What we would have seen with our eyes if we had lived at Samuel’s time was a lot of bad stuff. This was one of those times in the history of the world where the Bible tells us that everyone did as he saw fit. That’s part of what is behind that note in the opening verse that says the word of the Lord was rare – and most didn’t seem to care. Among those who didn’t care were the sons of Eli the priest, whom we are told in the previous chapter blasphemed the name of the Lord by stealing for themselves the best of the offerings which the people brought to the tabernacle church and by committing adultery with some of the women who worked there. More about them later…
Nothing, of course, is really different at any time in the history of the world, because that is the history of sin, just as we see in the world around us today – and just as we must confess in the world inside us every day. Perhaps the saddest thing about that is the word of the Lord certainly is not rare in our day – whether among us or among the many nations with the thousands of languages into which it has been translated.
But that’s why we are so thankful that we can see something else with our eyes when we listen with our ears to what our Lord speaks with his mouth. We see people who believe in Jesus. We see people who want to serve Jesus. We see people who want to share Jesus. Mr. Schramm and Mrs. Gerlach, when you look at your students – both those who are thirteen or fourteen and those who are three or four, yes, you will see children of this world who need to be warned about their own sins against God and warned about what sins are out there in this world, but you also have the privilege of seeing children of our God – just like you – who listen to what you say from the Bible; who believe what you say from the Bible; and who want to grow in their understanding of what the Bible means for their lives today – and the next day – and the day when for Jesus’ sake they will go to heaven.
Samuel saw similar things in connection with the judgment of God and the grace of God once he said he would listen to the voice of God as his prophet. Sadly he saw that those sons of Eli were put to death not too long after this, something that Samuel had the difficult task of telling Eli would be the case — even having to tell Eli that it was his own fault, because he had failed to correct his sons’ behavior when they walked away from the Lord. Part of God’s calling to us is to warn and to correct, even though we know that is not easy to do, part of which reason is because we know we need that warning and correction ourselves. So that is why we give it humbly.
But do you remember what Samuel also was blessed to see? Years later as he continued his work as a prophet speaking the Word of God to the people in the land of Israel, he was able as an older man to see a young boy, just as he had once been, being called to do something very special, just as he had been called to do – but even more. Samuel was the one whom God used to anoint the king of Israel who would become the greatest king in the history of Israel who would become the ancestor of the King of kings and Lord of lords, the Lord Jesus Christ – that king of Israel being King David, the king who at the time Samuel anointed him was a little shepherd boy – chosen by God to shepherd his people as God prepared his people for the coming of the Good Shepherd about one thousand years later – the one who gave his life for the sheep. It is a privilege beyond compare to see what God lets us see when we listen to the words which come from the mouth of the Lord.
What do you seen when you look at the little ones in our Elementary School and in our Sunday School? Yes, you may see a future pastor, a future teacher, a future church leader and church volunteer – and I hope you do — but most importantly you see a little lamb of Jesus Christ, who needs to be warned and corrected, who needs to be encouraged and comforted, who needs to hear from your mouth what you have seen by faith with your eyes when you have listened to the Word of God and have been led by God himself to believe that Jesus Christ is God himself, the one who paid the price of his own blood to make you his own child, the one who continues to watch over you as a shepherd even as he is now living in the house of the Lord forever, the one who holds every one of those little lambs in our schools – just as holds everyone of you – in his great big powerful arms.
Do you remember how Samuel came to be a young servant in that tabernacle in the first place? It’s a long story, but the bottom line is that his godly parents prayed for a child and promised to dedicate him to God’s service by having him serve in the tabernacle, which is why he ended up getting to know the man named Eli. God doesn’t make a command that parents do that, but in his love he does command us to bring up our children in the way of the Lord. That is why our grade school and Sunday School programs are so vital and so important to us as members of Christ the Lord congregation. And right now, due to the installations of our teachers, I am speaking specifically of our grade school. It means so much to us to help our children “wake up” from any spiritual slumber away from our Lord and to “wake up” for all spiritual service in the name of our Lord that a great deal of sacrificing of time and money is made by us a family of believers in this congregation to make training in the Word of the Lord a core component of what we do on a day by day basis, as we continue to hear the hear the Word of the Lord ourselves and as we continue to share the Word of the Lord ourselves and as we continue see for ourselves the miracles the Word of the Lord produces in the lives of people young and old, who without the Word of the Lord would be as clueless about their lives as Samuel and Eli at first were clueless about what was going on in the middle of that awesome night.
Quit waking me up!? Mr. Schramm and Mrs. Gerlach, I pray that the only way you would ever say something like that is because this life of serving God in his church is almost like a dream too good to be true. Obviously it isn’t quite like that, but in many ways it’s really not that far from it – and it will be the case completely and perfectly when you are in that place where you will see the faces of those who with their ears listened to the Word of the Lord that came from your mouth. Keep listening to that Word yourself, because the more you listen to what God says the more you will say what God says – and the more you – and others – will see Jesus, their dear Savior, who never needs to be told to wake up. Amen.