Christian Life: The Bible
I was thinking about this subject and I was trying to imagine what it would be like if God never communicated.ÿ What if God never said anything?ÿ Here we are in his world, which he created.ÿ And he never says anything to us?! Example: It would be like if you were an orphan.ÿ If you’re an orphan, you know you have parents.ÿ But you constantly wonder, “Where are they?ÿ Do they care about me?ÿ Why have they left me alone here?” There could be some people here who identify with that feeling because it has really happened to them.ÿ It wouldn’t be the kind of thing you thought about all the time.ÿ But it would be back there, in your mind.ÿ It would be something that bothered you. Well, what about God?ÿ What about going through your life and never having God, your creator, reach out to you?ÿ How would that be? The Bible contemplates just such a scenario.ÿ Because the fact is many people do go through life without a word from God, without any instructions or communication.
There is one passage which is kind of famous, which speaks about what happens to people who don’t receive a word from God for a long time.ÿ It’s a verse that sometimes Christians use to talk about vision in the church.ÿ It is Provÿ.ÿ.ÿ. Then the way people take that is “vision” in the sense of an outlook for the future.ÿ I’ve heard it used to say that unless a person has a vision for their future, some kind of plan, then they will perish. But the term is a term that refers to vision in the sense of revelation, a word from God.ÿ And of course that is what makes sense of the verse because the Proverbs are often written in contrasts.ÿ And the contrast here is that with God’s instruction, the law, a person can be happy. “The people throw off restraint,” is a sad picture.ÿ It’s not a picture of someone who’s saying, “Yea, we’re free!”ÿ It is the picture of someone who feels that they are without guidance.ÿ Their life is without order.ÿ It’s the picture of someone who is lost.ÿ It’s exactly the scenario of a child who has lost his parents and doesn’t know what to do. This passage is telling us that when a person is without God’s word, they are adrift at sea.ÿ They are aimless and without direction.
You have to compensate
I’ve been in this state.ÿ I’ve been in the state where you feel like God’s not invovled in my life at all.ÿ I’ve felt like he never has anything to say to me.ÿ I don’t get any guidance from him at all. I remember that lost feeling, where I would just kind of think, “What am I going to do?”ÿ I would compensate for the lack of any guidance in my life.ÿ A lot of times I would compensate by just sitting back and going nowhere.ÿ You know how that is when you’re in life and you’re going nowhere and you know it?ÿ You just kind of feel like you’re going through each day and it’s like the day before. Example: It’s like you’re crossing a giant desert with little hills.ÿ And each day you go over one more hill and there’s another one that looks just like it ahead of you. But then there’s the weekend, which represents some kind of relief from the monotony.ÿ You’ll talk louder, drink more, etc. But I’ve spent long times just going over one hill after another and just settling into that feeling of going nowhere.ÿ You just get used to it, or learn to survive. Other people have compensated for a lack of guidance, a lack of God’s word in their lives, by gunning for various goals.ÿ They set goals and then throw themselves at those goals. Example: I’m getting this degreeÿ.ÿ.ÿ. I’m going into the marinesÿ.ÿ.ÿ. I’m getting this manÿ.ÿ.ÿ. I’ll bet you could go through life hopping from one little goal to the next.ÿ But of course, by the end of your life, it would be pretty depressing.ÿ Because there still wouldn’t be the big picture there of “what does my life matter?ÿ What does my life count?” That has to come from God.ÿ Because he’s the one who puts all of life in perspective.ÿ He’s the one who puts all of human history in it’s place.ÿ And he’s the one who will be there in the next life to give it meaning as well.
I Sam. 3
When you’ve been in a drought of God’s word, and you haven’t had him speaking to you, you haven’t had any communication from God, what begins to happen to you is that you become cynical.ÿ You become a person who doesn’t expect to hear from God.ÿ You don’t see God’s hand at work anywhere, and most of all in your own life. There’s an interesting story about this in the book of IÿSam.ÿ.ÿ.ÿ. In I Sam. 3 Samuel, who became one of the greatest prophets and priests of God in the Bible, was just a young boy.ÿ And he lived in the temple because he was in training to become a priest.ÿ His mentor, the old priest, was a guy named Eli.ÿ And he also slept in the temple area in an adjoining room. Well, what happened was that God came and talked to Samuel one night.ÿ And I want to look at Samuel’s response.
The word was rareÿ.ÿ.ÿ.
The first thing the author tells us is that the word of God was rare in those days.ÿ There was a drought of the word of God.ÿ This is what I’m talking about right here.ÿ What happens to a person when they don’t hear from God?ÿ When God never speaks? Next it tells us that Eli was asleep in his place.ÿ And the lamp was still going.ÿ This was a lamp that was supposed to burn all night in the temple.ÿ Probably what the author is telling us is that it was very, very late in the night, maybe just before the oil in the lamp would normally burn out.ÿ So, nobody else is up.ÿ Samuel is all alone.
Then the Lord called to Samuelÿ.ÿ.ÿ.
Then it says that God called to Samuel.ÿ It’s obvious that what we’re talking about here is an auditory communication.ÿ God speaks out loud and Samuel hears him. His response is, “Here I am!”ÿ And he looks around, and thinks, “It must have been Eli.”ÿ So he runs into the next room and says, “What did you want?” Eli tells him it wasn’t him.ÿ Go back to bed.ÿ This is really interesting, in light of what happens next.
The Lord called againÿ.ÿ.ÿ.
It says that the Lord called again.ÿ And what does Samuel assume?ÿ He assumes it had to be the voice of Eli again.ÿ Now this had to be really wierd.ÿ You hear this voice, and you know that something really unusual is happening.ÿ It had to occur to Samuel that this might be the voice of God or something.ÿ But he doesn’t want to conclude that.ÿ So he goes to Eli againÿ.ÿ.ÿ.
The text explainsÿ.ÿ.ÿ.
Then the author explains Samuel’s hesitance to believe it was the voice of God.ÿ He says this was before Samuel had a relationship with God, and before he had ever heard the voice of God. So, this is exactly the state that we were talking about.ÿ We’re talking about what it would be like to never hear a word from the Lord.ÿ And I think his text gives us a little insight here.ÿ When there’s a drought of God’s word, then you don’t expect to hear from him. Samuel tried to explain away what was happening to him.ÿ He was just like you and me.ÿ He didn’t expect to be woken up at night with voices from heaven.ÿ If he heard a voice, then he assumed it was coming from the next room.
One more timeÿ.ÿ.ÿ.
Well, it happened one more time.ÿ We read in v.ÿ8ÿ.ÿ.ÿ. This time, Eli recognized what was happening.ÿ And he told Samuel to stay there and say, “What do you want God?” (read v.ÿ9) This time God spoke the message to Samuel.ÿ And it wasn’t a very positive message.ÿ God told Samuel that Eli and his sons were going to die.ÿ But that’s a side-note.ÿ What I want you to see here is that God waited until Samuel recognized him for who he was.ÿ God waited until Samuel was willing to believe it was the voice of God.ÿ God wouldn’t speak until Samuel realized, “OK, this is God.ÿ What do you want to say to me God?”
Lessons from this story
I think we can learn a couple great lessons from this story.ÿ One is, that if you are someone who has been experiencing a drought of God’s word, then you are probably cynical about it as well.ÿ By cynical I meanÿ.ÿ.ÿ. And this is understandable.ÿ But you have to decide if you want God to speak to you again, and if you are willing to acknowledge his voice when he does.
How does he speak?
The question left for us is, how does God speak to us today?ÿ How does God’s word come to us today?
Not necessarily through subjective encounters
The first instinct a lot of people have is to think that God’s word should come to people subjectively, by way of a vision or some kind of a feeling. But the problem is that our impressions and feelings and psychological experiences often tell more about us than they do about God.ÿ Each person has their way of looking at things.ÿ Each one of us has the feelings we like the best, and our pet topicsÿ.ÿ.ÿ. Example: I remember last year some time getting the impression that I need to be more hard on people.ÿ I got this impression while I was praying or something.ÿ So I wondered whether it was possibly a word from the Lord.ÿ Problem is, every time I told anyone about it, they laughed at me! If you know me very well, you know that they reason they laughed is that’s the way I am.ÿ I am hard on people.ÿ And if I need to work on anything, it’s probably being easier on people.ÿ So, more than likely I told myself that I need to be more hard on people.
God has chosen the scriptures
No, the way God has chosen to speak to us is through a written medium, external to ourselves.ÿ He has chosen the scriptures.ÿ He has chosen a means of expressing himself that is not quite as subject to our whims and desires.ÿ It’s a medium that is outside of ourselves, so it more reflects him and what he wants to say than it does us. But what I want you to see is that he really wants to speak.ÿ He doesn’t want us to just read a book.ÿ He wants to speak to us through that book.ÿ He wants it to be so powerful, and so clear that it’s as if he was standing right in front of you speaking to you. And if you are a Christian who is experiencing God’s word, you know what I mean.
Here’s what I’m talking aboutÿ.ÿ.ÿ.
2 Tim. 3:16
Again, the word of God is useful, meaning that it has it’s impact.
This is one of my favorites.ÿ God says, “I will have an effect with my wordÿ.ÿ.ÿ.”
What should you do?
You guys should be into this book in a serious way.ÿ It’s not enough to come here once a week.ÿ You need to be in the scriptures, letting God speak to you almost daily. Let me give you some ideas on how you can be in the scriptures frequently in a way that is not wooden, or the same old thing day after day.