LISTENING TO HIM
The Bible describes the times of high priest Eli in Israel as spiritually dark days when the Word (from the Lord) was rare and there were not many visions (I Sam. 3:1). If Godís people continue to be disobedient and unwilling to listen to His Word, the Lord would stop communicating with them and this is what is ultimately bound to happen. This could be described as the most calamitous situation for any generation. If God chooses not to speak to His people, what can mankind do?
Are We Listening?
Samuel rose in the dark days to become a beacon for his generation by volunteering to be one of the greatest listeners of the Lordís voice in Biblical times. Samuelís ministry, even as a child worshipper in the holy sanctuary in Shiloh, started with his humble submission to the Lord, ďSpeak, for your servant is listening.Ē When mankind allows a calamity to engulf the world by its own disobedience, it is upto our gracious God to raise someone who would obey His Word and thereby provide a solution.
Samuel brings into ministry a very rich spiritual legacy of his prayerful and faithful mother, Hannah. Hannah also belonged to the disobedient generation which had trouble in getting the Lord converse with them. But, as an exception, the Lord found in Hannah someone who is eager to listen to His voice and chose to make her barren as a prelude obviously to revealing His great solution to the calamity His people are put through (I Sam.1:5). When adversity hit her in the form of barrenness, Hannah did what every faithful child of God should do. She tuned her ears to listen to the voice of the Lord. Barrenness, then and now, is considered as an abomination to any woman. Instead of sulking and becoming an emotional and physical wreck with her problem, she became bold, and found time to take her problem to the Lord.
With tremendous faith she made a commitment that if at all the Lord gives her a son, she would dedicate him to full-time ministry. This was the response the Lord was waiting for. We should be happy that she did not fall in the category of those who constantly disappoint Him. In other words, placing herself in harmony with the divine plan, she realised that the solution to her personal problem could in fact be a solution to the problem of her entire generation. How many of us can believe this? Can we believe that a solution to our personal problem could also be a solution to the problem of our church, or the community living around us?
Had her womb not been closed by the Lord, she ordinarily would have given birth to perhaps one of the millions of disobedient Israelites of her wicked times. But since she was made barren and her womb was miraculously opened by the Lord Himself, after extracting a blessed commitment from her, Samuel, the long- sought new link of communication between God and His people, is born. This resulted in God again beginning to talk to His people through Samuel. The calamity had come to an end, again at the initiative of the Lord Himself (I Sam.3:21). I Samuel 3 is unique because it starts with a man-inflicted calamity and ends with a God-given solution.
Starving For The Word
It is with this legacy that Samuel began his glorious ministry of listening to the Lord and conveying the same to the people in truth and spirit on His behalf during his troubled times. When there is all pervasive spiritual corruption around us, the tendency is always either to adjust with it, or to jump to quick remedies, rather than to listen to the Lord for His lasting solution. With the exponential growth in electronic media and information technology, we have greater access to the Word of God today. It directly comes into our drawing rooms at the click of a remote button. But how much of it is directly and genuinely from the Lord? In spite of such great technological advancement and explosion in the fields of communication, are we still not starving for the chaste Word of God?
We need to understand that Godís voice is quite audible in every affliction and adversity we face, if only we have the ears to tune to Him. Most of the calamities are man-made ones; but to every calamity, God has a solution. The Lord is in the ever ready mode of conversing with His children, as He fondly desired to be in the days of Adam and Eve (Gen.3:8). But our enemy ensures that we do not listen to Him knowing very well that his time is very little and his well-laid plans for the entrapment of mankind would go hay wire once it happens. By our own choice, we have become so mechanical, emotionless and commercial that the works and words of divine nature are no longer on priority in our list. The building of Godís kingdom has become an option. The Church has got itself enticed into things other than worship and evangelical matters. The eternal values are sacrificed at the altar of statistics, publicity, goodwill and earthly riches. Family ties are under tremendous stress; the sanctity and superior position attached to the institution of Family is no longer existent. With the Church and the Christian family under so much pressure today, our times are no less chaotic and corrupt than the times of Eli.
But the good news is that the Lord has a rescue plan for us. He is ever ready to talk to us about it. There is a very clear and special message to all the servants of God in the midst of all this. The territories of their ministry are now ready to be expanded to make them partners with the Lord in this rebuilding and re-conquering task, if only we are ready to join Samuel in telling Him, ďSpeak Lord, we are all listening.Ē
Are We Crying Out?
There are three ways of responding to the spiritual deterioration and corruption prevalent around us. We can simply ignore it terming it as none of our business. We can notice it, hurt about it too, but think that we are too small to deal with such an enormous situation. But there is one response which could be a blessing to us and also to those round us. We can decide to cry out to the Lord for His intervention. The history of Godís people is full of saints who cried out to the Lord in times of persecution and corruption. It is a matter of great comfort to all of us that He never allowed their anguish and prayers to go waste. While recruiting Moses for the job of redeeming His people from slavery, the Lord testifies the ministry of those intercessors saying that He had heard their crying out and he was concerned about their suffering (Exo. 3:7). Let us not blindly assume that every one among the Hebrews in Egyptian bondage was crying out to the Lord about their misery. There was always a large section among the Hebrews in bondage who were quite happy with their godlessness, spiritual corruption and sub-human living conditions, as it is today. It is this section of people who always remembered the good days of Egypt even at the slightest provocation and problem in their relatively comfortable life spent in the wilderness. But thankfully, there were also people who remembered God of their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and cried out to Him day and night seeking His intervention for their redemption. Prophet Jeremiah, who is specialised in that kind of ministry of weeping and lamenting on behalf of his people in the presence of the Lord, leaves a word of counsel to all of us. As intercessors, we should keep on crying out to the Lord, allow our tears to flow like river day and night, and there should be no respite to us and to our eyes in this most needed and the most unique ministry (Lam.2:18). Persecution and spiritual corruption are the two sides of the same coin that our enemy often uses against us to weaken our evangelical movement. In both these situations, we should be unstoppable in addressing our needs to the Lord. We should go on crying until the gracious Lord intervenes in His own way and at His own time. Invaded and impoverished by the huge armies of Midianites, Israelites cried out to the Lord for help (Judg. 6:6) and they got it in the form of Gideon, who not only rescued them from the clutches of the Midianites, but also brought tremendous victory to Godís people restoring their self- confidence and self-respect.
The Bible is full of instances of Godís people crying out to the Lord in times of stress and persecution. Our heavenly Father is aware that the humans by nature are disobedient and sinful (Gen.8:21). More than our disobedience, it is our reluctance and refusal to return to Him, even in the midst of sufferings and the surroundings of falsehood, that actually upsets Him (Isa.1:3).
Diverted From Godís Word
The immediate danger to our faith comes from our compulsion to ape western culture in all walks of life. All the evil effects, like godlessness, promiscuity and the weakened family ties the western society is plagued with, are the results of getting diverted from the Word of God in the name of sophistication and ultra secularism; they are all going to be a reality in India too, or perhaps, they are already here.
A highly traditional and conservative society like ours takes pride in the fact that it gave approval for the gay marriages and do we really need more warning signals of the impending dangers to our faith? As a word-loving and God-fearing generation, what is our response to it? In a society which is proving to be so consistent in its deterioration, how are we going to ensure safety to our children? We should be spending more time on our knees than ever before, crying out to the Lord and tuning our ears to His voice.
Samuel knew that his birth was a historical and spiritual necessity. He did a commendable job of being a strong link between his people and the Lord. The two way link of talking to Him and listening to Him was so strongly established by him that it took care of all the spiritual needs of his times. He excelled in this ministry so much that he went to the extent of confessing publicly that he would be sinning against the Lord if he stops praying for his generation (I Sam.12:23). In the elevated levels of spiritual realms, even our failure to pray for our generation could be counted as a sin. Finally, in eternity, we will have the privilege of seeing how much of our life is spent in praying and crying out to the Lord for the golden bowls in the hands of the twenty four elders would be containing all the prayers ever offered by the saints in this world (Rev.5:8). Having made it to eternity, it would be very embarrassing, in the presence of the Lord, to find that those golden bowls do not contain my personal prayers and supplications. I shudder at that thought. Let us rebuild our personal, family and community prayer altars, where a two way communication with the Lord is effectively established, in resistance to the onslaught of our enemy on our faith. This alone can provide a remedy for the malady we are facing today. It is pertinent that we transform ourselves from being mere bystanders of this entire onslaught to becoming the remedy seekers. It is the will of God too.