EFFECTUAL CALLING

Scripture Reading: I Samuel 3:1-18

“Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.” (I Samuel 3:7)

It is a bit of a surprise to read this verse. Samuel had been ministering in the house of the Lord, but he did not know the Lord yet. He certainly knew about the Lord, but he had not come to know Him in a personal way until the Lord called him.

Unfortunately there are many religious people who know about the Lord but they have not experienced Him in a personal way. Until the Lord effectually calls a person, he or she cannot know the Lord in an intimate way. It is the effectual calling of God that enables us to respond to God and to develop a personal relationship with Him.

Notice also that the word of the Lord had not been revealed to Samuel yet. It was after God’s call that Samuel was able to understand the word of God. The Holy Spirit has to open the eyes of our hearts before we can grasp the truths of God — “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (I Corinthians 2:14).

Samuel did not discern the Lord’s calling at first. Eventually Samuel understood that it was the Lord who was calling him — “And the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, ‘Samuel. Samuel!'” (v. 10). Once he discerned the Lord’s calling, Samuel began to understand the word of God.

All true believers have received the effectual calling of God. It is then that we are regenerated (born again) and given a new spiritual ability to know God in a personal way and to receive the Holy Spirit who opens the eyes of our hearts to grasp God’s truth. This is a sovereign work of God upon our lives. Remember we are saved only by the grace of God.

O Holy Spirit, thank You for the effectual call you gave me many years ago. Thank You for opening the eyes of my heart to the truths of God’s Word. And thank You that I can know the Lord Jesus in a personal and intimate way. I know this is only possible because of Your grace which has been lavished upon me.

Standard

GOD’S FAITHFULNESS

Scripture Reading: I Samuel 2:18-21

“Indeed the Lord visited Hannah, and she conceived and bore three sons and two daughters. And the young man Samuel grew in the presence of the Lord.” (I Samuel 2:21)

In stark contrast to Eli is Hannah. Hannah was a godly woman who trusted God. She prayed in faith for a son and promised God that she would give her son to Him if He granted her request. When he was born, she dedicated Samuel to the Lord and as a young man he ministered before the Lord. God honored Hannah’s request and granted her three more sons and two daughters. God is faithful — “The One who calls you is faithful and He will do it” (I Thessalonians 5:24).

What stands out to me in the passage is the description of Samuel — “And the your man Samuel grew in the presence of the Lord.” Samuel grew in his faith. He had been dedicated to the Lord as a child and now he faithfully “ministered before the Lord” (v. 22).

Look at the difference between Eli’s sons and Hannah’s son. Eli’s sons did not know the Lord (v. 12). But Samuel “grew in the presence of the Lord.” Hannah gave her son the name Samuel, which means “name of God,” or “offspring of God.” God would use Samuel in a great way. He became a ray of hope during the dark ages of Israel.

My greatest prayer for my children and grandchildren is that they grow in the presence of the Lord. I pray daily for their spiritual growth. I pray for each one by name and ask God to bless them and that they would be rooted and grounded in Him. I believe God answers prayers for I know that He is always faithful, even when we are not.

Heavenly Father, I lift my children and grandchildren before You today. I pray that they will grow in Your presence, that they will mature in their faith, and that they will be rooted and grounded in Your love.

Standard

A FATHER’S FAILURE

Scripture Reading: I Samuel 2:22-36

“Now Eli was very old, and he kept hearing all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who were serving at the entrance to the tent of meeting. And he said to them, ‘Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all the people.'” (I Samuel 2:22,23)

The story of Eli and his sons has a tragic ending as we will see. The sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were described as “worthless men” (v. 12). They too were priests but they “treated the offering of the Lord with contempt” (v. 17). They were adulterers who would not listen to the voice of their father (v. 25). They were adults but the problem goes back long before this time. They did not honor their father.

What can we learn from Eli? He was a failure as a father. Although he was a priest, he was spiritually weak. He did not even recognize prayer when he saw it (1:13). God sent a messenger to warn Eli (vs. 27-36). The messenger reported to Eli what God said concerning him — “Why then do you scorn my sacrifices and my offerings that I commanded, and honor your sons above Me by fattening yourselves on the choicest parts of every offering of My people Israel?” (v. 29). It seems that Eli participated in some way in the sins of his sons.

Eli failed to discipline his sons. He did little more than to tell them what he had heard about them (vs. 22-25). He did not exercise tough love. Eli’s sons were guilty of serious offenses but he did very little about it. In fact, he honored his sons above the Lord (v. 29).

Two things stand out to me. First is the importance of providing discipline for our children. Failing to discipline our children is so unloving — “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by Him. For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastens every son whom He receives” (Hebrews 12:5,6). It seems that Eli had a pattern of neglecting discipline for his sons.

Second is the responsibility we have to ensure that our children have every opportunity to know the gospel of Jesus Christ — “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Although Eli was a priest, he failed miserably in the spiritual nurturing of his sons. He set a poor example before them and he neglected to nurture his sons spiritually.

Heavenly Father, I pray for fathers today. I pray that you grant us wisdom to raise our children to love and serve You. I pray that you enable us to love our children enough to discipline them when they need it. I pray that You enable me to set a godly example before my children and grandchildren. Let them see Jesus in me.

Standard

A PARENT’S GREATEST HEARTACHE

Scripture Reading: I Samuel 2:12-17

“Now the sons of Eli were worthies men. They did not know the Lord.” (I Samuel 2:12)

Children can be a source of great blessing. They can also be the cause of untold heartache and pain. The greatest tragedy for any parent is to lose one’s children spiritually. This was the case with Eli. He lost his sons spiritually and eventually he lost them physically.

Eli was the priest at Shiloh. He had two sons who were also priests — Hophni and Phinehas. They were a great disappointment to their father. They served as priests during the period of the judges, which was known as “the dark ages of Israel.” The last verse of Judges sums up the spiritual state of Israel at that time — “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).

Such was the case with the sons of Eli. They are described as “worthless men.” The saddest thing is that they did not know the Lord. This is difficult to understand. They were sons of a priest and they were active, serving as priests themselves. Yet they did not know the Lord. What is even more troubling is that they were defiling worship — “Thus the sin of the young men was very great in the sight of the Lord, for the men treated the offering of the Lord with contempt” (v. 17).

As we read on, we see that the sons of Eli were also adulterers — “Now Eli was very old, and he kept hearing all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who were serving at the entrance to the tent of meeting” (v. 22). We can easily see why Hophni and Phinehas were described as “worthless men.”

How can we explain the way Eli’s sons became so much of a disappointment to their father? Part of the problem was the way Eli parented them as we will see. The family lived in a spiritually depraved period of Israel’s history. Whatever the reasons were, the sons of Eli serve as an example of children who can break their parent’s heart. This is why we need to stay on our knees in prayer for our children and grandchildren.

Lord God, I pray for the spiritual health and growth of my children and grandchildren. I pray that they grow in their faith. I am so thankful that all my children are walking with You and that they are seeking to raise their children to love and serve You as well. These are spiritually depraved times and things will get worse. I especially pray for spiritual protection for my grandchildren. May they all come to a saving faith in Your Son, Jesus and may they honor Him all the days of their lives.

Standard

FASCINATED WITH GOD

Scripture Reading: I Samuel 2:1-10

“My heart exults in the Lord, my strength is exalted in the Lord…There is none more holy like the Lord; there is none besides You; there is no rock like our God.” (I Samuel 2:1a,2)

In his book on prayer, Richard Pratt writes — “When was the last time you were fascinated with God? Fascination with God results from enthusiastic appreciation of Him…Regrettably, many Christians go for long periods of time without this sense of fascination. God becomes such an ordinary part of their lives that their thoughts about Him become bland and uninspiring…Prayer is an excellent means of refreshing our appreciation for God. Simply telling God about His excellent qualities stirs our hearts to wonder” (Richard Pratt, Praying with Your Eyes Open).

Hannah was fascinated with God and she told Him so. Read her prayer and you will see how much she adored God. She adored His character — “There is none holy like the Lord; there is none besides You; there is no rock like our God” (v. 2).

Hannah also was fascinated by the works of God — “The Lord kills and brings to life; He brings down to Sheol and raises up. The Lord makes poor and makes rich, He brings low and He exalts…He will guard the feet of the faithful ones, but the wicked will be cut off in darkness, for not by might shall a man prevail” (vs. 6,7,9).

When we delight in God, when we are fascinated with Him, we will find joy inexpressible and a peace that transcends our understanding. Let’s praise and adore Him for who He is and for what He has done.

Lord God, my soul exults in You. My strength is in You for You are my rock and fortress, a stronghold for my life. There is none holy like You; there is no one besides You. You guard my feet and You provide for my every need. Let me never lose being fascinated with You!

Standard

DEDICATING CHILDREN TO THE LORD

Scripture Reading: I Samuel 1:21-28

“For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to Him. Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord.” (I Samuel 1:27,38)

When Hannah prayed for a son, she promised the Lord that she would give her son back to Him for all the days of his life — “O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your servant and remember me and not forget Your servant, but will give to Your servant a son, then I will give Him to the Lord all the days of his life” (v. 11). God answered Hannah’s prayer and Hannah did what she promised — she dedicated her son to the Lord. She literally did this by taking Samuel to the temple and giving him to Eli, the priest.

One of the questions we ask parents at the baptism of their children is this — “Do you now unreservedly dedicate your child to the God?” In a sense when parents do this, they are giving their child to the Lord. They are in essence saying, “Lord, this is Your child. What You want for him or her is what we want. We entrust our child to Your care.”

When I would meet with parents to instruct them in the baptism of their children, I would refer to Hannah and Samuel. I told them how Hannah dedicated Samuel to the Lord and how she literally took him to Eli the priest and left him there. I would then say (tongue in cheek), “However, I’m not telling you to leave your child with me at the church to raise!”

The picture of what Hannah did in dedicating Samuel to the Lord is a beautiful picture of what it means to dedicate our children to Him. We give them to the Lord to take care of them and to entrust them to God’s will for their lives.

Heavenly Father, many years ago we dedicated our children to You. You have been faithful to watch over them, care for them and lead them. I give You thanks for Your providential provision and direction for their lives.

Standard

THE LORD REMEMBERED HER

Scripture Reading: I Samuel 1:19,20

“And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her. And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, ‘I have asked for him from the Lord.'” (I Samuel 1:19,20)

I love the expression “and the Lord remembered her.” It is not as if the Lord had a lapse of memory and forgot Hannah’s prayer. God is all wise and He doesn’t forget anything. Rather it is an expression of God’s faithfulness. He remembered Hannah’s request and in His own time He answered it.

God never forgets our prayers nor does He ever ignore them. Sometimes He makes us wait for His answer. But remember God’s promise — “Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles; they will run and not get tired; they will walk and not become weary” (Isaiah 40:31).

We are not sure how much time elapsed from Hannah’s prayer until she received the answer from God. But we do know that Hannah had perfect peace that God heard her prayer and that she trusted Him for the answer. The answer finally came — “And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, ‘I have asked for him from the Lord.'” The name “Samuel” in Hebrew means, “name of God,” or possibly “offspring of God.” The point is that Samuel bore the name of God, who gave him to Hannah. Naming her son Samuel was Hannah’s way to express her thanksgiving and continued trust in her Lord.

Do not ever think that God has forgotten your prayer requests. He always remembers them and in due time He will answer them.

Lord God, how comforting it is to know that You never turn a deaf ear to the prayers of Your people and You never forget the requests Your people lift before You. I have prayed for several things and have not received Your answer as of yet. Enable me to wait on You and to trust that You will answer my prayers in due time.

Standard

HUMBLING ACCEPTING GOD’S WILL

Scripture Reading: I Samuel 1:19,20

“Then they rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord; then they went back to their house at Ramah.” (I Samuel 1:19a)

Hannah prayed in faith. She put her request to bear a son before the Lord. Then she left in peace, knowing that the Lord would answer her. Notice what Hannah and her husband did early in the morning — they worshiped before the Lord. They left matters in the Lord’s hands.

We know that God granted Hannah’s request — “And in due time Hannah bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, ‘I have asked for him from the Lord'” (v. 20). God does not always answer our prayers according to our will. Sometimes He says “no” or “not yet.” How do we humbly accept God’s will particularly if His answer is no?

First, we must maintain a confidence in the goodness of the Lord. God is always good and He always acts in goodness. This is the humble trust we must have in Him.

Second, we must realize our human limitations. We may have a limited understanding about prayer. Have we prayed correctly? Are our prayers in faith and do we realize that they get to the Father through Jesus priestly work on our behalf? This is why we pray “in Jesus name.” We must realize our limitations in perspective. We do not see things from God’s perspective most of the time. And we must realize our limitations in power. We do not have the power to fix everything. God has to remind us of this fact at times.

Third, we met realize God’s sovereign ability to cause all things to work together for the good of those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). God has an ultimate plan for our lives. He is sovereign over every aspect of our lives, including every event that takes place in our lives. When we understand this, we will gladly pray — “Thy will be done.”

Heavenly Father, thank You for hearing my prayers. Grant me grace and faith to accept Your answers to them. I do not want anything that is not in accord with Your perfect plan for my life. I know how limited I am in understanding Your greater perspective. I also know that You are God and that You are good and that You know what is best for me.

Standard

PRAYING IN FAITH

Scripture Reading: I Samuel 1:9-18

“Then Eli answered, ‘Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to Him.’ And she said, ‘Let your servant find favor in your eyes.’ Then the woman went away and ate, and her face was no longer sad.” (I Samuel 1:17,18)

What a beautiful picture of praying in faith we see in Hannah. Hannah struggled with God in her prayers. She wept as she told the Lord her great desire to have a son. She prayed fervently and from the heart. When she finished praying and left, she did so in perfect peace — “Then the woman went away and ate, and her face was no longer sad.” She put her request before the Lord and then she trusted Him for the outcome.

God calls us to pray believing that He hears us and will answer us according to His perfect will. James wrote these words about praying in faith — “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in his ways” (James 1:5-8).

What does it mean to pray in faith? It doesn’t mean “name it and claim it.” Such an attitude is arrogant and implies that we know better than God knows. To pray in faith means that we know God hears our requests and that He does not turn a deaf ear to them. And it means that we trust God for the answer. Above all, it means that we will trust Him no matter what His answer may be. We must always pray “if it is Your will, O God.”

Hannah prayed and she trusted God. She had complete faith that He would give her an answer and that she would accept what His decision was. She rested in His sovereign will for her life. That is what it means to pray in faith.

O Sovereign Lord, I know You hear my prayers. I also know that You will answer them according to Your perfect will. What peace it gives me to know that You will always do what is best for me.

Standard

CRYING OUT TO THE LORD

Scripture Reading: I Samuel 1:9-18

“She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly.” (I Samuel 1:10)

Hannah was in deep distress. She was childless and she desperately wanted to bear a son. And she was abused. Her sister, Peninnah, provoked her grievously and sought to irritate her because she was childless (v. 6). Hannah would weep often and would not eat (v. 7). Though her husband loved her greatly, she was still sad and distressed.

On one of the family trips to Shiloh when Elkanah went to worship and offer sacrifices, Hannah went to the temple to pray. She made a vow to the Lord — “O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your servant and remember me and not forget Your servant; but will give to Your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head” (v. 11).

Hannah was praying from her heart with only her lips moving (v. 12). Eli, the priest, thought she was drunk. He confronted her and Hannah replied — “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord” (v. 15). Hannah’s prayer was from the heart and it was fervent.

When we are distressed and full of anxiety, the first place we should go is to the Lord. We are to pray from our hearts, pouring out our souls before Him. When we pray we tap into the infinite resources of God. When we are in His presence we can find peace and joy, even in the midst of our troubles.

These words from I Peter have helped me so many times when I was in distress — “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you” (I Peter 5:6,7). We may not always understand why we are facing troubles and we may not like it, but we know that the Lord is in charge and He cares for us.

Lord Jesus, You have invited us to come to You when we are weary and heavy-laden. I pray that I will humble myself under Your mighty hand. I know You are sovereign and have a purpose for everything that happens in my life. And I also know that You care for me and will do what is best for me.

Standard