Jan 18, 2021
Join us as we explore God’s ancient wisdom and apply it to our modern lives. His word is as current and relevant today as it was when he inspired its authors more than two and a half millennia ago. The websites where you can reach us are alittlewalkwithgod.com, richardagee.com, or saf.church.
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Thanks for joining me today for “A Little Walk with God.” I’m your host Richard Agee.
In case you haven’t noticed, church attendance in the United States has been on the decline for the last several years. Now we can blame the coronavirus pandemic and our inability to gather without risk of spreading the disease. Still, that excuse doesn’t explain the decades before the pandemic when attendance continued to fall. For a few short weeks at the beginning of the pandemic, online church service attendance actually grew to levels above physical attendance in some denominations. That didn’t last as we got used to the pandemic and decided the church wouldn’t help us end it.
We could blame our enlightenment on the low attendance, I suppose. Except, I’m not sure how enlightened we are when I listen to the news. I find us filled with as much hate and prejudice and bigotry as ever, maybe even at higher levels when you read letters from any other period in our history. One would assume enlightenment would end that kind of thinking, but it has only grown in the last couple of decades. Our democracy may not last the way it is progressing. Our greatest problem? We left no room for God.
We leave lots of room for political correctness. We make sure we stay on the right side of an argument. We work hard to use the right words, so no one accuses us of being racist, the latest and most heinous crime in the country. We step gingerly around pronouns to avoid damaging the psyche of anyone in the LGBTQQIP2SAA community. That’s the latest acronym for the all-inclusive community of the various self-identified gender-specific groups, including more than fifteen different parties. But we still throw away our youngest and oldest in our society through our policies. We live in trying times.
I’ve discovered, though, that correctness does not equal right. If you read the last verses of the book of Judges, you’ll find the Israelites individually thought they acted correctly, but they did not act rightly. It says, “everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” They thought themselves enlightened. They thought they could succeed by their rules instead of God’s. Today, we would say their motto was, “If it feels good, do it.” In that book, we find the same things in our society; abuse of power, abuse of the poor and helpless, and disregard for those in need. Their self-admired wisdom fell far short, though, and they paid the price for their disobedience.
For periods of time, God allowed outside nations to invade the land and wreak havoc on the Israelites. After they acknowledged their sin and would cry out for mercy, he would come to their aid, raise up a judge or warrior-leader, and rescue them from their enemies. But after repeating their cycle of apostasy and repentance through several iterations, we come to the end of the book of Judges when the author remarks everyone did what was right in their own eyes. Even the priests failed to follow the laws God set for the nation. Eli, the high priest, let his sons take advantage of the people, taking whatever they wanted for themselves instead of the portion of sacrifices set aside for them.
We find out how bad the situation had become spiritually with God’s selection of the last judge and first prophet, Samuel, in the book by his name.
Samuel served the Lord by helping Eli the priest, who was by that time almost blind. In those days, the Lord hardly ever spoke directly to people, and he did not appear to them in dreams very often. But one night, Eli was asleep in his room, and Samuel was sleeping on a mat near the sacred chest in the Lord’s house. They had not been asleep very long when the Lord called out Samuel’s name.
“Here I am!” Samuel answered. Then he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am. What do you want?”
“I didn’t call you,” Eli answered. “Go back to bed.”
Samuel went back.
Again the Lord called out Samuel’s name. Samuel got up and went to Eli. “Here I am,” he said. “What do you want?”
Eli told him, “Son, I didn’t call you. Go back to sleep.”
The Lord had not spoken to Samuel before, and Samuel did not recognize the voice. When the Lord called out his name for the third time, Samuel went to Eli again and said, “Here I am. What do you want?”
Eli finally realized that it was the Lord who was speaking to Samuel. So he said, “Go back and lie down! If someone speaks to you again, answer, ‘I’m listening, Lord. What do you want me to do?’”
Once again Samuel went back and lay down.
The Lord then stood beside Samuel and called out as he had done before, “Samuel! Samuel!”
“I’m listening,” Samuel answered. “What do you want me to do?” (1 Samuel 3:1-10 CEV)
Did you notice? In those days, the Lord hardly ever spoke directly to people, and he did not appear to them in dreams very often. He spoke directly to Adam and Eve. God spoke directly to Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He spoke directly to many of the judges he called to lead the people against their enemies. He often appeared in dreams to the patriarchs and sometimes to their enemies to warn them against harming God’s people. But when Samuel went to the tabernacle under the tutelage of Eli, God stopped talking to people. I sometimes wonder if it was because they stopped listening and just did what they wanted anyway.
I think God has that problem with us sometimes. We let the noise of the world drown out his voice. We let all our electronics, social media, news, entertainment, jobs, business drown out his voice. As Elijah discovered, his voice won’t be heard in the whirlwind or the earthquake but the whisper of a gentle breeze. You must listen carefully to hear him. We get addicted to the things around us other than God instead of filling our hearts and minds with him, then wonder why we don’t hear from him.
God still speaks, though. His word is alive and active and sharper than a two-edged sword, Paul tells us. We must get away from the noise to let it speak to us. God’s spirit, active in his word, will prick our conscience and let us know what he wants us to do, how we need to transform our lives and our thinking to become more like him to prepare for citizenship in his kingdom. We can hear him in the words of Christian friends and mentors, carried by the winds of the spirit, guiding us into the right path instead of the politically correct path. Will they be the same? Sometimes, but not always. We can be sure the path will always be one of love. Remember the two great commandments, love God, and love others. All the rest hang on these two.
To hear God, take Eli’s advice to Samuel. Expect God to speak. When Eli realized the Lord called in the middle of the night, he gave Samuel instruction. Listen to everything he tells you. Listening means more than acknowledging soundwaves vibrate your eardrums and your brain registers the pattern as words and sentences. Listening means letting those words and sentences sink into your brain with meaning and purpose. It means understanding the task directed by those words. Listen to God.
Finally, Eli told Samuel to respond, “What do you want me to do?” James says we must be doers of the word and not only hearers of the word. To hear and know what God wants of me and then not to do it means rebellion against him, disobedience, and sin.
We need more like Samuel today. Those who will expect God to speak, listen intently to his voice through the avenues his spirit uses to proclaim his words to us and then execute his commands. The world will do everything it can to drown his words in the political correctness that smothers truth and righteousness, but God’s word remains in the end. He created this place, and he will judge it in the future. If he will act as our judge, doesn’t it make sense to listen to him instead of his adversary? It’s time we stand boldly proclaiming God’s rightness in a world gone wrong.
You can find me at richardagee.com. I also invite you to join us at San Antonio First Church of the Nazarene on West Avenue in San Antonio to hear more Bible-based teaching. You can find out more about my church at SAF.church. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn’t, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.
Scriptures marked CEV are taken from the CONTEMPORARY ENGLISH VERSION (CEV): Scripture taken from the CONTEMPORARY ENGLISH VERSION copyright© 1995 by the American Bible Society. Used by permission.