“Samuel: God’s Faithful Messenger”
A Transforming Story based on First Samuel 8 (NIV)
Preached at FBC in New Castle, IN on July 9, 2017
Pastor Jerry Ingalls
Communication always requires three things: the message, a person who is communicating the message, and the person who is receiving the message. Good communication is accomplished when the message is accurately understood from one party to the other. This is hard work! Especially if the one who is listening rejects the message. You can try to faithfully communicate until your blue in the face, but if the other person doesn’t want to or can’t hear the message, you are wasting your time.
When I was a plebe at West Point, I went to church for the first time in my life. I started in basic training simply because I wanted to get away from being yelled at. I was befriended by Chaplain Camp who invited me to be an usher on Sunday mornings at the Cadet Chapel. For a year, I went to church almost every Sunday, I went to the pastor’s home for meals, I felt loved, but I never heard the gospel. I did not have ears to hear the message even though the messenger had been a faithful man. There were great attempts at communication from a faithful messenger of God’s message, but my ears were closed. After a year, I walked away still unhearing.
How have you been a faithful messenger even though it was hard and you experienced rejection?
Faithful messengers face adversity in many shapes, sizes, and forms:
- Parents who have shared the gospel and prayed with their children at home and now as their kids turn into teenagers the parents are feeling rejected by their kids’ visible disinterest, even apathy. The parents continue to care and pray.
- A summer camp speaker challenging teenagers to holy living even as they snicker and roll their eyes. He wonders if they are even listening, but he continues sharing his story and the painful consequences from his own bad choices hoping someone will learn from his own mistakes.
- Some empty nesters share their story of raising kids and a lifetime of committed marriage with a young couple’s class even though the younger couples think they are “out of touch” with today’s world. The empty nesters lovingly and faithfully invite the younger families into their home and hearts.
- An elderly couple’s kids throw a fit when they find out that they have rewritten their will to leave a significant bequeath (a 10% tithe of their total estate) to their local church because they want their faith commitment to be loud and clear even in their deaths.
- A teenager continues to stand for Christ at school even though her friends make fun of her and roll their eyes every time she brings up her faith. She loves her friends and continues to be herself without hiding.
God chooses and uses faithful messengers to speak forth His Truth whether people respond or not. God calls and prepares us to be His faithful messengers even when we experience rejection. We are going to learn from the Old Testament story of Samuel how God chooses and uses His faithful messenger. As we read the story of Samuel, we see a larger truth of God’s Word: God is the one who chooses and uses the faithful messengers who will carry His message to His people whether they heed it or not. God is the one who calls and prepares the messenger to be faithful to His message.
Let’s briefly survey Samuel’s call and preparation as God’s faithful messenger:
Samuel has an amazing story that is told in the Old Testament history book called First Samuel 1-7. He is the miracle baby of a barren woman named Hannah, who not only prayed for a child, but upon receiving a son gave him to God as an offering for service (I Sa. 1:27-28). Samuel’s name means, “heard of God.”
He received a direct message from God as God called Samuel to be His messenger (I Sa. 3:19-21). His mentor Eli dies. Israel is in turmoil during these latter years of the period of Judges because of their lack of central leadership and military organization. There is internal rebellion and corruption. There is external oppression by the Philistines. But God gave Samuel great success and renown as God’s Prophet and Israel’s Judge (I Sa. 8:15-17).
Samuel proved himself to be faithful to God and to God’s people until the end of his life. But in First Samuel 8 we see there was a problem. Israel was rejecting God’s message. God’s people no longer wanted to hear what God was saying. In the eyes of the elders of Israel, there was no one faithful to inherit the legacy. Because Israel’s eyes were on Samuel’s old age and his son’s corruption they looked to the example of other nations who had kings. They forgot that God is the One who speaks, not a man. God’s people were not trusting God as king. God’s people had stopped trusting in God and started trusting in man. Samuel finds himself caught in this mess. First Samuel 8:1-6 records the moment of conflict, “When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as judges for Israel. 2 The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba. 3 But his sons did not walk in his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice. 4 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, ‘You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.’ 6 But when they said, ‘Give us a king to lead us,’ this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord.”
Because of the people’s unfaithful response, Samuel experiences rejection personally and frustration as a messenger, but God steps in to assure Samuel that he has been faithful as His chosen messenger. The sin was not his, it was the people’s. They were not rejecting Samuel, but rejecting God as their king. God is the One who provides and protects.
What is a faithful messenger to do when he is experiencing feelings of rejection and failure?
- As parents and grandparents in how you train up and raise your children and grandchildren in the Lord when you are frustrated by and tired of their rebellion. You have given freely and unreservedly of yourself and your resources to this child. As they grow up they reject your input and advice every time. You watch them make mistake after mistake. You only want God’s best for their lives, but all you get in return is a bad attitude and a sense of entitlement. You want to keep being faithful, but what is the point; do they ever listen anyway?
- As a witness for Christ in the workplace you find yourself not being included in conversations or invited out for after work social events. You make every effort to be friendly and helpful, but all you get in return are snide looks and sarcastic comments about how you think you are better than everyone else. The only thing you can remember is sharing about going to church on the first after work outing when they asked why you were only drinking soda. And that one time you didn’t laugh at that crude joke. But the real rejection started when you wouldn’t lie to the boss when he directly asked you a question, which got your coworkers in trouble. You thought shining the light of Jesus would attract people to you; not repel them from you time after time. You feel like one of those fly light traps; anytime someone comes close to you… ZAP! What’s the point of being a witness of Christ if all it does is scare people away?
- As a teenager in your local high school you find yourself standing out more and more as a Christian. You are outspoken about following Christ on Twitter and Instagram, you wear a cool Young Life tee shirt to school each week. You go to the morning Christian group each week. But you also give people rides, help with homework, and listen to your friend’s problems. You even are the designated driver at times. Your buddies know that you aren’t sleeping with your girlfriend and tease you for not being a man. You have tried to share your faith, but every time people cut you short and say, “That may work for you, but I don’t believe it. I’m glad that’s your truth, but it’s not for me.” You want to represent Christ, but it makes you feel like a taxi driver, counseling service, and punching bag all wrapped in one. You are tired of feeling like you are being taken advantage of.
How is God calling you to be a faithful messenger of His message in your situations?
Let’s look at how Samuel faithfully handled his crisis of being rejected. The emphasis of First Samuel 8 is Samuel’s faithfulness to God’s message even when directly confronted with Israel’s unwillingness to listen. Let’s examine this briefly. First Samuel 8:5-22 is a chiasm. A chiasm is a common literary structure to the Israelites that you can see on the screen behind me. The only reason I point this out to you is because what would be obvious to a Hebrew reader, is not to us in English. And once you can see the format of the passage, you can see that the emphasis is on Samuel’s faithfulness to God (verses 10-18) in the face of Israel’s rejection of God as their king (verses 19-20).
First Samuel 8:10-18 records Samuel’s courage to deliver the divine warning that their request for a king will become a curse and a snare to them. The king would take their sons and daughters, their lands and money. God tells them that if they choose a king over Him they will be the king’s slaves and He would not rescue and deliver them from the king’s oppression, like he just did by returning the Ark to Israel and delivering them from the Philistines’ oppression. Samuel faithfully delivers a difficult message to hear, but one that must be heeded for God’s blessing to be upon God’s people.
First Samuel 8:19-20 now records Israel’s refusal to listen to the message. God sees this as them rejecting Him for the ways of the surrounding culture. The text plainly states, “But the people refused to listen to Samuel. ‘No!’ they said. ‘We want a king over us. 20 Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.’”
The Israelites were unwilling to listen to the message; therefore, they rejected God as their king. They did not trust that God would continue to protect them because they had learned to put their trust in the people they could see. They had cultivated faith in the Judges starting with Moses and now ending with Samuel, instead of trusting the One from whom the message and justice have always come—God. The people of God refused to listen to God and instead desired to be like other nations. That is the culturally popular way.
The irony in this story, is that the Israelites’ mistrust of God as king brought about a greater injustice from the future kings who were placed over them, than what they were currently experiencing from Samuel’s sons. The rebellion of Samuel’s son had been the elder’s excuse for rebelling and asking for a king in the first place.
When God’s faithful messengers are not faithful to the message of God themselves, then the people perish due to the lack of a word from God for them. Let’s be very clear about something. As God’s faithful messengers, we are called to communicate the message of the King, not to rule over one another. God’s people are never to be ruled by an earthly king (pastor, elder, deacon, bishop, board, committee, or even by a democratic means through congregation). God’s people only have one KING—God Himself.
It is the job of the faithful messengers of God to deliver the King’s message to the people so that they will not perish due to a lack of God’s Word in a world of injustice, oppression, and selfish ambition.
How can God use you as His faithful messenger, even when people don’t listen?
- By being a faithful messenger in every season and location of your life (at school; at work; at the lodge; as a single or in relationship; on vacation and at home).
- By being a faithful messenger as a parent and grandparent.
- By being a faithful messenger as a follower of Jesus, in and out of the church building.
- By being a faithful messenger by passing on your faith through mentoring and discipleship relationships: one on one, in your family, in your small groups, and out in the community.
- By being a faithful messenger in how you invest your time, your talents, and your money in the work of God for the glory of God.
Today, you can choose to set your whole heart on God. If God has chosen you to give His message, then only give what God has entrusted to you, not more and not less. Be faithful as a messenger of God even in the face of rejection. There is freedom in putting your full trust in God.