Sir, Samuel is right behind you!
There was a time in Israel when God chose to quit interacting with His people. He went as far as not speaking to the High Priest, who was meant to mediate for the people before Him. It was a terrible period of darkness in Israel!
Eli, the unfortunate High Priest at this time went about town with his bogus title, yet he found it impossible to connect with God. Talk of a figurehead priest and you would be right to name Eli as an example. With divine revelation so scarce, Eli spoke without utterance.
Now don’t go accusing God of neglecting His children, for it is not in His character to do so. If God seems so remote from His children, then maybe we should remember that Prophet Isaiah once said this of God: “God’s hand is not shortened that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from God and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He will not hear you. (Isa. 59:1-2)
God did not suddenly abscond from His duty post. He did not suddenly become an irresponsible and unloving Father to Israel. God kept quiet not because He had nothing beneficial to say to His children, but how do you explain it when those who should know Him better, continually and habitually disrespect Him?
Well, if you care to know, God stopped speaking because of the sins of Eli’s family. Do I mean the High Priest? Yes! When those who should be in charge of the oracles of God fail and after ignoring His many corrective attempts, He withdraws.
In the time when Eli proudly went about as the High Priest, God stopped appearing at the nation’s feasts, sacrifices and worship. The people though sang and danced to gospel tunes, yet God kept His distance. He never allowed their praise songs to tempt Him to draw near them. God was so resolute about this!
With time, the people suffered a delusional disorder which made them worship God even when He was absent. Somehow, they allowed themselves to be self-deceived to believe He was present with them. They ended up developing feelings – they felt His presence without an assurance of it. Please tell them that feelings don’t last and they could be highly deceptive.
As Eli led the congregation to pray all the time at Shiloh, nobody was observant enough to note the absence of God in their midst. The music, stage or altar lightening effects, shouts of praise, the ministerial swagger and what have you, all made it unimaginable to think that God was actually absent. Anyway, they eventually mastered the art and science of organising and conducting religious meetings behind the Author and Finisher of their faith.
This horrible situation was, however, not designed to last forever. God was so much poised to return to Israel, but not after He had seen a man willing to hear, honour and carry out His will without any alteration. Not until Samuel came on board, God was missing, so to say, in Shiloh. In 1 Sam. 3:21, the Bible finally and joyfully announced: “Then the Lord appeared again at Shiloh”.
For God to appear again in Shiloh means He had once appeared before. His appearance this time was obviously not His first; it was a re-appearance of a kind. He had once, before things went wrong with Eli and his family, appeared in Shiloh. His first appearance must be at a time when Eli was probably young in faith and therefore, carried out God’s instructions without going into a debate.
There was a time God walked freely in Shiloh; it was the time when Eli honoured God. Eli, perhaps, did not start off on a wrong footing when the staff of office was handed over to him in his early days. He must have once walked upright with and before God and as a result, he lacked no divine revelation.
Would my suspicion be right of Eli that the ascent of Hophni and Phinehas, his two sons, paved the way for his descent? Did Eli’s spiritual sense reduce with the increase in the mischievous acts of his two sons? Somehow, the old man lost control and God withdrew from him and sadly, from the land.
Eli, the Bible told us, was fat and old at this period. He became a MOG (Man of God) too old and too used to his ministry that he ended up compromising divine instructions that once guided his life unto righteousness. He became fat, not just in physical size, but spiritually. He grew up to be too fat to respond promptly to the things of God. He was too fat to stand on his two feet for the truth and the fats blocked both his voice box and his eyes. He overlooked and could not speak to check the errors of his two sons; not even when God registered His displeasure with him.
With his agility now a thing of the past, Eli sat back and allowed iniquity to take over the altar of the Lord, so much that the people disregarded/despised the sacrifice of the Lord. Things, however, changed in the time of Samuel.
As soon as God discovered that Samuel was a willing young lad, He returned and found His voice again – He began to speak. Samuel, who as a child did not know how to hear God, eventually learnt that the only thing required to hear from God was to possess and present a listening heart.
Ironically, it was the old MOG, Eli, who tutored Samuel on the theory of hearing God. “Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord nor was the word of the LORD yet revealed to him…Therefore Eli said to Samuel, ‘Go, lie down; and it shall be, if He calls you, that you must say, ‘Speak, LORD, for Your Servant hears.’ So Samuel went and lay down in his place”. 1 Sam. 3:7-9.
Sadly, it was Eli, who had at this time grown to stop hearing God that instructed Samuel on how to hear God. Eli may have forgotten how it was to hear God, but he could still teach from his past experiences. Although he did not have with him the current practical approach to hearing God, but at least, he kept the theoretical aspect of hearing God at heart. Hmm!
Eli, a man of theory without practice, somehow, remembered that God will only speak to servants and not to lords in their own rights. “Speak Lord, for your servant hears,” he instructed Samuel to answer God. Digging into his past, Eli recalled when he was a servant without any personal ambition or goal. Now that he had outgrown being a servant, the reason for which God kept quiet, he could still teach the theory of ‘How to listen to God.’
I weep when I see our leaders trying so much to teach from their ‘good-old-days in the Lord.’ My heart bleeds when they teach and share wonderful testimonies from their past experiences of how they once walked with God. Now they may still be putting up a front that they are still hearing from God and that all is still well with their relationship with God, but honestly, we have people growing up like Samuel who know that things have gone sour with them.
Do they really know that we know they are merely rehearsing theories and not their current practical experiences with God? Are they aware that we know that they have lost the real time experience of walking and working with God and that they now depend on how it used to be? If I am failing to hit the nail on the head with this article, please help me out by praying that they realise their emptiness and return to God immediately.
Although with their iniquities they have nearly (if not) succeeded in keeping God away from His Church, yet we still listen to them. They have not stopped teaching us how to live right before this same God they dishonor daily by their lifestyle. Of course, we hear them out, because we need them to fill up the space until Samuel matures. We cannot afford to judge them; this we cannot do, but since we can discern aright, we will pick the right things in their teachings and avoid their contrary lifestyle. Pardon us!
Samuel was still able to follow Eli’s instruction and he ended up hearing God. We will listen to them; honestly we will. Like Samuel, we are not going to be rude or corky. “God relates to those who honour Him,” they told us and this shall be our watchword. No matter how fast we grow spiritually, we will learn not to grow to be lords in ministry. We will ask for grace to keep us away from sharing His offerings with Him. We will cry for God’s help not to compromise the faith when we begin to have our own spiritual or biological children.
Dear brethren, you have a duty to grow up in the household of Eli where your big brothers, Hophni and Phinehas, are deeply corrupt; a house where your father had already compromised his faith, yet you must grow up clean enough to re-invite God to your land.
We will not take the evil around us as an excuse to be wayward. We will not go the evil way because we have parents and elders who have forgotten how to live well. We have our lives to live and though evil, corruption, killings, drugs, lying, cheating, etc. may be the order of the day, yet, even as young persons, we will serve the Lord without partaking in these shows of shame.
God is obviously missing in the Church. He has stopped talking, but to keep the Church party going on, our elders have come up with cover-up devices. Some of us are not fooled. Abi? We know that He is not present and all that we see around us are mere makeups and makeshifts.
His absence is making us to search for His peace and joy. His absence has created a vacuum making us to walk about burdened and empty. When our prayers to Him to lift our burdens failed, we simply brushed up and sought for our own solutions. “Why don’t you let us invite the latest Stand-Up Comedian in town,” someone suggested. Hence, as a Church, we have developed various alternatives to His soothing presence.
“Let God be absent, but let the music and jokes be present. These may not heal our sorrows or lift our burdens, but as long as they can make us forget them for a while, we have a good alternative at hand,” we said in agreement. Therefore, instead of looking for God who could have healed or removed our burdens, we settled for a lesser help; which is of course, no help at all. God help us!
Is God still in Shiloh? Is His word still loudly heard in Shiloh? We have men like Eli, Hophni and Phinehas in charge of the altar, but they have joined forces to push God to the background. God could have resisted them, but He left them alone to do things that are debasing and not fitting. Rom. 1:28.
It, however, gladdens my heart to know that even in the midst of this confusion; a young Samuel is quietly growing up in their hands. He will grow without being polluted. He will grow and come out clean of the dirt around him. He is born already and he is growing fast. Ironically, the same men as Eli are his teachers and leaders. He is listening to them and picking up the right things being said, but at the same time, he is being helped by God to avoid their terrible acts.
If the description of this young man, Samuel, fits you, then let me urge you never to imagine you have a glory to boast or brag about. Instead, please pray that you will grow up to fulfill His plan without any form of corruption. The days ahead are indeed full of evil! On the other hand, is the story of Eli similar to yours? If it is, instead of fuming, I strongly believe that you should be glad that God loves you and that He has just used this medium to call you back to Him. Eli once had this chance, but he nailed his fate by responding and saying: “It is the LORD. Let Him do what seems good to Him.” He lived to regret it. Please never dare God!
Burning Bush Boy