************ Sermon on 1 Samuel 1:28 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on April 30, 2000
1 Samuel 1:1-28
"Given Over to the Lord"
The Christian Reformed Church has a tremendous need for pastors. The current Yearbook of the Christian Reformed Church lists over 138 churches without a pastor. Furthermore, about 30-40 churches are looking for a second ordained person. Also, each year about 40-45 pastors retire and another 20 leave the ministry for various reasons. Finally, Home Missions has a goal of starting 40 new churches each year – each of which requires a pastor. Add all of this together and there is the need for 268 new pastors this year. By way of contrast, Calvin Seminary graduates only 30-35 candidates for the Gospel ministry each year.
World Missions is looking for college graduates who are not settled into their careers as of yet. They have fifty openings for teachers in China; if we don't fill those positions they will probably be filled by the Mormons. There is also an opening for ten teachers at Christian Schools in Guam.
Some of you might remember the program that Mark Klompien was enrolled in. We need Christians to apply. Again, if Christians don't fill these positions they will probably be filled by the Mormons.
Wycliffe Associates has hundreds of openings in its mission of translating the Bible into the heart language of every single person world-wide. You can go into language-related work as a translator, literacy specialist, language surveyor, or ethnomusicologist. Or you may have valuable skills you could use in a support role as a teacher, administrator, computer technician or any of dozens of other crucial positions.
There are hundreds of openings for Christian school teachers and administrators. CSI schools, such as CVC, strive to fill openings with teachers who come from the Reformed faith – for they are the ones who are best able to pass on the Reformed world and life view and kingdom vision to today's students.
These are all full-time or career positions that I am talking about – and there are literally thousands of them. On top of that are hundreds of short-term mission projects with openings.
What can we do about all these career openings in the church and kingdom? Young People, I want to challenge you to on this Youth Sunday to seriously consider full-time Christian service as a career possibility. And parents, I want to urge you to hold full-time Christian service before your youth as something to seriously consider.
I remember the time I was at Synod and a younger pastor came up to me and asked if I remembered him. Of course I did. He was a member of the first church I served as pastor. "Do you know why I am a minister?" he asked. "Because you encouraged me as a teenager to consider being a minister." I've talked to some of you young people about this. I hope you will seriously consider what I said.
I Asked and Heard of the Lord
A Our Bible reading tells us the pain and agony of Hannah, an infertile woman desperate for a child. We are told about the taunts she received from her husband's other wife. We are told how she went into the tabernacle, and proceeded to pour out her bitterness and anger to the Lord and prayed fervently, even desperately, for a son.
B The Lord wasted no time in answering Hannah's prayer. Within a year a boy was born. Hannah named him "Samuel," saying, "Because I asked the Lord for him." The name "Samuel" is the combination of the Hebrew word "to hear" and the Hebrew word for "God." So then Samuel who was "asked of God" is the one who was also "heard of God." In presenting the boy to Eli, Hannah could say,
(1Sam 1:27) I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him.
C We need to ask why the Lord heard and answered Hannah's prayer and granted Hannah's request for a child. I ask that because at first sight it appears that her prayer was selfish and self-centered. After all, she wanted a son to take away her disgrace, to quiet her rival, and to ensure her place in the covenant community. So why did God both hear and answer her petition for a son?
Don't forget the setting to our story. The time is the days of the Judges, a wicked and infamous time in Israel's history. The book of Judges ends with these ominous words:
(Judg 21:25) In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit. We read of the most horrible things happening: idol worship (Judges 17:5); mass destruction of a peaceful and unsuspecting people (18:27-28); homosexuality (19:22); rape, sexual abuse, murder, and dismemberment (19:25-29). The problem was a lack of leadership; we are told there was no king in Israel. There was no one to enforce the laws of the Lord, no one through whom the Lord led and guided His people in righteousness, no one to be an example, no one to boldly declare and apply the Word of the Lord. Whenever the laws of God are not enforced, the only result is lawlessness, godlessness, and every form of perverse behavior – as we see today not only in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., but also in Visalia. I only have to mention the shooting at the Washington, D.C. zoo this past week; the Bosnian war crimes trial; the killing of white farmers in Zimbabwe; the threatened beheading of hostages held by Filipino rebels; next week's trial of two Libyan agents accused of the 1988 bombing of PanAm Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland; and the list goes on and on.
What was needed in the days of the Judges is the same thing needed today: God-fearing leaders through whom God rules us and leads us.
God heard and answered Hannah's prayer for a son, He gave her Samuel, because Samuel was going to be the Lord's anointed leader. It is through Samuel that the Lord would lead His people. It is through Samuel that the Lord would carry on His work of redemption. It is through Samuel that the Kingdom of God would be advanced and the rule of God further established.
D I want you to notice that Samuel, the future leader of Israel, is asked of, heard of, and called by the Lord. And that same pattern should be found in the church and kingdom today.
Let me tell you why I became a minister of the Gospel. Here are some of the reasons that came to me during the middle of the night this past week:
• I became a minister so I wouldn't have to work more than one day a week.
• I became a minister because of the "big bucks" I earn.
• I became a minister because of the free house I get with utilities.
• I became a minister because then I have everyone kissing up to me.
• I became a minister because then I could stay in school for 20 years and not have to earn my first paycheck until I was 26 years old.
• I became a minister because I have an overdeveloped ego that needs constant stroking.
• I became a minister so I can yell at people and tell them how bad and sinful they really are.
If any of these are the real reason I became a pastor – then I am in trouble and you are too.
So why did I become a pastor? Because the Lord called me. To tell you the truth, I felt the Lord calling me all the way through highschool and college. When I was 13 or 14 years old a couple of people told me I should consider being a pastor. But all along I was kind of hoping it wouldn't happen. All along I was hoping the Lord would slam doors shut in my face but He didn't. "Lord," I prayed, "if you don't want me to be a minister then don't let me pass Greek and Hebrew" – though I still studied as hard as I could. Why was I so hesitant? Because what is at stake in my work has eternal consequences and eternal significance. What I say and do can effect people for good or for evil to eternity – that's scary, something neither I nor any other person is worthy of. In other words, there is no way I could ever dare to be in this pulpit declaring the Word of God without the Lord's calling and blessing.
E Pastors and leaders within the church and kingdom – like Samuel – are those who are asked of, heard of, and called by the Lord.
More than once I have heard questions raised about the leadership of the Christian Reformed Church. "What we need are good leaders," I've been told. No, what we need are people praying for good leaders; we need people praying not out of selfish reasons, not out of their own agenda, but out of the will of God. What we need are people praying to God for someone like Samuel – someone asked of, heard of, and called by the Lord; someone through whom God rules us and leads us in His ways and paths.
II Given Over to the Lord
A There is more to being a leader in Israel than being asked of, heard of, and called by the Lord. There is more to being a leader in the church and kingdom than being asked of, heard of, and called by the Lord.
We see this evening that Hannah and Elkanah had their part to play in preparing Samuel for the leadership of God's people. What did they do? Before Samuel was born, Hannah swore an oath to the Lord:
(1Sam 1:11) And she made a vow, saying, "O LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant's misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head."
Although vows were not unusual in Israel, (cf Gen 28:20-22) this one was remarkable. The term is not used, but it appears that Hannah wished to dedicate her son as a Nazirite. Nazirite vows were very strict: to abstain from the use of wine and strong drink, refrain from shaving the head and beard, and avoid contact with corpses (Num 6). Normally, vows were self-imposed and lasted for a short time; they were made in order to accomplish a particular task. Hannah, however, was offering her son, as a Nazirite, in a lifelong special dedication to the Lord.
In obedience to her vow, Hannah presented a 3 or 4 year old Samuel to Eli. "I give him to the Lord," she said. How difficult that must have been for Hannah – to leave her son, her only son, her prayed for son, behind when she went home. I am sure she cried and gave Samuel a big hug before pushing him into the arms of Eli. And, how do you think little Samuel felt when his mother left him with Eli? I am sure he cried and screamed and was terribly homesick for his mother. This past week we all saw the look of terror on little Elian's face as federal agents took him from his Miami relatives. That's how Samuel must have felt.
B How many of us, like Elkanah and Hannah, dedicate our children to the full-time service of God? How many of us, like Elkanah and Hannah give our children over to the Lord? Do we, like Elkanah and Hannah, want our children to have a career in the service of God? And, how many of our youth are even willing to consider full-time Christian service as a career possibility?
J. Robertson McQuilkin, former President of Columbia Bible College and Seminary, made this observation:
Christian parents no longer hold Christian ministry as an ambition for their children. Instead, they want them to have a piece of this secure, materialistic, prestigious world. Yet, what more secure future could we want for our children than to give them to God! Only He can guide and keep them.I agree. It used to be that families pointed with pride to sons and daughters who became pastors or missionaries. Now, they point to sons and daughters who make lots of money. What a change. Christian service and ministry should come second to none as career choices that we hold before our children. In fact, no career is as exciting, as important, as life-changing as Christian service and ministry. For in Christian service and ministry we deal with matters of eternal significance, matters that effect people for eternity.
Let me ask a question. How many pastors, how many missionaries, how many Christian School teachers, how many full-time Christian workers consider themselves to be sons and daughters of Trinity United Reformed Church? How many of our youth, of our sons and daughters, are in full-time Christian service as a career? The answer, I'm afraid, is very few.
"I give him to the Lord," says Hannah. "For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord." How I wish every parent would say this. And, how I wish everyone of our youth and children would demand this.
There is a need today for leaders among the people of God. Where are we going to find the leaders needed by the church and the kingdom? This is what we must do:
• We must pray for such leaders. We must ask God to provide the leaders needed.
• Parents, we can and must do our part by dedicating our children to the service and glory of God and hold before them the possibility of Christian ministry.
• Young people, like me you need to be open to the Lord's leading and call. You don't want to rush into it because it is a serious thing to be involved in the Lord's business; yet, you need to ask if the Lord is opening some doors and closing others in your life; you need to ask if your life's calling is to be involved in full-time Christian service.
The need in the church and kingdom is so great. Remember the words of Jesus:
(Mt 9:37-38) "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. (38) Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."We need to ask or pray for workers, we need to encourage our children and youth, and we need to consider if the Lord is calling us into His harvest field.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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