Next week should be last in study of AWAKEN unless I say something so scripturally or theologically unsound that Kevin has to come back in and clean up after me.
Looking back at last couple of weeks - we’ve been asking ourselves a few very important questions to help to stir an AWAKENING in us:
• What do I WANT?
• What COULD I do?
• What SHOULD I do?
• What MUST I do?
These are good and relevant questions in our lives that I hope you’ve been wrestling with, and I hope that they have given you just as much of a migraine as they have given me.
But there are two additional questions that I think we need to add to the mix of ones we’ve already been considering - questions that turn the emphasis a little from the WHAT (as in, the specific action that needs to be done) and instead, ask a couple of questions that are two words parents LOVE to hear: how and why?
More to the point: how do you want to awaken, and why - why do you/why do I specifically have to wake up to something?
Now let’s all take a moment to think back to waking up this morning - clearly, a very pleasant thought for some of you - when you woke up because you needed to get ready to go to church (or if in fact you have woken up - for some of you, your state of being awake might still be questionable even right now). Or if you want to go back a little further - think back on when you were growing up. Unless you were born with an unnatural always-accurate internal alarm clock, at some point in time, somewhere, someone or something had to wake you up.
When I was growing up, I remember the way my mom would wake me up when I was in high school - she would come in to my room and just cut the light on and maybe say my name - for the most part I was always a really light sleeper. The slightest noise or change in the environment would just jolt me awake.
Was great when I was a kid - because it meant I always heard the monsters in the closet and could hear my parents moving about on Christmas morning (creaks in hallways - stairs). This may have been totally different when I was an infant - don’t really remember that - but I mostly remember just being able to wake up at moment’s notice.
This was a skill that REALLY served me well when I was living in at Millsaps College - job I had required that I be “on-call” for campus emergencies (from intoxicated students to real life/death emergencies). Campus security loved it when I was on duty - soon as phone rang I was like “Yeah hello what do you want?”
You know what it’s like when you reach for the phone when you hear it ring - that whole dynamic of your body is moving faster then your mind - which for me is incredibly rare. Normally my mind outraces my body
DOWN side being able to snap awake - and this is what bugs Ashley to no end - is once I’m up, I am up. As in, once I get up and moving, well, it’s time to go put in a movie, because I’m going to watch the sun rise.
Some people - you might be able to detonate a thermonuclear bomb under them and they still not stir, or if something wakes you in the middle of the night be able to drift blissfully off back to slumberland…and you make the rest of us exceedingly sick. [Just kidding.]
What do sleep patterns have to do with anything remotely spiritual? If you’ve got one, open your Bibles to I Samuel 3 - or, the verses will come on screen here in a minute - we’re going to take a look at one particular story about someone’s waking process into what they were called to do.
Before we get into the Scripture, here’s a bit of back story for you about what we’re going to read: Eli, the guy who was the mentor for Samuel was the Priest of God at the time of this story. The mother of Samuel, whose name was Hannah, had been barren for years. So she asked God to grant her a son, and if He did, she would dedicate him to the service of God. So, God granted her desire - she became pregnant and had this kid, Samuel (guy who the chapter’s named after, so he’s sort of important).
Now - this wasn’t the type of plea-bargain prayer you and I tend to skew towards with God (“If you get me out of this, I’ll give 12% next month”). The dedication of Samuel to God was for a life-time commitment.
But Samuel was ministering before the LORD - a boy wearing a linen ephod. Each year his mother made him a little robe and took it to him when she went up with her husband to offer the annual sacrifice. I Samuel 2:18-19 (NIV)
“A little robe.” Kid was earmarked pretty much from Day One as to what his future would be - kind of like dressing up a toddler in a soccer uniform. Not that the countless times I dressed up with a towel around my neck made me any more Superman or the little yellow or blue tunics I wore made me more like Kirk or Spock (yes, I am that big of a dork) - but Samuel had his own little priest’s robes made for him.
Only other two instances I can think of someone in the Bible who it was shown that they were called to dedication of God from the time of their youth are David (shepherd - giant killer - player for Saul) & Christ himself (teaching in temple). Moses, maybe - and John the Baptist did kick in the womb, but there are some strong connections we’ll see soon between Samuel, David & Jesus.
The boy Samuel ministered before the LORD under Eli. In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions. One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was. Then the LORD called Samuel. Samuel answered, "Here I am." And he ran to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me.” But Eli said, "I did not call; go back and lie down." So he went and lay down. Again the LORD called, "Samuel!" And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me.” "My son," Eli said, "I did not call; go back and lie down.” Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD : The word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him. The LORD called Samuel a third time, and Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me." Then Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, "Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, 'Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.' " So Samuel went and lay down in his place. The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, "Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant is listening.” And the LORD said to Samuel: "See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle.” I Samuel 3:1-11 (NIV)
This passage is just so amazingly rich with details and ideas - so let’s just look over them one at a time. To let you know - I got seriously excited reading this, because I thought I knew the gist of the passage and the “duh” parallels, but as I read it and studied it, God just made a lot of cool stuff just POP out at me.
Start with verse one: In those days there were not many visions. Not many people were awake to the presence of God. In verse seven, it even says that Samuel himself did not yet know the Lord, even though he had been serving Him for YEARS. He even slept in the temple, where the Ark was.
Does that hit a little close to anyone? Have you ever felt like you - or, let’s just say “a friend” - have been in the temple - church - for years (heck, your “friend” may have even slept there, physically slept if the message wasn’t compelling enough, or spiritually slept if their heart was not attuned to the service of God) - word in Hebrew used for Samuel not knowing God is probably some Hebrew you’ve been throwing around for YEARS and weren’t aware of it: yada.
This idea of knowing or being known is one of the key verbs in the OT - root definition is used in every possible context in scripture from describing being able to know how to play an instrument (intelligence) to the knowing between two sexual partners (intimacy) to being able to distinguish right from wrong (knowledge) to recognizing friends and family to discerning the heart of God or even discerning your/their relationship to and with God.
To further drive this home, again in verse one - the word used for visions is chazown (kHA-zone). Not only does this verse mean that word from the Lord was rare, but also dreams - revelations were absent.
Think about when you sleep - when you dream deep and hard. In spite of the fact that you might have the most bizarre dream in the world - when you wake up, it’s still a little fun to talk about them, isn’t it? Even if you don’t recall any dream you had when you wake up, you still had dreams - and have you ever gotten that sad look from someone when/if you remark that you don’t dream - be it in terms of at night, or if you feel your dreams in life have been crushed or just broken? (“I don’t dream about…”)
That’s how it was in the lives of so many people at the start of this passage - they were dreamless, waiting on someone…something to awaken them.
Go to verse 4: Then the LORD called Samuel. Samuel answered, "Here I am." And he ran to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me.” But Eli said, "I did not call; go back and lie down." So he went and lay down. Again the LORD called, "Samuel!" And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me.” "My son," Eli said, "I did not call; go back and lie down.”
The word used starting in verse 4 where it talks about the Lord calling Samuel is the word qara - when this word is used, it means the person speaking is addressing a specific person and it’s intended to have a specific response. This may explain why Eli did not hear the Voice of God calling to Samuel at this time (other than the Word tells us he was old and a little blind). Those of us who’re “church folks” may be more familiar with the idea of the use of this word for calling as it’s found in Joel 2:32: And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
I find it interesting to note how Samuel was called - the Bible says that Eli was lying down “in his place” and then it gives us a specific location of where Samuel was lying down (“in the temple of the Lord where the Ark was”) - (waiting for Harrison Ford to find it years later). So they were both where they were supposed to be - in their respective or appointed places - when God called Samuel. Stop to think about it, there’s probably also some deeper meaning behind the fact that Eli kept sending Samuel back to “lie down again” - not because it was the Priest of God equivalent of telling him to stay off his lawn, but it was probably more something like he had to go back to Point A in order to fully awaken to what he was called to.
It’s also interesting HOW when Samuel was made to awaken that God called him - not that there were probably a lot of people kicking around the temple after hours but God was able to awaken Samuel in a way that was very Samuel-centric and not what we typically have come to think our Godly awakening is supposed to sound like at all.
[MEGAPHONE] Now, I don’t know about you - but I kinda half expect this to be the way that God awakens me - the way that God calls me.
Now give me a choice - do I want this big, booming disrupting thing - which, to be honest, would has the same intimacy and feels like it’s about as full of love as being gotten on to by my mom in front of all my friends - or do I want the awakening to spring from a personal, intentional calling to ME to awaken?
Yes - sometimes it would be good to hear a clear, concise booming voice telling me what I COULD, SHOULD, MUST do - and sometimes, we do get that - but in some ways we have to option on how do I want to awaken - WILL WE LISTEN - in terms of getting up in the morning, is it better to have a giant noise that wakes you up, or to have the gentle voice of a friend awakening you? (EXAMPLE - waking Ashley VS alarm clock)
Sometimes we need the big thing to stir us to action, or else we’ll never get up - but is that an awakening more of an annoyance (“I’ll give to the poor just to not feel convicted anymore”) or more of an awakening to a passion (“God has put this on my heart so much so that I have to do X.”).
Move into verse eight: The LORD called Samuel a third time, and Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me." Then Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, "Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, 'Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.' " So Samuel went and lay down in his place. The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, "Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant is listening.”
In the New American Standard Bible translation, it states that Eli discerned that it was the Lord calling Samuel. The word used for discerned means that he “got it” that it was the Lord, that he understood that it was the Lord who was calling Samuel and not that Samuel was a little coo-coo.
This is why I speak to them in parables: "Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand” Matthew 13:13 (NIV)
In their present state they can stare till doomsday and not see it, listen till they're blue in the face and not get it. Matthew 13:13 (MSG)
Have a confession to make - those of you who’ve heard me speak before have heard me remark how God speaks to me through nature, through allegories, uses examples He knows I’ll “get” - but sometimes when I hear someone speak - my mind immediately starts a soundtrack. Not that I will sit here and hum or sing to myself while someone is talking - but I will hear a quote or an idea and it will remind me of a song lyric. My journal I take notes in is littered with little lines or song titles written along the margins that I will go home and listen to after a sermon (for example).
In the last two weeks, I’ve had two songs from U2 that just struck me as incredibly poignant as we ponder the COULD, SHOULD, MUST questions: “Zooropa” and “Wake Up Dead Man.” Zooropa because the song starts with the words “What do you want?” and ends with the phrase “Dream out loud.” Wake Up Dead Man because it’s - well - telling you to wake up. Kind of a no-brainer. AWAKEN. Again, go home and legally download them if you want to see for yourself.
I have a love of all things Paul and David (Bono & Edge’s real names) - and yes, I am just a big enough of a dork to draw some cool inference from those being their real names - but while I don’t equate their lyrics to Scripture, it’s cool to me where all God’s been showing me little by little places in my life where He’s been prepping ME for AWAKENING ideas for years now.
It’s a parable for me, in that there’s an extra layer added to how I understand the song - when we sing songs of worship here - for some of us, they’re just pretty, but for some, there’s some healing found in the worship.
Over the course of the last three weeks now - have you seriously stopped to consider the COULD, SHOULD, MUST questions to try and discern what they mean in your life - or have you “gotten it,” heard something stir your spirit, but instead hope that it’s something else? Or do you feel a tug for something but you just don’t quite know what it is yet?
Here’s where the idea of community somewhat comes into play in the idea of AWAKENING: if you look at verse eight, it says that it was the third time that Samuel was called - and even then, he needed someone to point it out to him Who it was that was calling him.
For Samuel, he had Eli to point it out to him (although - I used to think when I heard this story it ONLY meant that Eli wasn’t swift on the uptake, but instead it might simply mean that as verse one says, it was rare in those days that anyone would AWAKEN to the calling of the Lord - the understanding was so rare that when you heard it you didn’t really know what it was anymore since it had been so long). You might have a friend - mentor - who can point out sometimes something that is so obvious to you - and there’s something comforting about being AWAKENED by someone who is close to you.
Look starting in verse nine:
So Eli told Samuel, "Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, 'Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.' " So Samuel went and lay down in his place. The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, "Samuel! Samuel!" Then Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant is listening. And the LORD said to Samuel: "See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle.” I Samuel 3:9-11 (NIV)
The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times. Now - was this due to the tenaciousness of God (who cane be pretty persistent), or was it because of something bigger - something about which only Samuel could have understood?
Think back to verse seven - where it states that Samuel did not yet know the Lord. But what’s amazing is that it’s evident that God knew him, because He kept calling to him, getting him to try and AWAKEN to His presence.
If we look back at verse one - it only states that Samuel was a boy. We don’t know Samuel’s age - which is a little evident in his response. Most of us mature and highly analytical thought people would almost skew towards asking one big question - WHY - in terms of if/when we feel called by God.
Think about Samuel’s responses to the situation of being called three times out of bed - he was faithful every time. No questions of “Why is this crazy old man calling me AGAIN to get out of bed.” (PARENTS - “I want a drink of water.”) When the time comes for us to awaken to the COULD, SHOULD, MUST question of what we’re called to - isn’t that the kind of faithfulness you want to show. Not blind robotic obedience, but trust in Who is calling you.
The same faithfulness we’re asked to show is already demonstrated by Christ - If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. I John 1:9 (NIV)
Also, unlike what many of us might do, at no time does Samuel play the “Why me?” card - even when he had to deliver some scathingly bad news to Eli
For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons made themselves contemptible, and he failed to restrain them. Therefore, I swore to the house of Eli, 'The guilt of Eli's house will never be atoned for by sacrifice or offering.' ” I Samuel 3:13-14 (NIV)
Not that everyone here is called to go to Haiti - France - Alabama - I don’t think any of us have been called to AWAKEN to speak judgment against anyone’s house - but if this KID had the courage to say this to the face of the man who was raising him - do we really have an argument when the time comes to AWAKEN to what we COULD, SHOULD, MUST do that we can legitimately tell God, “Why me?”
Not that awakening can be the best or easiest thing in the world - the easy parallel is childbirth, but everyone can understand the feeling you get when the clock goes off.
Sometimes we’re pulled out of a dream (nightmare) and brought into the real world or you hear the alarm clock in your heart go off and you know you have to move into action (sorry, no MATRIX analogies today). No one ever said that awakening would be easy, would be fun - but it’s necessary. Otherwise, you’ll stay in bed all day. And while some people might think that the greatest thing ever - it’s also dangerous (bed sores, muscle atrophy, hunger).
It’s also interesting to note that Samuel was chosen for this task - again, not that there were probably a lot of people having a sleepover in the Temple, but if you’ll remember Samuel was dedicated before God before he was born, and the circumstances of his life placed him in a position where he would be READY to receive both the awakening or the call to awaken.
I know that theologically for some of you that idea can tread into dangerous waters - not that I’m going to enter into a debate about predestination versus free will - but it’s kind of cool to note that Samuel had both the opportunity to ignore or confuse where the calling was coming from (God or Eli - divine or human) AND it was evident by the continual voice of God that there was a reason Samuel was being called.
One of the things I really want you to take home from this - when you consider the COULD, SHOULD, MUST questions of AWAKENING, don’t really undersell the importance of the “I” (you) in the equation. It’s not just “What must be done,” but also it’s “What must I do?”
We often talk about the dangers of narcissism, but in this example, it IS about you; your willingness, not your greatness.
When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” "Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” "I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” Luke 19:37-40 (NIV)
In this passage, the people of Israel were awakening to the coming of the Messiah. And they just could not contain their joy - their excitement - and His arrival. And Jesus even says that if they did not do as they MUST, that the rocks would cry out. I personally tend to take Jesus’ words as somewhat literal, and in terms of serving God, I don’t want to take a backseat to a freaking rock.
It’s almost no different like when Jesus stated in John 11:25 (NIV): Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies;”
When He refers to Himself as the resurrection, the word He uses is anastasis - which is not JUST a in the context of how we often hear this verse (at funerals) - it literally means “to stand on your feet again” - Jesus was saying I am here to help you to stand up - something we all do once we AWAKEN (“Okay, okay - I’m GETTING UP.”) - also the same word used in Luke 2:34 when Jesus is taken into the Temple for dedication and Simeon - the Priest at the time - says:
"This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel,”
Christ would be the impetus for an AWAKENING in Israel.
And who else today have we been looking who was taken into the Temple, dedicated before God, under the guidance and tutelage of a Priest.
And if the desire to be better than a lump of coal (rock that cries out) isn’t enough to stir you to action - consider this: if you have been thinking about something that you’re AWAKENING to that you believe you COULD, SHOULD, MUST do, and you’re still in the “Why me” or “Is it really vitally important that I do this” phase, what if other people had stopped to do that and never fully awoke to their dreams - the potential they have within them - to their God-given tasks, talents or dreams…I wouldn’t have U2 (which would be a crime) - if Thomas Edison had been stingy or lazy I wouldn’t be able to get frustrated and sucked in to LOST or 24 - if Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father, hadn’t given heed to the dreams God sent to him (Matthew 1:24; Matthew 2:13-15) the Biblical story might have had a totally different slant -
When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.
When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. "Get up," he said, "take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him." So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: "Out of Egypt I called my son."
Or to look back even further in the story of the Bible - if Samuel had not been willing to do what was asked of him after he was awoken…later on in his life (ministry), Samuel was the one who God lead to find David and anoint him as he next ruler of Israel…and from David came the lineage Jesus came from…
Proverbs 29:18 says "Where there is no vision, the people perish" (KJV) - the Message translation says “If people can't see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves.”
God CAN use a rock - but instead He wants to use YOU.
Samuel’s response was “Speak - for your servant is listening.” (v10). The Message translates it to “Speak. I’m your servant, ready to listen.” Be ready.
What you have been called to awaken to may be something that only you can do - which is why God tells you why you must awaken - where you are, in the place you are, and may how you awaken show a willingness to undertake that task, and not drag your feet (or other parts) out of the slumber you find yourself in.