March 19

1 Samuel 1-3, Psalm 78

A number of years ago, while leading a home group, I mentioned that one of the amazing things about the Bible is that it never stops speaking and teaching if we are willing to be to be taught and listen. I mentioned that in medical school, though the work and amount of information was voluminous, it was finite. In other words, if I studied a certain book I could master it, close my eyes and see the answers for the test, etc. The Bible was different though, no matter how many times I read a certain passage, the Holy Spirit conveys something fresh. Interestingly, there was someone in the group, a fairly young individual who disagreed and said that he fully knew the Bible. God can only fill an empty vessel. If we come to prayer or our daily reading full, then we leave no room for the Holy Spirit to fill. Many Biblically illiterate individuals have been inoculated in their churches. They are familiar with certain rote prayers and also familiar with some commonly read passages, such as the Good Samaritan. When I share my faith with others, I try to convey to shed their pre-conceived ideas when they hear a familiar passage so that they can open their minds to what God wants to teach them. For instance, in the Good Samaritan, there is so much more than just being a good neighbor in this parable. For instance, the first two men who came upon the crime scene were a priest and a Levite, the two most religious members of the Jewish community, both of whom chose not to help (Luke 10:25-37).

We first read of the mother of Samuel in the book of 1 Samuel in chapter 1. Due to her barrenness and continuous taunting by Peninnah, she comes before God in spontaneous and heartfelt prayer. We read in 1:10, "And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the Lord and wept in anguish." In 1:12-13, we read, "And it happened, as she continued praying before the Lord, that Eli watched her mouth. Now Hannah spoke in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard." So much prayer in both Christian and Jewish circles is rote and repetitive. Growing up in a mainstream denomination, I memorized many prayers like The Lord's Prayer, The Nicene Creed, The Apostles Creed, etc. I spoke them but didn't understand them nor did I speak these from my heart, just rotely from my memory. When I see many of my Orthodox Jewish patients praying, their fingers fly through the Psalms at the speed of light, and their lips fly at the same speed. At such a pace there is no possible way to understand or wait for a response from God. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He warned them in Matthew 6 to not pray like the hypocrites who like to be seen by and elevated in the eyes of other men for their prayers, nor be like the heathens who like to use vain repetitions when they pray (Matthew 6:5-7). Yet this is exactly how most people pray. When Hannah's prayer is answered, she responds in spontaneous prayer as we see the beginning of this in 1 Samuel 2:1, "And Hannah prayed and said: "My heart rejoices in the Lord; My horn is exalted in the Lord." When our prayer is answered to we take the credit or do we thank the One who answered our prayer. When God is trying to communicate to us, are we open or deaf to His words. We see in 1 Samuel 3:4, "that the Lord called Samuel. And he answered, "Here I am!" A little further in 3:10, we read, "Now the Lord came and stood and called as at other times, "Samuel! Samuel!" And Samuel answered, "Speak, for Your servant hears."

We read in Jesus' message to the church in Laodicea in Revelation 3:20, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me." Jesus also said, when referring to Himself as the Good Shepherd in John 10:27, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me." God is speaking, but are we listening? When we approach His Word in Scripture, do we approach it with fear and trembling, in anticipation of what He might choose to convey to us? When we approach Him in prayer, do we throw the laundry list at Him and move on, or do we actually dialogue with Him and wait for a response? The response is often determined by whether we are dutifully following the dictates in a religious manner, or whether we approach each day, each hour, each minute with Him in a true sincere relationship. He is so real and will never play hide and seek with us. The question is do we truly seek Him daily and desire a sincere relationship with Him?

Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley:

Marj Lancaster