NOTE: The following are the revised and slightly abridged notes used to preach the first message of the new year. This message introduced the series titled “2020 Vision.” We hope to have the audio uploaded soon!
Many use the word vision to establish a vision for their life, organization, or church. This message is not so much about that. It’s more about seeing clearly so you can live confidently in the world today. We need some help navigating the darkness. Yes, without being negative, we can admit that the world can be a dark place. We can’t afford to have blurred vision. We need to see clearly. We need the light of God’s Word shed upon our path in order to keep from stumbling.
Example: Getting glasses in the 2nd grade, first visit to the optometrist, and a new nick name… four eyes!
READ 1 Samuel 3:1-21!
1 The boy Samuel ministered to the Lord before Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no widespread revelation. 2 And it came to pass at that time, while Eli was lying down in his place, and when his eyes had begun to grow so dim that he could not see, 3 and before the lamp of God went out in the tabernacle of the Lord where the ark of God was…
- Eli was the high priest of Shiloh, the second-to-last Israelite judge (succeeded only by Samuel) before the rule of the Kings of Israel and Judah.
- One night, Samuel heard a voice calling his name. According to the first-century Jewish historian Josephus, Samuel was about 11-12 years old. Samuel initially assumed it was coming from Eli and went to Eli to ask what he wanted.
Can you hear me now? Checking Verizon signal strength (2002-2011), now he (Paul Marcarelli) works for Sprint.
- Word (utterance, speech) of the Lord was rare, precious… there was no widespread revelation (chazown), vision, divine communication, infrequent, vision, didn’t exist, nothing
- While Eli was lying down in his place, and when his eyesight (spiritual faculties) had begun to grow (profane, polluted, weak) so dim that he could not see.
- Before the lamp of God went out in the tabernacle of the Lord where the ark of God was (before dawn).
There are 3-4 significant characteristics shared regarding Eli, the prophet. It identifies some very important aspects of his life which identify his spirituality.
- God’s Word was rare. There was no widespread revelation.
- He was lying down… asleep. It was dark. His eyesight was weak, so dim he could not see.
- The lamp was about to go out (even in God’s presence).
In order to have 2020 Vision you need…
- A fresh revelation of God’s Word
- To wake up and receive your sight… eyes to see, discernment
- Oil for the lamp, the presence of God, the work of the Holy Spirit
To have 2020 vision you need the lamp of GOD’S WORD in your life… the BIBLE!
“Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint.” -Proverbs 29:18
In other words, when we don’t hear from God, things tends to go from bad to worse. One can simply look at society today to see how true that statement is. We need God’s Word to guide and direct us, to keep us on the path that leads to eternal life.
Your Word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. -Psalm 119:105
When there is no word from God, this is actually judgment from God in itself, as when God gave the following judgment through the prophet Amos.
“The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign LORD, “when I will send a famine through the land — not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD.” -Amos 8:11
There is no greater judgment of God upon a people than His silence – the withholding of His Word. We need a fresh revelation of God’s Word.
To have 2020 vision you need the lamp of SPIRITUAL SIGHT in your life… the EYE!
The details here are rich in symbolism. Eli’s eyes are weak which reminds us of his weak spiritual vision or faculties. We have already seen that Eli was not very discerning when it came to spiritual things. He thought Hannah was drunk when she was praying in the temple. He did nothing when his sons made a mockery of the priesthood. His fading eyesight, his fading vision, is highly symbolic of this time in Israel when the word of the Lord was rare and there was no real revelation.
Jesus refers to the eye as the “lamp of the body” and if it is dark, how great is the darkness (Matthew 6:23 and Luke 11:34).
Example: Becoming “woke”
Consider Lamentations 5:17 which is in the context of a prayer for restoration…
“Because of this our hearts are faint, because of these things our eyes grow dim.”
Sin always causes our heart to faint and our eyes to grow dim.
When our eyesight is dim we make mistakes. Consider, Isaac blessing Jacob (Genesis 27).
To have 2020 vision you need the lamp of the HOLY SPIRIT in your life… The OIL!
We are also told that the lamp of God had not yet gone out. The priests were required to keep the lamps burning in the temple every night from evening until morning (Exodus 27:21). This detail places the timing of Samuel’s call late in the night, perhaps shortly before dawn, but it also gives us a ray of hope. Yes, the word of God was rare, but God had not given up on his people. The lamp of God had not yet gone out.
Eli was lying down in his usual place, and Samuel was lying down in the temple, close to the room where the ark was. This is the first time the Ark of the Covenant is mentioned in 1 Samuel, but it will become very important in the chapters to come.
“Here I am!”
First time… Samuel ran! He was eager and obedient. Don’t you love this? Have you lost this?
Second time…Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, nor was the word of the Lord yet revealed to him (vs. 7).
Even in his poor spiritual condition, Eli perceived that God was talking to Samuel.
Finally Eli figured out what was going on. Remember, Eli was not all bad. Eli blessed Hannah in the temple, and God honored that blessing. He rebuked his sons for their sin, even if it was too little, too late. Eli just seems a little sluggish. He is slow to act and slow to pick up on things, although he also sinned by honoring his sons above God. But once he figures out that it is the Lord who is calling Samuel, he gives Samuel some good advice. He tells him to lie down as before, and this time to respond, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”
Third time is the charm… “Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears.”
When speaking to us, God almost always confirms His word again and again. It is almost always generally rash to do something dramatic in response to a single “inner voice” from the LORD. If God speaks He will confirm, and often in a variety of ways.
Samuel is among several others who also said, “Here I am” when the LORD spoke to them:
- Abraham (Genesis 22:1)
- Jacob (Genesis 46:2)
- Moses (Exodus 3:4)
- Isaiah (Isaiah 6:8)
- Ananias (Acts 9:10)
God spoke to Samuel concerning what was going to happen to Eli.
Through the word of the man of God in 1 Samuel 2:27-36, Eli already heard of the judgment to come. This word to young Samuel was a word to confirm the previous message from God.
At this important time in Israel’s history, God raised up Samuel as a great prophet. Samuel is rightly seen as Israel’s last judge and first prophet.
Wherever God is WORKING, He will REVEAL Himself by His Word.
We’ve recently seen spiritual greats pass. Generation to generation the concern often times is that the younger generation won’t experience God like the previous. In fact, there is great hope that the next generation will receive a fresh revelation even while the previous generation is waning.
Moses (Deut 34:7), Caleb, Simeon, Anna… all examples of those aged who did not lose their sharp edge or passion. Samuel is one of many young people God used mightily. Others include Josiah, young David, Mary, and Timothy (1 Timothy 4:12).
READ Acts 2:17-18!
“17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy. Your young men shall see visions. Your old men shall dream dreams. 18 And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; and they shall prophesy.”
Young men see visions… old men dream dreams… upon the young and old… men and women… and they will prophesy! Isn’t this so encouraging. Are you young. Good! Are you old? Good! What is your gender? It doesn’t matter! God isn’t finished… and He is not finishes with you!
Your response? Here am I!
A Few Takeaways…
1) God desires to speak to us. We need to learn to listen.
2) We don’t always hear very well. Sometimes we’re like Samuel: we don’t hear very well because we need instruction. Samuel did not recognize God’s voice until Eli explained it to him. Sometimes we’re like Eli: we do not hear from God because we are spiritually sluggish. Remember, it took Eli three times to figure out what was going on. But sometimes we’re like Eli’s sons: we do not hear from God because we have closed our ears to God’s word and we are disobedient.
3) God speaks to us primarily through his Word. God rarely speaks directly to people. Even in the Bible God rarely spoke directly to individuals. Samuel was the exception, not the rule. Most people in the Bible received God’s word through a prophet attested by God. Today we primarily receive God’s word through the Scriptures. We need to come to God’s word with reverence and expectation, saying like Samuel, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening,” and then let God apply his word to our hearts and minds.
4) God is patient with us. I love the way God keeps coming back to Samuel in this passage. Four times God came and called Samuel’s name before Samuel finally got it. God is remarkably loving and patient. If you approach the Bible with a sincere and listening heart, God will speak to you through His Word. You may not get it all the first time, but keep coming back.
“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.” –Helen Keller
READ Psalm 37:4-7!
4 Trust in the Lord, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. 4 Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. 5 Commit[a] your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass. 6 He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.
NLT – The justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.
What is significance about the light at noon? There are no shadows!
My prayer for you is in the next year is that there would be no shadows! That you would have 2020 vision! Allow God to REMOVE every SHADOW from your life by the light of His Word, giving you spiritual eyesight and discernment, by the lamp of His Holy Spirit.
What we touched on in this first message, we will look at in detail by examining the three lamps that will help light our way in 2020.
- The Lamp of God’s Word… The Bible
- The Lamp of Spiritual Sight (Discerning light from darkness)… The Eye
- The Lamp of the Holy Spirit… The Oil