God Calls Little Children
July 31st, 1960 @ 8:15 AM
1 Samuel 3
GOD CALLS LITTLE CHILDREN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Samuel 3
7-31-60 8:15 a.m.
Now, the sermon this morning is a continuation of the message of last Sunday morning. In our following through these great epochs in the Bible in the Old Testament, we have come to the third chapter of 1 Samuel; 1 Samuel chapter 3. And we are speaking of God’s Call to Little Children. Now this is the reading of the Word in the third chapter of 1 Samuel:
And the child Samuel ministered unto the Lord before Eli. And the word of the Lord was precious in those days—
it was scarce, it was like diamonds—
there was no open vision.
And it came to pass at that time, when Eli was laid down in his place, and his eyes began to wax dim, that he could not see;
And ere the lamp of God went out in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was, and Samuel was laid down to sleep;
That the Lord called Samuel: and he answered, Here am I.
And he ran unto Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou calledst me. And Eli said, I called not; lie down again. And he went and lay down.
And the Lord called yet again, Samuel. And Samuel arose and went to Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou didst call me. And he answered, I called not, my son; lie down again.
Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, neither was the word of the Lord yet revealed unto him.
[1 Samuel 3:1-7]
And then last Sunday morning, I spoke about that. God calls little children to a saving faith in Him. And I spoke of the conversion of little children. That’s all that I had time for last Sunday morning. And this is the description of the child Samuel as the description of all of our children:
Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, neither was the word of the Lord yet revealed unto him.
And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou didst call me. And old Eli—
the pastor of the church, the priest of God—
and old Eli perceived that the Lord had called the child.
[1 Samuel 3:7-8]
And instead of saying to the little fellow, “It’s just a dream that you dreamed. Go lie down again.” Or, instead of saying to the little child, “It’s just your childish imagination. Go lie down again.” Or instead of saying, “You’re just emotionally upset. Some preacher or some teacher has been talking to you, and you’re too young to understand. Go lie down again.” Instead of saying that, when old “Eli perceived that the Lord had called the child,
Eli said unto Samuel, If He calls thee again, thou shalt say, Speak, Lord; for Thy servant heareth.
So Samuel went and lay down in his place. And the Lord came, and stood, and called as at other times, Samuel, Samuel.
Then Samuel answered, Speak.
[1 Samuel 3: 9-10]
And apparently because of the holiness of God’s name—did you know we do not know how to pronounce the name of God? They never pronounced it—just the high priest once a year in the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement [Hebrews 9:7, 12], and when the high priest died and when the order was taken away, there died with the high priest the pronunciation of God’s name [Leviticus 16:32-34]. And nobody knows how to pronounce that holy name. Your name “Jehovah,” they’ve taken the word, the vowel pointing for Adonai, “Lord,” and have placed it to the consonants of apparently what was pronounced as “Yahweh,” and that’s where they got “Jehovah.” But there’s no such word as “Jehovah,” it’s just a hybrid, it’s a concoction. Nobody knows the name of God, how to pronounce it, so holy was that blessed, blessed name.
And apparently the child Samuel, in reverential deference to the name of God, did not speak it, but just said, “Speak,” and left out the name of God. “Speak; for Thy servant heareth” [1 Samuel 3:10]. Then you have the commitment of Samuel to the Lord, of which we spake last Sunday.
Now the chapter closes, verses 19 to 21:
And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground.
And all Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the Lord.
And the Lord appeared again in Shiloh: for the Lord revealed Himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the Lord.
[1 Samuel 3:19-21]
Now this morning we’re going to speak of God’s call to little children, to special ministries, to special service. And then we’re going to speak last of God’s call to little children sometimes to go to be with the Lord Jesus in heaven. Those are the three things. Last Sunday: God’s call to little children to faith in Christ, to become Christians. Whenever God touches the heart of a little child, don’t ever stand in the way. When the little fellow or the little girl says, “I want to tell the pastor I’ve given my heart to Jesus” or “I want to go down to the front and take Jesus as my Savior,” don’t ever, ever, ever interdict. Don’t ever refuse. Don’t ever block the way. Any time, anywhere, a child wants to move toward God, encourage the child. That’s wonderful. That’s the Spirit of God in the little child’s heart. Don’t ever interdict, refuse, stand in the way. It’s a happy hour. It’s a great day.
You have lots of time to teach the child what baptism means. That will come in its day—lots of time to teach the child the meaning of the Lord’s Supper, the meaning of church membership. You have lots of time to teach the child those things. Nor will the pastor present the child to the congregation to be received for baptism until God says, “This is the hour and the time.” But they’re two different things. Just like I have two hands and not one hand, if this hand represented what it is to trust Jesus as the Savior and this hand could represent what it is to be baptized and to be a member of the church, so they are separate. When God quickens the heart of the little child, and the little child says, “I feel I want to give my heart in trust to Jesus,” encourage him in it. Don’t ever—don’t ever stand in the way. And when the little child wants to come forward and confess his faith in Christ, encourage him in it, go with him, come down to the front with him. Then in God’s time you can teach him what it is to be baptized, and we can present him to the church. They’re two different things.
So this word of the Lord that came to Samuel, and the word of the Lord will come to any child when that child is placed under the influence of the gospel of the Son of God. The Lord made us for Himself, and we are normal when we respond to God. It is normal for a man to pray. He may be a cussing, blasphemous infidel all of his life, but in times of great danger and terror, chances are he will automatically, unconsciously without volitionally planning, he will pray. That’s just the nature how God made us. It is normal for a child to be quickened. And it will always happen when the child is placed under the preaching of the gospel of the Son of God. So with this child, when he reached a certain age, the word of the Lord came to his heart. And under the influence of the old pastor, old Eli, the child opened his heart and his life to the Lord Jesus [1 Samuel 3:7-8].
Now in the instance of Samuel, not only was he called to faith in Jesus to be a Christian, but the child was called to be a minister before the Lord. He was called to be a prophet in the presence of God and in the presence of Israel [1 Samuel 3:20]. Now we speak of that: in the thirteenth chapter of the Book of Acts and the thirty-sixth verse, “For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption” [Acts 13:36].
However a man may be devoted in his life and may be given to the ministry of Christ, he must accept the fact of a limited ministry. He has a certain time, and a certain date, and a certain age, and a certain length of life. But however noble, however able, however gifted, however favored and blessed of God, he must accept the fact of a limited ministry. “And David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption” [Acts 13:36].
That is sometimes a most difficult thing for a minister of Christ to accept. Sometimes a minister may so desire to serve God, the zeal of his heart burns like a flame in his soul, and he wants to shepherd the flock, and to build up the household of faith, and to study, and to pray, and to prepare, and to deliver the message of God, to win the lost, to visit the sick, to minister to the needy. However much it may be in the minister’s heart to do those things, he must accept the fact that his ministry is humanly limited. He can only see just so many people. He can only study just so many hours. He can only go to so many places. He can only read so many books. He must accept a limited ministry. He cannot do everything that he would like to do. That fact is so harshly true in his life, in the length of his days. He must accept the fact of a limited ministry in his life. There are a certain number of years that are known to God that he can command and that he can use for the Lord. And then like David, who served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, he grew old, and saw corruption—he died [Acts 13:36].
Even the apostle Paul, God’s sterling ambassador, God’s incomparable preacher, even the apostle Paul, when he wrote to Philemon at Colosse, referred to himself as “Paul the aged” [Philemon 1:9]. And in the second letter to Timothy, he said in the last chapter, “For the time of my departure is at hand. I am ready to be offered up. I have finished my course” [2 Timothy 4:6-7]. In the life of all of God’s ministry, whether it is out there on the foreign fields, whether it is in the great denominational enterprises at home, or whether it is in the pulpit in a great church like the First Baptist Church in Dallas, the minister there, the minister here, as the minister before us, and as the minister now, must accept a limited age, a limited tenure. It is for so long, then it is no more.
I stood in Westminster Abbey and looked at the plaque that was dedicated to John Wesley. There were five of his great sayings written there on the plaque dedicated to that wonderful preacher. And one of his sayings on that plaque is this, “God buries His workman, but carries on His work.” Through this generation, then somebody else must be raised up, and somebody else must be called. Somebody else must be consecrated and set aside. Somebody else must be ordained. Somebody else must carry on God’s work!
Every generation must have its spokesman and its preacher. In the days of Spurgeon, Spurgeon served his generation. Then Spurgeon died. B. H. Carroll, mighty theologian and ambassador for God, served his generation, and then he died. Then George W. Truett served his generation, and then the great pastor and prince of preachers died. Spurgeon cannot be the preacher for the generation of Carroll. Carroll cannot be the preacher for the generation of Truett, and Truett cannot be the preacher for our generation. Every generation must have its spokesman for God, must have its ambassador from the courts of heaven. Every generation must have its preacher, its expounder of the Word of the living God. And then the voice is silent, and the tongue is still, and the body dies, and sees corruption. “David, after he had served his generation, fell on sleep, and saw corruption” [Acts 13:36]. We have a limited ministry. Then what? Then what? Unless God lays His hands upon children and brings them up and places in their hearts and minds the word of God, within one generation, except God did that, the world would turn to hedonism and to paganism.
We are never but one generation away from the darkness of paganism and infidelity. Every generation must have its preacher and its missionary and its godly prophet. And that comes to pass when the Spirit of the Lord reaches down and says, “I have chosen for Myself in this special ministry this lad and this lass.” God’s kingdom couldn’t go on, and God’s church couldn’t be built up, and the great message of Christ could not be proclaimed in the world were it not that God calls children into these special ministries.
God called Moses when he was a child in the arms of his mother who nursed him [Exodus 2:1-10]. When he was on Pharaoh’s throne, where did he learn those great fundamentals of the faith of Jehovah? From the sorcerers in Pharaoh’s court? From the wizards and the necromancers and all of the enchanters that thronged around Pharaoh? No! He learned them as a child from the mouth and lips and tongue and testimony of his sainted mother! [Exodus 2:7-10].
And Joseph as a child stood in the presence of his father and spake of the visions God had poured into his soul [Genesis 37:5-11]. David, as a child taking care of his father’s flocks because of his youth, saw the power of God in his own hands and in his own life as he shepherded the sheep [1 Samuel 16:11, 17:34-37]. The call to children: [Paul] took Timothy, who from a child knew the Word of the Lord [2 Timothy 3:15]; so God calls children today.
I’ve repeated, you’ve heard this a thousand times in this church, a mark of the favor and Spirit of God upon a church is this: from time to time, God will say, “Separate to Me for the gospel ministry, separate to Me for the ambassadorship across the sea this child and that child, that they might be My prophets and representatives and spokesmen in the earth.” And almost always, almost always, that comes in the days of tender young childhood.
I went to a Foreign Mission Board meeting as some of you here have. That day they appointed seventeen missionaries. And as I listened to the testimony of those seventeen missionaries, without exception, every one of the seventeen said that they felt the call of God to be a foreign missionary when they were four, five, six, or seven years of age—every one of them, every one of them. I rarely, rarely see a man of God, a preacher, a missionary, I rarely see one who did not feel that call when he was a child, young, young, very young!.
Brother Melvin Carter spake of the Vacation Bible School: I held evangelistic services for the children from the ages of nine through the Intermediate age. Then I visited with the little children in the Primary and Beginner departments, and in one of those assemblies as I sat there and talked to the little boys and girls, one of those bright little boys said to me, “Tell us how it was that you were called to be a preacher.” And I said, “When I was your age,” and I was speaking to children six years of age, “when I was your age I felt God’s call to be a preacher!” And all the days of my childhood when I went to the grammar school, all the days of my youth when I went to high school, all the days of my young manhood in college and in the seminary, I was preparing and studying to be a preacher.
God calls us when we are children. Children are sensitive to the Spirit of God. I think of Thomas Hood’s famous poem “I Remember, I Remember,” do you remember it? This is it:
I remember, I remember
The fir trees dark and high;
I used to think their slender spires
Were pressed against the sky;
Twas but a childish fancy,
But now ‘tis little joy
To know I’m farther away from God,
Than when I was a boy.
It’s in childhood that God seems so near. When you get old and calloused, sometimes God seems far, far away. God calls children to special service.
Now, just let me say a word about this verse. I haven’t time to speak of it, and this is my last morning message until I come back in September. Next Sunday will be my last service here until September, and next Sunday morning, we have the Lord’s Supper at this hour. And I’ll not have opportunity to bring a sermon, so in just a moment, for the time is past, may I speak of God’s call to little children in heaven?
“Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto Me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. And He laid His hands on them, and blessed them” [Matthew 19:14-15; Mark 10:16]. In the vision of Zechariah the prophet, in the eighth chapter and the fifth verse, in the New Jerusalem, “And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof” [Zechariah 8:5]. Isn’t that an unusual thing? And that’s the only place in the Bible where the word “boys” occurs; it’s right there. It’s the only place in the Bible where the word “girls” occurs; it’s right here. In the prophetic vision of the prophet Zechariah, in the New Jerusalem he saw the streets—the golden streets of the new heaven [Revelation 21:21]—he saw them filled with little children, boys and girls, playing in the streets thereof [Zechariah 8:5].
There’s a famous painting called The Pitcher of Tears, and a poet looking upon it wrote these stanzas:
Many days a stricken mother,
To her loss unreconciled,
Wept hot bitter tears complaining,
“Cruel death has stolen my child.”
But one night as she was sleeping
To her soul there came a vision,
And she saw her little daughter
In the blessed fields Elysian.
All alone the child was standing
And a heavy pitcher holding.
Swift, the mother hastened to her,
Close around her arms enfolding.
“Why so sad and lonely, darling?”
Asked she, stroking soft her hair.
“See the many, many children
Playing in the garden fair.
“Look, they’re beckoning and calling.
Go and help them pluck the flowers.
Put aside the heavy pitcher,
Smile and play these sunny hours.”
From the tender lips a-quiver
Fell the answer on her ears,
“On the earth my mother’s weeping,
And this pitcher holds the tears.
“Tears that touch the heavenly blossoms
Spoil the flowers where’er they fall.
And as long as she is weeping,
I must stand and catch them all.”
“Wait no longer,” cried the mother,
“Run and play, sweet child of mine.
Never more shall tears of sorrow
Shroud your happiness sublime.”
Like a bird released from bondage
Sped the happy child away.
And the mother woke, her courage
Strengthened for each lonely day.
[author and work unknown]
“Suffer the little children to come unto Me . . . for of such is the kingdom of heaven” [Matthew 19:14]. And the streets of the city are filled with children, boys and girls, playing in the streets thereof [Zechariah 8:5]. Sometimes God transplants one of His little ones from this world to the world that is yet to come. In His will we live, and in His will we commit our lives and the circle of our family.
Now in this moment when we sing our song of appeal: somebody to give his life in trust to Jesus [Romans 10:9-10], somebody to put his life with us in the church, however God shall say the word and open the door, would you come and stand by me? In this balcony round, on this lower floor, in the press and throng of people this morning, into the aisle and down here to the front, “Here I come, pastor, and here I am. I give my heart to Jesus,” or, “We are coming into the church.” Would you make it now, while we stand and while we sing?
GOD CALLS LITTLE CHILDREN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Samuel 3:1-10
I. To faith in Christ
II. To special service
1. Physical strength
2. Number of days
3. Someone to take our place in the future
III. To heaven