The Beginning Ministry
September 11th, 1960 @ 8:15 AM
1 Samuel 3-4
THE BEGINNING MINISTRY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Samuel 3:10-4:22
9-11-60 8:15 a.m.
You who listen on the radio are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the early morning message, which is the beginning of our ministry for a new year. That is the reason that I asked our assistant pastor to lead you in reading the third chapter of the First Gospel. That is the beginning of the ministry of Jesus Christ the Son of God. And this morning, the message is taken from 1 Samuel, which is the beginning ministry of this first great prophet. At the 11:00 hour, on another radio, all of you who are here in this early morning service can listen to the message delivered by the pastor, which will be largely a presentation of things that have come to his heart in his preaching missions this last month. Also, because of a television rearrangement being made by the station for two or three or four months, we are not able to televise from the auditorium, but from the studio of the television station. And that television program has already been made by our choir under Lee Roy Till and by our assistant pastor Brother Melvin Carter, and from eleven thirty until twelve o’clock, you can hear that program over the television station. So if you get tired of listening to me preach, just turn on Mel Carter. Then if you get tired of him, or if he’s not any good, then turn back and listen to me. Whichever way you go, you cannot lose in the First Baptist Church in Dallas, the greatest church in the earth. And the more I go around and the more I look and the more I hear, the more am I persuaded of that avowal.
Now, we are following through at this early morning hour the life of Samuel. In this last summertime before I left, we had spoken of his mother and her prayer for a son. And God answered her request and placed in her arms a little boy. And when he was weaned, she brought him to the house of God and "loaned" him, the Bible says, she gave him, the rest of his days to the Lord [1 Samuel 1:28]. So the little boy grew up in the household of the faith. He was a little Levite, dressed in a linen ephod, and he ministered unto the Lord before Eli [1 Samuel 3:1].
Now last time I spoke, we left off at the tenth verse of the third chapter of 1 Samuel: the call of Samuel, and I spoke about God calls little children. If you want to turn in your Bible and follow the message, you can easily do so. God calls little children. He calls them to a confession of faith in Him, and He calls them to special service; to be missionaries, and preachers, and church leaders, and kingdom workers.
Then today at this hour we begin at the eleventh verse, which is the beginning of the ministry of this young prophet. And the Lord said to Samuel in this first prophetic vision:
Behold, I will do a thing in Israel, at which both the ears of everyone that heareth it shall tingle.
In that day I will perform against Eli all things which I have spoken against his house; when I begin, I will also make an end.
You can count on that with God, "When I begin, I will also make an end."
For I have told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.
Therefore I have sworn unto the house of Eli, that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be purged with sacrifice now or with offering forever.
And Samuel lay unto the morning, and opened the doors of the house of the Lord – as his accustomed assignment was. And Samuel feared to show Eli the vision.
Then Eli called Samuel, and said, Samuel, my son. And Samuel answered, Here am I.
And Eli said, What is the thing that the Lord hath said unto thee? I pray thee hide it not from me; God do so to thee, and more also, if thou hide anything from me of all the things which He hath said unto thee.
And Samuel told him every whit, and hid nothing from him. And Eli said, It is the Lord; let Him do what seemeth Him good.
And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him, and God 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.
And the word of Samuel came to all Israel
[1 Samuel 3:11-4:1]
Then his great continuing and following ministry begins.
There are two reasons for this vision, this prophetic announcement to the young boy, Samuel. First: it was an electric announcement that the long years when heaven was shut up, when there was no open vision, when God didn’t speak to His people, those years were past. And this is a new day. God has turned a leaf in the story of His dealings with His people. And He announces that in this first prophetic vision to this lad, Samuel.
I don’t know how long it was that heaven was shut up. I don’t know when it was that God last broke the silence and through a prophet spake to the people of the Lord. But this is an electric announcement, the same kind of a thing that happened in the days of John the Baptist. It had been four hundred years since God had spoken to His people by the mouth of a prophet.
Isn’t that a strange thing: these eras, these generations of spiritual dearth that come about in the story of the household of faith? It happens today. It seems that there will be a period when there are men of God, great prophetic voices, men delivering the Word and the message of the Lord: giants they are. Then somehow, their generation passes, and we come upon a dearth and a poverty of the vision and revelation of God.
Well, that dearth had ended. And those long years of waiting were done. And there arises in the midst of the people of the Lord a voice who speaks God’s message from heaven.
Then there is a second message, a second purpose for this revelation given to this young prophet Samuel. When I turn back the page into the previous, the second, chapter, it says, "There came a man of God," he’s unnamed. We don’t know his name. He’s just called a man of God, "There came a man of God unto Eli, and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord [1 Samuel 2:27]. And then the remainder: beginning at the twenty-seventh verse, the remainder of that second chapter is the deliverance of this message of God’s prophet to Eli.
Now this message that God brings to the young prophet Samuel is the same message that God sent to Eli through this unnamed prophet in the second chapter, all of which reminds us that whenever we have a true and a sure and a certain message from God it will always be confirmed. Now that’s a wonderful thing to remember in your own life and in God’s will for your life: when God speaks to you, to us, when God reveals His will from heaven, He will never do it in an isolated way. But He will do it by a conspiracy of circumstances. And the message of God will be confirmed and reconfirmed and reconfirmed. You won’t have any doubt. You won’t have any hesitancy at the full, final will of God, if you will look for those great confirmations from glory.
Could I illustrate that from the Book? When God appeared to Jacob, there in the land of Haran, working for his brother-in-law, Laban – when God appears in Haran to Jacob and says: "Jacob, get thee back to Bethel, back to Palestine, back to Canaan, back to the land that I swore unto thy fathers, Abraham and Isaac – get thee back," the next verse says, "Then Jacob saw that the face of Laban was not toward him as heretofore" [Genesis 31:3-5].
When God speaks to you, there will be a confirmation, always, in the conspiracy of circumstances that work in your life: "At the mouth of two or three witnesses," said the law of Moses, "shall anything and everything be established" [Deuteronomy 19:15]. When God raised Jesus from the dead, it was not just one witness that confirmed that marvelous miracle of grace and power. The women said they saw Him [Matthew 28:9-10]. And Simon said he saw Him [Luke 24:34]. And the two on the road to Emmaus said they saw Him [Luke 24:13-32]. And then, Mary Magdalene said she saw Him [John 20:11-18]. And then, all ten of the disciples said to Thomas, "We have seen Him" [John 20:19-25]. Then, about five hundred at once said, "And we have seen Him" [Matthew 28:16-17; 1 Corinthians 15:6]. And the church today is a great and undying witness to the resurrection power in raising Jesus Christ from the dead. All of these things conspire to confirm the great avowal of God.
Or take again the message of the Lord God to the Gentiles, that we should have a part in the kingdom and patience of our Savior. There was a vision that came to Cornelius. There was the confirming vision that came to Simon Peter at Joppa by the Sea. Then, while Simon Peter was speaking, there came from heaven a great confirmation in the power of the Holy Spirit that fell upon those that heard the word of Simon Peter [Acts 10:1-48]. Then, you have the tremendous confirmatory work of Paul and Barnabas as they preached the gospel to the Gentiles.
All of these things that are of heaven, that are in the will of God, are confirmed again and again and again. Now I don’t mean to say by that that when a man gives himself to the will of God he won’t have difficulties; he won’t have stones of stumbling; he won’t have trial and heartache. But when a man does what God wants him to do, those stones and those troubles and those discouragements just confirm him in his devotion to the Lord. And he looks upon them as being tests from heaven to see whether really and actually he has given himself to the work of Christ Jesus.
Always, in your life, when God speaks, there will be a confirmation in the circumstances that conspire around you to avow to you that this is what God says and this is God’s will. So it is here. There is a confirming vision that is given to this young prophet to keep from falling to the ground the words of the man of God that the Lord delivered through him to Eli.
Now, I want you to look at the solemnity of this message. In this fourteenth verse, God says to Eli through this message: "Therefore, therefore, I have sworn unto the house of Eli, that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be purged with sacrifice nor offering for ever" [1 Samuel 3:14]. Those words scare you to death!
I marvel sometimes how men travesty the judgments of God; flaunt the threatenings of the Lord. "Oh, what it is for a man to fall into the hands of the consuming fire" [Hebrews 12:29]. When we preached through the Book of Hebrews, do you remember this terrible passage in Hebrews 10:26 and following?
If we sin willfully, if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for our sins,
Nothing but a fearful looking for a judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.
He that despised Moses’ law, died without mercy under two or three witnesses;
Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, who hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?
For we know Him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto Me, I will repay, saith the Lord. And again, the Lord shall judge His people.
Then that verse, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" [Hebrews 10:31].
Don’t worry about the man who can just put the body to death: hang you, shoot you. Don’t worry about the man that can just lay hands upon your outward temple, the house that we live in, this human frame. But fear Him who has power not only to destroy the body, but to destroy the soul in damnation and in hell – fear Him! [Luke 12:4-5].
You know, it’s difficult to get away from that ringing judgment of the Bible: "The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord" [Proverbs 9:10; Job 28:28]. Now this thing that happened to Eli, this solemn thing: God said, "I will not purge the iniquity from Eli’s house with sacrifice or offering forever" [1 Samuel 3:14].
Well, let’s see what happened. There were four sons of Aaron: Nadab, the eldest; Abihu, the second; Eleazar, the third; and Ithamar, the fourth. You remember Nadab and Abihu were destroyed when they offered strange fire unto the Lord [Leviticus 10:1-2]. Then, the high priesthood devolved on Eleazar, the third son [Numbers 20:25-28]. We have no idea how the line was changed from Eleazar to Ithamar, the fourth son.
If you’ve ever been in some of these geological paradises like the Grand Canyon, or the palisades of the Hudson River, or these great glacial parks, these geologists will look in puzzlement and in wonder at those great strata of rock that are upside down and right side up and slanting and turned in great cataclysmic upheavals in the unknown ages of the past. Nobody knows how it came about: those upheavals.
So it is with the transfer of the high priesthood from the line of Eleazar to Ithamar, to which Eli belonged. Nobody knows where that upheaval came and where the shift was made. But when we come to this passage, Eli of the house of Ithamar is the high priest.
Now, in keeping with this prophecy: "There shall not an old man live to be in thine house forever, and I will not purge the iniquity of thou house forever" [1 Samuel 2:31-32; 3:14], because of the sins of the family of Eli – the indescribable sins, which you couldn’t name here, the sins of the family, the sons of Eli: Hophni and Phinehas. Now in keeping with this prophecy, what God would do to them; in the reigns of Saul and David, the household of Eli or the high priest, but do you remember the story when Saul sent Doeg the Edomite to Nob where the priest lived, and Doeg, at the command of Saul, fell upon the house of Eli and slew eighty-five – eighty-five, the entire house! – and only Abiathar escaped, and he escaped unto David [1 Samuel 22:18-20].
And in the reign of David, Abiathar was the high priest. But when David died, Abiathar joined with Joab and Adonijah in a rebellion against Solomon [1 Kings 1:7]. And because of that, Adonijah was put to death; because of that, Joab was slain at the altar; and because of that, Abiathar was thrust out from being a high priest and was exiled from the court.
Now I read from 1 Kings 2:27:
So Solomon thrust out Abiathar from being priest unto the Lord; that he might fulfill the word of the Lord, which He spake concerning the house of Eli in Shiloh.
It was a long time, but God doesn’t forget. And when the Lord pronounces a judgment and the Lord pronounces a word and the Lord threatens, maybe time shall pass before that judgment falls, but it will surely, surely come, as it did here in the case of Eli.
Well, what would you do in the face of an awful judgment like that? What would you do? It seems to me that if a man was presented with a message from heaven like Samuel delivered unto Eli, it seems to me that he would fall on his face in agony, in tears, in supplication, crying for mercy at the hands of God. Well, old Eli had many virtues, and I don’t know whether this is one or not, but when that judgment was said, he just stoically said: "Let God do what seemeth Him good" [1 Samuel 3:18].
Isn’t that unusual? Just let Phinehas continue on his way, and let Hophni continue on his way. And let the evil and the perverseness and the vile iniquity of the priests themselves just continue on their way. And then, he stoically says: "Let the Lord doeth what seemeth Him good."
Oh, Eli, if you had just fallen on your face and just cried unto God, there would have been a different story than the one we’re now going to look at. But he didn’t do it. Just let things roll along; just let them move along; just let them take their course and God do what He wants to do.
All right, let’s see what happens. Now Samuel begins his ministry. "And the word of Samuel came to all Israel" [1 Samuel 4:1]. What does that mean? I’ve taken up my time with these other things when I wanted to preach here. Well, I don’t know how to get all of this in. But this is so vital a thing, would you listen to the pastor?
When it says here that the word of Samuel came to all of Israel, that passage there doesn’t mean, it doesn’t refer to a prophetic vision. But what it means is that Samuel, dressed in his ephod, a Levite, took the Book of God in his hands and went through all Israel, teaching the Word of the Lord.
May I illustrate that? In 2 Chronicles, the seventeenth chapter, it begins, And Jehoshaphat – a good king in Judah – and Jehoshaphat in the third year of his reign, sent Levites, and they taught in Judah, and had the Book of the Law of the Lord with them, and went about through all the cities of Judah, and taught the people, with the Book of God in their hands [2 Chronicles 17:7-9].
Now, may I just hastily add one other: the good king Hezekiah, "And Hezekiah spake comfortably unto all of the Levites." Now look at it: the Levites, "Who taught the good knowledge of the Lord." Isn’t that a beautiful way to say it: "Who taught the good knowledge of the Lord?" [2 Chronicles 30:22].
Now, that beginning ministry is right there in the fourth chapter and the first verse of 1 Samuel. Samuel, dressed in his linen ephod, the Levite, took the Book of God in his hands, and he went through all Israel teaching the good knowledge of the Lord.
And right there is where this morning I had planned for my sermon to fall. O God in heaven, how vitally and eternally and everlastingly important is the teaching ministry of this church, teaching with the Book in your hand; not a quarterly in your hand; not some commentary in your hand – with the Bible in your hand like, like Samuel, teaching the knowledge of the Lord.
I don’t mean you don’t have to study. I study. I study every morning – unless there is an exigency that takes me away – every morning, six days a week, I’m in my study in the morning, reading, praying, poring over these Scriptures and these books. But it does mean what it says, that they took the Book of God in their hands, after they had prepared their own selves, and they taught the good knowledge of God among the people.
Now I’d like to expiate on this, and I haven’t time. There are one or two things that our church must do; either, either we build our own school system or we emphasize beyond anything we have ever emphasized before the teaching of the Word of God to our people! It’s one or the other. It’s one or the other. If we’re going to have the public school system take care of the education of our children, then this church, in solemn convocation and in deepest prayer and commitment, accept the responsibility of teaching these children the Word and the knowledge of the Lord.
I was really blessed this summer. I listened to a great learned professor from Pennsylvania. He’s a Christian, he’s a theologian – a marvelous teacher, a marvelous teacher – and I just, oh! I learned so much and was blessed as I listened to him. He said, for example, he said, "You know, we had a little convocation in our home, a little review in our home about our children. And we set down what we wanted for those children. And we had three things: one, their health; two, their security; and third, their health, their security and their fine and splendid adjustment to life – those three things." Then he said, "After we wrote them down, we began looking at them, and we found to our amazement, there was not a Christian virtue in any of the three." Health: but what of a boy or a girl or a man or a woman that might not have health? Then what? Then what? Is there no other answer? Health?
Security: that’s a new word, our forefathers never thought about security! They were carving a nation out of the wilderness. But we are enamored with security, and what if you don’t have it? Then what?
And then, this "adjustment to society," you should have listened to him as he talked about that. He spoke about his high school children, "Should they adjust themselves," he said, "to the kind of mores that are taking hold of civilization and culture and social life in America?"
And of course, he, even though he’s not a Baptist, I was amazed to see some of the great fundamental convictions in his soul when he referred to this generation and this hour and this world in which the kingdom is not yet come. He said, "Shall I teach my child to adjust himself to the teachings of this world and conform to them or shall I teach him to stand up against them?"
So he said, "We just had a little review about teaching our children, and we backed around, and we decided," then he launched into another long lecture upon the great ideals and purposes of pedagogical education. He said, "Most of them are that our children be happy, second, that they turn into mature adults." Then, he said, "Our great purpose and our great commitment is that these are souls that we are preparing for everlasting life, immortal souls to live in eternity. And these other things are incidental compared to the great commitment of the house of God."
I tell you, I can’t do it like he did. You ought to have been listening to him. And then my soul stirred within me, and my heart moved within me, and my spirit rose within me! We play at this matter of teaching; we do, incidentally, maybe; half-heartedly, maybe; our teachers poorly qualified or no good at all. And our system of teaching is so waterly and so shallow that most any wind of doctrine can sweep our people away. They don’t know what to believe, nor do they know the great revealed doctrines in the Word of God.
I’m going to introduce a resolution, and some of you know who have read, who have read The Baptist Standard, I’m going to introduce a resolution at our Tuesday executive board meeting that we place in the heart of our denominational church-related colleges the Book, the Bible! Isn’t that a funny thing? Isn’t that a strange thing? We build a school and say, "This is a Christian school and this is a Baptist school." And its curriculum and its life and its programs are no different from a state university, where you can send your child at no expense and no tuition at all! Why, the very purpose and reason for having the Christian-related college is to build the educational, pedagogical teaching training program around the message of Christ, around the Book, around the Book!
Now that’s this thing that it says here: and Samuel, "And the word of Samuel came to all Israel" [1 Samuel 4:1], that is, he put the Book in his hands, and from city to city and place to place and house to house, he taught the Word of God. And then, of course, when, finally, he made his home at Ramah, I can see the throngs as they came and sat at his feet, and sat at his feet and said, "Samuel, teach us the Word of the Lord. Is there something that God has said? Don’t worry about these incidental extraneous things that we can hear on every hand. But is there a word from God? If there is, Samuel, tell us what God has to say. How can our souls be saved from hell? How can our sins be forgiven? How can a man get right with God? How can a sinner ever walk in the presence of the Divine Holiness? Is there a word, Samuel, from God?"
And with the Book in his hand, Samuel taught the good knowledge of the Lord. Oh, the Lord bless us. I’ve gone over this time and must quit. The Lord bless us. The Lord bless us as we assume the responsibility of teaching, as the Bible says, the good knowledge of the Lord.
Now, Lee Roy, let’s sing our song, one stanza. And while we sing it, in this throng in the balcony round, on this lower floor, somebody you give his heart to Jesus; or, a family you coming into the fellowship of the church, however God might say the word and open the door, while we sing this one stanza, on the first note of the first stanza, would you come? Come. If you’re in the balcony, down one of these stairways, or, if we’re on this lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the front, come, while we stand and while we sing.
THE BEGINNING MINISTRY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Samuel 3:10-4:22
Purpose of God’s announcement
Long period of no prophecy from God
Man of God confirmed the announcement
Eli’s sons will be judged
God does not put up with sin forever, at some point sin is judged
Consequences of Eli’s failure
Both sons are killed
Samuel becomes the prophet and judge
Eli’s descendants lose their inheritance
Samuel became the teacher of God’s Word in Israel
Parents must insure the Word of God is taught to their children