Today we continue with our message series Prophetic Living. In this series we’re looking at the life of Samuel the prophet to learn principles that will help us to live prophetically. To live prophetically is to live hearing from God and speaking His message to a society that is turning away from God in many ways.
Today, our message is entitled Maturing in Ministry. We’re going to continue with the life of Samuel. We’ll see how his ministry matured so that he was ready to lead the nation of Israel through a time of great challenges. What is ministry? One definition of ministry is the serving or caring of other believers within the church. On the other hand, outreach can be defined as serving or caring for unbelievers outside of the church in the world. All believers are called to be active both in ministry and outreach.
Ephesians 4:11-12 (ESV) And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
In these verses the five main leadership roles in the church are identified as apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds or pastors and teachers. God still raises up leaders of all five types today to lead His people. Now, let’s look carefully at the role of these leaders. Their job is to equip the saints for the work of ministry. The job of the leaders is not to do the ministry, but to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry. Who are the saints? In the Bible, the saints are the believers in the church. And what does ministry do? It builds up the body of Christ, the church. Just as God gives gifts to equip the five types of leaders, so also God gives gifts to every believer to use to ministry in the church.
Romans 12:6-8 (ESV) Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
These verses refer to the different gifts that God gives to the members of His body, the church. The gifts listed here are not exhaustive, just representative. We see gifts of prophecy, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leading and helping. God desires each and every person in our church family to be involved in ministry with the gifts that God has given you. As you fulfill your calling, you will be blessed and be a blessing to others.
Today, we’re going to look at how the ministry of Samuel matured as he faced new challenges and different enemies. We’re going to see that whenever you seek to serve God and His church, you’re going to be attacked. But as we trust God, He is able to deliver us as we mature in ministry. We going to continue our study of the book of 1 Samuel, as we see …
Even though the Israelites were far from the God, they foolishly took the ark of the covenant into battle with them against the Philistines. The ark of the covenant represented God’s presence among His people. It was where His glory as revealed only to the high priest in the Holy of Holies. The Israelites lost the battle and the ark of the covenant was captured by the Philistines. On the news, Eli, the high priest, fell off his chair and died.
1 Samuel 6:1 (ESV) The ark of the LORD was in the country of the Philistines seven months.
Rather then being a blessing to the Philistines, the presence of the ark caused God’s judgement to come upon them.
1 Samuel 7:1-2 (ESV) And the men of Kiriath-jearim came and took up the ark of the LORD and brought it to the house of Abinadab on the hill. And they consecrated his son Eleazar to have charge of the ark of the LORD. From the day that the ark was lodged at Kiriath-jearim, a long time passed, some twenty years, and all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD.
Rather than being housed in a temple, the ark was placed in Abinadab’s house. After the defeat by the Philistines, Israel had been in subjection to the Philistines. Finally, after twenty years of rebellion against God and the lack of God’s blessing, the nation was mourning and seeking after God. But as we’ll see, they had not truly repented of their wickedness yet. Simply seeking for God’s blessing and the removal of problems is not repentance. The time was right for Samuel to …
1 Samuel 7:3-4a (ESV) And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the LORD with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the LORD and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.”
Samuel tells that people what true repentance is all about. Repentance is turning to the Lord with all of one’s heart and turning away from worshipping anything else. The Israelites had been seeking to turn to the Lord, yet they wanted to continue to worship their idols. Worship of these idols involved child sacrifice through burning the children to death. Worship of these idols also involved sexual prostitution, both heterosexual and homosexual and other depraved sexual rituals. These idols were believed to bring financial prosperity and victory in war. Samuel was calling them to true repentance to serve the Lord only.
1 Samuel 7:4b (ESV) So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the LORD only.
Thankfully, the people followed Samuel’s bold lead and chose to repent and serve the Lord only.
Why was the ark captured and Israel defeated by the Philistines? It was because of the sin of all Israel, including worshiping idols. This sin had even affected Eli, the high priest, and his sons, who were involved in sexual immorality in the temple of the Lord. This sin brought God’s judgement upon the nation. Finally, we see God’s prophet Samuel call the people to repentance and they turned back to serve the Lord alone.
In America today, the same demonic gods are still being worshipped. We see the result in the child sacrifice of abortion and the sexual depravity that is celebrated more and more. It is the responsibility of God’s people through the church to call for repentance across our nation to avert God’s coming judgement. Sin is restrained in a nation through God changing people’s hearts as the repent and turn toward Him. Sin is also restrained even in unbelievers through the authority of government leaders and laws that are in keeping with God’s Word. So, it is imperative that every biblical church make clear the biblical principles that should guide our electing of leaders to govern our nation.
1 Samuel 7:5-6 (ESV) Then Samuel said, “Gather all Israel at Mizpah, and I will pray to the LORD for you.” So they gathered at Mizpah and drew water and poured it out before the LORD and fasted on that day and said there, “We have sinned against the LORD.” And Samuel judged the people of Israel at Mizpah.
Samuel gathered the people of Israel and they sought the Lord together there. The people fasted and Samuel prayed for the people as they repented of sinning against the Lord. Samuel was ministering as both a prophet and the judge of Israel. He was the last and undoubtedly the best judge that ever led Israel. Sounds like everything is going great, right? Not so fast. Since the people were turning to God …
1 Samuel 7:7-8 (ESV) Now when the Philistines heard that the people of Israel had gathered at Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the people of Israel heard of it, they were afraid of the Philistines. And the people of Israel said to Samuel, “Do not cease to cry out to the LORD our God for us, that he may save us from the hand of the Philistines.”
The Philistines figured that this would be a good time to attack Israel, as they were assembled, not for war, but for worship. So, the Philistines gathered their troops and began to march toward the Israelites. The people were afraid of the coming Philistine attack. They called to Samuel to pray for them to be saved from the Philistines. We see what great faith the people of Israel had in the power of Samuel’s prayer.
1 Samuel 7:9b-10 (ESV) And Samuel cried out to the LORD for Israel, and the LORD answered him. As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel. But the LORD thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were defeated before Israel.
Samuel prayed again to the Lord and offered up a burnt offering as the Philistines attacked. Things were not looking so food. Suddenly, the Scripture says that the Lord thundered with a mighty sound. We don’t know if this sound was thunder, an earthquake or something else. But the result was that the enemy was thrown into confusion and Israel was able to defeat them. A result of the repentance of the people and the prayers of Samuel.
We learn an important principle here about ministry and turning to God. When you make a decision to get right with God or to get involved in a new ministry, get ready. Get ready for what? Get ready to be attacked by the enemy in different ways. How can you survive the attack? Through prayer. Your own prayer and the prayers of others. Through prayer, the enemy can be defeated and God’s blessing released. We need to pray for our state and our nation in this pivotal year of 2020. Abortion has been almost eliminated in Missouri and continues to plummet nationwide. More and more godly judges are being appointed and the Supreme Court hangs in the balance. Let’s pray for our nation diligently this year. Right now, let’s pray that this coronavirus can be contained and people protected from it and the fear of it. Then, throughout the year, let’s pray for God’s hand on our elections in the fall.
1 Samuel 7:12-13 (ESV) Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the LORD has helped us.” So the Philistines were subdued and did not again enter the territory of Israel. And the hand of the LORD was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel.
In 1 Samuel 4, the Philistines had defeated Israel at Ebenezer and now God had given the victory. Samuel named a memorial stone Ebenezer for the help of the Lord. God brought blessing upon the nation as Samuel led Israel in righteousness. Throughout Samuel’s entire life, the nation of Israel was protected from the Philistines. Not only were they protected, but …
1 Samuel 7:14 (ESV) The cities that the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron to Gath, and Israel delivered their territory from the hand of the Philistines. There was peace also between Israel and the Amorites.
You see, the Philistines had captured Israelite cities. Now those captured cities were restored back to Israel. Not only was there now peace, or at least a cease-fire with the Philistines, there was also peace with another perennial enemy, the Amorites. God not only brought peace, but He brought restoration of the things that the enemy had taken from His people. Instrumental in all of this was the leader that God raised up.
1 Samuel 7:15-16 (ESV) Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. And he went on a circuit year by year to Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah. And he judged Israel in all these places.
Samuel never retired from his calling. He served as prophet and judge for Israel all of his life. He travelled through Israel and acted as judge in three different places. Samuel was a righteous judge, enforcing God’s law and Word in all his decisions. Samuel was one of the blessings that God blessed Israel with.
God desires to raise up godly leaders in America, both within and outside of the church. Outside of the church, God is raising up influential leaders in government, in the courts, as educators, in business and parents and grandparents in families. These leaders are called by God to lead by biblical values. Within the church, within our church, God desires to raise up more people to serve in ministry. Just some of the ministry areas in the church are children’s ministry, church cleaning, church maintenance, ushering, giving and prayer, as well as many others. As each person uses their God-given gifts in ministry, the church is built up and becomes more influential in our society. If you’d like to be involved in in a new way in ministry, let us know on your Connect Card or talk to someone involved in the ministry you’re interested in learning more about. Together, we can make a difference in our nation and around the world.
We’ve learned a lot today from the life of Samuel about how God wants to use us. In a society that is losing the presence of God, God desires for us to call people back to God through repentance. A person can’t call themselves a Christian and serve the idols of our age. A true Christian is a person who serves the Lord alone. As we desire to serve God more fully, the enemy will attack. Yet, through prayer, God will defeat the enemy and bring blessing. God wants to bring blessing into our lives, to restore the broken pieces, so that we can be a blessing to others. God desires to see our nation restored and governed by righteous leaders and biblical laws. May each of us fulfill our call to ministry within the church and outreach to our world as God empowers us with His gifts.