August 13: 1 Samuel 3

"And the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision" (1 Sam. 3:1).

This is a very disturbing statement - at least, it should be to anyone who cares about the Word of God. In the days of Samuel, there just wasn't much of God's word available. It is not that folk did not possess a Bible (there was the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament, but ordinary folk did not have ready access to it); God simply wasn't revealing himself as he had done in the days of Moses. These, of course, are the days after the Judges, and every Sunday School child knows how to summarize the book of Judges, because "In the time of the judges, everybody did that which was right in their own eyes." That's the phrase that repeats itself throughout the book of Judges. It's a time of great sin. It's a time of low spirituality. It's a time when people are pleasing themselves. It's a time of spiritual neglect. God has withdrawn Himself from His people for a season. There are no great preachers, there are no great prophets; and when God is calling Samuel, He's calling Samuel into a context in which God hasn't spoken. God hasn't been speaking to His people.

Several centuries later, just before the Assyrian invasion, the Prophet Amos will say that "There is a famine of hearing the word of God" (Amos 8:11). And this can occur for two reasons: First, a lack of preachers. God didn't call many prophets in this time. Samuel is one of them. He's one of the first ones, one of the great prophets, but he is unique. What of God were to withdraw his blessing from us and remove preachers and teachers from the land? What if in-take at the seminaries were to fall to unprecedented levels? What if, suddenly, owning a Bible was illegal and massive efforts were in place to confiscate existing copies? And are we grateful enough for the generosity of provision that God has currently put in our way? Have we thanked God today that we have ready access to Scripture in a thousand different ways? Second this shortfall in God's Word can occur in another way -- by selective deafness on our part!

There was a great early Puritan preacher by the name of John Rogers, in the sixteenth century. He studied at Cambridge University. He was a friend of William Tyndale. He refused to acknowledge the validity of the Roman Catholic Church, and especially the doctrine of the real presence in the sacraments, for which under Queen Mary he was burnt at the stake. He was married, and he had eleven children. There's a tender description in Foxe's Book of Martyrs of John Rogers bidding farewell to all eleven of his children, and then his wife. And then he mounts the stairs and is burnt at Smithfield Market in London. In one of his sermons, John Rogers, as he was reading the Scriptures, stopped, and pretending to be God said to the people (who apparently weren't listening) that God was angry with them. And he lifted the Bible and began to walk out of the building. And then (putting himself in his own person) he falls upon his knees and begins to implore God not to take the Scriptures away from the people, but to return the Bible. And then (in the voice of God) relents and says, "I'll give the Scriptures back to you for a little while longer."

Now, my friends, the word of God was rare in Samuel's day, but it's not rare in our day. But it can become rare by selective deafness on our part. Are you hearing the word of God?