1 Samuel 2:12-25 (Part 6) – Those Jesus People! They Are Nutty But I Respect Them!

Posted: November 22, 2017 in Book of 1 Samuel
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1 Samuel 2:12-25 (Part 6 of 6)
Eli’s Wicked Sons

When I the final verse of this passage, “Meanwhile, the boy Samuel grew taller and grew in favor with the Lord and with the people” (1 Samuel 2:25), I immediately thought of LifeSong Church’s church plant in Manchester, CT. The church plant team there arrived in Connecticut back in 2012 to little fanfare. There was not an immediate opening of a church. The whole team moved into the area and found jobs in the area. There were not even church services for the first two years. But in the meantime, the church plant group were doing things to gain notice in the community. They were making connections with people of influence in the community. They were making friends with neighbors. They were doing things for people for free that usually came at a fee. They were having free movie events in the park. They were making connections with schools in the area. They were speaking of the love of Jesus Christ at every opportunity. They were being uncommon compared to the common in Manchester, CT.

It is surprising that in the region of the country that gave birth to Great Awakening in America in the 19th century that swept across America from New England, it is now one of the most spiritually dead regions of the world. Statistics showed our team that only 2% of people in New England attend church regularly. There are many that consider themselves Catholic there but it is what religious statistical experts call “cultural Catholics”. They call themselves Catholic because that is what generations of their family have been. They call themselves Catholic because everybody in their generationally laden neighborhoods call themselves Catholic. However, virtually none of them attend Mass nor participate in anything to do with the local Catholic church. Saying you are Catholic there is more a family identifier, a neighborhood identifier, etc. than it has to do with being a Christian in a real sense. So, in this spiritually dead place that was once such a thriving hotbed of Christianity and Christian thought for the Protestant church, we find people who have no concept of Christ. They believe in nothing. They believe in post-modern universalism (all roads lead to some place of nirvana or heaven). They believe in doing more good than bad and you go to a place of reward just as is the trend nationally in America. Since we measure how good we are vs. bad (essentially like a student grading their own test), then, we will always measure ourselves good and get to go to our happy place after death. That is if you believe in anything other than this existence. Many don’t believe in the afterlife at all. They just believe that this is it and you do what you have to do to get by and try not to end up alone. It is because of the death of Christianity in New England that there is a sense of resignation and blankness to the people in Manchester. Sure, they have families and good times and work and parties out back of their row houses, and occasional visits to the local Catholic church for christenings and weddings and funerals, but other than that there is the sense of blandness, a lack of hope for the future.

Into this spiritually dark place comes LifeSong’s church plant team. They engaged people with the gospel and with uncommon acts of kindness in a land where “what’s your angle” is the typical response. When people find out that LifeSong Manchester was loving on people just because Jesus told them to, they are amazed. They were amazed at how the gospel message had gotten twisted over the years in their area as people fell away from the church. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like all of a sudden the church built a building seating 5,000 and people were coming in droves to Sunday morning services that got televised locally or anything like that. No, it’s still hard. The gatherings started in a local restaurant’s “event room” – a back room reserved for private dining events like birthday parties, wedding rehearsal dinners, corporate meals, etc. These started out with a few people attending. The relationships built over two years gave them just a few people who began to want to know more about this Jesus Christ that was completely different from the one they had culturally heard about – the real Jesus Christ.

Fast forward to now, the city of Manchester approached LifeSong Manchester recently about them occupying an empty storefront in downtown Manchester for their place of worship. This storefront had been empty for years and the city now feels as though LifeSong Manchester being in the facility will help the area from falling into disrepair and might even spur revitalization in that part of Manchester’s downtown district. Wow, a few years earlier, city council had refused to allow LifeSong Manchester (LSM) to sign a lease at the local recreation center building because of that whole separation of church and state thing. Now, the city is asking them to do them a favor and occupy a building for them. For the last two years, LSM has been renting the right to use a local Presbyterian church for its services. For the last two years LSM’s slowly growing group of 50-60 regular attendees has been meeting on Sunday nights in a local Presbyterian church on Sunday evenings. Now they have the opportunity to have their own place. LSM can set up offices there. They can set up their own worship center. They can have a place they can call their own. Wow, in this spiritually dark place where universalism reigns, where atheism is present and powerful. This is strictly a God thing. God showing favor to His faithful servants.

How do you go from being distrusted by many to being a group that the city counts as an asset to the city. It goes the fact that the Manchester campus’ motto is real, “Love God. Love People.” By being persistent and ever present in working to show our love for God by loving people in unanticipated and uncommon ways and developing relationships with people and with governments and just demonstrating Jesus Christ, the real Jesus Christ, to everyone they come in contact with, they grew in favor not only with God but with man. Hearts were softened by the love of Jesus Christ shown through the people and pastors of LSM.

That’s the thing that struck me this morning as I read this passage again for the final time before we move on to the next passage – how through our love of God and because of that our love for others, we can grow in stature with God and with man. With that in mind, let us read 1 Samuel 2:12-26 for the fifth of six reads of this loaded passage today:

12 Now the sons of Eli were scoundrels who had no respect for the Lord 13 or for their duties as priests. Whenever anyone offered a sacrifice, Eli’s sons would send over a servant with a three-pronged fork. While the meat of the sacrificed animal was still boiling, 14 the servant would stick the fork into the pot and demand that whatever it brought up be given to Eli’s sons. All the Israelites who came to worship at Shiloh were treated this way. 15 Sometimes the servant would come even before the animal’s fat had been burned on the altar. He would demand raw meat before it had been boiled so that it could be used for roasting.

16 The man offering the sacrifice might reply, “Take as much as you want, but the fat must be burned first.” Then the servant would demand, “No, give it to me now, or I’ll take it by force.” 17 So the sin of these young men was very serious in the Lord’s sight, for they treated the Lord’s offerings with contempt.

18 But Samuel, though he was only a boy, served the Lord. He wore a linen garment like that of a priest.[a] 19 Each year his mother made a small coat for him and brought it to him when she came with her husband for the sacrifice. 20 Before they returned home, Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife and say, “May the Lord give you other children to take the place of this one she gave to the Lord.[b]” 21 And the Lord blessed Hannah, and she conceived and gave birth to three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile, Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord.

22 Now Eli was very old, but he was aware of what his sons were doing to the people of Israel. He knew, for instance, that his sons were seducing the young women who assisted at the entrance of the Tabernacle.[c] 23 Eli said to them, “I have been hearing reports from all the people about the wicked things you are doing. Why do you keep sinning? 24 You must stop, my sons! The reports I hear among the Lord’s people are not good. 25 If someone sins against another person, God[d] can mediate for the guilty party. But if someone sins against the Lord, who can intercede?” But Eli’s sons wouldn’t listen to their father, for the Lord was already planning to put them to death.

26 Meanwhile, the boy Samuel grew taller and grew in favor with the Lord and with the people.

In this passage, we see that final verse is very reminiscent of Luke 2:52 where it states, “Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people.” Although we know that for political expediency and to maintain the status quo, the Jewish authorities had Jesus executed. However, it was not because they did not respect Jesus. They most certainly respected his ability to teach and referred to Him as rabbi (even though Jesus never was formerly trained for the priesthood). They had respect for him. And his different kind of preaching of forgiveness, and love of the Father for His people, and how they was an urgency to make ourselves right with God, how we are to love one another, and how he preached about false religion and hypocrisy drew large crowds to Him. His message of salvation by grace through faith alone was radical because the Jewish faith had become so works oriented and so “I’m in, you’re out” judgmental. Jesus drew the disenchanted and disfranchised unto Himself with His message that God loves us and wants us to be reconciled to Him through submit our lives to His authority. It was a radically different message that grew Jesus in stature with men. He was amazing in His understanding of Scripture (well, since He inspired it’s writing and all). He was amazing in his ability to command the loyalty of His disciples. They knew they were in the presence of greatness. They knew they were in the presence of the Son of God. Only those who saw him as threat to the détente between Rome and Jerusalem and the survival of the semi-free Jewish nation wanted Him gone. But, it was not because they did not respect Jesus. By staying true to Scripture, by staying true to God, by staying the course and doing exactly what His Father sent Him to do, Jesus may have been feared to the point of being executed by the authorities, but it was not from a lack of respect.

The point here is that LSM has grown in stature with God and with man, just as Samuel and Jesus, by being consistent. They are loving their community in the name of Jesus Christ. They are loving God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength and it shows. They stand on the true word of the gospel message and will not stop doing that. They keep plugging away. Sure, there is so much more work to be done there. But their consistency, their authenticity, had genuine expressed love for their community, there evidence that they are not going anywhere, has grown the respect of the local authorities for LSM. They are counted on when there is a need that needs to be met in the community. They are counted on as the good guys in the community. They are demonstrating to all observers how the gospel changes people. As a result, they have gained respect of men. Sure, there may be bumps in the road in their relationship with authorities in the future, but it will not be because of a lack of respect. Through their consistently demonstrating the love of Jesus Christ in real and tangible ways to the Manchester community, they have earned respect of men who once distrusted them. That’s the message to us all. If we live our life consistently demonstrating our love of Jesus Christ to Jesus himself and to the world around us, we may have enemies to the message of Christ but it will not be because of a lack of respect. In your workplace, if you are consistent in your honoring of Jesus Christ in everything you do and you quietly demonstrate His qualities to the world, people will respect your integrity, your consistency of belief, your consistency of action, and know that you are a Christian man or woman. They may not believe as we do, but they will respect us for being persons of integrity, consistency, and for how we demonstrate the love of Jesus in real and practical ways.

So, LSM keep doing what are doing. God will reward it. God will open the doors that need opening. To you and me, keep on loving Jesus in such a way that in our daily lives people begin to notice that hey, he is one of the good guys. You can count on him to have integrity. You can count on him to show uncommon love to the world around him. You can count on him to be there for people when help is needed or when a shoulder is needed to cry on. You can just…count on him. Those Jesus people, man, they are different. That’s what we want to be…to be so different that the world notices. To be so consistent at it that people come to respect and expect it. That’s what I want. For people to see me and say…there’s one of those Jesus people. They’re nutty but I respect them!

Amen and Amen.

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