“Sam-I-Am : Building Block or Stumbling Block”
August 11, 2019, 11:15am
By Ed Young
Sam-I-am, what a great character in Dr. Seuss’ book, “Green Eggs and Ham.” He was the chief protagonist. He tried to get a guy named Joey to eat green eggs and ham. Have you ever read the book? Yeah, “Green Eggs and Ham.” Sam-I-am. I thought about that because there’s a Bible named Samuel, and I thought about calling him Sam-I-am, because Sam-I-am in the Bible was the chief protagonist during a very difficult time. And I thought, you know what? I’d like to do a series on Samuel because he was one of the most influential characters in all of Scripture. This guy was a change agent. The land, during the day, the whole culture was anarchy. It was just off the reservation. Sort of like our culture today with mass shootings and mayhem and malcontent and what’s right is wrong and what’s wrong is right. People ask me all the time, “Ed, is our world going crazy? Ed, what’s happened to us? Ed, I’ve never seen anything like this!” Well, read the Bible. Back in the time of Sam-I-am they were dealing with craziness like we are. Here’s the good news. We can become influencers. We can become difference-makers if we take some cues from Sam-I-am. What do you think? Someone like you, someone like me, can change the course of what’s going on.
In this study, Sam-I-am, I’m going to talk about a number of names, and today’s breakdown reads like a reality show on steroids. I’m just gonna warn you. You’ve got a bunch of chicanery and comedy, and also some tragedy. And let’s look at this verse together, 1 Samuel 1:3,6, and the title of this talk could be “How to be an Influencer in Today’s Insane Culture.” How about that? How to be an influencer in today’s culture. I’m gonna talk about the family. I’m going to talk about parenting.
Here’s something I’ve discovered about parenting. You’re always a parent. I thought when EJ moved out at 27 our parenting days were over. It’s OK to laugh. No, you’re always a parent. Now, the seasons change, I know that, but you’re always a parent. So, we’re going to talk about a lot of these issues. The judgment of God and the blessings of God. “So, year after year, this man…” This man, who is this man? Well, I’m gonna answer that question. “… went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the Lord Almighty at a place called Shiloh. Shiloh was the religious city established in the Promised Land when God’s people almost took over the whole thing. Because they didn’t take over the whole thing, because they didn’t drive everyone out, they began to adopt some of the behavior of the neighboring nations and peoples. Thus, we have what is right is wrong and what is wrong is right, in today’s culture and also in this culture.
“Year after year this man…” Who is this man? Elkanah. I just call him the Elk. And this is how I study my Bible so hopefully it will help you. The elk. So, the Elk had two wives. Whoa. That always causes problems. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Some guys are like, oh yeah! Two wives! Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me? God’s ideal is one man, one woman, in marriage. Yet in the Old Testament you have polygamy. Very quickly because let’s say the first wife couldn’t have kids, like in this situation, you would find a baby mama who could just crank out kids. You had a ranch. You needed workers on the ranch. The more kids, the more workers. Just that’s how people rolled back then. So, the Elk had two wives. Hannah, we’ll just call her H, and Peninnah. You can’t make these names up! So, Elk had some issues right there. Peninnah, I mean all Elk had to do was wink at her and she would get pregnant. Hannah was barren. She was going through infertility.
Infertility is something that a lot of couples deal with today. It’s sort of marrying hope and depression. It’s important to be very sensitive to people who are married. You never say, “Hey, when you gonna make me a grandfather! Hey, when are you guys gonna have kids! Oh, having a tough time getting pregnant? Just take a cruise!” Whatever. Those things are insensitive, and they hurt, and they shouldn’t be said.
“Well, Peninnah was jealous of Hannah because Hannah was Elkhanah’s favorite.” I told you this was a reality show. So, they’re going up as one big happy family to Shiloh, they’re going to church to worship. OK, let’s see what happens there. Hophni and Phineas, at Shiloh, some more names. “Wait a minute! You’re confusing me!” Just stay with me. “Hophni and Phineas, two sons of Eli, were priests there.” Hophni and Phineas were the worst preacher’s kids in the history of the world. Eli, poor thing, he was just asleep. Asleep at the wheel.
I have to have 8 hours of sleep. I mean, I’ve got to. How many people in here have to have 8 hours? Some of you, I don’t know how you survive on 6 hours! I get sick as a dog. I was thinking about sleep this morning. Because I got up pretty early. I’m in my office at home and I’m sitting there. I’m going, huh. I’ve been asleep. But while I’m asleep I don’t realize I’m sleeping. When I wake up, I realize, OK, yeah, I’ve been sleeping. But I’ve never been awake while I’m asleep. Lisa says I snore sometimes. I don’t believe her, but she says it, and she recorded me snoring. So, I’ve heard myself snore. It doesn’t sound like me, but she says I do. But I’ve never heard myself snore while I’m snoring while I’m asleep.
Eli was asleep. He didn’t realize he was asleep. He was asleep. Asleep as a spiritual leader, asleep to the things of God. His two sons, oh my goodness gracious! #1 – they were abusing God’s sacrificial system and #2 – they were having sexual relations with the women who volunteered at the tabernacle. That’s not good. So that’s the spiritual leadership during this day. I told you it was crazy.
I want you to notice something, though. Hannah, you remember, the H girl? Hannah was a Powerful Parent. Powerful. “Because the Lord had closed Hannah’s room, her rival (yeah, there’s bullying in the Bible) kept provoking her in order to irritate her.” So, they’re at church and Peninnah is bullying Hannah because Hannah can’t have kids.
How do you handle haters in your life? How do you handle when someone is fertile and you’re not? Maybe they’re fertile in the business world. How does this guy do it? Everything he touches turns to gold! He has another practice or another business, or another this or another that. How does he do it? He’s a jerk! I don’t like him! And then he kind of puts it in your face. Or maybe it’s someone else. Maybe it’s a lady or someone at school, and they seem to get all of the accolades and all of the honors and they’re fertile in so many areas and they like, jam you. They bully you. Maybe they go on social media and say negative things about you. How do you handle people like that? I want to get them back. I mean, I have a tough time with that. I mean, I’m a competitive guy! I’m not gonna just let them say that! That’s my natural reaction. You know what Hannah did? The Bible says, yes, she wept. The Bible says yes, she was crushed. But it says she gave it to God. She let God take care of her haters. How we handle haters determines our destiny. How we handle the critics in our life really reveals to us what God will do and what God wants to do in our existence. Her rival kept provoking her. OK, but God’s gonna answer Hannah’s prayer. God is going to give her a bouncing baby boy named Sam-I-am. The name Samuel means heard of God or heard from the Lord.
“So, I prayed for this child…” and you can read her prayer when you have time. It was a prayer of submission. She said, “God, it’s your will.” Also, a prayer of sacrifice. She said, “God, if you give me a baby (check this out) I’ll give him back to you.” Now, she meant she would take the baby, after the baby had been weaned, 3-4-5 years of age, give him to Eli. Man, that’s gonna take a lot of faith, to allow him to mentor Samuel. So, she made this kind of vow before God. “God, you give me a baby, I’ll give him to you.” A powerful parent. And then she prayed a Powerful Prayer. (1 Samuel 1:27) “I prayed for this child and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him, so now I give him to the Lord.”
Two things you need to understand when you read 1 and 2 Samuel, two basic premises. #1 – When you’re faithful, f-a-i-t-h-f-u-l, right? I’m a terrible speller. When you’re faithful, what happens? God blesses. When I’m obedient to God, God blesses. What does it mean to be blessed? To be on the receiving end of the tangible and intangible favor of God. Do you know how God blessed Hannah? She was barren, couldn’t have a baby. And we’re gonna find out she gave Samuel, after he had been weaned, to Eli. She had 5 more kids!
God will bless your life. And I want to live in the blessed place. Now, I don’t play games with God. I don’t say, “OK, God, I’m gonna follow you just because of blessings.” No, I follow God because he’s God but a result of that will be the blessings of God. And the blessings are not always what necessarily I want or what I would say or have for my life, but they’re even on another level because it’s what God has for me.
I love Hannah. She’s on a whole motha level, isn’t she? Because she’s a powerful parent. She’s praying a powerful prayer. So, if I’m faithful, 1 and 2 Samuel tell me, I’m going to be blessed. If I am disobedient (I know I’m writing over this, but you can read it) I will be judged. I’m faithful, I’m gonna be blessed. Disobedient, I’m going to be judged. 1 and 2 Samuel. Are we tracking? OK, the plot clots, as I like to say. A powerful parent praying a powerful prayer. I give him to the Lord. Basically, this is how to become a great parent. “For his whole life will be given over to the Lord, and he worshiped the Lord there.”
We have children right now who are worshipping, who are leading in worship, kids! If you just think back to our camps at Allaso Ranch, our kids camps, the kids did so much of the leadership. Hannah knew what scientists are just telling us. When kids from birth, when a kid is from birth to, say, 6 years old, that’s when they gain their vocabulary, their personality, most of it, like 90% of it. Samuel, after he was weaned, he was probably again about 5 years old, 3-5, that’s when she gave him to Eli. So those things already, those patterns, had already been developed in his life.
So, notice. Powerful parent, praying a powerful prayer, and she set forth a Powerful Pattern early on. God is a God of the pattern. He’s not chaotic, he’s the God of the pattern, the God of an order. That’s why kids need order. Kids need discipline. Kids need a pattern. And I can look, quite frankly, at a person’s church attendance, the pattern of attendance, and I can predict with amazing accuracy their pattern of blessings. It just goes together.
(1 Samuel 1:28) “‘For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.’ And he worshipped the Lord there.” He’s a worshipper already. But, uh-oh, notice the contrast. And see, in this book of 1 Samuel, specifically chapters 1, 2, and 3, next week we’ll talk about chapter 3, it’s a chapter and chapters of contrast. You’ve got infertility, fertility. You’ve got clarity, she’s praying, you’ve got confusion. Hannah is praying. You know what Eli thinks? She’s drunk. Come on, Eli! He had no discernment. Discernment, discernment is the ability to judge. That comes from God. Do you have discernment? Discernment comes from God, true discernment. Have you ever wondered why smart people make such dumb decisions? They have no discernment. They’re not hearing from God. And I truly believe if Jesus is not Lord of your life there’s no way you’re gonna make the right decisions as a parent, as a person, as a single parent, as a kid.
So, look at the contrast. You’ve got purity, Samuel, versus impurity, Hophni and Phineas. (1 Samuel 2:17-18) “This sin of the young men (that’s Hophni and Phineas) was very great in the Lord’s sight, for they were treating the Lord’s offering (uh-oh) with contempt.” (This literally means – let me draw a foot here – to kick. So, here people are bringing this offering and Hophni and Phineas were treating it with contempt. And the Bible says they were actually eating the offering. So, on one hand we’ve got Hannah. What did Hannah do? She gave her first – firstborn, Samuel, to the Lord. What did God do? He blessed the rest. He blessed her with 5 kids. Throughout Scripture we see that. We give the first to the Lord, he blesses the rest. I give the first part of my day to the Lord; he blesses the rest. I set the pattern of church attendance. Sunday is the first day of the week, he blesses the rest. I give the first portion of my income to his house; he blesses the rest.
One day I was working out at this gym, and this guy walked up, a student in our church. He goes,
“Ed, I want to ask you a question. This is gonna be personal.” I said,
“Go ahead, man. I have no secrets.” He said,
“Does the church make you tithe?”
“Do they make me tithe?” I said, “No, they don’t make me tithe.”
“Huh. I thought they did.”
“No, they don’t.” I said. “They don’t make me tithe. I just tithe because I love God, I want to be obedient to him.” And secondly, I mean, God has promised he’s gonna bless me. On the other hand, the Bible says, if we don’t tithe – this is what God says – if we eat the tithe, we will be under a curse. We’re not gonna be blessed.
So, let me think. Blessing or cursing, let me see which one I want. Blessing! Yeah, we can show contempt not just with the tithe. We can show contempt by the way we treat Jesus, by the way we treat others, by the way we treat the gifts he has bestowed on us. A powerful parent, Hannah, in the midst of craziness, prayed a powerful prayer and establishing a powerful pattern. Because obviously Samuel picked up what she was throwing down.
(1 Samuel 2:17-18) “Samuel was ministering before the Lord- a boy (I love this) wearing a linen ephod.” Sounds like something Kanye would wear. An ephod was made of 100% linen and it was representative of the righteousness and the holiness of good. Purity. So, if you were a priest, man, you wore the linen ephod. Yeah. Purity.
Samuel lived a pure life. You know he was tempted. Rooming next to Hophni and Phineas, all of their immorality, all of their impurity. Purity. The more pure you are, and I am, the more God is going to use us. It’s as simple as that. In your language, in my language. In your thought process, in my thought process. The way we handle sex, the way you handle it, the way I handle it. Purity, purity, purity.
Lisa and I have been married for 37 years. We both have been faithful to one another sexually. We don’t watch porn. I wouldn’t do that. I wouldn’t flirt with some other person. She wouldn’t either. Man, it got quiet. Because of the relationship. I mean, if I did that, if she did that, the connectivity, you know is just not gonna be there. As a believer, even on another plane, I should desire purity because of that relationship. I don’t want to do anything to hurt the heart of God or to damage the commitment and the covenant before him. Purity. We don’t talk about that very much these days. Are you pure before God? It’s not legalistic? It’s just a relationship situation. Yet, Samuel was pure in the midst of a lot of impurity.
I love this little thing, don’t you? (referring to Telestrator on stage) Just technology. (1 Samuel 2:22-23) “Now, Eli, he was very old…” This is just really funny. It’s so funny I’m gonna laugh. If I didn’t laugh, I’d cry. “…heard…” Heard, heard, heard, let me draw a big old ear. “…heard about everything his sons were doing to all of Israel.”
And that’s something about sin. You know, when your kids sin, if you know they’re sinning and you don’t call them out, it’s like you’re participating in that sin. That’s heavy, parents. And why do we have kids anyway? Oh, well, they’re a result of making love. I know that. Why do we have kids? Well, I want a chip off the old block. Why do we have kids? I want a mini-me. Why do we have kids? I don’t know, someone to carry on my legacy. I don’t know. No, no, no. We have kids so we can reproduce the character of Christ, so they can glorify God, and they in turn can have kids and they can glorify God. Eli was an example. He was an example, a bad one, but he was an example. So, you’re either a building block, mom and dad, or a stumbling block. And this dude, Eli, was a stumbling block. A block head. This sin had the ripple effect. It wasn’t just between Hophni and Phineas and Eli and God, it was between, what does it say? All Israel. God doesn’t play around with it.
“He said to them, ‘Why do you do such things? I hear from all the people about these wicked deeds of yours.’” Maybe I did paint your nursery the wrong color. Maybe I didn’t take you to Chuck E. Cheese enough. I don’t know. I mean, Eli, come on, my man. So, here’s what happens. Because Eli didn’t discipline them, God did the discipline for him. And you know what God did? He took them out. He wiped them out. You might be going, well, wow! God wiped people out because of their rebellion? Because they abused the sacrificial system and were having sexual relations with the people that worked in the temple?
Yeah. “Well, that’s the Old Testament. I mean, the New Testament, that new covenant is about grace.” What? Do you remember when Jesus told the story of the vine and the branches? He said if a vine doesn’t produce fruit sometimes the branch is cut and thrown into the fire. I’m just telling you what the Bible says.
So, “’I hear from all these people about these wicked deeds of yours.’ His sons, however, did not listen (ear again). They did not listen to their father’s rebuke, for it was the Lord’s will to put them to put them to death.” (1 Samuel 2:26) “And the boy, Samuel (again, look at the contrast) continued to grow in stature and in favor with the Lord and with the people.”
I want you to notice, too, you’ve got a powerful prayer. You’ve got a parent who is also powerful. You’ve got this pattern, and also, you’ve got this amazing Powerful Purpose that Samuel discovered! And next time, I know you can’t wait for this, with bated breath! We’re going to find out how to listen to God.
People say, “God spoke to me” or “God told me.” What does that mean? How can we listen and know and be able to recognize the voice of God? But before we do that, we’ve got to set up this whole situation. A powerful parent, praying a powerful prayer, setting up a powerful pattern, and giving us a powerful purpose. Yet, sadly, many of us are permissive parents. Permissive parents, praying permissive prayers, setting up permissive patterns, and giving our kids permissive purposes. Girls don’t know what it means to be ladies. Boys don’t know what it means to be men. We’ve emasculated males and fragmented females. Gender confusion. Are you kidding me? What’s right is wrong and what’s wrong is right. God’s word is truth. God’s word is light. God’s word is leaven. And God wants you and me to discover it, to stand and to live it out. God has a great purpose for your life. Mom, dad, student, child, family, single adult, God has a difference-making, influential plan for your life. You can be Sam-I-am.
Well, why was he able to do this? I mean, let’s just go back. Why was Samuel able to do all this stuff? He wasn’t perfect, we’re going to find that out. But why was he able to be such an influencer? Well, the title of the series tells us. Sam-I-am, because Samuel knew the great I Am, that’s why he made such a difference. Do you know the Lord? Do you know the great I Am?
As our heads are bowed and our eyes are closed…
[Ed leads in closing prayer.]