Your Heart’s Direction

from Lynda Lindsey

Samuel to 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. I Samuel 7:3(b)

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.” I Samuel 7:6

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.” I Samuel 7:7(b)-8

The boy Samuel, now a man assuming his duties as Israel’s judge, began by calling for national repentance. In order to repent and return wholeheartedly to the Lord, the heart that has cherished and nurtured evil, must be cleansed. Samuel directed his people to put away their idols and foreign gods, to love God and serve Him only, to direct their hearts to the Lord in confession, repentance, fasting and prayer, and to offer God a sacrifice of worship. Samuel offered unceasing prayers on behalf of his people. 

In prior battles against the Philistines, the Israelites had been soundly defeated; the Israelites’ insistence on going their own way, rejecting God’s leadership and counsel  while relying on human strength and understanding, brought certain defeat. The Israelites, observing the Philistines prepare to launch yet another attack, were afraid but Samuel had well prepared his people by directing their hearts to the Lord. God fought for Israel, just as He had done countless times in the past. God’s thunder confused the Philistines until they fled and were overcome by the Israelites. 

Once the Israelites looked again to God for victory, God fought for, saved, and delivered His people. When the hearts of the Israelites were obediently directed to God, the Lord unleashed His mighty power. Samuel erected a stone of remembrance, calling it Ebenezer, a stone of help. What battles do you face? Do you need deliverance and help? Check your heart’s direction, for the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; none can understand it. The Deliverer has come. He has fought, and won, the victory! Symbolically, in your heart, erect an Ebenezer stone in thanksgiving!

The Lord Calls, Comes, and Speaks

from Lynda Lindsey

Then the Lord called Samuel… And the Lord called again… And the Lord called Samuel again, the third time… I Samuel 3:4(a); 6(a); 8(a)

And the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.” I Samuel 3:10 

And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew the Samuel was established as a prophet of the Lord. And the Lord appeared again at Shiloh, for the Lord revealed Himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord. And the word of Samuel came to all Israel. I Samuel 3:19-4:1(a)

The Lord’s word and visions from God, in the evil, wicked days of the judges, were rare. Spiritual insight, clouded by grievous sin and apostasy, everyone doing what was right in his own eyes, made way for spiritual famine and darkness. But then, God called, came, stood and spoke to Samuel, Hannah’s young son, who was ministering in the house of the Lord at Shiloh. God appeared, revealing Himself personally to Samuel, establishing him as God’s prophet to speak God’s exact words. And the word of Samuel came to all Israel; everything Samuel prophesied came true. 

Eli, the priest and Samuel’s mentor, urged Samuel to respond to the Lord’s call by saying, “Speak, for your servant hears,” which was wise counsel considering Eli and his corrupt sons were under inditement for treating God contemptuously. The words, “Speak, for your servant hears,” indicate a readiness of heart and mind to obey the Lord’s bidding and to serve Him diligently. The words indicate human submission to divine kingship, as a servant bows to a higher authority. Had Eli taken his own counsel, perhaps he and his sons wouldn’t have been under divine censure.

God’s people, once known for loving and obeying God, now had hearts so depraved that God’s glory departed from them. The ark, a visible reminder that God is present fighting His people’s battles, was captured. And Israel fought on, as oblivious as Samson had been, that the Lord had decamped. Samuel’s obedient, humble service to God was the antithesis of Israel’s lawlessness and arrogance. Eventually Samuel anointed Israel’s first king. Our king has come, speaking the exact words of God. Jesus reveals Himself to those willing to hear. Are you willing? What’s your response?

God Weighs Our Actions

from Lynda Lindsey

There is none holy like the Lord: for there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God. Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by Him actions are weighed. I Samuel 2:2-3 

Now the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the Lord… Thus the sin of the young men was very great in the sight of the Lord, for the men treated the offering of the Lord with contempt. I Samuel 2:12; 17

Now Eli was very old, and he kept hearing all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who were serving at the entrance to the tent of meeting. I Samuel 2:22

Hannah, heartbroken over her barrenness, prayed earnestly for a child, vowing to dedicate him for all the days of his life to the Lord. Samuel was born and Hannah honored her vow, taking the young boy after he was weaned to the sanctuary at Shiloh. Before leaving Samuel in the care of the priest, Eli, now an old man, and his two corrupt sons, Hannah sang a jubilant, yet poignant, song praising and thanking God. Set during the time of the judges when lawlessness and evil prevailed, Samuel is the antithesis of the profound immorality, wickedness, and depravity around him.    

Samuel grew physically and spiritually, in favor with the Lord and with man, as he ministered in the Lord’s presence. Eli’s sons openly flouted their debauchery and perversion, greedily stealing offerings meant for the Lord’s honor, intimidating those who questioned their tactics, and committed gross sexual immorality with women who served God at the sanctuary entrance. God held both Eli and his sons guilty: Eli for honoring his sons above God and all three were complicit in treating God’s holiness with contempt, scorn, disdain and loathing. Silence in the face of evil is wrong.  

Hannah’s song accurately portrays man’s prideful, arrogant actions being weighed and found lacking against God’s innate holiness and righteousness. The Lord, a God of knowledge, knows and weighs our actions. God honors those who honor Him; those who habitually and persistently despise Him, God will cast away from His presence. Hannah and Samuel honored and revered God. Eli and his sons, deeply entrenched in sin, were unwilling to change, repent and return to the Lord. God doesn’t tolerate unfaithfulness forever; don’t leave an unrepentant heart to harden.

Out of Famine; Into Fruitfulness

from Lynda Lindsey

She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?” Ruth 1:20-21

Boaz to Ruth: “All that you have done for your mother-in-law… has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward…by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” Ruth 2:11-12

And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman. Ruth 3:11

We experience poor spiritual eyesight during times of famine; rather than seeing accurately through the lens of faith and hope, we view circumstances from an earthly, natural point of view. In the midst of grievous adversity, overwhelmed with sorrow, God’s kindnesses and grace seem veiled; thus Naomi claimed she left Bethlehem full and returned bitter. We, like Naomi, tend to interpret life’s trials and tragedies as God’s hand being set against us, but, seen through the eyes of faith, our troubles and afflictions provide the backdrop for God’s copious blessings to rain upon us. 

Boaz, aware of Ruth’s circumstances, acted on her behalf; Jesus is even more attuned to us. Jesus, aware of our difficulties, speaks kind, comforting words to us. Jesus warns us to avoid danger: stay close and don’t stray into other fields. Just as Boaz sheltered and protected Ruth under his cloak, Jesus tucks us underneath His sheltering wings and grants us favor. Jesus invites us to eat and drink with Him and to know certain reward, whether in this life or the next. Out of famine, want, scarcity, and lack comes abundance and fruitfulness, heaped up and running over. 

Out of emptiness, barrenness, and hopelessness, comes fullness, fruitfulness, hope, and meaning. Out of death and dryness, life and showers of blessing. Out of chaos, order. Out of bitterness and unrest, pleasantness and peace. Out of darkness, light. Out of adversity, refuge. Out of obedience, blessing. The Comforter has come; let Him comfort and soothe. Feed on every word that proceeds from God’s mouth. Eat, drink, and be satisfied, for eternity! There’s more than enough at the King’s table. Polish your lenses of faith and see God’s blessings pouring out like spring showers!

Famine in the House of Bread

from Lynda Lindsey

In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. Ruth 1:1

Boaz to Ruth: “Come here and eat some bread and dip your morsel in the wine.” So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed to her roasted grain. And she ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over.  Ruth 2:14

And she (Ruth) took it up and went into the city. Her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. She also brought out and gave her what food she had left over after being satisfied. Ruth 2:18

A severe famine, a widespread scarcity of food, can be brought on by lengthy drought, resulting in crop failure, malnutrition, starvation, epidemics, and increased mortality. Israel, in the days of the judges was experiencing a physical famine; but even worse, there was also a spiritual famine. It was a time of lawlessness, of spiritual and civil anarchy. It was a chaotic and disordered time. People spurned God and did what was right in their own eyes until God eventually left them to their vile practices. In such times of heightened evil, even Samson was unaware when the Lord departed from him. 

During the days of the judges a family from Bethlehem, headed by Elimelech, along with his wife Naomi, fled to Moab to avoid the ongoing famine. Eventually the man died, his sons grew up, took Moabite wives, and then the sons also died. Ruth, hearing that the Lord had visited His people and given them food, set out to return home. One daughter-in-law stayed behind, but Ruth, refusing to leave Naomi, clung fast and was determined to embrace not just a new homeland, but the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Out of tragedy and difficult circumstances, hope began to emerge. 

God promised abundant harvests in the land, conditional upon Israel’s obedience; idolatry would provoke God to withhold rain resulting in fruitlessness and famine. Famine in Bethlehem (the house of bread) describes the spiritual ruin of God’s people. People that should have celebrated God’s abundance, His inexhaustible provision, and His bounteous plentitude experienced lack, scarcity, and death. Refusing to be nourished by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God, the people hungered. Into this milieu comes Ruth who, at Boaz’s invitation, eats and is satisfied! Hope arises!

Truth Cuts to the Heart

from Lynda Lindsey

“Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Acts 2:36-37

And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul… Acts 2:42-43(a)

Hear the mighty rushing torrent of wind? See flames like fire dancing on the disciple’s heads? Hear the babble of tongues praising God, giving each one understanding in his native tongue? Peter preached zealously and boldly, confidently proclaiming that this crucified, resurrected Jesus was indeed both Lord and Christ, Messiah, the one David spoke of and believed in by faith, yet never got to see. King David, honored and revered among his countrymen, had believed and looked ahead to Messiah’s resurrection from the dead, knowing that Jesus could not be bound by death’s cords. 

The people were cut to the heart as God’s searchlight of truth revealed their depravity and need for salvation. God’s Word, living and active, sharper than any physical rapier, cuts through our sinful hearts leaving us anguished and grieved over our true state. We see ourselves as we really are. No longer will rationalization and self-justification suffice. The pain of this heart-surgery-without-anesthetic is unbearable, resulting in the earnest cry, “What shall we do?” Repent, be baptized in Jesus’ name for the forgiveness of your sins, receive the gift of the Holy Spirit…and be set free! 

The same life giving truth that cuts us to the heart sets us free! Enslaved no more to sin, we are free to follow Jesus, free to grow in truth and grace, free to live abundantly and joyfully under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit. The new converts devoted themselves to a new lifestyle. Eagerly they submitted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, sought to share all things together, broke bread and ate together, and prayed with and for one another…and awe came upon every soul! God’s truth still cuts to the heart and brings awe upon every soul! Have you answered the question, “What shall we do?”