The Old Testament book of 1 Samuel tells us that in the lawless days of the Judges, “The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord.”
God has great plans for this boy. Samuel will grow to be a prophet in Israel, the first one in a long time. Samuel will usher in the age of the prophets. And what will the prophets do? They will provide what has been sorely missing in Israel for many years – the plain preaching of God’s word – the law which shows our sin, and the Gospel which shows our Savior. The Bible says: “In those days the word of the Lord was rare.”
People in those days too shook their heads and remarked: “Things aren’t the way they used to be, not the way they should be. The priesthood is corrupt. Nobody is listening. So God is not speaking.” It’s all too familiar, like conversations around our own supper tables – about how bad things are getting on every level.
So now what? Apply artificial stimulants to the faith? Come up with some new catchy slogan to combat the crisis, some new dog and pony show to pep up the flock? Artificial stimulants wear off. They always leave us looking for one more fix, one more stimulant.
So what really ails us? Isn’t it that the word of the Lord is rare? Rare in the home, rare in a lot of churches, rare in the heart, rare in our thinking and doing each day? Has the voice of God become merely a nostalgic tradition of the past instead of an experience of the present?
What is the remedy? Has not every real change in the heart, in the home, in the church, been worked by the word of God, by listening to the word – not only with our ears but with our hearts? Luther said that if the only words God had ever said to us were the words, “La, la, la,” those would be the most beautiful words in the world – because God said them. The God who became our Brother to redeem us has said far more, hasn’t He?
The 3rd Commandment is all about God’s Word. The cure in our day for the tired and bored church member is no different than it was in Samuel’s day. God brought home the hearts of His people when one little boy heard God say something and replied: “Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening.”