Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Missing the Word : The Business of Christian Education LVIII

1The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.
One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the house of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called Samuel.
Samuel answered, “Here I am.” And he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”
But Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down.
Again the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”
“My son,” Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.”
Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.
A third time the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”
Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’ ” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
10 The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”
Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
11 And the Lord said to Samuel: “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears about it tingle. 12 At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family—from beginning to end. 13 For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons blasphemed God, and he failed to restrain them. 14 Therefore I swore to the house of Eli, ‘The guilt of Eli’s house will never be atoned for by sacrifice or offering.’ ”
15 Samuel lay down until morning and then opened the doors of the house of the Lord. He was afraid to tell Eli the vision, 16 but Eli called him and said, “Samuel, my son.”
Samuel answered, “Here I am.”
17 “What was it he said to you?” Eli asked. “Do not hide it from me. May God deal with you, be it ever so severely, if you hide from me anything he told you.” 18 So Samuel told him everything, hiding nothing from him. Then Eli said, “He is the Lord; let him do what is good in his eyes.”
19 The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground. 20 And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the Lord. 21 The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word.
1 Samuel 3

            Samuel is the last judge of Israel before the transition to the era of kings.  Not only that Samuel is judge but also he is God’s prophet and chosen priest to replace Eli.  The house of Eli, that is the house of Aaron is collapsing as depicted
in 1 Samuel 2 and 3.  Here is the word of the Lord to Eli:

27 Now a man of God came to Eli and said to him, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Did I not clearly reveal myself to your ancestor’s family when they were in Egypt under Pharaoh? 28 I chose your ancestor out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to go up to my altar, to burn incense, and to wear an ephod in my presence. I also gave your ancestor’s family all the food offerings presented by the Israelites. 29 Why do you scorn my sacrifice and offering that I prescribed for my dwelling? Why do you honor your sons more than me by fattening yourselves on the choice parts of every offering made by my people Israel?’
30 “Therefore the Lord, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that members of your family would minister before me forever.’ But now the Lord declares: ‘Far be it from me! Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained. 31 The time is coming when I will cut short your strength and the strength of your priestly house, so that no one in it will reach old age, 32 and you will see distress in my dwelling. Although good will be done to Israel, no one in your family line will ever reach old age. 33 Every one of you that I do not cut off from serving at my altar I will spare only to destroy your sight and sap your strength, and all your descendants will die in the prime of life.
34 “ ‘And what happens to your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, will be a sign to you—they will both die on the same day. 35 I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in my heart and mind. I will firmly establish his priestly house, and they will minister before my anointed one always. 36 Then everyone left in your family line will come and bow down before him for a piece of silver and a loaf of bread and plead, “Appoint me to some priestly office so I can have food to eat.”  (1 Samuel 2:27-36)

Eventually Jesus is the High Priest appointed by God to minister before the Lord forever, not according to the line of Aaron, but according to the order of Melchizedek (cf. Hebrews 5).  Now, the word of God that came to Eli through a certain man of God will be carried out later in the 1 Samuel.  The problem with Eli is that he honors his children more than God.  God’s word is not more important to him than his children.  The Law of Moses is clear about how God’s priests should carry out their duties in the presence of God.  But Eli does not have zeal to honor God’s word and thus he participates in dishonoring God’s word.  Here is clear that God’s word is extremely important.

            In 1 Samuel 3, God reveals himself to Samuel.  This is a story that often people do not look into carefully.  But if we look into the detail we will find a very significant argument of the passage.  When God calls Samuel, Samuel is said to be ignorant of the Lord.  1 Samuel 3:7 provides an important clue: “Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.”  The reason Samuel does not know the Lord is because the word of the Lord has not been revealed to him.  In order for Samuel to know God, his word must be revealed to him.  This does not apply only to Samuel, but this applies to all humans.  In order for us to know God, God’s word must be revealed to us.  Paul confirms this and says: “faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.”  (Romans 10:17).  Without the word of God, we cannot know the Lord.  For Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’  (Matthew 4:4).  The word of God brings forth the knowledge of God, and knowing God means eternal life.  Jesus says: Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”  (John 17:3).  On the other hand, not knowing God means eternal death.  In other words, the word of God is the key to life.  And this is not any life, but true life, which is life in the presence of our maker, the Lord God himself.  Now at the end of 1 Samuel 3 it is said that the Lord revealed himself to Samuel through his word.  Here again the key is the word.  Without the word, one cannot know the Lord.  What is more?  Without The Word, one cannot know God.  And The Word is Jesus Christ as testified by John:

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  (John 1:1-5)

Through Jesus God has revealed himself to us.  Hebrews 1:1-3 says:

1In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.

Remember that when God created the universe, he spoke his words and the universe came into being.  All in this world is in fact words, God’s words.  But humans were created in a special way.  Humans were created with the capacity to “create” words.  And with the natural tendency that we have, even though broken due to the fall, humans pass on life to the next generation through words.  We are being of words.  Words live in us and we live in words.  Without words we do not live.  Without the word of God we do not truly live.  More importantly, without the Word of God, that is Jesus Christ the Son of God, we do not live.  There are many things we can discuss based on this understanding alone.  But we won’t have the time and space to exhaust everything in this article.  I will just demonstrate one thing here.

            We often think that when we breathe and up and running, then we live.  In some sense it is true.  But life is not only to be understood as now.  All human beings have in their hearts desire to continue to live.  This desire is one that we cannot deny.  Even those who feel all is lost and hopeless and thus considering committing suicide are actually dreaming of life that is not lost and hopeless.  In other words, they want to escape their current life and hop onto a different life.  Life is a continuation.  If our life walks toward certain death, then we can say we do not really live.  Prisoners who walk the death row to go through death sentence in whatever form are called “dead man walking.”  It is because life that ends in death is not life.  Life must, but definition, end in life.  Then and only then we can call life life.  And so we might have the illusion thinking that we live even though we actually move toward eternal punishment in hell.  On the other hand, we might seem like experiencing death on earth but our soul moves toward eternal life in Jesus Christ, the source of life; and thus we actually live.  And so, life without the true word of God does not point us to eternal life, in which such kind of life only means death.  True life can only be attained by having the word of God in us.

 Now, Samuel is still very young when God calls him.  As soon as the word of God comes to him, he knows God.  When the word of God is missing in his life, he is said to not know the Lord.  In contrast to Eli, even though God’s word has been revealed to him, he seems to be ignorant of the Lord.  Before the word comes to Samuel, certainly Samuel does not know the Lord.  And so to encounter the word of God is extremely important.  But on the other hand, merely storing the word of God in our mind and treating it as mere information also leads us to the ignorance of the Lord, which is what happens to Eli and his two sons.  There is something of important that even people of high rank in the priestly order such as Eli do not yet understand.  This missing thing is what Jesus reveals in Matthew 7:24-27:

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Eli’s life falls down with a great crash because he hears the word of God but does not put them into practice.  In this way he does not really know the Lord.  He only follows the ritual and his ritual is empty.  Samuel on the other hand hears the word of God and puts them into practice.  Throughout his life he obeys the Lord wholeheartedly.  Samuel knows the Lord.

            Today the world does not know the Lord because the word of God is not heeded.  People think they know, but in fact they don’t.  It has been the strife of the fallen humanity to find alternative to the word of God.  And so when Darwin launched his theory of evolution into the world, the fallen humanity embraced his unproven theory as the truth.  The truth is, the world will embrace anything as long as it is not the word of God.  And so any kind of theory, even though unproven by its own method and thus consisting of too many false assumptions, will be embraced and considered better than the proven and eternal word of God.  The world of education joins in the parade and becomes the main vehicle to the spread the false truth and indoctrinate the young minds.  The education world cares only for method and ignores content.  The classic contention between content and method has resulted in the crowning of method over content.  For the world of education today, method is much more important than content.  It is true that in the past people were concerned only with the content and ignored method.  But then the pendulum swings in favor of method over content.  And nowadays, content matters not.  Any content will do.  Educators dedicate their life to the pursuit of the highly developed method.  They relentlessly chase the ideal method.  And so, the more advanced the method the farther one may go.  When I returned to my home country after getting my masters in education, people invited me to teach them more about education.  But what they wanted was the most advanced method.  They wanted the cutting edge method that would help them become more effective teachers.  When I taught them the importance of right content as well as the right method, they refused.  They only wanted the method.  The problem with such tendency is that if the content leads one to death, with the advanced method being employed, then the faster one may go down to death.

            What is sadder is the fact that God’s servants do not put into practice his word.  Just like Eli, their rituals are empty.  And so their life will crash down very hard.  And whoever listens to them will also find their lives empty.  Worse is when God’s servants do not teach the next generation of the word of God.  Many of them teach other words to the next generation and thus results in the young people not knowing the Lord.  They use the word of God, but they do not teach them.  Teaching the word of God cannot be partial.  One must teach them in its integrated whole.  Today too many people with big names speak as if they advocate God’s honor, but in fact they dishonor God by selecting only some words that are acceptable to the world and avoiding those that are rejected by the world.  This makes me wonder, whose servants are they?  The world or God?  The most obvious selection in the 21st century is the word love.  Their prophets, the prophets of love, manipulate God’s word and twist them in such a way so that love becomes superior and more important than God himself.  With love as the foundation, tolerance toward anything becomes mandatory.  Such act is not based on God’s integrated word.  But such act is based on the twisting and manipulation of the word of God.  God himself will judge them!

            Without God’s word one cannot know the Lord.  When God’s word is presented in a twisted way, then one may not know the true Lord.  When one hears the word of God but does not put them into practice, then one cannot be said to know the Lord.  One is said to know the Lord if His words is in him/her, the word of the Lord is in him/her in integrated way, and he/she puts into practice the integrated word of God.  When one wants to know the Lord, one must be sure of not missing the word of God.

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