The Joy of Giving : Commitment of Ourselves
by Rev. Jonathan Gale
4 August 2013
1 Samuel 3: 1 – 11, 19
Samuel’s Calling and Prophetic Activity
3Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.
2 At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; 3the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. 4Then the Lord called, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ and he said, ‘Here I am!’ 5and ran to Eli, and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ But he said, ‘I did not call; lie down again.’ So he went and lay down. 6The Lord called again, ‘Samuel!’ Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ But he said, ‘I did not call, my son; lie down again.’ 7Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. 8The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. 9Therefore Eli said to Samuel, ‘Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” ’ So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
10 Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.’ 11Then the Lord said to Samuel, ‘See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle.
19 As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.
Romans 11: 33 – 12: 2a
33 O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgements and how inscrutable his ways!
34 ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counsellor?’
35 ‘Or who has given a gift to him,
to receive a gift in return?’
36For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory for ever. Amen.
The New Life in Christ
12I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds
Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?
My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends.
Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends,
So Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?
Anybody recognise that song? It’s Janis Joplin, the Queen of Rock and Roll in the late sixties. A great performer, Janis sadly died of a heroin overdose in her late twenties.
The song of course has things the wrong way round. God can’t owe us anything. It’s just not possible. Worked hard all my lifetime – well, good on ya.
In fact, because we can’t earn anything from God, when God gives to us it’s undeserved by us. And that’s the way it is. Notice, I don’t say, that’s the way God likes it. Perhaps he does because he loves us, but it’s just a fact. It’s the only way he can give to us – graciously – for it’s impossible for God to owe anybody anything.
35 ‘Or who has given a gift to him,
to receive a gift in return?’ says Paul to the Roman church.
God owes us nothing.
Neither can we ask God for something and promise something in return. i.e. God, please give me a Porsche and I promise I’ll work hard my whole lifetime. Just give it to me ahead of time, and then I’ll work it off. I’m just getting it early – you know – earlier than I would have done by working hard for it.
Although I have to say, Hannah, who is Samuel’s mother, comes pretty close to doing just that as is evident in the section just before this morning’s reading. God, give me a son, and I’ll give him back to you. However, when you read the passage in context, it’s clear that she is just so desperate and suffering that what she means is that the joy of receiving a son would be so great there would be nothing else she could do but give him back to God. There’s a difference. A big difference. She’s revealing her motivation – that her request is not selfish. And so she gives little Samuel to Eli the High Priest who trains him in God’s ways.
And God of course is eager to help Hannah. There’s no need to bribe him, even if she could. God gives freely. That’s what grace is.
It’s clear that God loves to give, and giving is what we discuss each August in stewardship month: God’s giving to us and our giving of ourselves, our talents, our time and our resources to God. And there’s only one overwhelming reason we give to God and that’s because God gives to us, unstintingly and constantly. We are the recipients of his grace, his undeserved favour.
Our New Testament reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans follows 11 chapters that are about the grace of God.
Romans 12: 1 “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God . . .” That is, I appeal to you on the basis of what has gone before in the first 11 chapters of this letter. I will now call you in chapters 12-16 to a kind of life that is built on the grace (the free goodness to us) of God. It doesn’t come out of nowhere. It has roots. This new Christian life is built on the grace of God. This is the foundation of our faith: God gives freely and abundantly to us even though we owe him. God owes us nothing.
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God. . . .”That’s a summary of Romans 1-11: “the mercies of God.” God has been merciful to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Because of Christ those who believe in him are justified by faith, sins forgiven, reconciled to God, and have the hope of everlasting joy.
“12I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters” They say that when you come across the word ‘therefore’ in the Scriptures, you should see what it’s there for. What Paul is saying is that because of God’s abundant grace to us in Jesus’ death and resurrection, we therefore ought to give ourselves to God wholeheartedly. There is no other appropriate response.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6, you are not your own? 20For you were bought with a price.
12I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
God wants us as a living sacrifice. A sacrifice lies on the altar. It stays there. It doesn’t jump up and run away when it looks like things are getting tough.
Sacrifices give themselves over to God completely; trusting him that what he has in store for them is for their own good and for the good of the Kingdom of God.
And yes, being a living sacrifice involves sacrifice. It does not consist of us putting our own pleasure ahead of the Kingdom of God.
And it’s a living sacrifice – not a passive one. It’s involved in what God is doing.
Bob Dylan sings in his song Gonna Change My Way of Thinking, “Well, don’t know which one is worse, Doing your own thing or just being cool”.
- Doing your own thing is hopping off the altar
- Being cool is being passive, not getting involved
Speaking of changing our way of thinking, our reading concludes with Verse 2, Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds
There are all sorts of ways of trying to convince ourselves why we should get off the altar of commitment to God, but the only way we’re going to change our way of thinking is by staying there. By allowing God’s ways to influence the way we see things.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds
Here’s something we need to be careful of. We don’t stand independent of God and make deals with him about who owes who what. It’s not that we commit ourselves to God because God has been merciful with us.
It’s way more profound than that. We commit ourselves to God because it’s spiritual suicide not to. It’s the only possible response to the earth-shattering, history-changing grace of God in Jesus.
For the creature not to respond appropriately to the creator is crazy! And in my response to God’s goodness – when I say, “Lord Jesus, thank you for saving me and accepting me into the family of God” – then I want to begin to think and act like God wants me to.
I want my mind renewed because it equips me to be part of the family of God, to take on the characteristics of God. Giving ourselves over wholeheartedly to God is what makes sense.
Our gratitude to God in Jesus, our relationship with him and the sense of purpose we have in our future roles as God’s co-workers in the restoration of the world – these are the things that keep us on the altar of commitment, that keep us on track.
August is giving month, and the most important thing we have to give is ourselves. And God expects that. It is the only appropriate response to the gospel.
Hannah gave her son Samuel to God and he became arguably the most significant prophet in the history of Israel; a man who brought justice to the people, who ushered in and steered the kingship. His influence and the respect in which he was held were legendary. Samuel learnt from his mother’s dedication, and gave himself to God. Even though he was just a child, he kept his ears open when God called and committed himself to the work God gave him to do. As a result God used him to change the course of history.
Who knows what God will make of you when you, a living sacrifice, remain on the altar of commitment allowing your mind to be renewed in service of the Kingdom of God, when you like little Samuel say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”
The words of 1 Corinthians 2: 9 should make our ears tingle.
9But, as it is written,
‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
nor the human heart conceived,
what God has prepared for those who love him’
May none of these words fall to the ground this morning.
God bless you.