Eyes to See: piercing the darkness

1 Samuel 3.1-21

Did you ever search for your glasses only to discover they were right on top of your head? I know people who do this all the time! Sometimes the thing we need most is closer than we realize! In 1 Samuel 3 we encounter Eli who was weak in sight; both natural and spiritual. He was God’s High Priest, the very person Israel relied on to hear and see from God, but we are told ‘In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions’ (vs 1), and the author amplifies this dark situation by saying ‘The lamp of God had not yet gone out’ (vs 2). The lamp in the temple symbolized God’s life and light in Israel and it was about to go out. Yet here was Eli sleeping in God’s House where the Ark of God’s Presence was. The Ark carried the tablets on which were written the Ten Commandments; the founding words of the Bible. Eli was blind and asleep where there was Word and Light! He could not see but his glasses were right next him!
Now we may laugh at Eli, but we are no better; sometimes everything seems dark and confusing, but the Lord is right there with us!
As we read on we see God does not leave Israel in this state; he pierces the darkness with his WORD and LIGHT. He calls to Samuel and reveals his plan. He shines his LIGHT on Eli’s condition and puts a WORD in Samuel’s mouth. Samuel’s word was a double-edged sword (Rev 1.16) that brought swift judgement on Eli’s house and delivered Israel from darkness.
Verse 10 tells us that ‘The Lord came and stood there’ calling to Samuel. That’s an interesting comment because John 1. 1-9 tells us that Jesus is God’s WORD and Gods LIGHT. When Jesus came to this earth he pierced the dark, confusing world and brought spiritual sight.
John 1 is a parallel of Genesis 1. Both are “In the beginning” scriptures: ‘In the beginning God created’, and ‘In the beginning was the Word’. In Genesis 1 the earth is formless, empty, and dark. Then God speaks into this dark chaotic world saying “Let there be light” and light is separated from darkness, and it is the beginning of order. In John 1 Jesus is the Word through whom ‘all things were made’ (vs 3) and ‘the true (spiritual) light that gives light to every man’ (vs 9).
Satan is the author of spiritual darkness and confusion. The light of Jesus dispels the darkness and his word brings order where there is confusion. And Jesus promises to be with believers always (Mt 28.20), so our spiritual glasses are always there; we just need to be aware of them!
Now, an important question: Why was Eli spiritually blind? What causes spiritual blindness? Speaking about the spiritually blind Jesus said, “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them” (Mt 13.14). That’s an interesting thought: hearts have eyes.  We see spiritually with our hearts. Our hearts have a lot to do with our will and desires. If we want to see God, we do; and if we don’t want to see God, we don’t. God has set this world up so that the most important decisions are made with the heart.
Eli could not see partly because he did not want to see; he was tired of dealing with his sons, and turned a ‘blind eye’ to what they were doing; his heart had become calloused, sin had crept into the priesthood and he had lost the will to do anything about it. His ability to see and hear faded with his passion for what was right. Don’t we all experience the same thing? When we want to sin, we close our spiritual eyes as if God is not even there. But his eyes are never closed; he sees it all.
This brings us to a final but important point. If we don’t want to be like Eli we need to cultivate hearts that are after God. We need to develop eyes that seek Him. Our spiritual hearts and eyes need the right nourishment to grow. They are nourished or poisoned by what they feed on.
We all know what it’s like to select food from a buffet. With a buffet there is usually a great variety to choose from and it is often a mixture of both healthy and unhealthy foods. In recognition of the unhealthy we have even given some foods names like ‘Death by Chocolate!’ What a way to go!
Now many people think that God gave Israel clean and unclean food laws because he was interested in their physical health. But Jesus declared all foods to be clean (Mk 7. 14-23) and pork and prawns were no better in his day than in Moses’ day. No, these laws had nothing to do with physical health; they were all about spiritual health. In Israel’s immediate context, clean and unclean laws helped to separate Israel from other nations who practiced false religions. If an Israelite couldn’t eat with a gentile, he was unlikely to be influenced by the gentile’s religious ideas. Clean and unclean was about spiritual separation. Jesus reminded everyone about this when he said: “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’? FOR IT DOESN’T GO INTO HIS HEART but into his stomach, and then out of his body … What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean’. For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil (vs 18-20)”. God was not interested in physical heart disease; he was interested in spiritual heart disease.  Wrong choices in spiritual diet will turn us into Eli’s with dull and calloused hearts.
We get our spiritual diet; good or bad; from spiritual beings. Christians are supposed to draw close to God in prayer and Bible meditation. But we must also spend most of our time with the right people. Eli initially corrected his sons, but after a while he got comfortable with their ways. We will become like the people we are with most; so choose them carefully. It’s true that we cannot close our eyes to all around us. God is not asking us to shut ourselves up in a monastery, and he does want us to minister to people in dark places. But we can choose who we are going to be with most of the time; that is why we are told not to be “yoked together with unbelievers” (2 Cor 6.14). If our friends do not encourage a passion for God and what is right, we will gradually become like them. So, it’s worth asking; who do you spend most of your time with? Do you want to be like those people? You will be. Be with people like Samuel, not people like Eli.

Illustrations: I can’t find my glasses, Recent church visions, Alpha: objections that reveal the heart, An Awesome Buffet, Army Food, God is Good at Dormans.

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