• Introduction: There is an idiomatic expression: drain the swamp. This was an expression made famous by President Donald Trump since 2016, but he was not the first to use the phrase. It has been around since the 1800’s[1], and was originally stated with the intention of draining a swamp in order to cut down on the mosquito population.  Mosquitos like to breed in wet areas where they lay thousands of eggs. Drain the swamp where mosquitos breed, and these annoying pests go away.
    • When someone goes into the “swamp”, a lot of unpleasant things happen.  The creatures who live in the swamp like it swampy.  They, and the conditions themselves, will resist being drained. You as a swamp drainer are invading the turf of the swamp dwellers.
    • A related saying is when you are up to your neck in alligators (or even lower), it’s hard to remember the initial objective was to drain the swamp[2].  Someone goes into the swamp, and when troubles swirl around, the focus is taken off from the goal of draining the swamp, and onto the immediate challenges of swamp draining.
    • We are going to spend time today looking into the calling by God of Samuel, Jesus’ disciples, and us in Christ, and see if God’s purposes in His calling are getting frustrated by the problems of today.
  • Let Us Pray: Lord God, Heavenly Father, just like the prophets of old, and Jesus’ disciples, we too are called to our vocation.  You have a purpose in mind for all people.  You have sent Your Son, our Lord Jesus, to accomplish all divine purposes.  We trust that Your word will accomplish its purposes. Please provide us, through Your Spirit, the resources necessary to accomplish Your purposes regardless of earthly and spiritual powers which work to keep the swamp of evil and death around us. We pray this through Your Son Jesus, who reigns with the You, Heavenly Father, and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.
  • Background: Our theme for today’s message is the calling by our Lord to serve Him in some capacity.  We have an example from the OT with the calling of the prophet Samuel. He was the last of the judges appointed by God to rule over Israel from the time after Moses and Joshua, until the anointing of the first two kings over united Israel, those kings being Saul and David.  We read a few moments ago from 1Sa 3:1-10, where a preincarnate Jesus was in the tabernacle of the Lord, calling Samuel by name.  Samuel thought it was Eli the priest calling, and so each time Samuel heard his name, he ran to Eli to see what he wanted.  After three times of this, Eli realized the Lord was calling the boy.  9And [Eli] said, “[Go] lie down young boy, and if it is He calls you, and you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, because Your servant listens.’” And Samuel went and bedded down in his place.  10And [the] Lord came and stood accordingly, and called [Samuel] as once and once, and said, “Samuel”.  Samuel says [in response] that Your servant listens[3].
    • Nathanael like Samuel was called by Jesus. Nathanael became the fifth disciple as we read from our Gospel reading. (John 1:43-51) We only read of the disciple Nathanael in the Gospel of John.  However, the other Gospel writers refer to him as Bartholomew.  He was paired up with Philip. This makes sense since they must have known each other for Philip to initially approach Nathanael about having met the Messiah the Israelites were waiting centuries for Him to come.
  • Analysis: Each of these men were called directly by Jesus. We know nothing from the scriptures about Nathanael other than his calling.  However, we have quite a bit about the life of Samuel.
    • We don’t know how much time passed from the time of Samuel’s calling by Jesus to the time of Eli’s death and Samuel succeeding Eli as prophet of, and to, a united Israel.  Later in 1Sa ch#3 we read - 19 Now Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him, and He let none of his words fail. 20 And all Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of the Lord.  I recall reading somewhere that Samuel was probably around eight years old.  When I read from 1Sa 3:19 that Samuel “grew”, I take that to mean he became an adult.  Because of Jewish Law regarding when a boy becomes a man, I’m thinking Samuel grew at least to his Bar-mitzvah, which would have been age thirteen. Anyway, we turn the page on Samuel’s calling and growing up, and what is Samuel’s first test in his calling?  He witnessed Israel fall to the Philistines, and couldn’t do a thing about it.  It was a hard fall as well from what we read from 1Sa 4:10-11 - 10 So the Philistines fought and Israel was defeated, and every man fled to his tent; and the defeat was very great, for thirty thousand foot soldiers of Israel fell. 11 Moreover, the ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died.  I can tell you from firsthand business experience in my life, it is no fun to take the reins of leadership and immediately suffer huge defeats.  No doubt Samuel was is despair along with the rest of the Israelites, even though in his calling, Jesus revealed to Samuel what was going to happen to Eli and his offspring.
    • Samuel was serving God and God’s people as the last judge of Israel.  One of the things God called Samuel to do was anointed Saul of the tribe of Benjamin to be Israel’s first king. (1Sa 10:1, 12:12) The Israelites were whining and crying about not having a king.  Apparently, Samuel was regarded like chopped liver in the eyes of the people. Everyone else had a king over them; why can’t the Israelites?  All they had was some kid called by God to serve as a judge.  What kind of a leader into battle would he be?  They wanted someone fierce who would be bold and lead from strength.  God told Samuel to warn the people about getting what they asked for. (1Sa 8:19-22)  It didn’t matter; the Israelites didn’t see it that God was really their King and God sent someone to them to lead them in trusting in Him and not in any mortal being with finite abilities.  It had to negatively affect Samuel that he couldn’t convince the Israelites to just trust in God for deliverance from all enemies and perils.  I wonder if there were people in the mob who actually thought about the counsel given by God’s prophet, and maybe turn from their sinful desire?  We don’t know if they spoke up.  We do know the mob eventually got their wish.
    • Samuel did what God instructed him to do and anointed Saul as king over Israel.  You would think Saul would be forever grateful.  That all changed when God sent Samuel to rebuke Saul for not following God’s orders to completely wipe out the Amalekites – men, women, children including infants, and their livestock. (1Sa 15:3)  Saul didn’t completely carry out the orders as instructed, and so someone familiar with God’s word had to rebuke Saul for not following the Lord. You can imagine with Saul being king for a while and gotten used to everyone following his orders, he probably wasn’t too pleased with Samuel calling him out for not doing as told.  Usually, in those days, if a king didn’t like you, you suddenly became about 6” shorter. So, for following God’s word and speaking what the Lord told him to say, Samuel was now fearing for his life.  God then told Samuel to anoint the next king of Israel after Saul – while Saul was still on the throne.  I’m sure had Saul gotten wind of the plan, he would have understood Samuel’s plan to anoint someone to take a sitting king’s place and had been fine with it. 😊  Needless to say, Samuel was afraid of Saul killing him on the mission to anoint David, son of Jesse.  (1Sa 16:2)
    • There are things we know right now we should be doing.  The Lord speaks to His people even today.  Do we do the things we know we are supposed to do, or do we chicken out in a lack of trust in the Lord?  Samuel was called to do a job and anoint one of the sons of Jesse to be the next king. (1Sa 16:1)  Samuel brought his concerns to the Lord and the Lord, being gracious and understanding, provided a means for Samuel to carry out God’s original purpose.
    • Samuel was equipped to complete the work to which he was called to do.  Not only did Samuel have the potential opposition by the king of Israel to complete his calling, but also the people of Bethlehem were scared of Samuel coming to their little town.  They had no idea why the prophet called by God to serve over Israel was suddenly coming to town without advanced notice.  (1Sa 16:4) That would be like Billy Graham in his prime, suddenly coming to Rio Rico unannounced.  What’s up with that?  God had provided Samuel with cover so to speak so that the denizens of Bethlehem didn’t get all panicky and get in the way of God’s purpose to anoint David. (1Sa 16:13)
  • Application: We’ve spent a lot of time going over Samuel’s calling by God to accomplish the will of God.  We only have church tradition to rely on for what went on in Nathanael’s life, so I decided to not cover that.  Are these two examples from our readings on today part of a select few of whom God called throughout time?  Yes, but they are not the only people called by Go for a purpose.  The reality is we too are called by God to accomplish His purposes.  One of the chief expressions of Lutheran doctrine is found in the Augsburg Confession. This was a document written in 1530 that expressed the doctrines of the church in 28 Articles.  These articles are based on the scriptures which are the ultimate authority in the church.  Let me read to you a portion of Article 27 from the Augsburg Confession, because it expresses a belief in our church body, based upon the scriptures, that everyone is called by God to accomplish His purposes:
    • “Many examples are recorded of people leaving wife and child – even civil office – and putting themselves into a monastery. This, they said, is fleeing from the world and seeking a life that is more pleasing to God than the other life. They were unable to realize that one should serve God by observing the commandments He has given and not through the commandments contrived by human beings[4].”  What the Augsburg Confession was addressing is it is accomplishing God’s purposes for you to live the life you are leading.  We shouldn’t be working to cloister ourselves into little communes where everyone is the same and away from the rest of the world.  How does God’s grace, mercy, and peace get demonstrated through us in society if we are penned up in one place and not mingling in with all of the others whom God created?
    • For some, the elections of 2020 were a disaster for their team.  However, the elections of 2016 were perceived as just as disastrous for the opposite team. Each team asked of itself, how could our candidate for president lose when the polls all showed victory in sight?! There is nothing new under the sun, and these elections, depending upon your political persuasion did not leave much of a different feeling than the Israelites after their loss to the Philistines. The high priest of Israel died after hearing the Ark of the Covenant was captured by the enemies, the loss was so traumatic.  What would be the fate of Israel now that they would be subject to the Philistines and not their own chosen leaders?  Rather than repent for not following God’s purposes to which they were called as a nation, they decided to ask God for a king.  Do you realize what a slap in the face to the Lord that request was?  God was and still is their King!  But they didn’t see it.  They wanted their own king.  I see quite a parallel between the 11th century BC Israelites and the 21st century Americans.  It’s not a pretty sight.
  • Conclusion: I started this message with the expression “draining the swamp”.  Any idea what would be the swamp I had in mind to introduce the message for today? The swamp is in each of us.  The sinfulness that exists within us is a breeding ground for all kinds of biting annoyances. And the major problem is that swamp (our sinful self) doesn’t want to be drained.
    • The disciples called by Jesus were given a job. One of the tasks of that overall job or vocation was made clear in Mark 16:15-16 - 15 And [Jesus] said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 The one who has believed and has been baptized will be saved; but the one who has not believed will be condemned. Jesus gave an overview of the tools He would give to the disciples in order to preach the gospel to all creation.  Jesus pointed out some additional tools the disciples would need in order to accomplish the purposes to which they were sent in John 20:22-23 - 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them and *said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”  These tools are used by pastors who are called by Jesus to go into the world and preach the gospel to all creation.
    • We have a job to do in our calling.  For sure, we want to advance the kingdom of our Lord.  That is part of loving the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. I expect we will have some things to work on together here at Christus Rex in 2021.  But another part of loving the Lord with everything we got is turning from our sinful ways.  Our sinfulness gets in the way of us having a good relationship with the Lord.  This is why Jesus came to this Age in the first place – to cleanse us of our sins so that we are reconciled with God the Father. The reconciliation would not happen any other way.  Our sinful ways nonetheless can once again mess up the relationship with the Father if we do not repent.  Col 3:5-9 is a list of some of the things to turn from.  I won’t read the entire list, but in the context of today’s message, v5 is a good start – Therefore, treat the parts of your earthly body as dead to sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. Idolatry is what got the Israelites of the time of Samuel to turn from God being their King to asking for a lesser capable king with all kinds of sinful, evil desires and shortcomings just like you & me.  Wouldn’t it be better to just trust in the Lord and lean not on our own understanding?
    • We can’t afford to go out into the world and attempt to get Jesus’ calling accomplished without having the resources He gave us to complete the job.  The forgiveness of sins is one of the tools you have before you to take away guilt for all the things you did you shouldn’t have done, and for the things you should have done that you never did.  Don’t let your sin or guilt hinder you from completing your calling in the vocation where you serve the Lord.  We serve a gracious and loving God.  He respects it when people come to Him in all sincerity and ask how to get the job done. Samuel did that.  He respectfully and expectantly came to the Lord seeking a means to anoint the next king of Israel per God’s command.  Samuel had a proper fear of God’s wrath if he didn’t follow through with what was commanded.  That fear showed itself in respect for the Lord.  Additionally, Samuel came before the Lord with the expectation that the Lord would answer and would provide the means to get the job done. We are not left as orphans in this world.  If it appears you are up to your neck with alligators, bring it before the Lord in full sincerity, praying His will be done.  And then, say, “speak Lord, for Your servant listens.”  What else would He do except provide the means to get His will done?


 


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drain_the_swamp

[2]https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/when_you%27re_up_to_your_neck_in_alligators,_it%27s_hard_to_remember_that_your_initial_objective_was_to_drain_the_swamp

[3]  1Sa 3:9-10 from an original translation of LXX read from https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb/1sa/3/1/t_conc_239009

[4] Kolb, Robert, Wengert, Timothy, The Book of Concord, Augsburg Fortress, Minneapolis, MN, 2000, p.90