Why Should We Care About Pornography If It Wasn’t an Issue during Biblical Times?
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Why Should We Care About Pornography If It Wasn’t an Issue during Biblical Times?

3 Characteristics of God's Call

Posted January 26, 2024

As the parent of three young children, I often experience the reality of Eli the priest in 1 Samuel 3: being awoken three times (at least!) in the middle of the night by a confused or troubled child. Of course, in this instance, Eli realized something far more profound was taking place than a bad dream or restless night. His apprentice, Samuel, was being called by God.

This is a unique moment in the history of Israel. Samuel is the very first official prophet in the nation (see Acts 3:24, 13:20). As God spoke to Samuel in the middle of the night, he was initiating something new: establishing a mouthpiece in the nation, the one who will speak on his behalf. But, even so, there are elements in this episode that are characteristic of God’s call to all of his people—even you, if you have put your faith in Jesus Christ. It’s really moving, in fact, to see here the personal, persistent, and powerful way that God speaks to his people.

God’s Call Is Personal

Three times in this chapter God calls this young boy by his name: “Samuel!” God is not issuing a generic want ad—“Needed: pious prophet. Pays little, and most likely the people will hate you for what you say. Apply today. Link in bio.” Nor is this God shooting up a bat signal into the night sky, asking for the help of someone whose identity he does not know. This is a personal encounter between God and Samuel. God’s calls to his messengers, his servants—indeed, all of his children—are tailor-made just for them.

What a thought: our names on the lips of the maker of the universe! Can you even believe he would do that? In the popular children’s book series, Harry Potter, the people only refer to the evil villain Voldemort as “He-who-must-not-be-named.” He was so villainous, so evil, so wicked, that even making the sounds of his name—the combination of vowels and consonants—was forbidden. Not because it would summon him like a magic charm, but because to verbalize his name was to verbalize all his awfulness. It would torment the hearers, terrorizing and distressing them because it made them think of him.

The sad reality is this: you and I are far more like Voldemort than we’d like to admit. Your heart is morally closer to the villainy, wickedness, and evil of the worst characters imaginable than you are to the thrice Holy God. In the eyes of the world, you might be an average Joe or Jane, but in your sin and before your Creator God who searches hearts, you are He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Yet Jesus Christ is not ashamed to speak our names, to call us personally into his fellowship, such is the depths of his love for sinners.

If you are a Christian today, it’s because at some point in your life the Lord called you by your very name. That’s what wakes us up out of our stupor, jolts us to the realities of our condition, and woos us into the arms of our Savior. Like Mary at the tomb, forlorn at the death of her Lord, and even looking at him she can’t believe it’s him but assumes he’s the gardener. Until what? Until He says, “Mary” (John 20:16). Then all is well. Then the clouds lift, and the joy of salvation dawns on her heart. “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” (John 10:3).

God’s Call Is Persistent

The word “call” appears 11 times in this chapter. God is after his man. Samuel is confused when he hears his name called in the middle of the night. He heads over to Eli’s bedroom thinking he has been summoned, not once thinking that God might be speaking to him. This is not a sign of impiety of Samuel’s part, but rather an indicator that he was not yet accustomed to being a prophet (1 Sam. 3:7). He was not expecting to receive visions and messages from God, though that will soon become the norm. It’s only after the third time that Eli finally gets it and tells Samuel it must be the Lord, thus he should return ready to hear from God. Sure enough, God speaks again. A fourth time. He is patient with Samuel.

God doesn’t give up on his own. Nor does he grow irritated and start barking at us when we do not immediately answer. He’s sweetly, patiently, gently saying the name of his child: “Samuel, Samuel.” Isn’t it remarkable that God is patient with us, even as we disregard his voice? Samuel was simply confused; we are often downright rebellious, much more like a future prophet called Jonah. But if you are his child, he is patient with you in your sin, in your neglect of him. He hasn’t given up on you. Poet Francis Thompson called him “the Hound of heaven.” Perhaps he has persisted with you through years, even decades, of ignorance and rebellion. Maybe he is still calling after you right now. Therefore, “Today if you hear his voice, harden not your heart” (Ps. 95:7–8).

God’s Call Is Powerful

All of this leads to a final observation about God’s call on his people: it is powerful. When God calls someone out of their sin, they come. When he calls someone into a particular ministry, they go. As we learn through the prophet Isaiah,

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Isa. 55:10–11)

What an immense relief this is to know that we cannot ultimately ignore, evade, or even violate God’s will! What he says, goes. It’s the slogan of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police that they “always get their man.” I highly doubt that’s true, but it’s certainly true of God. God’s call never falls to the ground (1 Sam. 3:19)—his words are never a waste, nor do they ever fail. If you have heard his call, he will keep you in it: “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37).

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Jonathan Landry Cruse

Jonathan Landry Cruse pastors Community Presbyterian Church (OPC) in Kalamazoo, MI, where he lives with his wife and children. He is the author or coauthor of several books, including Glorifying and Enjoying God and The Character of Christ.