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“And the word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no open vision.”

Samuel, the child, was ministering to the Lord before Eli. Hophni and Phinehas, Eli’s two sons, had, while filling the priest’s office, wickedly perverted the offerings brought by the people to be given to the Lord in the sanctuary. They had waxed fat on the meat of the sacrifices, were not obeying the laws for the sacrificial offerings that had been given their fathers from God through the medium of Moses in olden time. They listened not to the advice of Eli, their father, when he would have had them refrain from evil, but persisted in their wickedness to their own destruction purposed of God, as we afterward find recorded. We can well imagine under such circumstances what a famine of “hearing the word of the Lord “must have existed among his chosen people, Israel, at this time. No prophet was there then to tell them what God would do, or to remind them of what he had done for them. Samuel had not yet been brought forth to the people as a man sent from God to prophesy. Most certainly then must the word of the Lord have been precious in those days. We to-day have certain gems which we style “precious,” because scarce, of rare beauty, and hence of great value. For the same reason was the word of the Lord precious in those days. Dearth of prophecy, the medium through which God made known himself to his people under the legal dispensation, had made the word of the Lord precious because rare, and “there was no open vision.” “Open vision” signifies to me a peace and quietness of spirit which comes in walking in the commandments of the Lord, and in the meditation of his law day and night, when in the face of Jesus Christ we see revealed the light of the knowledge of the glory of God. Israel was not at this time abiding in the law and delighting in keeping its conditions, but just as wayward and stiff-necked as ever, was going sadly astray into by and forbidden paths. Consequently the hand of the Lord had gone out against them, and “the word of the Lord was precious [scarce] in those days.” The Philistines had them in their grip, men not knowing or caring for the Lord were their masters. O, how their hearts must have sighed within them to be rid of their bondage. Surrounded by the powers of darkness, their soul fainting within them, they are on the verge of annihilation, when lo, “Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground.” No, indeed, they were far too precious for that. Being the words of inspired prophecy breathed into the heart of Samuel by God himself, they readily found their places in the hearts of his chosen everywhere, and from Dan even to Beersheba, Samuel was established as a prophet of the Lord. How sweet and precious (of rare beauty and value) most have been the words of his prophecy, coming as they did after such a “famine of hearing the words of the Lord.”

Now all that was written aforetime, Paul says was “written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” That being the case, then the little sentence quoted at the beginning must have its counterpart in the experience of every child of God on earth to day, else there is no comfort in it, and Paul spoke not the truth. Dear child of God, do you not know what it is to walk in darkness and have no light, to feel the hidden evils of your nature creep forth as wild beasts from the forest at nighttime! Have you not felt the hand of the Philistines upon you, and been well nigh crushed under the bondage of evil men?

“How sore a plague is sin,
To those by whom ‘tis felt,
The christian cries, ‘Unclean, unclean!’
E’en though released from guilt.”

Our sins rising before us blot out God’s face from our sight as a thick cloud obscures the light of the sun. A famine is abroad in the land, “Not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.” How we long for just one word from the lips of the divine Master to dispel our gloom and lift us from the mighty depth of woe! As men seek for precious gems of earth to hide their wretchedness and poverty, and to make themselves rich, so do we seek for the fountain of wisdom that we may hide our leanness and cover our poverty with the precious gems of truth issuing therefrom. In his own good time and way God does speak to us, not through a Samuel or one of the other prophets of old, but through his Son Jesus Christ, for “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son,” and be sends to us the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, which brings to our remembrance all things whatsoever he has told us. God has opened the way of salvation for his people through the merits of Jesus. We had experienced this salvation long ago, but while in the midst of so much affliction and darkness of mind we had almost forgotten it, and our feet had well nigh slipped when the “precious word “spoken in the heart reminded us of his promise, and we are happy again, aye, the “open vision “is restored.


Signs Of The Times
Volume 69, No. 17
SEPTEMBER 1, 1901.