January 14, 2001
Samuel - Speak, Lord. Your Servant Is Listening
1 Samuel 3:1-10
The boy Samuel ministered before the LORD under Eli. In those days the world of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions.
One night Eli whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. The 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. Then the LORD called Samuel.
Samuel answered, "Here I am." and he ran to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me."
But Eli said, "I did not call; go back and lie down." So he went and lay down.
Again the LORD called, "Samuel!" And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me."
"My son," Eli said, "I did not call; go back and lie down."
Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD: The word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.
The LORD called Samuel a third time, and Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me."
Then Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, "Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, 'Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.'" So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, "Samuel! Samuel!"
Then Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant is listening."
Last Sunday in my sermon, I referred to a devotional article that caught my attention. It mentioned that all corporations have a board of directors who share their expertise and experience in helping the executive officers make wise decisions in running the company.
Would it not be wise for a Christian to have such a board of directors who bring their experiences with the Lord to him or her? This counsel might be helpful in growing spiritually. I thought this was a good idea, and I have chosen eight people to serve on my board of directors for 2001.
Last Sunday I introduced my first director. His name is Abraham, known in the scriptures as a person of faith. Even when life didn’t make sense, Abraham trust God for the answers. Today I introduce a second director. He is a lesser-known Biblical person, but one who needs to be heard. He tells us to be quiet and listen, for the Lord is speaking and has something to say to us.
For years a woman named Hannah prayed that God would bless her with a son. The Bible tells us, “She made a vow, saying, ‘O Lord Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life’” (I Samuel 1:17f).
The Lord answered her prayer, and Samuel was born. When he was old enough to be separated from his mother, Hannah brought him to the temple and introduced Samuel to Eli. The mother said to Eli, “As surely as you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord. I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life, he will be given over to the Lord.” And he worshiped the Lord there (I Samuel 1:24f).
One night Eli was in bed, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord where the ark of the covenant was. Then the Lord spoke to Samuel, but he thought it was Eli calling, so he ran to Eli’s room and said, “Here I am; you called me.” But Eli said, “I didn’t call; go back and lie down.” This happened two more times, and Eli realized that it was the Lord calling Samuel, so he said to Samuel, “If you hear the voice again, say, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.’”
Sure enough, the Lord spoke to Samuel again, and Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” God told Samuel that Eli’s sons had made themselves contemptible, and their father had failed to control them. Now he was going to punish Eli and all of Israel.
In the morning Samuel was hesitant to tell Eli what the Lord had said to him, but Eli demanded that he be told everything. So Samuel shared with Eli what God had told him. Israel would be punished because Eli’s sons were wicked, and the father knew of their wickedness, but did not correct them.
When Eli heard this, he replied, “He is the Lord; let Him do what is good in His eyes” (I Samuel 3:18).
From that day on, Samuel was destined to become Israel’s leader. The Lord was with Samuel, and Israel received him as a prophet of the Lord. Samuel’s strength as a leader was his ability to listen when the Lord spoke to him. Because Samuel first listened to the Lord, and then spoke, he had a message to bring that had meaning.
One of the hardest lessons some of us have to learn is to listen. We would rather talk. Because of this fault, we cheat ourselves out of receiving the Lord’s counsel thinking. We think we can run our own lives. Or, we may look to humans for guidance, which is not always adequate.
God continually reminds us of the need to listen when He speaks. He used Solomon to bring us the same message, “There is a time to be silent, and a time to speak” (Ecclesiastes 3:7). It is in this quiet time that God speaks. But if we are so busy that there is no quiet time, when does God get our attention?
James writes, “Everyone should be quick to listen and slow to speak.” This is the same advice that comes to us. Don’t you think that Samuel should be on the board of directors for every Christian to hear his counsel on listening? I wonder how many times each day Samuel will need to tap us on the shoulder and say in language we understand, Shut up and listen. God is giving you the answer. Do you want to act this way, or say these things after listening to him?
Learning to listen comes early in life. During the Christmas holidays, I was in a large department store. A three-year-old and his mother were doing some shopping, and the little guy was tired. He wanted something that the mother was not going to give him. As usual, he began to cry and shout until she took him firmly by the arm and say, “Now listen to me.” She was not successful in getting his attention, so the mother picked him up and hurriedly left the story feeling, I am sure, that all eyes were on her and the unruly kid who had not yet learned to listen.
There is some of that attitude in all of us. How hard it is to listen to what is being said. God often is telling us to listen to Him. You see, it is more that just listening. It is listening to the right voice. If you are listening to the wrong people, you can be in a lot of trouble. That is where some of our problems come. Many of us do not want to listen to anyone. We are sufficient unto ourselves, but if it is necessary to get some other ideas on the subject, we turn to those who will only lead us down the wrong path. How sad to let His voice remain silent in our lives.
God speaks to us clearly in His Word. That means each day we need to get a word from Him. Simply put, we need to pick up our Bible just as regularly as we pick up the newspaper and learn from Him. He speaks to us through the voices of those who have lived with Him a long time, and have something to tell us. My wife has often been the voice of God when I impulsively was doing something contrary to God’s will. While the sermon might be lacking in many ways, I always find that God is saying something to me that I need to hear. As we were preparing for our Christmas service, the pastor placed in the bulletin a well- worded invitation for people to come and hear the Christmas Gospel. He then asked us to send this invitation to some unchurched friend. What a great idea, and I vowed to do it. But to my chagrin, I found the invitation on my desk the day after Christmas. God had spoken through the pastor’s suggestion. I had listened, but did not act. How sad. Is there any wonder that more people do not hear the Gospel when others act as I did?
My prayer is that I will do a better job listening to my counselor, Samuel, in 2001. I also pray that God’s voice may find its way into many listening ears this year. I pray that leaders of our nation will give God time to speak to them. It is my prayer that the Bible will be open and read in the oval office. I pray that it will be taken seriously by the leaders in our denomination headquarters. Help these people to focus on the primary mission of the Church — to bring the Gospel of Christ to our world. Help them to hear God’s voice speaking when the difficult social issues of our day must be addressed. May it be God’s voice, and not the voice of the sociologists and psychologists, that lead us as a Church. It is my prayer that parents will listen first to the voice of God in raising their children.
It is my prayer that, in people’s personal lives, Christ may be heard. If the person lives outside of a relationship with God and is not saved, he may hear the voice of the Savior calling him. May those who are contemplating marriage hear the voice of the Lord telling them not to be yoked to unbelievers. May those young people wondering what to do with their lives hear God’s voice counseling them to serve Him in whatever they decide to do. And for those of us who are the retirees, let us remember that God speaks to us also. These are years when great things can be done for Him, or they can be wasted in self-centered living. God has more in mind for us than golf and bridge.
When it is so natural for me to talk, and so unnatural to listen, I need Samuel. He has to be around the cabinet table telling me on a daily basis to keep still and listen. Only after I have listened to what my Heavenly Father has to say, will I have much to offer others when I speak.
Rev. Homer Larsen