There is a story in I Samuel, chapter 3 about a boy hearing the voice of God for the first time. The boy’s name is Samuel. Samuel would go on to become a prophet for all of Israel, and God would speak mighty truths through him. However, before that, Samuel had to learn to hear God’s voice.
This story is encouraging to me in so many ways. First, the fact that the God - who knows me, made me, loves me, sees me, has a purpose for me, and is - at present - preparing a place for me to spend forever and ever – that God is not too busy to talk to me. Enormously exciting. The second reason this gets me all fired up is that if He is speaking to me personally, then this faith/church/religion stuff gets very real. No longer the black and white mandate of got to/should do/need to, the God at the center of my faith is now only a conversation away. Faith starts to feel less like duty and more like a road trip with a wise and loving bestie. And thirdly, when Someone wants to spend a lifetime traveling with you, talking with you, listening to your heart’s groanings that you can’t even articulate – well - to me, that sounds like the intimacy I always wanted but never knew I was missing.
So, how do I hear this voice? Interesting how it worked for Samuel. He was asleep on the floor beside the arc of the Lord. His mentor, Eli, was sleeping in the room just adjacent. The Lord calls to Samuel three times, “Samuel!” Every time Samuel wakes up and runs to Eli saying, “Here I am.” And each time, Eli essentially says, I didn’t call you. Go back to bed. After the third time, Eli realizes that this may be the Lord speaking to Samuel, “So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” And that is what Samuel did. The Lord called on him again, and Samuel responded just as Eli had said. “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” And the Lord spoke, and Samuel listened, a pattern that would continue for the rest of Samuel’s life.
So, what was the difference between the times Samuel didn’t recognize God’s voice and the time that he did? What I see in this passage is that Samuel got into a posture of listening, and in doing so, he went from simply hearing to truly listening.
He was quiet and still. No matter how hard we try, it is very hard to truly listen when the world around us is loud and busy. We may hear things, but that doesn’t mean we are always listening. He was expectant. He went from not even considering that God would speak to him to becoming expectant of hearing God’s voice. He was open. Maybe it was because he was a boy without the encumbrances of a great political, social or personal agenda, but Samuel seemed so open to hear anything. I confess that I listen out primarily for things I want to hear - like that I am “right” in pretty much all circumstances. The reality is that sometimes when we listen only for certain things we miss the message all together. He was believing. Samuel was able to listen, because he believed God would speak to a little fella like him.
Ladies, this is immensely important, this listening business. In verse 7 of this chapter it says, “Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord” before he listened to God’s voice. Samuel grew up in the temple, a student of the great prophet Eli, he slept on the floor beside the arc of the Lord which was considered the very presence of God. Still, with all that ‘church’ all around him, he did not know the Lord until he listened to His voice.
So, here is our MANNA: God is speaking to you now. He is a God who calls out to the people He loves. And, this I know for sure. He loves you. He wants to ‘tell you great and unsearchable things that you do not know’. Will you listen? What if you gave Him 3 minutes of your day today in a quiet, open, expectant and believing posture? What if you said, “Speak, Lord, for I am listening”? What if …