Are you Hearing the Lord Speaking?
1 Samuel 3:1-20
January 17, 2021
Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.
At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; 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!” and he said, “Here I am!” and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. The Lord called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” [Then the Lord said to Samuel, “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle. On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. For I have told him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever.”
Samuel lay there until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the Lord. Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. But Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” He said, “Here I am.” Eli said, “What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also, if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.” So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. Then he said, “It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him.”
As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the Lord.
It’s terrible to get old. Not only does it take longer to get up out of bed and get everything moving in the right direction, when you do finally get in motion it takes so long to recover from doing what used to be a menial task. It hurts to mow the lawn. And that is using a riding mower. Some part of our bodies aches all the time. If it is not our knees, it’s our back or our shoulders or our heads. When we pear into the medicine cabinet it seems like we have pills for every section of our body. Not to mention a different Doctor to prescribe each of those medications.
As we get older our minds begin to wander. I’m not talking about like when we were younger and we just didn’t pay attention to what our parents were saying. How many times have you gone to another room and forgotten what you went there for? Our eyesight and hearing start to fade. We are forced to spend terrible amounts of money on hearing devices and glasses to help make those two senses better. And even with the assistance of glasses we can’t see anywhere near what we used to. We need glasses for reading (in the sunlight and out), glasses for driving (day and night), glasses for working on the computer and glasses to help us find the other glasses. But hearing is the worst. I am surprised, after 40 years of playing music, loud music, I am not completely deaf. Though my wife seems to think otherwise. Many times, we don’t always hear what we need to hear and other times we hear things that aren’t there. One thing though, couples who have been together for a long time have become very adept at anticipating what the other one is about to say and then having to repeat themselves – word for word. I think the most used word in the older adult vocabulary is “HUH”.
In our reading we find a young Samuel “ministering to the Lord under Eli”. In those days it was not uncommon for a parent to place their child, usually a young boy, under the tutelage of a high priest or prophet. This being a man named Eli. You see, there was a Levite man called Elkanah. Elkanah had two wives, Penninah and Hannah. Penninah born several children for Elkanah while Hannah was barren. Hannah prayed at the temple every day and promised God that if He gave her a son she would dedicate him to the Lord. Eventually she gave birth to a son and she named him Samuel. Which brings us to where we are in the reading.
While in the care of Eli, Samuel was being called by God while he and Eli were sleeping. 4 times to be exact. Three times God calls out, “Samuel! Samuel!”, and Samuel rolls off his mat and runs into where Eli was sleeping, thinking it was he who had called him. Now I know exactly how Eli must have felt being awakened in the middle of the night. We have 3 dogs and rarely do they all need to go outside at the same time. Sometimes they do but most of the time it is 2 one time and the third another. It can be very frustrating, and the sleep deprivation can be mentally debilitating during the rest of the day. Can you picture poor old Eli, sound asleep when he hears Samuel calling him from the other room? Now I am sure Eli’s hearing wasn’t the greatest, so Samuel had to been nearly shouting for Eli to hear him. I imagine Eli replying, “Boy, you are hearing things. Now go back to sleep.” Samuel returns to his room. After a while Samuel hears someone calling him and he calls out again to Eli. I don’t know about you but if I were Eli I would have been reaching for something to throw at the one causing these interruptions. “Boy, if you don’t leave me alone and go back to sleep…” As Jackie Gleason used to say, “To the moon Alice!” Samuel returns to his room once more. But then it happens a third time. However, this time Eli finally realizes what is going on and tells Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he (God) calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’”
Why is it so hard to hear God’s voice? Sometimes I liken it to listening to an AM station on the radio. Sometimes there is so much static you cannot make out the music or what is being said. That is just like the world today. There is so much else going on that we don’t take the time to listen for God’s voice. Work, school, cellphone calls, messages and text constantly popping up, kids getting it trouble, the dogs barking. And then there is the fact that we don’t want to listen; we do not want to hear God’s voice. We don’t want to take just a few moments to sit quietly and listen for what God has to say. It doesn’t take that long because God is always listening for us and is waiting for us tune into a better station so we can understand what He has to say. We can rest assured that God is always there on the other end of the line. Now His voice may not come through as clearly as a Satellite radio station or like that of a person calling from the next room. But those are the moments when we are to be silent enough and focused enough to hear it.
Samuel, after making 3 trips to Eli, goes back to bed. The Lord calls Samuel a fourth time and he does what Eli told him to do. He says, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” God them proceeds to tell Samuel that the house of Eli was about to receive the punishment it deserved because of the two sons of Eli who had been blaspheming God. And that God would no longer accept sacrifices or offerings in repentance of the sins they were committing. You see, in chapter 2 we find Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phinehas, doing the work of the tabernacle for Eli. And because of Eli’s failing eyesight they took advantage of the opportunity. When dividing up the meats for sacrifices they took the best parts for themselves and left the not-so-good stuff for the Lord. This was not pleasing to the Lord. So this is where we find God telling young Samuel what he was about to do to rectify the prior committed sins by Eli’s sons.
Samuel listened to what the Lord said and went back to bed. He slept on it till morning when Eli asked him what the Lord had to say. Like so many of us in similar situations we tend not to say anything or we come up with a suitable “white lie” to spare the feelings of the other person. Samuel was about to do the same thing when Eli warned him that whatever God was about to do would be done more so to him if he did not tell the truth. Samuel did as Eli requested, hiding nothing. And Eli responded with, “It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him.”
Sometimes the truth hurts. But in all times do lies do far more harm. We have all heard that one lie leads to another, and then another, and so on. The trail of a lie never ends where the truth finalizes an event. It is difficult at times to come right out and tell someone how you feel or what you think of something they did. Perhaps a friend stole a car or broke into a house. And you know if you tell the authorities it would cause your friend hardships and possible time in jail. Worse yet, it would cause you a friendship. Friendships can be rebuilt if they are meant to be. Life going down an evil path most likely will remain on that path to the point where it can never recover. The truth can hurt. But the truth can also show just how much you care and that you are willing to walk and lead a person in trouble along the right path. The path that will eventually lead them to salvation in Heaven.
Listening to God is difficult but discerning what God is saying to us, and following what He is instructing us to do, is even more difficult. Many of you have heard my story a few times but I feel I need to share parts of it today. My journey began in 2008 when Helen and I left the Lutheran church because of what we felt was God telling us it was time to find greener spiritual pastures. As the star of Bethlehem led the wise men to Jesus 2000 years ago, we were finally led to Kenton UMC and a deeper sense of God’s call for us to be more involved in the church. In 2010 we both attended perspective Emmaus weekends and learned what God wanted us to do. In 2014 I became the Lay Minister for the church. But there was more. In 2015 I became a licensed Local Pastor. It was then my guiding Star settled over this very church. It’s been a wonderful 5 ½ year journey as I have been part of some amazing ministry in and outside of the church. I know most of those programs had been going on long before I came here but I felt I was able to join in, grab a paddle and row the ministry boat a little faster, a little further.
As most of you know I have felt for a long time that God was calling me to eventually become a full-time pastor. That time has come. My guiding star is shining bright again and calling onward. In the recent week I received a call from the District Superintendent, Dr. Sa, that the Bishop herself has offered me a full-time appointment to another church. That being the Harrington Circuit consisting of 3 churches. I have been praying for this opportunity since I first received my call to the ministry. And even with knowing that this day would someday come, it doesn’t make it any easier. The good part about changes in the ministry is it’s not like a secular job where you say goodbye to your old co-workers on Friday and your hellos to your new co-workers on Monday. We have 5 months to ease into our goodbyes. 5 months to make sure the work of Woodside Church does not slow or get of course. Many of you have been through this a few times so it is not anything unforeseen. Being my first time in this situation it is truly a bitter-sweet moment but I know God has great things in store for Helen and I as we go forward in the ministry that God has called us to do. And I know the Lord will send someone perfect to lead this church into a brighter future in the name of Jesus Christ.
God bless and I love you all.