Sermon podcast: Epiphany 29 Jan 2018 By Sermon Podcasts
Ruth Walker, Project Director, Calling Young Disciples, 14 January 2017.
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Eli told Samuel…if he calls you, say “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”
Are you good at Listening?
It’s not always easy to be a good listener is it? We can so easily find ourselves distracted by another conversation just happening out of our earshot that we want to hear, or by something else like the television going on in the same room, or maybe even with our own thoughts that keep intruding.
Or maybe like my mum your hearing is not so good now so the act of listening to someone takes a lot of concentration to hear what is actually being said.
And then again we all know people who have appalling listening skills, all too quickly interrupting and turning the conversation to focus on them, or even finishing off our sentences for us.
So maybe it’s not a surprise that just as we struggle to listen attentively to one another we struggle to listen attentively to God when He speaks to us.
Are you good at Listening to God?
Throughout the Bible God’s people are asked to ‘listen’ to ‘hear’ what God is saying to them, when God speaks to His people what He says is always important. At Jesus’ transfiguration God says the same is true of what Jesus says, His command to the disciples present at that moment is: ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!’ (Matt. 17 v 5)
Listen to Him. Listen to God.
Samuel discovers at a young age that God wants to speak to him and that God wants him to listen to what he says and act on it. At first Samuel isn’t clear at all what is going on, who it is that has woken him up in the early hours of the morning by calling him by name. It’s not a surprise therefore that Samuel decides it must be Eli the elderly priest he works for who needs him and he gets up and hurries to see what Eli wants.
In the first verse of this chapter from 1 Samuel we’re given an important extra piece of information as background to what is going on here, the writer says: ‘In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.’ Does this mean that the Lord didn’t often speak to His people? Or was it that they had stopped listening to God’s voice, so much so that when He did speak they didn’t recognise it was God? Or maybe because God knew no one was listening any longer and they had forgotten what the sound of his voice was like He rarely spoke. Whatever the sequence of events the result was an uncomfortable, painful silence.
It is clear from what happens next that not only had God’s people forgotten what God’s voice sounded like and the ways in which He might speak to them but that those who were paid to pray, as it were, the priests, the spiritual leaders had forgotten too. It was very sad state of affairs and one that God was going to change but first someone has to Listen.
It’s not until Samuel has woken Eli a third time from his slumbers that Eli cottons on to what might be happening. It’s almost as if he begins to remember times when God spoke to him many years before when he had been listening and in doing so he realises that it is God who is calling Samuel. At last Eli comes into his own, he doesn’t just tell Samuel – look Samuel it’s God who is disturbing you and not me no Eli tells Samuel what he should do next time God calls – that is Listen to Him.
Eli instructs Samuel: ‘if he calls you, say “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”
From that moment on Samuel’s ears are tuned into God’s voice, when God speaks Samuel listens and he does what God asks even when it is hard – as it was to tell Eli the sad things that were going to happen to him and his family because they hadn’t listened to God and obeyed. Samuel does what God asks him even when it doesn’t make sense to him – as he anoints Saul King over Israel and again as later God tells him to anoint David the youngest son of Jesse though Samuel thought anyone of his brothers looked so much more like a future King than David did.
But for now Samuel, that young boy gets the help he needs to point him in the right direction. Eli probably does the most important thing he has ever done for God, even though he has found it difficult to do so himself, he teaches Samuel to Listen to God.
- Who could you help to ‘Listen’ to God, so they can recognise His voice in their lives?
- It is absolutely clear that God speaks to children and young people. Have you a young person in your life, maybe a grandchild or godchild, in what ways could you encourage them to get to know God this year? Read Bible stories to them, pray with them and for them, buy them a great Christian book to read or tell them how knowing God had helped you?
- Think about how this year you can ensure that you regularly make space to ‘Listen’ to God? What will be the first step you take to make this happen?