Listen In The Silence
1 Samuel 3:1-10
In this passage, God speaks to the young boy Samuel. Why we don’t hear more about God speaking to people today? Does God have spiritual laryngitis? What’s the problem?
We might wonder why God doesn’t just raise his voice. Because God is a gracious and gentle God, He decides not to intimidate, overwhelm, or control us. He allows us to ignore him if we want. He doesn’t force us to listen or obey. Maybe he allows us freedom to disobey so that we might have a more honest and grace-filled relationship with him as he communicates through His Word.
Sometimes the only time we talk with someone is when we want something. But that kind of communication is need-based, not love-based. With God, so often the only prayers we give have to do with our needs: “Lord, I’m sick, I’m lonely, I’m scared, I need your protection.” These prayers seek God’s hand, but not His face. When we do this, we treat God more like a vending machine than a real person. In an intimate relationship one cares about facial expressions. Eye contact is made to show you are listening.
Well, God wants us to know Him through His Word. He will use trouble and hardship and pain to get our attention if He must. Like a loving parent, God disciplines those He loves (Hebrews 12). He wants to speak with us! He wants us to find security and hope and love in His Word. This is a basic belief in Christianity. So, if God is speaking through his Word and His means of grace in the Church, why aren’t we so often thinking He doesn’t speak to us? And from our lesson today, “What keeps Samuel and us from recognizing God’s voice?”
Sometimes when my wife speaks to me I either don’t hear or I don’t understand. I believe there are two things you need to understand about women, and nobody knows what they are. If I have that much trouble understanding my wife whom I love and spend my life with, how much more should we expect communication problems with God? Communication doesn’t just happen; it takes effort and work and time and desire. It takes God’s voice, not just me voicing my needs.
And with so many voices in our lives. How do I know which is God’s? Maybe I’m hearing a parent’s voice or my own. How do I recognize God’s voice? The same way I know my wife’s voice when she calls—I’ve heard it before. I recognize it because I’ve spent time listening to it. We must be ready to listen to God.
Jesus says, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Lk 8:8). Paul says, “Faith comes from hearing” (Rom 10:17). God wants to talk to you, and you can hear him if you just put your faith ears on. You need to tune in your attitude to receive God’s voice. It’s like television waves. They’re all around you, but you can’t see them until you connect through an antenna. God’s always speaking, but you can’t see it because your attitude is on the wrong channel. When God tries to speak, you rudely turn the volume up, thinking this will help you better pass the time. Samuel had the volume down in three ways: he had an open mind, he took quiet time to listen, and he was ready to do what God said.
Be Open-Minded and Listen
Influenced by his mother and Eli, Samuel was in the position of checking things out about God. His mind was naturally open, but he had never heard God’s voice before. Why? Maybe, like many, he was never open to the possibility of God speaking to him. Maybe he didn’t even know it was possible for God to speak directly to him. So many people don’t believe God wants to talk to them, so they don’t listen. They’re not in the Word; they’re not among God’s people; they don’t see a need for church. They’ve made up their mind about God and decided to do what they want. They don’t really want a God. They’d rather play God than be godly.
Pride says we don’t need God. Fear says we won’t like what he has to say. Anger says we are hurting, but God doesn’t care. But when someone asks, “Where was God when my son died?” God’s answer is: “The same place he was when his Son died on the cross.” When we hurt, God hurts with us. When you hurt, don’t run from God, run to Him. Open your mind to God’s love in his Word and his people. Faith always hears Gospel, but unbelief hears nothing from God.
Be Quiet and Listen
We’ve got to slow down, be quiet, and schedule time to be alone with God (Ps 46:10). We seem to plan everything else but time with God: vacations, doctor’s appointments, dates, meetings at work. The second reason some people never hear God speak is that we’re in too big of a hurry. Samuel ran, not walked, to Eli when he heard the voice. Samuel told him to go back, lie down, and listen (v 9).
Some people want to hear God speak, but He’d better hurry up so we can get back to work or back to having fun. A sermon longer than 30 minutes seems to be a sin. During the sermon our mind is filled with distractions of what we need to do. So, we miss what God wants to say to us. Three things get through: things that threaten us, things that are different, and things we value. The fact is that we take time to listen to what we care about.
We say we believe the Bible, but how many of us memorize even one verse a week? Why would you believe something you aren’t willing to learn?
Sometimes I respond to God’s Word by really wanting to work on some area of my life. Then a couple of months later, nothing’s changed. Have I really listened? No. You don’t really listen until the Word changes you. God’s Word is powerful and effective, but we can put it down somewhere on our “to do” pile and forget it because there’s so much else we feel we need to do. Our minds are full of worries, plans, goals, ambitions, bills, relationship troubles, and busy-ness. We get distracted from what’s important, and God can’t get through all the noise.
Be Ready to Listen
God talks to people who have an open mind, who take time to be quiet and listen, and who are ready to hear and obey. Only when Samuel was ready to listen, exercising his faith, did the Lord tell Samuel what he wanted him to do.
Maybe people aren’t in the Word or in church weekly because they’re afraid of what they might hear and don’t know how good God is. God offers a healthy, intimate relationship, but all they hear is finger-pointing and oppressive rules. Being ready to listen and not looking for an excuse to tune God out is how God’s grace in Jesus comes to us in its fulness.
Jesus addresses this habit of ours in wanting what we want and not allowing God to determine what we hear and what we value when He says: “Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple” (Lk 14:33). What do you need to give up, throw away, or stop doing in order to continue to hear your Lord? James writes, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (v 1:22). We are kidding ourselves if we think that we’re growing in the faith just by going to church. We can attend to God’s Word for an hour during the service, but the Word of God changes us as we listen to it daily and with an attitude of readiness to hear what God speaks only to us. Try doing what God’s Word says without knowing the outcome, without worry, or pride, or fear.
How many here believe that God is good, that He loves you and wants to bless you? How many believe that God is smarter and more powerful than you? Then why not listen? If we seek a God we can handle, that will be exactly what we get . . . but we won’t receive the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
God loves you just the way you are. He longs to embrace you through His means of grace. He waits by his phone to hear from you and hangs on your every word, emotion, and tone that you express in prayer. Do you want that? If you do, then be where He is on earth quietly listening to his Word. “The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him” (Hab 2:20). The New Testament temples where we rest like Samuel are not made with human hands, but out of paper and ink, bread and wine, water, and people. As a Christian you are the temple of God, a letter of God, and a unique expression of His love in Christ for all people.
I’ve never been a big fan of homework, but sometimes it is necessary as homework reinforces what is important and demonstrates how well students hear their instruction and do what it directs. Do some homework this week. Do one thing in response to God’s message of love for you over these next seven days. Join a Bible study, start memorizing a Bible verse a week, having a quiet time every day for 5, 10, 15 minutes, committing to praying regularly with a friend. Something! Don’t let God’s loving voice be wasted on you. Go to His Word with the attitude of Samuel, “Speak, for your servant is listening” (1 Sam 3:10).