1 Samuel 3:1-10 SPEAK LORD, FOR YOUR SERVANT IS LISTENING.
One activity that human beings really aren’t very good at is listening. It’s surprising, really. There doesn’t seem to be much to the art of listening – you just sit there and nod your head at the appropriate times. But for many many people, listening is a problem. You can buy videos that help you become better listeners. There is actually a Listening Association that you can join- to help you improve your listening skills. These things exist because people naturally are not good listeners. There might be no better example of poor listening than what happens during a sermon. People shift around. Even though they can go for hours at work without going to the bathroom, they have to get up every two minutes and head off to the bathroom during the sermon. Many adults become restless school children during the 17 minutes that a sermon takes place.
People just aren’t good at listening. They’d rather be talking. Or doing things. Or dreaming about things. Or watching things. But listening? That’s a difficult thing to do.
Today we find out how important listening is, when it comes to your relationship with God. Remember, this is the Epiphany season, that time in the church year when Jesus reveals his glory, and lets people see his grace and mercy and love and forgiveness. Today we learn how important it is, and what a blessing it is, when we listen to Christ, when we listen to his Word. May God bless you these next few moments as you listen to God speak to you through his Word.
Today we meet the prophet Samuel, when he was a little boy who worked in the temple under the supervision of a man named Eli. We are told in verse 1 that in “those days, the word of the Lord was rare; there were no visions.” In other words, God was choosing not to speak to his people. Why would God do that? Why would God keep himself from his people? Well, when you study the history of the nation of Israel at that time, you learn that these people were very wicked. No one was interested in listening to God, hearing his Word. People were too busy with their own lives, too busy breaking God’s commands. The last thing they had time for was listening to a prophet speak the Word of God to them. And so, the Word of the Lord was rare at that time.
Is the Word of the Lord rare in your life? How often do you listen to the Word of the God? How often are you able to come to public worship? What about in your own private life? Is the Word of the Lord rare in your private life? Are you too busy to have a private devotional life with God? Are you too proud, too self-reliant – “I’ve just never done that sort of thing before – I don’t read the Word of God on my own.” Or maybe you do, but it’s very quick, not much thought goes into it, because you need to get on with those more important things of life.
It’s interesting to me when I talk to people who are drifting away from God – one of the most common things they say to me is this: “But I pray all the time.” But is praying to God the same as listening to God? The answer is no - it’s the opposite. Prayer is a good thing, and most people don’t pray enough. But prayer is not how God speaks to you. Prayer is not how Christ reveals his glory to you. Isn’t it interesting, that Eli, in our story, and Samuel - both of them were very busy working in the temple, doing religious types of things. And yet, verse 7 tells us that “Samuel did not yet know the Lord, the Word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.” God was still a stranger to Samuel. And so it is with so many people, so many of us – God is still a stranger. We’re too busy to listen, and we pray at times when we remember, but really, we are failing to make his Word a priority in our lives. God becomes more and more a stranger to us. We make excuses, but in the end, we are sinning, and we know it.