Summary: Are you a good listener? Not listening many times means you’re going to miss something important. How about listening to the Lord? Are you a good listener? Samuel is a good example for us to follow when it comes to listening to the Lord. How does the Lord speak to us? Why should we listen?
Are you a good listener? Maybe instead of asking you, I should ask your spouse, or your children, or your parents. Are you a good listener? There are certainly some people that are better listeners than others and you’ve probably experienced that in your life. A person who is a sympathetic ear, that as you talk with them you can tell that they are genuinely interested in you and what you’re saying. They’re a good listener. And then there are other people who aren’t such good listeners. They’re more into talking. They ask you how you’re doing, but before you can answer, they’re already telling you about something in their own life. The thing with listening is that if you don’t take the time to listen, you’re going to miss things. You miss a turn because you didn’t listen carefully to the directions someone was giving. You miss an appointment because you weren’t listening to what time the person said. You miss out on a friendship because you just didn’t take the time to listen.
There wasn’t a whole lot of listening going on in Samuel’s day. Samuel, the boy that we heard about in our first lesson from 1 Samuel 3, lived around the year 1100 BC. He was living in the central part of the nation of Israel in a city called Shiloh. He lived with an elderly man named Eli who was the priest in charge of the tabernacle, the place where God’s people came to worship the Lord. Although God’s people were living in the Promised Land of Israel thy weren’t real interested in listening to the Lord. The Bible says, “In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions” (1 Samuel 3:1). At this point in history, only the first five books of the Bible had been written (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) along with the books of Joshua and Judges. In addition to these writings, one of the primary ways that God spoke to his people was through visions. The Old Testament prophets would receive these visions from God and then the prophet would relay the message to God’s people for them to listen to.
Unfortunately, God’s people were not real interested in listening to what God had to say to them. When God’s people stopped listening to the Lord, they missed things. Although God repeatedly warned his people of the dangers of sin, his warnings often fell on deaf ears. God’s people thought that they didn’t need God to tell them what to do. God’s people foolishly thought that they knew better than God. They got lost in sin and unbelief, wandering away from the Lord. By not listening to the Lord they missed out on the relationship that he longed to have with them, a relationship of faith, of mercy, of forgiveness and blessing. The Word of God was rare not because God didn’t want to talk to his people, but because they didn’t want to listen to him. Still, the Lord kept calling and by God’s grace some listened. Samuel and Eli were some of them.
We’re not exactly sure how old Samuel was in this account. The term “boy” indicates that he was beyond the age of a young child, but not yet an adult. Samuel had been living with Eli at the tabernacle in Shiloh where he was receiving full-time instruction in God’s Word. Obviously, the Lord speaking directly to Samuel was not something that either Samuel or Eli were expecting. It took three times before Eli figured out what was going on. But when Eli figured it out, he knew exactly what to tell Samuel to do. “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening’” (1 Samuel 3:9). And Samuel listened to Eli. The next time the Lord called, Samuel responded, “Speak, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10). Those few words say quite a bit about Samuel. First, did you notice what Samuel called himself? He calls himself “servant.” Samul understood his relationship with the Lord. The LORD was the one telling him what to do, and not the other way around. Why was Samuel willing to listen to the Lord? Well, think about it. Who are the people that you listen to? You listen to people who know YOU, and people who know WHAT they’re talking about.
Did you notice what the Lord said to Samuel when he came to him those three times? The Lord calls Samuel by name, “Samuel!” The Lord knew Samuel, and more than just his name. The Lord knew Samuel as one of his dearly loved children through faith. Samuel lived in a place where he was daily reminded of what this God who called him by name would do for him. With every animal sacrifice that God’s people brought to that place, they were pointed ahead to the perfect sacrifice that God himself would offer, one time for all people as the payment for every sin. Samuel saw with those sacrifices, the love of a God who would stop at nothing to make him one of his own. This was not some distant deity, this was his God, a God who cared about him, was willing to sacrifice for him, forgave and loved him. This was a God who knew him, a God who knew what he was doing.