Summary: May God give us all the attitude of Samuel that says, "Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening."
(Note: For this sermon I had my cell phone in the pulpit. I had someone call me on it just as the sermon began.) The Word of God that we will consider in our sermon this morning is the Old Testament lesson for this Sunday from 1 Samuel 3:1-10. (Cell phone rings…) Just a minute let me take this call. (Talk for a few seconds with the person.) How long would you pay attention to me if I kept talking to someone else while you sat there waiting? Or what would you get out of the sermon if I interrupted it every now and then to receive phone calls? You would be distracted and disappointed. In time you would stop listening to me because I wasn’t giving you my full attention.
We could reverse this situation. Imagine how hard it would be for me to speak to you if you were all talking to each other or carrying on conversations on your cell phones. In time I would just give up trying to communicate with you.
What I just illustrated for you with my cell phone has a number of applications to the way we listen to God and even the way he speaks to us. As we focus on the familiar story in our Old Testament lesson for today from 1 Samuel 3:1-10 about God calling Samuel we will be led to see those connections. In the process we will also be reminded of how important it is for us to give God our full attention and to really listen to what he has to say. We ask the Holy Spirit to work in us the ability that we find in Samuel. May we learn to:
“LISTEN TO THE LORD”
I. With the ears of a servant
II. With the actions of a servant
Our Old Testament lesson begins with this information. “The boy Samuel ministered before the LORD under Eli.” Samuel was one of those “miracle” babies of the Old Testament. A barren woman named Hannah prayed intensely for a son. She vowed that if God enabled her to conceive and give birth to a son she would turn him over to serve the LORD all his life. After Samuel was born Hannah kept her vow to the LORD and offered her young son back to the Giver of Life. She placed him in fulltime service to the LORD at the temple that had been constructed at Shiloh.
The first chapters of 1 Samuel not only tell us about Samuel they also tell us about the spiritual conditions among God’s people at that time. Hitting an all time low in their idolatry and immorality the Israelites could barely be recognized as the LORD’s people. Even some of the priests, especially the two sons of the high priest, Eli, were openly ignoring God’s commands and living immoral lives.
After being told that Samuel, the future prophet, was serving at God’s house we are given another important piece of background information. “In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions.” Because God’s people were not listening to Him He stopped talking to them!
But that was about to change. God would use Samuel to open the ears of His people. “Listen to the LORD,” would be Samuel’s message. And he himself would be a living example of how that is done. Samuel listened to the LORD with the ears of a servant and the actions of a servant.
At that time God’s people certainly didn’t have the ears of a servant. Their ears were deaf to God’s Word and closed to his commands. In direct contradiction to the First Commandment the Israelites worshipped idols. Although they kept up some of the outward signs of religion and of belonging to the LORD their hearts and lives were filled with sin. The book of Judges outlines the spiral of unbelief and wickedness down which the Israelites slid in each generation. And it wasn’t as though God didn’t try to get his people to repent. Again and again he raised up spiritual leaders who attempted to lead the Israelites to repent of their sins and change their ways. But they refused to listen. So finally God stopped talking. Again, that is why we are told, “In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions.”
But there was at least one person in Israel who would listen to the LORD. “One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. 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 answered, ‘Here I am.’ And he ran to Eli and said, ‘Here I am; you called me.’” Samuel had the ears of a servant. When he thought Eli was calling him he ran to see what he needed.