Summary: If I want to hear God speak I must learn to listen
Many years ago, the United Nations gathered for a conference in New York City. During a lunch break, two of the participants decided to take a walk around the busy streets of New York City and grab a sandwich at a local deli. One of those men was a Native American who had spent much of his life learning the ways of the wilderness, including tracking animals.
As they were walking along in the midst of the usual mix of sirens, honking horns, blaring radios and ringing cell phones, the Native American stopped abruptly and turned to the other man and said, “Did you hear that?” “Hear what?”, laughed the other man. “That cricket” replied the first man.
“There is no way you could hear a cricket in all this noise”, the other delegate responded. But the Native American man walked across the street to a discarded paper cup and when he picked it up, sure enough there was a cricket inside the cup.
“That’s amazing. How did you do that?”
“It’s really not that difficult. One hears what one wants to hear.” He continued, “Watch this”. And he proceeded to take a handful of change from his pocket and dropped the coins on the sidewalk. As soon as the change hit the pavement, every pedestrian within 35 feet stopped dead in their tracks and turned toward the men. “See what I mean? We notice what we’re listening for.”
My guess is that for all of us here this morning, there are times in our lives when hearing God is just as difficult as it would be for us to hear a cricket on the noisy streets of New York City. I know I certainly feel like that at times and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one. Am I right?
That is why this morning’s message is so important for all of us. Whether you are not yet a disciple of Jesus or you have been a Christian for a long time, learning to listen to God is one of the most important skills we will ever develop in our lives. So this morning, we’re going to see what we can learn about how to do that from a 12 year old boy.
But before we do that, I want to stop for a moment to put this morning’s passage in its overall context, since we haven’t really done that for a while. As most of you know, this year we’re taking a journey through the Old Testament. And now that we’re roughly half way through, it seems like a good time to recap where we’ve travelled so far. The dates I’m going to give you are very approximate since it’s difficult to determine exact dates or even general time periods prior to the time of the kings, since neither the Biblical accounts or historical records are very precise prior to that time.
• We began with in the book of Genesis and looked at the Beginnings of mankind and of God’s people – the nation of Israel. We learned that God called a people to Himself for the purpose of blessing the entire world through the Messiah who would come from among their descendants. That period ends in roughly 1800 BC with the death of Joseph.
• In the next series, we saw how God delivered His people from bondage in Egypt through the leadership of Moses and Aaron. We also learned about the purpose of the law and the design of the tabernacle, both of which pointed forward to the coming of Jesus. That period ended in roughly 1400 BC with the death of Moses.
• In our third series, we focused on the people of Israel as they entered into the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua.
• After Joshua’s death, the period of the Judges begins and lasts for about 300 years until the time of the kings. The prophet Samuel, who we’ll focus on this morning, comes on the scene around 1100 BC and is considered by many to be the last judge and the first prophet, so he serves to transition Israel between these two periods.
At the beginning of the book of 1 Samuel, we learn about the birth of Samuel. His mother, Hannah, had been barren, and prayed to God for a son and promised to give that son to the Lord all the days of his life. God answers that prayer and Hannah fulfills her vow and brings her son, Samuel, to Eli, the priest.
This morning, we’re going to look at 1 Samuel 3, where the story of Samuel picks up when he is probably around 12 years old.
[Read 1 Samuel 3]
This chapter begins on a very depressing note. The word of the Lord was rare in those days and there was no frequent vision. Why would that be? Why would God refrain from speaking to His people like that? It is not that God didn’t want to speak, but rather that the people weren’t interested in hearing from God. During the period of the judges, they had demonstrated over and over again that they wanted to live life on their own terms and they really didn’t care what God said. So at some point when the people kept refusing to listen, God quit speaking.