Summary: Today we’ll be reflecting on how important “listening” is when it comes to our relationship with God and to what the Corinthians were not hearing.
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 people, listening is a problem. There is even a Listening Association that you can join to help improve your listening skills. These things exist because many people are not good listeners.
A grandchild sitting on her grandfather’s lap was listening to the Bible story of Noah’s Ark. She asked “Were you in the Ark, grandpa?”
He chuckled and replied, “Why, no I wasn’t.” There was a pause, and the child looked up at him quizzically and asked, “Then why weren’t you drowned?”
That grandchild was certainly listening, but she was missing some key points of the story. The same is often true with us. We often hear only what we expect – or want to hear. It’s called, “selective listening”.
Today we’ll be reflecting on how important “listening” is when it comes to our 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, his righteousness, and his love. Today we’ll reflect on how important it is, and what a blessing it is, when we listen to God.
When the prophet Samuel was a child, he worked in the temple under the supervision of a priest 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 wasn’t speaking to his people. Why would God do that? Well, Scripture says the nation of Israel at that time didn’t want to listen to God or to hear his Word. They were too busy with their own lives, too busy breaking God’s commands.
Sometimes the last thing we want is to listen to is the Word of God – maybe you’ve heard it before, or maybe you’re sure you know all about it. That is when listening can be really hard. That’s also when sin begins to take over.
It’s interesting to me when I talk to people who are drifting away from God – a common thing I hear is this: “But I pray all the time.” But is praying to God the same as listening to God? The answer is “no”. Prayer is a powerful thing, and most people don’t pray enough. You could say that “prayer primes the pump”, but prayer is not listening. It prepares our minds for God’s message. Christ reveals his glory when we are “waiting upon the Lord” and “listening”
Isn’t it interesting that, in today’s Scripture, Eli and Samuel – both of them were very busy serving in the temple. And yet, verse 7 says that, “Samuel did not yet know the Lord, the Word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.” Despite their service to God, God was still a stranger to Samuel.
So it is with many people. We’re very busy . . . but not listening. We pray at times, but we fail to make God our priority. So how do we know if it’s not our priority? – when we don’t obey it. We make excuses, but in the end, we are falling away, and we know it. So what happens when we do listen to God?
Three times God called out to Samuel, and Samuel did not know it was the Lord. Finally, Eli figured out what was happening – God was finally speaking, and Samuel was the one God chose to speak to. Then verse 10: “The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other time, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ Then Samuel said, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” From that moment on, God spoke to Samuel on a regular basis, and Samuel listened.
We come to know the true God, not by doing something difficult or complex but simply by listening. What a blessing it is when we take time out of our busy lives and wait for God! For example, did you hear the voice of God this morning? It began when you confessed your sins to Him. You told him in what ways you have failed to be fully obedient to HIm. You confessed to Him that you weren’t listening to Him as you should.
Then did you hear what God said to you – after you confessed your sins? God told you that his Son, Jesus Christ, has taken away your sins. He told you that Jesus died as the ultimate sacrifice to set you free from sin and from death. Were you listening?
In today’s reading of 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, we hear Paul’s message to a people who had already heard the gospel of Christ, but they had not obeyed it. They had been listening selectively, and so they were professing half-a-gospel . . . which was actually no gospel at all.