The OT Challenge: Samuel Listens and Hears

OT Challenge – Samuel Listens and Hears
1 Samuel 3:1-10

Does God still speak today? There are many who would be like Eli in the video earlier who would say that it is just a myth. You may read about these people in the Bible who heard from God or spoke with God, but that just doesn’t happen today. 

The story in Scripture that we are looking at today is from 1 Samuel.  The people of Israel now live in the promised land, the land of Canaan, the land that God miraculously helped them move to.  It is a story that took place well over 200 years after Joshua – long after the story of Joseph and Moses.  It is a story during a time when people were now telling stories of how God had rescued the people from the Egyptians and slavery.  God had parted the Red Sea. He led the people through the desert.  God had enabled his people to cross the Jordan on dry ground.  God brought down the walls of Jericho.  Over and over God spoke and did great miracles. 

But now there is nothing.  Messages from God were rare.  There weren’t even any prophets speaking God’s messages. 

Early in the OT we read how God had set up a way for the people to approach Him.  How do you come into the presence of a holy God when you know that there are things in your life that aren’t so holy?  A tabernacle or a place of worship was built where the people could gather.  A person called a priest would be there who would seek God for you.  The priest was the one who would offer up prayers, thanksgiving, and sacrifices on your behalf.   The priest was the one who would seek forgiveness for your wrong.

This is a pretty important position.  I mean you are relying on this person to seek God for you.  This person better be in good standing with God.

There was more than one priest that the people could go to.  There was a high priest who was the supervisor for all the priests.  He would oversee the various rituals and offerings – burnt offerings, sin offerings, grain offerings, peace offerings, guilt offerings that the priest would carry out for the people.

And the high priest was the very one who once a year would seek forgiveness for the people by going into the most sacred place of the Tabernacle, the Most Holy Place, where the Ark of the Covenant was kept.  The Ark of the Covenant contained the 10 Commandments given by God to Moses.  It symbolized God’s presence.  This Tabernacle represented God’s sanctuary, His dwelling place to meet with His people.

In 1 Samuel chapter 1, we read that Eli was the High Priest.  He had given his entire life to serve God.  For 40 years he had served as the spiritual leader for the people of Israel.

Eli’s sons were priests.  And we read,

1 Samuel 2:12-13 (New Living Translation)

Now the sons of Eli were scoundrels who had no respect for the LORD 13 or for their duties as priests.

If you were to take the time to read 1 Samuel, you would find that Eli’s sons refused to listen to God.  They ignored His directions.  They ignored his warnings.  They seduced women who served at the entrance to the place of worship.  They would steal from people.  When people would come to seek forgiveness from God by offering a sacrifice, Eli’s sons would take meat from the sacrifice to eat while it was being offered to God. 

The people had turned away from God.  They needed spiritual leaders.

Eli would have started his ministry in a close relationship with God, but somewhere on the journey he made some very serious mistakes. 

Eli neglected his spiritual responsibilities in his own home.

1 Samuel 2:22 (New Living Translation)
 Now Eli was very old, but he was aware of what his sons were doing to the people of Israel.

Eli knew the importance of his position as high priest and the importance role of the priest.  He knew what his sons were doing.  He heard reports.  God even pointed out what they were doing to Eli, yet Eli failed to discipline them.  He failed to correct them. 

He talked with his sons.  He told them to stop, but…

He failed to resolve critical issues.

Eli refused to deal with sin.  He not only ignored his responsibility as a parent, but even as the high priest. 

Illustration:  With the death of Michael Jackson, it seems like there is more and more talk about manslaughter charges because there were so many prescriptions he was taking.  People are asking where was the concern about his safety?  Was it homicide or accidental overdose?  Someone described him as a walking drugstore.  Then there are family members like his sister vowing to prove that he was murdered.

Whether it was drug abuse by him or doctors who decided to look the other way, if you refuse to deal with or resolve critical issues in your life, it catches up with you.  If you fail to deal with sin, it will catch up with you.

And so often it doesn’t just affect you, but it also affects others–family, friends, kids. Others suffer. 

In the case of Eli, by failing to deal with His sons and their sin, it caught up with him, his sons, and it even affected the people of Israel.

In fact, you could say that Eli honored his sons more than God. 

1 Samuel 2:29 (The Message)
So why do you now treat as mere loot these very sacrificial offerings that I commanded for my worship? Why do you treat your sons better than me, turning them loose to get fat on these offerings, and ignoring me?

• Is there something in your life, family, or work that you allow to continue even though you know it is wrong?

Eli also cherished symbols of worship more than God. 

As high priest, Eli was the only one to enter the Most Holy Place where the Ark of the Covenant was placed.  The Ark was a symbol of God’s presence and his holiness.  So you treated it with great respect. 

It was during this time, that the Philistines were at war with Israel.  They were attacking Israel and defeating them. 

1 Samuel 4:3 (New Living Translation)
After the battle was over, the troops retreated to their camp, and the elders of Israel asked, “Why did the LORD allow us to be defeated by the Philistines?” Then they said, “Let’s bring the Ark of the Covenant of the LORD from Shiloh. If we carry it into battle with us, it will save us from our enemies.”

So now under Eli’s leadership, the people take the Ark of the Covenant and carry it into battle.  They began to use it as a good luck charm.  They expected it to protect them.  The people believed the Ark would bring them victory. 

It is interesting that in chapter 4, the Philistines initially were afraid when they heard the Ark of the Lord had come. 

“This is a disaster.  Help!  Who can save us from the mighty god’s of Israel.  They are the same gods who destroyed the Egyptians with plagues when Israel was in the wilderness.” 

100’s of years later after God had rescued Israel from the Egyptians, the story was still told by other nations. 

But now the Philistines fought even harder in fear for their lives, even more Israelites died, and the Philistines took the Ark.  Israel now had turned from God.  They were now clinging to symbols of worship rather than God. 

That is an entire teaching in itself.  Even today people cherish symbols and rituals more than God.  They go through the motions. They go to church once a week, maybe twice.  But they are not living in a relationship with God that impacts their everyday life. 

How is your relationship with God?  Are you just going through the motions – avoiding issues?  Do you rely on rituals rather than a living relationship with God that impacts your everyday life? 

These were desperate times.  The people were in need of a spiritual leader.  It is during this time, that Samuel, one of Israel’s greatest spiritual leaders, was born. 

Samuel had family who loved God and prayed for him.

You can read about the story of Samuel’s mother in chapter 1 and 2.  Hannah had been unable to have a child.  She never gave up on God though.  She somehow was confident that God was in control.  Year after year she came to the Tabernacle to worship.  She asked God to give her a child and God answered her prayer. 

So in an act of worship, Hannah says…

1 Samuel 1:27-28 (New Living Translation)
I asked the LORD to give me this boy, and he has granted my request. 28 Now I am giving him to the LORD, and he will belong to the LORD his whole life.” And they[a] worshiped the LORD there.

God continued to bless Hannah with more children.  But Hannah trusted God with her children.  She continued to come to the Tabernacle each year and his parents would meet with him there.

Illustration: This coming Wednesday we are having the family picnic as a time for families to come together and others who want to build into the lives of kids and teens and families – to be spiritual grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters.  If you have been here very long, you hear us talk about how we need to build into the lives of others and we want to partner with families in building into their kids.  Parents are the greatest influence spiritually in the lives of their children.  Don’t worry, we aren’t asking you to come and drop off your child as an act of service – “here you go.”  Some of you would like to do that.  We aren’t asking you to do that.  We have even tossed around the idea of no drop zone so that parents won’t do that.  However, we believe so much in the influence of parents and adults mentors in the lives of our kids and teens, that we have things like Merge.  We encourage families to worship together. We want to provide resources and teaching to help families.  We want to help parents understand the importance of praying for their kids and being intentional about teaching their kids to love God and others.

Samuel had family who loved God and prayed for him.  He also

Samuel had a desire to love God and live for Him.

1 Samuel 2:18-21 (New Living Translation)
But Samuel, though he was only a boy, served the LORD…Samuel grew up in the presence of the LORD.

Samuel was only a child.  He was Eli’s assistant.  He would have been involved in the behind the scenes kinds of things like opening the Tabernacle, cleaning the furniture, sweeping floors.  He didn’t have it all together.  He didn’t even have the greatest mentor.  But he served the Lord even by carrying out the ordinary tasks and He grew up in God’s presence.  (Often it is the person who is simply willing to serve, that God uses.  Serve – get involved in ministry.) 

God’s call is based on faith, not age or position.  As a child…

Samuel was ready to hear God‘s call.

Now if God would speak, one would have expected an audible message from God to come to the high priest Eli, not a child. 

But in chapter 3, Samuel is sleeping in the Tabernacle.  He is in a room that was not far from the Ark.  God calls out in the stillness of the night. 

Samuel didn’t even realize it was God.  He thought it was Eli.  He ran to Eli two different times.  Finally the third time…

1 Samuel 3:10 (New Living Translation)
 And the LORD came and called as before, “Samuel! Samuel!”  And Samuel replied, “Speak, your servant is listening.”

“Speak your servant is listening.” 

Illustration:  This month, I took my family to go camping at a friend’s house way out in the country.  The idea for me was I wanted to get away with family hoping to spend time away from all the busyness of things – a time to relax, be refreshed and renewed.  We set up camp and our campfire.  I had noticed that not too far away there were some cows that you could hear moo occasionally in the distance.  I didn’t think too much of it.  We went fishing and came back when it was dark.  We sit down by the fire, and I realized we could hear the cows and it was louder.  We talked for a while and now I am looking at my watch.  It is after midnight, and the cows are very loud.  All night long these cows mooed.  Growing up, I had friends who always talked about going cow tipping.  Do they ever sleep?  I was getting hungry for steak.  They were so loud that I even dreamed about them.  I had one of those dreams where you are asleep but the noises around you show up in your dream.  I dreamed that friends next to us were snoring really loud.  I woke up laughing only to find out that what I was hearing was still the cows.  Apparently they had decided to separate the calves from their mothers that night. 

The truth of the matter is that we live in desperate times, when people are in need of God, spiritual leaders.  It is hard to get renewed. Our lives are often so busy.  We are pushed in so many different directions, there are so many distractions around us (jobs, kids, chores, TV, Ipod, cell phones, texts, Facebook, emails, noise, cows….), that we don’t have the time and we don’t take the time to hear God’s call.  To simply say, “speak your servant is listening” and then actually listen to hear God.

Samuel was ready to hear.  Hearing is not the same thing as listening.  What Samuel was really saying was “Here I am ready to hear what you have to say to me.” 

You can listen and not hear.  Parents will vouch for those times when your child is standing there listening, but they aren’t hearing what you are telling them.  My spouse would probably say the same thing about me sometimes.

Peter Drucker says that 60% of the problems people have in the workplace are a result of poor communication.  Communication is often a major problem when it comes to marriages and family problems.  It is as if we don’t know how to listen.  People are poor listeners. 

God speaks to those who will listen and hear.

One of the places where we often need the most help spiritually is in developing ears to hear God’s call in our lives. 

Not talking about an audible voice – Are you developing ears to hear God’s call on your life?

Inside each of us is this deep desire to hear God’s call.  But we are often too distracted.  We even have the world’s pressures on us as parents and employees or as students to pursue the best career, to earn the most money, to be successful. 

Sometimes there is so much pressure that to actually consider God’s call and especially follow God’s call seems like too great of a risk.  We like comfort and safety rather than risk.  To hear God’s call might mean we have to deal with the guilt or anger in our lives.  We might have to deal with hurt or frustration.  We might have to deal with our mistrust of God, our fear that he might ask us to do something we don’t want to do. 

In the midst of your life circumstances, are you really saying to God, “Speak, I am ready to listen and hear what you have to say to me?”

Some would say, “You don’t understand my life, my circumstances.”

I believe every one of us is called by God.  Not just fulltime ministry.  Although I do believe more people do need to consider that.  But we are called to ministry as teachers, coaches, nurses, doctors, cashiers, bankers, as a business person, as dads, moms, youth leaders, people who serve behind the scenes. 

So often people are called to rise above their circumstances like Samuel – to rise above their fears, their past, their guilt, their struggles. 

But we need to focus more on our devotion to God and developing ears to hear God’s call so that we can see how God wants to use us and how He is already at work around us. 

Jurrasic Park – If you have seen the movie Jurassic Park, there is a scene that I really like in that movie.  When did the characters first know that T-Rex was about to appear?  They felt and heard the vibrations.  By the time they saw T-Rex, it was too late.

Hearing God’s call sometimes is like feeling the vibrations of Him working around us. 

In a book by David Anderson, “Breakfast Epiphanies” he tells a story, “Several years ago I ran into a friend at a dinner party.  When I asked him how he was doing, he told me he’d had a tough day.  “My car stalled on I-95 just out of town and I had to wait an hour for a tow truck.”   Suddenly a scene flashed on my eye.  “Oh,” I said, “that was you – in the blue car?  I was out there today and drove right past.  I didn’t really look – I just saw a car and someone standing there.  If I’d known it was you, I would’ve stopped.”    Anderson continues, “That pretty much sums up my search for God:  If I’d known it was You, I would’ve stopped.” 

So many times I think we miss God at work around us.  Many times He shows up in ways we don’t expect.  Sometimes even in the midst of pain.  Sometimes through friends, His Word, or even in silence.  We must learn to hear God even when we don’t see Him, even in the stillness or in the times when it seems like God doesn’t speak. 

The story is told of a respected Chinese teacher known as “the Bind Master.”  On a beautiful spring day, the Blind master was walking in the monastery garden with one of his students.  As they passed near a large peach tree, the teacher moved his head to miss a tree limb.   The pupil looked started and asked, “Teacher how is it that you saw that branch in front of you?”  The Blind Master answered, “To see with the eye is only one sensation.  I heard the wind sing softly in the tree’s branches.”

Some would say, “I never hear God or He doesn’t speak to me.”

Leonard Sweet says this, “What to some is the voice of truth, to others is sheer racket.  What to some is deafening thunder and lightening, to others is the voice of an angel.  What to some is bad luck or good fortune to others is divine providence.  When some hear failure, others hear success… What sounds like silence may be an ocean of sound brimming to the surface in search of a leader (someone) who knows the difference.”    (Summoned to Lead – pages 62-63)

Illustration:  Sound effects – lets see if you recognize these sounds.
• NBC chimes
• Elmo’s World (have them start singing)
• Windows XP

There are certain sounds around us that we are trained to recognize. 

• To what or who are you listening? 

What if focused more on developing ears to hear God?  What if we started focusing more on having the heart and desire to hear God and remove the things that silence His voice? 

“Speak Lord, Your servant is listening.” 

Silence:  In the silence right now,
Are there distractions you need to remove?
What can you do to make time to hear God?
Is there something that God is asking you to deal with in your life? (sin, anger, guilt)
Is God calling you to serve? 
What do you need to do to make space to hear God?

Song:  Speak to Me

Send Out:  As you prepare to go hear the word of the Lord from
Psalm 46:10 (New Living Translation)
Be still, and know that I am God!

May you develop ears to hear God speak to you.

Summoned to Lead by Leonard Sweet
Life Application Bible (NLT)
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Additional Notes