Based on: 1 Samuel 3:1-10
“Listen to me!” Have you ever said those words? Or heard them? I imagine that most parents have said similar words and most children have heard them. Usually parents say this because they have something to say for the child’s own benefit – telling them how to behave in a God pleasing way or telling them something that will keep them safe. It isn’t only parents who say, “Listen to me!” While they might not use these words exactly, there are many who want us to listen to what they say for our own good. The doctor tells us to eat healthy and exercise, the dentist tells us to brush our teeth, and the government tells us to obey certain rules. Most important of all is what God tells us for our own good. He tells us about our Salvation. God is speaking. Listen to him and listen to those through whom he speaks.
Three times during the night Samuel heard someone call him and three times he got up to go to his master Eli. Finally, Eli realized that the Lord was calling Samuel and he told Samuel to say, "Speak Lord, for your servant is listening." Did you hear what Eli told Samuel? In this brief statement Eli told Samuel to tell the Lord that he was prepared to listen. By implication then, Samuel was to listen. Eli didn’t tell Samuel, "When God calls you tell him everything that’s on your mind” or “tell him what’s bothering you” or even “tell him what you want him to do for you." No. Instead Eli told Samuel “This is the Lord speaking to you, listen to him.”
The Lord also speaks to us. But do we listen? Do we stop and tell God, "I am going to be quiet now and just listen"? Perhaps we are more often the ones doing the talking. We say those little prayers throughout the day, "God please help me get to my appointment on time, please Lord help me feel better, or Lord please help me with my financial problems.” We remember to come to God when we need his help, but God returns to the background of our daily routine when times are good. Now, please don’t misunderstand. It is not wrong to come to God in prayer. In fact, our heavenly Father wants us to pray and loves it when we do. But in prayer we are the ones doing the talking. If we are not also listening to God in his Word then we are like someone who goes to the doctor and says, “Please take care of this pain in my shoulder,” but then doesn’t listening as the doctor describes what needs to be done for the pain. God is speaking. Listen to him.
Who exactly is this God that is speaking to us? Eli told Samuel to say, "Speak Lord, for your servant is listening." This is the Lord speaking to us. The Lord, spelled with all capital letters in your Bible – in Hebrew, Yahweh, sometimes written as “Jehovah.” It is that special name that God uses to tell us that he does not change – that he loves us and will always love us. It is the name God told Moses to use when he was going to rescue the Israelites from their slavery. It is the name he uses as the one who rescues us. This is who speaks to us. He is not coming to us as the judge of the universe, or as the Almighty God ready to crush sinful creatures that disobey his will. No. He comes to give us a wonderful message. He comes to tell us that his Son, Jesus, listened to him. Jesus listened even as he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane about the suffering he would endure, “may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Jesus listened to his Father and did what his Father asked even though it meant going to the cross and suffering the torment of hell for all the times we don’t listen. As we grieve over the times we have closed our ears to God’s Word the Holy Spirit brings us words of comfort – our sins can not speak to us, they were silenced by the cross.
God still speaks to us. Listen to him. He certainly speaks to us through his Word, the 66 books of the Bible, and through the Sacraments, but the same Gospel message we find in God’s Word and the Sacraments are brought to us through those whom he has chosen as his representatives. God is speaking. Listen to those through whom he speaks.
The Lord does not speak to us in the ways that we might want him to speak to us. We want that personal pipeline to God that no one else has. “God just whisper in my ear or just let me know somehow that I’m making the right decisions in my life. Give me a sign.” It sometimes doesn’t occur to us to spend the time to study God’s Word, where God tells us all we need to know to make God pleasing decisions in our life. Yet, God has promised to speak to us in his Word, he has not promised to speak to us in other ways.
This does not mean that reading the Bible is the only way to hear God’s voice. God has placed other people around us through whom he brings us his Word. He has given us parents. They teach us to lead God pleasing lives and teach us about our Savior, Jesus. He gives us pastors who proclaim God’s good news of forgiveness and administer the Sacraments and teachers who increase our understanding of the Scriptures. Even the government is God’s representative to bring order to society and make it easier to study God’s Word. We listen to God when we listen to these people. Even though they are also sinful people, God has placed them in their positions to benefit you – to tell you something for your own good.
This is nothing new. Throughout the Bible, Old Testament and New Testament, we see God speak through others. God coming directly to people was rare and only to a chosen few. He gave his prophets or apostles a message and they conveyed that message to the people. Even in our lesson about Samuel, the message involved Eli and his family, but God chose Samuel as the one who would receive his message and Eli heard it through Samuel. The Bible is the collection of all those things God wants us to know as told through the prophets and the apostles.
The God of the universe doesn’t come to us in the majestic and glorious ways we might expect. Just like Elijah on Mount Horeb, Elijah did not find God in the great and powerful wind or in the earthquake or in the raging fire, but God spoke to Elijah in a gentle whisper. It is through simple ways that God speaks to us – words printed on paper and bound in a book just like any other book; words spoken as water is sprinkled on a baby’s head; a small piece of bread and a little wine; and God speaks to us through other sinful people. It is not the glorious way that we would expect the God of the universe to communicate with us, but that is the way he has chosen.
The message he speaks to us is also not what we expect. We expect to hear what we should do to get to heaven; instead God tells us that he has done everything. We expect punishment, but instead we have heaven as a gift.
Listening to God is not glamorous. It does not set us apart in some noticeable way. It is simply reading his Word and listening to God’s representatives. God is speaking. Listen to him. Listen to him as he speaks through his Word and the Sacraments and listen to those through whom he speaks.