Speak, O Lord
9th Sunday after Pentecost
Speak, O Lord
Text: 1 Samuel 3:1-10
“Samuel! Samuel!” The young boy jumped out of bed and ran to Eli. “Here I am; you called me.” “I did not call; go back and lie down,” the priest said. “Samuel! Samuel!” The young boy jumped out of bed again. For a young kid he was such a faithful servant in the house of God! “Here I am; you called me.” “I did not call; go back and lie down,” Eli repeated. What’s gotten into this kid?
A third time the voice called out, “Samuel! Samuel!” Now at this point when I was being told this story as a young child I interrupted my dad and shouted out, “Samuel! Answer the phone!” But it wasn’t Siri talking on Samuel’s iPhone. Though a wicked priest, Eli realized what was going on and sent Samuel back to bed with instructions.
One more time the voice called out, “Samuel! Samuel!” Samuel replied humbly, willingly, and appropriately: “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
“Speak, for your servant is listening.” Speak, O Lord. But how does the Lord speak to us?
One humid, steamy Sunday morning in Florida I was doing what I did every week. I was unloading the trailer hitched to my van and wheeling tables and chairs into Wadsworth Elementary School. Every Sunday morning was a hot and sweaty rush to get things set up for church in our temporary worship setting.
Normally there was not a soul to be seen. But on this particular day a man suddenly appeared. This older man in his late 50’s or early 60’s was short and stout. He was balding. He was wearing black dress shoes and black dress socks with old jean shorts and a white V-neck undershirt. The ideal outfit for an old man in Florida. He walked up and said, “Hi! My name is Don. I wanted to introduce myself. I’m with the new Arrowhead church that worships in the cafeteria here. The Lord told me to be a pastor and to start a church, so I did. So I just wanted to come up and say ‘Hi’ to you.” All I could think was, “Maybe the Lord should have told you how to wear a shirt and tie, too.”
Two years ago I had a woman in my office here at church. She was a mother of one of our middle school students. She told me, “I’ve really been thinking about my daughter’s enrollment here. I really like what you are doing and I really appreciate you, but the Lord told me I should dis-enroll her and take her to a different school.” I thought, but didn’t say, “That’s strange. The Lord is telling me right now that you should stay.”
Is this how the Lord speaks to us? Does he call to us in the middle of the night like with Samuel? Will he whisper in our ear while we meditate? Does he give us signs? Should we look for answers in the clouds? Or the stars? Or in world events? Does he speak to us through gut feelings? Or our intuition? Or the emotional feeling we have inside?
The answer to all of the above is, “NO!” In the past God spoke directly to his people at times, like he did with Samuel. For a time he even spoke directly through his Son, Jesus. But now that his prophets and apostles wrote down God’s very words, there is one and only one way that God speaks to us—through his Word, the Bible.
Do you want to know what the Lord says? Do you want to hear him speak? Do you want to do what he says and follow his commands? Do you want to have a close connection to him, to sit at the Lord’s feet listening like Mary in the gospel today? Then turn to God’s Word and join in Samuel’s humble response: “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
Some 3,000 years ago the humble attitude the boy Samuel displayed was very uncommon. We are told in the first verse of the first lesson this morning: “In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.”
You can hardly find a more sad phrase. God’s Word was rare. Just a few generations removed from the people who knew heroes of faith like Moses and Joshua, God’s word was hardly used. It was locked up in the temple. Priests like this man Eli were corrupt as they would skim off the top of the offerings and sacrifices. The people of Israel cared more about what they wanted than about what God had to say.
Some 3,000 years later things aren’t much different. The same sad phrase could aptly describe our country—In these days the word of the Lord is rare. Many of you have heard me say that in my experience probably more than 90% of the people I meet don’t know the simplest of things like the 10 Commandments. Most don’t know the Lord’s Prayer for memory. Something I grew up with called “the common table prayers” are rather uncommon now. A country whose currency states “In God we trust” doesn’t really care what God has to say.
But sometimes we Christians complain so much about the world around us. Some will make a big deal about things like prayer in the public schools or the 10 Commandments on the walls of courtrooms or the “In God we trust” thing. Yet while Christians moan and groan about the evils of the ungodly world around us, how carefully are we listening to the Lord ourselves?
“Speak, O Lord—but only when I have time for you. Speak, O Lord—but only when I have nothing better to do. Speak, O Lord—if I happen to have some free time. Speak, O Lord—but you better tell me what I want to hear. Speak, O Lord—but let me tell you what I want you to say.”
In the gospel today Martha was so concerned about worldly things. She wanted to make a nice dinner for Jesus. She wanted to be a gracious host. She wanted her sister to help her. But Mary chose the one thing needed and most important. She humbly sat at the feet of Jesus and listened.
Samuel was growing up in the temple of the Lord. But Eli was not a very good priest. The word of the Lord was rare. Samuel had never even heard the Lord speak before. Yet he humbly said, Speak, O Lord, and then listened.
God doesn’t speak to you through your iPod or TV. He doesn’t speak to you at the beach. He doesn’t speak to you through gut feelings. He speaks to you through his Word. And when he speaks through his Word, you won’t hear him if you are distracted. And you won’t hear God speak if you arrogantly refuse to hear God speak. And you won’t hear God speak if you tell God what to say. And you won’t hear God speak if you don’t quietly and humbly sit at his feet and listen.
With such ungrateful hearts, with such proud attitudes, with ears so often closed and mouths so often open—we can be thankful that the Lord still chooses to speak to us at all. When we close our ears and our hearts to what God says, he could easily move on to speak to someone else or refuse to speak to us ever again. But he doesn’t.
Graciously, God still speaks to us. He calls to us in his Word to repent of our sins and to turn back to him. He reveals to us in his Word his Son Jesus Christ who is called the Word made flesh and who is our Savior. He proclaims to us in his Word that our sins are forgiven. He announces in his Word that we are his children. He promises in his Word that he is with us. He reminds us in his Word that he loves us.
Over and over again our Lord speaks to us. You may have strayed for a while in your life, but his Word was there waiting for you. You may close your ears from time to time, but his Word is still there for you. You may sin every day, but his Word is still there for you.
No matter how much we sin, no matter how much we change, God doesn’t change and neither does his Word. The words of Jesus on the cross, “It is finished,” will always stand. The words of Jesus in Communion, “This is my body . . . this is my blood . . . for you, for the forgiveness of sins,” will always be powerful. The words of Jesus that guide you through this life and into the next will always be sure and certain and trustworthy.
The Lord loves us so much that he died for us to forgive us. Our Lord loves us so much that he gave us his holy Word so that he can speak to us every day. Our Lord loves us so much that he wants to stay connected to us through his Word until we can see him and hear him face to face in heaven.
If we understand that love of Jesus and understand that the Lord speaks through his Word, then we will gladly join Samuel in saying, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
Note in those words of Samuel a willingness to listen. When you are listening you aren’t talking. When you are listening you are focused. When you are listening you are paying attention. When you are listening you are making an effort. When you are listening you are removing distractions.
So stop telling God what he should do in your life and open the Bible and listen to what he wants you to do in your life. Remove the distractions in your life. Don’t be like Martha, consumed with mildly important busyness. Be like Mary, focused on the one thing needed.
Schedule 20 or 30 minutes a day to read the Bible. Maybe that’s 10 minutes in the morning, 10 at lunch, and 10 before bed. Take time to read a short Bible story and have a devotion with your children. If you can read Goodnight Moon and Elmo to your kids before bed, couldn’t you also read a Bible story or two? Put your kids to bed a little later on Wednesday nights or wake them up a little earlier on Sunday morning. They’ll be OK. I promise. But those extra Bible study times at Christ the King will make a big difference in your life and theirs. I promise that too.
Then with a willingness to listen, be humble when you listen. Note that Samuel didn’t only say, “Speak, I’m listening.” He said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” Samuel was humbly willing to listen to and do what God said. In the same way Mary didn’t listen to Jesus with one ear while helping Martha set the table. She humbly sat at Jesus’ feet to listen.
So we can humbly listen to Jesus. That means understanding that his Word is more important than my words. That means understanding that God knows better than I do. That means not only listening to what God says but then doing what God says.
Our God loves us such much that he has given us over 700,000 words and over 1,000 chapters in a book that is not just another book. We don’t gather here on Sunday to hear about Harry Potter playing quidditch or Gandolf the Great and the fellowship of the ring. On our bookshelves, on our coffee tables, in our pews, in our service folders, in our hands we have the very Word of God. We have the living, breathing words of our gracious and loving God who wants to communicate to us his love through our Savior Jesus Christ.
There was a young man in college once who wanted to hear the Lord speak. He read this very story of Samuel at the university and he wanted so badly to have the Lord call his name. If only he knew what the Lord had to say!
Not long after, the Lord opened his heart and his mind to understand how God speaks to his people today—through his Word. That university student went on to humbly listen to the Lord and study Scripture so much that he became one of the greatest theologians ever. You might know him. His name is Martin Luther.
There are many distractions, many worries, many concerns in our lives. There are lots of things that we think we need. But only one thing is needed. Jesus. And our Savior is so loving that he is willing to speak to you and tell you how much he loves you, forgives you, and is with you every day.
But he doesn’t speak in dreams or visions or emotions or with whispers in your ear. He speaks through his living and enduring Word, the Bible. So be like Mary, and humbly sit at Jesus’ feet. Be like Samuel and humbly say with God’s Word in your hands, “Speak, O Lord, for your servant is listening.”
Posted on July 22, 2013, in Church, Sermons and tagged 1 Samuel, 1 Samuel 3, Church, Dreams, Eli, Emotions, Humility, Martha, Mary, Mary and Martha, Obedience, Samuel, Sermons, Speak O Lord, Visions. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.