Speak, O Lord
The 2nd after the Epiphany
Speak, O Lord
Text: 1 Samuel 3:1-10
“Samuel! Samuel!” My interest was peaked. I listened intently as my parents told me another bedtime Bible story. “Samuel! Samuel!” Quickly though I became confused and perplexed by the story—and then the Lord called a third time, “Samuel! Samuel!” As a young child, I couldn’t take it any more. I burst out in bewilderment, “Samuel, answer the phone!” I had a lot to learn about the Scriptures. But at the time it didn’t make sense. The Lord was calling and it seemed to me at the moment like no one was listening.
Isn’t that one of the most frustrating things you can think of? It is the worst when someone doesn’t listen to you. Our teachers talk about it all the time in our school. Especially in the younger classrooms, teachers often report a bad day at school to parents like this: “Suzy, didn’t really have on her listening ears today.”
Parents know what this is like in the home, too. There’s nothing worse than telling a toddler not to touch something, then they get that evil little grin on their face, and go right ahead to touch it, push it off the table, and break it. Then again, maybe it is worse when your children are old enough to know better and they tune you out to watch TV or play video games, or they willfully disobey what they know to be a house rule.
Or what about talking to a customer service representative. First you have to make 17 different decisions on what button to press. Then you talk to a machine. Then you push some more buttons. Then you finally talk to a human being. You explain your situation. But she says there is nothing they can do about it. You argue your case some more. You use the best human logic and leverage you’ve got. She won’t budge. Ahh! That’s when you angrily erupt and say, “Ma’am, I don’t think you are listening to me!”
It happens all the time. In schools. In the home. Between husband and wife. In the workplace. Not listening is a common problem in our world.
Why is this such a big deal to us? Why do teachers and parents flip out, why do our hearts race and our faces flush red when someone doesn’t listen to us? It’s because we know what not listening really means—those people are caring more about themselves than they care about me.
That’s the bigger problem. A student who doesn’t listen to the teacher is following his own rules in his disrespectful defiance. A child who doesn’t listen to a parent is acting like they run the house. When you’re at a social gathering and the person you’re talking to doesn’t take their eyes off their phone, they’re telling you that Candy Crush and Facebook matter more than whatever it is you’re saying.
Not listening reveals bigger problems that takes place in the heart—disrespect, disobedience, and defiance. And in no way is that more clear than when it comes to the Lord our God.
We would like to think that it would be easy for us if we lived in Bible times. If we were Philip or Nathanael and Jesus walked up to us and said, “Follow me,” then it would be a no brainer, right? If the Lord called out our names in the middle of the night like he did for Samuel, then we would follow right away, right? We might like to tell ourselves that, but our stony hearts are much harder than that.
God calls us quite clearly. He speaks to us loud and clear on the pages of Scripture and tells us that he is the Way and the Truth an the Life. And he says, “Follow me,” “I will make you a fisher of men,” “You take up your cross and follow me.” God’s calling in the Bible is constant and clear and compelling.
But we have a problem that is similar to the problem at the time of Samuel. Look at the description of what was going on in Israel at the time In verse 1: “In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.” How sad that in those days and even among God’s people, God’s Word was not regular, but was rare.
We have that same problem today. Sure there are less and less Christians in the United States. Sure some might complain about the 10 Commandments in the courthouse or prayer in the public school. But there are bigger problems. Even among God’s people the Word of the Lord can become rare and not regular.
How could it be that we can so compartmentalize God that one or two hours on a Sunday morning is all we dedicate to his Word? Why is it that we start a new year with a new Bible reading plan and we barely make it two weeks before we don’t have time for Bible reading anymore? How did it happen that gathering around American Idol as a family is more important than gathering around the dinner table followed by a family devotion? Why does work seem to always come first—and then if our schedule clears we will think about church or Bible study or personal devotion time? How could it be that even among God’s people his Word could become so rare in our daily lives? Why aren’t we listening to the Lord more?
It’s because of that bigger problem raging in my heart. When I don’t listen to the Lord it’s because I care more about myself than about the Lord. I would rather listen to my own desire for work or for rest than listen to God’s command to remember the Sabbath day. I would rather listen to my anger and thirst for revenge than listen to God’s command to love my neighbor. I would rather listen to my lustful cravings than listen to God’s command to be pure in heart and mind. Jesus calls out, “Follow me,” but my heart tunes it out, screams back, “No follow me!” and often that is what I follow instead of Jesus.
Have you ever received bad directions before? Maybe you were trying to make it to an appointment on time and you looked for a shortcut. At the time it sounded like a good idea. But in the end you wound up totally lost and you completely missed your appointment. Then you have to apologize. “I’m so sorry I missed out. I was so lost. I shouldn’t have listened to the bad directions.”
Every day we need to do that same thing with God. We fall on our knees and repent in sorrow, “Lord, I’m so sorry! I got lost again. I shouldn’t have listened to my own heart again. Lord, forgive my sin!” And each time we confess how lost in our sin we have become, it is amazing how God always responds with grace.
The same was true at the time of Samuel. God’s gracious calling was amazing. Sometime soon do a review of the book of Judges. What a disgusting time in Israel’s history! The Bible calls it a time when, “Everyone did as he saw fit.” The violence and bloodshed and filth are appalling. Even the spiritual leaders were a mess. This priest Eli whom Samuel served was a pathetic, lazy, unfit father and priest. It’s no wonder God’s Word was rare at that time.
Yet still, God in his grace was active among his people. God in his grace still called out to Samuel, a boy who knew about the Lord but hadn’t ever heard him calling before. God in his grace called Samuel out of the sinful darkness to be his special servant.
God does the same thing today. In our country and culture today, this could also be described as a time when everyone does as he sees fit. That’s what America is all about—freedom to do whatever you want, no matter how sinful it might be. That’s also what we get lost in so often—doing whatever we want. And yet, though we don’t always listen to his words, God in his grace calls us out of the darkness through his Son Jesus, the Word made flesh.
Jesus, the Word, came to do what we have not. He listened to and obeyed his Father. We see Jesus follow every one of his Father’s commands. We see Jesus showing love to all, forgiving his enemies, even willing to die because that’s what his Father told him to do. Jesus prayed, “Not my will, but your will be done.” Jesus always listened to his heavenly Father.
That was the perfect life of obedience that he offered as a sacrifice to pay for our disrespect and disobedience and defiance. His death removes removes every stain from a sinful heart that doesn’t want to listen to the Lord. Jesus offers us a fresh start, a new life, a clean slate with our God. Graciously and mercifully he calls us away from this unwilling disobedience as he simply says, “Follow me.”
The Word of the Lord may be rare in this world and rare to our sinful hearts, but Jesus’ calling is loud and clear and so powerful. The calling of the Savior through the gospel smashes my stony heart that doesn’t want me to listen. Christ’s love and forgiveness change my heart and my attitude. Suddenly, my response changes from, “I don’t want to listen, Lord,” to the beautiful response that Samuel gave, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”
What a difference that makes, when we follow our Savior’s call and listen to his Word. In a crazy world we hear from Jesus about real peace. In a troubled world we hear from Jesus about comfort and hope. In a sad world we hear from Jesus about joy. This what Jesus, the Word made flesh, offers to us in the Word of God.
Why would I listen to myself when I can get those greater things from God’s Word? Why would I answer the call of this world when the call of my Savior has so much more to offer? Why would I close my ears to God when I can open them and hear such sweet words of grace and forgiveness?
So I may stumble and I may follow and I may get lost along the journey, but day by day the Savior calls to me in his grace as he once did to Samuel in the middle of the night. He calls me to wash my sins in his blood once again. He calls me to follow him still and to walk in his ways toward our heavenly home.
So day by day as we turn to the Lord in his Word we can pray, Speak, O Lord, as we come to you to receive the food of your holy Word. Take your truth, plant it deep in us; shape and fashion us in your likeness that the light of Christ might be seen today in our acts of love and our deeds of faith. Speak, O Lord, and fulfill in us all your purposes for your glory.
There are many things in life that call for your attention—Satan will use anything and everything to get you to close your ears and only listen to yourself. But Jesus calls us away from these things. Listen to the Savior’s call in the gospel. Hear it in church. Hear it in your homes. Hear it on your iPod or in your car. Hear it in Bible study. Hear it in devotion. Listen as the Savior calls to you and says, “Follow me.” By God’s grace and with God’s strength answer his calling each day and say, Speak, O Lord.
Posted on January 18, 2015, in Church, Sermons and tagged 1 Samuel, 1 Samuel 3, Church, Eli, Judges, Listen, Listening, Samuel, Sermons, Speak Lord, Speak O Lord. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.