Hearing God

Sunday, October 17, 2021
Pastor Deb Kielsmeier

1 Samuel 3:1-21

Have you ever been woken up by reoccurring dreams?

They can be unnerving.  The same dream over-and-over again.  You start to wonder what your subconscious or the Spirit is trying to tell you.

One pastor who traveled a lot consulting had this happen to her recently. She would come home from a trip, unpack her suitcase, and settle into her own bed only to awake with a start, disoriented and convinced that there was a guest in her home.   A guest for whom she was not at all prepared.  Especially since her small guest room was used as ‘storage’ and things were almost always piled on the bed.

This dream reoccurred so often that she began to tell her friends about it.  But they were equally puzzled as to what it might mean.  Finally, she told the dream to her spiritual director who leaned in intently as she was describing it, and then after a bit of silence said, “Well, I can’t say for sure, of course, but I can’t help but wonder if your guest is Jesus.”

There it was.  Jesus was waiting for her.  But in her exhaustion and busyness, she walked right by — not welcoming or making room for him in her home, her life, her heart.

Today’s scripture is a curious story of a voice calling the boy Samuel’s name – waking him up three times in the middle of the night

But before we go further, it is good idea to figure out where we are in the larger biblical story.

Last week we were in the wilderness.  The people were frightened that they were going to starve, forgetting that their God provides.  Miraculously, manna rained down on them and continued to be provided the whole 40 years they wandered in the desert.

Now it is over 300 years later. The tribes have entered and settled in the promised land. They have no centralized government. Instead they were to live under God’s reign and God’s law was to be the law of the land.  Great in theory, but it didn’t work out so well.

Throughout the book of Judges there is a repeated refrain “In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes.” (Judges 17:6, NRSV)

“All the people did what is right in their own eyes.” We know a bit about that too, don’t we?  Recently, both on a local and national level, we have seen things get ugly fast when everyone does what is right in their own eyes.

Well, In Israel, things were about to change.

The book of 1 Samuel ushers in a new era in Israel’s history.  It begins with a barren, heartbroken woman named Hannah who cries out to God for a child.  God hears and answers her prayer with a child named Samuel, whom she dedicates to God’s service. As a young boy, Samuel goes to live with Eli the priest at the Tabernacle of God, where we find him in this passage.

We read that “The word of the Lord was very rare (or precious) in those days; visions were not widespread.” (1 Samuel 3:1).

It was a dark time. Eli’s very own sons stole from the offering plate and raped the women who came to serve God in the tabernacle. And Eli? He just looked the other way.  Eli’s eyes had grown dim… both literally and figuratively.  His lack of vision and leadership resulted in political and spiritual chaos throughout Israel. What a mess.

Meanwhile, little Samuel was growing up under Eli’s tutelage, serving God in the tabernacle.  Miraculously, the corruption escapes him.  But we read in verse seven, “Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord” (1 Samuel 3:7).

Isn’t that curious?  A boy raised in God’s house, ministering to the Lord, day, and night, but he did not yet know the Lord.

He probably knew a lot about God and ritual worship.  But there is a big difference between knowing about God and knowing God.  One is head knowledge.  The other heart knowledge.  For example, I may know a lot about Tom Hanks.  I have seen his movies and I have heard him interviewed on talk shows.  But I have never met the man.  I do not KNOW him personally.

And so, it is with God.  We can grow up in the church, learn about God and even busy ourselves with serving like Samuel – and never come to know the living God in a deeply personal way.

A relationship with God involves taking the time to dwell in God’s presence, sharing your heart, your dreams, your hopes, and fears.  And then listening to what God might be saying to you. As we give ourselves to the God who knows us, we too can come to know God through the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit.

At this point in the story Samuel had yet to hear God’s voice and encounter the living God.  And so, God called, called, and called again.  God called until Samuel learned how to listen.

Although his eyes were dim and wisdom scant, Eli discerned, somehow, that it was God calling the boy and so he sent Samuel back with a fitting response; “‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

From that moment, Samuel’s life – and the history of Israel -changed dramatically.

Remember the pastor with the reoccurring dream? Although her circumstances were very different than Samuel’s, it was God calling in the night.  Calling for her to make room for God in her heart and home.

Yes, God is still speaking. God is still calling – to you, to me, today… this very hour.

God is still calling, but the question is: (and here is where faith meets life) Are you listening? Do you recognize God’s voice?  God’s call?  God speaks in a myriad of ways – through scripture, prayer, sermons, holy spirit promptings. But we need to listen.

If this all a bit foreign or ‘out there’ for you, I would encourage you to seek out an “Eli” – a spiritual mentor or trusted friend who can help you to discern God’s voice. Because God also speaks through other people as well.

My prayer is that you will open your heart and hands to first listen and then respond to God’s call. It may be scary. Like the hard truths that Samuel had to tell Eli, God may stretch you outside your comfort zone. God may ask you to give of your time, talents, or treasure or to step up into leadership.

But it will bring life.  Abundant life. To you and the world around you.

“Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”  Speak Lord, for your servants – here today – are listening. With our hearts and ears wide open – to your call.


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