Hearing God May 26, 2019

1 Samuel 3:1-5, 9-10, 19-20 Rev. Donald W. Hackett, D.Min.         

Centre Presbyterian Church New Park, PA

Faith Conversations with Children

How to you know someone is listening to you? 

  • They face you, look at you, they answer you, and they can tell you what you said.
  • How do you know when someone is not listening to you? The may not look at you, they keep doing something else and they cannot repeat what you told them.
  • How does it feel when someone is not listening to you?  Sad.
  • How does it feel when someone is listening to you?  Important. Precious.

God is always listening to us and wants us to learn how to listen to him.

How do you know God is listening to you?

  • How do you know you are listening to God?  I get quiet and think hard about God. I feel him near me.  Stories in the Bible speak to me.

Today we are going to talk about a mother, Hannah, and her son, Samuel, who both learned to listen and talk with God.

Introduction

One of the hardest of the spiritual practices is hearing God. How do you and I know for sure we are hearing a word of guidance or encouragement from God.

I have always been suspect of people who use the word “God” in every other sentence, like “God told me this or that.”  I have heard of guys who were for sure that God told them to marry a certain woman and even told them so!  Often the woman would reply, “Well, God has not told me yet.”  How do I know it is not my own agenda, fear, insecurities, or pride that is guiding me and not God? This is important to sort out as we seek to know and follow God every day.  How will know God is guiding us?

Background

Our passage today comes early in the Old Testament.  Eight books after:  1) beginning of God’s story in Genesis; 2) the freeing and establishing of God’s people in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua; and 3) settling in the Promise Land in Judges, and Ruth; we come to 1 Samuel.  At this time the Hebrews had been living in the Promise Land for about 200 years.  The tribal system of rule was breaking down. Neighboring nations were growing stronger and the priestly system that united the nation had come corrupt. Priest were taking what they wanted from worshipper and living a loose lifestyle.  This was making God very sad and he would put an end to it.  

Enters into this scene was a humble woman named Hannah.  She was married to a man, Elkanah, with two wives Hannah and Peninnah.  Penninah (means pearl) bore him many children, and even though he loved Hannah deeply, she was unable to bear her husband a child. Every year they went to Shiloh to offer thank sacrifices to the Lord.  Penninah would constantly provoke and tease her because she had no children.  In her distress Hannah went to the temple to weep, pray, and promises to dedicate her son to serve the Lord if he answers her prayer.  Eli the Priest hear her prayer and once he heard her story and told her God would answer her request for a child.  This is a great story so go back today and read it in 1 Samuel, chapter 1.   Shortly Hannah (whose name means favor, grace) does conceive a son, names him Samuel, and follows on her promise and dedicates Samuel to the Lord. 

From the age of three Samuel lives in the temple in Shiloh and is trained as a priest.  In our passage today things have become worst as Eli own sons are out of control.  Their evil behavior is known by all and they have a total disregard for God and their duties as priests. Into this sad scene God speaks.  Let’s read together what God says:

Text: 1 Samuel 3:1-5, 10-11,19-20

The boy Samuel was serving God under Eli’s direction. This was at a time when the revelation of God was rarely heard or seen. One night Eli was sound asleep (his eyesight was very bad—he could hardly see). It was well before dawn; the sanctuary lamp was still burning. Samuel was still in bed in the Temple of God, where the Chest of God rested.

Then God called out, “Samuel, Samuel!” Samuel answered, “Yes? I’m here.” Then he ran to Eli saying, “I heard you call. Here I am.”

Eli said, “I didn’t call you. Go back to bed.” And so he did.

God called again, “Samuel, Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, “I heard you call. Here I am.” Again Eli said, “Son, I didn’t call you. Go back to bed.” (This all happened before Samuel knew God for himself. It was before the revelation of God had been given to him personally.)

God called again, “Samuel!”—the third time! Yet again Samuel got up and went to Eli, “Yes? I heard you call me. Here I am.”

That’s when it dawned on Eli that God was calling the boy. So Eli directed Samuel, “Go back and lie down. If the voice calls again, say, ‘Speak, God. I’m your servant, ready to listen.’” Samuel returned to his bed.

Then God came and stood before him exactly as before, calling out, “Samuel! Samuel!” Samuel answered, “Speak. I’m your servant, ready to listen.”

God said to Samuel, “Listen carefully. I’m getting ready to do something in Israel that is going to shake everyone up and get their attention. 

Samuel grew up. God was with him, and Samuel’s prophetic record was flawless. 

What is happening in this story? 

1. God is reaching out for relationships.  Who is listening?  No many.  

  • Not the sons of Eli whose job was to connect with God as they served the people.
  • Eli seemed to listen but did not act on the obvious mess in his own household and temple. 
  • Hannah, yes Hannah, she reached out to God found herself wrapped in the arms of a compassionate Creator. What a wonderful discovery she made!  Hannah was tempted to think she was alone in her pain. She discovered that the God that made her was going to made a new life inside of her! Hannah not only got her prayer for a son answered, she received so much more!  Hannah stepped into an ongoing life with God.  

This is main point of this story and the story of the whole Bible.  God is reaching out to you and me, inviting us into a deep friendship.  Eli, his sons, Hannah, and Samuel were never created to live life on their own.  They, like us, were created to walk, talk, flow, struggle, and dance with God. On this this Memorial Day as we honor all those who have gone before us, this is the lesson they would whisper from Heaven to us now: “Go with God.  It is the only way to live and love.”

2. God wants to shape our character, not for us to be his puppets or robots.  The Bible gives us all we need to know about the history and ways of God.  From scripture we see that Christ came to show us how to live in love and deep connection with God.  Jesus did not come to give us an expanded rulebook on daily living.  The Jewish people already had that and many were turning into law keeping robots.  They became so fixated on the law that they lost touch with the law giver and giver of Life.  God is in the business of shaping us from the inside out to reflect the light and beauty of God.  This comes as the light and love of Christ live in us. The Holy Trinity seeks to shape you and me more and more into the people we are meant to be. This is what both Hannah and Samuel discovered. We learn to follow by listening step by step, day by day, year by year.

When we are in close connection with God, there are a variety of ways God guides us.  It could be through something we read or hear in the Bible.  Many people have the practice of a daily devotional reading and journalling because they know that opens them to hear from God.  Often God speaks to us from what is said in a sermon, from a friend, or even a stranger.  There is even an account in Numbers 22 of God using a donkey to speak to a  frustrated prophet.  If we are in the practice of looking for God, listening for God like Samuel, (“Speak. I’m your servant, ready to listen.”) then God guides us day by day and slow shapes our character.  Especially when you are find yourself running around in circles or feel the stress going up, this is a good statement to make, “Speak God. I’m your servant, ready to listen.  That pause will give God a door to speak to you, guide you, and hold you tight.

3.  There is great freedom in following God.   As we go with God day by day, God will surprise us.  God surprised Hannah in a big way.  God surprised everyone by speaking to Samuel, the youngest in the crowd.  If you are open, God will surprise you.  I have asked Greg Rhein to share with us a way God has surprised and guided him lately.  Greg…

Conclusion

Thank you, Greg.  God is active right now in all of our lives.  As we pay attention we will see God more and more in our daily lives.  The key question for you and me each day is “Do I want God guiding me today?”   The sons of Eli answered that question, “No way!”   Hannah and Samuel said, “Speak God. I’m your servant, ready to listen.  My prayer for all us is we have that same repeated chorus each morning, “Speak God. I’m your servant, ready to listen.  Let’s pray.

Prayer

Thank you, Lord, that you love us, you guide us, and you keep shaping us into people who show your love to others.  We come again today to commit ourselves to you.  Speak God. We are your servants, ready to listen.  In Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen.