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Los Lunas Cornerstone

Church of the Nazarene

Listen (1 Samuel 3:1, 7-10)

    In his book, Whisper, Mark Batterson gives the story of a very renowned opera singer. This opera singer, a man, had an incredible vocal range spanning several octaves. One morning after a particularly exhaustive show, the man woke up to find that he could no longer hit some of the higher notes in his range. He was absolutely baffled as to why all of a sudden, he could no longer sing the notes he was supposed to sing.
    The man finally went to go see a specialist to figure out what the issue was. The doctor he went to, after a careful examination and tests run, came to the conclusion that the reason the opera singer could no longer sing the higher notes in his range was because the opera singer had gone deaf to those higher notes. He could no longer hear them. The specialist speculated that at the last performance the singer had done, he blew out part of his hearing that made him lose his sensitivity to those higher notes.
    Without the ability to hear those higher notes, the singer could not sing those higher notes. He could not sing what he could not hear.
    My sermon this morning comes from 1 Samuel 3. In this chapter, we see the Lord calling Samuel to be His prophet, but the call has a lot to say to us as well.
    Let’s look at verse 1, “Now the boy Samuel was attending to the service of the Lord before Eli. And word from the Lord was RARE in those days; visions were infrequent.” Right away, you’ll notice your first blank in your bulletin if you want to follow along. The word of the Lord was rare in those days.
    Now, this wasn’t too long after the time of the Judges, the men and women who God called to guide and direct and lead Israel. It was a time period when they saw God do amazing things and act miraculously to provide them with victory over their enemies. Yet not too long after that, the word of the Lord became rare.
    Rare is a word that means a lot here, and all of its meanings are true. It means that the word of the Lord was scarce, not common. It means that the word of the Lord was like a precious stone, a ruby, a sapphire, very valuable. It also means that the word of the Lord was weighty, it was very important, because it was so uncommon and valuable.
    David wrote this in Psalm 19:7-10 (NIV), “The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb.”
    David definitely had a way with beautiful words. What he reflected on here was the word of the Lord. He talks about many of the ways the word of the Lord is given: law, statutes, precepts, commands, fear, decrees. David’s psalm tells us that no matter how the word of the Lord comes about, His words are more precious than pure gold, and sweeter than honey straight from the honeycomb.
    Not much has changed, has it? The word of the Lord is still rare today. Still scarce and uncommon, but here’s the first point of Samuel’s story, and our story as well, even when God’s word is rare, He still SPEAKS, and His words still hold much VALUE. Your next two bulletin blanks are there as well.
    So, for those that hear His word, it’s clear that they will greatly benefit.
    Let’s look at verse 1 again, “Now the boy Samuel was attending to the service of the Lord before Eli. And word from the Lord was rare in those days; visions were infrequent.” I really like how the NIV phrases the first part of that verse, that “The boy Samuel MINISTERED before the Lord.” That’s your next blank there.
    Samuel ministered before the Lord. Samuel was already in the temple, with the priest Eli, doing the work of ministry. In those days, ministering in the temple was done through RITUALS, ceremonies, and traditions. The sacrifices that they made on different days throughout the year were ritual sacrifices and part of their ceremonies. They developed traditions around those sacrifice days, informed by the word of the Lord given to Moses.
    Now, those sacrifices were important, particularly the Day of Atonement, and that sacrifice day pointed to what Christ would do on the cross to reconcile us to God. But, this is what Jesus said to the Pharisees in Matthew 15:8-9 (NIV), “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.”
    He called them out for sticking to rituals, and ceremonies, and traditions, but being far from the Lord in their hearts. Now, the Pharisees were without excuse because they were adults and should have known better. Samuel was just a child, but he was already in a place where he was ministering in the temple before the Lord, going through the motions of the ceremonies and rituals and traditions, but verse 7 tells us this very important information, “Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.”
    Samuel was going through all the motions, the rituals and ceremonies and traditions in the Lord’s temple, ministering, but he did not yet know the Lord. He had not yet heard the word of the Lord, or more likely, he hadn’t recognized the voice of the Lord as being the Lord’s.
    Here’s the point in this, that even if you’ve come from a Christian…whatever, background, home, even if you’ve grown up in church…it is possible to have never heard God speak, so we must be actively LISTENING.
    And really, the truth is that it’s not that some Christians have never heard God speak, it’s that they didn’t recognize that it was Him because they weren’t actively listening.
    1 Samuel 3:8-10, “So the Lord called Samuel again for the third time. And he got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. And Eli said to Samuel, “Go lie down, and it shall be if He calls you, that you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. Then the Lord came and stood, and called as at the other times: “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for Your servant is LISTENING.” (NASB)
    That’s the goal, right? We want to be listening. We want to hear the Lord speak, and we want to recognize that it is Him speaking. How do we do that?
    We’re pretty familiar with 2 Timothy 3:15-17 (NASB), “and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and beneficial for teaching, for rebuke, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man or woman of God may be fully capable, equipped for every good work.”
    Here, Paul commends Timothy for knowing the Scriptures so well because, as Paul points out, the Scriptures lead to the wisdom of salvation through faith in Christ, and that all of Scripture is inspired by God and useful for anything so we are made capable and complete.
    The point Paul made to Timothy was that whatever we know about God and what He wants us to know about ourselves and the world we live in is revealed in God’s Word. Whatever we could hope to know about God’s character will ultimately be revealed through His Word. He reveals Himself through His word.
    One of the best ways we can listen to God is to listen to the Word He has given us.
    I want to read some startling statistics to you about the Bible and Christians. This is from a 2014 survey conducted that found that 79% of Americans consider the Bible sacred, whether they are Christians or not. So far so good. 88% of all Americans own at least one Bible, but the average is that each of us owns three! However, only 37% of Americans read their Bible even once a week. Only 15% of Americans read their Bible every day. 15%.
    A 2017 survey done by Lifeway Research, a Christian company, found that only 20% of Americans have ever read the whole Bible. Most have only read a few passages or a few stories.
    If the Bible is one of the primary ways that God tells us about Himself, tells us who He is, and only 15% of us read it every day, it’s no wonder that we have a hard time telling if we’ve heard God speak or not. Statistics say that most of us probably don’t even know what God’s voice sounds like. Statistics say that most of us don’t really know who God is or hears Him speak.
    That’s heart-breaking. We say that His Word is so precious, like gold or honey, that it’s how God speaks, but we are purposefully refusing to listen. We have to be actively listening. That means in His Word. Every. Single. Day. And that anytime we are unsure about anything in our lives, a situation at work, a financial problem, an issue in our marriages, the first thing we should be doing is going to the one book we know for a fact contains God’s words in it.
    Scripture reveals God. We must know it if we want to know God.
    How else do we listen?
    Hebrews 1:1, 2 (NASB), “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom He also made the world.”
    God, in these days, speaks to us through His Son. When Jesus spoke, it was God speaking. We know this and believe this, but are quick to disregard the words of Jesus when they convict us. But God speaks through Jesus. If we want to be able to recognize God’s voice, we must listen to Jesus.
    John 10:27-28 (NASB) says this as well, about the importance of knowing Jesus’ voice, “My sheep listen to My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give them eternal life, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.”
    Those who belong to Jesus listen to His voice. Every word. Not just the ones that make us feel good and warm, or fit with our pre-conceived ideas. Every word from Jesus must be heard and followed. His words reveal the Father. If we want to listen, we must know Jesus’ words.
    1 Corinthians 2:11-12 (NASB) is a similar passage, “For who among people knows the thoughts of a person except the spirit of the person that is in him? So also the thoughts of God no one knows, except the Spirit of God. Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God.”
    These are verses that have had a deeper impact for me recently. What Paul says to the church is that no one knows the thoughts of God, except the Spirit of God. That’s the Holy Spirit. We have, as disciples of Jesus, received the Spirit of God. Why? So that we may know the things given to us by God. God reveals His thoughts to us through His Spirit living in us.
    Does that not just blow your mind? God reveals His thoughts to us through His Spirit. This was how it worked with Jesus, who also Had the Spirit of God living in Him. The Spirit revealed to Jesus the mind of the Father, and so Jesus only spoke the words of the Father that the Spirit had given to Him. God wants to do the same with us, which is exactly why He gave us His Spirit.
    He wants to be talking to us all the time! He wants us to be constantly listening to Him as He reveals His thoughts to us. He desires for us to have the same closeness and intimacy with Him that Jesus had when He was in the flesh. If we want to be listening to the Lord, we must listen to the Spirit, when He becomes that voice that says, “No, you shouldn’t tell that lie. No, you shouldn’t watch that movie. You need to call your sister. You need to pray for that man you met at the store yesterday. You need to forgive your mother.” When He speaks, we must listen and follow. The more we follow when He speaks, the better we will be able to hear what He says.
    How else do we listen?
    Hebrews 2:2-4 (NIV), “For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard Him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to His will.”
    When He speaks, He will confirm what He says. This passage gives us the humbling insight that He uses us, those who have heard Him, to confirm what He says to others. He uses the gifts the Spirit gave to us to confirm what He says to others. God even confirms what He says by signs, wonders, and various miracles.
    So, when you’ve heard that still, small voice, “Hey, I need you to tell that young person that Jesus loves them.” And you think, “What? God, is that you?” Check what you’ve heard. Does it line up with God’s character and heart in the Bible? Yes, Jesus does in fact love that young person. Yes, He does want that young person to know His love. Does it line up with Jesus’ words? Yes, Jesus told us that we are marked by our love. Has He confirmed this through others? Well maybe not right at that moment, but if you were able to ask another believer, they likely wouldn’t tell you that it’s against God’s character to tell someone about Jesus’ love for them. So, if you’ve gone through that checks and balances system for recognizing the voice of God, well, you might be hearing Him say something to you!
    These ways that He speaks to us that I’ve listed here, His Word, His Son, His Spirit, His gifts and words to others, when He’s really speaking to you, these will act as confirmation. He will assure you that He is in fact speaking. But again, when He’s speaking, you’re not going to pick up on all these confirmations if you’re not actively listening.
    We were made to be hear what He says. But, like the opera singer I told you about in the beginning of my sermon, we can’t sing a song if we can’t hear the notes. We can’t sing the song God wants us to sing with our lives if we can’t hear His melody. We can’t do what He wants us to do if we aren’t paying attention to His instructions. We can’t speak what He wants us to speak if we aren’t listening.
    Speak, for Your servant is listening.

This week, I want you to take these questions to the Lord. Sit down with Him, pull up an empty chair right in front of you if it helps. Ask Him these questions, and then sit and listen. When He speaks to your heart and your mind, be truthful with yourself about what He’s saying. Repent if He calls you to. Check it with the other ways He speaks, and when you’ve clearly heard Him, follow through.

1. How well do you think you hear God’s voice? Why do you think that is?

2. What sort of things in your life deafen you to God’s voice and keep you from listening?

3. What habits have you developed to keep you listening to Him all day? What habits can you create to help you listen better?

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