January 18, 2009: Speak, Lord, for Your Servant is Listening

The Rev. Herbert G. Hand
Faith Anglican Church
Cordova, Tennessee
January 18, 2009

Series: Clinging to Jesus in a Tumultuous World
Title: Speak, Lord, for Your Servant is Listening
Text: 1 Samuel 3:1-20



I.       Listening to God (A drama by Alice Bass, Presented by the Faith Drama Team; 10:30 service only)


Sadly, most people don’t stop, look, and listen to God:

They hurtle through life from one activity to another.


Their minds are constantly engaged with a myriad of stimuli.


They make time for work, family, friends, and entertainment, but not for God.



II.     Religious Leaders Who Do Not Hear God’s Voice


The Power-hungry Pope

In the late 1400s Rodrigo Borgia was a Cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church.  Instead of using his position to amass souls for the Kingdom of Heaven, he used this position to amass a vast fortune.


Before the Reformation in the year 1492, the same year Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue, this incredibly wealthy Carindinal – Rodrigo Borgia – was named Pope, Pope Alexander VI.


He was not one of the good popes:

As Pope, … he dished out favors, especially to his own family.


He had ten illegitimate children by four mistresses

He even poisoned his enemies.

"Money II," Christian History


Rodrigo Borgia did not stop, look, and listen to God.  Instead he fattened his pocketbook and fulfilled this lustful desires.



The Godless Priests: Hophni and Phinehas

The book of First Samuel tells a very very similar story.


Chapters 1-4 contrasts Samuel with Hophni and Phinehas, two priests of the Tabernacle.


Hophni and Phinehas had no interest in listening to or obeying God, and yet they are very religious.


They worked in the Tabernacle – the place where God’s tangible presence dwelt on earth in the Ark of the Covenant.


Hophni and Phinehas were like those St. Paul warned Timothy about in Second Timothy chapter three.  He said, they would have “a form of godliness but [deny] its power…” (2 Timothy 3:5)


First Samuel 2:12 tells us that Hophni and Phinehas:

12…were wicked men; they had no regard for the LORD.

          1 Samuel 2:12 (NIV)

This all took place after the Exodus and after the initial conquest of Canaan, but before King David conquered Jerusalem and before Solomon built the temple.


The Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant were kept at Shiloh, some 30 miles north of Jerusalem.


For over 100 years the Ark was kept at Shiloh and God’s people came at least three times each year to worship and offer sacrifices:

The people traveled for days to bring their hard-earned sacrifices to the Lord, yet Hophni and Phinehas often stole these sacrifices from God.


Instead of burning the sacrifices to the Lord, which Exodus 29 tells us is a pleasing aroma to Him (Genesis 8:21 & Exodus 29:18), they’d take them home for supper (1 Samuel 2:12-21).


They even engaged in promiscuity and prostitution at the very entrance of the Tabernacle – the place of God’s tangible presence on earth (1 Samuel 2:22).


Clearly Hophni and Phinehas did not spend time listening to or obeying God.  They spent their time filling their bellies and fulfilling their lustful desires.


These three religious men:

The power-hungry 15th century Pope.


The greedy and immoral 11th century B.C. priests.

All serve as examples not to follow.



II.     Religious Leaders Who Want to Hear from God



Samuel on the other hand, was a godly man, a man who listened to and obeyed the Lord.


How does someone learn how to listen to the Lord?


Our reading from First Samuel chapter three tells the story of how Samuel first heard from the Lord.

The Bible doesn’t tell us his exact age, but the Jewish historian Josephus believes Samuel was about 12 years old.


You’re never too young to learn to listen to the Lord.


And you’re never too old to learn to listen to the Lord.


Our God is alive, he desires to be in a personal relationship with you, and he wants you to hear from Him.



Look at verse one from our reading in First Samuel chapter three:

The boy Samuel ministered before the LORD under Eli. In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions.

1 Samuel 3:1 (NIV)

Why would “the word of the Lord” be rare?  Why would there be few visions?


In other words, why were people not hearing from God in those days?


Like in the days of the prophet Amos, from Amos chapter eight, God himself had sent:

“…a famine through the land—

        Not a famine of food or a thirst for water,


        But a famine of hearing the words of the LORD.

Amos 8:11 (NIV)

God had withheld his Word, he had quit speaking to his people, because his people were in a perpetual state of rebellion against him.

Not only was he not speaking, but his people were not listening.



Samuel Listens

Samuel, at only 12 years of age, was ministering before the Lord in the Tabernacle of God.


God didn’t wait ‘til he was 20 or 30 years old to call him and use him.


No, Samuel was a valuable minister as a boy, much like our acolytes today.


Yet, he had never really heard from the Lord.

One night, the Lord called his name:

“Samuel.  Samuel.”

1 Samuel 3:4 (NIV)

He immediately answered:

        “Here I am.”


But since he had never heard God speak to him, he thought it was Eli.


Three times that night, God spoke his name.


Three times, Samuel ran to Eli’s room.



Verse eight tells us:

8…Then Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy. 9So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.’”

1 Samuel 3:8-9 (NIV)

Isn’t that a great prayer for you and me?

“Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.”


Samuel did as Eli told him, and that night, he heard from the Lord.



Learning to Listen to God

How do children learn to hear from the Lord?


How do adults learn to hear from the Lord?


I believe it takes:

1. Setting Aside Time for the Lord


2. Practice


3. A Mentor


Setting Aside Time for the Lord

Samuel was able to hear the Lord that night, because he was not distracted:

By late night stories around the campfire.


By an endless array of activities.


By the TV, computer, video games, text messages.


Samuel lay there in silence, setting aside time:

To think


To ponder


To reflect


To meditate on God's Word


To hear from the Lord.


Psalm 1 says that the blessed man's

"....delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.

Psalm 1:2 (NIV)


The same is true for you and me.  If you truly want to hear from the Lord:

You must stop the noise.


You must stop the busyness.


You must set aside time...to listen to the Lord.



For me this has been extremely difficult over the years:

I’m hyperactive.


I’m an extravert.


I’m a multitasker.


I’m a problem solver.



I’ve found that I don’t hear from God, unless I set aside time for Him.


The great reformer Martin Luther said, “I generally pray two hours every day, except on very busy days. On those days, I pray three.”




Patterns Set During My Sabbatical

During my sabbatical I stayed fairly busy:

Reading             Writing


Driving               Research



Yet, in the midst of my study times, I set aside time to hear from God, time to simply linger in His presence, what the Church Father’s called “holy leisure.”

(Richard Foster’s Celebration of Disciple 27)


Even though I had more leisure time available for: Movies, TV, the Internet, shopping, I spent less time on leisure activities.


I found that all the noise simply clutters my mind.


I found that the more I linger in “holy leisure” in God’s presence, the less I want of the things of this world.


Like young Samuel, I’m enjoying laying in bed at night and early in the morning with no noise, no distractions, able to pray to God, able to hear from God.


During my sabbatical I took several retreats, times to retreat from all the noise of this world and into the presence of God.


On the first Saturday of March, I’ll be inviting you to join me for our first “Come to the Quiet” retreat here at Faith, a time to pray, to meditate, and to learn to hear from the Lord.


If you want God to speak to you, you must begin by setting aside times to be with him.




The second thing you need, is to practice.  You need to practice listening to God.


No one thinks they can be a star player without practice.


No one thinks they can be an accomplished musician without practice.


Yet, some Christians expect God to speak to them in the midst of their crises, but refuse to practice listening to God when all is well.


It took Samuel four times before he got it right: practice, practice, practice, practice.


God called, “Samuel.  Samuel,” three times before his mentor Eli realized it was the Lord.


Finally on the fourth time Samuel said,

“Speak, for your servant is listening.”

1 Samuel 3:10 (NIV)

How does God speak to us today?

On the most basic level, His creation points us to him.  The creation is evidence of his existence.  Romans chapter one makes this very clear.


Sometimes God speaks to us through others.


Sometimes God speaks to us directly – rarely by an audible voice, but often through a nudge of the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes God speaks to us through dreams and visions.  Acts chapter two makes this clear.


Always always God speaks to us through the Bible.  If you think God has spoken to you, always weigh what you hear against the Holy Scriptures.



We learn to listen to God:

1. When you set aside time to be with God.


2. When you practice listening.


Thirdly, we learn to listen to the Lord, through the ministry of a spiritual mentor:

Jesus trained his disciples to hear from the Lord.


Lois and Eunice taught St. Timothy to hear from the Lord (2 Timothy 1:5).


Eli helped Samuel to hear from the Lord.


To learn to hear God’s voice, you too need a mentor.


If you’re young in the faith, seek out a mature Christian who hears from God and learn from them.  Invite them to disciple you.


If you’re mature in the Lord and know how to hear from God, seek out those who are still young in the faith; disciple them in the things of God; train them how to hear God’s voice:

Parents training their children (Deuteronomy 6:6-9).


Fathers in the faith training younger men (Titus 2:6-8).


Mothers in the faith training younger women (Titus 2:3-5).



III.    Conclusion


With young Samuel, may all of us pray,

“Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”