Can it be that today we are among a people that is ever exposed to the Word of God-the voice of God-but we are neglecting to hear it?
The Great Awakening in Britain and in the British North American colonies is often attributed to the preaching and passion of an Anglican priest by the name of George Whitefield. Whitfield would often preach outdoors in fields and extemporaneously, often for 60 hours a week with little or no sleep, moving about from place to place preaching the Gospel. On one occasion a hardened unbeliever went one day to see—but not to hear—George Whitefield when he preached outdoors to a great throng. In order to have a good vantage point, he climbed a nearby tree. Putting his fingers in both ears, the cynic began to watch the mighty preacher. Then a persistent fly lit on his nose. He shook his head, but the fly wouldn’t move.
Just as he removed a hand from an ear to flick the fly away, Whitefield quoted the verse, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Matt. 11:15). Then he spoke of the willful refusal of many to hear the Spirit’s voice. The unbeliever was so impressed by what happened that he opened not only his ears to the gospel, but also his heart.
He that hath ears to hear…let him hear.
Can it be that today we are among a people that is ever exposed to the Word of God, the voice of God, but we are neglecting to hear it?
In 1 Samuel 3, the situation is bleak.
It’s about 1000 B.C., and God has been using various judges to care for the protection and basic guidance of the people of Israel. But in that span, there have only been two prophets. Judges only lists two: the prophetess Deborah, and then an unnamed prophet simply called “a prophet” in Judges 6:8.
The spiritual climate of the day was cold and dry. No voice of the Lord. No revelation. No direction. In fact, the last sentence, the last verse in the book of Judges tells us to what extent the darkness had spread:
Judges 21:25 | In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
Irony, right? The name “Israel” means ‘governed by God’! So this could read:
In those days there was no one governing ‘Governed by God’, so everyone governed their own heart.
The one family that had a chance to bring the word of the Lord was in rough shape. Eli, the high priest, was getting old, half-blind, and numb to the things of the Lord.
His two sons, Phinehas and Hophni, were called by the Scriptures “corrupt”. One translation even calls them scoundrels, that had no regard for the Lord! They were regularly taking the offerings from the people’s offering to God at Shiloh. And they are supposed to become the next priests! Eli wasn’t a strong enough father to stop their sin and call them out.
So to recap: we have a father who is getting very old and is complicit in his son’s wickedness, and two corrupt future priests who have no regard for the Lord who are going to lead the nation of Israel spiritually, yet the people haven’t heard directly from God for years. And that brings us to 1 Samuel chapter 3:1-10. Verse 1 says there was no widespread revelation. It was “rare”. Other translations say PRECIOUS. No revelation. Let that sink in for a moment..
What could it be like to minister and not hear the Lord's voice?
Confusion: no wisdom or direction for life/ministry
Fear: no faith and quiet confidence
Dull: no passion to pursue the will of God
Wayward: no vision means we cast off restraint
If there’s ever a time God’s people needed to hear God’s voice, it was in this moment. And thankfully God shows up and speaks to Samuel, who says, "Speak Lord, for your servant hears."
I believe that in contrast to Samuel’s day, the problem in our day is not a problem of God failing to speak. God is not silent. He has spoken very very clearly.
In fact, when we consider how much God has spoken, it is remarkable.
God speaks through creation: Psalm 19
God speaks through conscience: Romans 1-2
God speaks through His commands: Deuteronomy 4
God speaks through Christ: John 1:1/Hebrews 1
According to Guinness, the Bible is still the world’s most distributed book. It has been translated into 1,659 languages. And between 1815 and 1975, some 2.5 billion Bibles were printed, of which 1.5 billion were handled by Bible societies.
Within its 66 books, 1,189 chapters, 41,173 verses, and 774,746 words we read of all the various topics, from religion, love, war, history, poetry, foretelling the future, songs, wise sayings, stories about betrayal, bravery, honor, cowardice, obedience, and rebellion.
Now imagine Oprah getting together her Book Club writers and selecting 40 different authors from many different countries and backgrounds including shepherds, governors, doctors, kings, accountants, fishermen, tent makers, religious leaders, and the like, from a time period of the last 1500 years and to write on all of those topics, and the origin of the universe, what sustains life, and what will happen when we die and at the end of the world.
Now imagine what that set of books would sound like. Certainly each and every book would vary in it’s doctrine and perspective and would be as awkward as a vegan reporter at a BBQ.
Whenever we hear God's voice, it necessitates a response.
"Hushed Was the Evening Hymn":
O Give me Samuel’s ear, the open ear,
O Lord, alive and quick to hear
Each whisper of thy Word,
Like Him to answer at thy call
And to obey thee first of all.
Do you desperately desire to hear from the Lord?
Are you slowing down enough to listen?
Do you need to, like Samuel, lay down, listen, and respond?
"This Book is the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding; its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable. Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you. It is the traveler's map, the pilgrim's staff, the pilot's compass, the soldier's sword, and the Christian's character. Here paradise is restored, heaven opened, and the gates of hell disclosed. Christ is its grand subject, our good its design, and the glory of God its end. It should fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet. Read it slowly, frequently, prayerfully. It is a mine of wealth, a paradise of glory, and a river of pleasure. Follow its precepts and it will lead you to Calvary, to the empty tomb, to a resurrected life in Christ; yes, to glory itself, for eternity!"