Speak, I am listening, and I will respond...
I do believe God speaks, but I think the more important issue is: How do we respond when He does? I mean, I think God speaks in all sorts of ways, just not always as clear as we would like. Fear, obligations, insecurities make us second guess whether we REALLY heard God say what we think He did. Or maybe Satan simply hisses, as he did to Eve "Did God really say...."
As our small group has being working thru the old testament, I came across two examples of how I can respond to God when I do hear from Him. The first is Samuel, and the second is Saul.
Samuel is the son of Hannah. Her heartfelt prayer for a child was answered when she conceived Samuel after suffering for many years with infertility. Amazingly, she gave this son up to serve God, as she had vowed when she prayed. (Altho this is a topic for another time, how many of us try bargaining with God only to forget Him and the vow when the crisis passes? Hannah didn't.)
As a child, Samuel served in the temple under Eli, the high priest. The story I want to look at happened when Samuel was about 12. You can read it here.
Verse 1 tells us how infrequently God spoke in those days. It was rare. There weren't people running around having visions. God seemed pretty quiet. Perhaps not so different from our time.
Samuel's bed was near Eli so that Samuel could respond quickly if Eli called him during the night. Of course, this night, poor old Eli just wanted to sleep. Instead, God calls to Samuel. Three times Samuel responds by running to Eli's side. On the third time, Eli figures out perhaps it is God. Remember, since God didn't speak often, it is really no wonder that Eli didn't think of this earlier.
Obviously, God breaking his silence was an important thing, even a strange thing. Eli instructed Samuel to say, "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening," should he hear God's calling again. And he did.
A fourth time, God called, but Samuel did not use the words Eli gave him. Perhaps he was still unsure whose voice it might be because he left out the "Lord" when he responded. The point really is that he did respond, however hesitantly.
And even more to the point, God spoke. He spoke unexpectedly, a rare event at that time, to a person no one would have expected, a child. This child may have been doing the chores of God, but he didn't yet know God. Having now met God, Samuel becomes more sensitive to listening to Him. People begin to see Samuel as a prophet, and God continued to speak with Samuel as he grew up.
Then, there is Saul. We can read his story in 1 Samuel 9 & 10.
Here is a young man whose family seems to be fairly comfortable and who is impressive in physical appearance. Every mother's dream for her little girl, right?
Of course, he doesn't appear to be the most resourceful person. He can't find the donkeys, and he has to wait until his servant gives him direction, "Let's check out the wise man in the nearby village." When he meets up with the wise man, Samuel, Saul is taken by surprise. Samuel declares that Saul is God's choice for king, anointing him and giving him instructions, even telling Saul how God's spirit will come upon him.
Sure enough, Saul meets up with some prophets and God's spirit descends on him and transforms his heart. Isn't it great to receive confirmation like that? I want that, to know I am on the right path, that God really does have a plan for me. Saul doesn't seem to appreciate this tho. When he is questioned by his uncle about what the prophet said, Saul leaves out the most important stuff. Perhaps he still doesn't believe? Or maybe he just doesn't feel worthy.
Samuel brings all the tribes together and presents Saul as the king, but wait, he isn't there. A search finds him, all 7 feet of him, hiding in the luggage.
So why do these two stories appeal to me?
Samuel was an unlikely choice for God's audience. He was a just child who didn't know God. The whole experience was ambiguous-where did this voice come from in the darkness? Was it a dream? Was it Eli talking in his sleep? Samuel ignored the questions, trusting Eli, and answered God's call, not just to the voice that night but also by growing in his relationship with God.
Saul seems like a really good choice. He is tall, handsome, from a good family. His experience with God is through a prophet, a man who spoke for God after speaking with him. Samuel's prophesies actually came true, unlike some goofy online psychic. God wasn't playing hide and seek. He was upfront and direct. But Saul wasn't man enough, or adventurous enough, or confident enough, to step up to this calling of God.
We often wonder what God wants us to do or we want Him to speak to us. I think those are admirable questions, but my question is, how do we respond when He does speak? There is a whole book of God speaking. Yes, it's the Bible. And that is even besides the Spirit speaking or any other guidance that God might give. Do we stand up and say, Yes? Or do we hide in our junk and hope He goes away?
I want to stand up and say "yes." I want to not hide in all my insecurities and inadequacies and hurriedness. I pray to be available and willing. I pray to hear Him. Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.