Lidlington Church - Welcome

God’s Voice: Hearing, Knowing and Finding It

Stephen Gaunt 28th February 2015


Introduction

Amid the hustle and bustle of daily life, we often find it hard to hear God's voice. Many "voices" shout for our attention - deadlines to meet, bills to pay, meetings to attend, phone calls to make, children to care for. We try to read our Bible but struggle to be still and to receive a word from God. In the days of Samuel few people were listening to God's voice. Politically and spiritually Israel was in terrible shape as they “had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.” (Judges 21:25)

Three questions this morning: 1) Does God really speak to people? 2) If so, how do we know that it is God who is talking? And finally, 3) How do we position ourselves to better hear the voice of God? In order to answer these questions, we’re going to look at Samuel and Eli’s experience.

Read 1 Samuel 3:1-10

When this story occurred, Samuel was about 12 or 13 years of age. He was the servant of the priest Eli, who was by now a very old man. Now both of them had turned in for the night. Young Samuel, the passage tells us was asleep in the temple, close to where the ark of God was kept. During the night God called out to Samuel. Samuel, thinking that it was Eli who had called him, rushes out to Eli and says, “Here I am. You called me?” The old priest says, “No my boy, I didn’t call you - go back to bed.”

So Samuel goes back to bed. Again God calls out to the boy, and again young Samuel goes to Eli. “Here I am. You called me?” The old priest again says, “No my boy, I didn’t call you - go back to bed.” When this happened the third time, Eli finally realises that it must be God calling out to the boy Samuel.

Does God really speak to people?

Why did it take Eli - the priest - and Samuel the young boy - three times to finally figure out that it was God who was calling? In the case of Samuel, the answer is relatively simple. He hadn’t yet been instructed on how to recognise God’s voice. He was a young boy who was an apprentice – still learning the ropes.

But Eli the priest - now there’s a different story. You see, Eli had allowed himself to wander from God’s grace. Eli had permitted corruption to permeate the ministry that God had charged him to oversee. Eli’s two sons were also priests - but they treated the ministry with utter contempt. These religious leaders didn’t honour God. They robbed God by putting themselves first - they took the best of the offerings up front. They lived immoral and impure lives. They extorted God’s people by threatening to use force to get the best of the offerings. And Eli, their dad, could do nothing to control them.

God had removed Himself from the ministry that Eli and his sons exercised. His voice had become scarce; He didn’t want to be around these guys. Is it any wonder that Eli failed to recognise God’s call. So now, in talking to the boy Samuel, God was demonstrating that the time of repentance for Eli’s sons had long past.

God still struggles to talk to people. He still desires to come to us to draw us close. But the very reality is that we remove ourselves from Him. We do this through our own sinfulness. When we do those things that offend God - we can’t hear or understand his voice.

We can’t hear or understand His voice when we avoid meeting together. We can’t hear God’s voice when we - for whatever excuse that we concoct - fail to worship Him or obey His Word. We do to ourselves what Eli did - put ourselves in a position to miss God when He is speaking to us.

How do we know that it is God who is talking?

Here’s the second question: How do we know that it is God who is talking? Here’s the first test: What does the voice that we hear tell us about Jesus Christ? You see, God will never point us to a false hope. When God directs us, it is always to Christ - always to his Cross and Resurrection - always to his forgiveness - always to his promises. “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognise the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God.” (1 John 4:1-3a) This is absolutely fundamental.

The second test: God will never ask us to do that which He has prohibited in his Word. If the voice that you hear tells you to do wrong - it cannot be from God. God won’t entice you to sin or to commit adultery or to steal or to say things that hurt your brothers and sisters in Christ. God’s voice always encourages us in our walk of faith.

And the third test: When God speaks to us, it is always consistent with his Word. God will not add or take away from what He has revealed to us. Jesus tells us: “ I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. 19 And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.” (Revelation 22:18-19) To do this, we need to have a clear understanding of God’s Word and to check every message that we hear and compare it with the teachings of Jesus.

How do we position ourselves to better hear the voice of God?

Up to now we’ve looked at the questions: “Does God really speak to people?” We said that He did, but that we needed to know that living a life committed to sin - like Eli’s sons - can cause to God away from us. We also considered the question: “How do we know that it is God who is talking?” We looked at three tests: What does the voice say about Jesus; Does the voice entice us to evil; Is what we hear consistent with God’s Word.

Now here’s the final question: How do we position ourselves to better hear the voice of God? Some years ago in the 1970s there was a popular country song named, “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places.” If we look for God in all the wrong places - we won’t find God. If we’re looking in the wrong places and think that we hear God’s voice - we’d best look out! We might be hearing a voice if we are looking for God in these things – but I can guarantee you that it isn’t God’s voice.

So where do we look? Consider where Samuel was when God called to him. He was in the temple. He was where God promised to be. Samuel received God’s Word in a manner that was consistent with how God had previously revealed Himself. Samuel needed to be receptive to God’s voice: “Speak, for your servant is listening.” And God came to His servant.

Today, we can hear God’s voice in the temple. It comes to us in the wonderful sacraments: in Baptism, in the Lord’s Table. It comes to us through the proclamation of the cross and the resurrection. It comes to us in the forgiveness that we receive when we confess our sins. It comes to us when we hear and study God’s Word. It comes to us where God has promised to speak with us - in the temple - here. Sometimes we just need to be quiet. We just need to be still and know that God IS.

 

Conclusion

God wants to speak to each one of us. Why? Because God desires full communion - heart to heart with us. Why else would Jesus pay the price of the Cross? So, do you need to find joy and communion with God? Then relax - make time for God, read his Word, pray, listen for his guidance - and He’ll be there. As we give ourselves to God - his Word will come. What are the benefits, the results, of hearing Gods voice and doing His will? We find a three-fold answer in 1 Samuel 3:19, “The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground”:

1. Growth - Samuel grew. By hearing God speak through His Word. This is the way we grow.

2. Being aware of God’s presence - we are told that the Lord was with Samuel. If you are with someone and you never speak to that person or hear their voice, there is something wrong. But everything was right with Samuel, the Lord was with him.

3. Usefulness in service - God let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground.

 

 

 

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