Lord, open my heart to hear Your Word today. Let me always gladly hear Your Word even when it must rebuke me. Work in my heart a willingness to submit to Your Word. Fill me with rejoicing as I celebrate the blessings You have revealed in Your Word. Speak Lord! Your servant is listening. Amen.
God speaks to every sinner through His Word. His Word applies to each of us individually regardless of our age or status in life. Paul instructed the Titus to teach God’s Word to everyone in the congregation as it applied to them individually. In every case, when Titus spoke the Word of God he was doing so with the authority of God Himself.
Jesus thanked His Father for bringing the disciples to faith through the Word of God. Jesus prayed that His Father would use His Truth to keep the disciples separated from the wicked influence of the world. Jesus asked for the same blessings to be upon those who would be brought to faith through the apostles’ words, namely, us! The Word of God creates and preserves faith and is, therefore, the active ingredient in our worship services.
In Christ Jesus, dear fellow-redeemed:
“Shhhh, Listen!” might be words of caution in a very intense game of hide-and-seek. A moment where the hiders are to be very quiet and listen carefully, because we think we hear the finders coming. “Shhhh! Listen!” might be words that are spoken in a classroom by a teacher when the classroom is filled with energy and the students are yelling and carrying on. These are words that are hard to follow when the excitement comes from anticipation of a school cancellation because of the weather.
If we take away the noises in our life and if we are “shhhh” quiet, and then listen, we will hear many things that are normally masked by all the different sounds and noises of the earth. A couple of weeks ago when the senior youth group was camping at Whitewater State Park, we had just received several inches of white fluffy snow blanketing the ground. Away from civilization out there in the state park and going back into the woods, the snow dampened the noise so if you were quiet and listened you could hear things you would never hear in the city of Mankato—the snow crunching under the feet of nature’s critters running through the forest, the sound of a stream trickling and bubbling as it passed through and around the ice and stones.
The sounds and noises of this earth and this life are many and they often times hide very pleasurable sounds. The noise of life…
The alarm clock ringing to wake us up to a brand new day and the body that is tired and grudgingly gets out of bed for a new day of school or for work.
The horns blaring in the car behind us “GET GOING!” or blaring because someone made a foolish mistake in their driving.
The voice of our conscience screaming in our ears when we sin, when we don’t do everything for which we are responsible -- the voices of our own inner selves crying out, “THIS ISN’T RIGHT!”
The jingle of the car keys as we dash off to this and for that.
The sound of the time clock punching us “in” for work.
The sound of needs at home, children and responsibilities there.
The sound of needs and responsibilities at work.
The sounds of needs and responsibilities for the children at school.
The sounds of all the responsibilities and everything that comes to us.
The needs and the troubles of this life—all cascading together to be a noise to our ears!!!!! And then God says, “Shhhh, listen to My Word.”
All that racket, all the things in this life become a noise. We walk to & fro through this life in that noise, in that racket, and in all the things of this earth; but when we open up the doors of God’s house and come in, we close the doors to all that noise on the outside. Here we come to sit in silence and to hear the Word of our Lord. It is a word that, sadly, is oftentimes silenced out in the world. We hear all the other things and we don’t stop to listen to the Word, but here in our worship we settle down and hear God speak.
As we go through the order of our worship service when we come to the sermon, it is the climax to that section in our worship where we hear God speak to us.
The Scripture lessons and the other parts of the service through which we have come so far state a theme, build on it, and then the sermon brings the thought of the day to its fullness.
The Sunday sermon is not just some offhand remarks or good thoughts that a pastor came up with during the week. The sermon is a prayerfully prepared proclamation of God’s message of repentance and salvation for sinners. Nor does the sermon end with the “Amen” or when we all leave. The meditations and thoughts presented in the sermon are to be only the beginning. The sermon’s study of a particular text from God’s word is only a beginning. There is not a sermon that has ever been written that does full justice to the text from God’s Word on which it was based. The thoughts of the sermon are meant to be taken home, expanded by your own meditation on those words from God, and personally applied to your own individual circumstances in your own personal lives.
An order of service that is built on God’s Word, and a sermon that is preached from God’s Word, leaves the entire worship service very much “Word-centered.” It should not be any other way. The whole purpose for God giving us His Word in the Scriptures is that “you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you might have life in His name”(John 20:31).
You and I are sinners. The Word of God given to us in the Scriptures is the very thing we need. The forgiveness of sins, help, encouragement, uplifting, comfort, peace in a world that is so unpeaceful—these are all found in the Gospel in the very things we need to hear, the very things our Lord says to us when we come to hear.
So as we come to worship and hear God’s Word. As we hear it read, as we hear it spoken, as we hear it preached, we can say: Shhhhh, LISTEN I. God is speaking II. God is working.
We find in the first verse of our text that Samuel as a boy was ministering to Eli in the tabernacle of the Lord, but that “the Word of the Lord was rare in those days, there was no widespread revelation” [v.1]
This all took place during the time of the Judges. The history of Israel went up and down during the time of the Judges. Either they were high when they had a strong spiritual leader, or they were low following all kinds of wickedness and sin. This is one of the low periods at the beginning of Samuel’s ministry.
Israel was low—the people were doing abominable things, the priests had been abusing their office, and now Eli’s two sons were the worst of those priests. We find earlier in 1 Samuel, in chapter 2, that when the people brought sacrifices to the Lord to be offered, the priests—the two sons of Eli—were taking big portions of that offering before it was even offered. God had made provision in His law to give the priests portions after part of it had been burned to the Lord. However, they were “digging-in” before it was ever offered to the Lord in order to get the best parts for themselves. This practice contradicted the Word of the Lord in a very selfish way, and defiled what was intended to be a very sacred form of worship.
Equally offensive, was the fact that Eli’s sons also seduced women as they came into the tabernacle doors. Other things are only alluded to as great wickedness on the part of Eli’s sons. The conduct of Eli was not entirely better because he knew this great wickedness of his sons and did very little to correct them. He simply gave them a passing word of rebuke and let them continue in their ways.
The people, as a whole, were not following God. They didn’t have good examples in the priests who were doing all sorts of abominations in the tabernacle. The older priest was not rebuking the younger ones, and as a result of this wickedness, God withheld new revelation from His Word. In those days they did not have the full written Scriptures as we do. They received their Word from God largely by revelation to the prophets. In the world of wickedness during the period leading up to Samuel, when people did not want to hear, God withheld His Word for a time. Now with Samuel, God would begin to again give widespread revelation.
The story is familiar: Samuel lying down and Eli with his dim eyesight, undoubtedly frequently called for Samuel’s help. So it was natural that when Samuel first heard his name he arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am for you called me.” [v.5] But Eli said, “No I didn’t, go back to bed—go back to sleep.” And again it happened. Samuel again went to Eli and everything happened just as it had the first time. By the third time, Eli understood what was happening. He understood that the Lord was calling Samuel and he gave Samuel the instruction, “If He calls you, you must say, ‘Speak Lord, for Your servant hears.’ So Samuel went and lay down in his place. Now the LORD came and stood and called as at other times, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel answered, ‘Speak, for Your Servant hears.’” [vv.9-10]
Samuel as a willing child of God, under the instruction of Eli (who was still a believer in spite of his sin), heard the Word of the Lord and said, “Speak, I’m listening.” It was not just hearing in the sense of hearing what God had to say, but listening in terms of “I’m going to listen and follow what You say.” It was in the sense of what James wrote, “Be doers of the word and not hearers only” (James 1:22).
Samuel’s hearing was hearing the Word, absorbing it, and then putting it into action. Later on in text we hear that Samuel did not let one word of the Lord fall to the ground [v.19]. Samuel listened with an attentiveness that wouldn’t even let one single word of God’s Word fall. He paid close attention so everything that God revealed to him was taken in and absorbed. We might think of our own selves—so often (myself as guilty as anyone) listening to God’s Word and then all of a sudden calling ourselves back because we have left some of those words fall to the ground as our minds wander and our thoughts stray.
Samuel received the word of the Lord by revelation. He took it to heart. He listened, He heard.We have a prophetic Word made more sure. We no longer have the prophets who received new revelations as did Samuel. But as Peter writes in his second letter, “And so we have the prophetic Word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:19-21).
Peter had written also in his first letter concerning the Word of God, “…the Word of God which lives and abides forever, because ‘all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, but the word of the LORD endures forever’” (1 Peter 1:23-24).
We have that revealed Word, written for our learning in Scriptures. We are at no disadvantage compared to Samuel who received the revelation in a vision from the Lord Himself. We have the WORD of the Bible from God Himself. It is just as much the unchanging ever-standing Word of God as that which Samuel heard when he said, “Speak Lord for your Servant hears.” As we heard in our epistle reading, the ever-standing Word is applicable to each one of us. Titus was to preach that Word to the older men, to the younger men, to the older women, to the younger women, to the mothers, to the widows. Whatever your station in life is, this Word of God from God Himself, the Word that stands forever is for YOU to hear, to apply, to let sink-in, to absorb and apply to your daily lives.
Every time God speaks to you through this word He says, “Shhh, listen! Because I have something to say to YOU.”
Are you troubled by your sin? The Word of God says, “Shhh, listen: God so loved the world that He sent Jesus to die for your sins. He lived a perfect life in your place and then He did die on the cross to pay the punishment for EVERY one of your sins (John 3:16). So let that trouble be gone. Let it go! Shhh, listen, I give you salvation.”
Are you facing troubles in your life? Decisions? Need guidance? Direction? Everything seem to be going wrong? You’re not getting anything done that your supposed to do. The “in” stack is getting bigger and bigger and the “out” stack doesn’t seem to ever be bigger. Shhh! Listen to God’s Word. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). Focus on your soul’s well-being. Focus on your Savior’s salvation that He gives to you. Commit everything else to God in prayer. Commend every thing over to Him and everything will fall into place as you go forward led by His Word. Pray for His guidance and He will direct your paths.
All of our efforts that we might do in this earth to try to get out of the noise and the troubles of the outside world…all those efforts are as nothing. We can come to the Word of God and hear His comfort. One of our hymns says, “Oh what needless pain we bear all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.” [TLH #457] And that is true because we do bear a lot of pain and we do go through a lot of noise because we do not commend everything to God in prayer; but even more than that, we bear a lot of needless pain and go through a lot of noise because we don’t take the time to go to His Word, to settle down, to be silent, and to hear what He has to say to us through His Word.
In the days of Samuel and Eli, there had been that lack of wide revelation and the Word of the Lord was rare. We have the written word but we need to beware that we do not also have a “rareness” of the Word of the Lord. In Amos, the prophet reports that there were those of the people around him who said, “Prophesy not!” (Amos 7:16). They didn’t want to hear the Word of the Lord. They wanted to keep on yelling and screaming and forget what God had to say. So God warned them, “Behold the days are coming says the LORD God, that I will send a famine on the land. Not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east.; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord, but shall not find it&1; (Amos 8:11-12).
In our lives on this earth we know that the Word is there. We know that it is always there so that we can turn to it, but if we in our sinfulness get so wound up in all the noisy things of this earth—the troubles and cares and concerns of this world—and we think, “Well the word of God will always be there. Some day I’m going to get to it. Some day I’ll take time and I’m really going to dig in and I’m really going to find the comfort there, but for right now I’m too busy.” When we do finally settle down to listen, we may find that the voice of the Word has gone quiet. For those who reject and despise God’s Word, God will only leave the Word among them for so long and eventually He will take that Word away.
As we read the stories in God’s Word of all the different people, Samuel, Eli, and so forth, we might ask “Is that really applicable to me? Because they are so much different. Their world was so much different from our own.” But they’re not that much different. The Bible clearly shows that all the people in Scripture had the same weaknesses and problems that we do. No, they didn’t go to work in a computer factory, but they went to work and had the same frustrations. They didn’t have TV and videos and all other kinds of things to bring temptation right into their homes, but they still had the same weaknesses. They still had the same temptations, the same lusts and sinful actions.
We can see ourselves in a Peter who spoke often before he gave thought to what he was saying. We can see ourselves in the disciples’ lack of trust as they feared for their lives even though Jesus was right there with them in the sinking boat. We can see ourselves in the words of Scripture and God then says, “Listen, I’m speaking to YOU…hear what I have to say to YOU.”
God is also very actively working in His Word. As He spoke to Samuel He said, “In that day I will perform against Eli all that I have spoken concerning His house, from beginning to end. For I have told Him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knows, because his sons made themselves vile, and he did not restrain them.” [vv.12-13]
Eli did know. When the next morning came, Eli approached Samuel undoubtedly with the premonition that what the Lord said to Samuel had to do with him and his sons, because God had already warned Eli personally. God said that what He would do would cause BOTH ears of the people to tingle. It would be so amazing, so stunning that it would just seize every body’s attention…and it did!
The Ark of the Covenant was lost in battle. Eli’s sons were both killed. Eli, when he heard the news about the Ark, fell backward in his chair which broke his neck and he died. All of Israel talked about it, all of Israel mourned because the Ark of the Covenant was in enemy hands and they had been defeated in battle in the worst way. God’s Word took action and made an impact.
Samuel didn’t want to tell Eli what God had said, but Eli told him, “Tell me it all.” That too is part of listening to God’s Word. Sometimes we don’t want to hear what God says He will do. His Word says what He is going to do. He is going to bring judgment against sin. His Word clearly says that He will work against those who work iniquity. He says, “Do not do these things that are sinful in My eyes.” As hearers of the Word we listen to those things too and they also apply to us. Sometimes we don’t want to hear God condemn us in our sin. We don’t want to hear that we aren’t perfect, that we are weak, that we do fall into all kinds of sin. . .but we need to hear. We need to be quiet and silent and listen to God’s Word working to rebuke us for our sins, but then also to promise us salvation.
When the people listening to Samuel’s words they were listening to God. As we hear at the end of our text, “The word of Samuel came to all Israel” [v. 4:1] Samuel heard the word from the Lord, heard what God would accomplish, and proclaimed it as a prophet of the Lord. That was the way in which God spread the word to all of Israel—through one prophet, Samuel. Jesus would later say, “He who hears you, hears me. He who rejects you rejects Me. He who rejects Me rejects Him who sent me” (Luke 10:16).
When we hear God’s Word…when we hear through that Word what He will do, we aren’t hearing the pastor. We aren’t reading it ourselves. We are hearing it from God HIMSELF. He uses us, like Samuel, to spread His Word across the world.
“Shhh,” God is speaking to you—personally, working through His Word.
“Shhh,” God is saying, “Be still. Don’t let your soul be troubled for I am with you.”
“Shhh,” He says at the close of every worship service, “Go in peace.”
When you walk out those doors this morning, you are going to be walking back out into the noise of this world. You are going to be in the middle of all the racket of your everyday life once again. But remember, every time you come to the Word of God (here or on your own) and listen, all that noise fades away so that you will hear God speak to YOU. Amen.