1 Samuel 3:1-10
In the story of the Lorax by Dr. Seuss we see what happens when we do not listen. What it means to not heed the words of someone. Some of you may know the story. We have the Once-ler who finds this land filled with truffula trees. The Once-ler begins to cut down Truffula trees to create his thneeds. Once he cuts down his first tree he is encountered by this strange figure, The Lorax. The Lorax tries to convince the Once-ler to stop, but is unable to do so. Finally the Lorax has no choice but to start sending the animals away while still trying to convince the Once-ler to stop. Finally the Lorax proclaims:
“‘What’s more,’ snapped the Lorax. (His dander was up.) ‘Let me say a few words about Gluppity-Glupp. Your machine chugs on, day and night without stop making Gluppity-Glupp. Also Schloppity-Schlopp. And what do you do with this leftover goo?… I’ll show you. You dirty old Once-ler man, you! You’re glumping the pond where the Humming-Fish hummed! No more can they hum, for their gills are all gummed. So I’m sending them off. Oh, their future is dreary. They’ll walk on their fins and get woefully weary in search of some water that isn’t so smeary.’ And then I got mad. I got terribly mad. I yelled at the Lorax, ‘Now listen here, Dad! All you do is yap-yap and say, ‘Bad! Bad! Bad! Bad!’ Well, I have my rights, sir, and I’m telling you I intend to go on doing just what I do! And, for your information, you Lorax, I’m figgering On biggering and BIGGERING and BIGGERING and BIGGERING, turning MORE Truffula Trees into Thneeds which everyone, EVERYONE, EVERYONE needs!’ And at that very moment, we heard a loud whack! From outside in the fields came a sickening smack of an axe on a tree. Then we heard the tree fall. The very last Truffula Tree of them all! No more trees. No more Thneeds. No more work to be done. So, in no time, my uncles and aunts, every one, all waved me good-bye. They jumped into my cars and drove away under the smoke-smuggered stars. Now all that was left ‘neath the bad smelling-sky was my big empty factory…the Lorax…and I. The Lorax said nothing. Just gave me a glance…just gave me a very sad, sad backward glance…as he lifted himself by the seat of his pants. And I’ll never forget the grim look on his face when he heisted himself and took leave of this place, through a hole in the smog, without leaving a trace.”(1)
Listen is one of the most important concepts in our lives. We must listen. Now I am not just talking about this in terms of listening to other people, but we must listen to God. God is constantly calling to be and to do things. However, more often than not we listen and live based on what we are interested in…let me tell you if I did that I would not be here.
How often do we here a call to do something and we go about our own business and do what we want? How often do we either neglect the call of God or even mistake it for something else and in turn ignore it?
For the next five weeks we are going to be going through a sermon series called “God Speaks.” We are going to look at ways in which God talks to and through us. There are so many ways that God seeks to communicate with people. We are going to look at five Old Testament stories of how God talks to people and how people respond. A good place to start when we think about God talking to or through us we must understand that we have to listen to God.
It is important that we listen to God and that we present ourselves as persons ready to receive God’s word. This is what Samuel teaches us.
Now in our Bible story for today we have Samuel. Samuel is an interesting character because Samuel’s mother Hannah was believed to be barren and could not bare children. Now this is a fairly common concept. We see this quite a few times through the Bible, but it is what happens when Hannah is promised a child that begins Samuel’s life down this path towards our scripture today. In the first chapter of Samuel, Hannah goes to the temple and pleads to God for a child and through Eli is promised a child. When she brings the child to the Temple to be blessed she says,
“‘Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the Lord. For this child I prayed; and the Lord has granted me the petition that I made to him. Therefore I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives, he is given to the Lord.’ She left him there for the Lord.” (1 Samuel 1:26-28)
Hannah who is this woman that could not bare or conceive a child has conceived a child and what does she do? She leaves the child at the temple. She gives her only child to the Lord as thanks for what the Lord has done, and now this child is being raised in the temple by Eli and by the other priests. In chapter 2 we find out that Eli’s sons, who are the priests, are “scoundrels” as we find out in verse 12. Now his sons were priests and we continue to learn that they misused and abused their powers as priests to get what they wanted. From this we see judgement on the house of Eli, and this is where Samuel comes into play.
The Lord is looking for a new prophet and does not look towards the house of Eli, but towards this boy who was given by his mother to the Lord. We read that Samuel is called in a time in Israel’s history when it was rare to hear the Lord’s voice and have heavenly visions. (1 Samuel 3:1) We also read in verse 7, “Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.”(1 Samuel 3:7) Now we have this situation where it is rare for the Lord to speak, or is it that it is rare for people to listen to the Lord? As Samuel’s story unfolds we begin to understand that it may not be as much the idea that it was rare for the Lord to speak, but perhaps rare for people to listen for not even Samuel was yet to be revealed to the Lord.
Samuel mistakes 3 times the call of the Lord as Eli calling him for help. After the third time Eli realizes what is going on and tells Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening’” (1 Samuel 3:9)
It is not that Samuel was ignoring the Lord or meant to not respond to the call but did not understand that God was calling him. The call of God fell by the waist side because Samuel did not listen to it. This may or may not be our reason. We may know it is the Lord and not listen or it may just be a way in which we don’t understand God to talk and so we do not listen in that way. But the point is that we are not listening to God. Eli in the moment he realizes that God is the one calling Samuel how important it is that Samuel listens to the Lord, and he conveys that importance by telling Samuel to say “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” Eli recognizes the importance that Samuel acknowledges that he is listening and then to actually follow through with the act of listening.
For us listening to the Lord might look different than what it looked like for Samuel. There are so many various ways that we should keep ourselves ready to hear what the Lord has to say to us. However, in our lives we often mishear or misinterpret God calling us. Sometimes we don’t listen to God. Eli’s statement to Samuel about acknowledging the fact we are listening to God is not just news that Samuel needed to hear, but something generations to come would need to hear…including us.
Are you not listening to God’s call? Or do you think that it is something else? I encourage you to take the time in you life to listen.
Now you may be wondering, how do I do that?
Well listening to God begins with your prayer life. A good prayer life is centered around listening. It is a time of meditation where we allow ourselves to sift through and process ways in which God is calling us.
We also must be listening in our lives to people and be determining how God may be talking to us through other people.
In order to listen to God we must understand how it is that God talks. In our time God’s voice is not necessarily an audible voice, but we hear God’s voice in our own minds and through the things other people sometimes tell us. It is often up to us to discern what is God talking and what is part of our own personal ideas that we try to implement into God’s plan.
When I was in seminary I remember we would always talk about what we were going to do after seminary. There were people who wanted to be pastors, work for non-profits, or do other ministry work. Now I have known since I first heard my call that I was called to the local church. So when I told them that I would always get the response of, “Well what kind of church do you see yourself serving?” I always thought that if the bishop and cabinet had any sense or understanding of my call that I would be appointed to a urban or suburban church. Most likely an associate pastor in one of these two settings, or at the very least just one church. I never saw myself serving a more than one church or serving in a rural setting. And that was almost true. I had what I thought was this great appointment exactly where I thought I should be.
However, I soon realized that that was where I wanted to be. That was where I was trying to call myself. Two days after receiving my initial call from Rob about the first church I got another call saying that had fallen through. But it was alright, because he had another appointment for me. He said he was going to be sending me to two small churches in Dinwiddie County, Va. I was thrown completely off guard because I thought this was not part of the plan. However, as time went on I realized it was part of the plan. It was part of God’s plan and I had distorted it to what I thought it should have been. Once I listened to God I realized that God had different plans than I did, and I would not trade this call for anything in the world.
I encourage you to take time out of your day maybe 20 or 30 minutes a day and just be in a moment of quiet meditation to sort through ways in which you feel God talking to you. It will be tough at first as you try to understand, but as you key your mind in on God’s purpose for your life listen to God will become easier. As in the story of Samuel it was not until Samuel recognized that it was God who was calling him that he could begin to understand what God was calling him to. Allow God to speak.
So take that moment to utter those words that Samuel utters. Say to God, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” When utter those words and truly allow them to mean that you are listening and ready for God’s call what you will hear and understand next will lead you down a path of service and faith in God’s name.
So listen and be attentive to God’s word.
1.) Dr. Seuss The Lorax