I must admit that I become super nervous when I hear someone say “God told me…” World history is littered with stories of people who mistakenly thought they heard from God. Unfortunately the voice they were listening to told them to start a cult or leave their spouse and run off with someone from work. I think it is safe to say that it wasn’t God’s voice that they were listening to.
Which leads me to 1 Samuel 3 (I’m preaching through 1 Samuel right now). It is a well known story about Samuel and how God spoke to him while he was working in the tent of meeting.
We find God talking in 3:10-11, And the LORD came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.” Then the LORD said to Samuel, “Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel at which the two ears of everyone who hears it will tingle.
The BIG IDEA of 1 Samuel 2:12-3:21 is really all about the desperate need that the nation of Israel had to hear from God. We know that this was a major problem because we read this in 3:1, “Now the young man Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.
In Samuel’s day God’s people desperately needed to hear from God. Of course, the same thing is true for you and I. OK. So if God is speaking to us why do we so often feel like we can’t hear him? Let me suggest a few answers to that question.
- Sin. Eli and and his sons were wicked. The sons were really wicked and dad was passive and allowed the sin to go unchecked. Poor spiritual leadership. We are told that Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were stealing food that was meant for God and they were sleeping with women at the tabernacle! Is there any wonder that Eli, his sons, and the nation of Israel were not receiving the Word of the Lord? What about us? Are there areas in our life that we have not surrendered to God? If so there is a good chance that we are no longer hearing from God. Why would God bother to give us new insight and wisdom when we are not bothering to repent of the obvious sin that we are already wallowing in?
- We are confused when it comes to how God speaks to us. Let me be clear. The single greatest way that God speaks to us today is through the Word of God. This does not mean that God never guides us through other means. We see plenty of examples in Scripture of God communicating to his people audibly, burning bushes, visions, signs, etc. So I don’t want to limit the way God communicates to us. Even with that said we must keep in mind that the Word of God is inspired, trustworthy and we are under it’s divine authority. Scripture reading is the normal, day-to-day way in which God communicates to his children. Here is a short example of why we need to trust the Word of God over our personal impulses and intuitions. This is from “Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God” by Tim Keller.
The eighteenth-century Anglican clergyman George Whitefield was one of the spearheads of the Great Awakening, a period of massive renewal of interest in Christianity across Western societies and a time of significant church growth. Whitefield was a riveting orator and is considered one of the greatest preachers in church history. In late 1743 his first child, a son, was born to he and his wife, Elizabeth. Whitefield has a strong impression that God was telling him the child would grow up to also be a “preacher of the everlasting Gospel.” In view of this divine assurance, he gave his son the name John, after John the Baptist, whose mother was also named Elizabeth. When John Whitefield was born, George baptized his son before a large crowd and preached a sermon on the great works that God would do through his son. He knew that cynics were sneering at his prophecies, but he ignored them.
Then, at just four months old, his son died suddenly of a seizure. The Whitefields were of course grief-stricken, but George was particularly convicted about how wrong he had been to count his inward impulses and intuitions as being essentially equal to God’s Word. He realized he had led his congregation into the same disillusioning mistake. Whitefield had interpreted his own feelings- his understandable and powerful fatherly pride and joy in his son, and his hopes for him- as God speaking to his heart. Not long afterward, he wrote a wrenching prayer for himself, that God would “render this mistaken parent more cautious, more sober-minded, more experienced in Satan’s devices, and consequently more useful in his future labors to the church of God.”
The lesson here is not that God never guides our thoughts or prompts us to choose wise courses of action, but that we cannot be sure he is speaking to us unless we read it in the Scripture.
- We are just too busy. We are so busy with work, sports, paying bills, vacations that we simply have not left time to hear from the Creator of the universe. Read that sentence again. It’s about as sad as it gets. Will we re-prioritize our lives so that we make space to be with God and immerse our heart and mind in His Word?
- We have lost our awe in the Bible. If we are being brutally honest we would have to admit that part of the reason we don’t listen to God through His Word is because we find other things to do that we think are more exciting. Iphones. TV shows. Sports. Social media. Hobbies. Exercise. Do we really believe that the power that created the universe is the same power in the pages of Scripture? Do we believe that the Bible has the power to heal our broken family? Do we believe that the Bible is a revolutionary book that has forever altered the course of world history? Have we lost our awe of God and how he speaks to us through His Word?
God is still speaking to us today. The question is will we make make space in our lives to hear from Him?
Picture taken from odbdotcom