2nd Sunday after Epiphany (B)
I Samuel 3:1-10
January 14, 2017
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The text that I have chosen for this morning’s sermon is the Old Testament reading, which was read a few minutes ago.
A common stereotype, that may be partially rooted in reality, is that husbands never hear what their wives say. I saw a cartoon the other day in which a woman said to her husband, “Did you hear what I just said?”, to which he replied, “Well, that’s a funny way to start a conversation.” But so you don’t think I’m sexist, there are also jokes about women who walk out of a room while muttering to their husbands. I know these jokes are based on stereotypes, I also know that I have been guilty of not hearing what my clear speaking wife says to me. As long as men and women get married, these stereotypes will persist. That got me thinking. Do you think God ever makes these kinds of jokes about us? “Oh, those people never listen! Did they even hear what I said?” He very well might, because we don’t hear Him as we should. The difference is that God’s not joking about human stereotypes, He’s asking a valid question. It’s valid because whenever He speaks, He expects us to hear Him.
I’ve often wondered what my faith would be like if God would talk to me. Would I be stronger in my faith, would I trust Him more, would I sin less, if He sat in my living room and answered all my questions? If God did that, I’d listen pretty closely; I know you would too. In His infinite wisdom, God has decided that He’s not going to speak to us in person anymore. He’s not sending prophets with messages and His voice isn’t booming from Heaven, which is a good thing because we’d be scared to death. God knows this, so He speaks to us another way.
We hear Him today in His Word where we hear what He said to and through Moses and the prophets. We hear Him speak to us by His Son in the Gospels. We hear His voice in the words of the Apostles who pass on the teachings of Jesus. Every single word found in the Bible is His Word. There’s nothing in it that He didn’t want in it. He speaks through examples of faithful people and He warns us through events that highlight human sinfulness.
So when God speaks, how do we hear? Do we just nod and say, “Uh huh” or do we lean in to hear what He’s saying? In Psalm 119 we Christians say, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” This means we hear it to make it part of our lives. Hearing God’s Word is essential for our spiritual health and our eternal lives. His Word is what guides us in a world that wants us to hear a different kind of word. A word that says, “Listen Lord, your servant speaks.” A word that runs counter to everything that God says in His holy and infallible Word. Paul says to Timothy, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will…turn away from listening to the truth.” God gave us His Word as He intended for us to have it, and if there’s something we don’t understand or don’t like, who’s fault is it? If something sounds like a lie, is the mistake in the voice of the One who was heard by men and angels? Or is the mistake in sinful men and women who don’t even understand their own spouses and children all the time? We hear God with ready hearts and open minds, for it is only then that we can truly hear what God says to us.
We listen because God is a speaking God. He spoke creation into existence. He spoke His Law into the ear Moses. He spoke His holy and powerful word to Peter, James, John and the rest of the disciples. As we’re told in Hebrews, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son.” God wants us to hear Him, so He gave His Son, through whom He has told us everything we need to know. And God speaks for a reason. He doesn’t talk just to hear Himself talk. He doesn’t drone on and on like someone reading the phonebook. He speaks because He has something important for us to hear. To hear and to treasure.
When God speaks He does so with the intention that we hear Him. But when God speaks and no one listens, He stops. This is the situation for Israel in the Old Testament reading. Israel had once again stopped listening to God and His prophets, so we hear in the reading, “The Word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.” Because the people preferred to hear what the Devil and the culture around them had to say, God stopped talking. What’s the point in talking when no one is listening, right? God’s silence in Israel 3100 years ago serves as a warning to us.
We’re to hear Him, regularly and faithfully and with trusting hearts and minds, so that we won’t have to endure God’s terrible silence. If His people don’t want to hear, He won’t speak. This doesn’t mean that God’s Word has suddenly lost its power. It means that when people aren’t listening to the Word, they’ve stopped listening to Him, so He is essentially silent. We need to hear Him speak to us regularly.
In the account from First Samuel, Samuel says to the Lord, “Speak, for your servant hears.” Samuel urges God to speak and God does because He has something for Samuel to hear. So also, we listen because He has something He wants us to hear. We hear His voice because He speaks the truth in a world of lies. We hear His Word because it transforms our lives. We hear His calls us to repentance. When God calls us to repent, we need to hear Him and obey.
We don’t listen just to hear His warnings, we listen to hear His Word of grace. Israel, His special nation, wasn’t listening, but He still loved them. Samuel would be God’s servant to remind them of His purpose for them. He would guide and love them because they were His chosen people. Listen and you will hear His promises. He speaks His Word of grace to you. He speaks forgiveness to you. Hear the true story of His Son’s crucifixion for you. Hear the true and miraculous story of His Son’s resurrection for you. Hear His Word and hear that you’re forgiven. Hear His Word of forgiveness, right this very second. And this is no small thing, something unimportant, or some minor detail. It’s the most crucial thing you’ll ever hear. Yes, you sin. Yes, you starve yourself spiritually by not hearing His Word as you should. Yet, the Word is spoken to you. It calls you to acknowledge your hunger and then be fed by God Himself. Hear Him His Word of comfort and peace. Hear the Word of hope that permeates the Scripture. Hear the Word that literally changes you; that gives you faith, leads you to repentance, and forgives all your sins. Hear the Word that’s unlike any other spoken or written words in the history of the world because it is the Word of the Lord.
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen