Our Voices of Logic
Today’s story is about what happens when God speaks. These are the first words God said to Samuel:
See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle. (1 Samuel 3:11)
When God speaks, God is about to do something. When God speaks, everything is about to change.
Hearing God speak is something that sounds very foreign to modern ears. We don’t know what that is, or what it looks like.
The voices we do hear are the voices of logic and reason. With logic, we have learned how to survive in this world. Logic helps us understand the world, analyze it and adapt to it.
The other day, I was speaking to someone who works at the head office of McDonald’s. To us, they’re simply selling Big Macs.
But behind the scenes, the best and brightest minds use all of their logic to analyze mountains of data, see patterns, and come up with ways to sell even more Big Macs.
They know us better than we know ourselves! I was so fascinated by what goes into the business of selling Big Macs.
Logic has done wonders for our lives. There is an important place for it.
But logic alone is not everything.
Logic can help us survive, but logic cannot bring fulfillment to our lives.
It comes up with solutions based on the facts and data available to it. It is dependent on those facts and data.
Logic cannot understand mysteries of life that go beyond facts and data.
It cannot anticipate a future different from what already exists. It cannot imagine a future independent of the facts and data that exist now.
Speaking to Our Hearts
When God speaks, he speaks of things that logic cannot understand. What God is about to do does not depend on what exists now. God creates something new out of nothing.
Most of us know that there is more to life than logic. We know that only living logically does not bring happiness.
No matter how logical our choices and decisions have been, we still feel something is missing. We feel that in our hearts.
The funny thing is, instead of listening to the heart to see what’s missing, we use logic to try and figure out how to fill the empty space in our heart!
God does not speak to us through our logic. God speaks to the place that can imagine something new and different from what exists now.
That place is the heart. God speaks to the heart.
The heart is what notices that something is missing. Even when logic has covered all the bases, it is the heart that says maybe everything is not right.
Logic tries to snuff out the heart. It says the heart is not rational. It says the heart is silly. It says “Trust in me, because I have all the answers.”
But my friends, when you hear a little voice from the heart trying to say something, stop.
Stop and listen. God may be trying to speak to you!
It is a mystery how and why God chooses to speak to us.
Many people believe in some sort of higher being, but not many people believe that this higher being chooses to speak to us in a personal way.
Somehow, starting with Abraham, a small group of people experienced God speaking to them in a real and personal way.
The psalmist expresses his wonder this way:
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are humans that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? (Psalm 8:3-4)
This is the God who continues to speak to us today.
Simply Have Openness
There is no criteria for whom God chooses to speak to. You don’t need to already be in a relationship with God.
Samuel did not know God when God spoke to him.
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)
Samuel served in the temple since he was a little boy. He learned a lot about God from Eli, but he did not know God.
Many of you have come to church for a long time. You’ve learned a lot about God, but you may not have met God yet. And that’s okay.
Samuel did not yet know God, but when I look at him, I see a heart that is open and receptive. Five times in this passage, his response was “Here I am”!
Here I am. This is a very special term in the Bible. The term indicates a posture of openness. A posture of trust and surrender.
Samuel had this spirit of openness. At first, he didn’t know who was calling him, but each time he responded with the openness of here I am!
He trusted Eli’s direction to ask God to speak: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening!”. With that openness he heard God speak, and he listened.
When we hear a voice in our heart calling out to us, how many of us actually take the time to stop and listen!
God chooses when to speak. But when he does, you will hear him only if your heart is attentive and you listen with the spirit of “Here I am”.
When we pray, we pray with a heart of openness. We listen with our hearts to what God may say to us.
What is Hidden in Our Hearts
How do you know you’re hearing the voice of God and not your own? How do you distinguish between God’s voice and the many other voices that have infiltrated the heart?
When God speaks, God doesn’t merely confirm what you already know. It’s not just another good piece of information.
When God speaks, it’s not just a nice word that makes you feel good and you go on your way. No, my friends.
When God speaks – when God actually speaks to you in your heart – what God says can be utterly surprising, shocking and disturbing.
When Samuel heard God’s words, he was shocked. He was afraid. He was afraid to tell Eli about his fate.
Eli had taken in Samuel as a young boy and taught him everything. He was appreciative of Eli and didn’t want bad things to happen to him. God’s words were deeply disturbing to Samuel.
When God speaks, it uncovers something hidden in the heart. What God said to Samuel was not something random out of left field.
What God said disclosed something that had been deep in Samuel’s heart.
Samuel was born after great difficulty. His mother, Hannah, had been barren for a long time and couldn’t conceive.
She prayed and prayed and finally bore Samuel. She was so thankful that she dedicated Samuel to grow up in the temple.
His life was dedicated to God. But what he saw growing up in the temple was the opposite of that.
Eli’s sons were the priests of the temple.
They were so corrupt. They became rich by taking from the sacrifices offered to God. They slept with the women who served the temple.
Eli was powerless to stop his sons. They paid no heed to him. He gave in to the corruption of his sons.
Samuel loved Eli, but must have been bothered by the conduct of his sons. There was probably a lot of confusion.
But he was a boy and didn’t know what to make of it. So his unease and confusion became hidden in his heart.
When God speaks, God discloses what is hidden in your heart. But he does so with new insight.
Something New For Us
God brings a new revelation to what’s in your heart. God uncovers what has always been there, but now you see it clearly and understand it in a new way.
This new revelation can be utterly surprising, unexpected and disturbing.
Your instinct might be to resist what God reveals. The implications of this new insight and revelation are too heavy.
That’s why Jonah tried to run away when he heard God’s call to go to Nineveh. He went on a boat and went the opposite direction.
It’s why I avoided answering God’s call to ministry for 20 years.
When God speaks, it can be shocking, surprising and disturbing. But when God speaks, God is opening the door to something new, something profound, something unexpected.
When God spoke to Samuel, he was preparing him to become the leader of Israel through a time of great change. Samuel became the leader who anointed the first kings of Israel.
When God speaks and we listen, we know that we are not alone. We know that God is with us, and that changes everything.
Samuel became a man of authority after this experience of connecting with God.
As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. (1 Samuel 3:19)
When God speaks, God is preparing to do something you have never imagined. Something good. Something to bless you and others.
When you feel a tugging or nagging in your heart, don’t ignore it. Don’t go running immediately to logic.
Pay attention to it. Pray about it. Ask God to speak. This may be a sign that God is about to do something new in your life.
Listen for God’s voice. Seek the counsel of others in the faith community.
Samuel was blessed to have Eli who supported him, even when what Samuel heard foretold his doom.
When the angel told Mary the news that she would bear a Son who would become the Saviour of the world, she was deeply disturbed. It was shocking news.
But ultimately, she responded with the same faith as Samuel:
Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word. (Luke 1:38)
Because of her faith, we have the blessing of her Son, Jesus Christ. Because this young girl and the young boy Samuel listened to God, God did amazing things through them.
When God speaks to you, don’t be too scared. Trust God and respond with the openness they had: Here I am.