Faith Column: Prepare for the Lord’s voice
January 23, 2015
One of the readings from this month talks about Samuel, a young boy in the service of the Lord, serving at the temple in Shiloh, sleeping near the Ark of the Covenant. Samuel ministered to and was dedicated to the Lord, and during those times visions from the Lord and words from the Lord were very rare. Samuel would eventually anoint both Saul and David as the first legitimate kings of Israel under the direction of the Lord, would be known as the last judge in the Old Testament (Tanakh), and would serve as High Priest in Israel. But for now, he was a young boy about to hear the voice of the Lord calling to him. As the story progresses and is very well known to many, Samuel hears a voice calling him by name, and he assumes that it is the voice of Eli, his mentor and foster-father — the high priest at the temple in Shiloh. Samuel went to Eli and answered, "here I am, for you called me." Yet Eli had not called him. This occurred with Samuel being called three times, each time with increasing intensity until Eli finally realized that the Lord was calling upon Samuel. Eli instructed Samuel to respond to the Lord, "Speak, for your servant hears." The Lord then spoke to Samuel, and at that precise moment Samuel became a prophet, for he listened for and to the Lord, and he repeated what the Lord told him to say. The Lord insured that "none of his words fall to the ground" (1 Sam 3:19, ESV). Thereby Samuel was established as a prophet in all Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, for all that he prophesied came to pass (Deut 18: 21-22, ESV).
Have you ever prayed to the Lord, as I have, that he listen to your prayers and respond by giving guidance and direction, perhaps even call you by name? Were you prepared to listen to the Lord God if He responded to your prayer? Were you prepared through the actions of your life to be in a position where the Lord God would want to respond to your requests? Samuel, according to what we know from the reading in 1 Samuel, didn't ask for the Lord to respond to him, yet he lived his life ministering to the Lord, learning from the Scriptures and serving the Lord in the temple in Shiloh. The Lord chose Samuel to call at the temple, not Eli, who had failed through his own negligence to honor the Lord. Accordingly, I believe that it was not Samuel's requests of the Lord, but the Lord's decision to call to Samuel due to his life of service and because he was chosen, even though he was very young at the time. Although Samuel may not have known it, he was preparing for the Lord to call him by name for years!
When I have called upon the Lord God to call out to me, to direct me and guide me in my decisions and in my life in Him, it was almost as though I was making demands, and seems quite arrogant to me now. What had I done to prepare to hear His voice calling me? Not enough! When I lived my life as I should, loving and having a wonderful and nurturing relationship with Him, and loving my neighbor as I had been loved by the Lord, being prepared to hear the voice of Him who loves me, then, and only then, did I hear Him call to me, and tell me what He asked of me. May I suggest that if we need to hear the voice of Him who loves us, that we remove ourselves from the equation, that everything be about the Lord God and our neighbor, and that we immerse ourselves daily into a life of preparation for hearing that voice. That will most likely be through study of the Holy Scriptures, being in a community of believers in the faith, participating in worship, for then you and I will be in a state of preparation to hear the Lord call us.
I pray that each of us who desire to hear the voice of the one who loves us will hear that voice, and that we be prepared to follow how it directs us!
The Rev. Bain White of St. Mark's Episcopal Church/Lutheran Church of Grace in Craig.