Today’s Passage: 1 Samuel 3
Have you ever heard God speaking to you? It’s a strange question to ask of a bunch of Christians, isn’t it? After all, we are those who claim to have a personal relationship with God. We often speak about how God is with us. We read through the Bible, and hear of God’s speaking with people time and time again. In the book of Acts, we read of Jesus speaking with Paul on the road to Damascus, and of Him later directing Paul’s journey. In giving their ruling that you don’t have to become a Jew to be a follower of Jesus, the apostles wrote that “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…” (Acts 15:28) That certainly sounds like they and the Holy Spirit had discussed the matter! God communicated with Abraham, Jacob, Hagar, Moses, Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Malachi, Zechariah (John the Baptist’s dad). If you read the Bible, you can only come to one conclusion: God is not silent.
But have you ever heard God speaking to you?
I’ve spoken with so many people who serve God faithfully and who love Him, but who don’t think that God has ever actually spoken with them. Which is sad. Can a relationship work if one of the parties is always giving the other the silent treatment? If I were to never speak to Taryn, what would that do to our marriage? Sure, she’d know I was there. She’d talk to me. Sometimes I would do what she asked me to, and she’d see the results. But the relationship would be stifled – because she wouldn’t be learning about my heart, about my dreams and desires and feelings.
Why would we be content to have that sort of relationship with God? Is it the case that God doesn’t want to talk to most of us? Does he only talk with a select few – are they the “favourites” of God, who actually get His attention?
As we start this series, I think it’s important to note that we need to have a humility when it comes to hearing from God. There’s a temptation for us to back up our own ideas by claiming that it’s actually God’s idea. The Bible is full of stories of people who did this – false prophets. In fact, in Jeremiah 23:34-36, God says that He’s had enough of it. If we claim that God has said something, we better be sure about it. And that, I think, usually involves a time of discernment that includes seeking out the input of others. If we are unsure whether God is saying something or not, we should be honest about it. We should say, I think God might be saying this. Too much damage has been done to God’s reputation – and to others – by people claiming God’s name for things that God would never say or do.
And yet we mustn’t try so hard to avoid that trap that we fall into the alternative trap, where we assume that God doesn’t actually talk with us.
I don’t believe we were meant to have a one-sided relationship with God. When Jesus returned to heaven, He promised to send His Holy Spirit. And He has – the Spirit is God’s gift to all of His children, living with us. John writes that God is love. If God loves us, surely He would want to talk with us? God longs for us be transformed into the likeness of Jesus. That means knowing who He is. How can we known how to live as Christ in the world – as His representatives – if we don’t actually know Him? And how can we know Him if we don’t actually have a relationship with Him? And how can we have a relationship with Him without 2-way communication?
For me, one of the most important verses for us is Galatians 5:16, where Paul urges us to let the Holy Spirit guide our lives. But if someone is to guide us, we have to hear them. And hearing God is about more than knowing the Bible. The Pharisees knew the Bible backwards – but they still rejected Jesus. Don’t hear me wrong – the Bible is vitally important for our hearing God. But the Spirit wants to guide us in every moment of every day, including in situations that aren’t specifically addressed in the Bible. The Bible isn’t a set of rules for life – it’s the history of God’s working to restore people to Himself. It’s the history of God’s guidance in this world. It’s the history of the relationship between Creator and His creatures.
So how do we hear God’s voice? In seeking an answer, we’ll be looking at the story of Samuel in 1 Samuel 3. And we’ll be thinking through some practical ways that we can learn to discern the voice of God when He speaks with us.