St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Speak, Lord, Your Servant Is Listening

Sermon on 1 Samuel 3:1-10

Text: The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions.
2 One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. 3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the house of the LORD, where the ark of God was. 4 Then the LORD called Samuel.
Samuel answered, “Here I am.” 5 And he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”
But Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down.
6 Again the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”
“My son,” Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.”
7 Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD: The word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.
8 A third time the LORD called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”
Then Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy. 9 So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
10 The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”
Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

The art of public speaking is necessary for many professions. The politician makes many speeches to persuade people either to vote for him or to support a particular project of his. The salesman must convince you of your need for a particular product. He will praise his product, show you its superiority over all of the competition, and try to persuade you to buy it. If the politician or salesman is not skilled in the art of speaking, they will soon be out of a job. Their jobs depend on our listening to them. We may feel like turning the channel during a political speech. We may close the door or hang up on the salesman. We may not want to hear what they have to say. This morning, our Lord speaks to us. May our attitude mirror the words of Samuel: “SPEAK, LORD, FOR YOUR SERVANT IS LISTENING.” It is 1. An Attitude Of Eager Anticipation and 2. A Pledge Of Willing Obedience.

The boy Samuel had been dedicated to service to the Lord by his mother as soon as he was weaned. From that time on, he began to serve in the temple. Eli was the high priest. He had two sons, who made a mockery of serving the Lord. They would take sacrifices that were intended for the Lord. They did many other evil things. Rather than being disciplined by their father, they only received a mild rebuke. The priesthood had been corrupted, as had the religious moral of the rest of the people.

It is for this reason that we read in verse 1, “In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions.” The Lord had promised his people that, if they would remain faithful to him, he would continue to reveal himself to them. Since they had gone astray, he did not speak to them, nor did he give any revelations. Divine revelation presupposes a willingness to hear the word of God and accept it. When this is missing, God takes away his Word.

Yet, in the middle of all of this corruption, Samuel served the Lord faithfully. Eli had become blind and he needed Samuel to help him. Samuel, very willingly, did all that he could to do what Eli needed. He worked in the temple to serve his Lord.

On the night of our text, Samuel was sleeping in the temple, when a voice, calling his name, woke him from his sleep. Samuel assumed it was Eli, so he rushed to Eli’s side and said, “Here I am; you called me.” Eli replied, “I did not call; go back and lie down.”(Verse 5) Apparently, Eli thought that Samuel was dreaming. Samuel went back and laid down. Then, he heard the voice calling, “Samuel.” He ran to Eli’s side. Eli told him that he did not call and that Samuel was to go back and lie down. This happened a third time. Samuel went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” We hear no anger or upset in his voice. He was willing to serve no matter what. Then Eli realized that it must have been the Lord calling to Samuel. So, he told Samuel to go back and lie down. If he heard the voice again, he was to say, “Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.” (Verse 9)

You can well imagine Samuel lying in the darkness, waiting for the Lord to speak to him. We, too, can mirror that anticipation when we hear the Word of the Lord. This is not always easy to do. Many of us have been Christians all of our lives. Some of you may have gone to a parochial day school. Most of us went to Sunday School. We grew up hearing the stories from the Bible. Sometimes, when we come to church or class, we may begin to feel that we aren’t learning anything new. ‘It’s the same old stuff all the time.’ We may find ourselves growing tired of hearing the fact that we are sinners, who are deserving of punishment. We may even find ourselves growing tired of hearing about Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins. It may be hard for us to eagerly anticipate what God has to say to us.

If we start to feel that way, we need to realize that this is sinful. We are guilty of breaking the Third Commandment, which tells us “We should fear and love God that we do not despise preaching and his Word, but regard it as holy and gladly hear and learn it” (Luther’s explanation of the Third Commandment). This means that we eagerly come together to hear God’s Word. This means that we want to become well versed in God’s Word. God wants us to be in his Word. We are to dig into it. When we do, our sins will be brought to our attention. We need to be reminded of our sins. We need to see what we deserve because of these sins. As we go through the Scriptures, we will also find comfort as we read about Jesus’ great love for us, which moved him to live, die and rise again. We will also be comforted by all of the passages that show God’s care and concern for his children. We are to receive his Word with eager anticipation. That is easy for us to do, when we remind ourselves of what is found there. May each of us, as we gather together to hear God’s Word, say with eager anticipation, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

When Samuel had gone back to his place and laid down, the Lord again called to Samuel. This time, the Lord also appeared to Samuel in a visible form. We read in verse 10, “The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ Then Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.’” Samuel willingly asked the Lord to speak to him. He also shows a willingness to obey whatever the Lord told him, because he called himself the Lord’s servant. He was saying, ‘Lord, I am awaiting your instructions.’

We, too, as we say, “Speak, for your servant is listening,” are showing a willingness to do whatever God says. We do not want to do anything that displeases God, because he has done everything for us. We, also, want to make ours an active obedience. We don’t just want to be just “head Christians,” one who knows all about Christ, just the facts. We want to live lives that mirror God’s love to the entire world. Christianity does not stop at the doors of the church. Christianity shows itself in many ways. We show God’s love, by loving those around us. We mirror God’s concern for us, by showing concern for others. We return to be strengthened by God’s Word and the Sacraments. We come together as a congregation to, as it says in Hebrews 10:24&25, “spur one another on toward love and good deeds . . . [to] encourage one another.” We say, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” May each of us humbly accept what God tells us in his Word and live lives in harmony with God’s will.

As we serve, we need to be reminded of something. We are to say, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” Instead, all too often we say, “Listen, Lord, for your servant is speaking.” We try to tell God how this or that should go. That is not the way that we should act. We, instead, are to humbly listen to God and his will for us. “Speak, for your servant is listening,” also shows a humble attitude.

Earlier we spoke of the fact that in the days of Samuel, there was little revelation of God’s will to Israel, because of their indifference to God and his Word. We can learn a lesson from this. Dr. Martin Luther once compared the Gospel of the Lord to a rainstorm. The rainstorm showers an area for a while, and then it moves on. This has also happened throughout history. The Israelites believed, but then they rejected Jesus and the Gospel moved on. Another place where it rained was Germany, but then men began placing their reason over God’s Word. The Gospel moved on. Right now, we are enjoying the blessings of God’s Word. We pray that we may continue to receive the blessings of the Gospel. As long as we continue to believe God’s Word, we will continue to receive those blessings. If not, the Gospel will move on. The prophet Amos spoke of a famine in the land. This famine wasn’t caused by a lack of rain, but a lack of God’s Word. In 8:12, Amos prophesied for his people, “People will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the LORD, but they will not find it.” What a horrible picture! We pray that God would keep us faithful. May each of us, ever day, say, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” May we hold God’s Word as the treasure it is. We thank God for revealing himself in his Word. There we find our hope, our comfort, our Savior. Amen.