I started to add up the number of blocked calls on my cell phone but stopped at 140 because I still had to write a sermon. We block calls for a variety of reasons, but it calls down to this. ‘We don’t want to listen to them.’ Both passages this morning deal with God’s calling of us to be His people. These are positive examples of those who did ‘block’ God’s call but sought to understand them and do what God says.
Samuel is awakened 3 times by a voice. The third time Eli, Samuel’s mentor, tells him to answer the voice with “Speak, for your servant is listening” (9). In the Gospel of John two followers of The Baptizer, John points out to them ‘the lamb of God’ (36) so they follow and when confronted by a simple question asks, “Rabbi where are you staying” (38)? In the rest of the verses of John, you hear other calls to those who are gathered.
To what does God call us?
There are endless answers as to what or where God’s call leads. But His call will not go against Jesus’ description of His people as salt and light to the world. God’s call will not go against His teaching that says, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (MT 5:44-45). Nor does God’s will for our lives nullify Jesus’ command to love one another or His calling that we will be His witnesses to the whole world.
I believe that God’s calling brings about wholeness in the most perfect sense of that word—peace or Shalom. God’s message to Samuel is to restore faithfulness to the nation so that we read, “Therefore I swore to the house of Eli, ‘The guilt of Eli’s house will never be atoned for by sacrifice or offering’” (1Sm 3:14). In John, the wholeness produced is that of God’s call to a group of men to become witnesses to things that change one’s name, like Peter and changes one perception such as Nathaniel who will perceive the heavenly realm.
Our culture would love to see wholeness break forth in so many places. We long for the issue of race and the police, the politics of division, the cancel culture, and a sense of being lost during this ongoing pandemic all to become places of wholeness. And the good news says that in Christ.
How do we hear this call?
To perceive God’s call, you must hear it, listen to it, discern its application and act on it. Reading God’s word is a classical way of hearing and listening to God’s voice and call. But there are those still small voices that speak God’s call into one’s life as well as the words of a wise elder or even a 2-year-old pulling on one’s preaching robe.
The most difficult part in my opinion is to discern when God is speaking and when we’re telling ourselves what we want to hear God say. In 1995 Doug McClary and I were in Toronto and experienced firsthand what was being called the blessing. It was a time of personal healing and growth but the last night as we waited for prayer, I convinced myself what I wanted God to say through the person praying for me. It didn’t happen. The person came up, laid hands on me, and simply said, “Renew his ministry”. That was the whole thing.
We traveled from Toronto to Atlanta to attend the Pastor’s conference in the Georgia Dome. Hanging one side of the platform is a huge banner of 2 Timothy 1:6 “I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands.” It appears that God knows what I need better than I do.
Hearing God’s call is different than listening to God’s. Hearing is biological whereas listening is an active reflection on what is heard as well as weighing the messages within the hearing. We do this as we are still, seek and watch, pray, stand ready, and we also need to have a lot of humility that we are hearing God and not ourselves. And repent and confess when we share those things that did not come from God but just make sense to us.
Hearing God I transformative…
Eli is faithful to God’s call and tells Eli about God’s impending judgment upon his family. His obedience to God impacts how Samuel is seen by others,
“The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the Lord” (1Sm 3:19-20).
John’s gospel is full of conversion that brings about wholeness through the process of transformation. The disciples of John the Baptizer find the Messiah. Jesus transforms Simon by renaming him Cephas meaning rock (42). A day later Nathaniel is impressed that Jesus knew what he had been doing before Philip invited him to come and see Jesus.
Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending the ‘Son of Man’” (Jn 3: 50-51).
Why entertain God’s call?
The reason we seek God’s call is because of the title of Jesus, “Lamb of God”. Where does your mind go when you hear lamb? I was raised in a suburb. We didn't’ have lambs unless it was in a petting zoo but when John used the word lamb among Jews the first thought they’d had would have been food and sacrifice.
Every morning and night a lamb was killed and offered to God as a sacrifice for the sins of the people. What makes Jesus different is that He is The Lamb of God. He not only belongs to God, but Jesus comes from God to fulfill His calling to be the sacrifice for our sins. No other religion I am aware of has God sacrificing their child for the sins of humanity.
Listen to the voices of our world and you will hear calls to be fair, loving, selfish, greedy, altruistic, and to take care of number one. Nowhere will you hear the answer to the eternal question, “what’s wrong with me and us?” It is this wrongness that Jesus corrects on the cross. Seek our Lord, to hear his call, and be His person that we may all receive His blessing. Let us pray.