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Then God came and stood before him exactly as before, calling out, “Samuel! Samuel!” Samuel answered, “Speak. I’m your servant, ready to listen.” (I Samuel 3:10)

Wisdom dictates we listen more than we speak - but I have to honestly tell you I don't always do well with that one requirement. Listening is an art - learned not because we really want to learn it, but because if we don't learn how to listen, we will eventually get life pretty much as we like it, but we might just be the only ones left in the picture once we do! I suspect there is much to this listening "art" which many of us have yet to perfect. In fact, learning this "art" of listening requires we not only learn how to "tune into" the voice we hear, but we learn to "recognize" the voice we are hearing. I think many of us hear those "voices" in our heads - hopefully not too many of them - but we don't always know which one is the one we should be listening to. 

If you have ever seen one of those commercials or cartoons where there is a little guy in white on one shoulder and a little guy in black on the other and someone is trying to figure out if which one to listen to, you probably understand what I mean. We hear "sides" to the stories in our head, and then we must determine which "side" we will respond to - we will be 'obedient' to at least one of those voices. There are probably "shades" of white and grey on both sides - not just the lily white and the deep, dark black. It is the "shades" of white and grey which present us with the most difficult challenge of sorting out the voices inside our head. 

Samuel was a young boy, probably in his early teens, or just about to enter his teens. He has been dedicated to the work of the Lord in the Temple, doing daily tasks within the Temple right alongside the priests. One day, he hears a voice call out to him. Thinking it was the priest, he hustles off to see what Eli wants, but it wasn't Eli. Did you ever stop to consider why even the priest didn't recognize the voice Samuel was actually hearing until the same call occurred the third time? The first two times Eli just sends him away, telling him it was not him who called. The third time, it "dawns on" Eli that this might just be God trying to get through to Samuel - to have a personal conversation with him or give him direction for his life! I wonder how many of us are kind of like Eli - just drifting along, getting all kinds of reminders of God desiring to speak with us, and then one day it finally dawns on us that he has been the one speaking to us all along - we just didn't recognize the voice!

Samuel knew he was hearing something - yet he didn't have clarity about what it was he was hearing. In the Old Testament times, the revelation of God's voice came to very few - those anointed to be his spokesperson were often the ones to receive the revelation. Today the voice of God is really something we can ALL hear - since Jesus opened the way for ALL of us to hear God's voice plainly and on an ongoing basis. The purpose of God's voice is to bring revelation - to disclose or uncover something not previously known. It might come in the form of direction, or perhaps as words of specific encouragement. 

There are times when God speaks directly to us to keep us safe - as when he gives us a quick warning which alerts us to pay attention to the traffic when we are drifting a little into daydreaming. It that split second of moving from daydreaming into attentive awareness, we narrowly avoid the collision which could have cost us dearly. Other times, he speaks to build us up or to encourage us to move ahead despite what we see on the outside. It seems he isn't getting through to his kids at times, but he knows he is touching something deep within us which will carry us through our day if we just listen closely. Just sayin! 


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