A thousand years into the Old Testament saga of God’s people, we land on this sad little commentary:
In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions. 1 Samuel 3:1
God had guided Abraham, endured Jacob, blessed Joseph, empowered Moses, and encouraged Joshua. Yet as this nomadic nation finally became new homeowners, they somehow lost God.
Could God be found again?
The book of Samuel opens with a tender story of a brokenhearted woman who yearns for a child of her own. In desperation, Hannah makes a rash vow: “God, if you give me a child, I’ll give him right back to you.” Her request is granted and she courageously follows through—dropping off her utterly adorable 3-year old Samuel to grow up in the temple at Shiloh.
The nation of Israel would become great benefactors of Hannah’s heartrending sacrifice. From his earliest years, her young lad possessed a truly remarkable gift. For a nation headed off its rails, Samuel’s unique ability would steer them back on course.
What was his specialized skill?
Samuel could hear God’s voice. Through learning to listen to God, Samuel redirected the forlorn people back to a place of experiencing greater peace while achieving their highest purpose.
In our era, it’s easy to be cynical about people who claim to hear from God. Whether it’s the slick TV preacher who informs us that God is telling you to send in your money or the suicide bomber who destroys in God’s name, we rightfully question the personal motives and emotional stability of those who claim to hear from God.
Yet let’s not let the few crazies among us keep us from seeking to hear God’s voice. Like Samuel, we’re also invited to allow God to re-direct our lives toward a place of greater peace that reveals our highest purpose.
I’ve never found it easy to hear from God. My restless heart and racing mind often cloud up my soul. Yet as I slowly read Scripture and invite it’s words to shape my prayers, a certain settling seems to occur. My whirlwind of thoughts and stormy emotions eventually blow through to allow in a sense of peace and purpose that’s often remarkably powerful.
I pray you can sense remarkable peace and clarity of purpose as you continue your life-long pursuit of listening to God.
This week’s Scripture readings: Each link offers the entire day’s readings, listed in succession via Bible Gateway—just keep scrolling down to read the next selection of verses.
These readings present the compelling character development of four very prominent leaders. From my perspective, the storyline of 1 & 2 Samuel into 1 Kings portrays some of the best real-life drama ever crafted.
- Samuel: 1 Samuel 3; 8:4-22. At a very early age, Samuel learns to listen to God’s voice. That doesn’t mean, however, that what he would hear would be easy on his ears. Samuel struggles with the transition of the nation towards a king, and uses this change of plans as an opportunity to prepare the people for the difficult journey ahead. I wonder: what person(s) has God brought into your life to prepare you for difficult transitions?
- King Saul: 1 Samuel 10:17-27; 13:5-15; 15:10-23. Here’s a swing and a miss. The first choice for king quickly turns sour. Lurking underneath King Saul’s natural good looks and commanding presence lay significant insecurities and a tendency towards panicking under pressure. Though Saul would remain in office for a full 40-year stint, God and Samuel start the search process for a new leader.
- King Saul vs. Young David: 1 Samuel 16:1-13, 18:6-16. David emerges as the unexpected heir to the throne. Everyone adores him, except King Saul—whose personal paranoia is driving him towards a mental breakdown. This isn’t unusual: when young leaders emerge, the established order tends to push them back down. What younger person in your life deserves some much needed prayer, support and encouragement?
- King David: 2 Samuel 7:1-17, 12:1-15, 1 Chronicles 28. David emerges as the Old Testament’s most charismatic leader. His heart for God, love for people and skill in leadership are all truly spellbinding. His dramatic fall from grace is equally gripping. After all the highest of highs and lowest of lows, he completes his life’s journey by empowering his impressive son Solomon to carry forward God’s calling for the nation.
- King Solomon: 1 Kings 3:1-15, 2 Chronicles 5; 1 Kings 11:1-13. No one gets off to a better start than Solomon. His natural humility, God-given wisdom and visionary planning bring the nation to the pinnacle of worldwide prominence. Sadly, it wouldn’t last. Solomon’s achievement swells his self-centeredness and corrupts his own soul. Success isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be, is it?