I don't hear the door bell or the phone ringing if my vacuum cleaner is roaring over my carpet. It takes silence to become aware that someone wants to communicate with me. But even silence is not enough. I must be attentively and intentionally listening or I might miss the communication in the confusion of other distracting noises. I must be tuned to the right frequency.
In my early childhood I remember an uncle who had one of the first radios. (That really dates me!) It was a large, tan, rectangular metal box with a round receiver on top of it something like the open end of a tuba. On the box were several knobs and a dial. Uncle Jake spent an inordinate amount of time precisely tuning the dial a hair-fraction line at a time until the whining and static stopped and he heard a discernible voice or music. Sometimes he resorted to headphones to get a clear signal.
Young Samuel, a prophet in training with the prophet in residence, Eli, was not yet accustomed to hearing the voice of the Lord (1 Samuel chapter 3). Samuel “did not yet know the Lord, nor had the word of the Lord yet been revealed to him.” Apparently God wasn't saying much either because the sins of the leaders created static between Him and His people. “And word from the Lord was rare in those days, visions were infrequent” (verse one). Eli and Samuel were sleeping all snug in their respective beds when suddenly Samuel heard a voice which he thought was Eli calling him.
He repeatedly reported to Eli, “Here I am!” Eli insisted that he had not called him. Finally the seasoned prophet Eli got it. Duh! He recognized that God was calling the boy and instructed him to say, “Speak, Lord, for Thy servant is listening.” Samuel tuned into God's frequency and heard the Lord's voice loud and clear with an important prophetic message of judgment and a monumental vision of what God was going to do among His people. That set Samuel's course as a prophet in the years to come and the Lord was with him confirming his call.
Our take-away from this biblical episode? My take-away? “Come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you would hear His voice, do not harden your hearts...” (Psalm 95:6-8).
God is still speaking to His people. He is speaking to us collectively and individually. He is speaking to me. Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” John 10:27. I just need to show up with the attitude and the words “Here I am!” I need to tune off from the static of life and listen. The problem isn't that God is not speaking, but that I am not listening.
I need to still my soul. I might need to break my routine more often, to have “out of the office” days for rest and restoration, for spiritual reflection. I must loose myself from the restrictions of time and the hectic pace of modern life. Simply to sit awhile and be present in the moment, present in the warmth of God's presence—like sitting in the warm sunshine and soaking up His love. Not asking anything of Him, perhaps not even interceding at the moment, or going over our prayer list, but just listening for His voice. Just showing up and acknowledging our presence, like we answered in school when the teacher took attendance: “Present!” Or it might be in the middle of the night, like Samuel, when God has our undivided attention: “Here I am!”
I should intentionally anticipate hearing from God. Not infrequently, not once in a blue moon, not rarely, but “today if you would hear His voice.” In truth, He speaks to His own children continually.
To develop a listening ear and spirit and heart may take time, if I am not accustomed to hearing God's voice. I don't expect to hear it audibly as from an echo chamber, although God may speak however He wills. He may communicate through His written Word or through circumstances, through His impressions to my mind, through the voices of others, through contemplating Him, through quietly resting in Him or adoring Him.
Perhaps the simple bottom line is for me just to show up in God's presence and say, “Here I am!”