Listening Through the Noise

Our Men’s Breakfast-and-prayer group gets together every Thursday morning, for fellowship, camaraderie, and of course, to discuss the Word of the Lord.

As is the case with ‘iron sharpening iron’, there is the frequent testing of the keen edge of wit. Challenges are answered with no quarter given, and the onlookers are reduced to breathlessness of laughter by the exchange.

And always, the serious side is there, with a lesson to be heard … if we will listen.

Our lesson was partly from 1 Samuel 3, and it contains one of my favorite passages. As I understand, the Word of the Lord hadn’t been heard for a very long time, and Israel had gotten into the habit of ‘just putting one foot in front of the other’ spiritually. God was going to call Samuel to be a Judge; a servant-leader, of Israel.

But every time I read the passage it strikes me with a great resonance, like a hammer hitting a bell:

10 The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”

Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

Right here are the six most important words in a few of the books before or after: The LORD came and stood there… 

God didn’t send an angel (which would have been easy), or a prophet (which would have taken some time, but there were no prophets in Israel at the time); no, this was important beyond measure. It was time to turn a page in the history of Israel and begin a new chapter.

God Himself came and stood there…

The Sovereign Creator of the universe, this God who would rather kill his own son than lose you, came and stood there.

Take a quiet moment and think about that.

God Himself came and stood there…

If he can speak personally to a lowly child, he certainly has the means to speak personally to any of us.

And all we have to do is listen.

******

When I was engineering video, a big part of everything was the signal-to-noise ratio; and it applies here: See, the less noise you have accompanying the signal, the clearer the picture, and the ‘cleaner’ the look. Some circuits have so much noise in them that they distort the picture, and the signal becomes lost in the noise. You literally can’t make out the picture because it’s so distorted.

Think of a radio that’s not tuned quite on-station (iPod users, indulge me please). You hear the static, but you can choose to ignore it and listen to the signal. Or you can concentrate on the static and completely miss what’s being said. Or even some ‘rap songs’ where the rhythm line is so strong that you can’t understand what’s being said.

Signal-to-noise.

There are so many distractions in our modern world, things like cellphones, smartphones, entertainment devices, and the like. Even television programs recorded on DVR. When it’s time to listen to God, or in those times when God is trying to get your attention, they are noise; noise obscuring the signal.

Right now, even with snow falling outside, there is noise. There’s the quiet snore of a Sheltie by my side, happy just to be in the company of his master; the hum of the pellet stove merrily waging battle (and slowly gaining) against the cold house; the bright luminosity of the windows with new-fallen snow. All of these can obscure the quiet voice of God should I choose.

But instead I choose to listen. I stepped outside this morning in between snow showers, and just listened. The world, for a few moments, is spinning more slowly. There is no traffic on the roads, anywhere. The quiet is enormous.

I could say, “I’m stuck here. Can’t go anywhere, not even church. NOW what?”

But instead I choose to listen to the voice of God, gently speaking not with words at this moment, but with silence:

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Take some time to step outside, away from all distractions. Yes, put on a coat and go outside. In Matthew 6:6, Jesus says,

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

I say, take it farther. There’s a phone in your room, ready to ring with a call, or to connect you to someone. There’s a TV, beckoning you to check the news or the scores. These are distractions, noise.

Instead, make up your mind to go outside, where there are no distractions. Step into an attitude of prayer, and listen.

Just for a few minutes.

You can spare the time to listen to God; he has already made the time to speak with you.

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