Close Enough to Hear

I was a young man, but now I am old.

I sure felt old the other day, showing off Manhattan to one of our young pastors… like I knew the place. Rita and I did live and minister in the city years ago, but a lot has changed since then. We hit the high spots. Only had one day… Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, Ground Zero Memorial, Times Square, Broadway and the spot in front of Macys, where the Thanksgiving Day Parade singers and dancers stop and perform.

It was awesome!

But by the end of the day my right knee was talking to me. I was hobbling around like an old man. Wait… I am an old man. And, I’m realizing that the perspective of my years gives me a little wisdom that comes from learning some things the hard way.

Things I wish I had practiced way earlier in life.

I had every opportunity to have learned them from my father but, in my youthfulness, I thought I knew better.

I was busy!

Joshua learned this important lesson while he was still young.

As Moses’ assistant, he was right at the old man’s side when Moses would frequently enter the Tabernacle. The place where God met with His people. The Tabernacle was the place where heaven and earth met. Someone has coined the phrase, a “thin place,” to describe those places and times in this life where we, as creation, get to commune with Creator… Sense His presence… Hear His voice.

One such reference about Joshua was when God spoke to Moses face to face in the tent of meeting, as a man speaks to his friend, and Moses left to head back into the camp. The text says that “Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent” (Exodus 33:11).

Joshua must have had a sensitivity to God’s presence and a hunger that caused him to linger.

There is no record that Moses instructed Joshua to stay.

No record that Moses said, “This is going to be important for your future!”

Joshua had a hunger for proximity to God.

The exact same hunger is evident in the life of another young leader in training.

Samuel. A young prophet being prepared for a life of ministry to God’s people.

Samuel was raised in the same Tabernacle where Joshua had lingered – only now the tent was pitched in Shiloh, where God met with His people for the first 325 years of Israel’s history in the Promised Land.

A moving thin place… although 1 Samuel 3 informs us that in those days the word of the Lord was rare in Israel.

Nobody seemed interested in what God was saying.

Except young Samuel.

The careless old, weak, blind priest, indifferent to the word of the Lord, was “lying down in his usual place” (1 Samuel 3:2). There is a sermon all on its own.

What time was it? It was late, but “The lamp of God had not gone out yet” (1 Samuel 3:3a).

Not too late.

And young Samuel was “lying down in the house of God, where the ark of God was” (1 Samuel 3:3b). So, when God started speaking, Samuel was in the right place at the right time.

He was close enough to hear.

If I had the privilege of saying one thing to young people with their lives still in front of them, it would be… get close enough to hear His voice. Regularly shut down all the background noise and interruptions of life. Have a place and time where all you care about, all you focus on, is God’s presence.

And linger there, like Joshua, so that His presence can soften you and mold you, and you can hear His voice as He anoints you and sends you to a world that needs His Light.