When we think of God’s call, we think of people who say “I’m called to preach”. We think of callings as a position or a vocation. But God’s call is simpler than that. It doesn’t just happen once in your life, but God continually calls you to respond to Him so He can accomplish His purpose for you and others.
I. RESPONSIBILITY (OWNERSHIP, SOVEREIGNTY)
The call is a confirmation of His sovereignty (rule, dominion, ownership) over your life.
Call in the old testament means to name something or someone and by doing so, assert sovereignty or ownership over it, and thereby responsibility for it as well.
When a child is born, the parents, who have sovereignty and responsibility for the child, name the child. You name your own pets, for whom you have responsibility. How would you feel if someone else named your child or your pet? You would feel it was an infringement on your rights, and as though that person was taking authority over that being.
Genesis 5 God called the light “day,” and He called the darkness “night.” Evening came and then morning: the first day.
6 Then God said, “Let there be an expanse between the waters, separating water from water.” . 8 God called the expanse “sky.”
God, by naming the day and night, the earth and the sky, as well as naming man, claimed they were his. Man was given dominion over the earth, and God backed it up by letting man name the living creatures.
28 God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth.”
19 So the Lord God formed out of the ground every wild animal and every bird of the sky, and brought each to the man to see what he would call it. And whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all the livestock, to the birds of the sky, and to every wild animal.
The call invites you to walk in relationship with Him.
To call someone by name implies some type of relationship between you, where the one calling you has a right to expect you to respond.
You are out somewhere and someone calls you by name. By doing so, they claim some type of knowledge of you, and normally some type of relationship with you. They call you to get you to notice them and to respond to them. A response to the call is expected. To keep on walking and not respond to a call is considered impolite or rude.
In Moses’ first encounter with God, God called Moses by name. God was initiating a relationship with Moses by letting Moses know God knew who he was. Moses responded to God’s first call. Then he offered himself to God.
4 When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called out to him from the bush, “Moses, Moses!”
“Here I am,” he answered.
The call requires a response that is based on trust in God.
The Hebrew word for “Here I Am” is Hineni. It means, “I am here, I am listening.” Then God told him to go back to the place he had run away from, a place he was scared to return to, where people wanted to kill him. Then, on top of that, God instructed Moses to do an impossible thing – free God’s people from Egypt. Sometimes the instructions that accompany God’s call seem impossible, but God will never call you to do something He will not empower you to do.
Let me explain. When Moses asked God what His name was, God said “I will be what I will be.” That means that through the unfolding mystery of life that we all face, He will be all that we need for every situation that we face. By responding “Here I Am” every time God speaks to us, we are saying that we are willing to face the unknown future, because we trust that God already has that future covered. He is able to completely meet our need no matter what we face. Let me say it a different way: We are ready to “accept our mission” from God before we know what that mission is, not because we know what will happen and are equipped to handle it, but because we trust that God knows what will happen and HE is equipped to handle it.
The call requires paying attention to God.
Another thing. Notice how God called Moses after Moses had noticed the burning bush (not before). God had been trying to get Moses’ attention with the sign, and if Moses had not turned his attention to the sign, God would not have called Him at that time. If Moses had just continued as he was, doing what he normally did, and didn’t pursue the meaning of the sign, he would not have been called by God that day.
This makes me wonder about when God calls us. Is God trying to get our attention, but we are either too busy or distracted, or plainly put, too lazy or rebellious to answer when He calls us? If we respond to His claim of ownership over us, to his invitation to relationship with Him, to “accept our mission”, will He ask too much from us, or more simply, more than we are willing to give him? Is there a sign God is giving you right now, but you are either ignoring it or avoiding it?
The call requires knowing God personally to distinguish His call from the call of our own mind, of others, and of Satan.
Sometimes God calls us and we don’t recognize His voice. We think it is religion or the church telling us what to do.
4 Then the Lord called Samuel, and he answered, “Here I am.” 5 He ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”
“I didn’t call,” Eli replied. “Go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down.
In 1 Samuel, Samuel was dedicated to the Lord and living in the temple with Eli the priest. He had grown up under the authority of a spiritual leader in the religious house of worship, surrounded by rituals and sacrifices, but he couldn’t recognize the voice of God. That makes me wonder if God had even been very much present in the temple in those days, because Samuel hadn’t seen much of the supernatural to recognize it himself.
How many of us have been to church, done the rituals and tried to make sacrifices, had the spiritual leaders of the house hold rules and regulations over our heads, went through all the churchy motions, and yet still did not see, hear and feel the very real presence of God in our every day life? We may have even had an emotional experience, but we were unable to hear God clearly in our every day life. We played what we thought was church in our own way, by our own ideas, and thought this was all there was.
But God is saying there is more than what we have now, or have ever known. He is calling us to Himself so we can hear directly from Him what we need to hear, and be given the grace (divine enablement) to do whatever He asks us to do. When we hear a message from someone else, we will know if it is right because it will be confirmed by the word we had already received directly from God.
The call can be given repeatedly.
10 The Lord came, stood there, and called as before, “Samuel, Samuel!”
Samuel responded, “Speak, for Your servant is listening.”
God called Samuel three (3) times. He didn’t give up after the first call. Samuel was young in physical and spiritual years, but God kept calling until Samuel responded.
I also saw something in this verse I had never seen before. In this verse, it says the Lord actually STOOD THERE and called his name twice. God not only gave Samuel 3 calls, he actually came there to Him! He revealed himself visually, as the bible uses the same words there as it does in Numbers 22 where God appeared before Balaam and his donkey. What kind of a gracious God keeps calling us? How important are we to God and His plan for him not to give up on us and keep inviting us to a continued, intimate relationship with Him? And yes, God can appear to people visually.
Samuel and Moses’ response is how we need to respond. Speak, for your servant is listening. First Samuel offers himself as God’s servant. Then Samuel stops everything he is doing to listen to God. He stills himself. He listens intently, but most importantly, with an earnest desire to RESPOND to God in obedience. He is not just humoring God by listening. His intention is to obey.
What is stopping us from hearing and obeying God’s call?
Jonah refused God’s call because of his self-righteousness and hard-heartedness. He didn’t want to give the people of Ninevah the chance to repent because he hated them. They were the enemy of Israel. He wanted them to be destroyed. He thought He was more righteous than them, and couldn’t understand how God could love them.
Sometimes we don’t know God well enough. We don’t recognize His voice when we hear it. In this case, we need to spend more time away from distractions, reading His Word to understand His heart’s desires and His purposes, and spending time talking to and waiting to hear a response from Him.
Sometimes we don’t like God’s call. He has asked us to do something we don’t like. Basically, we ignore God because we just want to do what WE want to do, and nothing else. We don’t like the role we have been offered in the movie, so we don’t participate.
Sometimes we don’t trust God to carry out what He has asked us to do. We want to respond, but we are riddled with fears – about our own inadequacy, or that God won’t come through when we need Him.
But God is such a gracious, giving God. He can, by His Holy Spirit, change your “want to” or desire to respond to His Call. He can increase your knowledge of Him, give you courage to face your fears and faith to overcome your doubts. You can’t MAKE yourself respond to the call in your own strength. You need His grace – his divine enablement – to respond to His call. But once He gives it to you, it is still YOUR call to respond. You can continue to refuse Him if you want. But you are missing out on the greatest, most rewarding adventure that there is.
I want to end by sharing more from an article by a rabbi about responding “Here I Am” to God’s call:
“The practice of “Here I am” can go even deeper than just showing up in life. For me it is about having the courage to investigate, contemplate, and enjoy the precious moments of my life. Accepting who I am and how my life unfolds before me just as it is. Like the Biblical stories, where the people respond with Here I am before they knew what their mission was about, I am too, willing to live in the mystery. Being willing to say yes! and to be open to receive the mystery of the journey before we know where it leads us is key. ” http://www.rabbisigal.org/here-i-am-are-you/
The only thing left is for us to pray for those of you who want to be able to respond to God’s call. Nothing will change in your life without the Holy Spirit’s power and presence empowering you to do these things. No sermon or message can do it. So Ronnie and I invite you to come and receive God’s power to respond to and fulfill His calls on your life.