In 1 Samuel 3 the word LORD appears many times. It stands for the Hebrew letters YHWH. Ancient Hebrew only used consonants in its writing, so the reader had to guess what vowels to put in. YHWH is the name of God, probably pronounced ‘Yahweh’. However, the Jews dared not say the name for fear of taking it in vain, so they said ‘Adonai’ instead, which means ‘Lord’. When they started writing vowels as well as consonants, they added the vowels of Adonai to the consonants of YHWH, giving a composite word, YaHoWaH, to remind them to say ‘Adonai’. Early English translators saw YaHoWaH and wrote it as Jehovah. Modern translators often use ‘LORD’ (in capital letters) to show that it translates ‘YHWH’, and ‘Lord’ without the capitals to translate ‘Adonai’.
The reason for all this caution was to show respect for God. God is mighty and mysterious, not to be taken lightly. Yet he makes personal contact with human beings, as in the case of the boy Samuel. Samuel thought he heard a voice; he could not see anyone, so he assumed it was Eli. Eli eventually worked out that God was calling the boy, and told Samuel how respond and to receive God’s message – the first of many. But however close Samuel was to God, he only knew him through his messages. Serving God meant listening to him and following his instructions.
In John 1:43-51 we see that Philip and the other early disciples had a very different experience. Jesus called them to follow him. Here was an apparently ordinary human being, from a very ordinary place. Following him meant physically spending time with him, going where he went; not only listening but watching and chatting and questioning – getting to know him as a person. And there was something about him that convinced Philip that this ordinary man was extraordinary – was in fact the promised king of Israel and of the nations. When Nathanael rubbished his opinion, Philip simply invited him to see for himself. And Nathanael found himself convinced by Jesus’ first sentence! We don’t know what Nathanael had been doing under the fig tree. Meditating? Praying? It was something very personal and private, so the fact that Jesus knew all about it convinced him Jesus was what Philip claimed. Jesus’ reply (spoken to all the disciples) referred to Jacob’s ladder to heaven; the implication was that Jesus himself is the connection between earth and heaven.
Some of the disciples had to be called several times; it could be that they started following Jesus, then went back to their everyday business, and then went back to Jesus, until they found themselves spending the whole time with him. Nowadays we do not see him in the flesh. However, by his Spirit we can get to know him personally, and to feel his presence; and we can discover for ourselves how he wants to lead us through every scene of our lives.
1) How do people hear God today?
2) Is God calling you? To what?