Playing By Ear
"Meanwhile the boy Samuel was serving the Lord by assisting Eli. Now in those days messages from the Lord were very rare, and visions were quite uncommon." I Samuel 3:1
Two prominent singer/songwriters of the Jesus movement of the 1960's, Andrae Crouch and Annie Herring, tell amazing and miraculous stories of their entering into that ministry. Neither were trained musicians, in fact, neither could play an instrument. Crouch told of how, as a young boy in his father's church, he felt compelled to sit down at the piano and begin to play. He said that as he obeyed that leading, he began to touch the keys, and music, beautiful music, began to flow from his fingers and through that old piano. Annie Herring, brought to Jesus in the midst of the San Francisco counterculture, had an old upright piano in the home she and her husband lived in. She had been sensing the leading of His Spirit to write songs of His wonder and glory, but had no ability to put music to the words He was giving her. She was drawn to that piano, and like Crouch, sat down, and with no previous training, began to play.....These stories are wondrous in themselves, but I share them to make a point. What existed in both Crouch and Herring was a heart that heard both words and "music" that flowed from the heart of the Father. The "ears" of their hearts heard His voice, and connected to it and the melody it gave them. They "played by ear" not just from a musician's perspective, but a spiritual one as well. In the world of music, it is a wonderful skill. It is so much more so in the spiritual realm. It's a skill I believe we are lacking in the modern, western church. Not many of us seem to know how to, as a friend put, "play it by ear" when it comes to hearing and following the voice of Holy Spirit.
The story of the prophet Samuel in I Samuel 3, is a lesson for all who truly wish to hear and follow Him. Just a young boy, training under the leading of the old priest Eli, Samuel didn't really know or recognize the sound of His voice, but this didn't stop the Father from seeking to speak to him. Twice He called to Samuel, and twice, Samuel, thinking it was the voice of Eli, went to the priest in response. Eli perceived that the boy was actually hearing the calling of the Father. He told that if he heard Him again, to respond with a willingness to hear what He was speaking. Samuel did so, and there began a lifelong ministry of taking the heart and voice of God to His people Israel. Samuel learned to hear the voice of God, a voice that I Samuel 3 says was not familiar to many in that day. Not because God was unwilling to speak, but because the people, through their attitudes and actions, were unwilling to hear. How similar are we to those days in the days we now live in?
God was able to take hold of the "ear" of people like Samuel, Andrae Crouch, Annie Herring, and so many more because He saw within them, hearts that were open to hearing Him. To such hearts, He'll always speak. Is such a heart in you and me? Are we learning, more deeply each day, how to "play it by ear" when it comes to hearing and following the voice of the Lord as He speaks through His Holy Spirit? In the midst of the all the noise and other "voices" found in this life, can we discern which is His? Do we know those that aren't? Jesus said that His sheep knew, heard, and followed His voice. Does that describe you and me? As Elijah stood at the mouth of the cave, he beheld a mighty wind, an earthquake, then a fire, but the Lord was not in any of it. He was in the sound of the "gentle whisper" that followed. This doesn't mean that He only speaks in the gentle whisper. He can speak in earthquakes, mighty winds and great firestorms. The question for us is, can we recognize His voice in whatever form He may choose to speak? This takes spiritual discernment. Discernment is a gift that comes to us through hearts that have received the ability to "play it by ear."
I lack the ability to play instruments by ear. I've got what they call a "tin ear" and will never be anything more than a mediocre guitarist. Yet I very much hope I will be one who is a skilled listener of the Father's voice. May it never be that I have that "ear of tin" when it comes to hearing Him. May it not be so for you. He is always speaking, but only those who've learned to "play it by ear" will hear Him. Can you, no matter how and where He does so, hear Him? In His Kingdom, can you play it all by ear?