My twin sons, David and Jonathan, were three years old and excited to join the 6 Flags over Georgia youth group. My wife, Pam, had stayed in the vehicle with our youngest daughter while I took the boys and youth group into the park. I held on to David’s hand and gave Jonathan to another youth as we made our way through the turnstiles. As we regrouped inside the park to give final instructions for the day, I noticed the youth but not my son. I asked him where Jonathan was, and he responded with that blank teenager look, “I know there was something I was supposed to remember!”
My heart jumped into the high adrenaline rush. I picked another youth a foot off the ground and shouted to everyone standing around…we have to find my son! NOW! I was afraid that somebody had already taken him. I was fearful of Pam’s reaction. How could I lose my son? JONATHAN, JONATHAN. No answer. I began to weave through the crowd searching high and low.
A frantic look was all over my face. Other adults began to notice. They had seen a little child alone and wandered where the parent was. They didn’t speak any words to me…they just pointed in a direction. I could feel my embarrassment and their judgment. But my concern was to find my son. What was only a few minutes in time seemed like an eternity? JONATHAN! He turned and faced me. He didn’t even realize he was lost. But he did come when I called his name. Mom was still not happy.
In the book of I Samuel chapter 3, we have an incredible story of the prophet first learning to identify the voice of the Lord.
3 The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.
2 One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see,was lying down in his usual place. 3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the house of the Lord, where the ark of God was.4 Then the Lord called Samuel.
Samuel answered, “Here I am.” 5 And he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”
But Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down.
6 Again the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”
“My son,” Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.”
7 Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.
8 A third time the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”
Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. 9 So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.'” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
10 The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”
Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” I Samuel 3:1-10 NIV
The Bible records that words of the Lord were rare in Samuel’s childhood. Even though Eli’s sons, the leading priest at that time, were wicked, they were still allowed to function in their roles. But God was not present. The words were so rare that even Eli was slow to recognize the voice of the Lord. It took three times for God to call out to Samuel before Eli could instruct Samuel in the proper response.
- HEARD WORD – Our leaders can help us discern when God is speaking. If you ask for advice from a pastor, teacher, or friend, they might be able to determine God’s voice speaking to you quicker than you realize it yourself. Trust God through your leaders. Eli was not a righteous leader at all, but God used him to help Samuel discern God’s voice. Caution: Make sure the advice aligns with God’s character and His word.
Verse 7 is the pivotal point in the story. “Samuel did not yet know the Lord.” Wow, he was a miracle baby at birth. His mother had prayed and dedicated him to the Lord. He was raised in the temple and lived around the ark of the covenant. Yet, the scriptures say that “he did not yet know the Lord.” And now God was calling him by name. Interestingly it sounded to him like the voice of Eli.
- HEARD WORD – Becoming a child of God through salvation gives you the spiritual ears to discern God’s voice. When helping another to discern God’s voice, it is appropriate that we make sure they have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
- HEARD WORD – Often, God’s voice may sound like a father figure who was in a place of authority in your life. Yet, God will be far more life-giving, direct, tender, instructive, leading, and kind. He is the good, good father.
The second part of the verse is just as important, “the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.” Even though Samuel had been around religious activity all his life, God still had to reveal (uncover or open something hidden) Himself to Samuel. This revelation included Samuel’s ability to recognize that God was speaking. God addressed Samuel 4 times. The revelation of faith and discernment was completed in Samuel’s life when he responded the fourth time. His response, “God you can keep speaking, I am listening” reveals his exercise of faith to begin interacting with Him.
- HEARD WORD– Faith on our part will always be required in dialoguing with God. No matter how God speaks, it requires faith (active belief and trust) that He speaks directly to us. “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.”
In the next chapter, we will see how Samuel responded to God’s first words to him.
Prayer – Father, please give me ears to hear clearly. Please reveal to me how you sound. Help me to distinguish your voice from my own or anyone else’s. Thank you that you are seeking to converse with me regularly. Make my faith level rise to complete trust in your voice to lead me. Bring spiritual leaders into my life to help me “see” how you speak to me. Help me to lead others in the ways that you speak to them. Today my heart is filled with anticipation that God, my Father, desires to speak with me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
- Share with a friend the first time you believe you heard God speaking to you.
- How would you describe God’s voice when He speaks to you? Try to use as many adjectives as possible to clarify. For example, His voice is kind, soft, not pushy, etc.
- Have you ever helped another person discern God’s voice? This is important when you are sharing the good news of salvation, to help the other person respond to God’s invitation to know Him.
This is the third chapter in the book I am blogging entitled Hearing God. Below are the others.
Hearing God – The Introduction
Hearing God – Houston, in the Blind