And Eli said to Samuel, “Go lie down, and it shall be if He calls you, that you shall say, ‘Speak, LORD, for Your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
1 Samuel 3:9
It is interesting that God called Samuel when Samuel did not yet know God (see verse 7), but that is how it happens with all of us, I think. We may be raised knowing of God, but we do not know God until He calls to us, personally. So God called Samuel.
It is also interesting that Samuel was listening. I live in a world so flooded with noise that silence is almost impossible to find. And my ears ring from their near constant exposure to sound whenever I am able to find some silence. That’s not really the issue though. The issue is one of whether or not I’m listening.
God hasn’t stopped speaking. There are people who claim that He has; that He hasn’t said anything since the close of Revelation. There’s a song lyric that sums up how people seem to think of God: “only Heaven’s silence for an answer.” By and large, people seem to think that Heaven has shut its gates and God has gone silent, if they believe in God at all. What about me?
For my part, I know that God still speaks. I hear from Him regularly through His Word and through tidbits scattered about. But Samuel’s type of direct speech? Rarely, if ever. Since I want to hear from God, I should look at the conditions in which Samuel heard from Him.
First, Samuel was at rest. In point of fact, he had gone to bed—it doesn’t get a whole lot more “at rest” than sleeping. So too I need to be at peace with God and others. If I have sins, then I need to confess them to God. If I have wronged others, then I need to make things right as best I can. Once I am at peace the noise of an unhappy conscience will be silenced.
Second, Samuel was ready to act. Samuel got up three times before Eli realized that God was talking to Samuel. If God has something to say to me, then it is entirely likely that He wants me to act on what He has to say immediately. I won’t know until I heard it and I am unlikely to hear it if I’m not ready to act on it.
Third, Samuel was listening. Eli tells him to let God know he’s listening, but that does no good at all unless Samuel actually is listening. So too will I be unlikely to hear God speak if I’m not listening. It’s not that He won’t try to speak to me—He had already tried three times with Samuel—but that I need to be listening for His words. Samuel had been listening for Eli’s voice, now he made the transition to listening for God’s voice. I also need to stop listening for other voices to guide or give clarity and instead listen for God’s voice.
When I am at peace and ready to act and listening for God to speak, then I fully expect that I will hear Him.