A meme making the rounds on social media reads, “My wife just stopped me and said, ‘You weren’t even listening, were you?’ I thought, ‘That’s a weird way to start a conversation.’”

Not only does that challenge husbands to listen better to their spouses, but it makes me wonder if we sometimes do the same thing to God.

The question isn’t “Does God speak?” but “Do we hear?” To hear God better, consider three things about how the Lord revealed Himself to the young prophet, Samuel.

God spoke to reveal Himself (1 Sam. 3:1-10)

It was a spiritually dark time in Israel’s history. Israel had no king, and sinfulness ruled the day. The boy Samuel served in the Tabernacle under Eli, the high priest of Shiloh.

The confusion over God calling to Samuel is almost comical. Three times Samuel is awakened by a voice calling his name. Each time he rushed to the aging Eli’s bedside. Finally, Eli realized it was the Lord calling out to Samuel. He encourages Samuel to make himself available as a listener willing to serve the Lord.

God spoke to reveal His will (1 Sam. 3:11-18)

With Samuel listening, God announced plans for judgment on Eli and his sinful sons. The severity of the punishment would cause all of Israel to shudder.

Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phineas, served alongside their dad in the Tabernacle; but Eli’s sons did not know the Lord. 2 Samuel 2 says they were unkind bullies who sinned by eating meat from the sacrifices and committing sexual immorality with the women who served outside the tent of meeting. Eli heard about their sins and rebuked his sons but failed to stop their sinful behavior. God’s response was judgment.

The next morning, Samuel was understandably afraid to tell Eli what God had said. Eli demanded, and so Samuel reported everything.

God spoke to reveal Himself through Samuel (1 Sam. 3:19-4:1)

In the latter part of 1 Samuel 3, we see some incredible results of Samuel’s right response to the voice of God. Samuel experienced the ongoing closeness of God’s presence. All Israel clearly saw that Samuel had become a prophet of the Lord. Over time, Samuel continued to grow in his relationship with the Lord. God’s presence continued with Samuel, and all Israel heard God’s Word through His prophet.

How can we better hear God speak today?

I realize that none of us today are prophets of the Lord in the same sense as Samuel. But there are a few principles from 1 Samuel 3 that can help believers today better hear from the Lord.

  1. With God, the ‘Who’ precedes the ‘what.’ God’s first words to Samuel were not a task to fulfill but an invitation to simply come to the Lord. God’s first words to us are always a call to draw near to Him. This is true for both the sinner receiving salvation and the believer seeking to grow in the Lord. Simply coming to the Lord always comes first. Like Samuel, may God give us hearts ready to respond.
  2. God’s Word is His revealed will. Very rarely does God speak today as He spoke to Samuel. For us, the clearest place to hear the voice of God is in the Word of God. To say we want to know God’s will and then refuse to read His Word is foolishness. The sound of Bible pages turning is God clearing His throat. When the Word is opened, God’s mouth is opened.
  3. God still speaks through His people. By God’s design, His people are His plan for our neighbors and the nations to hear the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection. God has appointed every believer as one of His ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:13-21). In the deepening darkness of our present world, the Word of the Lord seems as rare as it was in the days of Samuel. As we speak the truth in love, may those around us hear the Gospel, and may God get all the glory.