I hear from many people that they don’t feel like God is speaking to them. I read an article the other day that, like many out there, gives advice for how to hear the Lord speak to you. The first piece of advice I would probably give (primarily speaking to myself) would be to spend more time reading God’s word then articles! I’m not trying to be dogmatic here (I mean, come on – I’m writing and you are reading an article!) but the truth is that often we, including myself, want a “word from the Lord” and will go to other people, ministers/pastors/prophets, watch a sermon, read an article all in an attempt to chase after a word. But the truth is none of that makes as much sense as simply going to the Word, to get a word.
Recently a friend shared with me a revelation from her mentor, she said “you treat your Bible like it is a book. Don’t you realize, that is Jesus you are holding in your hands?” What a powerful truth. If we receive the revelation that the Bible is not just words on a page but everything it is, is Him – THAT is a game changer. I find it much harder to walk past my Bible in the morning when I realize that I am literally walking past the Word, the Word that was with God from the beginning (John 1). All this still doesn’t answer the question many have burning on their hearts, “How do I hear more clearly from the Lord?” Well I believe some answers can be found in the third chapter of 1 Samuel.
At the beginning of this chapter we find Samuel, in the service of Eli. During this time, the Lord, who verse one shows us was withholding His word from a corrupt and apathetic people, begins to call Samuel. The first three times He called Samuel thought it was Eli.
1 Samuel 3:7-10 (HCSB)
7 Now Samuel had not yet experienced the Lord, because the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. 8 Once again, for the third time, the Lord called Samuel. He got up, went to Eli, and said, “Here I am; you called me.”
Then Eli understood that the Lord was calling the boy. 9 He told Samuel, “Go and lie down. 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, stood there, and called as before, “Samuel, Samuel!” Samuel responded, “Speak, for Your servant is listening.”
I believe there are some powerful keys to hearing from the Lord revealed in this chapter. First, we see that Samuel had not experienced the Lord because the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. This means that if we want to hear and experience the Lord, He has to reveal himself to us. How do we get the Lord to do that? Well the first verse showed that the Lord was withholding His word and visions from people because they had become corrupt. If you contrast that with Samuel, Samuel had not even experienced the Lord himself, but still was being faithful and obedient. So to hear from the Lord we must be obedient and faithful.
The second key to hearing from the Lord, and I believe one of the most important, was Samuel had to understand who was calling Him. Until Samuel had the revelation of who was calling him, he could not hear the Lord. If we want to hear the Lord, we have to understand who it is that is calling us. Who He is. If we really understand who is calling us we won’t take for granted the opportunity and blessing of His call. We won’t hesitate to say yes to Him if we truly understood that the creator of the universe who holds the foundation of Heaven and Earth in His hand, is the One calling us. Understanding the reality and the nature of God should always inspire us to respond with spontaneous obedience.
And finally, Eli told Samuel to go and lie down, and Samuel responded by going and lying down in his place. If we want to hear from God we need to be in position to do so. Sometimes that means giving God a yes, sometimes that may mean giving someone else a no, or most of the time that means saying yes over and over to the process God has put in place to move us into position. There were a lot of “yeses” that had led to Samuel being in that position, in his place. Many that had nothing to do with him. It was Hannah’s obedience that had sent him to Eli. It was his father, Elkanah’s obedience that had allowed Hannah to follow God’s word to her. It was the disobedience of Eli’s sons that opened the door for Samuel to take their place. It was Eli’s disobedience that kept him from stopping his sons from their corruption. And finally it was Samuel’s obedience that allowed him to grow in favor and stature. What a perfect picture this is of the power of our obedience and disobedience. Our decisions and willingness to surrender to God’s will doesn’t just effect us, but everyone around us. And the obedience of Samuel and his family led him to the place where his life collided with the presence of God. The very first verse of chapter 3 says that Samuel was in the presence of Eli. Being in the presence of Eli had put Samuel in position to be in the presence of the Lord. (This is the same truth we see in the gospels. The first disciples called by Jesus were the ones who had been obedient to the Lord’s calling to follow John the Baptist. Being in the presence of John the Baptist led them to be in the presence of the Word, manifested in flesh!)
This chapter also allows us to see the stark contrast of what happens when you don’t obey God. The Lord was patient with Samuel and called to Him four times. But in the same chapter we see the Lord removing His favor and bringing judgement on Eli’s house because of their disobedience. To me, this says, that
obedience, which is surrendering of one’s will, is the key that unlocks the door to experiencing God and hearing His word.
So if we want to hear the Lord speak, the recipe seems to be pretty simple: recognize the voice of the one calling you, respond in obedience and faith and be in position when He calls. Now…if only that were as simple as it sounds!
Lord, may we all have the courage and revelation of who you are, to respond when you call, “Speak, for your Servant is listening.”