“Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, and the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him. And the LORD called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ Then Eli perceived that the LORD was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, ‘Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, “Speak, LORD, for your servant hears.”’ So Samuel went and lay down in his place. And the LORD came and stood, calling as at other times, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant hears.’” - 1 Samuel 3:7-10
Samuel was just a young boy when God spoke to him. We see from this passage that he didn’t yet know the Lord, even though he was serving in the temple with the priest Eli (1 Sam. 3:1-2). Born in a time of great spiritual darkness and depravity, Samuel was a miracle child for whom his faith-filled mother, Hannah, had prayed (1 Sam. 1). To thank God for giving her a child, Hannah dedicated Samuel to the Lord’s service as soon as she’d weaned him.
Can you imagine spending most of your life - waking, working, and sleeping - in a church? While Samuel might have known who his parents were, it’s likely that he didn’t remember another home, and he certainly knew no other way of life. Yet for all that Samuel understood about God and how to worship him, for all the time he had spent in service to the God who gave him life, Samuel had never heard God’s voice. He didn’t recognize it because he didn’t know him personally. He wasn’t expecting God to speak to him.
But God longed for more than Samuel’s dedicated life and service to him in the temple. God desired personal relationship with him, and he planned to use Samuel in amazing ways to save his people from the sin and darkness that encompassed them. So before anything else could happen, before Samuel could perform any more tasks or learn any other traditions or laws, God spoke to him. And with some guidance and wisdom from Eli, Samuel chose to open his heart and his ears and listen.
Are you listening for God’s voice? Perhaps, like Samuel, you’re hearing it, but it’s confusing, or it’s not what you expect. Who is an Eli in your life that you can look to for wisdom and confirmation that God is speaking to you? If you’re struggling to hear the Lord, take a step of faith, close your eyes, and tell him you’re listening. He longs to speak with you.