Hearing God’s Voice.
Writer’s Note: The last post (Meanwhile.) and this week’s post go hand in hand. I (Merribrooke) wrote both about four years ago. This week’s post focuses on listening, which is the fourth action verb of Deuteronomy 13:4, which says, “Serve only the LORD your God and fear him alone. Obey his commands, listen to his voice, and cling to him.” Next week I’ll close out this series by discussing the action verb “cling”.
In my last post, I discussed the contrast that scripture portrays between Samuel and the corrupt sons of Eli. Samuel stood out because he had a different life purpose. While everyone else was living for themselves, Samuel lived in service to the Lord. Also, Samuel grew spiritually and in favor with the Lord. As Samuel grew with the Lord, the Lord began to reveal Himself to Samuel. This is first seen in 1 Samuel 3:1-14, which is the well-known passage where God calls to the boy, Samuel.
Hearing God’s voice is not something reserved for Old Testament figures like Samuel, or “super Christians” like pastors and other leaders. Every believer can hear God’s voice. It is unlikely that you will hear an audible voice, but He can speak loud and clear through His Word, through Bible teachers, and through His Spirit who lives inside of every believer. As I mentioned in the last post, we have to choose whether to feed the flesh or the Spirit. The more the Spirit is fed the louder His voice in your life becomes.
While studying 1 Samuel 3:1-14, I noticed four things Samuel had that allowed him to hear from the Lord so clearly.
First, hearing God’s voice requires a servant spirit. 1 Samuel 3:1 says, “Samuel served the Lord by assisting Eli.” The previous post discussed how Samuel’s purpose was serving God, rather than self-gain. When I think of a servant I think of someone who is humble and does not seek attention or praise. I think of someone who is selfless, constantly putting the needs of others ahead of their own. Someone who has a servant spirit has God on the throne of their life, rather than themselves. If we refuse to give Christ the place of Lordship in our lives, humbling ourselves by choosing service to Him, then we will always struggle to hear His voice above the noise of our own selfish desires.
The next requirement is closely related to the last. Hearing God’s voice requires an obedient will. After the third time Samuel heard God calling him, Eli realized it was the Lord calling Samuel. So Eli told Samuel the next time he hears the voice to say, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” Samuel obeyed and did just that. 1 Samuel 3:10 says, “And the Lord came and called as before, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel replied, “Speak, your servant is listening.” Not only was Samuel obedient to Eli, his God-given spiritual authority and mentor, but referring to himself as God’s servant implies he is also obedient to God. God speaks to those who humbly obey Him. Several chapters later in the book of 1 Samuel, King Saul is preparing for battle against the Philistines. God has already rejected Saul as king of Israel because of his disobedience to God’s commands. 1 Samuel 28:5-6 (ESV) says, “When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly. And when Saul inquired of the LORD, the LORD did not answer him, either by dreams, or by Urim, or by prophets.” My life application bible gives a wonderful explanation of these verses. It says, “God did not answer Saul’s appeals because Saul had not followed God’s previous directions. Sometimes people wonder why their prayers are not answered. But if they don’t fulfill the responsibilities God has already given them, they should not be surprised when he does not give further guidance.” Obedience to God is essential to hearing from Him and growing in relationship with Him.
The third requirement to hear God’s voice is a listening ear. Again, 1 Samuel 3:10 says, “And Samuel replied, ‘Speak, your servant is listening.’” God will answer your prayers. He will give you direction. He will convict you. He will encourage you. You have to listen. In today’s culture, more than any other, listening is difficult. Listening requires you to tune out all other distractions. I have gotten in the habit of leaving my phone in another room while spending time with the Lord, because I don’t have the focus to tune it out when notifications pop up or when I’m reminded of that thing I needed to look up. But our phones are certainly not our only distractions. Our to-do list can be a major distraction. If I am more preoccupied with what I have to get done that day, I cannot focus my attention on hearing from the Lord. I keep sticky notes on my desk to write my to-do list on so that when I am reminded of something, I can write it down and quickly return to my time with the Lord. Listening requires effort and planning. It means setting the alarm earlier. It means putting down the phone. It means making Christ our priority. Just like a marriage would never thrive if one spouse never made talking and listening to the other a priority, our relationship with Christ cannot thrive if we don’t make Him our priority.
Fourth, hearing God’s voice requires a teachable attitude. Samuel models this in 1 Samuel 3:8-9, “So the Lord called a third time, and once more Samuel got up and went to Eli. ‘Here I am. Did you call me?’ Then Eli realized it was the Lord who was calling the boy. So he said to Samuel, ‘Go and lie down again, and if someone calls again, say, ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.’’ So Samuel went back to bed.” Prisicilla Shirer in her study, Discerning the Voice of God, refers to this as “submitting to the ministry of Eli.” Submitting to the ministry of Eli means listening to a godly mentor whom you can turn to when you need guidance. This person should be someone who studies the Word of God, seeks Him in prayer, applies Scripture to their life, and speaks that Truth into your life. Having a teachable attitude requires humility, because it often means admitting you were wrong when your “Eli” keeps you accountable. It means laying down your pride and admitting you don’t know all the answers and you need someone to come alongside you. A teachable attitude is difficult because it forces us to admit we aren’t perfect and still have a lot of learning to do. I am incredibly thankful for all of the “Eli’s” God has placed in my life through the years, foremost of which is my Mom. Countless times she has called me out on a wrong behavior or attitude that I had refused to recognize in myself. I’m so grateful. Who have you allowed to be your “Eli”?
Instead of assuming God isn’t speaking, what if we start listening? How do you think our lives would change? Samuel, though far from perfect, assumed a posture of listening. He possessed a servant’s spirit, willing to humbly submit himself to the Lordship of Christ. He had an obedient will that said “Yes, Lord” instead of “But, Lord..”. Samuel had a listening ear, which required removing the distractions that easily entangle. Samuel had a teachable attitude by recognizing that He needed the guidance of a mentor in the faith. Lord, make me like Samuel.