Summary: How are we supposed to know when God is speaking to us? How do we know when we are hearing from God or it is an idea from our own brain? 1 Sam 3 has four essential truths of guidance for us in answering this very important topic of hearing God’s voice.
“HEAR I AM”
“Four guys are driving cross-country together — one from Idaho, one from Nebraska, one from Florida, and the last one is from New York. A bit down the road the man from Idaho starts to pull potatoes from his bag and throws them out the window. The man from Iowa turns to him and asks, “What are you doing?”
The man from Idaho says, “Man, we have so many of these things in Idaho they’re laying around on the ground-I’m sick of looking at them!” A few miles down the road, the man from Nebraska begins pulling husks of corn from his bag and throwing them out the window. The man from Florida asks “What are you doing that for?”
The Nebraskan replies, “Man, we have so many of these things in Nebraska I’m sick of looking at them!” Inspired by the others, the man from Florida opens the car door and pushes the New Yorker out.”
NARRATIVE & BACKGROUND FROM 1 SAMUEL 3:1-3
“The boy Samuel ministered before the LORD under Eli. In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions. 2 One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. 3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was.”
The passage starts out with quite a sad note in that we find that God was not speaking to His people on a regular basis and in fact the word “rare” is used to indicate how often He was speaking. Prophets were not around or they were around and had nothing to say. The place where this story takes place is in the sanctuary of the Lord in a town called Shiloh. Here it is referred to as “the temple of the Lord” which probably means that the Tabernacle tent we learn about in Exodus and Numbers has been made into some kind of more permanent structure for the people of God to worship. The setting is late in the evening and throughout the night. The three people/characters we see in this passage is the High Priest Eli, who is a very elderly man and Samuel who is a young boy. The third? God Himself.
I want you to notice in the whole tent of meeting where Samuel chose to sleep. He could have slept where Eli was, but Samuel chose to sleep where the ark of God was which symbolized the presence of God amongst the Israelites. I heard a sermon once that said “Samuel wanted to sleep as close to God as he could get.” I find that to be an interesting thought.
NARRATIVE & BACKGROUND FROM 1 SAMUEL 3:4-6
“Then the LORD called Samuel. Samuel answered, "Here I am." 5 And he ran to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me." But Eli said, "I did not call; go back and lie down." So he went and lay down. 6 Again the LORD called, "Samuel!" And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me." "My son," Eli said, "I did not call; go back and lie down."
The events in the passage begin with everyone sleeping. One commentary I read called what happens in this chapter an “auditory message dream theophany” (Word Biblical Commentary, Klein, 1 Samuel, pg 31). What does that mean? That means God actually spoke out loud to Samuel in a dream. When verse 4 says to us, “the Lord called Samuel,” it means that He really did audibly call out to him.
Samuel hears the voice and it wakes him from his dream. I believe the voice was both in his dream and audible in the room. Samuel assumed that it was the aging Eli who was calling out for help. I love how it says in verse 5 that Samuel “ran” to Eli… he wanted to help his mentor as fast as possible. Eli sends Samuel back to bed. Verse 6 tells us that the Lord again called Samuel’s name aloud. Samuel again went to Eli and again was sent back to bed. Odd night.
NARRATIVE & BACKGROUND FROM 1 SAMUEL 3:7-10
“Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD: The word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him. 8 The LORD called Samuel a third time, and Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me." Then Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy. 9 So Eli told Samuel, "Go and lie down, and 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 and stood there, calling as at the other times, "Samuel! Samuel!" Then Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant is listening."