Summary: An exposition of Samuel's call from God, and an exhortation to listen for God's voice

INTRODUCTION: In the early 1900s, back when the telegraph was the fastest method of long-distance communication, a young man applied for a job as a Morse Code operator. Answering an ad in the newspaper, he went to the office address that was listed. When he arrived, he entered a large, busy office filled with noise and clatter, including the sound of the telegraph in the background. A sign on the receptionist’s counter instructed job applicants to fill out a form and wait until they were summoned to enter the inner office.

The young man filled out his form and sat down with the seven other applicants in the waiting area. After a few minutes, the young man stood up, crossed the room to the door of the inner office, and walked right in. Naturally the other applicants perked up, wondering what was going on. They muttered among themselves that they hadn’t heard any summons yet. They assumed that the young man who went into the office made a mistake and would be disqualified.

Within a few minutes, however, the employer escorted the young man out of the office and said to the other applicants, “Gentlemen, thank you very much for coming, but the job has just been filled.”

The other applicants began grumbling to each other, and one spoke up saying, “Wait a minute, I don’t understand. He was the last to come in, and we never even got a chance to be interviewed. Yet he got the job. That’s not fair!”

The employer said, “I’m sorry, but all the time you’ve been sitting here, the telegraph has been ticking out the following message in Morse Code: ‘If you understand this message, then come right in. The job is yours.’ None of you heard it or understood it. This young man did. The job is his.”

>> We live in a world that is full of busyness and clatter, like that office. People are distracted and unable to hear the voice of God as he speaks to them. Many voices shout for our attention—deadlines to meet, bills to pay, meetings to attend, phone calls to make, emails to answer, children to care for. What about you? Are you tuned in to God’s voice? Do you hear him when he speaks to you? Are you listening? I’m hard-pressed to think of anything more important. We have to learn how to hear God’s voice. [READ 1 Samuel 3:1-10]


A. For centuries God had rarely spoken to His people. “The word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions” (1). The spiritual life of the temple was in disarray due to the wickedness of Eli’s two sons and Eli’s failure to restrain them (more about that in a bit).

B. Two features of the tabernacle are mentioned in v.3, the lamp of God and the ark of the covenant.

1. Both were symbols of God’s presence. Priests were instructed to keep a lamp burning in the sanctuary every night.

2. When Samuel heard God’s voice, the lamp was still lit—i.e. it was just before dawn.

C. Notice that Samuel has difficulty discerning God’s voice from Eli’s.

1. Samuel has lived his entire life in the temple with Eli. Eli served not only as his spiritual mentor, but also was like a father to him.

2. Finally Eli discerned that the boy was being addressed by the Lord, so he advised him to submit himself to whatever the Lord would have him do. “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”

D. APPLICATION: "Four Myths About Hearing God" (adapted from John Ortberg)

1. Myth #1: God only speaks to spiritual giants.

a. Samuel wasn’t! Neither was Moses, for that matter.

b. That’s one takeaway from this COLLIDE series.

2. Myth #2: If I am in tune with God, He will guide all my decisions.

a. God doesn’t speak to all at the same time in the same way.

b. Paul: “I don’t have a word from God on this …”

3. Myth #3: God's will is an inner subjective individualistic trump card I can use to get my way.

a. Watch “I felt led” or “I feel called” language

b. We are easily self-deceived into claiming from God what we want instead of really listening for what He wants.

4. Myth #4: There is nothing I can do to hear from God. (There is!)

[READ 1 Samuel 3:10-18]


A. God’s message consisted of the shocking announcement that the promised removal of Eli’s family from the priesthood was about to occur.

1. The reason is explicitly stated—Eli’s sons were wicked, and though he knew it he failed to restrain them.

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