Because of the sinfulness of the priesthood and the people, God was not speaking to Israel. The Bible says, “And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no widespread revelation” (1 Samuel 3:1). Yet, in the middle of this famine of the Word, the Lord appeared to the young Samuel: “The Lord called Samuel [who] did not yet know the Lord, nor was the word of the Lord yet revealed to him” (3:4, 7).
Samuel was only twelve years old and although he was a devout child, he did not yet recognize the voice of the Lord. So God came to Samuel’s bedside and called to him audibly. At first Samuel thought Eli was speaking; he did not know he was being trained to discern voices—to hear directly from God!
God was not speaking to the priest, Eli, who had grown deaf to His voice! In fact, it seems that only one prophet was hearing from God—the unnamed man who warned Eli that God was about to cut him off (1 Samuel 2:27-36).
Hearing from God takes more than quiet time alone. It takes more than simply saying, “Speak, Lord, for your servant hears!” No, there is not a formula for hearing God; there are not ten steps to follow. Before you can hear God, He has to be talking to you—and He talks to those who have prepared their hearts to hear!
Samuel had no deep theological knowledge of God when the Lord first spoke to him. But he had a tender, pure, devoted heart that was open to the Lord. So, what do you think God taught Samuel first after speaking to him?
The Lord told Samuel, “I’m going to judge Eli because he knew his sons were wicked, but he did nothing to restrain them! They should have been stripped of their robes and told, ‘You can’t go near the holy place!’ Now, Samuel, I want to show you My hatred for sin in My house. I want to show you what it’s going to take to hear My voice and walk with Me” (see 3:11-14).
It is no wonder the Bible says Samuel spoke such sure words—he had heard the voice of the Lord! He spent much time shut in with Him, praying, seeking Him, and God spoke clearly to him at all times.
There are people right now who have been trained to know God’s voice. These praying saints pour out their hearts to Him—and in turn He pours out to them!