Imagine the cessationists of the boy Samuel’s time. They would have pointed to the relative absence of the supernatural, and said “Clearly God has stopped talking.” How wrong they would have been. We see though, that even in Bible times there were seasons when “the word of the LORD was rare.” How much less should we be surprised that over the centuries there are periods when it seems God is intervening in our world less, and others when he is intervening more. I know that some of my readers are at different places than me on the cessastionst-charismatic spectrum, but it is worth asking whether our reasons for not expecting God to speak or act today are more to do with our lack of experience than Scripture.
In this passage we also see that it is not always easy to discern the voice of the Lord, and even a great prophet like Samuel, at least at the beginning wasn’t able to understand initially was happening to him. The Old Testament seems to imply that the prophets (at least the ones recorded) were basically infallible. This passage, which hints that it may not have been entirely straightforward at times, is therefore encouraging.
Later this book will introduce us to a prophet, Nathan, who is happy to encourage his King into a course of action before God interrupts him and says “no,” so again we see that not all prophets even in the OT got it right all of the time. I don’t think Scripture tells us for sure whether every time a prophet in the OT thought he heard the Lord it was correct. But it does seem that the recorded utterances of the prophets in the OT were indeed correct. Of course a similar issue besets us in the NT. So many people assume that the Apostles were always infallible. But, Peter being rebuked by Paul in Galatians and Paul arguing with Barnabas both seems to suggest that outside of what is recorded they did not always say the right thing.
Anyway, that wasn’t really what I was wanting to drive at. Instead I want to share a few tips on how to hear God from this passage.
- God does seem to inhabit some places in a special way, so don’t be surprised if he speaks to you more in church.
- God speaks to the submissive and obedient, so we see that though a child Samuel had learnt to obey Samuel by the way he ran to his master when he thought he had called
- God often speaks in the quiet, so slow down, and calm down to give him time to speak!
- Ask him to speak. Eli’s wise direction to ask the Lord what he wanted to say must surely be relevant today.
- We must be willing to really listen to Him
- God can speak through young and old, there is no limit to who he can speak through so don’t discount yourself
- Be willing to share what you hear with others for them to confirm or contradict