Summary: During his youth the boy Samuel was a helper to the elderly priest Eli at the Lord’s tabernacle in Shiloh. One night while Samuel was in bed, the Lord audibly called the boy’s name. Mistakenly thinking it was Eli calling him, Samuel ran to the priest’s room, but the priest said that he had not called the boy. This happened three times. The third time the old priest perceived that it was the Lord Himself calling young Samuel. So Eli gave the boy good advice, in fact, timeless advice even for us today. Samuel did go back, and he did hear from God and began one of the Bible’s most remarkable prophetic ministries. So now let’s examine exactly what was the priest’s wise counsel, in which we’ll discover 3 keys to hearing from God.
I’ve heard Christians lament: “How can I hear from the Lord better?” I’m among them. I love God’s Word the Bible, and my wife and I spend time each day studying His Word together. And we certainly “hear” much eternally valuable truth from His Scriptures.
But what I’m speaking of in our study today is another kind of hearing — that direct “word” from the Lord needed for a specific situation. Perhaps very precise, detailed wisdom in a counseling situation. Or a Holy Spirit-given word of knowledge concerning a person’s need. Or perhaps divine guidance with particulars spelled out, or other similar scenarios. Two examples in my own ministry years were: (1) many years ago directly hearing from the Lord to leave Alaska and plant and pastor a church in the suburbs of New York City; and (2) some years later again hearing from God to plant and pastor a church in southern Oregon. After receiving affirmation both in prayer and in counsel with our church’s leadership, our family was formally “sent out” by our home church and pioneered those two churches. We were wonderfully helped in both instances by trained, dedicated church-planting teams that went with us. And God granted fruit that confirmed the “words” He had spoken to me.
Lest I be misunderstood as undervaluing the centrality of Holy Scripture, be assured I am not. I treasure God’s Word the Bible as the heaven-sent revelation of God to mankind. It is filled with the Lord’s truth and wisdom from Genesis to Revelation. In its entirety it is “given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16, KJV). It is, and always should be, the underlying foundation of all our decisions in life.
That said, we realize that God in His Word does not describe every single situation and decision we will encounter in life. There are simply times when we need a direct word from God with details for a specific situation. I believe that the priest Eli spoke simple but important wisdom to Samuel (and to us) concerning how to hear from God. Let’s look at the three keys in Eli’s wise advice.
Develop an insistent desire in your heart to hear from the Lord. This is consistent with God’s desire to speak to us, to reveal Himself more and more to us: “Call to me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3, NKJV).
The triune God — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — desires to speak to us. Jesus said, “All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he [the Holy Spirit] will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:15, ESV). God the Father has made His Son Jesus “Lord of all” (Acts 10:36). The Holy Spirit takes from the Lord Jesus’'s fullness and declares things to us.
So Key #1 is to be ever mindful that God desires to impart wisdom, truth, guidance, and more to us. Our grateful response should be a continual, daily attitude of: “
In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught us to pray to our heavenly Father: “Thy will be done” (Matthew 6:10, KJV). We are forever the servants of God, the doers of His will. That is the attitude to take towards Him in any prayer, any petition, any desire to hear from Him.
As you express to the Lord your heartfelt desire to hear from Him (“Speak, Lord”), consider the example of many of the Bible writers, who certainly showed an excellent, God-given ability to discern the voice of God. These men heard from God at an exquisite level. Under God’s inspiration they wrote many of the books of the Bible! What was the attitude of their hearts? — “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus” (Romans 1:1) … “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (James 1:1) … “Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:1) … “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:1) … “from Jesus Christ…to His servant John” (Revelation 1:1).
Paul, James, Peter, Jude, John — great men of God who really knew how to hear from God, even at the highest level of hearing and recording inspired Scripture! How did each of these great hearers of God introduce themselves in the very first verse of their writing? As “servants”! Approach God as His servant, desiring and willing to hear from Him whatever in His divine wisdom He wishes to speak to you … and which He wishes you to obey as a good servant does.
So Key #2 is to present yourself to God as His willing servant, desiring to know and do His will. Your cry to Him is now 2/3 ready: “SPEAK, LORD,
We’ve established that God desires to speak to us. We’ve seen that our response should be a “
In Revelation chapters 2 and 3, Jesus wrote letters to 7 churches. To all seven the Lord said, “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” The Holy Spirit is willing to speak to us. Our part is: let’s be LISTENING. Life in the 21st century can be crushingly busy. It’s very important that we often stop, put other things aside, and like the prophet Elijah get ourselves “before the Lord” (vs. 11) and listen to His “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:11-12). As in life generally, when we approach the Lord desiring to hear from Him, apply the wisdom of James 1:19 and be “quick to listen, slow to speak.”
I encourage you to memorize this great approach to God that we’ve taken from the Scripture. I’ll even suggest that you consider declaring it aloud at the start of every time you seek the Lord. My prediction is that the voice of God which we long to hear will become increasingly clear to you. May God bless you as you seek Him and serve Him.
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©2020, James H. Feeney.
Pentecostal Sermons & Bible Studies
by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.