1 Sam 3 takes place while Samuel is still a boy. The LORD called him and he learned to hear the voice of the LORD. The phrase, “Samuel did not know the LORD” (1 Sam 3:7) is interesting. Samuel was dedicated to the LORD from his mother’s womb. But until he was called by the LORD Himself, and responded with a submissive heart, he did not know the LORD personally. God does not have grandchildren! Each person must respond to the LORD individually.
When Samuel heard the voice of the LORD, it was so loud to his perception that he thought Eli had called him, although no one else heard anything. God is able to make His voice known and heard to His people. Something similar happened to Martin Luther. He was in Rome, for the first and last time, on a mission to the Pope from his order (his monastery in Germany). He was shocked by the decadence he saw in Rome among the clergy and the church. But when he completed his mission, and was seeing the sights in Rome, he was doing all that he could to earn penance to shorten his time in purgatory.
So he was going up the Lateran staircase on his knees, saying the Pater Noster (Our Father, which art in Heaven) on each step. Each Pater Noster was believed to shorten the time in purgatory by 50 years. The Lateran staircase is a grand marble set of steps which were brought from Jerusalem at the destructon of that city in 70 AD. They were supposed to be the steps which led up to the judgment seat of Pilate, upon which Jesus had stood when He was being sentenced by the Roman governor.
So Martin Luther was on his knees halfway up this staircase, when he heard spoken loudly, “The just shall live by faith!” He immediately stood up and looked for the speaker, because it was so loud he thought he had heard it audibly. But no one else around him heard it. It was the voice of the LORD speaking to him. While he was standing, wondering how he had heard this voice, he realized why the phrase had seemed familiar to him – he had read it in his monastery’s Bible.
Now he was the only person in his entire monastery who read the Bible. Actually, his monastery did not even know where the Bible was, as it had been missing for hundreds of years, but Martin Luther found it, thick with dust, one day while he was searching the library for something. So at that moment, the realization dawned on him that man did not escape “purgatory,” death, hell, or any other thing of this world by how many Pater Nosters that were said, but by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ!
So the LORD is able to make His voice heard. It is not something we have to sweat over and “make” happen. What if you don’t hear the LORD’s voice, but want to? Well, first, put your heart in a position of submission to the LORD God. God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble (Jam 4:6-8).
Then read the Word of God and meditate on it, and read it, and meditate on it. The Word of God is God’s voice, written down. Jesus said, he who is faithful in a little, will also be faithful in much (Luk 16:10). Start with the voice of the LORD for every man written down and recorded in the Bible, and show the LORD that you are faithful to hear His voice and obey it. Then if it please the LORD, He may speak to you in addition.
In fact, I believe God desires to speak to all His children, but that is up to the LORD. Eli was high priest, and he did not hear the voice of God that Samuel heard. In fact, a prophet had to be sent to him to tell him the warning about not restraining his sons. God is the one who gives these gifts, and it may be that your gift is something else. But submit, trust, and obey, and God will do as He has purposed to do.
When you hear something, how will you know it is God? God will never ever say anything that contradicts His written word. Do you see how important it is to know what is in your Bible, front to back? It will preserve you from being deceived and led astray. Knowing the Bible, front to back, will also help you to know if what other people, like pastors or teachers, are saying, is from God or not.
Then in 1 Sam 4, Samuel by this time is an adult. But Eli is still the high priest, and his sons were still in their office, in spite of all the warning that the LORD had sent to Eli. It seems that it was their hair- brained idea to bring the ark of God from the tabernacle to the battle, and Eli, once again, did not restrain them.
The first time Israel was defeated before the Philistines, and they asked the LORD why they had been defeated, do you notice that they did not listen for the answer (1 Sam 4:3)? They just assumed that they were defeated because they did not have the ark with them. In all previous times, no matter the battles Israel was facing, the ark stayed where it was supposed to be, in the Holy of Holies. But when Israel repented and their heart was right, God granted them victory over their enemies.
The things of God that belonged in the Tabernacle are not magic charms – but to those whose heart is far from the LORD, they might seem like such, as they did to the sons of Eli. God is not a giant gumball machine, where if you put in the right coin, out comes the gumball, like magic. That is manipulation, and manipulation is the heart philosophy of the pagan worldview.
God is not a tame lion (as C.S. Lewis says). There is not a formula for getting God to act – except for the formula, if you can call it such, of humbling yourself before Him, repenting in sincerity and truth, and obeying all His word that He gives us to obey. Then what He does is up to Him, and we trust in what He is doing, knowing that His love for us is real. The outcome might not be our outcome – believers have been martyred trusting in the LORD. But their lives did not end, for those believers were that day wih Jesus in Paradise, and they have received the reward for their labor and rest from their trials.
For a heart truly submitted in love to the Lord God, whatever the outcome is met with joy, because we trust that the LORD God is working all things to the accomplishing of His will and the benefit of His people!