When one-year-old Ayla Esler was able to hear for the very first time, she burst into a big smile, putting her hand to her ear and wiggling with glee. She was born deaf, but a device called a cochlear implant, which stimulates the auditory nerve directly, enabled her to hear.
First Samuel 3:1–21 describes what it was like for Samuel to hear God speak to him for the first time. This was not because Samuel was deaf, but because “the word of the Lord was rare” (v. 1). The call came while Samuel was “lying down in the house of the Lord,” probably referring to a larger structure that housed the tabernacle (v. 3). God’s voice was so unexpected that Samuel at first mistook it for Eli, the elderly priest with whom he served. It took three attempts and some coaching from Eli before Samuel understood what was happening. When verse 7 says that Samuel did not yet “know” the Lord, it does not mean that he was an unbeliever, only that he did not recognize God’s voice speaking to him.
The message which inaugurated Samuel’s prophetic ministry was a fearful warning of impending judgment on Eli’s household. The boy prophet was initially reluctant to deliver it until Eli urged him with these strong words: “May God deal with you, be it ever so severely, if you hide from me anything he told you” (v. 17). Samuel learned that those who receive God’s words must be faithful in sharing them, even when they are hard to say. Those to whom God has made known His word must always speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15).
>> God still speaks to us today through His written Word. Why not make Samuel’s prayer your own? The next time you open the Bible, begin your study of God’s Word by saying, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”