Samuel And Hearing God’s Voice

I’ve been writing lately about this idea in the modern church of hearing the voice of God and feeling led as normative practices in Christianity. I’ve been pleased with the responses I’ve been getting. Some of you though, I anticipate aren’t too pleased with what I’ve been saying or if you’re finding this blog at a future date, what you’re reading now.

And that’s just fine.

I can understand being raised with a system all your life and then finding out that there’s not much to it. It does require changing one’s way of thinking and indeed, I’m still having to avoid thinking in that mode of thinking at times. I would hope anyone disagreeing though would be willing to go to the Scriptures.

One example someone will give though inevitably will be going to 1 Samuel 3 and the passage where Samuel hears the voice of God. Let’s start with the chapter in question:

1 The boy Samuel ministered before the LORD under Eli. In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions. 2 One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. 3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple  of the LORD, where the ark of God was. 4 Then the LORD called Samuel.
Samuel answered, “Here I am.” 5 And he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”
But Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down.

6 Again the LORD called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”
“My son,” Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.”

7 Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD : The word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.

8 The LORD called Samuel a third time, and Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”
Then Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy. 9 So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.’ ” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

10 The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”
Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

11 And the LORD said to Samuel: “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle. 12 At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family—from beginning to end. 13 For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons made themselves contemptible,  and he failed to restrain them. 14 Therefore, I swore to the house of Eli, ‘The guilt of Eli’s house will never be atoned for by sacrifice or offering.’ ”

15 Samuel lay down until morning and then opened the doors of the house of the LORD. He was afraid to tell Eli the vision, 16 but Eli called him and said, “Samuel, my son.”
Samuel answered, “Here I am.”

17 “What was it he said to you?” Eli asked. “Do not hide it from me. May God deal with you, be it ever so severely, if you hide from me anything he told you.” 18 So Samuel told him everything, hiding nothing from him. Then Eli said, “He is the LORD; let him do what is good in his eyes.”

19 The LORD was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of his words fall to the ground. 20 And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the LORD. 21 The LORD continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word.

My own preacher would disagree with me on this. I know so for he preached a sermon on this text recently. I do like my preacher and I enjoy talking to him, but I have to say I really disagree on this one. I will tell you that if your church teaches this and you disagree, be sure to be respectful. Don’t come at ministry with both guns blazing. It really won’t work.

My preacher also made the connection with John 10, which we looked at yesterday, and I wanted to point out why it didn’t work. For one thing, in John 10, the idea is that those who are of the sheep will hear the voice. That means that if you use this passage this way, it means that if you hear the voice of God, you must be a believer.

Anybody you see as a believer in 1 Samuel 3? Eli is hardly noted as being a righteous high priest. As for Samuel, look at verse 7. Samuel did not yet know the Lord.

So what happens? Samuel is sleeping and he hears a voice calling his name. How do we know that? He ran Eli. He did not say “Eli! I thought you were speaking to me in my spirit!” No. He heard a physical voice and he knew of only one other person who would be calling him and he went to him.

Notice also why Eli had a hard time recognizing it. The first verse tells you. The Word of the Lord was rare. If this was such a normative experience for the people of God as we are led to think, then it would seem that Eli would immediately grasp that Samuel was hearing the voice of God. He didn’t.

Why does this not work with John 10? As I told my preacher, Samuel wasn’t a believer, so you can’t draw a parallel there. Furthermore, no one in John thinks the voice is an actual voice as far as I know. Even if it’s a subjective voice of the spirit somehow, it is not an actual voice. Yet the two are constantly compared.

Greg Koukl says it well. This is a doctrine in search of a proof-text. Unfortunately for it, with a little bit of looking, the doctrine seems to fall. Now if you think I’m wrong, go ahead, but remember, if you try to contest me, I want to be told how my exegesis was wrong on this passage or be given another passage. I cannot interpret an experience and Scripture is my final authority.

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