Note: This is a largely subjective study, and is a not a direct exegesis of the passage. It is simply based off a combination of the study of the Word, personal experience, and anecdotes from other brothers and sisters of the faith.
(1 Samuel 3:1-11)
One of the greatest gifts and graces that is given to the believer is the ability to hear the voice of the Lord. This is often confusing, because we are naturally unfamiliar with the voice of God. As it takes time hearing, and listening to know someone’s voice, so is it with the Lord. Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the Lord’s voice had not yet been revealed to him. He first realized upon hearing God’s voice that it was not his own voice, and he confused it with his father’s (that is because God’s voice is often that of a father’s). We recognize that the Lord’s voice is not our own, and it seems quite contrary to us. It is different; in that it is holy. Initially, there is confusion because we are not accustomed to hearing His voice, or voices for that matter. But with frequent listening, the ear becomes attuned to the voice, and it becomes recognizable and distinct to the person who hears. The words, thoughts, and impressions that we receive from the Lord will reflect who He is, because it is a person who is speaking to us, and He has a personality. Our words reflect who we are, for out of the heart the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45). It is why His voice is loving, gentle, warm, yet at times strong, cutting, and piercing. It is a reflection of His heart and His thoughts. The Lord is spirit (John 4:24), and so His communication will also be in spirit (Romans 8:16) - that is why often it is simply an impression upon the heart; a tug. If the words sound right, but the tone seems wrong, it’s likely not His voice - the enemy knows the Word as well, and can use it against us.
Practical Steps to Hearing His Voice
Read His Word. The Lord has already spoken and revealed so much about who He is and what He does and thinks through His written word - it will be near impossible to recognize Him without knowing His word. If you value a relationship with anyone, you will value their words, because you value their thoughts, opinions, their emotions, plans, and their story. A lack of value for the Word is not a communications preference matter, it’s simply a lack of value for a person.
Minister to the Lord. Before Samuel had known the Lord’s voice, he spent time in the temple simply ministering to God (1 Samuel 3:1). He had a value for His presence. Because the disposition of his heart was already to minister to God, he could receive what the Lord had to say. Hence, “Speak Lord, for your servant hears.” (1 Samuel 3:10). Begin with worship, with praise, and allow God to fill your heart with His desires (Psalm 37:4). This prepares the heart to be soil which can be fruitful.
Follow His Word. Samuel after receiving a difficult word obeys the Lord and shares the Word with his own father. Often times we ask the Lord for more words when we have not obeyed the one we have received. Knowledge puffs up, love builds up (1 Corinthians 8:1). The Word not obeyed in love (John 14:15) simply puffs up the hearer, but the Word obeyed will build up not only the hearer, but the kingdom of the one who gives. We must hold true to what we have attained (Philippians 3:16). Obeying the voice in faith allows us to recognize if it was really Him or not.