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AMPC: And the Lord came and stood and called as at other times, Samuel! Samuel! Then Samuel answered, Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening.
ICB: The Lord came and stood there. He called as he had before. He said, “Samuel, Samuel!” Samuel said, “Speak, Lord. I am your servant, and I am listening.”
NCV: The Lord came and stood there and called as he had before, “Samuel, Samuel!” Samuel said, “Speak, Lord. I am your servant and I am listening.”
WYC: And the Lord came, and stood, and called as he had called the second time (and called to him as he had called the other times, saying), Samuel, Samuel. And Samuel said, Speak thou, Lord, for thy servant heareth.
Hear (shama) means to hear, to listen. Webster’s on “listen” = to hearken; to give ear; to attend closely with a view to hear. To obey; to yield to advice; to follow admonition. Since hearing/listening are often closely linked to obedience, shama is translated obey or to understand. KJV translates shama “hearken” a word which means to give respectful attention. Shama means “to hear intelligently and attentively and respond appropriately.” The most famous use is the so-called “Shema” in Dt 6:4 “Hear, (a command, in the Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures, the Septuagint states, “present imperative – habitually, continually.”) O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!” “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
The greatest significance of the use of shama is that of relation of man to God, especially where the context speaks of obedience. Obedience is the supreme test of faith and reverence for God. The Old Testament conception of obedience was vital. It was the one important relationship which must not be broken. While sometimes this relation may have been formal and cold, it nevertheless was the one strong tie which held the people close to God.
Pastor Charles W. Spurgeon writes: “The child Samuel was favored above all the family in which he dwelt. The Lord did not speak by night to Eli, or to any of Eli’s sons. In all that house, in all the rows of rooms that were round about the tabernacle where the ark of the Lord was kept, there was not one except Samuel to whom Jehovah spoke! The fact that the Lord should choose a child out of all that household, and that He should speak to him, ought to be very encouraging to you who think yourself to be the least likely to be recognized by God. Are you so young? Yet, probably, you are not younger than Samuel was at this time. Do you seem to be very insignificant? Yet you can hardly be more so than was this child of Hannah’s love! Have you many troubles? Yet you have not more, I daresay, than rested on young Samuel, for it must have been very hard for him while so young a child, to part from his dear mother, to be so soon sent away from his father’s house, and so early made to do a servant’s work, even though it was in the house of the Lord!
“Speak, Lord.” Oh, how often has our heartfelt this desire in the form of a groaning that cannot be uttered! “Lord, I want to know You! You are behind a veil, and I cannot come to You. I know that You are, for I see Your works, but, oh, that I could get some token from Yourself, if not for my eyesight, yet at least for my heart!” When the Lord said to the child, “Samuel, Samuel,” it was a distinct, personal call. All who have heard the gospel preached have been called to some extent. The Word of God calls every sinner to repent and trust the Savior, but that call brings nobody to Christ unless it is accompanied by the special effectual call of the Holy Spirit! When that call is heard in the heart, then the heart responds! The general call of the gospel is like the common “cluck” of the hen which she is always giving when her chickens are around her. But if there is any danger impending, then she gives a very peculiar call—quite different from the ordinary one—and the little chicks come running as fast as ever they can, and hide for safety under her wings! That is the call we need—God’s peculiar and effectual call to His own! And I would, if I could, put into the heart and mouth of each person now present this prayer, “Speak, Lord, speak to me. Call me. When You are calling this one and that, Lord, call me with the effectual call of Your Holy Spirit! Be pleased so to call me that, when I hear You saying, ‘Seek you My face,’ my heart may say unto You, ‘Your face, Lord, will I seek.’”
Do pray this prayer—“Speak, Lord.” If you will not, it shall always be my prayer. I would seek the presence of my God and cry, “As the heart pants after the water brooks, so pants my soul after You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God! When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say to me, Where is your God?” But when my heart can answer, “Here He is! He is with me.”
“Speak, Lord.” I have known the time—and so have some of you—when one word of His has saved us from a grievous fall. A text of Scripture has stopped us when our feet had almost slipped. A precious thought has helped us when we were ready to despair, and when we could not tell what to do. One word out of the inspired Book, applied to the soul by the Holy Spirit, has made a plain path before us, and we have been delivered from all our difficulties! I commend to you, then, very earnestly, the personal prayer of the soul desiring: “Speak, Lord.”
“But how does the Lord speak?” someone asks. That is a very important question. I know that He has many ways of speaking to the hearts of His people. We do not expect to hear audible words. It is not by sense that we live—not even by the sense of hearing—but by faith. We believe, and so we apprehend God!
God often speaks to His children through His works. Are there not days when the mountains and the hills break forth before us into singing, and the trees of the field clap their hands because God is speaking by them? Do you not lift up your eyes to the heavens at night and watch the stars, and seem to hear God speaking to you in the solemn silence? That man who never hears God speak through His works is, I think, hardly in a healthy state of mind. Why, the very beauty of spring with its promise, the fullness of summer, the ripeness of autumn, and even the chilly blasts of winter are all vocal if we have but ears to hear what they say!
God also speaks to His children very loudly by His providence. Is there no voice in affliction? Has pain no tongue? Has the bed of languishing no eloquence? The Lord speaks to us, sometimes, by bereavement—when one after another has been taken away, God has spoken to us. The deaths of others are for our spiritual life—sharp medicine for our soul’s health. God has spoken to many a mother by the dear babe she has had to lay in the grave. And many a man has, for the first time, listened to God’s voice when he has heard the passing bell that spoke of the departure of one dearer to him than life itself. God speaks to us, if we will but hear, in all the arrangements of providence both pleasant and painful. Whether He caresses or chastises, there is a voice in all that He does.
The Lord speaks to us chiefly through His Word. Oh, what converse God has with His people when they are quietly reading their Bibles! There, in your still room, as you have been reading a chapter, have you not felt as if God spoke those words straight to your heart then and there? Has not Christ Himself said to you, while you have been reading His Word, “Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God, believe also in Me”? The text does not seem to be like an old letter in a book, rather is it like a fresh speech, newly spoken from the mouth of the Lord to you. It has been so, dear friends, has it not?
Then there is His Word as it is preached. It is delightful to notice how God speaks to the heart while the sermon is being heard—yes, and when the sermon is being read. I am almost, every day, made to sing inwardly as I hear of those to whom I have been the messenger of God. And my Lord has many messengers, and He is speaking by them all! There was one man, who had lived a life of drunkenness and impurity, and had even shed human blood with his bowie knife, or his revolver, yet he found the Savior, and became a new man! And when he died, he charged one who was with him to tell me that my sermon had brought him to Christ! “I shall never tell him on earth,” he said, “but I shall tell the Lord Jesus Christ about him when I get to heaven.” It was by a sermon, read far away in the backwoods, that this great sinner was brought to Christ! But it is not only in the backwoods that the Lord blesses the preached Word, it is here, it is everywhere where Christ is proclaimed! If we preach the gospel, God gives a voice to it, and speaks through it. There is a kind of incarnation of the Spirit of God in every true preacher—God speaks through him. Oh, that men had but ears to hear! But, alas, alas, too often they hear as if it were of no importance! And the Lord has to say to His servant as He said to Ezekiel, “Lo, you are unto them as a very lovely song of one that has a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear your words, but they do them not.” Oh, that each one of our hearers always came up to the sanctuary with this prayer in his heart, and on his lips, “Speak, Lord, by Your servant; speak right down into my soul.”
The Lord has a way of sometimes speaking to the heart by His Spirit—I think not usually apart from His Word—but yet there are feelings and emotions, tenderness and trembling, joys and delights which we cannot quite link with any special portion of Scripture laid home to the heart, but which seem to steal upon us unawares by the direct operation of the Spirit of God upon the heart. You who know the Lord must sometimes have felt a strange delight which had no earthly origin. You have, perhaps, awakened in the morning with it, and it has remained with you. A little while after, you have had some severe trial, and you realize that the Lord had spoken to you to strengthen you to bear the affliction! At other times you have felt great tenderness about some one individual, and you have felt compelled to pray, and perhaps to go for some miles to speak a word to that individual. And it turned out that God meant to save that person through you, and He did! I think we are not half as mindful as we ought to be of the secret working of the Holy Spirit upon the mind.
I remember George Muller sweetly saying, “When you come to your time for devotion, if you cannot pray, do not try. If you cannot speak with God, do not try. Let God speak with you. Open your Bible and read a passage.” If you cannot speak to God, let God speak to you. It is also true communion with the Lord, sometimes, just to sit still, look up and say nothing. But just, “in solemn silence of the mind,” find your heaven and your God. “Speak, Lord; for Your servant hears. I have prayed to You; I have told You my grief, and now I am just sitting still to hear if You have anything to say to me. I am all ears and all heart. If You will command me, I will obey. If You will comfort me, I will believe. If You will reprove me, I will meekly bow my head. If You will give me the assurance of Your love, my heart shall dance at every sound of Your voice. Only speak, Lord; for Your servant hears.”
Listening does not come as naturally to many of us as it did to young Samuel. In fact, listening isn’t what we do best. We much prefer to do the talking! It has been estimated that the average woman spends one-fifth of her life talking and speaks about three thousand words a day. For men, the number is less, but not significantly. Yet if we want miracles in our lives and in our loved ones’ lives, if we want God to direct our steps, we need to listen to God’s leading and follow it. The good news is that hearing God isn’t a special privilege reserved only for pastors, priests, or seminary graduates. It’s not just for those who are highly intelligent or especially gifted. You don’t even have to be a grown-up to hear God. Even children, such as Samuel was, can hear the voice of the Lord if their hearts are willing, humble, and receptive. God has many things to say to you and wants to bless your life with direction and purpose as you hear his voice and follow. All it takes is a listening heart. Ask God to help you tune in to his Spirit’s leading today.
Lord Jesus, quiet my heart so that I can hear you. Remove any distractions that would keep me from being open and attentive to what your Spirit might be impressing on my heart and mind. Please make me humble and receptive and willing to answer obediently when you call on me. Your servant is listening. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen
Take a few moments to listen to his beautiful rendition of Amazing Love/Word of God Speak by Guy Penrod.
Look Up—meditate on I Samuel 3:10 … pray to see what it reveals about the character of God.
Look In—as you meditate on I Samuel 3:10 … pray to see how you might apply it to your life. Be propelled to ask galvanizing questions about your discoveries: “Because God is_________, I will_____________.”
Look Out—as you meditate on I Samuel 3:10 …pray to see how you might apply it to your relationships with others. Let the nature of God impact on every relationship, for your good, and for His glory.
* If you liked this post, you’ll love this book – Name Above All Names Devotional: Focusing on 26 Alphabetical Names of Christ