“Therefore Eli said unto Samuel, Go, lie down: and it shall be, if he call thee, that thou shalt say, Speak, LORD; for thy servant heareth. So Samuel went and lay down in his place. And the LORD came, and stood, and called as at other times, Samuel, Samuel. Then Samuel answered, Speak; for thy servant heareth (1Sa 3:9-10).”
‘Hearing’ is one of the most important things we must do. One of the Lord’s oft repeated statements is, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear (Mat 11:15).” Hearing, in a broader sense, does not only mean receiving audio signal. It can be a figure to an attitude toward the word of God. The Lord also says, “Take heed therefore how ye hear (Lu 8:18).” Effective hearing, therefore, is very important. Samuel teaches us three qualities of effective hearing. Each of these qualities built upon the one that comes before it.
Paying Due Respect to God
Samuel had a proper respect for God. This is the first and most basic quality of effective hearing. He acknowledged God as Master and his position as a servant. “Speak, LORD; for thy servant heareth.” There can be no reverence for God without humility. Part of that is the constant awareness that we are nothing without God. Christians may say with Paul, “For in him we live, and move, and have our being (Acts 17:28)” but easily forget that and live like we have only one master – ourselves.
We show reverence for God primarily in our attitude toward His worship and His word. When our minds are prepared every time we assemble for worship, we are showing Him reverence. When we study His word, expecting to apply what we learn, we are showing Him reverence. Reverence for God is indispensable if we are to effectively hear what He is saying to us.
Samuel was attentive. When in bed, he was still alert to a voice calling his name. Even though he mistook it for Eli calling him, it shows the kind of attitude he had.
He was humble and ready to be of service. Eli was like a father to him, and he accorded Eli the respect due to his own father.
Twice he jumped out of bed, without complaint, and hurried to Eli. When a person learns to fear God, it influences his relationship with other people. When Eli advised Samuel what to do when he heard the voice again, Samuel paid attention and did as he was told. He was attentive to what God was going to tell him.
To hear effectively, we must obviously pay attention. This attention is built on a foundation of reverence for God. When someone is speaking to us and we allow our attention to drift, it shows a lack of respect to the speaker, doesn’t it?
While the way the memory works and habits like taking notes play a part, the more common reason is not disciplining our minds to pay attention. Attentiveness is a mental discipline that gets better with practice.
Readiness to Respond
Samuel was attentive to the voice but very importantly, he was ready to respond. He ran to Eli the first two times he heard a voice calling. How would we respond if we were Samuel?
The danger of becoming hearers but not doers of the word is because of this lack of readiness to respond.
James describes such a person:
“For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was (James 1:23-24).”
We may think this man is foolish, and so he is. But so are we if we are not ready to respond to God’s word.
We have so many examples in the Bible of people responding to God’s word, and also many examples of people rejecting God’s word. The 3000 in Acts 2:37 are among the positive examples. They heard the word and were cut to the heart. They responded in obedience. The Jews in Acts 7:54 heard the word and were cut to the heart as well, but they murdered Stephen.
Effective hearing makes us better Christians. In fact, it is indispensable if we were to be sensitive to the will of the Father and be ever ready to do it.