Samuel hears the audible voice of God before he even knows God. The sound of God’s voice is real, loud enough that Samuel thinks Eli is the one calling him from another room. It is possible to hear God’s voice but not know that it is Him speaking. Even those of us who serve the Lord can fail to hear and recognize the voice of God, just as Samuel did when he was in the Temple. It is the difference between recognizing the voice of a close family member and hearing a stranger calling our name. When we don’t know the voice of God, we mistake His leading for the counsel of others. In the case of Samuel, knowing who is calling him affects whether he should go to bed by Eli’s instruction, or sit up to listen to what God has to say. It is important to know the voice of God so that we can understand where He is calling us to go.
How do we come to know the sound of God’s voice? Simply put, knowing God’s voice comes from first knowing God. While Samuel is the one who hears God’s voice, it is Eli who recognizes that Samuel is being called by God, because Eli knows God. We can get to know God in study and in prayer. We must find time daily to listen for Him. For it is by becoming closer to Him that we can hear and know when He calls to us. It is only by first recognizing His voice that we can respond to Him saying, “Speak, for Your servant is listening.”