Hearing God in the Unexpected

(Today's post by Britt Ozburn)

1 Samuel 3:1-4:1a


As believers, we know our God is anything but predictable. Both the Old and New Testaments are filled with descriptions of how God spoke through unpredictable and unexpected means. The story of Moses and the burning bush comes to mind.

In 1 Samuel 3, we see Samuel grow and mature into Israel’s newest prophet, or messenger from God. Samuel was given to Eli for service at the Tabernacle, the place of worship, at a very young age. It is also a period when messages from God have become a rare occurrence, until one particular night:

“Suddenly the LORD called out, ‘Samuel!’ ‘Yes?’ Samuel replied. ‘What is it?’ He got up and ran to Eli. ‘Here I am. Did you call me?’ ‘I didn’t call you,’ Eli replied. ‘Go back to bed.’ So he did.” 1 Samuel 3:4-5, NLT

God had spoken to Samuel from completely out of nowhere. Not only spoken, but probably shouted loudly, which sounded like to me Samuel thought Eli was in trouble. After this happens two more times, it hits Eli that this could be the Lord calling to Samuel, so let’s try this: “…if someone calls again, say, ‘Speak, LORD, your servant is listening,’” (portion of Verse 9). I’m sensing surprise, excitement and determination, especially as I read later in the chapter. When Samuel tries this, he receives a rather unpleasant message from God: Eli and his family will be punished for his sons’ sinful disrespect, and his lack of discipline. The next morning, Eli is rather anxious to hear what God said to Samuel. “What did the LORD say to you? Tell me everything. And may God strike you and even kill you if you hide anything from me!” (Verse 17). I’m not personally sure how I would react if my pastor said this to me.

1 Samuel 3 is the story of a young temple servant being thrown into Israel-wide fame as a prophet. Eli, a well-respected priest, taught Samuel a small lesson in communicating with God, and in the process, was delivered a daunting message. Sometimes God speaks to us through unexpected ways, such as young children or complete strangers. God knows us, His creation, and the most effective means to talk to us and get our attention.

Do you recall hearing from God through an unexpected source? What was your reaction?

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