When the voice of God reverberated through the darkness of the tabernacle for a fourth time that night, the boy Samuel gathered his courage and responded as Eli had instructed him: “ ‘speak, Lord, for Your servant hears.’ ” And God did just that, emphatically ending one of those periodic Old Testament times when “the word of the Lord was rare … there was no widespread revelation” (1 Sam. 3:1).
But it wasn’t as if the Israelites of Samuel’s time had no Word of God until He began to speak to the boy. They certainly had the five books of Moses, the beginning of the written canon of Scripture. Though these books aren’t mentioned specifically in the opening chapters of 1 Samuel, there is evidence that they were known and read. Samuel’s parents were aware of their duties as far as the worship of God was concerned (1:3, 24; 2:19). Furthermore, the people clearly understood the divine directives for presenting their offerings (2:16). And the tabernacle procedures were being maintained at least to some degree. The written Word of God was ordering the life of the nation and the faithful were striving to conform their lives to it.
And yet, there was much yet to be told of God’s plans for the redemption of His people. Therefore, God (in His time) revealed Himself to Samuel and (again in His time) to a succession of prophets, until (again in His time) He sent the greatest revelation of all, the Lord Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:1–2).
Flash forward to our own day. The church of Jesus Christ finds itself in a time when revelation is not just not “widespread” but not happening at all. However, the Word of God is not “rare”—it is abundant, for it has been gathered in the completed canon of Scripture.
Why do we so often chafe against the teaching that revelation has ceased? Perhaps it has to do with our seemingly insatiable zest for the new, the fresh, the different. Let someone proclaim a new “word from the Lord,” and most of us can’t hold back from listening.
We would do well to emulate the faithful remnant of Samuel’s early years by endeavoring to conform our lives to the already-revealed written Word of God. While many in that day were dashing off to check out the Canaanite gods, God’s people were focused on what He already had said through Moses. So we should do in this time of even greater abundance of God’s Word.