|The boy Samuel ministered before the LORD under Eli. In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions. |
2 One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. 3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was.
4 Then the LORD called Samuel. Samuel answered, "Here I am." 5 And he ran to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me." But Eli said, "I did not call; go back and lie down." So he went and lay down.
6 Again the LORD called, "Samuel!" And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me." "My son," Eli said, "I did not call; go back and lie down." Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD: The word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.
8 The LORD called Samuel a third time, and Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me." Then Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy. 9 So Eli told Samuel, "Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, 'Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.' " So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
10 The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, "Samuel! Samuel!" Then Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant is listening." (1Samuel3:7-10)
- The Word of the Lord was rare. This was because people's hearts were far from God. The book of Judges reveals an up-and-down cycle of faithfulness and unfaithfulness to God and concludes with this sad comment: "In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit" (Jud21:25). In view of this chronic disobedience and unfaithfulness God had left the Israelites to their own devices. Reaching out to them through Samuel is an act of pure Divine Grace.
- Samuel did not yet know the Lord. This is quite a thought. He had been an answer to prayer. He had grown up in the Lord's service and in the Lord's presence but he had not yet come to an intimate personal encounter with God. Samuel did not recognise the Lord's voice.
- Samuel needed to respond - God seeks dialogue with us - He calls and waits for us to answer. Notice how patient God is - He calls three times, allowing Samuel to "get it" without overwhelming him.
- Eli's gracious wisdom. Eli makes many mistakes - especially as a dad - but he is a good mentor to Samuel. When Eli realised that God was speaking to Samuel, he could easily have tried to insert himself into the situation: "It's God speaking Samuel, let me come with you and help you understand..." But Eli has mastered one of the toughest principles of mentoring: Be willing to accept that the student may surpass the master.
There are some implications from these facts:
- When God's word is rare, it is often because society is far from God. In mercy, He still chooses to speak, but he looks for quiet, devout and faithful people. In this world it is the Hannahs and Elkanahs and their children who will encounter God's whispers. Godly families are a great gift to society.
- There is no substitute for a personal relationship and encounter with God.
- When God speaks, we should respond: Humbly and submissively. Far too often we don't listen well. Far too often we don't let God finish speaking. Samuel could have rushed to Eli: "God is speaking to me! He's saying my name! How cool is that?" But Samuel listened to all that God had to say...
- Like Eli we need to let others grow as God determines their growth.
Do you think you would recognise if God spoke to you now?
Would you be able to slow down and listen?