Do you remember the story of Samuel? Come on now, if you ever went to Sunday School you colored a page or two that showed Samuel mistakenly running to Eli when it was actually the Lord who had called out to him. He didn’t recognize God’s voice. I’ve personally probably heard or read it twenty-five times or more.
A couple of weeks ago I stumbled upon the story again, but for some reason when I read it there were certain portions that stood out to me as if they were in bold print.
Hannah was a woman who had been unable to have children. She prayed and prayed to the Lord for a child and promised that if He would in fact give her a child that she would dedicate him to the Lord.
Hannah had a son named Samuel (meaning: because I asked the Lord for him) and she took him to live in the House of the Lord under a man by the name of Eli.
1 Samuel 2: 21 Meanwhile, the boy Samuel grew up in the presence of the LORD.
He literally grew up in the Tabernacle near the “Lamp of God”. Could anyone actually be any closer to the Lord? For us in the present day it would be like living inside a church and never leaving. Everything we knew would be about the Lord (assuming we are at a church where the Holy Spirit actually resided and the work of God was being accomplished).
Samuel literally lived and breathed the Word of God.
1 Samuel 2: 26 And the boy Samuel continued to grow in stature and in favor with the LORD and with men.
In other words, God’s blessing was on Samuel.
1 Samuel 3 1 Meanwhile, the boy Samuel served the Lord by assisting Eli. Now in those days messages from the Lord were very rare, and visions were quite uncommon.
Sadly, this reminds me of today. True messages from the Lord are rare and very few people receive true visions of the Lord.
2 One night Eli, who was almost blind by now, had gone to bed.
I don’t only see this passage as God explaining that Eli’s eyesight had become poor due to old age, to me (and I do not claim to be a Biblical scholar) this also speaks to the fact that after many of years of serving the Lord but also accepting the sin of those around him, Eli wasn’t seeing the Lord as he once had.
Eli had allowed himself to become surrounded by people (his sons and other priests) who had no regard for the Lord and even after God had sent people to warn Eli, he failed to act. So, Eli didn’t quite “see” the Lord as he once had.
3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, aka: the presence of God was still there among the people although it wasn’t as obvious (through visions and messages) v 3 continued: and Samuel was sleeping in the Tabernacle[a] near the Ark of God.
Again, Samuel is close to God – in His presence and in His favor.
Okay, here is where it really gets good!
4 Suddenly the Lord called out, “Samuel!”
“Yes?” Samuel replied. “What is it?”
5 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.
6 Then the Lord called out again, “Samuel!” Again Samuel got up and went to Eli. “Here I am. Did you call me?”
“I didn’t call you, my son,” Eli said. “Go back to bed.”
7 Samuel did not yet know the Lord because he had never had a message from the Lord before.
Did you get that or should I repeat it again? “Samuel did not yet know the Lord”. . . Here he’d grown up in the presence of the Lord, watched others as they served the Lord, he probably served the Lord himself but yet he still didn’t KNOW him!
God even had a call on Samuel’s life (he found favor in God’s eyes) yet Samuel didn’t KNOW him! No wonder he didn’t recognize God’s voice – he didn’t know God – how could he recognize His voice if he didn’t truly know Him?
Please tell me that this is hitting you like it hit me!
I mean come on, how common is this scenario today? People grow up in church, they pray before meals, they serve in the name of God – heck, they may even do ministry in the name of God, but for many of those who do all of that – they don’t really even know the Lord and wouldn’t know His voice if He screamed in their ear. God could call their name over and over but they would miss it. [I am speaking to all of us – yes, you too!]
8 So the Lord called a third time, and once more Samuel got up and went to Eli. “Here I am. Did you call me?”
Then Eli realized it was the Lord who was calling the boy.
Although Eli wasn’t as close to Lord as he had been, he could still recognize the call of God. May I also note that I find it sad that although both Eli and Samuel were in the Tabernacle, God was now choosing to speak to Samuel rather than Eli. The Lord was beginning to work in the life of someone who would listen to His voice and act on his instruction.
9 So he said to Samuel, “Go and lie down again, and if someone calls again, say, ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went back to bed.
10 And the Lord came and called as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel replied, “Speak, your servant is listening.”
Oh how that last sentence brings tears to my eyes. “Speak, your servant is listening.” So many times we want God to speak, but we don’t really want to hear what He has to say.
I feel like a lot of times that’s why we go to church and serve but make the choice not to truly know Him – we’re afraid of what He might say to us, of what He might point out and of what He might ask us to do if we actually acknowledge hearing Him. (I remember being afraid that He would ask me to go to Africa. I finally listened and guess where I ended up going? Uh yeah, Africa. Twice.)
We have to be courageous and full of faith in order to be able to truthfully say: “Speak Lord! I, your servant, am listening. I’m willing to hear whatever it is you have to say and I will obey whatever it is you tell me to do.”
If you read on in the story, when Samuel listens to God what he hears isn’t warm and fuzzy. God says some pretty scary stuff – He can do the same with us.
When we finally listen, what we hear may not be pretty but if God’s speaking it must be pretty darned important.
Don’t just come to know who the Lord is, come to know Him. In a crowd of voices, learn to recognize His voice above all others. And last but not least, be willing to act on whatever it is that He whispers in your ear.
You never know what He will use you to do – you may just save a nation.