The boy Samuel was serving God under Eli’s direction. This was at a time when the revelation of God was rarely heard or seen. One night, Eli was sound asleep (his eyesight was very bad—he could hardly see). It was well before dawn; the sanctuary lamp was still burning. Samuel was still in bed in the Temple of God, where the Chest of God rested.
Then God called out, “Samuel, Samuel!”
Samuel answered, “Yes? I’m here.” Then he ran to Eli saying, “I heard you call. Here I am.”
Eli said, “I didn’t call you. Go back to bed.” And so, he did.
God called again, “Samuel, Samuel!”
Samuel got up and went to Eli, “I heard you call. Here I am.”
Again, Eli said, “Son, I didn’t call you. Go back to bed.” (This all happened before Samuel knew God for himself. It was before the revelation of God had been given to him personally.)
God called again, “Samuel!”—the third time! Yet again Samuel got up and went to Eli, “Yes? I heard you call me. Here I am.”
That’s when it dawned on Eli that God was calling the boy. So, Eli directed Samuel, “Go back and lie down. If the voice calls again, say, ‘Speak, God. I’m your servant, ready to listen.’” Samuel returned to his bed.
First Samuel 3: 1-9 The Message
Samuel was a young boy, living in the temple as a charge of the Priest Eli. Samuel’s mother Hannah had been so grateful for his birth, after years of struggling with infertility, that she dedicated Samuel to the Lord’s work. She did this even before he was born! From a very young age, the boy Samuel lived in the temple. Each year, his mother would visit him and bring him a new, larger robe.
There are several different ways we can look at this story. It is a story of God calling Samuel. Samuel was not yet a priest, but God spoke to him. God spoke through the priests during that time period. Because Samuel listened, he was able to go on to serve God, eventually becoming a priest.
Another way of looking at the story is to see it as a sign of hope. Even though the revelation of God was rarely seen or heard in Eli’s day, that does not mean God was absent. God was still there, calling people like Samuel to holy work. This may be hopeful for us in our day, a reminder that even when we feel the revelation of God is rarely seen or heard, God still speaks and acts in our world today, just as He did in Eli’s day.
This is also a story of the passing of the torch from one generation to another. Eli had served many years faithfully as a priest. Now, God is calling a boy named Samuel. Eli instructs Samuel as to how he should respond the next time he hears the Lord’s call. Samuel heeds Eli’s words, and ends up hearing a vision from the Lord. By teaching Samuel how to listen to the Lord, Eli is passing on his own wisdom.
Eli and Samuel make quite a pair. Eli is old, and barely able to see, yet wise in the ways of the Lord. Samuel is a boy: eager, but inexperienced. Fortunately, Eli decides to mentor his young charge Samuel, passing on his wisdom. The result benefits both of them.
In a way, this is a beautiful story of letting go, and letting God. Eli did not let his ego get in the way of the Lord's work. He was not afraid to have God speak to others besides himself. Eli had spiritual wisdom and knowledge from his years of serving as a priest in the temple. He realized the power of God’s word, and did not want to shield Samuel from the blessing of hearing the Lord.
Although Eli was advanced in years, he was still an instrument of the Lord. God is never done with using us. This story helps us to understand that no matter our age, we all have spiritual wisdom and knowledge to pass on to others. Let us pass along our faith in the Lord…
Give us ears to hear Your word to us. Let us also be attentive to those around us, helping them to hear Your word to them. May we never turn a deaf ear to You, or Your word. We pray this prayer in Jesus’ name.
One of Jeana’s and my favorite hymns is “Here I am Lord”. It is a hymn of listening and responding. It is a hymn for all of us:
I, the Lord of sea and sky, I have heard My people cry. All who dwell in deepest sin, My hand will save. I who made the stars of night, I will make their darkness bright. Who will bear my light to them? Whom shall I send?
Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord? I have heard you calling in the night. I will go Lord, If you lead me. I will hold Your people in my heart.
I, the Lord of snow and rain, I have borne My people’s pain. I have wept for love of them, They turn away. I will break their hearts of stone, Give them hearts for love alone. I will speak My word to them. Whom shall I send?
I, the Lord of wind and flame, I will tend the poor and lame. I will set a feast for them, My hand will save. Finest bread I will provide Till their hearts be satisfied. I will give My life to them. Whom shall I send?