1 Samuel 3.1-20
Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.
At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; 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. Then the Lord called, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ and he said, ‘Here I am!’ and ran to Eli, and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ But he said, ‘I did not call; lie down again.’ So he went and lay down. The Lord called again, ‘Samuel!’ Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ But he said, ‘I did not call, my son; lie down again.’ Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, ‘Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” ’ So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.’ Then the Lord said to Samuel, ‘See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle. On that day I will fulfil against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. For I have told him that I am about to punish his house for ever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering for ever.’
Samuel lay there until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the Lord. Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. But Eli called Samuel and said, ‘Samuel, my son.’ He said, ‘Here I am.’ Eli said, ‘What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also, if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.’ So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. Then he said, ‘It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him.’
As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the Lord.
What did you hear in this story? what struck you, or captured your imagination? What questions are raised as you read?
Samuel, you may recall, is Hannah’s son. Hannah was barren, while her rival wife Penninah had many children and mocked her for barrenness. Hannah prayed and prayed, bargained with God, and ultimately gave birth to a son–whom she then returned to the temple, as per her prayer. (You can read more about this saga in 1 Samuel chapters 1 and 2.) Now Samuel is beginning to grow up, but he is still young. The priest, Eli, hasn’t exactly been the most responsible priest ever, and his sons are even worse.
There’s a great play on words in the Hebrew here–it’s slightly apparent in the English, but not as obvious. Eli’s sight was waning, his eyes grew dim…he could not perceive…not just his physical eyes, but his spiritual eyes. He couldn’t see what was going on in the temple, he couldn’t see what was going on with his sons, he couldn’t see what was happening with this voice calling to Samuel, he couldn’t see what was happening to his people that he was supposed to shepherd. “see” is both physical and metaphorical here–Eli was blind and blinded. And he had obviously not done a fabulous job as a teacher either, since Samuel had no idea what was going on and had not yet been introduced to the word of the Lord! But after a few times, Eli began to see, and he gave Samuel some great advice. “just say, “speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”
Have you ever heard something and been unsure if it was God or not? How do you discern between the call of others, the call of your own desires, and the call of God? What people do you have around you with whom you can check out your sense of God’s call?
Do you identify more with Eli or with Samuel?
Have you ever tried to pray simply by saying “speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” and then wait to see what happens?
Someone has said that a large percentage of any task or relationship is just showing up. That’s true of our relationship with God, too. “here I am” is a great way to begin–just be there. How can you just be there–whether in your prayer life, in worship, or in opportunities to learn with others?