Last weekend my family and I were in Southern California and we went to a Lutheran church in Orange County where Christa’s brother is an elder. The sermon was on a passage from 1 Samuel which I have taught on several time and it always catches my interest when I hear it references. Perhaps you are familiar with the passage. It is 1 Samuel 3:1-10, a story in which the young child (he was probably 4-5 years old) hears The Lord calling to him for the first time and mistakes the voice of The Lord for the voice of the priest Eli. I want to reflect on this passage ax bit and then give a very pointed application.Read more: Week 3
The setting is nighttime in the dwelling place of Eli. He is old and partially blind. The lamp of God was about to be turned out. It was about to be all in darkness. And this is the time when God chose to reveal Himself to Samuel.
Three times The Lord calls to Samuel and each time he goes running to Eli, probably waking him up and asking what he wanted. The first two times Eli denies that he called Samuel and sends him back to bed. I find it to be an encouragement that God is patient with Samuel and also with us, as sometimes He has to call us several times (or maybe even more) before we end up paying attention to what God wants to say to us.
The first time that Samuel heard the voice he was up and running to Eli. And of course Eli sends Samuel back to bed, adamant that he did not call to the boy. The second time that Samuel hears the voice, the story does not say that he went running but rather simply got up and went to Eli. Maybe the boy didn’t trust what he was hearing, or what he thought he was hearing. Again, Eli says that he did not call and sends him back again…strike two.
Why the difficulty? Samuel didn’t know God yet. Even with all his service, his training and his mentoring by Eli, he still did not truly know who God was…did not know who he was in service to. A Danish writer who I like named J.P. Fokkelman said, “The knowledge of God is something you have only if God Himself divulges it to you.” There comes a time in every Christian’s life when you must grow beyond ‘childhood’ and hear God’s voice in your heart firsthand.
And then God calls again. What could Samuel do? He goes back to Eli…strike three. But Eli at this point, both physically and spiritually blind, has enough left to know something else is going on. He now knows God is at work in the young man. The veteran priest instructs the young rookie on how to receive God’s Word.
Here is how Eli instructed Samuel to hear the Word of God. Make yourself available to God (Eli told him to go lie down). Don’t presume upon the Lord and that He will speak (Eli said “If He calls you”). Respond to the Word of God (Eli told Samuel to say ‘Speak Lord). Humble yourself before God and His Word (Eli told Samuel to say ‘Your servant hears.”
The voices of all those around us…pastors, parents, spouses, children, bosses, all those we may hear on radio and television, and anyone else we may hear during the day…all those voices mean nothing for eternity unless God is speaking through them. The voice of God, speaking through His Word is truly the only voice that matters.
So here is the pointed application. When you are reading Scripture…when you are hearing a message at church…when you are in prayer…start off your time with the same words as Samuel said…”Speak Lord for Your servant hears.” That phrase is something which is going to become part of my devotional time and pray that it will be for you also.