“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.” 7 Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. 8 A third time the Lord called, “Samuel!” 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.” 1 Samuel 3.4-10
Each time I read this story I get chills. It’s so incredibly powerful and beautiful. A young boy, committed to the Lord’s service, is visited by the Lord himself who “came and stood,” calling out. (v.10)
If I have preached this once I’ve preached it a dozen times. The three calls, the unfamiliar voice of the Lord, the experience of Eli, the readiness by young Samuel to be used however God would use him. The responses by Samuel to Eli … “Here I am, “ “Here I am, you called me,” and once again, “Here I am, you called me.” And then his response to the Lord, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
We find no ego in any of these responses. No personal ambition or ulterior motive but just a simple open slate, an empty sponge, a pure heart ready and willing do that which the Lord (or Eli) asks him to do.
The three responses are often the source of a preachers focus when looking at this passage. The first call could be sluffed off as noises in the night. Samuel goes to Eli, and neither of them think a thing about it, “I didn’t call you Samuel. Go back to bed.” The second time might have been a little more curious, “Samuel, it was not me, go back and lie down.” But the third call, Eli is fully awake and something tells him this is no night time noises or a figment of Samuel’s imagination — it is the Lord! And so on this third visit Eli, who knew the word and voice of the Lord tells Samuel what to do, “Go and lie down, if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord for your servant is listening.” It was the fourth call that God finally had his servants‘ attention and instructed him on what he was going to do.
Our assignments from God are rarely that clear! I mean, I have not heard, out loud, God’s voice. I have felt impressions, interpreted situations and circumstances, and found direction in his Scripture. I’ve had to discern God’s directive in my life. But the longer I walk with him, the more clearly “his voice” becomes.
At one point the writer says “Samuel did not know the Lord.” This is an intriguing statement. This more than suggests that God can be known. And once we know him, we know his voice, understand his word, and can say yes to his plan. (Jesus spoke about this as the sheep “knowing the voice” of their master shepherd. John 10.27)
Maybe today you do not yet know the Lord? Maybe you have not yet accepted Jesus. If this is the case, I encourage you to ask him into your heart and life this very moment. Confess your sins, receive him as Lord and King (visit https://peacewithgod.net/ for more on how to accept Jesus.)
Or maybe you know the Lord but sin has not only separated you from his voice but from knowing his plan for your life. Again, confess your sins, call out to the Lord for help — wait and hear the still small voice spoken by his Holy Spirit, delivered through his Holy Scripture, and from other godly people around you.
Eli and Samuel were both servants in the house of the Lord but because of their age, experience and maturity, they heard from the Lord differently. What is keeping God from speaking to you? What is the call upon your life and how can you enter fully into his presence and enjoy the blessing of his presence?
“O Lord God, you are good. When I fail, you remain faithful. When I fall, you pick me up. When I do not stand well on my own, you uphold me with your righteous right hand. Come now, Holy Spirit, fill me with your power and love. Turn temptation away at the door, and help me abide in your Holy Word. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen