Samuel settled in for the evening at his favorite spot, right next to the ark of God in the temple. His thoughts when to the last meeting he shared with his mother. She visited once a year and always brought him a new robe. As much as his heart longed to be with his family Samuel knew he belonged in the temple serving God, if for no other reason than to honor his parents who dedicated him for this service.
He looked at the Ark and smiled. A sense of purpose filled him whenever he was near it.
Samuel sat up expecting to see Eli standing in the room. Nobody was there so he ran to him. “You called for me?”
Eli’s prone body jerked. “No, I didn’t. Go back and lie down.”
Samuel returned to the inner temple. There was no place for someone to hide. He looked behind the Ark carefully avoiding contact. Then he laid back down and returned to his thoughts.
He ran back to Eli. “You called for me?”
Eli let out a sigh. “You have been nothing but a joy since your parents left you here, but tonight you’re becoming a nuisance. Go back to sleep.”
Samuel slowly walked back and lay down. His eyes were wide open.
He returned to his elder’s room. “I know I heard my name called and there’s no one else in the temple, so you must have called for me. Here I am.”
Eli rolled on his back. A tear rolled to his ear. He stuck an arm out. “Help me up, Samuel.”
As Samuel pulled the large man up Eli sat on the edge of his bed and wept into his hands. He looked up. “Forgive me, God. I should have recognized it was You before this.”
Eli’s hands took a firm grip on Samuel’s shoulders. “The next time you hear your name called say, ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening’.”
Samuel nodded. Eli lay back down and let out a deep breath.
Samuel went back and allowed the tingling in his body to subside.
He sat up and saw someone standing next to the Ark. “Speak, Lord, I am your servant.”
“I am about to get the whole nation’s attention by passing My judgement on Eli’s family. He failed to restrain his sons from doing evil in My house, so they must pay dearly. You will be my man from now on.”
When the man vanished Samuel was left alone for the night with the news and the weight.
The eventual crowing of a rooster signaled the start of another day, so Samuel went about his normal task of opening the doors of the temple.
Eli caught up to him at the last door. “Samuel! Samuel!”
Samuel stood straight and swallowed. “Here I am.”
The old man homed in on the voice. “What did He say to you? Don’t hide anything from me or He’ll deal severely with you.”
Samuel’s heart broke as he shared every last detail.
Eli nodded and looked down. “He is the Lord. He will do what is best.”
WOW! Talk about a turning point in someone’s life.
Young Samuel’s life was already anything but normal. The first three chapters of the book of 1 Samuel tell us his story. His conception was an answer to an earnest prayer. His mother followed through on her commitment to give this child to God for His service. She leaves him at the temple to be used by God there. Eli was probably grateful to be given another chance by God to raise up a man who would follow Him with all he had.
I see three lessons coming to Samuel on that fateful night:
1. He learned to discern the voice of God. 1 Samuel 3:1 tells us that the word of the Lord was rare in that time. No wonder Eli didn’t recognize God’s calling to Samuel in the night. It had been so long since he had heard it he was lost at the possibility of it.
Once Samuel was taught about God talking to select people he knew he had to listen to it in sheer obedience. Not listening to it was not an option.
2. He saw the consequences of disobedience to God. I’m sure Eli did his best to keep the boy sheltered from the activities of his natural-born sons, but, Samuel would have known that they were committing acts of sin in God’s eyes. The temple wasn’t so big that he wouldn’t see what was happening. God’s judgement on them would hit Samuel harder than anybody else, and it hit hard on the entire nation of Israel.
3. He had a difficult first test as to what to do with God’s word to him. Eli’s curiosity wouldn’t let Samuel hold the news in for very long. His insistence that Samuel tell him everything had to be the most difficult task in his young life. Eli must have become a Dad to Samuel, the man who would teach him all he needed to know to function properly in the world. How do you get the courage to inform someone so close that God is about to end his dynasty forever? Passing this test served Samuel well throughout his life.
So, what about you? Have you heard from God? Fortunately you don’t have to try to sleep next to the Ark of God in the temple to hear Him today. The Holy Spirit has a different function now. He lives in each of us waiting to help us become better citizens of this world and the future Kingdom. Accepting Jesus’ gift of a new life because of what He accomplished on the cross is the first step.
Reading the Bible is the important next step. The Bible is a book unlike any other book. It is the Word of God, breathed into existence by Him.
The Word of God is closer than you thought it was.
I’ll see you later. Wade