This past Sunday, the 1st-4th graders read the story of the Lord calling Samuel (1
Samuel 3:1-10). As I taught it in small groups myself, I realized for the first time that I
may have missed very significant details.
You remember the story....Samuel had been taken by Hannah, his mom, to live and
serve in the tabernacle. A priest named Eli was given charge of him to train and raise
Every night the priest slept in the Holy Place with the lamp burning. He was right
outside of the Holy of Holies where the ark of God resided. The Ark of the Covenant
was the place of God’s presence. Just imagine falling asleep each night in close
proximity the the very presence of the God who created all things and had performed
mighty miracles for His people! And in the very same room with you is the beautiful
golden lampstand with seven burning lights which reflected on the shiny gold of the
other items in that room as well. Samuel slept somewhere nearby outside the tent.
After about 7 or 8 years of following this routine, Samuel is awakened one night by a
voice calling his name. Thinking Eli must be needing his help (Eli is about 98 years old
and almost blind at this time), Samuel quickly runs to him. Eli sends Samuel back to
bed, telling him that he did not call him.
This happens two more times before Eli considers that God must be speaking to
Samuel. Eli then instructs Samuel to reply and listen to God. Samuel’s now famous
reply to the Lord was, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
As I taught and have reread this story many times since, several questions come to
- Why was the Word of the Lord rare in those days?
- Why did God mention where they were sleeping?
- What’s the deal with the lamp still burning?
- Why did it take three times for Eli to consider God might be speaking to Samuel?
As these questions roll around in my brain, I am reminded that nothing is in God’s Word
by accident. If that is true, then the answers to these questions could be significant and
even timely for me.
So I have been thinking and researching and praying over this story that I have heard
hundreds of times and have told almost as many.
You have to back up for the answer to the first question....One of the reasons God’s
word was rare is because no one was listening! The people whose attention and heart He
wanted were not paying attention! God had chosen Eli’s family to be His priests, but Eli
was not listening to God. His actions showed that he was not honoring God either. His
boys and what they wanted had become more important than keeping his commitment
and that of his fathers before him.
And it is important to know where they are resting at night, so that we know that
although Eli’s heart had wandered from the Lord, God was nearby. He had not moved!
The burning lamp was yet another reminder of God and His Spirit being with His people
So it would seem that Eli, having lived in the tabernacle his whole life residing in the
very presence of God and His Spirit, would be the first to recognize the voice of God.
But he didn’t, probably because he didn’t expect to. And he had failed to teach Samuel
to expect it as well.
The presence of the same Holy God now resides in me and every other person who
believes and follows Christ. Yet how often do I let my child and his desires take
precedence over God and His desires? So close.... yet so far sometimes. But it is not
God who has moved. It is me not paying attention. And when I am not paying attention,
I fail to teach my child to pay attention.
The truth is that Samuel should have recognized the voice of the Lord the first time. He
should have been expecting God to speak to him. But no one had taught him. He had
seen no such example.
God does not reserve His truth or revelation for old people. He has much to say to all of
His children, regardless of age.
I resolve, with the help of the LORD and the by the power of His Spirit residing in me, to
listen more attentively expecting to hear from my Father. I further resolve to teach my
child to do the same. May the Word of the Lord not be rare in my home!
“Speak even now, O LORD, for your servant is listening!”