By Al R. Hodges
Retired IMB Missionary
Focal Passage: 1 Samuel 3: 1-10, 17-21
Samuel was a boy of about 12 when he heard God’s call. Youth is the best time for a person to hear God’s voice. As a boy, he ministered to the Lord in the tabernacle by helping Eli, the old priest (I Samuel 3:1). He probably swept the floors or did other chores. When children are in church, their heart is more apt to hear and obey God when He calls.
The story of Samuel’s call underlines for us that God will use those who are dedicated to Him, even though they may be young. It also shows that when we do not live for Him, He will not use us. Eli had been the priest in charge for many years. Yet he honored his sons, Hophni and Phinehas in their wickedness, more than he honored the Lord (I Samuel 2:27-29). It is no wonder that “the Word of the Lord was rare in those days” (v. 1). Eli and his sons had miserably failed to live for God before the people. We must keep vigilance to obey the Lord, especially if we are teachers of the Word. The Apostle Paul said, “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection lest when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (I Corinthians 9:27).
Eli’s usefulness to the Lord was quickly fading. He was very old. His eyes were becoming dim. Yet, “before the lamp of God had gone out,” God called Samuel (vv. 2-3).
God’s call is clear and unmistakable (v. 4). Samuel had never heard God’s voice (v. 7), so thinking Eli had called, he went to the old priest who was sleeping. The first two times, Eli told him to go back and lie down, he hadn’t called him. The third time Eli understood that the Lord was calling the boy. “Go back and lie down. If you hear His voice again, say ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening’ ” (vv. 4-9).
When God called again, Samuel followed Eli’s instruction. “Speak, for your servant is listening” (v. 10). God told Samuel that He was about to do “all that I have sworn to the house of Eli …” (v. 13, I Samuel 2:27-36).
Eli was desperate to know what God had said (vv. 17-18). Had God confirmed the prophecy received earlier (I Samuel 2:27-36)? Indeed He had. Eli’s resigned response was to bow to the will of the Almighty (v. 18). “It is the Lord. Let Him do what seems good to Him.” Here was a turning point. A brighter day was coming!
Samuel grew in the Lord because He listened to and obeyed the Lord’s Word (v. 19). To the degree we obey the Lord’s Word we grow in Him. We will become increasingly usable in His work. The news spread throughout Israel from Dan to Beersheba (the whole country) that Samuel was God’s prophet (v. 20). Most importantly, “the Lord appeared again in Shiloh … the Lord revealed Himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the Word of the Lord” (v. 21). The Lord desires to be seen and known by all peoples. He reveals Himself through His Word using those who are obedient to His call.