1The boy Samuel ministered before the LORD under Eli. In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions. 2 One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. 3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the house of the LORD, where the ark of God was. 4 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."
Thoughts of verse
What does it mean to be called by God? Is it something that happens only to a few, or is it part of our lives as Christians?
Samuel lives in a precarious time when "the word of the LORD was rare" (verse 1). This situation continues the problem from the end of Judges, where "all the people did what was right in their own eyes" (Judges 21:25). Indeed, 1 Samuel 2 speaks of how Eli's sons did what was right in their own eyes in their work as priests (1 Samuel 2:11-17). The times are as dark as the night that falls at the beginning of the story.
The boy, Samuel, is bedded down in the temple with the ark of the covenant while Eli slept in another room. The boy hears a voice calling and three times arises and goes to Samuel to ask what he wants. Meanwhile, we know that it is God calling the boy, but he does not. Even Eli does not understand what is happening right away. Eventually, however, Eli tells the boy to speak to the Lord. The lectionary reading ends at verse ten with Samuel doing as Eli told him.
There are many voices competing for our attention and how many of us can say that we really know God well enough to recognize a word as being from God or someone else? There is one thing we can see clearly. The overwhelming witness of the prophets is that God has no tolerance for those who prey on the weak, who abuse their power, or who eat their fill while others are hungry. Perhaps the difficulty of this message is how easily it can apply to us.
Why does the passage unabashedly display the full humanity within one of Israel’s pivotal prophets? It helps us relate to the struggles of our own communities as they walk with God. It helps us relate the biblical texts to our own lives.
The word of the Lord is precious. But instead of saying “Here I am,” perhaps we can quietly ask God to “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
We have witness when God’s vision and call are getting executed. In the words of Nelson Mandela, “It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.”
Father, thank You for the Holy Spirit who is my helper in this life. I choose to open my heart to Your Word to receive power so that I can walk and live in the victory You have prepared for me in Jesus’ name. Amen.