Summary: The call of God is what makes all the difference in our lives. We do not have to be on our death bed - or dying on a cross next to the Cross of Jesus - in order to hear His word of mercy.
HE IS CALLING YOU BY NAME
The days of the Saviour-Judges were drawing to a close and, as in our own days, “the word of the LORD was rare” (1 Samuel 3:1). There was a dearth in the land, but not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the word of God (Amos 8:11). For the present, civil and religious power resided in a declining priesthood - but in time this would give way to a new order of prophets, then a new order of kings - culminating in the manifestation the King of kings.
1. THE CALL OF GOD (1 Samuel 3:1-8)
The name of Samuel means “the LORD hears” (1 Samuel 1:20). Eli’s name means “my God” - a name which appears again in Jesus’ cry of dereliction from the Cross (Matthew 27:46). There is a touch of irony in the fact that Samuel heard the LORD, but thought it was the old priest.
Although he was employed in the temple, Samuel did not yet know the LORD (1 Samuel 3:7). Churches sometimes do not lack workers, but working in a church is not what puts us on a right standing with God. It is necessary to have a personal encounter with the Lord.
Length of service is not what commends us to God, either. Eli, the old priest, was failing in his sight (1 Samuel 3:2). This was true physically, but also to a certain extent spiritually. Eli’s sons were turning out bad, and he chose to turn a blind eye to their sin (1 Samuel 3:13).
The call of God is what makes all the difference in our lives. We don’t have to be on our death bed - or dying on a cross next to the Cross of Jesus (Luke 23:42-43) - in order to hear His word of mercy. Young people, we are exhorted to ‘remember our Creator in the days of our youth’ (Ecclesiastes 12:1). Older people, it is not too late to ‘seek the LORD while He may be found’ (Isaiah 55:6).
Mercifully, the LORD called young Samuel “before the lamp of God went out” (1 Samuel 3:3). This is not only a call to salvation, but also a call to a specific service. There is plenty of work to be done in God’s vineyard, but the labourers are few (Matthew 9:37).
2. THE RIGHT RESPONSE (1 Samuel 3:9-10)
Although he was losing his spiritual perceptiveness, Eli at last realised - after his sleep had been interrupted the third time - that it was the LORD who was calling Samuel (1 Samuel 3:8). Even in his spiritual drowsiness, the gift of discernment had not yet quite passed from him. We are reminded of another high priest who, solely on account of his office, prophesied things which were beyond his understanding (John 11:49-52). Sometimes the truth comes out of unworthy lips.
Three times Samuel had run to Eli. As far as the boy was concerned, since he did not know the LORD, he was being obedient. Every time his name had been called, he had dutifully run to his master saying, “Here I am!”
Now at last Eli gave him instructions in how, and to whom, rightly to respond: “Speak LORD; for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:9). At the fourth call, Samuel responded, “Speak, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10). Samuel did not at this point mention the name of the LORD.
We must test the voices we hear, in order to discern whether they are from God (1 John 4:1). Perhaps Samuel was still unsure of this whisper in the night. Or perhaps he feared to take the name of the LORD upon his lips, in case he spoke unworthily.
The right response to the call of God is the willing response. The voice which the disciples heard in the mount of transfiguration instructed us to listen to Jesus (Mark 9:7). The mother of Jesus rightly advised the servants at the wedding feast to ‘do whatever he tells you’ (John 2:5).
The Good Shepherd is calling us by name (John 10:3). I wonder what specific service He is calling us to today, and what our response shall be? Speak Lord, for your servant is listening… ‘Here am I; send me’ (Isaiah 6:8).