Summary: A short talk given at an early morning communion service. Samuel was young, but his first task after coming to know the Lord was to speak hard words from God to Eli (his mentor!) Will we also speak the truth, in love, to others?
Samuel was a child, with priestly responsibilities (an interesting fact!) and he was being mentored by Eli in the Temple. Jesus primarily focused upon 12 men. Who has God entrusted to you, to teach and train in the ways of the Lord?
“In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions” (3:1). I wonder if, like me, you long for more visions – more prophetic revelation from God – here at Christ Church. God speaking clearly; God being heard; and God being responded to. Do you want to hear from - and respond to - the Lord?
“The lamp of God had not yet gone out” (3:3). So it was not yet morning because the candle would only be extinguished at dawn, and the Lord called Samuel three times (3:4, 6 and 8). Each time he felt sure his mentor Eli had called him and each time he got up good naturedly, saying, “Here I am” (3:5, 6 and 8).
I don’t know about you but I’m not too good at being disturbed during the night. I was not great at getting up for my three children when they were babies and I’m not keen on getting up during the night; but I know there are times when God has awoken me, sometimes to speak quietly to my heart, sometimes placing a name on my mind – someone to pray for.
Initially neither Samuel nor Eli is aware that God is waking up Samuel - who in turn is waking up Eli; but neither of them seems perturbed at being woken; and on the third occasion Eli realises it is the Lord (3:8-9). I think it is interesting that Samuel had been ministering before the Lord (3:1) but “Samuel did not yet know the Lord. The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him” (3:7). Serving does not automatically mean we know the Lord, but it can prepare us to know him! Someone once said, “What do you love most? Are you in love with the work of the Lord, or are you in love with the Lord of the work?”
So, until this point Samuel had been ministering – doing the Lord’s work – but he did not yet know the Lord. Once Eli realised it was the Lord calling Samuel he told Samuel how to respond, and Samuel obeyed Eli’s instructions. Well, he almost obeyed! Instead of saying “Speak Lord for your servant is listening” (3:9) as instructed, he neglected to say Lord! Samuel simply responded “Speak for your servant is listening” (3:10). The Bible doesn’t directly tell us why, but I think it is because Samuel did not yet know the Lord, reminding us that it is a relationship with the Lord that leads us to know that He is the Lord.
Isn’t it lovely that the Lord came and stood there in person (3:10), calling Samuel as before, and isn’t it good to know that the Lord was calling before Samuel actually knew him. I think we should take courage from this when praying for people who don’t yet know Him. The Lord keeps calling and keeps knocking when his voice may not be recognised (c/f Rev 3:20).
But what about Samuel? What was heroic about this episode? His heroism was shown in the morning when he “opened the doors of the house of the Lord” (3:15), but he was not a swashbuckling hero from comics and films and make believe. He was a genuine hero. He was “afraid to tell Eli the vision” he had received from God (3:15), but when Eli charged him to speak the truth (3:17) “Samuel told him everything, hiding nothing from him” (3:18).
For the purposes of today I am not going to focus on the vision God gave to Samuel. Our focus lies in the fact that Samuel spoke everything that the Lord gave him, even though at times he was afraid. I know that is a personal challenge to me and it will be to some of you too. God’s word for Eli was hard! Eli had done nothing to restrain his sons from doing evil and so judgement was coming to his family. Imagine being Samuel! He was young. He had just heard from God for the first time. He had a hard message for Eli.
He was afraid to deliver the message. I think I would be too! Yet he told [Eli] everything, hiding nothing from him” (3:18); and because Eli was receptive to the word of the Lord, he accepted it.
We will not always be greeted with acceptance when we speak the words God give to us. We may be afraid, but like the disciples of Jesus in the New Testament we can be sure that in difficult situations the Lord will grant to us “words and wisdom” (Luke 21:15).