Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD under Eli. The word of the LORD was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.
2At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; 3the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was. 4Then the LORD called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” 5and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. 6The LORD called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” 7Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, and the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him. 8The LORD called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the LORD was calling the boy. 9Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.'” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
10Now the LORD came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” 11Then the LORD said to Samuel, “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle. 12On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. 13For I have told him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. 14Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever.”
15Samuel lay there until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the LORD. Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. 16But Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” He said, “Here I am.” 17Eli said, “What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also, if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.” 18So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. Then he said, “It is the LORD; let him do what seems good to him.”
19As Samuel grew up, the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. 20And all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the LORD.
Book of Faith Devotional Questions:
What scares, confuses or challenges me in this text?
What delights me in this text?
What stories or memories does this text stir up in me?
What is God up to in this text?
This is one of my favorite call stories from the Bible. It involves two things which I think really bear a distinction: hearing and listening. Samuel hears God calling four different times. During the first three times, he hears God, but isn’t listening. He mistakes the voice of the Lord for his master, Eli. It is only with Eli’s help and discernment that he speaks the most important words of the passage; “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” Then, he listens to a message that he would rather not repeat because it is going to hurt Eli, to whom he is close. Again, it takes Eli’s help for Samuel to truly listen to what the Lord is saying, and to pass it on.
I think that we all sometimes have trouble listening. We hear the words, or the tone, and, although our ears are processing the sound, our brains refuse to make sense of it. Or we are inattentive and hear, but don’t take the time to absorb the full meaning of the words.
What happens when we don’t listen? In my experience, misunderstanding and hurt feelings can result. When my husband is trying to tell me something, and I only listen with half an ear, I am not honoring the relationship between the two of us. I care about him and therefore I care about his words. It is important that I both hear and listen and respond.
What happens when we listen to God? I believe that God is calling to us all the time. Sometimes, we hear and mistake God’s voice for something else, and in mistaking, miss the boat. Other times, our minds and lives are too busy to truly listen, and we miss the boat. But sometimes, in those holy times when we are prepared to say, “Speak, Lord, for you servant is listening,” we are called by God into his amazing work, using the gifts and talents he has given us to spread his love in our lives, in our homes, in our communities, and in our world.
During this month, all three of our churches will have annual meetings. This is a time to listen to one another, to seek to understand one another, and to discern where God is leading us in this new year. My prayer is that each of us will come to these meetings with open minds and hearts, with hearing and listening ears, and a willingness to follow where God is leading us. Speak, Lord, for your servants are listening.
Pastor Breen Marie Sipes