Today’s Reading: 1 Samuel 4-7
Today’s Reflection:1 Samuel 3:10
And the LORD came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.”
What is this text saying?
Young Samuel was dedicated to the service of the Lord as a child and was raised under the tutelage of the high priest Eli. While Samuel was still a boy, the Lord called to him. Not recognizing God’s voice, Samuel ran to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Eli said he hadn’t called him and told him to go back to sleep. After this happened three times, Eli realized it must be God calling to Samuel and instructed him to respond if he heard the voice again, saying “Speak, for your servant hears.” (1 Samuel 3:2-9).
Why is it important?
1 Samuel 3:1 tells us that ‘the Word of the Lord was rare in those days’ and that ‘there was no frequent vision’. God speaking directly to someone, even among the priesthood was unusual at that time, so God’s decision to speak to Samuel was very significant. The message he gave Samuel was a difficult one for him to hear, for Eli and his house were to be judged. Eli’s sons were both priests, but were also wicked men who abused their position and authority to satisfy their own greed and depravity. Even though he was the high priest, Eli did nothing to discipline or restrain his sons. As a result God decided to cut off Eli’s household and raise up a new high priest who would be faithful and obedient to Him and His law (1 Samuel 2: 27-35; 3:11-14). Ultimately Samuel would become that priest (1 Samuel 7:15).
How can I apply this?
There are three key lessons from this text:
1) We must learn how to discern God’s voice from all others. Initially Samuel assumed the voice calling to him was Eli’s. This suggests there was no particular magnificence to the voice that spoke to Samuel, nothing to immediately identify it as the voice of God. It was just a voice, perhaps like the still, small voice the prophet Elijah would hear many years later (1 Kings 19:11-13).
When God calls to us, we too can mistake His voice for someone else’s (or perhaps even worse, mistake someone else’s voice for God’s). This is one of the reasons God admonishes us to read and study His Word (2 Timothy 3:14-17). For it is not the tone or timbre of the voice that tells us it is from God, but the truth in the words that voice speaks. When we are familiar with the Word of God we learn to recognize when it is Him speaking to us.
2) We must also be careful who we allow to help us discern God’s voice. For Samuel, it was the high priest Eli who was able to consider it might be God trying to call him, and who was able to give him the correct instruction to receive the Lord’s message. But there are examples in scripture where people have tried to obscure the voice of the Lord for their own purposes (1 Kings 13:11-25). Be sure there will be circumstances in your life when you feel sure you’re hearing from God and people in your life may try to convince you otherwise for their own purposes. This is why the Word tells us to “Study to shew thyself approved unto God” so that we each will be capable of “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
3) We need to recognize that God speaks to us constantly, and in many ways. Samuel’s confusion wasn’t just a matter of mistaking a voice, but also a matter of misunderstanding the circumstances of his life. He didn’t recognize the significance of his coming to the priesthood when he did, coming of age when he did, or being called by God when he was. These God-ordained circumstances were also speaking in agreement with the voice he heard that night.
God uses a variety of ways to speak to us as well: scripture, words of wisdom from other people, memories, circumstances and events, thoughts that seemingly come to us from out of nowhere, just to name a few. A toddler may ‘speak’ to us of our utter helplessness and need to completely rely on our Heavenly Father. A broken relationship may cause us to reflect on God’s desire to restore us to right relationship with Him. Many other situations, both victories and tragedies, are opportunities to hear God speaking to us. But in order to hear God we must learn at all times to say ‘speak, for your servant hears.’
When you get that promotion, instead of patting yourself on the back as though you did it yourself, you need to say ‘speak, for your servant hears,’ and ask God how you can use this improved standing to glorify Him. And when you lose that job, instead of becoming discouraged, or getting angry at God for taking ‘your job’ away from you, you need to say ‘speak, for your servant hears,’ and ask God what you’re supposed to learn from this turn of events. In every situation, God has something to say to us if we’re only willing to recognize His authority and listen to Him.
We need to recognize God is speaking to us constantly, and learn to ask what He’s saying through the circumstances of our lives