Day 3 — Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord in the presence of Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision. At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his own place. The 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. Then the Lord called Samuel, and he said, “Here I am!”  and 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. And the Lord called again, “Samuel!” and Samuel arose 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.”  Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy.  Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
– 1 Samuel 3:1-9

This biblical story is set in a city called Shiloh, a major religious center in ancient Israel. It housed the sacred tabernacle or the tent of meeting, which the Israelites had carried for years through the wilderness. The tabernacle related to the holy presence of God dwelling with the children of Israel through that long journey.

The story of Samuel begins when a broken-hearted childless mother called Hannah, offers up a desperate prayer at Shiloh. The prayer for a child is answered and she keeps an oath she has made. It is to bring her boy Samuel back to Shiloh, to be raised there to serve the Lord. Samuel was introduced as a young child to the posture of obedience set by the example of his own mother.

However, in this sacred city, there was a somber problem. God’s presence and word was not easily apparent or heard as it should have been.

Eli, the governing priest at the time, was old and  frail and had lost all control of his sons who indulged in brazen sins at the revered site of the temple precincts. The future priesthood had become utterly decadent.

 As the lamp of God in the temple flickered dimly one night, the young Samuel, probably barely 12 years old, lay down near the chamber of Eli, in close proximity to the holiest of places. His desire to serve faithfully without grumbling is exemplified by his response to a voice calling out his name in the night. The voice sounded familiar. It was like Eli’s. Eli needed his help. ‘I must  get out of bed and run and go to him’, was Samuel’s instant response. There wasn’t a note of fear or reluctance in his obedience, only an unhindered willingness to serve immediately. The temptation to keep sleeping and ignore the voice that called out was not one that he yielded to. His steady reaction was to keep being attentive and respond actively. 

As one follows the account, it turns out that it was God’s voice calling Samuel’s name. Samuel needed help from his spiritual mentor Eli, to recognise and  respond directly to the voice of God. This eventually led to young Samuel having to carry weighty news to take back to Eli. Despite this, he had to continue to learn to be resolute in his obedience. 

But that is the next part of the story!  

What can we learn about obedience to God in this early life of Samuel?

  • Samuel knew from the start that he was set apart to obey and serve God gladly. His mother would have taught him that God was good, faithful and to be wholly trusted.
  • As God’s children we are set apart to do the same, i.e., trust and obey a good God.
  • Samuel ministered faithfully to the Lord in the presence of Eli.
    Faithful obedience to the things of God and spiritual accountability stirs God’s heart to communicate. Are our responsibilities and activities in line with what God wants? Do we have mature spiritual mentors who will help us discern God’s voice and direction for our lives? 
  • The spiritual state was dire as Samuel was growing up.
    The comforts and distractions of this world can dull our hearing. The evil around us can be discouraging. We can be deceived into thinking that God doesn’t see, care or is powerless to act. Samuel maintained obedience in the midst of a culture of disobedience.
  • Samuel positioned himself near the presence of God ready to hear and obey.
    We need to place ourselves in a secluded space to listen out for God. A willingness to obey may mean foregoing even seemingly needed comforts. This requires discipline that is not easy but yields the breakthroughs we need for God to act. 
  • Samuel was a child but that didn’t stop God from speaking a grown up message.
    Our Christian maturity is marked by our pure obedience to God. We can profess to be mature Christians but if we are not simply obedient to God we are deluding ourselves. Humble obedience will lead us into a deeper relationship with God.

God, I am set apart to love and obey You. Help me be simply obedient to You. I commit to positioning myself in a space where I can hear You and run into Your presence as you call my name. Speak O Lord I am listening. 

Chitra Kovoor
Ministry Fellow, Christian Union Lux (Yale University)

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