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January 2006

The boy Samuel ministered before the LORD under Eli. In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions.

It was quiet in the temple.

He had been here almost 12 years.

Ever since his mother has brought him to the head Rabbi named Eli…

After she had presented him to God’s keeping…

After she had been frantic that she might never bear a son… and had been given Samuel in response to her prayers…

Samuel had lived here in the temple.


Waiting to learn from his rabbi and teacher Eli.

Waiting for something to happen.

For a long time nothing did.

Nothing worth reporting.

Nothing that brought honor and glory to God.

Oh… there was the riotous living by Eli’s sons that were the talk of the country and the disgrace of the temple council.

God had decreed their death.

But nothing had really happened.

Nothing was said.

The boy Samuel ministered before the LORD under Eli. In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions.

No one heard God.

Neither Eli nor his Sons heard God.

Samuel did not hear God.

Until one night.

One late night in the temple.

4 Then the LORD called Samuel.
Samuel answered, "Here I am."


What did he hear?

Who was calling his name?

He raised up… listened.

Someone called his name.

It must be Eli.

What did his teacher want at this hour of the night?

Samuel got up to find out.

5 And he ran to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me."
But Eli said, "I did not call; go back and lie down." So he went and lay down.

The rabbi’s voice was understanding.

Samuel was new… alone.

He probably missed his mother.

Many times at night… when Eli was younger… he too had heard voices in the temple.

He had even prayed and listened to God’s word for him and for his sons and for his people.

But now he heard nothing.

And with his vision going… he saw even less.

But he understood the boy’s nervous mistake in thinking that Eli had summoned him.

He gently sent him back to bed.

Embarrassed and tired… Samuel lay back on his mat to go back to sleep.

Sleep would not come.

The voice calling his name did.

Again the LORD called, "Samuel!

Samuel looked around again to hear who was calling his name.

No one was there.

It must be Eli.

The boy went again to his teacher.

Again he was told that Eli had not called him.

My son," Eli said, "I did not call; go back and lie down."

The tone was direct but fatherly.

The boy just needed to calm down.

He would feel better in the morning.

Samuel was not so sure.

He did not doubt that Eli was being truthful when the rabbi said that he had not called him.

But he was certain that someone had called him.

But who?

Who wanted him?

And why?

Maybe he had more to learn before he knew who was calling him?

7 Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD : The word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him

Only if you knew God could you discern his voice.

Only when you had put your trust in God could you know God’s words when God called.

Only in humbleness and faithfulness could you understand what God was saying.

Maybe it would take time for Samuel to learn.

Time to grow in faith and ministry.

Time to learn the gifts of discernment so he would know when God was speaking to him…

Eli went back to sleep.

Samuel went back to sleep.

God did not.

8 The LORD called Samuel a third time,

Again he heard the voice call out his name.

He sat up and peered once again into the emptiness of his room.

It had to be Eli.

Who else could it be?

Samuel was afraid to approach Eli a 3rd time.

His teacher had been patient the previous two time:

How would he react now?

Samuel was in for a shock.

So was the old rabbi.

For now Eli knew full well who Samuel had heard.

It was not the boy’s overactive imagination.

It was no strange noise and echoes of the night.

It was something… someone more terrifying.

Then Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy. 9

Eli might have been embarrassed that it was the boy who was the recipient of the divine call.

Or jealous.

Or angry that God had by-passed the rabbi to talk to his student.

Eli knew better.

Eli knew that his God was a God who called a Hebrew murder suspect on the run to confront the Pharaoh.

This God called a judge to march against the enemy with torches and trumpets.

This God would one day call a rail splitting country lawyer and a southern Black preacher to do God’s work.

So Eli is not the least surprised that God by-passes the hierarchical structures and traditions…

to call out to a young scared novice who has no idea who is calling or why he is being called.

So Eli instructs his student what to do.

So Eli told Samuel, "Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, 'Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.

God is speaking to me?


What does God want?

Why does he call to me?

All of these thoughts…

A mixture of fear and excitement filled him.

His teacher told his what to say.

'Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening

Then what?

All he could do is wait.

Wait for the voice to call again.

Wait for God to call his name.

God did not disappoint.

The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, "Samuel! Samuel!"

Samuel answered as he was instructed.

He later might have wished he had not responded… heard what God had to say to him.

What he heard was not flowers and balloon… angels hymns and heavenly visions.

For because Eli’s sons had turned corrupt and promiscuous…

God had promised that judgment would fall upon Eli and his sons.

Now the time had come for that judgment to be carried out.

And Samuel would be the one to pronounce the judgment.


He could not say it.

Someone else could have that job.

Samuel chose to back to sleep.

In the morning… he did his best not to tell his teacher the terrible words he had heard in the night.

Words from a God who had stood before the young man to deliver the terrible words.

But Eli knew better.

“Out with it.”

What was it he said to you?" Eli asked. "Do not hide it from me. May God deal with you, be it ever so severely, if you hide from me anything he told you."

It might be terrible to speak such terrifying words.

It would even be worse if you heard the prophetic words and kept them to yourself.

Eli knew very well that God’s words were always best spoken by those who did so in fear and trembling…

Who spoke them from exile and wilderness…

From a cross on Golgotha and a jail cell in Birmingham.

Not loudly and boastfully by proud broadcasters and prosperous book writers.


It was from the likes of a scared kid in the middle of the night that God speaks and chooses who God will speak thru.

So Samuel told his tale and Eli heard it.

Then Eli said, "He is the LORD; let him do what is good in his eyes."

Eli did not like the words he heard.

Samuel did not like the words he spoke.

But Eli knew… and Samuel understood…

That whatever God said god would do… God would do.

Who do you hear in the night?

What words do you hear in your prayers?

Do you want the words God speaks?

What words Samuel heard that night he took to his heart and to his soul.

The LORD was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of his words fall to the ground.

He let none of the words fall to the ground.

When we turn away from the terrible words God often speaks to us…

They fall to the ground never to be heard again.

Where do you put the words God speaks to you in the night?



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