The Calling of God to Samuel
I Samuel 3:1-10
January 18, 2015 (2nd Sunday after Epiphany)
In the days when the High Priest Eli was judge of Israel, there appeared in the sanctuary of Shiloh a wonderful child: his name was Samuel. Samuel was serving the Lord with Eli.
I. The Preparation for the Young Prophet: “Service to God” (I Sam 3:1-3)
Probably Samuel did not know yet the will of the Lord for him, he was just serving the Lord in the sanctuary. During that time according to our passage “A word from the Lord was rare in those days, and visions were infrequent” (v.1). In other words, the Lord did not always reveal himself to people, especially to his prophets and priests. Probably the young Samuel did not expect that the Lord would call and talk to him.
Samuel was just serving the Lord. His focus was serving!
Like us nowadays, we might serve the Lord just because we know it is our duty to serve the Lord. We do cleaning, we do preaching, we do teaching, we serve as musicians, and we do whatever we believe it is the will of God for us.
For Samuel, serving the Lord during that time was his preparation for higher calling in God’s ministry. I believe his work and service helped him to develop his personality, made him patient, and made him honest to God.
In our experiences and service to God, we might encounter different unique experiences. Sometimes even our brothers and sisters are giving us hard times. Sometimes death, suffering and hardship teach us to be strong, faithful, patient, and smart for the next level of our service to God.
This is true in my faith journey. The death in the family, the pain of separation, discrimination in the church and community, being in illness and penniless—all these experiences taught me to be patient, strong and smart for the glory of God, and for the next level of service to Him.
According to a traditional Hebrew story, Abraham was sitting outside his tent one evening when he saw an old man, and weary from age and tired in his journey. He was coming towards him. Abraham rushed out, greeted him, and then invited him into his tent. There he washed the old man’s feet and gave him food and drink.
The old man immediately began eating without saying any prayer or blessing. So Abraham asked him, “Don’t you worship God?”
The old traveler replied, “I worship fire only and reverence no other god.”
When he heard this, Abraham became mad, grabbed the old man by the shoulders, and threw him out his tent into the cold night air.
When the old man had departed, God called Abraham and asked where the stranger was. Abraham replied, “I forced him out because he did not worship you.”
God answered, “I have suffered him these eighty years although he dishonors me. Could you not endure him one night?” (sermonillustrations.com).
II. The Calling of God to Young Samuel: “Here I am” (I Sam 3:4-8).
The Lord called out to Samuel, who answered, “Here I am.” He ran to Eli and said, “Here I am! You called me.” “I didn’t call you,” Eli said. “Go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down.
Then the Lord again called out, “Samuel!” So Samuel got up, went to Eli, and said, “Here I am! You called me.” He said, “I didn’t call you, my son. Go back and lie down.”
Now Samuel did not know yet the Lord, and had not yet had the word of the Lord revealed to him. Then the Lord called out to Samuel again a third time, and he got up, went to Eli, and said, “Here I am! You called me.” Then Eli understood that the Lord was calling the boy.
That was the first time that Samuel experienced the calls of the Lord. At first he did not recognize him, he thought it was the High Priest Eli calling him.
In this story we might conclude that sometimes God uses the words and human voice to call us. It is not like in the movies with echo or baritone voice! The words of God come to us like human voice. Most of the time, the words of God revealed to us through the Bible—Old and New Testaments. Some of us want to read only the New Testament but the Word of God is also revealed in the Old Testament. These two testaments are the Canon of Christianity.
Samuel heard the calls of God three times, and he said “Here I am! You called me.” Knowing it was Eli who was calling him.
We are like the young Samuel in our faith. Sometimes God is calling us but many a time we don’t know that he is calling us. Sometimes we refuse his calls and his words to us.
On Dec. 4, 1893, Walter Gowans and Rowland Bingham of Toronto, Canada, and Thomas Kent of Buffalo, N.Y., landed at Lagos, Nigeria.
Their aim was to witness for Christ among the 60 million people of what was then commonly known as the Soudan, the area south of the Sahara between the Niger River and the Nile.
Gowans and Kent died in the first few months. Bingham returned to Canada, formed a council, and went back to Africa in 1900. That attempt, too, was unsuccessful.
In 1901 Bingham sent out a party that succeeded in establishing the Mission’s first headquarters at Patigi, 500 miles up the Niger River.
When these first SIM (Serving in Mission) pioneers landed in Nigeria, Gowans was 25 years old, Bingham was two weeks away from his 21st birthday, Kent was 23 (sermonillustrations.com).
These young people heard the calling of God and they said “Here we are,” and they followed him even it would mean death and suffering on their part.
When Eli discerned that it was God who was calling Samuel, Eli told Samuel, “Go lie down, and then if he calls you again, answer, ‘Speak, Lord, because your servant is listening.'”
Then Samuel went and lay down. Later that night, the Lord came and stood there, calling out for the fourth time, “Samuel! Samuel!” as he had before. Samuel said, “Speak, because your servant is listening.”
Samuel was listening since the first call of God, although in the first three calls he did not discern that it was God who was calling him. The good thing was that he had open ears. In other words, his mind was open for new things to come in. He did not neglect the calls. He entertained the calls. He offered himself to know the reason of the call.
Not only that, he was ready to follow whatever was the will of God, he said, “Speak, because your servant is listening.” When he knew that it was God who was calling him, he opened his ears, he offered his time, and he offered himself for servanthood just to realize the will of God.
In his autobiography, John Kenneth Galbraith, A Life in Our Times, illustrates the devotion of Emily Gloria Wilson, his family’s housekeeper. He narrates that it had been a wearying day, and he asked Emily to hold all telephone calls while he had a nap.
Shortly thereafter the phone rang. President Lyndon Johnson was calling from the White House. “Get me Ken Galbraith. This is Lyndon Johnson.” “He is sleeping, Mr. President. He said not to disturb him.”
President Johnson commanded her, “Well, wake him up. I want to talk to him.”
Emily replied, “No, Mr. President. I work for him, not you.”
When Mr. Galbraith called the President back, the president could scarcely control his pleasure and he said to Mr. Galbraith, “Tell that woman I want her here in the White House.”
(Houghton Mifflin in Reader’s Digest, December, 1981).
Emily knows the voice of his master, and she would not follow any voice. Same with us Christians, we should know the voice of our master, and we should follow only his voice, and no other voices.
Like the young Samuel thrice he failed to decipher the voice of God, but when he realized it, he told him, “Speak, because your servant is listening.”