Introducing the Prophet Samuel

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Image of Eli telling Samuel to listen to God's voice
Image source: Moody Publishers

We begin to read about the prophet Samuel in today’s Bible reading*. Samuel was a very special man in the life of Israel. We learn today that he was a miracle baby to his mother who was barren until his birth. His mother Hannah dedicated him to God as a child and he was raised in the temple.

From early on, Samuel was special. In stark contrast to his mentor Eli’s sons, we’re told that “the boy Samuel grew in stature and in favor with the LORD and with people. (CSB) Hundreds of years later, Dr. Luke tells us that, “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and with people.” Luke 2:52 (CSB)

In a similar way to the way that the New Testament begins with virtual silence from God, today’s reading tells us that,

The boy Samuel served the LORD in Eli’s presence. In those days the word of the LORD was rare and prophetic visions were not widespread. One day Eli, whose eyesight was failing, was lying in his usual place. Before the lamp of God had gone out, Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was located.
1 Samuel 3: 1-3 (CSB)

These three verses are pregnant with information about the condition of Eli and the nation of Israel. Eli’s eyesight was failing, both physically and spiritually. Eli saw his sons’ behavior in the Temple, but other than talking to them, he did very little to correct them. Think about that: Eli, the seasoned priest allowed his sons to act immorally with women who served at the Temple, as well as treating the people’s sacrifices and offerings with contempt.

The lamp of God (the lamp in the Temple, as well as God’s lamp in Eli and the light for the nation of Israel) was about to go out. Indeed, the word of the Lord was rare and prophetic visions were not widespread! And people are unrestrained without God’s revelation. (Proverbs 29:18)

But God was preparing the young man to hear him. Twice, Samuel heard a voice in the night. Thinking it was Eli, he rushed to the old man’s side and asked why he had called out to him. The second time, the old man realized that Samuel was hearing God’s voice, so he told him the next time he heard his name, to say, “Speak Lord, for Your servant is listening.” And so began a long history of Samuel’s prophetic ministry as he heard and spoke God’s Word.

Application

Do you recognize God’s voice when He speaks? Note that my question assumes that God is speaking to you. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27 (CSB) In other words, if you are one of His, you can recognize His voice and obey what He tells you.

As we see with young Samuel, it may take a while to recognize His Voice. But as you listen and obey, His Voice will become more and more clear to you. But the key is to listen and obey. Each time you choose to not respond to His call, the more difficult it will be to recognize His Voice.

Don’t expect to hear God’s audible Voice. Instead, expect to hear His Voice as you read and study your Bible and hear God’s Word preached, explained, and applied. Be careful whose books you read and who you listen to and watch on “Christian” radio and TV. Not everyone is a faithful Bible teacher. Some — even very popular writers and speakers — are outright false teachers! Test everything you see and hear with what God has clearly revealed in His Word.

* Chapters covered in today’s reading:
1 Samuel 1
1 Samuel 2
1 Samuel 3