(Reference: I Samuel 3:7-10 “Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, neither was the word of the Lord yet revealed unto him.  And the Lord called Samuel again the third time and he arose and went to Eli, and said, ‘Here am I , for thou didst call me.’ And Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the child.  Therefore Eli said unto Samuel: ‘Go lie down, and it shall be, if thou be called, that thou shalt say: ‘Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth.’ So Samuel went and lay down in his place.  And the Lord came, and stood, and called as other times: ‘Samuel, Samuel.’ Then Samuel said: ‘Speak; for Thy servant heareth.’”)

Have you ever been “jolted” from a deep sleep, absolutely hearing your name called?  Early in the third watch this morning, such a jolting caused me to jump wide awake from a deep sleep.  I thought my wife was calling out to me, “Mike, Mike”, in a desperate voice, yet she laid sound asleep, unmoving even to my touch.  I got up.  My initial thought went to the account of the child, Samuel, hearing the voice of the Lord while thinking that it was Eli who beckoned him. Concurrently, on my mind was a small Puritan prayer book that I have been reading through; so into my sanctuary (home office) I went.  One line in the next entry of the book was a request, “May I be always amongst those who not only hear but know thee.”  At this point, it became necessary for me to review the story of Samuel. 

Recently, I have been thinking and writing about hearing the VOICE OF GOD.  Amidst all the competing voices of our generation via the bombardments of social media, podcasts, television, Youtube, Google, on and on – which are vying for our attention, how do we determine THE VOICE of the ONE who assured us that His sheep know His voice?  It was none of those inputs that jolted me out of my sleep.  What would be my response?  Would it be as Eli advised Samuel, respond by saying, “Speak; for Thy servant heareth?”  While, this morning, I cannot lay claim to the Lord coming and standing, calling out my name two more times – I cannot avoid believing (or hoping) that it was His voice that awakened me to get up, positioning myself in a posture to hear from Him if He chose to speak to me.  Unlike the direct encounter that Samuel had with the standing, speaking word of the Lord, I choose to believe that He directed me to the written Word because He had some things to say to me.  Here are a few of my observations.

  1. One can hear the voice of God but not know Him.  In the New Testament, James refers to those who are deceived because they are only hearers of the word but not doers of the word {James 1:21-27).  When the Lord told Samuel His judgment to come on Eli and his sons, although Samuel was afraid to disclose the word of the Lord to Eli, still he did so to his father-figure, mentor.  Samuel spoke the vision that the Lord gave him, regardless of his fears.  Note that earlier in I Samuel 3:1 that “…the word of the Lord was precious in those days, there was no frequent vision.”  Yet the Lord chose the boy Samuel to receive the word of the Lord and the vision which he spoke to Eli.  Samuel repeated to Eli what God had already told Eli would happen to him and his family…and it came to pass.  The result was that all of Israel came to know that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the Lord.  Eli, by birth, was of the Aaronic priesthood.  Even though Samuel was brought up in the tabernacle with the Ark of the Covenant in Shiloh, he was an Ephraimite, descendant of Joseph, not Levy.  Yet, Samuel conducted sacrificial offerings to the Lord which had been assigned to the Levitical priesthood.  To truly know God is to obey Him.  Jesus said, if you love Me, keep my commandments.
  2. The Lord continued to reveal Himself to Samuel at Shiloh as he grew.  The words of Samuel started coming out to all of Israel even though Eli and his sons were still ruling at the tabernacle.  Because the Lord was with Samuel, the Lord did not let any of Samuel’s words “fall to the ground”, in other words, not be realized.  God was establishing Samuel to be His prophetic voice to Israel despite the corrupt priesthood governing over the location of the Ark of the Covenant.  Eli’s sons carried the ark into battle with the Philistines.  They were unauthorized to do so, resulting in disastrous results and in the ark being dislocated from Shiloh for more than 20 years.  By this time, Samuel had moved to Ramah, presumably had married, with at least, two sons.  He was an itinerant prophet, moving on a circuit each year from city to city judging Israel.
  3. When does God not forgive?  And therefore I have sworn unto the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be purged (atoned for) with sacrifice nor offering for ever.”  What was so egregious of an iniquity that God would not forgive the house of Eli?  Eli did not correct his sons from the abuse of the priestly duties of office.  Hophni and Phineas slept with the women who attended to the door of the tabernacle while they, themselves, were already married.  The firstfruits of Israel’s sacrifices always belonged to the Lord, but the brothers took the best firstfruits for themselves and shared with Eli, who did not correct them.  God had chosen Eli’s ancestor, Ithacar (Son of Aaron), to serve before the Lord’s altar in His habitation where He is due the firstfruits.  In God’s eyes, Eli honored his sons by allowing them to do this right in the front of the Lord.  “Wherefore kick ye at My sacrifice and at Mine offering, which I have commanded in My Habitation…?”  Eli and his sons were unworthy of the priestly office, its honour, its benefits.  Consequences of not carrying out the Calling of God in accordance with the dictates and boundaries of that calling can be severe.  Who are you representing when you are placed in a role of leadership over God’s people?  There are many through the annals of history that have enriched themselves via the calling to serve God via some measure of leadership or governance.  These are serious callings because they are closely connected to the authorization of the Almighty, Himself, and His reputation.  Walk carefully, you who are called into leadership.  You could forfeit not only your current position, but the negative impact on your family and future generations are at stake, as in the case of Eli.  (Reminisce: Could this have been the same iniquity committed by Cain, resulting in the unacceptable sacrifice that he made to God?)
  4. Here am I.  So reminiscent of Isaiah’s response, followed by, “Send me.”  Inherent in the response to the call of God, is the implications of these three words that shout, “Ready!”  Samuel was attentive to God’s voice before he recognized it as his Lord’s voice.  He was so intent on doing the will of God while being prepped by his own mother’s sacrifice of not raising her own son and her willingness to release him to Whom he belonged anyway.  Jewish traditions always knew that the first-born male belonged to the Lord, but the normal provision was to sacrifice an animal to the Lord to purchase one’s son back into the family.  In Samuel’s case, he was not ransomed by his mother or father, but fully dedicated to the service of the Lord.

May I not only hear the voice of God, but may I come to know him.  This is very much like Job (42:5), “I had heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth Thee.”  Reveal Yourself to us, O LORD, freshly each day as we hunger and thirst after You.

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