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. And the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.” – 1 Samuel 3:8-10
If you’re a parent I’m sure you’ve had the experience in which you were calling one of your children but they would not respond. You call them and maybe they hear you, or maybe they don’t hear you, so you keep calling over and over again. Usually this can lead to frustration within the relationship.
God and Samuel find themselves in an almost similar situation. Samuel has laid down for the night to rest and he hears what he believes to be Eli calling out for him. So he runs in and asks Eli what he wants. Eli says that he had not called for him. This happens two more times and each time Samuel thinks Eli has called for him. By the third time, Eli catches on to what is happening. He realizes that it is God calling out to Samuel. Eli instructs Samuel to answer the Lord next time he hears the voice. A fourth time now Samuel hears the voice, and instead of running to Eli, Samuel says these great words: “Speak, for your servant hears.” Samuel now understands who is calling him and he responds to the Lord and seeks what He wants. The Lord tells Samuel a difficult message, that God has rejected the sons of Eli. This is a hard message for Samuel to pass on to Eli, but he is faithful to God’s words to him.
The story points out that God had not spoken much to his people at this point. It even points out that Samuel did not yet know the Lord, so all these things led to confusion for Samuel. Samuel heard the voice but he didn’t know it was God calling to him. So often in our lives we can seek out God’s plan and yet miss it simply because we weren’t listening. We don’t hear God’s voice in the same way as Samuel; instead we hear it through His Word, through prayer, and through the counsel of other believers. In those areas we know that God still speaks, often all He wants is for us to acknowledge that we hear him and we desire to listen for what He has for us. That is the second lesson from Samuel. He was faithful. He did not get the most uplifting message from God, yet when Eli asked, he knew he had to tell even though he didn’t want to. God desires that we are faithful to him. That we follow through and live the life to which he has called believers. Sometimes it can be easy, other times it can be difficult. Yet in everything, God wants us to acknowledge Him and be faithful to His instruction. God wants us to repeat the same word as Samuel: “Speak, for your servant hears.”