1Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.
2 At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; 3 the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. 4 Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!”[a] and he said, “Here I am!” 5 and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. 6 The Lord called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” 7 Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. 8 The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. 9 Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
10 Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” 11 Then the Lord said to Samuel, “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle. 12 On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. 13 For I have told him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God,[b] and he did not restrain them. 14 Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever.”
15 Samuel lay there until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the Lord. Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. 16 But Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” He said, “Here I am.” 17 Eli said, “What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also, if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.” 18 So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. Then he said, “It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him.”
Samuel was a miracle child, too. His mother would go to the temple and pray for a child, for her barrenness to end. She promised to dedicate her child to God, if only He would bless her with one. When Hannah finally had her son, she named him Samuel, and offered her son to the Lord with this prayer:
“My heart exults in the Lord;
my strength is exalted in my God.
My mouth derides my enemies,
because I rejoice in my victory.
2 “There is no Holy One like the Lord,
no one besides you;
there is no Rock like our God.
3 Talk no more so very proudly,
let not arrogance come from your mouth;
for the Lord is a God of knowledge,
and by him actions are weighed.
4 The bows of the mighty are broken,
but the feeble gird on strength.
5 Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,
but those who were hungry are fat with spoil.
The barren has borne seven,
but she who has many children is forlorn.
6 The Lord kills and brings to life;
he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
7 The Lord makes poor and makes rich;
he brings low, he also exalts.
8 He raises up the poor from the dust;
he lifts the needy from the ash heap,
to make them sit with princes
and inherit a seat of honor.
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s,
and on them he has set the world.
9 “He will guard the feet of his faithful ones,
but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness;
for not by might does one prevail.
10 The Lord! His adversaries shall be shattered;
the Most High will thunder in heaven.
The Lord will judge the ends of the earth;
he will give strength to his king,
and exalt the power of his anointed.”
The Magnificat of the Blessed Virgin Mary is actually based on this beautiful prayer. Hannah leaves her son with Eli, a priest at the Temple. Samuel would grow in wisdom under Eli, and his heart’s desire was to serve the Lord well.
When the Lord called to Samuel as he slept, Samuel was still a youngster and thought that maybe Eli was calling to him in the night. When it became clear to Eli that God was the one speaking to Samuel, he gave him instructions on how to answer Him and listen to the Lord’s instructions. When God called him again, Samuel was ready, and he began to receive messages from the Lord. It was the beginning of his role as a prophet.
Samuel is a great example for us all. He listened for God’s instructions and he did the will of the Lord. But at first, Samuel didn’t recognize God’s voice. This is true for us, as well. It’s only through practice (and instruction from those who know) that we can recognize when God is calling us to do something. Eli had been a prophet, but his sons were wicked and would not listen to God. They were unwilling to follow the Lord, bending and breaking rules for their own benefits. Often, we are the same as these sons, making excuses and justifying our actions when we sin.
But what we are called to is discernment so that we can recognize and follow God when He calls to us. Recently, I’ve taken on a lot of extra projects without thinking or praying about it at all. I suddenly realized that I hadn’t been praying about whether or not a project was what God wanted me to do, and I had to pull back again. When I stopped and prayed and listened for God’s voice, I could more easily see what He wants from me right now.
This Advent should be a time when we all take time to slow down and listen for God’s voice in our hearts. Remember that he speaks with a small, still voice. We have to quiet ourselves and put aside our pride so that we can truly discern what we ought to do and what we ought to say “no” to. Take time today to pray for God’s guidance – and then accept it!
Meditation text and photo © Christine Johnson