I have noticed several interesting things in this story. First, that the boy Samuel was “ministering to the Lord” and living in the temple, yet “did not yet know the Lord.” It makes me wonder what they were teaching him in that temple, if not knowledge of the Lord? I imagine quite an empty set of rituals if these did not bring knowledge of the Lord to those being raised in the house of the Lord.
Also, I notice the Lord spoke a prophecy to Samuel about Eli: “For I have told him that I am about to punish his house forever.” Clearly this prophecy was not simply to inform Eli of the Lord’s intentions, for the Lord had already told Eli. The Lord’s words were meant for Samuel, maybe to test him to see if he would deliver such dire news, or maybe to acquaint Samuel with the Lord’s power and presence, to instill a healthy fear in the boy.
One thing is certain: when the Lord calls, the task is rarely easy. But I don’t think God’s plans are challenging just for the sake of making our lives difficult. I think God’s callings are difficult because God created us and knows we are up to the challenge, and because co-creating God’s kingdom on earth is a very big job.
I have responded to God’s call a number of times in my life – to move across the country to attend seminary, to have children, to take calls as parish pastor, to leave parish ministry to start a business publishing resources for churches. Each time the leap of faith was daunting. Each time it was worth every sleepless night. Each time the call had profound and lasting effects on more than just myself. God blessed me so that I might be a blessing to others (cf. Abraham). I have rarely regretted trying something scary and new (especially for the sake of God’s call), but I have often regretted not trying.
1 Samuel 3:1-18
Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread. At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; 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. Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” 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. 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.” Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. 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. 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. Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
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. On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. 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, and he did not restrain them. Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever.” 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. But Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” He said, “Here I am.” 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.” 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.”