Samuel was a young man, probably in his teens. He’d been living at the tabernacle since he was young, maybe five or six.
Eli slept within earshot of the tabernacle. Samuel did as well. It meant that they could protect and pray, that the holiness of God wasn’t left alone. Every night at twilight, a lamp was lit inside the building. It burned until sunrise. There was a light that honored the presence of God in this space.
The text tells us that Samuel lived in the presence of God, but hadn’t clearly heard the voice of God. But no one had much. God hadn’t been speaking, perhaps because no one was listening.
It’s hard to be a person who speaks when no one listens. You eventually stop and wait until there is someone who will pay attention to you. Samuel may be that person. God wants to find out.
One night, a voice comes from the tabernacle building, “Samuel.”
Samuel ran to Eli. He was used to hearing his name. Eli was mostly blind and was getting old.
Eli, awakened from sleep, said he hadn’t called.
It happened two more times before Eli realized that someone actually must be calling Samuel’s name. And so he finally said, “It’s God. When you hear it again, reply ‘speak, Lord. Your servant hears.’”
God speaks again, Samuel answers, and God offers the first of decades of messages that Samuel will hear and deliver to others.
There are moments when God is speaking our name, by name. There are moments when we know that God knows our names. It’s not a marketing campaign or a guilt-driven appeal. God calls out to us. At the very least to people who are open to listening for him.
The response is simple: “I’m here. I’m listening.”
And God speaks. Sometimes it’s a message of courage. Sometimes it’s a message of peace. Sometimes it’s a scary message of God’s description of how things are going to fall apart.
We won’t know, not for sure, until we stop and say, “I’m here. I’m listening.”
From 1 Samuel 3
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, which is also Valentines Day. If you’ve used my Lent reader, Lent for Non-Lent people, it’s time to dust it off. If you haven’t ever looked at it, or if you want to get copies to share with others, now is a great time to order. I’ll talk more about it next week.