2 One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. 3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the house of the Lord, where the ark of God was. 4 Then the Lord called Samuel. Samuel answered, “Here I am.” 5 And he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” But Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down. 6 Again the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” “My son,” Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” 7 Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. 8 A third time the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. 9 So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. 10 The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”. Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
(1 Samuel 3:2-10)
Today we begin to study the story of God calling Samuel to become a prophet. Samuel’s mother, Hannah, had donated her son to serve in the tabernacle when he was about five years old. Now he is about twelve and has been serving in the tabernacle doing menial – but important – chores for the past seven years.
One night Eli was sleeping (lying down) in his usual place and Samuel was sleeping (lying down) in the house of the Lord. As we learned the other day, Samuel likely slept in the tabernacle in order to keep the lamp stand burning through the night as commanded by God.
The lamp stand burned during the night and went out by daylight [Exodus 27:20-21; Leviticus 24:2-3; 2 Chronicles 13:11]. Since the lamp of God had not yet gone out, we can place these events sometime in the early morning hours.
Samuel was apparently close enough to hear Eli call him in the middle of the night. Considering how old Eli was and the fact that he could barely see, it is likely that this happened on occasion. Also, the tabernacle at this time was a tent, not a building, making it easy for Samuel to hear Eli should he call.
Notice that the condition of Eli’s physical attributes are also true of his spiritual attributes. He seemingly was a good leader back earlier in his life. But now he was old and his ability to lead Israel was fading fast as evidenced by his mishandling of his son’s behavior.
On this particular night the Lord called Samuel while he was sleeping. This is exactly how God works. He calls us when we least expect it.
Moses was an outcast living in Midian (modern-day Saudi Arabia). The last thing he expected was to for God to come calling not to mention speak to Him through a burning bush [Exodus 3:2-4]. While on the road to Damascus to arrest members of The Way (as Christianity was originally called) Jesus called to Saul [Acts 9:1-5], who didn’t even believe in Him.
When God was looking for a new king of Israel – which we’ll read about later on in 1 Samuel – He chose someone – David – who was faithful to Him but who was just a boy – taking everyone by surprise [1 Samuel 16:6-13].
God called Moses, Saul, and David at times and in ways they were not expecting. He also did so with young Samuel.
I can’t tell you how many times God has woken me up in the middle of the night to talk to me. I presume He does this because I admittedly don’t often make the time during the day to meet with Him. So He wakes me up in the middle of the night, when it is quiet and there are no distractions in my life.
The time we’d think is the most unlikely time we’d hear from God is precisely the time He’ll come calling. That is one way we know it is Him.
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