1 Samuel 3:1-20

God’s Transforming Call

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1 Samuel 3:1-20

God’s Transforming Call

Richard Niell Donovan

Samuel’s story begins with his mother, Hannah. In that world, women counted their worth by their children, but Hannah was childless.

Deeply grieved, Hannah wept. She prayed that she might have a son. She promised God that, if he would give her a son, she would dedicate the son to the Lord as a Nazarite—set him apart for service to God.

God answered Hannah’s prayer! She bore a son and called him Samuel. Hannah was faithful to her promise. When Samuel was weaned, she took him to Eli the priest. She said:

“For this child I prayed;
and Yahweh has given me my petition
which I asked of him.
Therefore also I have granted him to Yahweh.
As long as he lives he is granted to Yahweh”
(1 Samuel 1:27-28).

She left Samuel at the temple for Eli to raise. She visited him when she and her husband made their sacrifices to the Lord. I have often wondered about that. Can’t you imagine how terrible she must have felt each time she had to say goodbye. But there were blessings too. Samuel was a wonderful boy, and she was proud of him. And God also gave her several other children, so she was never lonely.

The situation at the temple was not good. The priest, Eli, was in his declining years. His sons were training for the priesthood, but the Bible says:

“Now the sons of Eli were base men;
they didn’t know Yahweh” (2:12).

The sons were stealing money and committing adultery. Not too surprisingly, our text tells us that:

“The word of Yahweh was precious in those days;
there was no frequent vision” (3:1).

But God does not long abandon his people. One evening, as Samuel lay down to sleep, he heard a voice calling. Samuel got up and ran to Eli. He said, “Here I am” (3:4). But Eli replied, “I didn’t call; lie down again” (3:5).

So Samuel lay down again. The scene was repeated. Samuel heard a voice calling, “Samuel!” Again he went to Eli, and again Eli told him that he had not called.

Again, Samuel heard a voice. Again, he went to Eli. But this time, Eli realized that the voice must be God’s voice. He said:

“Go, lie down: and it shall be, if he calls you,
that you shall say, ‘Speak, Yahweh;
for your servant hears'” (3:9).

A fourth time God called, and this time Samuel said:

“Speak, Yahweh,
for your servant hears” (3:10).

Samuel opened himself to hearing God’s call. The result was that:

“Samuel grew, and Yahweh was with him,
and let none of his words fall to the ground” (3:19).

Samuel grew up to be a person of extraordinary power, because God was with him. Samuel not only anointed Saul, the first king of Israel, but also anointed, David, the greatest king of Israel.

This is the kind of story I like to hear. A faithful woman has a problem. She prays, and God answers her prayers. God not only blesses her, but he blesses her son as well.

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I like this story, because it speaks to us of the potential that lies within each of us when we put God first in our lives.

• This story suggests that we can awaken great potential, not only in ourselves, but also in our children, when we teach them to put God first in their lives.

• This story suggests that God rewards faithfulness with blessings. It gives us cause for hope.

• This story suggests that God will lead us through today’s darkness into tomorrow’s light if we will only serve him.

This story reminds me of a young couple whom I met twenty-five years ago in Florida. I had organized a religious retreat, and had managed to get money to subsidize it. It was summer—off-season. The nicest hotel on Key Largo made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. It was gorgeous. They gave us our own private meeting area—and pool—and ocean-view rooms.

I tempted our soldiers with postcards that showed beaches and palm trees. A new man asked if he could come. I told him that we would love to have him. He said, “Could I bring my wife?” I said, “Sure!” It turned out that Pete and Carol were newly married, away from home for the first time, and broke. They were delighted to have a cheap vacation in the Florida keys.

About twenty of us went on the retreat. When we started talking, Pete made it clear that he did not have much use for religion. He said:

“My grandmother was religious.
It didn’t do her much good.”

He told us about his grandmother. She had, indeed, had a hard life. Pete said:

“She was a saint!
She never missed church.
She was good to everybody.
If there is a God,
why would he let bad things happen to a woman like that?”

When Pete finished, there was an awkward silence. You could almost hear people searching their minds for an answer. Then a young man said:

“Pete, tell me about your grandmother.
How did she handle it?
Was she a happy person
in spite of everything?”

Pete said,

“Yes! She handled it well.
She never let it bother her.
She was a very happy person.”

The man said,

“Well, maybe that is the answer.
God didn’t give her an easy life,
but he did give her a happy life.”

Pete thought for a few moments. Then he said, “Maybe you’re right.”

By the end of that weekend, Pete and Carol had become Christians. Before long, they were conducting Bible studies in their apartment. Not long thereafter, Pete committed his life to ministry.

Pete had seen his grandmother’s faith. Now he was able to see the rewards of that faith. That changed his life.

Hannah committed herself and her son to God. Her son built on her faith, and became a great, Godly man.

Pete’s grandmother committed herself and her family to God. Her grandson built on her faith, and became a fine, Godly man.

Let us commit ourselves and our families to God, so that we might share in his rich blessings.

Scripture quotations from the World English Bible.

Copyright 1997, Richard Niell Donovan