1 Samuel 3:1-14
I have chosen the Old Testament reading from the first book of Samuel for my words of wisdom this morning. I was quite overwhelmed when I realised that this was the alternative reading for this morning as it is one of my favourite bible passages as it brings back such happy and precious memories of my paternal grandmother, Grandma Rennie, who died when I was only ten. I can remember her vividly, because she looked just like the grandmas in my childhood story books and in fact in some of the story books I read to my daughters when they were children. She was tiny, about four feet and eight inches with silver grey hair tied back in a bun at the nape of her neck and very blue eyes which shone behind steel rimmed spectacles.
I visited her every week with my Dad and she always had a little surprise gift which she delighted in giving me and of course which I was delighted to receive. This particular day she produced a Ladybird book which published a series on bible stories which were always beautifully illustrated. The book was a story about the young boy Samuel based on this morning’s reading.
I can only imagine that my response as a young child, would have been that here was a story about a young boy who was probably about my age at that time, who I could relate to, perhaps more than the well- known bible stories about adults such as Adam and Eve and Samson and Delilah.
I was happily living at home with my parents and younger sister and I probably couldn’t imagine living in a Temple with a priest called Eli who he didn’t really know very well. Samuel was far away from the loving arms of his parents and siblings. Did I think he was very brave and trusting, much braver that I would have been at his age? Then on top of that was the confusing incident when he thought he heard Eli calling him not only once but on three occasions. It was on the third calling that Eli realised that it was the Lord calling Samuel and he told Samuel to respond by saying “speak for your servant is listening.”
As an adult and a parent I still have those feelings about not only Samuel being so brave and trusting, ready to answer God’s call at such a young age but also about his mother Hannah. Ch.1 v 7 sets the scene for us to understand why Samuel was living with Eli at the Temple and not with his family. Hannah was desperate for a child and prayed to the Lord for a son and made a vow that if the Lord answered her prayers she would give him to the Lord for the rest of his life. It is impossible to separate the story about Samuel from the sacrifice that Hannah made in fulfilling her promise to the Lord.
This passage raises the following questions for us this morning.
Do we always hear the Lord calling us?
I would like to share with you a few lines of a prayer from the 2021 URC Prayer Handbook which I have found very useful when reflecting on the different ways God speaks and makes Himself known to us.
Hello How Can I Help
When the phone rings, we answer. More often than not, we know who is ringing us now.
But how do I know you are calling, God? You don’t use a phone.
You may use a passage of Scripture.
You may use the voice of a friend. You may be that small still voice inside my head.
As we think of these words let us remember that God called to Samuel in the quietness of the night and it is said in the scriptures that Jesus would often withdraw to a quiet place in the early hours of the morning to pray and spend time with the Father.
We too need to have a quiet time during the day, as we will only hear the calling of God if we set aside those quiet times to listen for his voice. We can become easily absorbed with the demands of everyday living at the expense of spending that special time in communication with the Lord. Like Samuel we may not recognise the voice of God at his first call and it may take us more than the three times it took for Eli to know that it was the Lord calling Samuel.
Unlike Samuel who heard the Lord call him in a loud voice, for many of us we may only hear a slight whisper and that is why we must practice the art of listening so that we are always ready to hear his voice.
We can hear God’s voice in many different situations such as when we are reading our bible or in our prayers. It is in this time of dedication that we recognise His presence in our lives as He makes known to us, through His words in scripture, the path we should be taking in our Christian journey.
Many years ago I went on a two day retreat to Loyola Hall which was run by the Jesuits. This was my first experience of silent prayers and times of meditation. The experience was quite emotional but at the same time very powerful and I hesitate to say it but it was rather a liberating feeling to not have to verbalise my thoughts into words which can at times distract from the true meaning of communicating with the Lord.
We may hear the Lord calling our name but how do we respond to the call of the Lord and are we ready to answer as Samuel answered by saying “Speak for your servant is listening.”
Are we able to respond bravely by truly trusting the Lord when He calls our name? There is always the temptation to think we can depend on ourselves and we make it more difficult for ourselves when we attempt to deal with things on our own.
When we are faced with challenges and struggles, is our trust in the Lord strong enough to hand all our worries over to Him completely. As humans we are not always brave enough to let go of our total responsibilities for our decisions in life. We may find it difficult to hand them over to the Lord in prayer because we are afraid to be too bold or specific in our requests and a little apprehensive that the answer to our prayers is not always what we were hoping for. However if we listen to the Lord’s answer to our prayers we can find comfort in the fact that the Lord leads us to make the right decisions and points us in the direction that our lives should take.
Trusting the Lord is a very personal response and Samuel had complete trust in the Lord. If we have the same trust we can say with confidence, “speak for your servant is listening,” and be assured that God will guide us in our response to His call.
Samuel and Hannah both accepted God’s purpose for them and followed faithfully in the way of the Lord.
Are we willing to make great sacrifices in our response to God’s call to be his servant and are there times when we are confused how to respond.
These are questions for us to consider in our private moments of reflections and prayers or it could be a theme for another reflection.
I began my reflection about a young boy called Samuel and I would like to end with a few lines from a prayer written by John Proctor, entitled ‘A prayer for young people’.
“For young people and the callings they hear as the world speaks with many voices,
May young lives be open to God’s word.
When the years make many promises, may young hearts learn to trust the right things.
When life brings hurts and fears, May young people find faith in God.