Hannah was the childless wife of, Elkanah. She desperately wanted children, so she went to the temple in Shiloh, Israel where she cried out to God, asking Him to give her a child. Eli, the priest, saw her at the gate of the temple and thought she was drunk. Her mouth was moving but she wasn’t saying anything, so he rebuked her. And she said, “No, I’m here because I want to have a son. I want God to bless me with progeny.” Eli responded by speaking a prayer of blessing over Hannah. He prayed that God would help her. She then returned home with faith in her heart, and with great hope that God would answer. And thank God, that’s where our hope is. Our hope is in the Lord.
Just as Eli and Hannah had prayed, God answered and gave her a son. Before a year was over, she had given birth to a son. And as she had promised the Lord, she gave Samuel back to the Lord to worship and serve God in the Temple with Eli, the priest. Hannah took Samuel to the house of the Lord, and there he worked as an aide-de-camp for Eli.
One night Samuel had laid down to go to sleep and he heard a voice calling out, “Samuel.” The boy thought Eli had called him, so he quickly got out of bed, walked over to Eli’s bedroom and said, “Here I am, Eli.” Surprised, Eli said, “I didn’t call you. Go back to bed.” So Samuel went back to bed. Sometime later, he heard for a second time, “Samuel.” This time he runs to Eli’s room, but Eli once again says he did not call. Suspecting that Samuel was hearing the voice of God, Eli tells Samuel to return to his room to sleep. If he hears the voice, again, Eli instructs Samuel to respond: “I am your servant, and I want to do what you say.” Once more, it happens. The voice speaks, and this time Samuel answered as Eli had told him. “Here I am; your servant is listening.” This experience was the first of a life-long prophetic conversation between God and Samuel.
Samuel served as a priest in the land of Israel at a significant period of time and had great influence on the nation. He anointed to Saul the king. He anointed David to take over from Saul. God used Samuel in a great way.
I’ve often thought of this story of a little boy laying in bed who hears his name being called. This voice sounds very much like Eli’s, his spiritual father. But it was God who had chosen to talk to a child. It’s interesting how to children God’s voice often sounds like someone they know. Samuel was probably about three or four years of age when he heard God speak. He hadn’t been weaned yet, the Bible says. I love that God chose to talk to a very young child to build a trusting bond between himself and the man Samuel would soon become.
God chooses to talk to children. He actually talks to a lot more of us than we realize. He has likely talked to you from the time that you were a child up until the present day.
It’s important that we prepare ourselves to hear what God has to say. We can hope to hear God’s voice. We can hope to hear his guidance and involvement in our daily lives. Every day we can listen for his voice. And that hope is something very important.
I remember as a young boy, myself, 14 years of age, I attended an old fashioned Canadian camp meeting on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.. An evangelist preached on missions. I was a young fellow, I didn’t know a whole lot. I was kind of a wild hair. And that night in the meeting, God spoke to me. I was so touched by the power of God that I was unable to leave the meeting until well after everyone had left the building. Sometime into the night, the camp evangelist returned to the building because he had left his Bible on the pulpit. He couldn’t see me in the dark room, but sensed someone was there. He walked over, put his hand on my shoulder and on my head and started to pray.
After a little while he said, “Young man, God has called you to the nations. I see you standing before tens of thousands of people halfway around the world.” Now, to me, as a boy, I didn’t really understand what was going on. I was totally unsuspecting in terms of the important spiritual business that was being conducted that night. But later on, everything that man said about my life came to pass. God had called me to nations. The evangelist saw a vision as he laid his hand on me and prayed. He saw me working in nations around the world.
We can hope to hear the voice of God. God doesn’t shout at everyone in a centurion voice. He talks quietly. Usually it’s a still small voice that we hear inside. Sometimes that’s all we hear is that still small voice. But the fact that God is talking to us is supremely important. When we hear him, we need to listen carefully and do what he says. This careful listening will guide us forward and deepen our relationship with God.
The hope I want to leave with you through Bible character Samuel, is that God talks to people. The Bible is full of instances that illustrate that. My prayer is that as we listen in the quietness of our hearts, we will hear him communicate his love for us and how he has wonderful plans for us. To hear we need to quiet ourselves, get alone with God, and listen to what he’s saying. “Here I am, Lord, your servant is listening.”