First Reading: 1 Samuel 3-10, 19

The Call of Samuel

1 The child Samuel ministered to YHWH before Eli. The word of YHWH was precious in those days; there was no frequent vision. 2 It happened at that time, when Eli was laid down in his place (now his eyes had begun to grow dim, so that he could not see), 3 and the lamp of God hadn't yet gone out, and Samuel had laid down in YHWH's temple, where the ark of God was; 4 that YHWH called Samuel; and he said, "Here I am." 5 He ran to Eli, and said, "Here I am; for you called me."

He said, "I didn't call; lie down again."

He went and lay down. 6 YHWH called yet again, "Samuel!"

Samuel arose and went to Eli, and said, "Here I am; for you called me."

He answered, "I didn't call, my son; lie down again." 7 Now Samuel didn't yet know YHWH, neither was the word of YHWH yet revealed to him. 8 YHWH called Samuel again the third time. He arose and went to Eli, and said, "Here I am; for you called me."

Eli perceived that YHWH had called the child. 9 Therefore Eli said to Samuel, "Go, lie down: and it shall be, if he calls you, that you shall say, 'Speak, YHWH; for your servant hears.'" So Samuel went and lay down in his place. 10 YHWH came, and stood, and called as at other times, "Samuel! Samuel!"

Then Samuel said, "Speak; for your servant hears."

19 Samuel grew, and YHWH was with him, and let none of his words fall to the ground.

World English Bible

[3:3] The temple referred to in this passage is not the great Temple in Jerusalem (not to be built for another hundred years), but a shrine on the top of a holy mountain. According to the Jewish Law, the tribe of Levi was to be the priests; this tribe lived among the other tribes of Israel. Various places of worship were established among the tribes. 350-400 years later, King Hezekiah limited sacrifice worship to the Temple in Jerusalem. The ark rested at Shiloh, the worship sight where Samuel served.

[3:4-6] The young Samuel confused the voice of God for that of Eli, the elderly priest in charge of the worship site. The sign of spiritual maturity is discerning God's voice from others. The young Samuel was old enough to encounter God directly and take ownership of faith. The influence of Eli became secondary.

[7] The passage emphasizes God's initiative. Samuel is seeking God through his service, but only God can cause the encounter to occur. How many times have we tried to mature spiritually, only to be set back by God and told: "Wait and listen!"

[8-9] The elder Eli is the one who discerns God's voice. While God was not pleased with Eli and his sons, the wisdom of his old age shines through. The role of a spiritual guide is to facilitate the student's experience of God and knowledge of his will.

[10] Up to this point, Samuel could not see the presence of the Lord, because he was not aware. Now, God reveals himself to Samuel because he was ready. Notice that God revealed himself to Samuel in the early morning when one would sleep. These early morning times are the best for prayer because they are the hours of human weakness.

Have I experienced God in the early morning? Or, have I experienced my own weakness? Can I see my self as Eli or as Samuel? Or as both?