We need a prophet badly. . . . “The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.” While young Samuel appears unprepared to hear from the Lord, it seems no one has heard from God lately. The challenge for young Samuel is to determine that it is God, not his mentor Eli, who is calling him. Three times the Lord calls to Samuel; each time Samuel runs to Eli. With Eli’s dulled spiritual sensitivity, he does not perceive who is calling. The third time is the charm. Eli realizes the Lord is calling Samuel. Only then does he provide the young boy with a suitable response.
Not all of us expect to hear from the Lord. We hear what we are conditioned to hear. We make mistakes at times because we fail to listen or to understand the messages we receive. Sometimes through fear or impatience we block out the messages altogether. We can recall instances of missed or garbled communications in our personal and professional lives—sometimes with painful consequences.
Though Samuel misunderstands God’s call to him, he remains responsive to the persistent voice. The elder Eli offers some sage advice to his protégé, using words to this effect: “When you hear the voice again, listen carefully and engage it.” Samuel follows the advice only to hear bad news for the house of Eli. Message received, message delivered. Eli acknowledges this word from the Lord. We too would do well to slow down, listen intently, and seek to hear what our initiating God is saying to us.
May I never forget that it is you, God, who takes the initiative. Teach me to slow down, listen more intently, and seek understanding before acting on what I think I have heard. May I be open and receptive to your calls to me. Amen.
We read the stories of Samuel and the calling of Jesus’ disciples in John, and it is easy to feel jealous. God spoke so directly into their lives that they should have had, it seems to us, full and unwavering confidence in their calling. Didn’t they have an unfair spiritual advantage over us? However, the psalmist reminds us that God knows and sees us individually just as well as God knew Samuel and Jesus knew his disciples. God has plans for us, even if they are revealed in less obvious ways. The reading from Corinthians is quite different in its message. Perhaps we can at least recognize that even if we never hear God’s audible voice, through scripture God still provides guidance for our lives.
• Read 1 Samuel 3:1-20. In what ways do you remain responsive to hearing God’s voice?
• Read Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18. What sense of God’s involvement in your everyday life do you have?
• Read 1 Corinthians 6:12-20. How do you remind yourself of the spirit–body connection?
• Read John 1:43-51. When have you allowed prejudice to affect your decision about a person’s competency?
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