1 Samuel 3:1 The boy Samuel ministered before the LORD under Eli. In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions.
Usually, the Hebrew name ‘Samuel’ is interpreted as ‘asked of God, or heard by God,’ and refers to his mother Hannah asking God in prayer to give her a son. The Hebrew root of the word is sha’al which means to ask. For years, however, I have thought that this is the wrong interpretation because there is a closer Hebrew word that fits the bill – shamah – to hear. If this was the case, then the name Samuel would mean ‘the one who hears God’ which I personally think is more appropriate as a means of describing who Samuel was and what he actually did.
We’re told in this passage (1 Samuel 3:1-9) that the word of the Lord was rare and there were not many visions. It must have been an awful time in the history of the people of God. No doubt they asked themselves, “where is God; why can’t we see Him; and why does He not talk to us anymore?” Being abandoned or forsaken by God, must have terrified the Israelites – they were so used to God’s company, presence, and guidance, so that to be without Him must have been very unsettling.
And then in the midst of their problems, God hand picks a young child to hear His voice – a young child who will grow up and lead God’s people for many years – Samuel…the one who listens to God.
I wonder if God really didn’t speak to His people during those years before Samuel was born, or was it the case that they just weren’t listening? Sometimes I think we’re living in the same kind of turbulent days because we don’t make or take time to hear what God is saying. The Church has lost its way in the world – is it because we’re listening to ourselves rather than God? Are we so distracted by what’s happening around us that we see no visions and hear no words from God anymore?
I struggle with this and perhaps you do too. Maybe if I deliberately made more time to be quiet and still, I might be able to hear what God is really saying to the world and not what I want Him to say. In other words, do I want God to hear my prayers or do I want to hear His words? Tough call.
Prayer: O Lord God, help me to listen for You and to You today. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to comment on today’s message, please send him an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.