God uses common vessels to deliver uncommon messages. In 1 Samuel 3, we read about a boy whom God calls to deliver a very important message in his generation. Eli, the priest of the story, is not living according to his calling. He has neglected to discipline his children for the way they’re living. His sons have blasphemed God, and Eli hasn’t “restrain[ed] them” (3:13).
So what does God do? He calls to Samuel as the boy is getting ready to go to sleep: “Samuel, Samuel!”
Samuel, assuming the voice is Eli’s, immediately runs to check what his mentor wants, but quickly finds out it isn’t Eli who is calling him. This happens three times until Eli realizes that it is God who is calling the boy. So Eli tells him, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’”
In reading this story, I think of the importance of mentors and pastors to help us discern God’s voice and point us in the right direction. I also think of the courage that it took for Samuel to deliver a very difficult message to his mentor (namely, that God was about to punish Eli’s house forever).
But the thing that stands out the most is the sentence: “In those days the word of the Lord was rare” (3:1). For years I have prayed that the Word of the Lord would not be rare in our generation, in our churches, or in our lives. We can be surrounded by Bibles and have no appetite for the Word of God. We can hear great sermons every Sunday and still not believe that God can speak to us in a personal and direct way.
Living in the temple and being exposed to God’s Word does not amount to knowing God and hearing his voice. Samuel lived in the temple and heard the Word of God regularly, yet he “did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him” (3:7). However, when Samuel finally heard God’s call, he obeyed and delivered a very difficult message to his own mentor.
Listen! God is calling. He wants to speak to you in a personal way. He wants to use his Word to reveal things to you that you do not yet know. God has important messages for this generation and he wants to use you to deliver them. The question is, will you say yes and say to God what Samuel said? Here I am. Speak for your servant is listening.
God’s Word will not come back void. He will bless your words in response to your obedience.
As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.
—1 Samuel 3:19
Sandra Nikkel is minister of Conklin Reformed Church, a country church north of Grand Rapids, Michigan. She became a Christian in her twenties and left law school to pursue theological training. She is passionate about God and his Word, preaching, prayer, her congregation, traveling, and her three adult children. She also writes for the religion and ethics section of the Grand Rapids Press.