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Play (Preschool)Old TestamentSession 13
13

Samuel Listens

Session Introduction

Scripture
Focus
God talked to Samuel; Samuel listened.
Faith Nurture Goals
  • Tell what Samuel said when God talked to him.
  • Understand how God talks to us today.
  • Thank God for loving us and talking to us.
Reflection: Getting into the Story

Samuel was a man "for such a time as this." The situation he found himself in was grim. Chapter 2 reports the deplorable spiritual and moral conditions that infected the family of Eli, the priest at Shiloh. His sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were so corrupt that they stole from the sacrifices that people gave to God. And, as if that weren't enough, they slept with the women who served at the "tent of meeting" (the tabernacle---God's holy dwelling place). And all the while, Eli, who was becoming physically blind, also turned a blind eye toward his sons' behavior. Chapter 3 begins with the dire report that "in those days the word of the Lord was rare."

Was God silent? Had God turned his back on Israel? No, the problem was that the people did not offer a listening heart---except for one young boy.

Samuel had gone to bed "where the ark of God was"---the most sacred place. His job was evidently to guard "the lamp of God" (probably the candlestick that was part of the tabernacle furnishings) and keep it from going out. "Then the Lord called Samuel" (v. 4). Was it a voice, a movement, a sound? We don't know. But it was enough that Samuel dutifully got up to see if old Eli had summoned him, saying, "Here I am; you called me." But no, Eli had not called.

The writer explains the problem. It was not that Samuel was obtuse or reticent. Rather, "Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him" (v. 7).

Three times this happened, and finally even Eli, the old priest who had let Israel sink so far spiritually, got the message. This time he instructed Samuel to respond, "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening."

And then things got very close and personal. The Lord didn't just speak to Samuel. Rather, "The Lord came and stood there"---an even more baffling and mysterious appearance. Samuel replied as Eli had told him: "Speak, for your servant is listening."

This is often as far as the story goes, especially for young children, for the message Samuel heard from the Lord that night hardly seems suitable for young ears. It was a message of unmitigated judgment against Eli and his family. But the Lord revealed it to young Samuel, who, in his long life, would be the bearer of many difficult messages to Israel, as well as words of blessing.

Of course, when morning came, Samuel was afraid to meet Eli. He didn't want to convey a terrible message to a man he had grown to care about. But Eli knew the word of the Lord had come to Samuel. It's touching and ironic that this man whose sons were renegades called young Samuel "my son."

"What was it he said to you?" asked Eli.He threatened Samuel with God's judgment if he withheld anything. Samuel told him everything. It's as though Eli knew what was coming. His words are chilling and powerful: "He is the Lord; let him do what is good in his eyes."

In Samuel, God called a "listener" he could trust---"and he let none of Samuel's words fall to the ground." Every word the Lord gave Samuel concerning Eli came true.

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