Tuesday, December 9, 2014


Lately I've been reading through 1 Samuel. You know the story about how the boy Samuel was called by God and thought that it was Eli talking to him? That's been especially comforting. Basically, God spoke to Samuel... Samuel didn't know what was going on. 

"Hey Samuel." "What Eli?" "I didn't say anything, go back to sleep." 
"Hey Samuel." "What Eli?" "I really didn't say anything, kid, go back to sleep." 
"Samuel." "Yes, Eli?" "Ohhhh... hey Samuel, that's not me talking, it's God. 
Listen to Him. Serve Him. Tell Him you're ready to listen and ready to serve." 

Some observations: 

1. God didn't make it glaringly obvious that he was talking. For example, He could have said something like "Samuel, it is God, the God of Abraham, and I want you to listen to me." or "Samuel, it is Almighty God who brought Israel out of Egypt with many signs and wonders, it is I AM, and I am the one speaking to you now." He could have spoken like that. It'd be consistent with His character. But He didn't. 

2. God was patient. 

3. God kept talking, even though Samuel was confused. 

4. Eli also didn't realize it was God talking to Samuel, at least at first. 

5. Samuel was ready to obey the spiritual authority in his life. When he heard a voice, he went to his mentor, ready to respond. He had a structure and habit of obedience to godly authority in his life. 

6. Samuel had to be open to a leader speaking into his life. He had to be willing to be taught. He didn't realize God was speaking until someone older and wiser clued him into it. His mentor, his spiritual father, helped him hear and interpret God's voice. His mentor helped him learn how to respond to God. 

So why is all this comforting to me? Because there have been plenty of times when I have misunderstood what God's been trying to teach me. There have been times I've ignored God because He was speaking in ways I'm not comfortable with, or in ways I'm not accustomed to. Other times, I've interpreted what God was saying, and I was completely off track.

What I'm learning is that it's ok to misunderstand. It's ok to misinterpret. It is important to keep listening with a heart for obedience. It's tempting to hear something and keep it tightly held, hidden from mentors or friends. I'd say that's a mistake, based on personal experience. Keep serving the authority in your life in the structure God has put in place. Be open to smart people speaking into your life. That's what helps you grow. Maturity is a good thing! 

Misunderstanding God's voice didn't make Samuel less valuable. Misunderstanding hindered neither what God was going to do in Samuel nor what God was going to do through Samuel. 

It's delighting to have really good examples of people who didn't get it right on the first try. Y'all, this is in the Bible. Samuel was a rockstar of faith, but he didn't figure it out on the first at-bat. There have been times that I have thought I heard God speaking, only to realize later that it obviously wasn't God speaking. There have been times that God has tried to speak into my life and either I ignored him, I misunderstood him, or I wasn't ready to listen. He is patient. He keeps speaking.  

We're given A LOT of comfort in that! Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening. 

1 Samuel 3:1-10
The Lord Calls Samuel

The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.

One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the house of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called Samuel.

Samuel answered, “Here I am.” And he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”

But Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down.

Again the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”

“My son,” Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.”

Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.

A third time the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”

Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”

Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

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