The first three chapters of the book of 1 Samuel tell the story of a woman named Hannah who could not bear children. She would pray at the temple in great distress and weeping until, after Eli the priest spoke with her, she went away confident of the Lord hearing her prayers for a child. Shortly after, Hannah conceived and pledged to give her son, Samuel, to the Lord when he was of age so that he could serve the Lord all his life. Hannah then sings a rich song of praise to the Lord, telling of His mighty character and deeds.
Following this comes an account of the sons of Eli who are described as worthless. They continually disrespect the temple and break the law, often threatening to take the priest’s portion of food. Ultimately, Eli and his household are rejected by God who promises to raise up a faithful priest in his place.
Cut to Samuel who, as a young boy, hears someone call his name three times in the night. He runs to Eli thinking it was he who called, but at the third time, Eli recognizes that it is the Lord who is calling Samuel. Eli instructs him to go back to bed, and when he hears the Lord call again, to say “Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.” Samuel then hears from the Lord that He is going to cut off Eli and his sons for the blasphemy that his sons committed and for Eli’s lack of willingness to restrain them. Samuel, at the Lord’s direction, informs Eli of this, who responds “It is the Lord. Let him do what seems good to him.”
There is a sharp contrast in these chapters between one who hears and one who Shemas. The Shema is an ancient Hebrew verse and prayer given by Moses in Deuteronomy exhorting the people of Israel to “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one, and as for you, you shall Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” The idea here was to hear all the words of the Law that Moses had spoken and was about to speak, though it had more to it than merely listening, but listening and responding to what they heard.
In 1 Samuel, Eli is one who heard the law but did not act on all of it. He had rebellious, blasphemous sons who continually defiled the worship of the priests. The law already detailed how people like this ought to be dealt with, but Eli did not do what he should have done in purging this evil from the midst of the people. We can safely say that he heard but did not listen. He did not Shema.
Contrast this with Samuel himself who, growing up and carefully discharging his duties, keeps himself focused on the Lord and what He says. The Lord blessed Samuel for his careful commitment and love to the Lord and established him as a prophet the moment He told Samuel about the fate of Eli and Eli’s sons. The Lord blesses those who seek Him and speaks to those who want to hear His voice!
We are powering through the Bible and gaining momentum as we do. There is much that the Lord will reveal to each of us and many ways in which He will instruct, rebuke, encourage, and guide those who seek Him. It is important that we are “doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves,” (James 1:22). I encourage us all to engage with the words on the page, to take your time, and to pray through what you are reading, that we may always be attentive to the voice of Jesus!
How has the Lord been challenging you lately? Is there anything that He stirs in the back of your mind that He wants you to bring to Him? Take a look over the past year; how has the Lord been speaking into your life? Honestly consider this: are you a doer of the word?
Dearest Father, thank you for bearing with us as we grow into the New Creation you put in us. Help us to conduct ourselves faithfully towards you and always be ready to hear your voice and respond with faith and love. Please put in us a hunger for more of you, and grant that we may stay always on the narrow path and follow in the footsteps of our Good Shepherd. Amen!
Song: Lord I Need You - Matt Maher
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.