Walk of Response


1 Sam 3:6 Again the LORD called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”

This is quite a delightful story of naivety. Samuel is still a boy and he lives with old Eli, the priest, at Shiloh. The situation is physically and allegorically described in verse 2. Look at Eli’s description: “whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place.” Now that physically is what was happening to him in old age but it also, I suggest, describes what he was like spiritually. It is clear from what goes before and what follows on, that Eli has lost vision and has allowed his sons to run amok spiritually and there is no sense of revelation from heaven (v.1). Moreover he was “lying down” in his usual place. OK, this was night-time, but I suggest it also speaks of his spiritual state – inactive! Then we find (v.3), “The lamp of God had not yet gone out.” Yes, that was the lamp in the tabernacle that was there to give light, but light speaks of revelation and the lamp of the Lord speaks of testimony, and although Eli and his sons were out of contact with God there were still those who were (see 2:27-). Samuel was lying down (he’s inactive so far) in the Tabernacle where the ark of God was. Now the ark always signifies the presence of God and so Samuel is in a good place to hear God speak – and he does! However, the problem is that Samuel really doesn’t know the Lord yet. He hasn’t come into a relationship with the Lord and he isn’t able to recognize when God speaks.

Samuel hears a voice and, assuming it is Eli, he runs to him. When it happens a third time, Eli realizes that this must be a visitation from the Lord and instructs Samuel as to how he should respond. What follows is Samuel receiving prophetic revelation.

Now what we have here is a picture of what happens with many Christians. Ask a group of Christians how often they hear God speaking to them and some will reply ‘never’ and a large number will reply ‘rarely’ and it will only be a few who will answer more positively. Yet, when we look at Scripture we find that God is a God of communication; He is constantly talking to people!

So are you a Samuel-like person who doesn’t recognize God’s voice? So how does God speak? A number of ways! There is through His word, the Bible. In one sense all of it is God’s communication to us, from which we can learn, but then sometimes when we read a verse or a passage it suddenly seems to take on significance, or perhaps it even seems to leap out of the page to us. Then there are righteous, godly thoughts that come into our mind, sometimes an impression, sometimes a clear word. There are circumstances that can speak to us, and sometimes God speaks through other people – a preacher or perhaps a friend who feel they have something for us.

But before all this happens, there needs to be an awareness that God speaks – and that’s what Samuel had to learn first. But more than that, there needs to be a responsive heart full of faith. Samuel got up and went quickly to Eli – there was a responsiveness in him. God looks for those who will respond to Him. I’m certain that He speaks to all of us a lot of the time, but we just don’t recognize that it is Him. He’s actually looking for a people who will walk the walk of response – who will take time to listen, who will perhaps go aside to listen, who will take time to learn to listen. The key is having a responsive heart. You can afford to make mistakes in listening – it’s how we learn, but perhaps it is better to have a mentor, someone who is more mature in these things than you, to help you, to check you and help you learn to hear more accurately the sometimes ‘still small voice of God’, the gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:12)

Samuel responded to something he thought he heard. He walked out to Eli to find out what it was. It was a learning walk and God invites many of us to take that same learning walk, the walk of response. This may be something completely new to you. Risk it, risk believing that because He loves you He will talk to you through the variety of ways we considered above. It’s a whole new day when God speaks – and we hear!

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