Good morning! I hope this day finds you and your family well, and I want you to know that you are in my prayers daily during this difficult time.
I invite you to take a few moments with me to reflect on today’s Upper Room Devotional below — as well as on the theology woven into “It is well with my soul.”
1 Samuel 3:1-10 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Samuel’s Calling and Prophetic Activity
3 Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.
2 At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; 3 the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. 4 Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!”[a] and he said, “Here I am!” 5 and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. 6 The Lord called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” 7 Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. 8 The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. 9 Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
10 Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
One evening young Samuel, who was serving in the temple at Shiloh, heard his name called. He was on the cusp of sleep. “Samuel. Samuel.” (v. 4) He got up and went to the priest Eli and said, “You called?” Eli replied, “No, I didn’t call you, my Son. Go back to bed.” (v. 5) Again it happened, and he went. “No, I didn’t call you, my Son. Go back to bed.” (v. 6) When it happened a third time Eli began to discern what was going on. (v. 8) This time he said, “Go back, lie down. When you hear the voice again, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” (v. 9) So Samuel went back, lay down and heard the voice again. This time he said, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” (v. 10) And the Lord spoke a word to him—a prophetic word, meaning that it spoke to that particular situation and that particular time.
The first verse of the passage says, “the word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.” (1 Samuel 3:1) It was a time when people were probably asking the question, “Does the Lord still speak today?” Maybe that’s a question we ask in one way or another today. Does God still have a word for us today? Can we hear God speaking to us today? Is there a way to know what God has in mind for us and for our world?
Now eventually Samuel’s experience told him—in a very dramatic fashion—that the answer was “yes” in his day. But what about our day? Is there a way to know what God has in mind for us and for our world? If God speaks to us today, what does that mean?
It’s not a simple question. I remember well visiting a woman whose mental illness—schizophrenia—manifested itself in hearing voices. It was so difficult for her because she knew intellectually that the voices were not real, but it was hard for her emotionally to accept that because they seemed so real. What a painful and misunderstood condition! She took medication that helped a little bit, but she still heard voices—often persistent and shrill auditory hallucinations that were almost always harsh and critical.
We know that the quality of God’s speaking today doesn’t take that same kind of form and we are rightfully skeptical when someone claims that it does. However, many people of faith have had a persistent thought, a sentence or phrase that came to mind or a strong feeling of God’s presence in a time when an answer or comfort or peace was greatly needed. Many people can tell such a story from their own lives—no audible voice exactly, but somehow the knowledge that God has made known something they needed to know. Sometimes people will say that it was almost like an audible voice. Of course, there are tests for such experiences: Are they consistent with God as revealed in Jesus? Are they consistent with loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and with loving our neighbor as ourselves? Do they ring true? Do they resonate with the experience of others down through the ages?
Not everyone believes God has anything to say today, of course. Among those who believe that God exists, there are those who believe that God created and set the world in motion but is uninvolved now—no speaking, no communicating, no action, and perhaps even no concern. What do you believe about that?
I believe God does speak to us in our situation, in our time, in our place. I believe that in nearly as many ways as there are people and situations and needs, God’s voice speaks persistently. In fact, to say “God speaks today” is really more like a metaphor for the many ways we come to understand God’s presence and God’s will and the ongoing involvement and work of God in our world.
I believe the problem is not so much with God’s speaking or God instructing or God calling or God challenging us, God urging us, but rather the problem is with our listening, with our receiving, and with our responding with our lives. It has to do with how attuned we are to God.
Do you remember Eli’s advice to Samuel? Eli certainly had his problems but Eli had his strengths and one of those was he was a good mentor for young Samuel. And he told him to do three things. He said: Go and lie down, listen, and when you hear the voice speaking, answer, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” Lie Down, Listen and Respond.
For our spiritual journey today I believe that those three simple instructions speak to us as well: be still, listen, and respond with your life.
Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the words and music that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
I am so grateful for you, for our church, and for the Love that will see us all through this very difficult time. Please stay safe and well and we’ll be together again in spirit tomorrow morning!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster