Now the boy Samuel ministered to the LORD before Eli. And the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no widespread revelation. 1 Samuel 3:1 NKJV
(Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, nor was the word of the LORD yet revealed to him.) 1 Samuel 3:7 NKJV
When Samuel was a young boy, ministering at the house of God, the country of Israel was seemingly going through a period of time where God's voice was rare. Eli's sons (priests at the time) were corrupt, didn't know the Lord, and didn't care to follow the customs or priestly expectations (1 Samuel 2:12-17). Eli himself didn't seem to have a grasp on his children, and the two verses above give a pretty stark realization of what was happening.
Yet, the one thing that continues to go through my mind as I read this chapter was that, despite Samuel not knowing the Lord, despite the lack of widespread revelation, despite the role models Samuel had in the temple...He heard God's voice.
He heard God call his name.
He heard his voice calling him in the midst of the darkness surrounding him.
And Samuel didn't know it was God's voice.
Three times, Samuel heard God call him and didn't know it was Him. It wasn't until the third time that Eli finally realized Who was speaking to Samuel and gave him direction.
I could walk away from this saddened by the fact that a priest and a priestly intern (for lack of a better word) didn't know it was God who called him.
I could walk away from this in awe that, of all the people God chose to speak to that day, it was a boy and not the priest.
I could even make an apologetic argument regarding how God speaks to each of us and not just to priests, pastors, and teachers. His voice is for all to hear.
But you know what I keep going back to?
Simply that, even without Samuel knowing the LORD yet or there being widespread revelation in that time, Samuel heard God's voice.
He heard! And I am so encouraged.
Encouraged that even in a country where a person does all the right things, says all the right things, and reads all the right things--but still doesn't have a personal relationship with the LORD--that person can still hear Him speak.
Encouraged that God doesn't "need" people to speak truth into someones life, He can do that on His own (but He does choose to use us).
Encouraged that God can use flawed people like Eli (and me) to finally tell someone "hey, that wasn't a coincidence, that was the Lord telling you that."
So, today, I walk away praying for the Samuel's around me. Praying that God would speak to them. Praying that the Eli's in their life would finally realize and share with them what it is they are hearing. Praying that God would use me and that God would use these "Samuels" to speak truth to this nation.