Worship Positions, Obedience Changes.

When we feel empty and far from God or long to hear His voice or feel His presence, we need to look at the life of Samuel. We knew that Samuel was conceived as the answer to a barren woman’s prayer in 1 Samuel chapter 1.

In chapters 2 and 3, verse after verse, when he is introduced, the only thing the Bible really tells us about Samuel is that he was “ministering before the Lord” and growing “in the presence of the Lord”. From the time he is weaned, whenever we hear mention of Samuel, it is in regards to his worship.

The fourth time we read of Samuel worshipping, in the small space between chapters 2 and 3, the Bible immediately follows it by saying “the word of the Lord was rare those days. There was no frequent vision” (1 Sam 3:1). God wasn’t audibly speaking to the people during that time. There were no visions being given.

This was presumably a period of spiritual deafness and blindness, which I know I have often felt in my own life. Desperate for Jesus, crying out to God just to simply feel an inkling of His presence. Pleading with Him for a sign or wonder. Being tested in my faith. Feeling distant and falling away from God and back to my sin. But, it’s interesting that every time we read about Samuel in this context, the Word of God says that he “was ministering before the Lord”.

...was ministering.

It could have said “and he ministered to the Lord”, since the book was written well after these events transpired. But, it shows us that his faith was not on and off, wavering, as ours often is. It was continuous even in the days when “the word of the Lord was rare”. So, Samuel was faithful to a God he didn’t hear from? He was faithful to a God who had yet to really do anything, to which in his human capacity he could perceive as, miraculous for him?   

Based solely on his lifestyle in these early chapters, perhaps coupled with our foreknowledge of his full story, we could assume that Samuel had already been anointed. Based on his demeanor and his story, it wouldn't be too far-fetched to assume that the anointed prophet was just always a part of who he was, that never had to realize it, because he was always operating in it. We could say, well, this doesn’t really apply to my life, because Samuel was different. But, what we read a few verses later, should challenge those perceptions.

In verse 7, after he has awakened Eli several times during the night, in the confusion of responding to what he failed to identify as God’s call, we read:

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

Now, I’ve both heard and read the story of Samuel being called by God (and thinking it was Eli), since I was a little girl. But, it wasn’t until recently that this verse stood out to me. A seemingly small statement, neatly nestled in the midst of a much larger story, but with major implications for our own walk with the Lord.

When that verse first struck my heart, I remember stopping and backtracking through the previous chapters to see if I was remembering what I had just read prior to this verse, correctly. Samuel was ministering before the Lord (presumably all his life). “The boy continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and with man” (1 Sam. 2:26). Samuel worshipped the Lord, before He knew Him or had ever even felt His presence.

So often, many of us are stuck waiting for God to show Himself to us, so that we may worship, but I think it’s a safe assumption to make that Samuel came to know the Lord, not only because he was called by God, but also BECAUSE of how His lifestyle of faithful worship positioned him.

The amazingness and intricacy of God’s Word doesn’t stop there, though. Verse 7, still says “not yet”. He did not yet know the Lord. The word had not yet been revealed. So, it is more of a foreshadowing than a record. Nonetheless, the fact that it says “yet”, to me, makes it appear as a promise of something to come. Still, after calling Samuel three times, it still wasn’t due time. It wasn't “yet” season.

The end of verse 8, after Samuel has again mistaken God’s voice for man’s voice, the word tells us that “Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy.” Wait. Samuel has been recorded to have been the one ministering to the Lord (in the presence of Eli) for years, and yet Eli is the one who recognizes that it is God calling Samuel? He even knows what to tell Samuel to do the next time he is called.

What’s interesting, is that the first 3 times the Bible says the Lord called Samuel. But, after receiving Eli’s wisdom, the next time God calls Samuel, in verse 10, it says “the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times”. When I looked up meanings of the words “came” and “stood” in the original translations, I get the idea that before God was calling out to Samuel, from afar. But, now, He draws near. More importantly, he “stood”, which in this context implies being a fixture. I like to think that at this point, the Lord had resolved to stay there until Samuel recognized His call. This time, God would be relentless in His pursuit.

But, then the text tells us, that though He came and stood, He was still “calling as at other times” and Samuel recognized His voice. So, if God has merely changed His resolve and maybe His proximity, but His actions are the same, what really changed? What changed was Samuel. In all his worship and ministering, he was positioned, but he still had room to grow. Samuel listened to and followed Eli’s instructions and was open to hear from God, before he finally heard from Him.

Obedience changes our hearts.  

When Samuel acknowledged the call of God, that is, when God knew he had Samuel’s attention, He stopped merely calling and He spoke. We say we want to hear God to speak us in a booming roar, but what if we always brush it off as other people or just life. What if what’s keeping you up at night, disrupting your sleep and affecting your work ethic and relationships, is not insomnia, but the unperceived call of God?

I pray that the Lord would send me friends and a community filled with wise council that will tell me when I need to stop listening to the voice of man and start listening for God to speak! I pray for people who want to see God work in my life in such a way that they are willing to correct me, guide and instruct me, even to the point of having to humble themselves. Because, lest we forget, Eli was the priest, having to realize that the God who now rarely spoke, desired to give the vision to Samuel, not him.  

Looking ahead, it was after God revealed Himself that Samuel became known throughout Israel as a prophet, but only Eli had witnessed his lifestyle prior. Some of us are waiting on our appointment. Some of us are waiting on our anointing before being appointed. But, all of us should be ministering before the Lord. It is our worship, our lifestyle, the grace we demonstrate to a dying world, and our reverence to God when we can’t see Him or anyone else, that prepares us.

Our worship positions us. Our obedience changes us.

How have worship and obedience shaped your life? Has God used others to change your heart? How do you react when God is not speaking or when you can't perceive His voice?


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