1 Samuel 3:2-8 “One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. 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. Then the Lord called Samuel. Samuel answered, ‘Here I am.’ And he ran to Eli and said, ‘Here I am; you called me.’ But Eli said, ‘I did not call; go back and lie down.’ So he went and lay down. Again the Lord called, ‘Samuel!’ And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, ‘Here I am; you called me.’ ‘My son,’ Eli said, ‘I did not call; go back and lie down.’ Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord; the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. The Lord called Samuel a third time, and Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, ‘Here I am; you called me.’ Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy.”
Many important characters of the Bible received messages from the Lord in the middle of the night–Abraham, Jacob, Solomon, Daniel, Joseph, Paul. Maybe it doesn’t strike us as unusual that God’s word came calling on Samuel after he had called it a day and gone to bed.
But it does say something to us about who was looking for whom, doesn’t it. It’s not that Samuel was looking for a message from the Lord. Samuel was going to bed. The Lord was looking for Samuel. He was choosing him to hear his message and carry out a special purpose. It is another example of his grace that the Lord comes looking for us this way.
He made the same point through Isaiah: “I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’” (Isaiah 65:1) Jesus impressed this on his disciples. “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last.” (John 15:16) The hymn Amazing Grace celebrates it, too: “I once was lost, but now am found.” We are found, not because we searched for God, but because God found us.
His voice didn’t speak to you and me audibly, directly, out of the darkness. But the Lord still went looking for us, because he had chosen us to be his hearers. His word came calling through parents, friends, an evangelist, teachers, or a pastor. There are many people he could have chosen to hear him. But he must have wanted you, because here you are today, reading what he has to say.
His purpose in choosing Samuel was a vital one. At the end of this chapter we read, “And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the Lord.” Samuel was going to be God’s man to lead this nation to a more faithful walk with God. He was going to anoint the first two kings of Israel. In that way God was using him to set the stage for the future King of kings, the Savior King whose death on a cross would defeat Satan and set us free from sin and hell. God needed Samuel to pay close attention to his word, if he was going to serve the purpose for which he was being called.
God’s purpose for choosing you and me may not look so impressive at first. It is highly unlikely that the entire Christian world will be reading about our service to God’s plans for generations to come. But we were still chosen to be holy and blameless, because Jesus’ blood has washed all our sins away (Ephesians 1). We are still a chosen people so that we can declare the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2). Jesus still calls us the light of the world and the salt of the earth. Hearing God’s word is still important if we are going to carry out the purpose for which he came looking for us.