Samuel the Prophet
By Gary Marshall
“Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” With these words Samuel opened his mind, heart and soul to God and became a prophet. He was only 12 or 13 years old.
There is some controversy in the biography of Samuel. Amid all the stories written it is difficult to say what is historical fact and what is legend. There are a few things that we do know.
Samuel was born to a woman named Hannah. Hannah was unable to have a child, and desperately wanted one, so she prayed to God and promised Him that if He gave her a child she would consecrate that child to God. God heard her prayers and graced her with a son. Hannah kept her promise to God and allowed her son Samuel to live with the chief priest, Eli, so he could learn the ways of the faith.
It was while living with Eli that Samuel received the call from God. It is an often told story. Samuel was sleeping when he heard someone call his name. Thinking Eli needed him, he got out of bed and went to him. Eli did not know what Samuel was speaking of and sent him back to bed. This happened a second time and again Samuel went to Eli and again Eli sent him back to bed. The third time this occurred, Eli understood what was happening and instructed Samuel to answer the voice calling his name with these words “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” Samuel did as he was told and this was a turning point in his life. He did hear the voice and it was indeed God. God spoke to Samuel and prophesized the downfall of Eli and his wicked sons. The next day Eli inquired what the Lord had wanted of Samuel, Samuel reluctantly told his mentor the truth. Eli understood that God was the ruler of all and would do what was right and just.
As a prophet, Samuel was not merely someone who spoke the word of God, but was an interpreter, enlightened by God to communicate God’s will to Israel, the Chosen Ones. He was to preach to the people as well as maintain law and order. Samuel was a judge and a ruler all in one. As such, Samuel would make annual trips through the surrounding area to judge the people, this meant he was to help solve disputes among people, chastise them for worshiping idols and use his influence to hold the tribes of Israel together. As Samuel aged, he appointed his sons as judges
As time passed, Samuel’s sons became dishonest and the people of Israel asked Samuel to appoint them a king like all the other nations. Samuel did not want to do this but prayed to God for guidance. God told Samuel to listen to the people for they had not rejected Samuel but God with their request. Samuel spoke the words of God to the Israelites and explained all that a king would take from them and still the people asked for a king. So Samuel appointed them a king named Saul.
We do not hear about Samuel again until he must renounce Saul as a king and appoint David to the throne. It is not known when or how Samuel passed away. We only know that his death and burial took place at Ramah. Samuel is considered one of the greatest Judges as well as one of the greatest prophets. He was a man of God, always keeping the hope and faith of the people alive. His feast day is celebrated on August 20.
Samuel is an example of living according to God’s word. God called Samuel by name to His service. Do we recognize Him calling us to love Him and trust in Him? Can we hear God calling? Do we reply, “Speak Lord…” or do we close our ears to His call? It wasn’t easy for Samuel to tell Eli of God’s prophesy for his family or to continuously maintain the law over the Israelites but Samuel knew that this is what God wanted him to do.
When we are faced with difficult situations in life do we heed the word of God or turn to Him for guidance or do we just do what feels right regardless of the consequences? Although it is not easy to release control of our lives and let God lead us, God wants us to walk through life with Him, always by our side, gently guiding but never forcing. Our faith-lives with God are meant to be lived daily with prayer, quiet meditation and following the laws of our faith, just as Samuel lived and encouraged the Israelites to live.
So, the next time you hear a voice calling your name and you do not know where it comes from, bow your head, open your heart and answer, “Speak Lord!”