God gave Moses the 10 commandments after he led the Israelites out of Egypt. The first four commandments teach us how to act towards God. They were specific about having no other gods and we should not make an idol to worship. These instructions teach us that God needs to be in first place in our lives. Nothing else should come before him. No possessions, no other relationship, no activity, no hobby, and no king. God desires our loyalty and devotion.
1. How do you react to the idea of no other gods?
2. What things or people have you placed before God?
Challenge: If you review how you spent your time this past week, what do you see? Are there any changes you need to make?
Samuel spent his life following God. His sons watched Samuel’s devotion and were eventually appointed as judges, but they didn’t follow their dad’s commitment to God. As the Israelites watched their dishonest ways, the people didn’t trust them and revolted by asking for a human king to lead them “as the other nations had.” God recognized that the people were actually rejecting him as their king.
1. Why did the people reject God as their king?
2. How do you relate to the Israelites?
Challenge: As you reflect on your answers above, are there things about God that you reject? What are the things that make it hard to follow God? Can you begin to pray about them, and ask for God’s help?
What does following God look like? The Israelites were asked to put away idols to foreign gods and serve God only. Their devotion included fasting, confession of sin, crying out to God for help, and sacrificing burnt offerings. All these actions were to demonstrate their commitment to God. While the Israelites focused on God, he protected them and they were successful in battles against their enemies.
1. What things in your life keep you from being a devoted follower of God?
2. What would your devotion to God look like?
Challenge: Examine your life. What keeps you from spending time in God’s word, keeps you from church, or keeps you from joining a small group? What changes could you make to follow God?
This section depicts Samuel’s transformation from “boy,” (3:1) to “prophet,” (3:20), from being a juvenile, ignorant of the Lord, to one who functioned as the Lord’s impeccable and revered spokesman. With this event the child Samuel, the first named male prophet since Moses, begins his career as a prophet who will be like Moses (cf. Deut 18:15–19). In it all, the Lord once again demonstrated his propensity for confounding human systems, and bypassing the exalted in favor of the humble.
1. What is your next step of surrender today?
2. Are there any practices you need to start? Is there anything from your life that you need to remove?
Challenge: Start a written list of the things you want to surrender to the Lord. Follow up that with a list of things you will pray for strength to remove, and remove them. Keep pushing ahead and pray for the Holy Spirit to embolden you to live a life worthy of what He called you to.
Samuel is afraid to tell Eli God’s revelation – partly from awe at the divine word which formed the content of the revelation, partly on account of the dreadful significance it had for Eli, partly because of the sorrow which, in his reverence and piety towards Eli, he could not rid himself. Samuel had a dilemma, a conundrum of sorts. When Eli calls, he could hide or pretend he didn’t hear him, but that would be blatant disobedience to the Lord. However, he knew the seriousness and soberness of the message he was about to bring to Eli, and the devastating effect that it would have on him. He must do the right thing and Eli’s persistence in wanting to know enables that to occur. How would you have reacted?
1. Was Samuel successful with his first assignment from God? How do you normally view something as successful?
2. In what ways does God’s standard for success differ from mans?
Challenge: Re-read the section of scripture above and reflect on the following question: How did Eli receive the message from Samuel? How do you think you would have responded? With humility and grace? Why or why not?
God calls His people to act for Him, represent Him, speak His truth, and serve Him in this world. Samuel would be God’s prophet. That night, God gave Samuel a difficult message: He would carry out His prophesied judgment against Eli’s family. (See 1 Sam. 2:27-36) This did not mean that Eli would be forever condemned; for all those who repent, turning from sin and turning to Christ, are forgiven. But God decreed his family’s privilege of service was gone. Bitter but just punishment had come. I can only imagine Samuel’s dread having to deliver this message to Eli; but Eli insisted. When Samuel lowered the boom, Eli submitted saying “He is the Lord; let Him do what is good in His eyes”. Tragically, God’s almighty justice and power had not motivated Eli to act sooner in just discipline of his evil sons, and now the gavel would fall on him. Yet, Eli possessed a great reverence for God, and submitted wholly to His sovereignty. Now that is a lesson worth learning.
1. In what ways have you seen passivity become a part of family life? What have been the results of not dealing with that lingering issue?
2. How has God been calling you to deliver a hard message in love to someone in your circle of influence? Will you act in obedience or cowardice?
Challenge: Has God challenged you to deeper, purer commitment and true obedience? If so, pray for strength and courageously obey through faith in His promises.
One would naturally expect an audible message from God to be given to the priest Eli and not to the child Samuel. Eli was much older and more experienced, and he held the proper position. But God’s chain of command is based solely on faith, not on age or position. In finding faithful followers, God may use unexpected channels. Be prepared for the Lord to work at any place, at any time, and through anyone that He chooses. God will usually use certain people to help others understand His Word, but it is always God who regenerates – gives new spiritual life, rebirth as new creations – so His children receive and apply His truth. God initiates these relationships with His people. Eli realized God was calling Samuel and instructed him to listen intently. God calls His people personally. God’s call comes today as people hear the gospel. Though God will judge sin, He provides salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Have you heeded the call?
1. How have you heard God call you lately?
2. In what ways have your mind and thinking been challenged, your heart stirred, and your desires turned to Him as you read His Word and interact with other believers?
Challenge: When God calls, Will you say? “Here I am” and heed the call. He may be calling you to lovingly speak His words – even difficult words – to a friend at work, a family member, or a group of children at church. God’s people can faithfully speak His words with confidence because His words are trustworthy. Will you trust?
Samuel was confused. He heard a voice and thought it was his mentor, Eli, calling for him. He kept going to Eli’s room until Eli realized that the voice was God trying to get Samuel’s attention. Listening for God is an important life skill, and God is not silent. We live in a noisy culture that often speaks in ways that are contrary to God’s voice. It can be difficult to hear God if we are more in tune with the voice of this world. God speaks to us in many ways. He speaks through creation, giving testimony to his faithfulness and creativity. He speaks through his Word, where we come to understand his salvation and purpose for us. He speaks through wise mentors in our lives. He speaks through life situations, opening and closing doors. God speaks by his Holy Spirit, equipping us with gifts and passions to use for service in his kingdom. So, I ask you, are you listening?
1. How are you experiencing God’s leading in your life?
2. Are you listening attentively for God’s voice or paying attention to the white noise?
Challenge: Pray this simple prayer or something similar. Be prepared to watch God work! Lord, make us people who are in tune with YOUR voice. Let us seek YOUR leading throughout our life. Equip us to follow YOUR direction, we pray. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Hannah’s faithfulness results in many blessings. Each year, she and her husband, Elkanah, visited Samuel when they traveled to the Tabernacle to sacrifice and worship. Even as a boy, Samuel served the Lord well, so the priest annually blessed his parents and asked God to give them more children. Just as the Lord blessed Job with double the wealth and ten more children after he had lost them all (Job 42:12-17), God gave Hannah three more sons and two daughters!
1. What blessings have you experienced after a difficult choice to be faithful to God?
2. Who can you be praying for God to bless today?
Challenge: Start a written list of the blessings in your life. Keep it simple and strive to add to it each day. There is power in acknowledging the good that our Lord provides. Then when life brings you down, read your list and allow the Holy Spirit to fill you with true joy in how much God loves you!
After presenting Samuel to serve at the Tabernacle, Hannah worshiped the Lord. Her heart was filled with gratitude and she praised God in a beautiful prayer. She affirms God’s sovereignty by listing how He easily changes people’s circumstances – lifting up those who suffer and bringing down the proud. Instead of regretting her vow to give her only son in service to the Lord, she celebrates God’s goodness and full control over all the earth.
1. How does your heart respond to an answer to prayer? Is your response very different if the answer is not what you hoped for?
2. The end of verse 9 says, “No one will succeed by strength alone.” Does this bring you comfort or cause concern?
Challenge: Exercise your “praise muscles” by consistently thanking God for all of the blessings you encounter each day – whether it’s as insignificant as an available parking spot when you’re running late, or as profound as miraculous healing after a serious diagnosis. When we are in the habit of praising our good God every day, it is much easier to experience peace when struggles come.