Samuel was the son of Hannah, the barren woman, who prayed to God asking for a child. She gave birth to a son. Hannah had promised God, “if you will bless me with a son, i will give him back to you”. She kept her promise.
Samuel grew up living in the temple of the Lord, under the care of Eli.
These chapters in 1 Samuel have been the focus of my readings of late, there's so much to learn here.
This time around it's the wisdom of “questions” that is on the class syllabus. In Samuel, we see many questions placed before the Lord. It begins in 1 Samuel chapter 3 when the Lord first speaks to the boy Samuel in the temple. Waking the child from his sleep, the Lord calls, “Samuel”. And Samuel's response, “Here I am...”
These are the first recorded words of Samuel the servant boy who would become a powerful prophet of God.
“Here I am...”
These 3 words ---- change lives.
There's an eagerness in them, can you hear it too?
A whisper unspoken that says “yes... what is it...did you call me...what would you ask of me?”
And these are the first words God chose to let us hear come from Samuel's mouth.
It's at the beginning of Samuel's days, serving Eli in the temple, with a heart asking... “what would you have me do?”. His mother Hannah taught him early, you were born to serve the Lord.
Before serving, we must “ask” to know what is needed, we must ask to know what God wants.
Little is known of the “boy” Samuel. 1 Samuel 2:18 – 21 gives us a glimpse of his life. And in verse 26 we read that he grew taller and in favor with the Lord and the people.
Then in chapter 3, those three words come.
“Here I am...”
He didn't hide in fear.
He didn't yawn and roll over.
He didn't strut with self-worth.
He didn't yell back with rebellious attitude.
He was “clean” and able and willing. No “dirt” of self held him back.
He was eager and ready ---- for whatever would be asked of him.
Samuel thought Eli was calling out to him. He would not presume the Lord would be speaking to him. For in those days the voice of the Lord was not heard often. (3:1)
So when the voice awakens him, Samuel runs to Eli to ask, “did you call me, what do you need...?”
Eli had not called him, Samuel was sent back to bed.
Three times this happened in the dark of the night until finally Eli realizes the Lord is calling out to Samuel. He guides Samuel to respond the next time, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening”.
That's Samuel. A boy awakened from his sleep by the voice of God.
The surrendered son who served.
The boy who became a prophet and spoke over the heads of earthly kings, because he served One who was higher.
We read further in the book, and find the story of Saul and David. How Samuel was instructed by God to anoint Saul to be the first king of Israel. And then David, the shepherd boy who played the harp to calm the fretful king Saul. David who killed Goliath with one smooth stone. David grows in the favor of the Lord, Saul does not. Saul disobeys God's guidance to him. The tension grows in the king's palace as Saul's jealously increases. He wants David killed.
Then we come to Chapter 23 --- David is hiding from Saul, Saul is pursuing him with plans to kill him. And the powerful lesson of questions comes front and center. (NOTE: all parenthesis w/comments, bold font, and underlinings added by me)
The Lord answered him, “Go, attack the Philistines and save Keilah.” (question 1, answer 1)
3 But David’s men said to him, “Here in Judah we are afraid. How much more, then, if we go to Keilah against the Philistine forces!” (no question, just a telling – no answer from God)
4 Once again David inquired of the Lord, and the Lord answered him, “Go down to Keilah, for I am going to give the Philistines into your hand.” (question 2, answer 2)
5 So David and his men went to Keilah, fought the Philistines and carried off their livestock. He inflicted heavy losses on the Philistines and saved the people of Keilah. 6 (Now Abiathar son of Ahimelek had brought the ephod down with him when he fled to David at Keilah.)
7 Saul was told that David had gone to Keilah, and he said, “God has delivered him into my hands, for David has imprisoned himself by entering a town with gates and bars.” 8 And Saul called up all his forces for battle, to go down to Keilah to besiege David and his men. (no question, no guidance from God)
9 When David learned that Saul was plotting against him, he said to Abiathar the priest, “Bring the ephod.” 10 David said, “Lord, God of Israel, your servant has heard definitely that Saul plans to come to Keilah and destroy the town on account of me. 11 Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me to him? Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? Lord, God of Israel, tell your servant.”
And the Lord said, “He will.” (question 3, answer 3)
12 Again David asked, “Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me and my men to Saul?”
And the Lord said, “They will.” (question 4, answer 4)
13 So David and his men, about six hundred in number, left Keilah and kept moving from place to place. When Saul was told that David had escaped from Keilah, he did not go there.
14 David stayed in the wilderness strongholds and in the hills of the Desert of Ziph. Day after day Saul searched for him, but God did not give David into his hands.”
Saul could not “find” what he wanted, he wandered, he was unsuccessful...
Saul had not asked God.
David was “hidden” from those who pursued him.
David trusted GOD more than he trusted his own judgement.
David asked for God's guidance 4 times, he received 4 answers. (in 14 verses)
Do we ask?
Do i ask?
Do we fear asking because we don't think God will answer? -- is He there? -- does He care?
Or do we not ask because we want our way, and we're afraid God won't give the “right” answer?
Or perhaps we don't ask because we don't realize our need for help. We think “we've got this”.
Doesn't that have the bad-smell-of-Saul?
He thought he was clever enough to know what he needed to do ----- he thought he didn't need to ask.
And as a result ---- he got neither answers nor guidances from God ----- and he “searched” but did not find...
The dirt of the slum seemed worse somehow; the smells stronger and the drunks were out. There were too many puppies and ducklings and children and babies and too much filth. My heart twisted inside me and my words went flat. The children's hands were stickier and their grasp was not gentle as it so often had been, instead it felt... more... desperate.
More roofs and walls and locked doors were needed. Eleven new huts were being built to replace the last of the trash dome houses. SO many people had come alongside the work, it was all God's work, we could claim not one speck of it. The much needed moneys had been generously given. The physical work was being done by Kenyans. It was a partnership choreographed by the One who loves.
Much more was in the works --- concrete floors for every hut, then jigger treatments for each and every sufferer. And finally shoes for every bare foot.
Many people heard about it, and ---- they ---- cared! They gave.
In less than 5 months every needed dollar was donated and ready.
Our task shifted from raising the needed funds to insuring the wise, proper allocation of them.
Today we visited to see the progress and hold everyone accountable to honesty. Too many thieves live in this place, accountability is a priority.
At the first new hut we were greeted by a drunk woman and my heart sank low. She twirled about in her drunken state asking us to take her picture. Her posing was disgusting and my ugly-flesh wanted to shake her hard. Her children ran around the almost finished hut, excitement gushed from them. Reality was coming too quickly to process. The drunken mother was demanding my attention, but the squealing children was where my focus wanted to be. They were happy beyond words that someone cared enough to build them a place to live; a place with walls and a metal roof and concrete floor and a wooden door. They felt loved and cared for, they felt seen...
Beside me danced the drunk momma who should have been providing this for her children, but instead she had chosen the brew that was rotting her mind and helping her forget. Forget where she was and what she had endured.
And my ugly flesh wanted to judge her...
Oh God --- i wanted to mentally convict her and lock her out of my mind and heart.
And so... i did just that.
My focus lingered only on the children and i prayed for them. They need so much that their mother can't give them --- can't, or won't --- or couldn't, or just doesn't --- confusion comes with poverty, and i was standing in the place where confusion and poverty had won.
We have to choose to not be devoured --- we have to choose to focus on what is true and noble and right and pure... excellent... praise worthy... (Philippians 4:8) The impact of those words comes close when the drunken mother has not kept her focus where it should have been ------- but the children dancing around her wobbly legs are still trying to. And my heart crashes over it all. It's a crash and burn moment that no one can see but my Father.
And my soul erupts in the middle of the filth and i ask, “Lord, HOW COULD SHE possibly keep focus? How much suffering has pressed in on her to wipe away any glimpses of what is right and pure and lovely and... Oh God, it's a pit that sucks-in those who come near... maybe that's why most DON'T come near this place of sin-filled-stench. I feel myself sliding ---- Lord, we need to get these kids OUT OF HERE. Before they get pulled d-o-w-n into the pit that has already taken their mother's mind. Oh God, what are we doing here? ...”
We walked on to the next hut, just sticks and a roof so far, but 3 layers of mud were soon to come. I was despairing in more ways than words will fit into. The children still clung to our arms, their dirty feet leaving muddy footprints on my once-clean-shoes. And my soul asked again, “Lord, are you SURE you REALLY want this work done here in this slum? Are you really certain this is the right thing to do? GOD, i must hear You speak or i'm going to run... LORD, shouldn't we use the dollars given to rescue these children OUT of this horrible place??”
Then the gentle-faced young mother carrying her swaddled newborn baby walked humbly to the door, looked me in the eye and said, “Thank you so much for this home, God bless you and those behind you.” It came out in Turkana, but my heart knew what she had said, even before it was translated for my ears. Her eyes spoke it perfectly...
She was the second momma of the day. The momma of the second house. She was young and barefoot and as she unwrapped her precious child, i could see just how “new” it was. Her whole face gleamed through her shy demeanor as her every move and gesture conveyed love and care.
PEACE was present.
And the confusion in the filth was washed instantly --- the reassuring answer came to my soul---
As 3 powerful words spoke in the middle of a slum ------
“donna, see... i love her d-e-a-r-l-y. I love them d-e-e-p-l-y. My love is NOT altered by where my children are or even by what they choose to do. My love is abiding and near --- and I want this one to know i'm w-i-t-h HER. I am God and I will NOT be chased away by evil. I will enter into the places where darkness torments ------ I would have My love brought to the places where no love is found. donna, don't doubt what I've told you to do, just do it. It doesn't make sense... I know that full well... the outcome might not “work” in your eyes... but it will accomplish the plans I have. Don't question MY plans donna, just obey Me, and love, love, (wash your hands lots) and then love some more. You can trust Me donna ---- this is My work, My plan, My love, and MY WAY.”
And in the middle of Kipsongo slum, Samuel and David and Saul flooded in just as if they might be found around the next stream of mud huts.
Samuel... “here i am Lord, speak Lord, your servant is listening...”
David... “shall i attack ?... Go, attack ---- and save ----.
And then the thought of Saul --- who didn't ask --- but he only did what seemed right to him --- and he wanted, he wandered, he was unsuccessful...
God says ----------------------------------------------
I'm God, ask Me...
I'm listening to you...
I am with you.
I will answer.
In my way, for my purposes (not yours, but mine)... for the good of many (and for you ----- but --- not just you).
Ask – I'll answer --- and the outcome will be mine, I'll take responsibility for how it “looks” and what it accomplishes --- you take responsibility for whether you believed ME enough to obey Me.
Saul searched, but did not find. (He didn't ask God...)
David asked, and got answers, and was rescued from his enemy.
Samuel began his discourse of life ----- asking, responding, serving, and getting answers.
-------------- and the Lord called out, “Samuel!” --- and Samuel replied,
“Here I am Lord.
your servant is listening.”
©2015 Donna Taylor Reaching for the Robe
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