Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice and to heed is better than the fat of rams. (1 Samuel 15:22)
The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions. (1 Samuel 3:1)
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 you; go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down. (1 Samuel 3:4-5)
Again the Lord called, “Samuel!”… 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. So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
(1 Samuel 3:6a and 7-9)
The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak for your servant is listening.” And the Lord said to Samuel: “See I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle.”
(1 Samuel 3:10-11)
He (Samuel) was afraid to tell Eli the vision, but Eli called him and said, “Samuel, my son,” Samuel answered, “Here I am.” What was it he said to you?” Eli asked. “Don’t hide it from me.”… So Samuel told him everything, hiding nothing from him. (1 Samuel 3:15b-17a and 18)
While he lived on earth, anticipating death, Jesus cried out in pain and wept in sorrow as he offered up priestly prayers to God. Because he honored God, God answered him. Though he was God’s Son, he learned trusting-obedience by what he suffered, just as we do.
(Hebrews 5:7-8) The Message Bible
Obeying was hard for me as a child, particularly as some of the people were doing the exact opposite of what they told me to do. I often heard, “Don’t do as I do; do as I say,” and, “Are you listening to me?” It seemed to me that grown-up people could do whatever they wanted, but I couldn’t. What I didn’t know then is that it takes practice to learn to listen well and obey rightly.
I read 1 Samuel 1-4 to remind me of Samuel’s birth and early history as a boy ministering at Shiloh under Eli the priest. Samuel learned to listen for Eli’s voice and respond to his call. When Eli realized that the Lord was calling Samuel and told him how to respond to the Lord, Samuel was ready to do so, because he had practice in listening to and obeying Eli.
I have learned much about listening, obeying and practicing over a lot of years, but each season of my life from childhood until the age I am now reminds me that I will always have to practice. Sometimes it’s people I have to listen to and do what they tell me; but always it is listening to God and how he desires me to learn and grow in loving him and loving people.
By the Holy Spirit enabling me, my heart’s desire is to say with Paul:
“I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running and I’m not turning back.” (Philippians 3:12-14) MSG
How about you? Psalm 139 reminds us how completely God knows us in our uniqueness. Where do you need to listen to God and what might you need to practice doing in obedience to him? Take some time to read Psalm 139. Ask him to show you what he desires for you. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to enable you to obey.