1 Samuel 3:7, 21 Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.
The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word.
This is a very famous story that is taught in Sunday School all over the world, I would suppose, but it is of far more importance than many adults attribute to it. Precisely because they learned it in Sunday School, and because the main character is a child, they think it no longer has bearing for them. Nothing could be further from the truth! Many “Christian” adults are in the position of Samuel as they story begins: they don’t really know the Lord. This is different from knowing about Him. Literally living in the Tabernacle, Samuel had to know all about the rituals of worship, and I’m sure he pestered Eli with “Why?” a great deal. However, he didn’t have a personal relationship with the God he served. All that changed when God spoke to him, and not only his life, but also the whole nation, and indeed world history, changed as a result. I keep remembering that up through Samuel, people had very little written Bible to go on. Living in the Tabernacle, Samuel had far more access to what Moses had written than the vast majority of people, and it is quite possible that this experience of hearing directly from God caused him to dive into what was available to him, seeking to know the One who had spoken to him. That may well be included in what verse 21 says about God continuing to reveal Himself through His Word. Today we have not only the whole Old Testament but the New Testament as well, so we have far more opportunity to develop a personal relationship with our Creator, whether or not He speaks to us in audible words. When it is so possible, it is a mystery why so few people seem to pursue it! The Bible as a whole is clear that God desires a deep, personal relationship with each of His children, and there is no greater joy, satisfaction, or achievement than entering into and growing in such a relationship.
This is something I have certainly learned over the years, but then I had the huge blessing of being raised by parents who each had such a relationship with God. The Word of the Lord was deeply and truly honored in our home, and I became quite familiar with the Bible from a very early age. However, being familiar with the book and receiving the Word of the Lord are two different things! I have had to grow in listening, in opening my heart and being quiet enough to hear what He was saying to me. As a pastor I am charged with communicating the Word of the Lord to others, but if I fail to receive it for myself, that does me no good. I am never to preach anything I am not willing to receive myself.
Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You also for having me re-read just now Mark Conner’s “Preaching to Change Lives” outline that is on the wall beside me right here. Help me not only hear You fully myself, help me communicate what You are saying effectively to my hearers so that they may hear You through me. May I not just dump information on them, but lead them gently so that the eyes of their hearts may be opened to receive Your truth and understand it to apply it. May each person in this congregation come to a deep, personal relationship with You, taking in Your Word for themselves and growing as You desire and intend, for their blessing and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!