Any reader of the opening chapters of 1 Samuel cannot fail to be struck by the contrast between the darkness that enveloped Israel and the devotion of one woman. Hannah was indeed a handmaid of the Lord (1.11), and her example is one that should encourage mothers to ensure that they are fully engaged in the upbringing of young children entrusted to them by the Lord. Who would doubt that when she asked the Lord for "a man child" she understood the need for a man to arise as the deliverer of the nation!
Samuel, the child given to her, was given back to the Lord and served in the Tabernacle. But still it was a barren time. There was no open vision. Search the book of Judges and the opening chapters of 1 Samuel and it will be seen that only Deborah (Judg 4.4), an unnamed prophet (Judg 6.8), and the man of God (1 Sam 2.27-36) are to be found prophesying. The last of these prophesied to Eli regarding the death of Elis sons and the impoverishment of his house. Clearly there was little interest in the Word of God.
In many ways these days reflect spiritual conditions around us today. There is neither the respect for nor the interest in the Word of God that is necessary to maintain scriptural testimony. The reasons for that are not the subjects of our present consideration, but the reality is plain to see. The opening verses of our chapter are, however, an encouragement to those who still are interested in getting to know God in a more intelligent way; those who desire to increase their devotion to Him. If that is the aim it is necessary to spend long hours with the Book. Note the four things that are said about the Word of God.
First, it was precious, meaning that it was rare. The lack of interest in it resulted in there being little revelation. The same lack today results in there being ignorance of the Scriptures, but to those who love them, read them and meditate on them they are indeed precious. Although it is ignored and despised by the most of society, to those who love it the Bible is precious, valuable and treasured.
Second, it was personal. The Word of God that came to Samuel was for him (vv.4,6,8,10), even although he was young. Let young believers take heart that the Scriptures have a message for them. Never let it be forgotten that the prime reason for the reading and study of the Scriptures is not to prepare to preach, nor is it to gain an intellectual knowledge of the Bible. The prime reason is to make the reader Christ-like. Every time we read we must examine our lives in view of Scripture and determine to adjust to its teaching. We must let the Word of God speak to us. To fail in that is to fail in what is most vital!
Third, it was persistent. Four times the Lord called Samuel. On the first three occasions he did not understand who was calling. In our reading of this treasured Book we may not understand the significance of what we have read. Its claim on us can be so stark that we fail to grasp what it is saying. Keep reading, however, and you will find that the demands of the Book persist. The purpose of this is not to restrict our lives and rob us of "liberty". It is rather to lead us to a fuller appreciation of the Lord Jesus and the promised enjoyment of "life more abundant".
Fourth, it was productive. Samuel was not aware of all that was involved in that call. The demise of Elis house was revealed to him, but not the great part that would be his in bringing revival to Israel. Nevertheless, he continued to serve. "The Lord was with him" (3.19) and "the Lord appeared again to Samuel" (3.21). Those who put Scripture into practice will find that the Lord will reveal Himself, not in a vision, but in their lives in ways that they will recognise. They will come to realise that the Word of God does work, and as it works out they will come to know the Lord better.
Let all, therefore, give themselves to Scripture and discover how precious, personal, persistent and productive it will turn out to be. The need is great, the choice is yours! Dare to be a Samuel!