Here I Am!

By Rev. Heidi L. Barham |  January 14, 2018

Read 1 Samuel 3:1 - 10
Perhaps you are already familiar with the story of Samuel, but I thought it would be fitting to do a little refresher: 
It all started with Hannah, who was the most beloved of the two wives of a man named Elkanah.  However, she was barren.  Year after year, Hannah went with Elkanah and his other wife, Penninah, and her children to the Tabernacle to worship and offer a sacrifice.  And like something out of an episode of a bad reality TV show, every year, Penninah would taunt and torment Hannah, flaunting her fertility in her face. 
When Hannah could not take it any longer, she cried out to the Lord, pleading for the privilege of giving birth to a son.  She even went so far as to promise God that if He would indeed give her a son, she would dedicate him to the service of the Lord and no razor would ever be used on his head.
Her prayers were so fervent, that the priest, Eli, thought she must have been drunk.  However, once Hannah explained her story to him, Eli offered her words of encouragement.  And in an act of compassion, he sent her home with his blessing. 
And sure enough, Hannah was blessed with a son, who she named Samuel.  And once the boy was weaned, she honored her promise to God and took him back to the Temple where she left him to live with the priests and serve the Lord. 
Now Hannah and Elkanah would visit young Samuel each year when they went to make the annual sacrifice. While they were there, Eli, the priest, would offer a blessing that the two of them would have other children to take the place of the son they had dedicated to the Lord.  And again, they were blessed.  They had three more sons and two daughters.  However, Samuel remained at the temple and grew up serving God.
And so, as we look at our text for the morning, we encounter Samuel, who was still a young boy.  And the text says that Samuel was lying down in his bed, in the area where the priests rested, near where the Ark of the Covenant was kept.  And he heard a voice calling to him, “Samuel, Samuel.”
He responded right away and said, “Here I am,” and then he ran in to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”
Eli, however, said, “No, I did not call you, go back to bed.”  So, Samuel went back to bed.  But once again, God called to him, “Samuel, Samuel.”
And again, Samuel went to Eli and said, “Here I am, you called me.”  But Eli sent him back to bed, assuring him that he had not called to him.
Now the text says that all this had taken place before Samuel knew God for himself and before God’s word had been revealed to him.  So, it is not all that surprising that Samuel did not realize who was speaking to him.
So, when it happened again, and God called to Samuel a third time, he went back in to Eli and said, “Here I am, you called me.”  And let’s just say the third time must have been the charm because it finally dawned on Eli that it was actually God calling Samuel. 
So, this time, Eli told him to go back and lie down and if he heard the voice again, he was to respond, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”  And the Lord did call to him again and he did indeed respond, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
But can you imagine being in Samuel’s shoes? 
A young boy who had been pledged to serve God before he was even born, who only saw his mother and father when they came for the annual sacrifice…  And now he’s hearing voices in the middle of the night!
But he seemed to take it all in stride.  He did not second guess or question Eli.  He simply took him at his word and when God spoke, he listened.
Perhaps we could learn a thing or two about commitment and dedication from Samuel’s story.
Now, according to Webster’s dictionary, commitment is defined as an agreement or pledge to do something in the future; while dedication is defined as a devoting or setting [something] aside for a particular purpose.
Samuel’s mother Hannah had made a commitment to God, pledging that Samuel would live his life in service to God.  His life had clearly been devoted to a very particular purpose, serving God.
But it is important to note; however, that the initial act of commitment and dedication of Samuel’s life was not made by Samuel, but by his mother.  And yet, he honored the commitment that she made to the Lord.
There may be times in our lives when, like Samuel, we will be called to fulfill commitments that have been made by other people.  Perhaps, not as in depth as the commitment made by Hannah, but still a commitment with some degree of significance that has been made by someone we honor and respect.
And when fulfilling that commitment brings glory and honor to God, like Samuel, we ought to be ready, willing and able to say, “Here I am.”
But the challenge is being ready, willing and able to say, “Here I am,” even before we know what we are being called to do.
You see, despite Samuel being a young boy and not having the same degree of wisdom that Eli had, Samuel had something even greater… he had faith.
If we look back at the text, the first time Samuel heard the voice calling to him, before he took the first step, he said, “Here I am.” 
He did not stop and say, “Hey, who’s calling me?”   He did not crawl under the bed nor did he cower and hide under the covers.
On the contrary, he stepped out on faith, believing it was the voice of someone he knew and trusted calling to him.  And so, he went to Eli, believing it was Eli who had called him.
And after having been through the drill three different times, when Eli told Samuel what he should do if he heard the voice again, Samuel trusted Eli and had enough faith to say, when he heard the Lord calling, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
He had no idea what the Lord would say to him, but he responded in faith. 
He had no idea what he would be getting himself into, but Samuel was willing to say, “Here I am…” anyhow.
It reminds me of a quote that is attributed to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
So, what about us?  Are as willing as Samuel to step out in faith, even when we don’t see the whole staircase and are not sure of where the Lord is calling us to go?
Well, if we aren’t, we should be, because the Lord will not call us to go anywhere that He is not.  And He will not call us to do anything that He will not equip us to do.
In his book, “Through the Fire,” author Joseph Stowell, writes, “I think of David Livingstone, the pioneer missionary to Africa, who walked over 29,000 miles. His wife died early in their ministry and he faced stiff opposition from his Scottish brethern. He ministered half blind. His kind of perseverance spurs me on.   As I run, I remember the words in his diary:
Send me anywhere, only go with me. Lay any burden on me, only sustain me. Sever me from any tie but the tie that binds me to Your service and to Your heart.”  (Joseph Stowell, Through the Fire, Victor Books, 1988, p. 150.)
We can step out on faith, because we can take God at His word found in Deuteronomy 31(6) and Joshua 1 (5-9) and even referenced in Hebrews 13:5, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
We are living in a day and time when we will find ourselves being called to step out in faith and trust God to lead us where He would have us to go… and there will be times when we may not have a clue where that is.  But that is what trust and faith are all about -- knowing that no matter where we go, God will never leave us nor forsake us.
As most of you know, back in the late fall of 2013, when I got that call from Dr. Edwards about coming to a church in Novelty, Ohio, I had no clue where Novelty was, but I felt God calling me to go, and HERE I AM…
And let me say, I am mighty glad about it.  There is still much that I don’t know about where God will lead us in the days, weeks, months and perhaps even years to come but, “Here I am,” and here I hope to stay.
And my prayer is that the next time you have a sense that God is calling you, when you feel that gentle nudging in your spirit… I pray that you will be ready, willing and able to take that leap of faith and say, “Here I am, Lord.”
And if that is your prayer as well, then won’t you stand and join in singing our Hymn of Discipleship [Here I Am, Lord #452].   May it be a hymn that we can sing with a spirit of commitment and dedication that God’s will be done in each of our lives.