Listening to God: 1 Samuel 3

By Motacilla – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

*Originally published on RevGalBlog Pals, October 11, 2021

Well, Narrative Lectionary preaching friends, so much for Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, and Ruth; we’re jumping right into 1 Samuel! This Sunday is our one chance to talk about the period of the judges before we find ourselves in the monarchy next week.

It’s likely that many people in your congregation will be familiar with this story of God calling Samuel, having heard it in Sunday School. As a child, I remember thinking how nice it would be for God to just come and have a chat with me while I was lying in bed at night. “Joanna! Joanna!” God would say. And I would be smarter than Samuel and know right away it was God and say, “Here I am, God!”

The part I don’t remember from the children’s Bible version of the story is the actual message God gives to Samuel: that his beloved mentor, Eli, and his family will be devastated because of the sins of Eli’s sons. So while the general outline of the story may be familiar to many, preaching on this text gives us a chance to accompany our listeners into a more mature and complex understanding of these verses.

Sermon Possibilities:

Eli’s Role: While this story is generally called something like “The call of Samuel,” I find Eli’s role to be the most interesting. He is the priest and mentor, yet he graciously accepts that God is speaking to Samuel instead. (You can read a sermon I wrote along these lines on my blog.)

Giving and Receiving Bad News: The exchange near the end of this passage between Eli and Samuel is worth paying attention to. The gentleness and honesty with which Samuel communicates the message from God is commendable, as is the graciousness with which Eli receives it.

Intergenerational Ministry: This could be a good opportunity to talk about the ways that the elders of your congregation help to form the faith of the younger generations, and what younger people might have to offer the community as we all seek to listen more closely to the voice of God in our midst.  

Other Resources

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