Hannah is the second wife of Elkanah and she was barren, whereas the other wife of his, Peninnah had many children. Elkanah is from Ramah, a hill country of Ephraim and he and his family made a trip every year to fulfill God's commands to Shiloh, a religious center twenty kilometers away where the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant resided and there he worshipped and sacrificed to the Lord.
Year after year Hannah who used to bear the taunts of Peninnah, as a barren woman is considered a failure and a social embarrassment to her husband never ate her share of the sacrificial meat and grieved constantly whenever she was in Shiloh. Getting vexed she at last decided to go to the temple secretly when everyone were having their afternoon siesta, after a heavy meal, to pray. At the temple she prayed in her heart, silently, when Eli, who was sitting beside the door post, saw only her lips move, but not hearing her voice, accused her of being drunk. But only when she explained that she was pouring her grief to the Lord, that Eli blessed her and said, Go in peace and may the God of Israel grant your petition. Within a year, Hannah was blessed with a son and she named him Samuel.
In return for conceiving a son, Hannah vowed to dedicate him to God for lifetime service, which in fact is a Nazarite vow. The Nazarite vow was a promise to be set apart for special service to God and as long as the vow was in effect, the person's hair could not be cut.
Eli has two sons who turned out to be evil and despicable and so he was happy when Hannah presented the three year old Samuel to serve in the Tabernacle. Eli had given Samuel in the beginning simple responsibility like opening the Tabernacle's doors, cleaning the furniture and sweeping the floors. But as he grew older he was given higher responsibilities like assisting Eli in offering sacrifices, which he took it seriously and with dedication that Hannah in her yearly visits, made a linen robe called ephod. Ephods are long sleeveless vests and made up of plain linen and are worn by all priests. And as Samuel wore one it showed that he was priest in training.
Eli failed to train his two sons in obedience and respect to the Lord, but somehow found an apt student in Samuel, who turned out to be a very enthusiastic and an obedient learner. And with Eli growing old and blind he started depending more and more upon Samuel for his daily needs, that it became second nature to the young Samuel to be alert to hear even the feeble voice of his from across the room. So no wonder one night when Eli and he were sleeping, the Lord called Samuel and he thought that Eli had called him and he ran to where he was sleeping and answered, "Here Am I." But Eli said, "I did not call you."
Only when Samuel went running the third time, did Eli realize that the Lord had been calling him. So he told Samuel that it was the Lord who wanted to talk to him and if he hears his name being called again, he should reply, "Speak, for thy servant heareth."
Samuel is used to Eli calling him a number of times, day and night and his quick response and instant obedience is because he was trained by Eli from the time he was three years old but also because of his eagerness to listen. Unless one is a good listener and trained to hear even the lightest whisper, one cannot respond instantaneously.
God loves a good listener and also one who responds to Him instantly. Train yourself to be obedient and a good listener, because any day, He may call you.
Victor Jasti lives in India and is passionate about writing short stories based on the Bible and real incidents. He also writes Christian fiction and poetry. Five of his poems were published in Temporal Currents compiled by an American author, Ms. Christine Tricarico.