Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread. At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!”
and he said, “Here I am!”
I Samuel 3:1-4
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then I count myself blessed a thousand times by a picture my mother hung on the wall next to my bed. It was the first thing my young eyes looked on when I awoke and the last thing they looked on before falling asleep. It was a painting of the little boy Samuel hearing God calling him in the night. At some deep, subliminal level that picture implanted in me the reality that God calls all of us, and we must listen and respond.
Recently, while reflecting on this poignant scene in the Bible, I was struck by the mention that God’s call was heard by Samuel when “the lamp of the God had not yet gone out.” I read and wondered why the mention of that detail. Why did the inspired text mention something seemingly so incidental?
That set me studying! I saw that the “lamp of God” refers to the seven-branched golden candlestick, the menorah, in the tabernacle. The priests lit the lamp every evening, and extinguished it at dawn as the oil ran out (Exodus 27:21; 30:7; Leviticus 24:3; 2 Chronicles 13:11). Ancient rabbis said the mention that the “lamp of the God had not gone out” was intended to signify that it was dawn. The inspired writer of Scripture wanted it understood that it was at the earliest hour of the morning when Samuel heard the voice of the Lord.
As I reflected on this, I thought about what had been the importance of early morning musings in my life. I remembered Dietrick Bonhoeffer’s counsel to young seminarians about the importance of the first thoughts of their day:
“After the silence of night and early morning, hymns and the word of God are more easily grasped. The Scriptures, moreover, tell us that the first thought and the first word of the day belong to God: “My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord (Ps 5:3)… “My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise. Awake up, my glory; awake psalter and harp (Ps 57:7-8)… God’s mercies are “new every morning” (Lam 3:23).”(Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together)
Many health experts and life coaches also emphasize the importance of our first waking thoughts in the morning and the need for an early morning routine. What we do with our first waking moments sets the tone for the rest of our day. It does matter that we don’t just tumble out of bed and rush out the door. In Mere Christianity C. S. Lewis warned how many people squander the first moments of their day:
The real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in.(C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity – emphasis added)
I have composed the following lines to help me prepare to listen for God through the night and in the morning:
“Loving Father, as I lay my head on my pillow I ask your Holy Spirit and your angels to keep watch over me and those whom I love. You who are the Keeper of Israel neither slumber nor sleep, so as I sleep You keep watch. I place in your strong and tender hands my worries, problems, and heartaches. They are yours to carry, not mine. As I sleep, sow your thoughts into my thoughts, so that when I awake, I will know your mind. As I linger in bed for a few extra moments, help me Lord to listen. Like the little boy Samuel, so I pray: ‘Here I am! I’m listening!’”
Making the most of each new day!
A fellow traveler,