“And the LORD came and stood, calling as at other times, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant hears.’” 1 Samuel 3:10
What comes to mind when you hear the phrase “Aye, aye, Captain”? Many have visions of boorish men with peg legs and eye patches sailing the seven seas. Have you ever stopped to wonder what the words actually mean? “Aye, aye” is a response often used by sailors to indicate that an order has been received and understood and that it will be carried out, and the term “captain” addresses the fact that the one giving the order is the sailor’s superior. The actual response is “I, I” which comes from a Naval term meaning “I understand and I will obey.”
Do we respond to God in the same way that sailors respond to their captain? The Bible shows us three examples of how people answer to God’s command.
In a parable told by Jesus in Matthew 21, a father tells his two sons to work in his vineyard. Both sons understand their father’s request, but both choose to disobey: one with his words, the other with his actions. One says “yes” yet doesn’t obey. The other son says “no” but later has a change of heart and obliges. Jesus says that this second son, the son who repents and then obeys his command, did his father’s will.
In Genesis 22, God calls Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son, Isaac, as a burnt offering. Abraham has no understanding of why the Lord is asking this of him, but he obeys in faith. With his actions, Abraham is telling God, “Though I don’t fully understand your command, I will obey because you are my God.”
Finally, we look to a boy named Samuel in 1 Samuel 3. As Samuel is sleeping one night, God calls his name and tells him about great suffering that will fall upon Israel. God commands Samuel to spread this news of misfortune to come throughout the nation. Samuel obeys immediately, despite the consequences that may come as a bearer of bad news. Samuel receives a command from God, understands it, and obeys his Lord.
How will you respond to the commands of Jesus Christ? A convenient response is to ignore God’s command, even when it is clear. The story of the two brothers in the parable of the prodigal son informs us that even after disobedience, we must turn our hearts back to the Lord in repentance as well as obey. Or, maybe you sense God calling you to do something, but don’t understand why. Like Abraham, obey in faith, even when you can’t clearly see God’s purposes. Lastly, Samuel teaches us to trust God’s big picture and to remember that God is loving, even amid bad news. Pray that whatever God commands of you, you will reply, “I, I, Captain!”