The child in the temple immediately conjures up a lovely picture. While I was growing up, I loved the story of the boy Samuel—the child in the temple—and I still do (see I Samuel 3:1–10).
I loved the way he looked after and cared for the old priest, Eli. I loved the fact that it was Samuel and not the elder Eli to whom God spoke. I loved the way that God persisted with Samuel and called him three times, and the way that Samuel eventually replied, “Speak; for thy servant heareth.” I loved the child’s receptivity and readiness to listen and obey.
It was Samuel’s spiritual discernment, his childlike receptivity, that enabled him to do this. He went on to be a great Old Testament prophet, and his spiritual discernment never left him. He was instructed by God to anoint and appoint the future King David. He was intuitively led to go to Jesse the Beth-lehemite and ask to see Jesse’s sons (see I Samuel 16:1–13). Jesse paraded all but one of his sons before Samuel, but Samuel was looking on the heart and not the outward appearance. And so he asked if there were any more sons he had not seen, and of course there was—David, the youngest, who was out in the fields tending sheep.