Thursday's Thought for Sunday's Service
January 11, 2018
This week’s Thursday’s Thought for Sunday’s Service is based upon 1 Samuel 3:1–10 (11–20):
“The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions. One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the house of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called Samuel. Samuel answered, “Here I am.” And he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” But Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down. Again the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” “My son,” Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. A third time the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’ ” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”” (1 Samuel 3:1–10, NIV)
Are there times when the Lord’s leading seems thin, when heaven sent messages seem to have less impact and influence upon the church’s legacy? This Old Testament story suggests the potency and urgency of God’s call remains with those who will listen and respond.
Beyond this passage we read the description of Eli as a priest, sincere and devout, but also one who was weak and indulgent. Despite his protests, his sons Hophni and Phinehas (who were also priests) ended up becoming a corrupting influence on the Israelites. As the narrative unfolds, we see that the prophetic voice of God comes not through Eli’s sons, but through the son of another -- where God speaks with power and clarity.
“And the Lord said to Samuel: “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears about it tingle. At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family—from beginning to end. For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons blasphemed God, and he failed to restrain them. Therefore I swore to the house of Eli, ‘The guilt of Eli’s house will never be atoned for by sacrifice or offering.’ ” Samuel lay down until morning and then opened the doors of the house of the Lord. He was afraid to tell Eli the vision, but Eli called him and said, “Samuel, my son.” Samuel answered, “Here I am.” “What was it he said to you?” Eli asked. “Do not hide it from me. May God deal with you, be it ever so severely, if you hide from me anything he told you.” So Samuel told him everything, hiding nothing from him. Then Eli said, “He is the Lord; let him do what is good in his eyes.” The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the Lord.”
(1 Samuel 3:11–20, NIV)
Rev. Richard Wagner
Hanna, after many years of being barren, gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel. In her joy, she dedicated him to God. Hanna brought him to be trained by Eli, serving at Shiloh, the central shrine of the Israelite confederation, located about 10 miles north of Jerusalem. Although a firm personality did not characterize Eli, he did, after all, have a couple of sons who were priests. Even so, Samuel is the one who ultimately listened to Eli regarding how to discern God’s voice and relate the message with courage. God did work through Eli as a priest for 40 years during the period of judges, but more powerfully spoke through Samuel as a prophet, regarding the time to come.