“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.” (I Samuel 3:1)
What do you think the writer of I Samuel meant by “visions were not widespread”. I think it is safe to assume that the Divine was not heard by many people. Not that the Divine was not there in the midst of the people, but that people were not really paying much attention to what the Word of God might be. Also be aware, Samuel was just a young lad learning about the temple and was not “ministering” as much as apprenticing in keeping the temple/synagogue up and running for whoever might come by. Later in the passage we learn why the Voice of Divine was not a daily presence in the lives of the people. But let us continue with Samuel’s story.
“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!” and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. The LORD called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, and the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him. The LORD called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the LORD was calling the boy.” Verses 2 – 8)
Samuel was working in the temple but apparently was not aware of what the temple meant and the part it played in the lives of the Hebrews. He was in the temple, where the Ark was, and he hears a voice. And assumes that it is a human voice. Remember I said Samuel was young; and Eli was probably not the best teacher/preacher for a young person. It took three times for Eli to realize that the young boy was being called by Someone Else. Remember the writer of I Samuel that “visions” and “revelations” were not common.
“Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.'” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. Now the LORD came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” (Verses 9 – 10)
It was my initial inclination to judge Eli harshly. But he does seem to know, or remember, how to acknowledge the Presence of the Divine.
“Then the LORD said to Samuel, “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle. On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. For I have told him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever.” (Verses 11 – 14)
I have to wonder, beloved reader, if it was because of Eli’s sons and his household that revelations of the Lord God were so sparse. Eli’s sons were, or were supposed to be, priests in the temple. But as the Lord told Samuel that had not happened to the satisfaction of the Divine. Imagine young Samuel trying to sleep after this revelation. Called by the Lord who he did not know; told of dire predictions concerning the priest who was supposed to be mentoring him; and wondering what he should do about all this.
“Samuel lay there until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the LORD. Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. But Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” He said, “Here I am.” Eli said, “What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also, if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.” So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. Then he said, “It is the LORD; let him do what seems good to him.” (Verses 15 – 18)
But imagine Samuel the grown man thinking back on that experience. Imagine how that prepared him for the role he was to play in the life of the people of the Lord God.
“As Samuel grew up, the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the LORD.” (Verses 19 – 20)
Have you had an “aha” moment, beloved reader? Have you played a pivotal role in the life of another? Or in a group? Do not assume that you have not. Do not assume that the Divine has not placed you in a time and place where you were used. But neither should you assume that you would be aware of it. Do you think the people who have been influential in your Christian life have been aware of it?
You or those you know may not have heard the Lord God the way Samuel did. But that does not mean the Holy Presence was not in the background moving and arranging things according to the Divine’s plan. I actually find it comforting to know that the Lord God is behind the scenes, looking out for the children of God. Today was a long and tiring day for me. It helps me “redeem” the day to think that the Divine used this day to further the Lord’s mission in this world. May you, beloved reader, listen for the Lord God, and respond with heart-filled intent saying, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” And may you accept that the Lord will do what seems best to the Divine! Shalom & Selah!