Call to Ministry Series #13: Samuel, part 2

Call to Ministry Series #13: Samuel, part 2

October 29, 2012

Message that Samuel Hears

1 Samuel 3:10-14
10.  Yhwh came and stood, calling as before, “Samuel!  Samuel!”
Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
11.  Then Yhwh said to Samuel, “Look, I am doing a thing in Israel that all who hear it will cause their ears to tingle.  12.  On that day I will establish against Eli all that I spoke against his house, the beginning and the end.  13.  For I declared to him that I am about to punish his house forever on account of the iniquity that he knew because his sons were cursing for themselves and he did not restrain them.  14.  Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be covered by sacrifice or offering forever.”

Again Yhwh calls Samuel’s name twice.  The boy is prepared this time to respond as Eli instructed him.  “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

Yhwh does not provide any instructions to Samuel for what he is to do in the days ahead.  Instead, he repeats the prophecy of the unknown man of God.  Yhwh confirms the harsh, more specific words of the man of God against the Elide priesthood.

“Look” introduces Yhwh’s speech, perhaps suggesting the visionary sense.  Something is going to happen in Israel.  Everyone who hears it will have tingling ears.  Usually this expression implies something bad (2 Kings 21:12; Jer 19:3).  Yhwh will see to completion everything he has said through the man of God and now Samuel.  Everything about Eli’s sons is a blasphemy or curse against God.  They covet gifts and offerings for themselves and the punishment will not allow any sacrifice or offering to cover their sin.  Often punishment seems to have a connection with the offense in the Old Testament. 

This message is all the text reveals that Yhwh said to Samuel.  No instructions are forthcoming on how he should tell Eli or Israel.  Nothing is said about the years to come and his role in the spiritual life of Israel.  Nothing is said about giving guidance to the people nor becoming the in-between person for Yhwh and the people.  Nor is anything indicated that he would wrestle with the transition to earthly kings in place of the Kingship of Yhwh. 

Instead he lays back down until the morning.  He feared telling Eli the “vision” when the morning came (v. 15).  The word for vision in this instance is not the usual one for vision.  It indicates a vision of the word of God, a revelation.

Can you imagine the boy laying there in the dark worrying about what would happen in the morning?  Our imaginations usually make things worse than reality.

In the morning Eli summons Samuel as the Lord had summoned him during the night.  Eli takes the question out of Samuel’s hands by demanding to know what Yhwh said (v. 17).  He even promises a curse if he does not reveal what was said.  Samuel tells him exactly what Yhwh said to him (v. 18).  Eli accepts the will of Yhwh (v. 18).  His resignation to the word of Yhwh is based on the fact that the deity is Yhwh, after all.  What Yhwh feels is good is what it will be.

Eli emerges as a tragic figure in chapters two and three.  He knew what was right and would not do it.  He suffered the consequences in the next chapter.  As he descends, Samuel ascends.  His eyes, both physical and spiritual, have dimmed, but Samuel’s sight sharpens.  As the spiritual leaders go, so goes Israel.  The revelations of Yhwh to Israel had slackened, but now they increase through Samuel.

Transferable Reflections

What do we learn from this summons from Yhwh to Samuel?

First, age is not a factor on who God can use.  Even though we do not know how old Samuel was when this event took place, we know he was younger than Eli the high priest.  His life showed his commitment to the Lord.  In his service he demonstrated his trust in whom he did not know in the way it will be revealed in this event and in years to come.  Samuel was a willing servant who Yhwh could use, no matter the age.

Second, Samuel was willing in his service to listen.  In our day we do not hear God because the clamor of life and culture drown out his voice.  Ipads, ipods, TVs, computers, music stations, hundreds of distractions – the din grows louder and louder.  We are too hurried to pause and listen.  Jesus left the crowds on a regular basis to commune with his father.  He listened.

Third, Samuel receives no instructions on how he would proceed from this moment.  But God was willing to entrust him with a difficult word, a word that condemned the person on earth who Samuel spent the most time in service to, perhaps the person he felt closest to, the person who calls him “my son” (v. 16).  It is a start.  Samuel becomes the archetype of a prophet from this start.  He will set the stage for hundreds of years of Israelite history.  His life will model what a prophet is and does.  Several subsequent centuries will disclose other prophets, some who wrote down their messages and prophecies, but they all look back to Samuel.  Before him others were called prophets (Abraham, Moses, unnamed prophets), but they receive the designation for their intercessions or prophecies on sporadic occasions. 

Samuel is the man, the first full time prophet. 

Finally, Yhwh discloses a number of traits that bear reflection.  He is patient with Samuel, calling three times without Samuel understanding.  On the other hand, Yhwh has limits on patience with Eli and his household.  It is possible to go beyond God’s patience.  He must discipline them in the end.  The attitude of Eli’s sons towards Yhwh forces a new direction as far as the spiritual health of Israel goes.  In chapter 4 of 1 Samuel the prophecy comes true in every detail.

We also find Eli’s attitude toward Yhwh revealing.  He says, It is Yhwh, meaning it is Yhwh who has spoken this word to an unnamed prophet and to Samuel; it must be a true word.  Eli accepts the word as truth.  Yhwh is sovereign.  His desire will be carried out in the final analysis.  How shortsighted the eyes of some who believe that God is distant when he is only being patient!