Lord, speak to me.
……………… um, Hello?
I feel like I can say with some confidence that not many or possibly none of us can probably claim to have heard the audible voice of God.
1 Samuel 3 1:10 describes a boy Samuel who was called upon by God in an audible voice.
1 Samuel 3:1-20
New Century Version (NCV)
1 Samuel 3
God Calls Samuel
1 The boy Samuel served the Lord under Eli. In those days the Lord did not speak directly to people very often; there were very few visions.
2 Eli’s eyes were so weak he was almost blind. One night he was lying in bed.3 Samuel was also in bed in the Lord’s house, where the Ark of the Agreement was. God’s lamp was still burning.
4 Then the Lord called Samuel, and Samuel answered, “I am here!”5 He ran to Eli and said, “I am here. You called me.”
But Eli said, “I didn’t call you. Go back to bed.” So Samuel went back to bed.
6 The Lord called again, “Samuel!”
Samuel again went to Eli and said, “I am here. You called me.”
Again Eli said, “I didn’t call you. Go back to bed.”
7 Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the Lord had not spoken directly to him yet.
8 The Lord called Samuel for the third time. Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “I am here. You called me.”
Then Eli realized the Lord was calling the boy.9 So he told Samuel, “Go to bed. If he calls you again, say, ‘Speak, Lord. I am your servant and I am listening.’ ” So Samuel went and lay down in bed.
10 The Lord came and stood there and called as he had before, “Samuel, Samuel!”
Samuel said, “Speak, Lord. I am your servant and I am listening.”
11 The Lord said to Samuel, “Watch, I am going to do something in Israel that will shock those who hear about it.12 At that time I will do to Eli and his family everything I promised, from beginning to end.13 I told Eli I would punish his family always, because he knew his sons were evil. They acted without honor, but he did not stop them.14 So I swore to Eli’s family, ‘Your guilt will never be removed by sacrifice or offering.’ “
15 Samuel lay down until morning. Then he opened the doors of the house of the Lord. He was afraid to tell Eli about the vision,16 but Eli called to him, “Samuel, my son!”
Samuel answered, “I am here.”
17 Eli asked, “What did the Lord say to you? Don’t hide it from me. May God punish you terribly if you hide from me anything he said to you.”18 So Samuel told Eli everything and did not hide anything from him. Then Eli said, “He is the Lord. Let him do what he thinks is best.”
19 The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up; he did not let any of Samuel’s messages fail to come true.20 Then all Israel, from Dan to Beersheba,[a] knew Samuel was a true prophet of the Lord.
1 Samuel 3:20 Dan to Beersheba Dan was the city farthest north in Israel, and Beersheba was the city farthest south. So this means all the people of Israel.
Now, Samuel, he was trying to get some shut eye in “the Temple of the Lord”. Why was he sleeping in the Temple, you may ask? No, it wasn’t a youth lock-in, silly.
Samuel had just gained the title of apprentice under his mentor and Priest Eli. He was basically guarding “The Ark of the Agreement”. What is that? It is about the size of a small desk that had rings on its sides so that the priests could run roles through them and carry the Ark easier. This Ark symbolized God’s presence and power to the Israelites. They took this Ark very seriously. Imagine believing that the jar you have sitting on the mantle contained God, you would also guard it, sleep by it even!
So, Samuel who was just a lowly apprentice had a very big job probably not because he was thought to be worthy but because Eli probably wasn’t well enough to do so. In Verse 7 it even says “Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him”. This is amazing to me- he didn’t even know God, yet he was given this very important job of guarding the spirit of God! Talk about not being qualified!
Yet, he does what is asked of him and hears God’s voice 3 times and mistakes it for his mentor Eli- I mean who else would be yelling at him during the night? If it was me, I might have ended up throwing a shoe at that old man Eli and telling him to shut it “I’m trying to sleep ya old man!!”. Samuel, however, is described much less sassy than I and goes to Eli each time, “I am here. You called me”. What a polite young man. By the third time Eli is able to gather his thoughts and realizes that it is God that is speaking to his lowly apprentice, Samuel. Oh, the hope/tension/anxiety that Eli must have felt when he comes to this conclusion- God is trying to speak to us!
Eli, probably suffered a lot of stress because God had told Eli that his family would be punished for the wrongdoings they had carried out. So, Eli must have been desperate to hear what God had spoken to Samuel. “What did the Lord say to you? Don’t hide it from me. May God punish you terribly if you hide me anything he said to you”. (1 Sam 3:17) I hear some panic in his tone, don’t you? Maybe even some jealousy that God has spoken to this unqualified boy over him and his Priest status. God spoke this truth to Samuel ” I told Eli I would punish his family always, because he knew his sons were evil. They acted without honor, but he did not stop them. So I swore to Eli’s family, ‘Your guilt will never be removed by sacrifice or offering’. Yikes. This just got real ya’ll. If we take a peek in chapter 2 we learn that Eli’s sons (who were priests) were straight up pimps. “…his sons had sexual relations with the women who served at the entrance to the Meeting Tent” (1 Sam.2:22). Well, that is an interesting way to start a Sunday service, don’t you think?
So, why is this story compelling to us now? I have a few theories. I find this story very compelling, very telling and still very relevant to us right now.
God uses a person who ‘does not know him’ to call out the “Godly” people, (priests!) on their actions? Daring, isn’t it? Unheard of really. Radical.
What if that occurred today? What if one of our Atheist friends called us out on some of the crap the Church has done and the hierarchical status it holds? Could we handle it? Would our ears be open to hearing the truth?
Now, I must mention Samuel’s courage here. “He was afraid to tell Eli about the vision” ( 1 Sam. 3:15) Of course, he was! He was just a lowly apprentice. Yet, Samuel had heard the voice of God. That would be A. pretty scary and B. pretty empowering.
God uses the misfits. The unqualified. The lowly apprentices.
Pretty interesting isn’t it?
God is pretty harsh when it comes to his words about Eli’s family. He isn’t pleased that the people who claim to be Godly, to be priests, messengers of hope are taking advantage of this role.
He sets the record straight.
He flips their world upside down-the world where hierarchy reigns and the lowly are condemned.
“The greatest will be least and the least will be the greatest’.
So, he turns to the most unlikely.
I love it.
We see this same message conveyed in many other stories that carry into the New Testament. We find Jesus picking out the very leasts, the prostitute, the children, the man hanging beside him at the cross, lifting them up and out of their status proclaiming that ‘These are my children, these are the ones you should love and listen to!!” We seem him flipping the tables and putting the Pharisees in their places, setting the record straight just as God did with Eli’s family and the Israelites.
So, the next time we say “Oh, no not her, she’s too young” or “No, they can’t serve in church, they are living together out of wed-lock” or “He doesn’t have enough experience and he’s too immature” or “Do you see how she dresses-how vulgar!” may we be reminded that it is those who Jesus calls to spread the message of hope, redeemable love and of the expansive, creative, ever dancing spirit of the God we serve!
May we be able to shut up long enough for God to speak these truths to our hearts.
May we hear the tickling in our ear of God’s whispering that we are become the least of these and join hands with those who are the Samuels of our lives.
The rough around the edges children of God.
The lowly apprentices.
What if we as a church uplifted the misfits? Better yet, what if we realized we are the misfits?
What if we embraced diversity and weren’t scared away by change and transformation?
What if we dove into the ocean of love, creativity and purpose?
What if we became verbs instead of nouns?
What if we stopped going to church and started being the church?
What if we shut up long enough to allow God to speak into our lives?