The Curious Incident of God in the Night-time
1 Samuel 3: 1-20 (NRSVA)
1 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.
2 At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; 3 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. 4 Then the Lord called, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ and he said, ‘Here I am!’ 5 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. 6 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.’ 7 Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. 8 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. 9 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.
10 Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.’ 11 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. 12 On that day I will fulfil against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. 13 For I have told him that I am about to punish his house for ever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, 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 expiated by sacrifice or offering for ever.’
15 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. 16 But Eli called Samuel and said, ‘Samuel, my son.’ He said, ‘Here I am.’ 17 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.’ 18 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.’
19 As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. 20 And all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the Lord.
In a dimly lit Temple, a boy sleeps and an old man dozes after they’ve followed their ordinary night-time ritual.
God comes to speak, not to the experienced servant, whose eyes grow dim, and whose sons have strayed from the good way. God comes to a boy born of God’s promise to Hannah in response to her prayer of distress at her childlessness. Hannah kept her promise to give over her son to serve the Lord, naming him Samuel which means, ‘God heard’.
The word of the Lord was rare, the lamp of God was about to go out, yet God calls Samuel into his service at night when he is not distracted by doing things or by the presence of elders. God calls Samuel by name so that he can make his own choice to serve God, his willingness to respond already shown by the three times he has come to Eli having heard but mistaken the source of the call.
God gives an intriguing ‘ear-tingling’ promise to Samuel, a message he will need courage to tell Eli about. A new season begins, Samuel will become God’s prophet to Israel.
What must it have been like for Samuel to speak truth to power? For him to enter into a public role in the nation where his words were valued above those of his Master Eli? Would he be brave enough to trust that God was with him, willing to wait on God for words of truth and light? Would Samuel stay close to God’s dwelling place, in that intimate relationship of childlike trust, open to God’s voice?
Will we also courageously choose to wait on God and be willing to speak out truth to power?
Words have power, God:
Power to create and build — echoing Your act of Creation;
Power to wound — echoing Mankind’s folly and greed.
Words speak from the abundance of a person’s heart.
Each person standing unique in influence, possibilities, gifting.
May my words:
invite hope and encourage hearts;
bring people to work together
to build Your kingdom
Where generosity, beauty, sharing and love are prized.