I still have a Bible story book from my childhood, and it says “God spoke to Samuel and told him many things”. Not a word about Eli and his wicked family, presumably that was not suitable for infant ears! The Bible itself is not sparing of gory details of course – the brief for today’s reflection uses the phrase “ear tingling” which is probably putting it mildly. I’m sure Samuel’s ears did more than tingle at God’s message, and Eli’s would be fair burning. My ears tingled recently when I took part in a performance of Verdi’s Requiem. The Dies Irae from that work would raise the roof, never mind tingle your ears – what power, what imagination, what genius God gives to such a composer to portray in music what words alone can hardly say.
So this is Samuel’s debut as a prophet. He’s only a lad, and here is God instructing him to go and pronounce doom, the day of wrath, that dreadful day, to his mentor. Obediently he does just that, Eli accepts his fate, and from then on people recognise Samuel’s gift and listen to him. His journey as God’s servant has begun.
God of beginnings,
God of startling insights,
God of ear tingling surprises,
Give us courage to hear you,
courage to obey you,
courage to set out on unknown journeys.
10 The Lord came and stood there, and called as he had before, “Samuel! Samuel!”
Samuel answered, “Speak; your servant is listening.”
11 The Lord said to him, “Some day I am going to do something to the people of Israel that is so terrible that everyone who hears about it will be stunned. 12 On that day I will carry out all my threats against Eli's family, from beginning to end. 13 I have already told him that I am going to punish his family forever because his sons have spoken evil things against me. Eli knew they were doing this, but he did not stop them. 14 So I solemnly declare to the family of Eli that no sacrifice or offering will ever be able to remove the consequences of this terrible sin.”
15 Samuel stayed in bed until morning; then he got up and opened the doors of the house of the Lord. He was afraid to tell Eli about the vision. 16 Eli called him, “Samuel, my boy!”
“Yes, sir,” answered Samuel.
17 “What did the Lord tell you?” Eli asked. “Don't keep anything from me. God will punish you severely if you don't tell me everything he said.” 18 So Samuel told him everything; he did not keep anything back. Eli said, “He is the Lord; he will do whatever seems best to him.”
19 As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and made come true everything that Samuel said. 20 So all the people of Israel, from one end of the country to the other, knew that Samuel was indeed a prophet of the Lord.