The following is a reflection on1 Samuel 3:1-10(11-20), the Hebrew Bible Lesson appointed for January 15th, 2012, the Second Sunday after the Epiphany, according to the Revised Common Lectionary. On this site there is also a version of the Prayers of the People for All Epiphany, and a reflection on the Gospel Lesson for the same day, John 1:43-51.
The scene in First Samuel, where Samuel hears God’s call, but doesn’t readily know that it’s God, has been used throughout the ages as a text on discernment. On God’s call. On how sometimes we miss God’s call even when God is speaking right to us.
It’s used to illustrate that sometimes we need someone wiser and more spiritually disciplined than we are to discern what God is saying to us.
What I find so very interesting here though is that God was calling upon Samuel before Samuel was a man of faith.
Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, and the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.
It is, of course, why Samuel didn’t know what was going on when God was calling to him in the night. But, isn’t it strange that God was calling upon him before Samuel knew God?
Isn’t it strange when there was in fact a faithful priest, and follower of God, right there?
I’ve marveled for quite sometime now that God calls the strangest people to do His work, and to spread His Word. He’ll call an old man like Abraham, and a young girl like Mary. He’ll call a man who killed a guy like Moses, or a someone who was complicit in the death of a Christian like Paul. He’ll call someone who is so morally compromised like David, and God will even call pagan-Zoroastrian-astrologers from the east by sending them a star.
And here, in First Samuel, God calls someone who is not yet a person of faith.
So often in the modern church we can get preoccupied with qualifications, status, education, and rank. We’ll want to see a resume and a few letters after someone’s name before we issue a call—or we’ll deny someone a position because they aren’t technically “a member” or been through confirmation yet.
But, if the call of Samuel says anything—amidst all the calls of the Scriptures—it’s that God calls whomever God decides to call, and oftentimes God calls the most unlikely of people.
In fact that’s not even the exception to the rule, it seems to be the rule.
And, the gem that’s buried in this text is that Eli knows this. Eli could have sent the boy off to bed, chiding him for his lack of faith, or his immaturity.
I mean really, what kind of God would call someone like Samuel?
…Or David, or Moses, or Mary, or Paul, or Peter…
May we, the People of God, be granted the wisdom of Eli, AND the willingness of Samuel, when we draw the “least-likely-candidate” straw.
And God comes calling in the night.