15 December 2014

1 Samuel 3:10-20

“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.’ 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.’” (vv. 17-18)

Psalm: Psalm 25


Samuel had grown up in the temple, given to God by his mother after her miraculous pregnancy (1 Samuel 1). But the family of Eli, the Priest, were scoundrels (1 Samuel 2:12) and had abused their positions as the chosen priestly family. Whether it was the result of their behaviour is unclear but we read that "the word of the Lord was rare" (1 Samuel 3:1) and visions equally scarce.

When God calls Samuel in the night, old Eli eventually helps the boy tune in to God's message - even though it must have been dawning on him that his sons' outrageous abuse of the temple was coming home to roost.

God had spoken earlier to the old priest, revoking a pledge that Eli's descendants would minister for ever, and promising to raise up a faithful priest who was not from his family (1 Samuel 2:27-36). It's a huge moment and Eli - whose heart is already breaking at the disgrace brought about by his sons - ensures that Samuel doesn't miss his moment.

The old priest, who had been incapable of controlling his sons, is wise enough not to try to stand in the way of God. He says, "It is the LORD; let him do what seems good to him."

So Samuel listens, Eli fades into the background and the mantle of prophecy passes. The story appears to underline Samuel's direct call from God to be a prophet and that God would "let none of his words fall to the ground" (v. 19) - a sign of heavenly anointing?

To Ponder

  • How do you understand the phrase "the word of the Lord was rare"? Is it about ignorance or a failure to tune in to God?
  • Can you recall a time when someone has encouraged you, even at the cost of their own comfort? What happened? How might you pass this on?

Bible notes author

The Revd Gareth Hill

Gareth Hill is a Methodist minister with a particular interest in pioneer ministry and fresh ways of being Church. He is​ in circuit ministry in the Winchester, Eastleigh & Romsey Circuit in the Southampton District and has pastoral charge of six churches in Romsey and on the edge of the New Forest.