4 December 2018

1 Samuel 3:15–4.1

Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. (v 18)

Psalm: Psalm 132


The old communion service that Methodists took over from the Book of Common Prayer had a section that began “Hear what comfortable words our Saviour Christ saith…” But not all of God’s words are comfortable and few of us want to speak words that are unwelcome. This is the situation that Samuel finds himself in at the beginning of this section of today’s reading. He has been given a prophetic insight into God’s intentions: Israel can only move forward if those who are corrupting its life are removed. Samuel is understandably reluctant to share this with his mentor, Eli, because he knows it has dire consequences for his family. But a prophet has to say what a prophet has been told and Samuel begins to fulfil his prophetic vocation by honestly telling Eli everything that God has entrusted to him.

The end of this short passage brings us back to the context of Israel’s ongoing conflict with the Philistines, the people who inhabited an area that includes the present-day Gaza strip. As the story moves forward from this point, things get worse before they get better, but Samuel remains “a trustworthy prophet of the Lord”.

Even though many centuries separate us from the time of Samuel, we recognise some of the place names and realise that though the protagonists are different, the same region continues to be the scene of conflict and suffering.

The season of Advent has a strong prophetic thread running through it. The story of Samuel reminds us that anyone, at any time, might be called on to exercise a prophetic ministry, to challenge corruption and to speak truth to power.


To Ponder:

  • What prophetic but uncomfortable words might you be called to share in your situation?
  • What holds you back from saying and doing what you believe is right?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Richard Clutterbuck

Richard Clutterbuck is a minister of the Methodist Church in Britain. Between 2004 and 2017 he served the Irish Methodist Church as principal of Edgehill Theological College in Belfast. Previously his ministry has been divided between pastoral appointments in North London and theological education in the South Pacific (Tonga), Britain and Ireland.

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