This week we leave the story of the Israelites wondering in desert well behind. They have arrived in the Promised Land and the place of worship is Shiloh. We are in the time of the priest Eli and his family.
The books of Samuel tell us the story of the prophet Samuel and the people of Israel following the time of the Judges. These two books were originally written as one but became separated due to the length of the scroll, or in fact two scrolls.
1 Samuel outlines the fall of King Saul and the rise of David to the throne as a humble servant of God. Over the last 12 months or so we’ve spent a little bit of time in the beginning chapters of 1 Samuel, mainly hearing about Hannah and her pleas for a child. That child is Samuel, and he is promised to serve God and so Hannah leaves him in the worship space where Eli is priest.
Our reading for this week tells of Samuel ministering to the Lord under Eli. I find the first verse in our reading very telling – “The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.” This verse is quickly followed up with “At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room, the lamp of God had not yet gone out...”
It could be suggested that Eli’s role as priest leader was waning as was his eyesight. He could no longer see, or hear, the Lord and it was time to hand the baton on. Samuel is called by God, but Samuel doesn’t know it is God until Eli interprets what is going on for him. The word here from Eli is to listen and hear the word of God. To know that it is God calling and to be ready to hear what God may have to say to him.
We read that God informs Samuel about the future and actions God is planning to take within Israel and although Samuel is a little concerned about what he hears, he follows the call and instructions from God as the story continues to be told.
This reminds me of how hard it can be at times to hear the word of God, and then to respond to it the way God would like us to. We read of so many of the prophets who heard God’s word and then ran in the other direction – I think particularly of Jonah. What do we do? How do we hear God’s word? What are the ways in which God communicates with us? How do we hear from others, listening for their truths, their experiences, their joys, sorrows and achievements? As we make a point of connecting with others within our congregation we are hearing where they are in their lives and perhaps where God is as well. To go and hear is something very important.