Before the time of Kings, Israel was a theocratic society which meant that God was their king. They received guidance from this king through the prophets. It was the prophet who delivered God’s message to his people. Prophets were anointed by God and spent most of the time trying to be in fellowship with God. There are a number of prophets we know in the Old Testament, like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, Haggai, Ezekiel, Eli, and Samuel just to name a few. The scholars have divided them into major prophets and minor prophets. Others have been known as latter prophets.
In terms of their theology some have been seen to hold more of an apocalyptic view of God, like Daniel and Ezekiel. Some prophets were more famous than the others, depending on the time they lived and the kind of message they proclaimed. Those who lived at the time when Israel was under captivity, had a different message from those who lived when Israel was a free nation.
Today we get to meet one of those prophets and another soon to be called into prophethood. The mother of Samuel had promised to give him up for his service. Sure enough Hannah brought Samuel to the care of Eli who was the prophet at the time. From our story it seems that Eli had failed God and therefore he was not being used as he should have been. The Bible says the word of God was rare in those days. We learn from what God shared with Samuel that Eli had failed as a father and failed to restrain his children from blasphemy. To that end his duty as a prophet was about to come to an end and Samuel was to take over as the voice of God to his people. In our story, we can take the following faith lessons:
1. God can call us anytime: Samuel was staying at his usual place when God visited him. We can trust that when God calls us we don’t have to be in a unique place but mostly where we are every day. Samuel was called three times and each time he thought Eli was calling him. He never, for a moment, thought it could be God. This can happen to us and we fail to recognize the caller. Once we know the caller, we are usually able to respond accordingly. It was not until the third time that even Eli figured out that it might be God calling the young man. He told him what his response should be if God called him again. It was as simple as “Speak LORD, for your servant hears.” Just like that and God started to speak to Samuel. The voice God was heard again in the land. Samuel eventually became what we can call a ‘King-Maker.’ He anointed Saul as the first king of Israel. He also appointed David as the second king while Saul was still ruling. It took awhile before David took over. Saul wanted him killed even though he had rescued him by killing Goliath.
2. God can use us to guide: Eli was the one that God used to help Samuel recognize who was calling him. It is important that we allow God to use us in those moments where we can guide others to Christ. People share with us stories or they see in us something that confirms that God is wanting us to do something on his behalf. In my case I remember an old preacher helping me discern my call. I had no clue that God would be calling me to ordained ministry, but because of his discernment, I was able to respond to that call. God might be calling us to something other than ordained ministry and that is fine. God might be calling us to be active in God’s Helping Hands, youth ministry, or the hospitality team, to fix some things around the house, do home visits, share in children’s time or even sing in the choir. The list of where God truly needs us and where he can use us is limitless.
3. It might be hard to convey: When God calls us, we might be asked to do or say some things that are not easy. In the case of Samuel, God had told him that Eli, the prophet, was to be punished because he could not restrain his children. We are told that they would misuse the sacrifices offered to God. They were blasphemous in their actions. God had to punish them. Samuel had to convey that message to Eli. In a sense, God is telling us as a parent that we are to be held accountable; for some, the behaviors we let our children continue with. So Eli had the opportunity not to let his sons do all those evil things that were not acceptable before God. There is also a part that God is inviting us to the communities we live in. We have to speak the truth and make sure that justice prevails.
We are not promised that others will receive our message in a positive way but we are to be truthful. Like Isaiah, we must acknowledge our sinful nature; we are not perfect. As imperfect people we are called to take God’s message to an imperfect world to share the will of God and his expectations for us.