You can see all the lectionary readings for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the book of 1 Samuel.
I particularly like today’s Old Testament story, which is why I’m writing about it instead of my usual interest in the New Testament reading.
Samuel was at the time of the story just a boy serving the priest Eli in the temple. The Jewish historian Josephus says that he was 12, but scholars think he may have been older than that–so not a very young child and perhaps a teen.
The author points out that at that time the Lord did not speak to people often or give them visions.
One night Eli had gone to bed and Samuel lay down in the temple near the Ark of the Covenant. While he lay there, the Lord called him. Samuel responded, “Here I am,” but he thought it was Eli calling him. So he went to Eli to ask what he wanted. Eli told him he didn’t call him and to go back to bed. You can imagine the old, tired priest having his sleep disturbed by the youngster–maybe he was a little crabby about it.
Samuel went back to bed, but again the Lord called him by name. And he again ran to see what Eli wanted–and again Eli sent him back to bed.
The Bible says Samuel just didn’t know it was God calling because he hadn’t heard from the Lord like that before.
Samuel did not yet know the Lord because God had not spoken directly to him before.
Again the Lord called Samuel and again Samuel went back to see what Eli wanted. But this time Eli understood what had been happening, so he told Samuel to go to bed again and if he heard the call again to say, “Speak, Lord. I am your servant, and I am listening.”
Samuel went back to bed and again he heard the call. This time he responded, “Speak. I am your servant, and I am listening.”
And God spoke to him and from that moment Samuel became a great prophet and the one to anoint two kings over Israel.
This story is simple but beautiful. I can see it in my mind’s eye like a play. The boy waking at the sound of his name and just assuming it’s his master–the priest groggily sending him to bed until he realizes the boy is having a vision–the boy obeying God and responding to the call. It reminds us that we don’t always hear the Lord calling or understand what he wants of us. If we did there wouldn’t be so many disagreements within or among churches and denominations, for one thing. Many people think they hear clearly and that only their church hears clearly. So while we have to be open to God’s call and instruction, we also have to be careful not to mistake it. I think a good start is to consider love. Are you moving toward being more loving and loved, or away from that? Any word from God would move us toward love.