In his commentary on 1 & 2 Samuel, Bill T. Arnold, professor of Old Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary writes: “Samuel is one of those great Bible figures who seems larger than life. In terms of Old Testament history, he was an important transitional figure at one of the most important turning points in the life of the nation, namely, the rise of the Israelite kingship.”
Chapter 3 opens with Samuel as a boy. It ends with him as a man, a respected leader in Israel. But more important than this is the change in God’s relationship with Israel in the intervening years.
Chapter 3 begins with the observation that the word of the Lord was rare during the days of Eli. There was not much communication from Him. It hadn’t always been that way. Eli could remember what it was like to hear God’s voice. But over time, he quit hearing it. Note that early in the story Eli’s sons are called “wicked men” (literally, “sons of Belial” – 2:12). But Eli calls Hannah a “wicked woman” (literally, a “daughter of Belial” 00 1:16). Clearly, Eli has lost the ability to recognize righteousness. Perhaps he was simply disgusted with the impossible task of trying to shepherd a wayward Israel. Perhaps he was tired of being an example. Perhaps he was discouraged that he had so little success in fostering spirituality – even to his own house. For whatever reason, he wasn’t listening for the voice of God any more, but he remembered what it sounded like.
And so, when Samuel came to him that night, Eli finally caught on. God was talking again. But He was talking to someone else. Now with a person of faith to listen, God would once more communicate with His people.
God is always willing to talk and guide, but he must have faithful people to listen. Without them, God isn’t likely to do much – at least not much that we would want Him to do.
This week, the Supreme Court is hearing arguments regarding same-sex marriages. At the same time, I am reading face-book posts of Christians in favor of same-sex relationships, and it occurs to me, there are obviously Christians who are not listening to God, not listening for His voice and not looking for His leadership.
What will happen when God goes quiet?