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'Tales of the Unexpected'
Samuel's Story

'Tales of the Unexpected'

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Samuel's Story

Read : 1 Samuel 3: 1-10, Isaiah 30: 18-21 

Last month, we thought about a man called Joseph who heard God's voice speaking to him in his dreams on more than one occasion. This month we are considering Samuel who, in childhood, heard God's voice speaking to him in the temple. He lived in this holy place because of a vow which his mother had made in a state of childlessness.  

His mother, Hannah, was one of the two wives of Elkanah and, although much loved by her husband, failed to produce children, unlike his other wife, Penninah, who had several. One year, praying desperately in the temple, she vowed that if a son was born she would dedicate him to the service of God. Her prayer was answered, a son was born and some years after, she took him up to the temple and handed him over to the priest, Eli, to be brought up to serve God. It was while he was there that the child had the experience of which we have just read. 

Samuel grew up as a respected person, considered a trustworthy prophet of the Lord. He became a judge in Israel and travelled about the country administering justice. It was when his two sons also became judges that Samuel's life (and he was now old,) took a more interesting and dramatic turn. The people found that the sons were corrupt judges and came to Samuel, asking for a king. He asked the Lord what he should do. God spoke to him, telling him that he had heard the prayers and complaints of his people and had chosen them a king. The next day Samuel would meet a handsome young man from the land of Benjamin, looking for his father's lost donkeys; this was Saul, the candidate chosen to lead Israel. 


After showing much promise at first, as the years passed, Saul lost the Lord's favour and Samuel was told he must be replaced by another king. The prophet was sent to Jesse in Bethlehem because the Lord had chosen a king from among his sons. In order to avoid Saul's anger, Samuel had to claim his purpose in going there was to sacrifice. He invited Jesse and his sons to join him at the sacrifice. Samuel met the seven sons present at the sacrifice. At each encounter, the Lord said, I have not chosen him. Samuel asked Jesse, Have you no other sons? He replied that the youngest was out in the fields, looking after the sheep. When David arrived, ruddy and beautiful we are told, the Lord said, This is the one I have chosen. 

Old Testament prophets always seemed to be confident in their proclamation of God's will and his purposes. They claimed to be told to say what they passed on. But how did they know? Samuel, as a child, thought he heard a human voice in the night and presumed it must be that of Eli. Later the stories do not make it clear quite how he determined what God was saying. Perhaps it was when he was praying that he felt close to God or perhaps he was so tuned in that he knew by his own reactions. 

Many people are anxious to find out what is God's will for their lives. Perhaps one of the first things to do is to be assiduous in making time for God; time for prayer, meditation, Bible-reading, worship. Every Sunday morning in St Cuthbert's, the first Bible reading is prefaced by the words 'Listen for the word of God.' We must not allow the noise of the world and the busyness of our daily work to drown out God's voice. We must be open to the possibility that guidance can come in very different ways. It can emerge from reading, prayer, chance encounters with people of similar interests and conversations with trusted friends.  

To hear God's call is terminology which we use nowadays almost always regarding a call to the ministry. Once, many worthwhile professions involving commitment and dedication were known as a 'calling'. Some people know that they have a calling from their youth onwards and are confident that they are doing God's will. Others follow different career paths, serving God to the best of their ability, but later on begin to wonder if they are indeed in the right place. A friend began to hear a call to the ministry in this way. Having spent years in teaching, he wondered if he should make a change and thought increasingly about the ministry. When at least two friends, quite independently and on different occasions, asked him 'Have you ever thought of….', he was sure it was God calling. 

Hearing is an important faculty. What we hear makes such a difference to our lives. We can be bombarded with sounds which are grating and upsetting but also we can be soothed, comforted, uplifted and inspired by beautiful sounds, flowing water, birdsong, a Bach chorale prelude. We have learnt so much in life by listening and some of us regret not having listened enough.  

One of the Bible Society's programmes for bringing the Bible to parts of Africa where people only understand their own language is called 'Faith Comes by Hearing'. People gather to hear the Bible in their own tongue broadcast from a portable radio. Everything they learn about God depends on listening. 

Let us take time today to be thankful for the gift of hearing and to appreciate the value of listening.
'Listen for the word of God.' 'Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, This is the way: walk in it.'
'Speak, for your servant is listening.'  


Note - The video based on this soul space, can be found here : http://youtu.be/U387SLGRCzU

Bridget Cameron, 2015


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