The Light Hasn’t Gone Out Yet

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The boy Samuel ministered before the LORD under Eli. In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions.

One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the house of the LORD, where the ark of God was.

1 Samuel 3:1-3

The opening phrases of 1 Samuel 3 are strangely comforting for our times, aren't they? The word of the Lord is rare. Eli, the religious leader, can no longer see, but the lamp light of God has not gone out. A child is lying near it.

The darkness closes in. The light, still flickering, teases us with the possibility of hope. It isn't just Samuel's story. Just in time, children of God hear a voice and run to the authority in their lives.

"Here I am, for you called me," they say.

"I didn't call you, go lay down," authority replies.

You can almost imagine it, can't you? It happens over and over again. The children hear something stirring inside of them, and authority tells them, "Go back to sleep, rest." Then comes the great part of Samuel's story with Eli.

We're told, "Samuel did not yet know the LORD, and the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him."

How is it possible? These stirrings come to us in the darkness when the light is still flickering, and they are a pathway into knowledge of God. How many of us are open to that possibility as Samuel was? The voice you hear in the restless darkness could lead you into the light. It could help you discover your calling and purpose.

The voice of God calls Samuel for a third time. Finally, the religious leader perceives that God is calling the child. Something deep within the leader is still able to recognize God's call. The next time the stirrings come, Eli tells Samuel to say, "Speak LORD, for your servant is listening." Samuel discovers God is unhappy with Eli's leadership. He has lost control of his own sons. Scripture tells us his sons didn't know God. They used their positions as religious leaders in abusive ways to serve themselves. They took the people's sacrifices of burnt offering for themselves. The fattest portion of their livestock was meant for God, but they ate it. When the people protested, they used force to take whatever women they wanted sexually at the door of the tabernacle. Eli finally rebuked them for their sexual immorality, but he never addressed their greed. How often do we take whatever we want for ourselves even if it was meant for a higher, greater purpose? Such greed and lust and ambition unchecked leads people to believe they are powerful enough to be their own god.

Samuel is afraid of what he has heard. He loved Eli. It is painful to tell him what God said. Even though Eli can no longer see, the light is still on in him. His legacy of leadership is in these words, "Do not hide it from me." Eli hears of God's justice that is coming for the sake of those who have suffered as a result of bad policies and judgments of his sons, and he says, "It is the LORD; let the LORD do what seems to be good."

We can learn from the actions of Samuel and Eli in this passage. Allow the stirrings of God inside you and in those around you to move you beyond fear, where you no longer have to hide. Trust in divine love. Be increasingly aware that what is coming is necessary and ultimately good.

Questions for personal reflection, online discussion, or small groups:

  • Consider Samuel's role of delivering bad news to Eli. Have you had to deliver bad news to your boss or supervisor in this way? How did you handle it?
  • When Samuel does not at first distinguish between God's voice, Eli helps him discern God's voice. What authorities in your life help you discern God's voice?
  • Do you serve as a mentor to others to help them discern God's voice in their lives? How?
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