1 Samuel 3:1-10 [11-20]
Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18
1 Corinthians 6:12-20
I always feel bad for poor old, half blind Eli, the priest of the Lord at Shiloh who Samuel is about to replace. Eli was of the priestly tribe of Levi and he tended the temple of the Lord where the Ark of the Covenant was kept. Note that this is not yet the temple in Jerusalem which will not be built until the reign of King Solomon (David’s son) some 50 years later south of Shiloh.
Eli seems to be trying to be a faithful servant of the Lord and a good mentor to Samuel whose parents have committed him to service in the temple from birth to fulfill a vow. But Eli just kind of sucked at his job. He totally blows the interpretation of Hannah’s magnificent prayer thinking she is drunk. His blindness is a sign of his inability to discern God’s activity. And he has another problem, Actually he has two other problems, his sons Hophni and Phinehas, are major buttheads.
Hophni and Phinehas are two goons who also served as priests in the temple at Shiloh. They are like the kids that steal your lunch money. They stick their pokey forks into the boiled offerings and grab the meat for themselves. They also sexually assault women who come to the temple. They are a big problem.
Eli knows his sons are jerks but he can’t bring himself to take decisive action against them. It is the worst possible situation for a parent and Eli is judged harshly for his failure. When Samuel is “called” by God he is told what will be the fate of the house of Eli and he will be the messenger announcing the punishment of that house. It’s a lousy job but Eli, who must have known something was coming, demands that Samuel deliver all the news God has entrusted to Samuel and he does.
I suppose this story of the call of Samuel is read this week because of the Gospel reading of the call of the disciples in John. But I will admit that aside from the fact of that God audibles to Samuel and, through Jesus, to the Philip and Nathanael I don’t see a lot of similarities between the stories. Is it that in both instances God is calling people to important but potentially unpleasant tasks? Possibly, but that would be true of virtually any call story in the Bible.
Perhaps a connection may be found in how the call of God equates with personal discovery. Nathanael is astounded that Jesus knows things about him. Jesus seems to know who he is without having met him. Of course, all of the disciples will find out who they really are through their discipleship. Christians ever since have found themselves known by the one who called disciples beside the sea of Galilee.
Perhaps this week will be a week to reflect on how the call of God reveals something to us about who we are and what we are called to be. How does the call of God in Jesus open our eyes to truly see and what might we see when our eyes are opened?