Tuesday of Epiphany II – I Samuel 3:1-10 (11-20)

1 Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord in the presence of Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.

At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his own place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was.

Then the Lord called Samuel, and he said, “Here I am!” and ran to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down.

And the Lord called again, “Samuel!” and Samuel arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.

And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

10 And the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.” 11 Then the Lord said to Samuel, “Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel at which the two ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. 12 On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. 13 And I declare to him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. 14 Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever.”

15 Samuel lay until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the Lord. And Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. 16 But Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” And he said, “Here I am.” 17 And Eli said, “What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.” 18 So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. And he said, “It is the Lord. Let him do what seems good to him.”

19 And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. 20 And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established as a prophet of the Lord.

Sometimes the ancient world can feel terribly familiar. The simple fact of the matter is that sin and sinners have not changed that much in the 3000 years since the events of this passage took place. Eli, the high priest, was not fulfilling his vocation well. He had allowed his sons to take advantage of his position. They were enriching themselves and abusing women. Does that sound familiar? The children of presidents have recently been a scandal and may continue to be a scandal.

Samuel was a miracle baby born to a woman who vowed to dedicate him to God if she were able to have a child. Aged Eli was given another chance with a child not his own. He does not fare well. It takes him three times to figure out that God is calling the boy. But perhaps he does not want Samuel to hear this word. God speaks judgment on Eli and his descendants. To his credit, Eli seems to realize that there is a problem and submits to God’s Word. Immediately this will mean Eli’s death and the death of his sons in the subsequent chapters. But God says, “forever” here. The house of Eli shows up at several junctures in the subsequent history of God’s people. Mad king Saul kills an entire village of Eli’s descendants in 1 Samuel 22. Solomon got so frustrated with them that he banished them to a little, desolate village called Anathoth (I Kings 2). Jeremiah the weeping prophet was drawn the ranks of those descendants of Eli (Jer. 1:1).

Does that make your ears tingle a little? God kept this dire promise. Eli’s descendants bore this curse for centuries. God has spoken an eternal condemnation against those who abuse their power and take advantage of the vulnerable. Jesus reiterates that sentiment in Mt. 18:6 and its parallels in Mark and Luke. God never said that such behavior was acceptable. Even king David was brought to repentance for his sin against Bathsheba and Uriah. God sometimes seems slow to act and we might have imagined that God will do nothing about it. I am sure that Hophni and Phineas, the sons of Eli thought God would never act on those words. For those who are the victims of powerful abusers this passage has a message of hope. There is justice. If those whom God has appointed in human offices to bring about justice fail to do so, God will take up that cause Himself. But that will be in His way and His timing. But God’s justice is thorough and unerring. There is justice.

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