by Ronald H. Matthews

Listening for God
Rev. Ronald H. Matthews
1 Samuel 3: 1-10

In the days of Eli and Samuel, before the beginning of the kingship of Saul, from about 1220-1020 B.C., Israel lived in Canaan in the form of a very loose twelve-tribe federation. There was not king or stable central government. As the Book of Judges states, "In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes" (Judges 21:25). Instead, leadership was held from time to time in a series of "judges," who often exercised military, legal, and priestly functions. One of those judges was Eli.

Most of the time, these tribes maintained their own independence, but would band together in times of need for military defense. Their common bond was a covenant with the Lord and their worship of him. That worship was first carried on at Shiloh, which was located north of Bethel and northeast of Jerusalem in the central highlands of the modern nation of Israel. There the ark of the covenant, symbolizing the base of operations for God's earthly throne was lodged (Indiana Jones!!). Their belief was that the Lord was invisibly enthroned about this ark of the covenant.

Eli served as the priest at this shrine, and there the twelve tribes met once a year to offer sacrifices and to renew their covenant with God. (Equivalent of the Muslim's annual trek to Mecca.) The temple was not built until the reign of Solomon (961-922 B.C.). The ark was housed in the inner room or Holy of holies of the tent of the tabernacle. Thus, contrary to popular art and tradition, young Samuel was sleeping not in a temple, but in the tabernacle tent. Samuel had been dedicated to the service of the Lord in the tabernacle by his mother Hannah, in gratitude for his birth, after she had suffered a number of years with infertility. Although young Samuel's duties were sort of a servant status, his mother continued to provide motherly care for him. He was also tutored by old Eli in the covenant tr ...

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