by Christopher Harbin

Living a Response
Christopher B. Harbin
1 Sam 3:1-10; Ps 139:1-6, 13-17; Jn 1:43-51; 1 Cor 6:12-20

When God speaks, how do we respond? Do we respond with something more than words?

In the eyes of many, he was still not old enough to be a prophet. Regardless, Samuel lay before the ark of Yahweh to incubate a word from God. As the people understood it, one who needed a word from God could bring offerings to the altar and spend the night sleeping there in expectation that God would speak, whether in a vision or in a dream.

The text tells us that a word from Yahweh was rare in those days. Maybe the boy was playing with the experience of incubating a word from God, even though he did not expect success. Like boys rubbing sticks together to make fire, he did not anticipate the results for which he was trying. More than anything else, it was an attempt to show that trying to incubate a word from God would not work. He was playing with the experience. He took it seriously, but he was focused on in it being useless.

Samuel prepared himself to spend the night not in bed, but before the altar. Maybe this was his first attempt. Maybe it was his seventh. Maybe it was his routine, but the text doesn’t make it sound that way. He lay down before the altar and prepared to sleep. Soon his life would be upended.

While sleeping, he heard a voice that called him. Half-asleep and woozy, he answered the voice, “Here I am!” He took off to Eli, sure that it was the priest who was calling him. Arriving before Eli, he presented himself, saying, “Here I am, since you called.” The old priest did not know what it was all about. The boy must have had some dream. “Go back to bed. I did not call you.”

Confused, Samuel went back to the altar of Yahweh in the tabernacle. He lay down to sleep again, too tired to remain awake and ruminating over what had happened. Lying down, he heard again a voice calling him by name, “Samuel, Samuel!” “Here!” he answered, r ...

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