Everything about the account of Samuel seems calculated to emphasize the darkness. It was night. And before electricity, the night was frighteningly dark.
The message came to a young boy, a bright and seemingly enlightened boy, but one who does not yet see clearly. The high priest was an elderly man in the twilight of his life; his eyesight was almost gone. A nightlight was burning, but it was almost out.
Add to that the most telling darkness of all: “The word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions” (1 Sam. 3:1). When “the boy Samuel ministered before the Lord,” folks couldn’t see the Lord very clearly—nor did they really want to. They did not hear God; they did not see God. And so they did not follow God.
Now consider our own culture. Most people know God gave 10 commandments but few seem to know what those are. Fewer still try to obey them. Many have Bibles in their homes on shelves; far fewer store them in their hearts.
A recent denominational survey (which, by the way, had far better participation than ever before) indicates that less than 35 percent of respondents spend time daily with God! The Word of the Lord is rare in that environment too. God can hardly be seen clearly when God is only rarely consulted.
Samuel lived in the time of the judges—a time when everyone did what was right in their own eyes. We live in a time like that too. Laws are formulated and decisions made without much consideration for God’s will.
We often decide matters by judging by what seems best to us. We sometimes make personal and moral and financial decisions based on our needs and desires, not on God’s will. We make up our minds on matters like immigration and stewardly living and a host of political issues on the basis of what we prefer, not what God requires. We decide where to live and how to live and even with whom to live on the basis of what is comfortable and satisfying to us, not what the Lord of the universe might expect of us.
It was a sad time when old Eli could hardly see and young Samuel did not yet see clearly. When it came to seeing God’s will and following God’s way, for most people it was like the night. And today is not much different.
Let’s look toward the Light that still burns brightly and is a lamp for our feet. There is an institution training persons to shed that Light on us and others; let’s offer regular prayers for Calvin Theological Seminary and all who teach and learn there. Pray that they will see the Light in such a way that it enables them to shed that Light on our lives. Support the efforts of Calvin Seminary with your prayers and gifts. Together let’s pledge to do all we can to make the Word of God not “rare” but plentiful in our own lives by reading it, listening to it, reflecting on it, and following it.
In the opening chapter of 1 Samuel, the Word of the Lord was rare. But Samuel, who listened to that Word and followed it, became someone of whom it was said that God “let none of his words fall to the ground” (1 Sam. 3:19). May God let the same be said of all who are learning to speak the Word of the Lord to us. May their words fall not to the ground but into receptive hearts
About the Author
Rev. Joel R. Boot is the executive director of the Christian Reformed Church in North America.