Jan. 18, 2009
Second Sunday After Epiphany (B)
1 Samuel 3:1-20

If a preacher occupies the pulpit long enough, he is likely to experience just about anything. During my first pastorate, lightning struck a tree outside the wall in back of my pulpit-not 20 feet from where I stood preaching. A bird winged its way into the auditorium of my second church, right in the middle of my sermon. Unfortunately, I wasn’t preaching from Matthew 6:26 at the time. Then there was the Sunday morning when one of my
elderly members looked like he was having a stroke but refused to leave the service, presumably because he didn’t want to create a disturbance!
Once, as a guest preacher in my home church, I was called upon to preach in the darkness. A summer storm knocked out the power about 30 minutes before the evening service was to begin. The people showed up, as was their custom, despite the lack of electricity. Candles were brought in, but they did little more than reflect in the eyeballs of my audience. Now that was a memorable sight! Even in the darkness, I later realized, God spoke. The darkness is never so heavy so as to silence God.
God calls out of the darkness. It was a dark night, both literally and figuratively, in Israel when the Lord spoke. Eli, the old priest, had known for years about the indiscretions of his associates and sons. He had grown fat from their pilfered offerings. His condemnation of their immoral behavior amounted to nothing more than a flogging with a wet noodle. The unchecked profanity of their priests thus incited a religious antipathy among the laity.
A recent spate of surveys and books indicate that many of today’s young adults who were raised in the church turned their backs on her when they shifted the tassel atop their graduation caps. Preaching, particularly, has fallen under their
disdainful glare and been dismissed as no longer essential or meaningful. How much fault for this modern apostasy should be laid at the feet of the preacher is debatable. Regardless, the hour in our country grows darker.
God calls for prophets out of the darkness. Though the Word of the Lord was rare in those days, and though Samuel was only a boy who had yet to wrestle with the deeper things of God, the Almighty called out to him. Three times He called before the youth realized Who was calling-calling upon him to deliver a message. Samuel twice mistook God’s voice for Eli’s.
How often the Lord calls the young into ministry! I was 15 when He called me. No, they often haven’t attended seminary yet, perhaps not even college, and, as was true of me, may still be in high school; nevertheless, the Lord calls these unenlightened souls out.
One doesn’t have to be young to be called of God. Abraham was 75 when he received the call. Moses was 80. Though in their twilight years, they retained their spiritual sense of hearing. How many of our seniors today might God be calling, only for them to delude themselves into believing that someone other than the Almighty is speaking?
God calls for prophets out of and back into the darkness. The message that the Lord gave Samuel to deliver wasn’t the kind to win friends and influence people. It was a dark word. It was a hard word to Eli, the kind of word that severs relationships. It was a word promising fulfillment of an earlier threat (1 Samuel 2:27-36). An opportunity to repent and avoid disaster may have attended that former word but not so this one. This new word was one that Samuel delivered reluctantly, but delivered nonetheless. His faithfulness in delivering that word and other words like it eventually earned him recognition among the people as God’s true prophet.
The Lord called Samuel out of the darkness to remain in the darkness and to deliver a dark word. People who obey that kind of dictate are rightfully termed “prophets.” If there was ever a time when prophets were needed, it was then-and it is now.

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About The Author


Gregory K. Hollifield is the Assistant Academic Dean at Lancaster Bible College at Memphis Center for Urban Theological Studies.

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