Hannah’s Song. God Calls Samuel. The Ark Falls. Curse to the Philistines. Ark Returned. The Curse Continues
The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.
1 Samuel 3:1 (NIV)
I had a ton of problems with Ms. Lynda. First of all, she smiled too much, and my brain couldn’t handle it. Even at four years old, I sensed something off about such never-ending cheer, and I complained often to my mother about it, in an attempt to get Ms. Lynda replaced. She was also always hanging around inside the boys’ bathroom. Nothing nefarious, don’t go there in your brain; she was a pre-school teacher after all. But still, I was no allowed in the girls’ room, and so I did not get why a girl, even a big, big girl, was allowed inside. She also wore too many cardigans.
The worst though was her apparent one-on-one connection to God. She would tell us about how the Lord “spoke” to her – to tell her to move to a new house, to have children, to become a preschool teacher. God did not speak to me – I had never heard His voice, had no proof He was even a “he.” So what made Ms. Lynda so special? She was annoyingly happy and had no fashion sense. Why was God so interested in her?
But I was naïve. God did not speak to her in a literal way, but rather, she prayed and felt nudged in certain directions. I learned later that the Holy Spirit was responsible for this type of interaction – but no one could really define exactly what that meant. It was based on a feeling, a rush of energy, a gentle prodding. To me, that just felt like self-absorption, adrenaline, and a breeze. I never really understood it.
Samuel has grown from that small boy dedicated to God. While staying with Eli, he hears a voice calling out to him assumes it is his priest. But it is the Lord reaching out to him in the most obvious of ways. So Eli tells Samuel, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:9) Samuel does, and God delivers a powerful vision. Eli will fall along due his wickedness, and Samuel will rise to replace him as a wunderkind prophet.
Then everything goes to Hell. Eli dies, and the Philistines attack and defeat the Israelites. The remaining few huddle around the Ark of the Covenant, but the enemy manages to steal it. This leaves God’s people in absolute despair, and they cry out, “Why did the Lord bring defeat on us today before the Philistines?” (1 Samuel 4:3) Seems that God’s sudden lack of communication is devastating (and deadly) to His followers.
But it is all part of the plan, as God swiftly uses this as an opportunity to punish the Philistines. Plagues befall them in the form of tumors and sickness, and so they decide to return the Ark to head off further punishment.
Nonverbal communication between God and man did not suffice for the Israelites, and yet it is truly all we have to go on today. It is a common understanding that the “Lord works in mysterious ways.” This is practically synonymous with the “Lord works invisibly.” We do not get the benefit of a booming voice from the sky, but the Israelites had the opposite problem. Unless God spoke out loud, He did not speak. And the silence could last for decades.
We would never last for that long. Christians rely on the constant pseudo-communication from God to remain faithful, for they feel their belief is rewarded. But it’s a feeling – that’s what it is. Divinely inspired or not, it is a feeling. I have been accused of acting on my feelings, of allowing homosexual feelings to take over my life. A feeling. Just a feeling.