The Journey: The Call of Samuel
October 15, 2017
1 Samuel 3:1-21
There are two kinds of people in the world: those who like to nap and those who don’t.
Or as Kyle says, “Those who nap and those who judge those who nap.”
I’ve done extensive research on this…but I must begin by saying that I put myself squarely in the ‘nap’ category.
In fact, I’m not sure I trust people who never take naps…too productive… too driven in my opinion.
And let’s just be clear, I’m not talking about a three hour nap.
Although it is written of Charlemagne, the first emperor of Europe…that “After his midday meal, he would eat some fruit, take another drink; then he would remove his shoes and undress completely…and rest for 2-3 hours…
So maybe the lengthy nap worked for him…and he still had time to unite Europe and such…
But I was actually talking about the power of the power nap.
20-30 minutes…just to close your eyes for a brief time…and you’re good to go.
There are entire cultures that center around naps:
-In Mediterranean Countries, the Siesta is a way of life…the combination of a big lunch and warm temperatures have made naps a way of life.
-A study in Greece not long ago said that napping can lead to a decrease in heart attacks…
-Naps are not just for aging European types…they’re becoming the hip thing in places like New York City…where you can pay to rent a sleeping pod at the Yelo salon…a 20 minute nap will run you $12…$65 if you want the reflexology treatment to go with it.
-I usually nap for free…a little Sunday afternoon shut-eye…nothing like it. So perhaps that’s why I like this passage so much…
Today’s passage is an ode to the nap…evidence that napping is not only healthy…its biblical.
Here it is…in the Bible…it must be good for us!
Proof that sometimes the best things come to those who nap… Biblical Napping…what could be better?
For those of you who are perhaps not familiar with this term (that I completely made up this week…)…allow me to explain.
And with your permission, I’ll use this passage as our guide… A sort-of ‘how-to’ guide of Biblical Napping…
I believe there are three characteristics…to the perfect Biblical Nap…
1) Naps can taken really anywhere…even in church!
I’ve had some of you say that you take your best naps in church! I can see a few of right now testing this theory!
I must admit I’m getting a little ahead of myself. It’s important to create a framework of Biblical Napping.
What led to the holy naps Eli and Samuel were taking? And frankly, who are these guys?
Samuel…a pre-teen in this passage…was the son of Hannah.
Chapter One of 1 Samuel is her beautiful and heart-wrenching story…a woman who longed for a child of her own. A woman who was taunted by her husband’s other wife for her inability to conceive. A woman’s whose tone-deaf husband said to her, “Aren’t I enough?” When clearly, if this guy had two wives…the question really should have been asked of him!
Hannah finds herself in the temple…crying out to God…vowing that if she were to have a son, she would commit his life to God…to be a priest himself.
And Eli, the priest, sees Hannah crying out and initially thinks she is drunk. But he soon sees that she is genuine in her anguish when he hears her crying out for a child, and soon gives her a blessing…
The Lord hears her cry…and she conceived…and bore a son, a boy named Samuel. And when the boy had been weaned…Hannah says,
‘For this child I prayed; and the Lord has granted me the petition that I made to him. Therefore I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives, he is given to the Lord.’
That is Samuel. Given even before conception to God…destined to be a priest someday for the Lord.
Now, who is Eli?
We first meet Eli the priest in chapter 1, when his cursing of Hannah turns to blessing…
Now Eli had two sons…and we meet them for the fist time in chapter two,
“12 Now the sons of Eli were scoundrels; they had no regard for the Lord or for the duties of the priests to the people. When anyone offered sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come, while the meat was boiling, with a three- pronged fork in his hand, and he would thrust it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; all that the fork brought up the priest would take for himself. This is what they did at Shiloh to all the Israelites who came there. —Thus the sin of the young men was very great in the sight of the Lord; for they treated the offerings of the Lord with contempt.”
Eli’s sons are essentially stealing from the kitty…skimming a little from the offering every week.
They are scoundrels! With no regard for God.
And when Eli finally confronts them…he realizes it is too little…too late.
So this is the backdrop for chapter 3…Eli the priest and Samuel his assistant…
All of this drama…all of these events…so its no wonder that in chapter three…
They are BOTH taking a nap!
I’m mean, nothing is more exhausting than family dysfunction! They needed a good lie-down!
And of course, the temple provides the perfect spot.
So again, the first trait of Biblical Napping is that naps can be taken anywhere…even in church!
The text says that Eli was resting in is room in the temple…but Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord…where the ark of the Covenant was.
The ark…the kind-of ‘mobile temple’…the container that held the 10 commandments…Samuel is napping in the same room.
And yet, the passage says that the Word of the Lord was rare in those days…and that it hadn’t been revealed to him yet. How interesting…here he is…in the same room as the Arc…but he had not heard from God yet…
Samuel must have been taught that the word of the Lord would be revealed to him at some point…and maybe that’s why he was in this room.
Resting…and waiting for the Lord to speak…
Even in his resting, Samuel teaches us an important lesson. Because human nature desires immediacy…answers right away.
If someone takes longer than 20 minutes to text me back…especially if I need an answer and sadly, especially if its my husband (sorry honey!)…I start to get annoyed.
We want God to speak to us…right now.
But sometimes its about waiting…resting in God’s presence. Turning over the timing…to someone who knows better.
Taking a posture of rest is foundational to Biblical Napping.
And actually…foundational to life. God rested…we must rest.
Because a quiet, resting posture will inevitably lead to #2…
The second characteristic of Biblical Napping…
2) God can speak at anytime…even naps!
Now because Samuel didn’t know the word of the Lord yet…when God finally does call…Samuel doesn’t know who is calling.
He thinks its Eli! Three times…he wakes up Eli…three times…
Now, I get annoyed when my kids wake me up one time! But three times!
But each time God calls to Samuel…his answer is the same… “Here I am!” ….in Hebrew “Hinani”
So far this fall we’ve heard a two other “Here I am’s.”
First from Abraham…when God asks him to sacrifice his son…and then Moses…when God asks him to free his people.
Hinani implies, “Here I am, ready, wiling and able.”
There's a special prayer on Yom Kippur called "Hinani" which starts, "Here I am in deep humility . . . "
Hinani…Here I am…the very word is a posture of faith, trust, and readiness…
And its a posture required of all of us: Hinani…Here I am…ready to be used…
One of the things I hear most from people is that either someone deems themselves too old or too young to be useful to God…
-How wonderful then to consider that Abraham was 100 and Samuel was 11 when they both said “Henani.”
-We are NEVER too anything to not be used by God.
In our waking hours, in our resting hours…we are to be open and ready to God’s call.
Samuel says… “I’m here” and then ”I’m listening.”
God can speak at anytime…but sometimes…a resting posture is what is needed to hear God.
Henani is the deep breath before the journey…the look of resolve before a race…the stretch before the work-out.
Henani…here I am. Ready. Willing. Listening…because we know God’s call can come at any time…even in our sleep.
And the third characteristic of Biblical Napping is that…
3) They are places to stop, but not stay…
When Samuel finally realizes that it was God who was speaking…he listens…
And God says…“See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle.”
Now those words would wake me up…have you ever felt your ears tingle?
And not just one…but both ears! I would imagine that by now, Samuel was sitting up!
But the words that follow are perhaps not the words Samuel was hoping for…
“On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. 13 For I have told him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them.”
It might be that Samuel had wished he could have kept sleeping…God was talking about his mentor…Eli…God would punish him…and his sons.
Their behavior had gone too far. They were serving God in name only…but really serving themselves…literally…offerings that were meant for God.
So Samuel lay there until morning.
He lay there…not wanting to tell Eli the message from God. He was afraid. Eli called for him…”Samuel?” And he answered “Heneni.”
But he knew he could not stay silent…even if he wanted to…he needed to tell Eli…
Verse 18, “So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. Then Eli said, “It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him.”
We don’t like sharing bad news. And frankly, we don’t like hearing bad news. But in this case, both the sharer and hearer were faithful.
It would have been easier for Samuel to slip out the Temple’s emergency exit…
It would have been easier for Samuel to skip over important details…to water down God’s message to Eli.
It would have been easier for Samuel to simply go back to sleep and ignore his mentor.
But God doesn’t ask us for easy.
God’s call to us is about moving into a place that seems right and hard, good and difficult, encouraging and perplexing.
(That’s why sometimes the naps are important!) But they are places to stop…not to stay.
-Our goal should never be total comfort.
-Our goal should be total faithfulness.
Samuel rested, waited, listened, and then rose. He was faithful. In his waking and his sleeping…
Samuel would go on to serve God as a prophet…He was a bridge between the period of Judges and the Monarchy…He would crown Saul and later would anoint David (a story we’ll consider next week).
And my guess is along the way he took more than a few Biblical Naps…
There is it…the guide to Biblical Napping…but perhaps its more than that.
Because while there may two types of people when it comes to napping… there is only one category when it comes to calling.
The Call of Samuel is a reminder that God has a call on each and every of our lives…
-No matter if you’re 11 or 111.
Determining that call is a beautiful mixture of resting and rising…of pursuing passion, need and vision,
And a constant posture of Henani.
Here I am Lord…waking and sleeping…ready to follow you