1 Sa 3-5; Heb 9; Psalm 25
One of the strange gifts of the scriptures is that none of us as the people of God can be under any illusion as to how we consistently foul it up.
In the days of Eli the priest we read ‘The word of the Lord was rare in those days’. And for all people post comforting biblical verses on Facebook and the like (and note it is always such verses, not discomforting verses), we might well say, ’twas always thus’. It is hard to look at the world around us and see evidence of the live giving word of God. Certainly visions are not widespread.
So it is in this context that the child Samuel hears the voice of God – and it even takes Eli the priest three attempts before he realises that this is a long forgotten voice in the night. But this voice does not bring a word of comfort in the modern sense of the word. Yes it is a ‘comforting’ word, but only in the sense of one that strengthens – that speaks into the utterly dissolute situation and calls the prophet to strong action.
Our narrative continues with the capture of the Ark – unthinkable. But God will not be without witnesses and if the people of God will not witness to his Glory, then he will allow himself to be put in the hands of wicked men, that his glory may be revealed. And so, the Ark is placed in the presence of Dagon, the Philistine Idol – and the idol is shown to be ‘as nothing’ before the presence of the Lord.
So in an age when the word of the Lord was rare, one will come who is content to be betrayed into the hands of wicked men – to become the place of atonement (the cover of the Ark) – and thereby he ‘disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them’