The Stump is a blogging project of Claremont Presbyterian Church.
At the beginning of I Samuel, Israel is in a poor state. Eli, a spiritual leader, has grown old and his two sons, Hophni and Phineas, have been mistreating the people of Israel and sinning against God. They skim the fat off the people’s offerings to the Lord and keep it for themselves. In response God delivers a threat personally to Eli, promising that nobody in his family will live to see old age.
Cut to a young prophet named Samuel, sleeping in a temple. Samuel is suddenly awoken by the voice of God, which he at first does not recognize. Assuming the voice is coming from Eli, Samuel wakes up Eli three times in response to God’s calls, until Eli finally insists that the calls are from God, and that Samuel must listen. Samuel concedes to this notion, and invites God to speak saying “Speak, for your servant is listening”. God proceeds to inform Samuel that he intends to deliver upon his earlier threat to Eli, who is then placed in the awkward position of letting his priest know that God plans to off him and his family.
I want to bring special attention to the third verse of this chapter, which points out that while Eli is sleeping before God speaks, “the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord…” This lamp is significant, for it is termed “the lamp of God” and therefore deserves extra attention. It is very early morning, when the lamps that served as lights in the temple would begin to die out from having been burning all night. The dimly lit lamp of God symbolizes the dark state of Israel under Eli and his son’s unjust leadership. During this dark time in Israel, Samuel is still able to hear God’s voice. While his priest, his mentor, and a man in a position of great power in Israel, engages in questionable behavior, Samuel is still able to confront him with God’s word.
It is impossible not to give credit to Samuel’s incredible amount of bravery in confronting Eli, even when things are unsure and the lamp of God is dim. The courage it must take to listen to God’s word, even when it is not the light that is burning the brightest, the most obvious choice. During Advent season, it can be difficult to follow the Lamp of God, which might appear dim at times in comparison to all of the bold modern-day rituals that accompany the holiday season. Bright store displays, Christmas lights, presents wrapped in colorful wrapping paper. It takes courage, especially in a college town like Isla Vista, CA, to remind others of the true meaning of the Christmas season, of Advent, and not buy in to the notion that the season is dedicated to Santa and presents and stockings and eggnog.
Steven Watts grew up in Claremont Presbyterian Church and has served as a Youth Advisory Delegate to the Presbyterian Church’s General Assembly. He is currently a senior at Cal State Santa Barbara majoring in History and rowing like a champ.