1 Samuel 3:1-10, 19-20
Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.
At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. The Lord called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the Lord.
Psalm 40:2, 5, 7-10
I waited patiently for the Lord;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
Happy are those who make
the Lord their trust,
who do not turn to the proud,
to those who go astray after false gods.
Sacrifice and offering you do not desire,
but you have given me an open ear.
Burnt offering and sin offering
you have not required.
Then I said, “Here I am;
in the scroll of the book it is written of me.
I delight to do your will, O my God;
your law is within my heart.”
I have told the glad news of deliverance
in the great congregation;
see, I have not restrained my lips,
as you know, O Lord.
As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.
It has been said that every religious experience is a story of humans seeking God; yet what sets the Judeo-Christian religion apart is that it is the story of God seeking humans. In our scriptures today, we see plentiful examples of both humans seeking God and God seeking humans. And we see this playing out on internal levels, in personal and private communion, and on external levels, with the communion between God and man (or woman) going out to others.
In the reading from Samuel, we see God’s search for man as so much more intentional, personal, and effective than man’s search for God. Samuel, though seeking God in that he is serving in God’s temple and abiding in the holy place, has no idea what the Holy One has in store for him, or the extent to which he is known and loved by this God. Samuel is lying down in the sanctuary (resting, not at attention or in deep prayer), and the word of the Lord was not commonly heard in his day. Perhaps no one was listening. So hearing the voice of God is something so far from Samuel’s expectations for himself, and the voice he hears is nonetheless so familiar, that he mistakes it for his master’s voice. But with a little help from his master, Eli the priest, Samuel learns to respond to the Holy One who is speaking to him. And what begins as a one-on-one communion in the holiest, most private place, flourishes into Samuel’s public prophetic ministry. The word of the Lord does not end with Samuel; it goes out, and not a word falls flat on the ground, but all are fulfilled. We see a type of Samuel reflected in the Psalmist’s prayer today, an echo of the “here I am” and the attitude of listening and study in private, alongside the desire to proclaim the glad news “in the congregation” without restraint.
In the gospel, we see man’s search for God repeatedly; we see Simon and Andrew invite Jesus into their home and tell Him about Simon’s mother-in-law, we see the sick and demon-afflicted being brought to Jesus to be healed and delivered, and we see the disciples hunting for Jesus after He has gone off to pray, announcing, on finding Him, “Everyone is searching for you”. As both God and man, we see Jesus seeking His Father alone in prayer, but also responding to do the Father’s will and show the Father’s love in seeking out and saving the people to whom He has been sent. On the personal and internal level, Jesus responds to the need of Simon’s mother-in-law and her son-in-law’s entreaties on her behalf and restores her to health; and this action goes out externally, on a broad scale, as the whole neighborhood then shows up to be healed by Jesus. Then, on a personal, internal level, Jesus retires to pray to His Father; which then goes out externally, as all the people are seeking Him, and Jesus goes out not necessarily to those whom He has already ministered to, but to new towns who need to know that their God is seeking them.
In what ways have I been seeking God in my life? Has it ever seemed difficult to find Him, and if so why? In what ways has God been seeking me? Could it be that, like many in Samuel’s day and even Samuel before he was taught, I have not been listening? Do I commune with God in person, internally, and does fruit of my relationship with God extend outwards to others? Do I believe that God still works through the gifts or prophecy, healing, and deliverance today, and have I sought to receive and/or to grow in any of these gifts?
Today, let’s reflect on our personal search for God, and also thank God for the times and ways He has sought us when we didn’t even know what to look for or believe for. Let’s spend time communing with God in private, and ask Him to equip us with His gifts to speak His words and be His hands of healing and deliverance for our brothers and sisters whom He is also seeking.