UNITY OF VANCOUVER
“A Child Borrowed and Loaned
Connecting with God as our Source & desiring to have only the peace of God within as our highest desire brings us lasting happiness. I invite you to close your eyes & to visualize yourself on a round gold platform. On the floor of the platform is a button labeled The Source. Push the button. A beautiful ray of light comes on from above & the platform begins to lift up towards that light. As you continue to lift higher & higher. The light gets brighter & you feel yourself becoming filled with more light & the energy. (Pause) As you move into higher vibrations of energy you are moving towards the Source of all light. Feel your desire to feel your connection & to become 1 with God, The Source of all light. Allow your desire to know God to continue to lift you higher & higher. Now feel the platform stop. Allow to come forth into your mind anything in your life that has stopped you from feeling your oneness with God. It may be someone you need to forgive; it may be feelings of guilt or unworthiness. It may be a fear that you have to leave the pleasures of earth. It may be a combination of things. Just allow them to come forth. (Pause) Now once again, feel your desire to connect with God & feel the platform once again moving upward into the light until you feel yourself absorbed by the light & until you feel God, the Source breathing you; until you feel the oneness of just being. Bring yourself back gently & slowly as we speak together our “Prayer For Protection.” “The light of God surrounds us; the love of God enfolds us; the Power of God protects us; the Presence of God watches over us. Wherever we are God is & all is well.” Amen.
A CHILD BORROWED AND LOANED
Let me share a bit of Hebrew history to prepare us for our lesson on Samuel.
Moses demanded freedom for the Israelites & headed out of bondage in Egypt to the Promised Land. It was a difficult journey made more difficult by the fact that whenever Moses turned his back the Israelites, forgot all about God & everything Moses tried to teach them & worshipped the nature idols of the non-Hebrew people around them. As a result they ended up spending an extended period of time in the wilderness. Moses died as they reached the border to the Promised Land. He turned leadership over to Joshua whose name means ‘Jehovah is salvation.’
Joshua’s task was to instill in the Israelites a love for the 1 God who had led them out of bondage in Egypt. He wanted them to put God 1st but many of them began worshipping local Gods & Goddesses & adopted the way of life of the people who inhabited the land. Joshua divided the Land among the 12 tribes but the tribes were independent & soon began to drift apart. They lived for themselves rather than joining together with other tribes to help conquer & secure Land already occupied & divided into countries, defended by Kings with armies. The Book of Judges comes next. he opening words tell us that all Canaan had not been conquered under Joshua, thus he was buried at the edge of his inheritance since in God’s eyes he had not completely fulfilled his mission. It also says the greatest weakness of the 12 tribes was their inability to work together. Each tribe confined itself to its own interests. “Anarchy reigned to a large degree as every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” The Hebrews hadn’t yet discovered that only in Unity is there strength. During this period of about a century chieftains called Judges ruled the Hebrews. When a tribe was forced to war it selected its best soldier as leader & if they won they usually kept him on as civil leader afterward. The rule of 12 Judges is recorded in the Book of Judges. Some of them were far from worthy. Metaphysically this whole period reveals the fluctuation in consciousness of 1 who has recognized the presence of the God but finds it well nigh impossible to remain faithful to Him. On the spiritual path, all of us discover that “though the Spirit is willing the flesh is indeed often weak.” Outer pressure is apt to focus our attention on outer conditions, until after a time we lose the feeling that God is real & we, too, find it easy to disregard Him. But even when we seem to be making only slight progress on the Spiritual Path we gain something of enduring value. It may be obscured for a time & appear to be lost but it will rise again & prepare the way for additional enlightenment & strength. This is revealed in the Bible narrative by the rule of the last & greatest of the Judges, the Prophet Samuel. The Book of First Samuel begins with 3 stories. 1. The birth & dedication of Samuel (1Sam 1:1 1:28), 2. The decline of the house of Eli (2:11-36), 3. Samuel's prophetic call to do something special that God needs done. (3:1-4:la). These stories introduce the Samuel as a person who will play a crucial role in a new era of Israelite history. He will be called to be a Prophet & under God’s direction lay the groundwork for the transition from the historical period of the Judges to the era of the Israelite monarchy. I’m reading 1Samuel 1:27-28, which describes Samuel’s birth as a Gift & the gift of a Son. ."I prayed for this child & the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord." Hannah, wife of Elkanah grieved because she had no children. Her rival wife Peninnah compounded her misery by taunting her because of her barrenness. As she prayed in the Sanctuary of God at Shiloh, Hannah vowed that if God would allow her to bear a son, she would dedicate him back to God. God heard & answered her prayer. She gave birth to Samuel after she weaned him, she brought him to the temple & placed him in the service of God at Shiloh under the Judge & Priest Eli. The lack of children, especially sons to continue the family was a bitter disappointment for a woman in the ancient Near East. Barrenness was seen as a curse from God (v. 5). However, the barren woman to whom God gives a child is an important theme in several Biblical stories. (Sarah, Rebekah, Rachael, Manoah's wife, Elizabeth). Samuel was a child of Promise like Isaac, Samson, Joseph & John the Baptist. The child born to each barren woman goes on to play a major role in Biblical history to remind us that God can work in impossible situations to fulfill His purposes. God's ability far exceeds what humans believe is possible. These stories also illustrate that faithful prayer & devotion to God are the 2 essential elements required to release the miracle working power of God. Focus on God & possibility rather than focusing on the problem & how impossible it is to overcome. “I asked.” The word used here is impossible to accurately translate into English but it’s crucial for understanding the story. The Hebrew word sha'al is translated as "ask" but it can also mean to "ask for" in the sense of "to borrow" & also "to loan." The words "ask” & "give" used in these verses are the same word in Hebrew used with different meanings. A more accurate translation is: "I asked/I borrowed him from God, so now I will loan him back to God.”
This play on different meanings of the same Hebrew word makes an important point. Samuel was given to Hannah as if on loan for a time. Her act of devotion in fulfilling her vow to God is simply returning to God what she had "borrowed" for a while. This child was a gift of God & therefore in a unique position to carry out God’s plan & purposes for his people. Samuel means ‘instructed of God.”
Hannah's vow of lifelong dedication of her son to God included a vow never to cut his hair (1:11); a vow taken by members of the Nazarites. The vows also included abstinence from wine & avoidance of contact with a dead body; (Num 6:1 21) “Nazarite” in Hebrew means, "dedicated" or "consecrated".
“The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions. One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out & Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was.
“The boy” The Hebrew word (na'ar) refers to a young male child. The emphasis here is on Samuel's youth & his spiritual receptivity. Spiritual receptivity develops 1st; without it there can be no spiritual judgment.
“Ministered before the Lord under Eli.” The word Hebrew word (sharat) translated as “Ministered” indicates a higher level of service than that of a slave & is used to refer to those in trusted positions (Gen 39:4). The word refers to those who served in the temple or in sanctuaries of worship.
“In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.” “In those days refers to the period of the Judges. The last verse of the Book of Judges (24:25) summarizes that era of Israel's history: "Everyone did as they saw fit.
" The Hebrew term (dabar) is translated “The word of the Lord.” In the Old Testament this expression refers to a message from God mediated through a Prophet. A Prophet who receives & gives the “word of the Lord” is 1 who accurately interprets & communicates God's Will (Amos 1:1; Jer 1:2, etc.).
The "word" in this context referred to a revelation from God of who He was & what He expected of humanity (cf. John 1:1 18).
“Visions” While the word vision can refer to seeing physically with the eye (Isa 33:20), here it’s is a synonym for "the word of the Lord" & should be understood in the sense of a revelation. As the narrative unfolds we are told about Eli's poor eyesight. The references to visions, eyesight & light are metaphors for what is going on spiritually in Israel as God calls this young man Samuel.
“One night” The reference to night is used frequently in the Bible. Darkness is used as a symbol for lack of understanding or spiritual need.
“He could barely see” Twice, Eli's poor eyesight is noted (3:2; 4:15). Seeing is often a symbol for "understanding" or spiritual insight. The implication is that Eli's spiritual eyesight is also poor! In addition, as the story continues we discover that Eli's failure to train his 2 sons in the proper respect for God eventually resulted in him "seeing distress" (2:32). Both sons died & the priesthood passed to another family (2:32-35). The narrator makes his point with a touch of irony, playing on the imagery of sight: God doesn’t appear to Eli because he can’t see anyway! Instead, he appears to the borrowed/lent Samuel because he is willing to see as well as to listen/obey.
These narratives present a clear contrast. Samuel's devout parents are blessed (2:21) & their son continues to mature spiritually (2:26; 3:19). Eli's family gradually disintegrates because of failure to honor God. Eli tries to convince his sons of their responsibilities to God & their opportunity to minister to people, but they refuse to listen. The contrast of the selfish sons of Eli who refuse to listen & the very young Samuel who sees & hears what no one else can see & hear is a focal point of the story. It even hints at Samuel's later ministry where he becomes known as a Seer, one who sees in behalf of God (1 Sam 9:9).
“Lamp of God” A light was to burn in the sanctuary of God from evening until morning (Lev 24:2-4). This isn’t a comment about the time of day but an obvious connection between the comment "there were not many visions" (v. 2) & the fact that the lamp of God was still burning in the darkness.”
Even though the spiritual level of the people of God has reached a low that could be described in terms of darkness & blindness, yet the presence of God still flickered among his people. The very fact of Samuel's birth & what is about to unfold in the following verses, bear witness to the fact that God had not abandoned his people to the darkness. In fact, in the midst of a time of great spiritual blindness, God's presence among his people is about to be fanned into new flame!
Then the Lord called Samuel. Samuel answered, "Here I am." 5 & he ran to Eli & said, "Here I am; you called me." But Eli said, "I did not call; go back & lie down." So he went & lay down. Again the Lord called, "Samuel!" & Samuel got up & went to Eli & said, "Here I am; you called me." "My son," Eli said, "I did not call; go back & lie down." Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.
The Lord called Samuel a 3rd time & Samuel got up & went to Eli & said, "Here I am; you called me." Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel. "Go & lie down & if he calls you, say, 'Speak. Lord, for your servant is listening."'
So Samuel went & lay down in his place. The Lord came & stood there, calling as at the other times, "Samuel" Samuel!" Then Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant is listening."
The Lord called Samuel & he answered . . ." “Here I am.” This phrase is a single word in Hebrew (hinneni). It’s a common Hebraic way of responding. It means: "I have heard & I am listening for instruction." The double use of a person's name, as in "Samuel! Samuel!" followed by a response of "Here am I," is a common biblical way of describing an encounter between God & someone willing to respond in obedience (Gen 22:11, 46:2. Exod 3:4). The implication: An improper response is that the person isn’t in right relationship with God (Acts 9:4).
“Samuel did not yet know the Lord.” The word “know” carries considerable meaning in Hebrew. It can refer simply to knowledge about something. It can also refer to a deeper insight into the nature & character of God (Ex 14:4). It is most often used to describe an intimate relationship as in sexual intimacy between husband & wife (Gen 4:1; The RSV reads "Adam knew Eve his wife" while NIV reads the Hebrew word "know" as "lay," communicating more clearly sexual intimacy: "Adam lay with his wife Eve."). The term is also used for the covenant relationship between God & Israel (Amos 3:2).
The implication here isn’t that Samuel lacked any relationship with God, as with Eli's sons who "did not know the Lord" ("they had no regard for the Lord."). Rather, Samuel hadn’t yet received the ‘word of the Lord’ that would establish the special relationship between God & Samuel as His Prophet. (3:19-21). “Revealed” The Hebrew word means "to uncover" or "to show," & indicates that Samuel hadn’t yet been commissioned by God as a Prophet.
“Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” As we have seen, the response "Here am I" with which Samuel had already answered 3 times means the same as this reply. However, earlier Samuel had thought he was responding to Eli, the Priest. Eli instructed Samuel that his response should recognize that it was indeed God who was speaking. It should also make clear that he was submissive to God & show complete willingness to respond obediently.
“The Lord came & stood,” describes a physical visual encounter with God. The story is very brief & unusually silent about the circumstances of this appearance of God. Such encounters with God, called a Theophany or an Epiphany, are usually described in elaborate terms (e.g., Hab 3; Isa 6; Ex 34). The importance of this isn’t that God physically appeared to Samuel. The significance is in the context of the passage. The narrator draws a contrast between the lack of visions that marked the period of the Judges & the fresh activity of God that would mark the Prophetic Era inaugurated by Samuel (contrast 3:1 with 3:21!).
The "word" of God that Samuel received following his call (vv. 11-14) also concerned the downfall of the house of Eli & the inauguration of a new Priestly Line. That message with which Samuel was commissioned proves to be a crucial link in the transition between the Judges & the Monarchy. It is also important to know that later in the story, Samuel's own sons were unworthy of continuing the leadership of Samuel as Eli's sons were unworthy of continuing his ministry (1 Sam 8:1-5).
The story concludes with a summary of the role of Samuel as the mediator of God's Will (3:19-4:1a). Samuel, the child "borrowed" & then "loaned" back to God, emerges on the stage of humanity with a passion for obedient service to God. It is this the young man Samuel's ability to hear & see God when other leaders could not that allows him to lead the people into a new era of God's activity. (3:21). Into an era of Unity & Peace.
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