Samuel ministers for the LORD and meets him in an unexpected way…
His responsibilities were in the tabernacle under the direction of Eli the Priest.
Fulfilling his assistant priestly duties, he and his mother Hannah took very seriously.
1 Samuel 2 tells us that every year Hannah would make him a new robe to wear while serving. He also donned the priestly ephod (vs.18), which was a linen apron, signifying his status as a tabernacle worker below the priests.
He was most certainly picking up the slack for the Priest’s Sons; Hophni and Phineas, for they were more interested in carousing with women and stealing food, then they were serving the LORD.
Yahweh decreed that their days were numbered and a faithful priest would be raised in their place “…who shall do according to what is in my heart and my mind”
So Samuel finds himself doing his duties and Yahweh finds him sleeping, but more than ready to arise for the call to serve God.
Apparently the sleeping area for Samuel was right next to the most holy place where the Ark of the Covenant was kept.
Here he would sleep bathed in the light of God’s golden lampstand, so large a lamp it may have even provided some warmth from the cold.
More telling than the Ark and Lamp’s location is Samuel’s sleeping area.
Finding him in this spot finds him ever at the ready for any service that needed to be done no matter the hour of the day or night.
As one theologian put it so appropriately, “…Samuel was ready for priestly service and his character was fit to hear God’s voice”.(LSB note 3:3, page 439)
Yahweh called Samuel, not once, not twice, but three times; for “Samuel did not yet know the LORD, and the word of the LORD, had not been revealed to him.”
No, Samuel did not know that it was Yahweh in person, nor did he expect the word of the LORD to come to him this way.
Eli, even though he lacked sight, quickly saw who was really calling Samuel!
In this season of Epiphany I assured you that Jesus would be shown as God in a manifest way through our lectionary readings.
I have no doubt in my mind you likely already anticipated these would be New Testament references.
The Magi coming to pay their respects to the King of the Universe, The Baptism of Jesus, the unclean spirit in the synagogue who called Jesus the Holy One of God (Mark 1:23-24), Jesus; casting out demons, cleansing lepers, healing paralytics (MK 1-2) and finally the Transfiguration of Jesus with Moses and Elijah in attendance!
But did you ever consider the Epiphany of Jesus in the Old Testament?
For Example Jude 5 tells us of a mysterious rock that went with the people of Israel when they fled Pharaoh in the wilderness, and that rock was Jesus!
In 1st Corinthians 10 Paul reaffirms that is was Christ who was leading them!
Jeremiah 1 records how the LORD put out His hand and touched the Prophet Jeremiah, and the word of the LORD came to him.
And all the way back to Genesis 15 word of the LORD came to Abram and led him outside his tent to make an everlasting covenant with him for unending offspring from his barren wife.
Jesus is the word of the LORD, God in the flesh, who in the beginning was the word and was God, and continues to reveal Himself to us to this day.
He never stopped appearing to us; but he never came in the way we expected, and hardly ever the way we wanted.
So Samuel jumped up to answer, not expecting the word of the LORD but in the end more than willing, to submit to the word of the LORD.
It’s a hard reading for us today, because we are really good at dictating to God what we expect Him to be.
Sometimes we expect Him to be the unending source of constant happiness and contentment.
We find ourselves lamenting the sad state of affairs in our lives and wondering why God doesn’t make us happy?
Why doesn’t the world work all the time, why don’t people do the right thing, why doesn’t God fix it now…I mean judgement day is cool and all, but what about my joy right now?
We forget to count our blessings, take stock of all that God has provided and fail to recognize there is more good than bad in this world.
We are tempted by worship that woos us with promises of happiness and joy and manipulates our emotions but rarely forgives our sins.
We manipulate our material possessions and our debt to provide temporary happiness in things, rather than the Spirit of God, and we use social media to prove to everyone we are doing just fine when we know deep down we are sinners in need of a Savior.
And sometimes we ignore God’s commands altogether so we can party like a rock star, and when the party’s over our friendships are too, but we comfort ourselves with the promise of new parties next weekend.
The word of the LORD knows this and calls to us when we least expect it and comes in a way no one could have ever anticipated.
One unexpected way is our Corinthian epistle today.
We might be our busily seeking God on the mountain tops, in the hip churches or the fabulous beach side resorts…but Paul reminds us UTIOTHS,
“Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?...your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit!”
While we are searching out there; he is dwelling right here! (Gesture to your heart)
Walking with us, talking with us and enabling us to live like we could never live with our Him!
Another unexpected way is in our Gospel today…
Nathanael doesn’t have any time for any Messiah that might be from Nazareth, after all in his words, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”
But Jesus saw Nathanael coming and immediately manifested himself where Nathanael least expected it; RIGHT IN HIS HEAD!(point at your head)
Nathanael was expecting see the word of the LORD somewhere high and mighty, but Jesus saw him under the fig tree and took up residence right in his unbelieving heart.
Jesus doesn’t come where we want Him the most; He comes where we need Him the most.
So in this season of Epiphany, watch out, HE COMES WHERE AND WHEN YOU LEAST EXPECT HIM!
When your burning the midnight oil for that unthankful coworker or obnoxious customer…Jesus is your source of unending patience and perseverance to get the job done.
When you sit in your despair and loneliness because all your friends and family are gone; your forever friend Jesus brings you eternal friendships and the hope that takes you to be where they are by their faith in Him.
And when you are stuck living in that rotten community that never seems to get better, Jesus plants his cross of salvation in the worst part your town, and says this is MY TOWN!
Then he dies on that cross to save everyone there and give them all hope for an eternal city come down from heaven to take them all to eternal living.
So like Samuel today, we can sleep easy at the Ark of the Covenant of Our God, in the warmth of the Lamp of His eternal light in Jesus.
And we can listen, carefully to the word of the LORD, because when he speaks to us, we’ll know it’s Him and we’ll know it’s time to go, wherever and whenever He calls; speak Lord, Your servants listen!