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Called to Lead


This is part of a sermon I preached at Central Christian Disciples of Christ in Huntington, WV (January 14, 2024) based on 1 Samuel 3:1-10


Samuel was just a boy, and was sleeping in the temple, close to the Ark of the Covenant which was considered the Holy Presence of God. But he keeps being woken up by a voice calling him and he mistakenly thinks it’s Eli, who is nearby in a room. Imagine him, half awake, shuffling into Eli’s room. This happens three times.


But Eli is not the one calling Samuel.  At last Eli, probably also half-awake, realizes that it is God wanting to talk to Samuel and advises the boy next time he hears the call to say, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”


Often, we have trouble discerning God’s call in our lives, and other people must point us in the right direction. In Samuel’s case, Eli was the person who realized that God was calling the boy. Eli was an important man, a high priest of the Jews and also one of the judges. It was he who raised Samuel in the temple after his mother, Hannah, weaned him at the age of three or so and dedicated him to the Lord.


Samuel was a miracle child, the result of Hannah’s desperate prayer for a baby boy and her promise to dedicate him to the Lord. She was a wife of Elkinah who had another wife Peninnah, who had children and taunted Hannah for being barren. Hannah was deeply loved by her husband but felt unfufilled. When she was praying silently in the Temple with her lips moving, Eli thought she was drunk, He said to her, “How long will you make a drunken spectacle of yourself? Put away your wine.” 15 But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman deeply troubled; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. 16 Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation all this time.” 17 Then Eli answered, “Go in peace; the God of Israel grant the petition you have made to him.” 18 And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your sight.” Then the woman went her way and ate and drank with her husband,[c] and her countenance was sad no longer. (1 Samuel 14 – 18 NRSVUE) 


Hannah later gave birth to a son and named him Samuel which means “heard by God.” Even after he was dedicated to God and given to Eli in the Temple to raise, she would have had a role in his upbringing. She is only mentioned in 1 Samuel 1 and 2 mention in the Bible as a leader, but she led the way in her prayer, called Hannah’s Prayer which is thought by scholars to be the precursor to Mary, the mother of God’s Magnificat.


Hannah’s prayer is a song of thanksgiving for the birth of her son, Samuel, while Mary’s Magnificat is a song of praise for the coming of Jesus Christ. Hannah’s story is a reminder that God is faithful and that He can use anyone, regardless of their circumstances, to accomplish His purposes. Her story is also a reminder that we should never give up hope, even when things seem impossible 1.  Hannah In the Bible: 5 Lessons We Can Learn (womanofnoblecharacter.com)


Another important woman leader in the Bible is the Samaritan woman at the well. Remember her? This woman who was all by herself at the well, a woman who was not particularly proper, questioned Jesus, suspected him for even talking to her. But they had the longest recorded conversation of Jesus with anyone in the Bible. She was empowered to become the first evangelist, often considered the mother of all evangelists. In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, she is called St. Photini which means the luminous one and is remembered by Eastern Christians as a Great Martyr. They refer to her as Equal-to-the-Apostles. 


Not all potential leaders are jumping up and down at the opportunity.


Moses, who led the Israelites out of Egypt, was reluctant to step into the role God was calling him to: He said, “No, Lord, don't send me. I have never been a good speaker, and I haven't become one since you began to speak to me. I am a poor speaker, slow and hesitant.”

11 The Lord said to him, “Who gives man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or dumb? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? It is I, the Lord. 12 Now, go! I will help you to speak, and I will tell you what to say.”

13 But Moses answered, “No, Lord, please send someone else.”

God agreed to have Moses’ brother Aaron, an eloquent guy, speak for Moses. God would tell them what to do.  (Exodus 4: 10-16).


Samuel, that miracle baby, who was raised in the Temple became a very great man of integrity and was foundational to the leadership of the Israelites. He was an honest and impartial judge, a priest, and a military leader. He anointed the first two kings of Israel: Saul and David. And he played a key role in the transition from the system of judges to the monarchy in Israel.


God calls who God calls and God will equip people for the task.

 

In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul wisely tells us that the body of Christ, and that is the Church, “does not consist of one member but of many.” Everyone is important including those who seem weaker. They deserve to be honored and heard too. 

Be open to God’s generosity and surprises, knowing that God’s leading is lasting, and a way to personal growth, community growth, and peace.

 

 

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