OK . . . someone might need to check my thinking this morning. If I’m heading down some erroneous rabbit trail, let me know. But for some reason, as I’m reading the opening chapters of 1Samuel, I end up fixated on what a rule breaker that kid was.
Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD in the presence of Eli. And the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision. At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his own place. 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.
(1Samuel 3:1-3 ESV)
So, as I read the opening verses of chapter 3, this questions pops into my head, “What’s Samuel doing lying down in the temple where the ark of God was?” I know he can’t be in the holies of holies. Maybe it’s not even saying that he was inside the tent, in the holy place where the lamp and showbread were (though maybe it is). But what’s Samuel doing anywhere near the place where the glory of God resides?
First, I don’t think he’s a Levite. 1Samuel 1:1 says his parents were of the tribe of Ephraim. Samuel wasn’t of the tribe God had set apart to minister in the tabernacle– that privilege was specifically given to the tribe of Levi (Numbers 3). Sounds like grounds for disqualification to me.
Then, it occurs to me, he’s just a kid! The “boy” Samuel was ministering to the LORD–that word in the original looks to mean just that, a boy, a lad, a youth. But the Levites had to be 30 years old to enter into service (Number 4). Hmmm . . . . something’s not right here.
And as my “what’s-wrong-with-this-picture” filter continues to scan over these opening chapters of Samuel, I notice he was worshiping before the LORD when just a weaned child (1:28). Really? Can he even understand what he’s worshiping? And as a boy ministering before the LORD (did I mention I don’t think the rules really allowed him to do that?) he’s doing it though he “did not yet know the LORD, and the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him” (3:7). The kid knew about God theologically (as much as a kid can know), but had yet to know Him relationally.
So again, what’s the kid doing there?
Well, the divine record says he was growing “in the presence of the LORD” (2:21). That he was becoming great “both in stature and in favor with the LORD and also with man” (2:26). That he was being shaped and formed to be established throughout Israel as “a prophet of the LORD” (3:20). And, evidently, not because he deserved it, not because he covered all the rules, but because he had been chosen for it by the sovereign determination of the Rule-Giver.
And my fixation on the rules of the game gives way to awe and wonder at another reminder of the grace of God.
But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
(John 1:12-13 ESV)
God delights in taking those who would seem to break all the rules and lifting them into a place of promise and privilege. Not because of their qualification, but because of His determination. Not because they fit the mold, but because they were created to bear His image. Not because of their bloodline, but because of the shed blood of God’s Son. Not by the will of man, but by the will of God.
God delights in taking those who were still weak, those who were still sinners, those who were enemies, and reconciling them to Himself through His Son’s death (Rom. 5:6-10). But more than just saving them and reconciling them to Himself–though that would be more than enough to worship Him for throughout eternity–He ransoms them that He might make them “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession” (1Pet. 2:9). Those who fell short of the technical qualifications, now fully qualified in Christ on the basis of His finished work on the cross and through the power of His risen life from the dead.
Maybe the reason I was led to fixate on Samuel’s “unworthiness” to be so near to the presence of God, is so I’d be reminded of mine.
Another rule breaker.
Feebly ministering before the LORD by His grace alone. Brought near, into the holy place, for His glory alone.