Lesson: 1 Samuel 3:1-20
1 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.
2 At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; 3 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. 4 Then the LORD called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” 5 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. 6 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.” 7 Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, and the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him. 8 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. 9 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.
10 Now the LORD came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” 11 Then the LORD said to Samuel, “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle. 12 On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. 13 For I have told him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. 14 Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever.”
15 Samuel lay there until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the LORD. Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. 16 But Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” He said, “Here I am.” 17 Eli said, “What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also, if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.” 18 So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. Then he said, “It is the LORD; let him do what seems good to him.”
19 As Samuel grew up, the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.
20 And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the LORD.
The Book of Samuel is part of the “Deuteronomic History” that includes the books of Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. These books are a “didactic history” that covers the period from just before the entry into the Promised Land (c.1220 BCE, if the account is historical) to the beginning of Babylonian Captivity (586 BCE). The books were written in the period from 640 BCE to 550 BCE and continued to be revised even after that.
The authors artfully wove together numerous sources. They used the stories in these books to demonstrate that that God controls history and to assert that it was the failures of the kings of Israel and the kings of Judea to worship YHWH and obey God’s commands that led to the conquest of Northern Israel in 722 BCE by the Assyrians and the conquest of Judea by the Babylonians in 597 BCE. (The conquests were not seen as the result of the Assyrians’ and Babylonians’ greater wealth and more powerful armies.)
The Book of Samuel (to the extent it may be historical) covers from the end of the Time of the Judges (c.1030 BCE) to the last years of the Reign of David (c. 965 BCE). Because the Book of Judges ends on such a low note in terms of YHWH worship, “the word of the LORD was rare in those days” (v.1).
Today’s reading describes the call by YHWH of young Samuel (whose name means “God [el] has heard”). Samuel is described as the last of the Judges and the first of the great prophets of Israel. He is a towering and admirable figure in the Hebrew Bible. His mother, Hannah, was barren until YHWH “remembered” her in response to her prayers. He was dedicated by Hannah to YHWH as a “nazirite” (1 Sam.1:9) — one who would never cut his hair and or touch wine or strong drink. Other identified nazirites in Scripture were Samson (who did not fulfil his vows) and John the Baptizer.
Among his significant acts, Samuel (at YHWH’s direction) anointed the first two kings of Israel (Saul and David). The Book of Samuel was derived from at least two sources and is therefore ambivalent about whether having a king was good for Israel (it united the tribes politically against their enemies) or bad because Israel ceased to be a theocracy (governed by YHWH through priests).
Epistle: 1 Corinthians 6:12-20
12 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. 13 “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food,” and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is meant not for fornication but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that whoever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it is said, “The two shall be one flesh.” 17 But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18 Shun fornication! Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you were bought with a price; therefore, glorify God in your body.
Corinth, a large port city in Greece, was among the early Jesus Follower communities that Paul founded. Its culture was diverse and Hellenistic, and Corinthians emphasized reason and secular wisdom. In addition to Paul, other Jesus Followers also taught in Corinth, sometimes in ways inconsistent with Paul’s understandings of what it means to be a Jesus Follower. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians was written in the 50’s (CE) (likely while Paul was in Ephesus) and presented his views on several issues.
Today’s reading appears to be in response to a letter received from Corinth, as shown by the Hellenistic (“enlightened”) statements in verses 12 and 13 that Paul quoted (and refuted) in today’s reading. Paul discussed the human body and rejected fornication/sexual impurity, not because of the Law, but on the bases that Jesus Followers are members of Christ (v.15) and united to the Lord (v.17) so that one’s body is a temple/sanctuary (v.19). Paul concluded that one should glorify God in one’s body (v.20).
Paul’s emphasis on the sacredness of the body expressed traditional Jewish respect for the body (as part of an integrated human person) in opposition to the Platonic notion that the soul/spiritual essence is what is important and that the body is an irrelevant appendage.
Gospel: John 1:43-51
43 Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49 Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”
The Gospel According to John was the last of the canonical gospels to be written and is usually dated to 95-100 CE. The author of the gospel (like the other canonical gospels) is anonymous in that the names of authorship were not applied to the gospels until late in the Second Century.
The chronology of events in the Fourth Gospel is substantially different from the other three (the “Synoptic”) Gospels. The Fourth Gospel also contains many stories about Jesus that are not in the Synoptic Gospels.
In today’s reading, places that are mentioned include Bethsaida (a town on the NW shore of the Sea of Galilee) and Nazareth (a small insignificant town about 16 miles west of the Sea of Galilee – not a likely place from which the Messiah would come.
The author of the Fourth Gospel knew the Hebrew Scriptures well. The reference to “him about whom Moses wrote in the law” (v.45) is a reference to Deuteronomy 18:15 (“The LORD God will raise up a prophet like me [Moses] from among your own people.”)
The reference to angels ascending and descending (v.51) is to the ladder in Jacob’s dream in Genesis 28 and implies that Jesus is the ladder connecting heaven and earth. The reference to the Son of Man is to Daniel 7:13 in which one “like a human being” (a Son of Man) comes upon the clouds – a customary Messianic image in the First Century.