In the story told Sunday, Samuel hears the voice of God. Even though Samuel is still very young, this event launches him into his life as one of Israel’s greatest priest, prophets, and leaders. It is a fun story; a story we love telling in Sunday School, as Samuel hears his name called and thinks it is Eli, the priest in charge of Israel’s worship and of Samuel’s development as a servant of the Lord. The story takes a serious turn, though, when God’s message comes to Eli through Samuel.
God’s message to Eli, Israel’s priest, is that his job as priest is coming to a shameful close. Eli was not able to prepare the next generation of priests – his own sons – to be faithful priests. His sons are despicable priests, profaning God with actions and words. But Eli, imperfect as he is, does not allow this to diminish his role as Samuel’s mentor. He failed his first try to equip the next generation of priests, but in Samuel, he sees someone he can mentor.
And so it is Eli – who is not at his best in his relationship with God – who leads and demonstrates to Samuel how to listen to God (v. 9). Then, Eli, when he hears the bad news against him, says “It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him.” It is as if Eli uses his some of his final words in Scripture as priest to teach Samuel one last lesson: obedience to God, even if it’s against you, is crucial in our relationship with God.
We are faced with Eli’s challenge. We are not always at our best in our relationship with God. We are imperfect. We sin. We fail, at times, to prepare the next generation for its responsibilities. But, we must never allow these failures or imperfections to keep us from continuing to mentor and lead the next generation. This past Sunday was Youth Sunday at Beverly Hills Presbyterian Church. At our church, we recognize that our youth need Christian mentors. They don’t need perfect mentors. They don’t need mentors who have everything together, spiritually or otherwise. They need mentors who have walked the road of faith, no matter how bumpy it is, and still have a relationship with God. Young people need mentors. Can you pick up the call to be one?
For the youth of our church, you can also look to Samuel as a guide. Samuel listens and follows the leadership of his mentor, Eli. This act of following launches him into a career of being one Israel’s most important leaders. When you find a mentor, learn from their experience. Learn from the mistakes they have made. Ask them about their faith, their walk with God. Ask them about bumps in the road and ask them about good times. Their experience with God will help you in your own discipleship.
Lord God, you have placed us in others’ lives to lead. Help us to be faithful mentors. You have also placed others in our lives to follow. Help us to be faithful students. Give us the desire to continuously learn about you, follow you, worship you, and obey you. In Jesus’ name, amen.