Summary: "Arise, Shine" was our Epiphany 2018 Series. This was the second installment. In short, God calls us out of our darkness, no matter where we've been.
Three months and ten days. Assuming our little baby arrives on her due date—which she won’t—but assuming she does, that’s how long my wife and I have left of getting a full night’s sleep every night. Three months and ten days. But, come April 24—give or take a few days—we’ll be back to the same routine we had when our first daughter was born. Waking up in a zombie-like-trance every hour or two to the sounds of new lungs and vocal chords being exercised with impressive decibels, as infant cries startle us to attention. We’ll get up in the darkness, flip on the light, change this little newborn, feed her, then probably change her again. And back to sleep to start the cycle over again.
It can be bittersweet to be called out in the middle of the night—in the midst of the darkness when the silence is broken. On the one hand, I already dread waking up in the night like that, so often. I remember how it was! I just know, I’ll be getting into a good, deep sleep, and it’ll happen. That cute little baby is going to cry and scream, trying to get our attention and inform us we’ve got a job to do. My wife and I will have bouts of grumpiness toward each other, thinking it’s definitely the other’s turn to rock her, bounce her, anything to get her back to sleep. And we’ll express it through huffs and puffs and grunts and the exaggerated pulling of the covers. And, regardless of how much or how little sleep we get in the night, our firstborn WILL be awake by 6:30 or 7. The first couple weeks can be tough, like that.
But at the same time that I dread it…I cannot wait. I am actually excited to be awakened in the night like that. Because, as much as I dread getting startled awake over and over, I take pride in the job I get to do. She’s breaking the silence, calling out to ME in the night; calling out MY name in the darkness. It sounds like “waa waa,” but she really means, “Dada” and “Mama.” She is calling us specifically, telling us we’ve got a job to do; and she trusts US to do it. I’m excited to get to hold this precious life in my hands. To swaddle her, tightly wrapped like a little burrito baby. To rock her with her little head on my chest. To sing to her. To hold her and quietly talk to her to let her know I’m there. And when she falls asleep in my arms, it will be the greatest compliment and show of love she can give me. It can be bitter, but so, so sweet to be called out in the darkness when the silence is broken.
And, in a sense that’s kind of what we see taking place in our 1 Samuel passage, today. The roles are somewhat different. But there was darkness. There was silence. And that silence was broken as God called out in the night. But before we get too much further, I think an interesting thought that many have with this passage is, why doesn’t God do that today? I mean, sometimes it seems like God is just “too quiet.” We think, if only God would speak to us…or to our neighbor, or children, grandchildren—folks who have wandered from the faith. If only God would break the silence; call them by name out of the darkness, and speak to them directly, personally, maybe they’d change. Maybe that would bring them back. So, maybe we think God is just too quiet, sometimes.
But then again, we’re pretty comfortable just the way things are! We’re comfortable with the idea of God calling out others…but when He confronts US; when God’s voice breaks the silence and we hear Him calling…well, that’s where we would prefer He stay out of it. We’re fine, then, for God to keep His distance. Fine with God keeping silent. It can be a bittersweet thing to be called out of the darkness like that!
Well, in the opening verse of 1 Samuel 3, we see that it was silent. “The Word of the Lord was rare in those days,” the passage says. God wasn’t speaking to His people through visions as often, like He had with the Judges of Israel. He was not calling out from a burning bush or from a cloud-covered mountain, like He had with Moses. No, God was just silent. And yet, they still had His written Word to guide them—the Words written and handed down by Moses. The Lord may have been silent, but He was still speaking loud and clear…if only they would listen.
Finally, after a time of the Lord’s “silence,” in the middle of the night, God called to Samuel. Like a newborn crying out to him in the night Samuel would start to get into a really good deep sleep, and then, out of the darkness, he was called by name. This happened throughout the night. And it was bittersweet that God would call Him out of the darkness like that. It was sweet, because at a time when God’s Word was “rare,” here He speaks! It was sweet, because God’s got a job for this sleepy young man. The job wasn’t to rock a baby to sleep, but it was to care for and nurture God’s children. To feed them, spiritually. To comfort them, to talk to them and let them know He is with them. And it was sweet, because God gave no one else this job—only Samuel was called to this special vocation at that time. And Samuel would take pride in this role. The Lord would break His silence through Samuel, as this prophet would bring Israel the Word of the Lord, again.