Before the day’s classes began, he took dishwashing soap and proceeded to pour it in several of the fish tanks in his high school biology department. By the time teachers and students arrived to take their places with bright, shining faces, the tanks were, shall we say, bubbly. And the fish, if not already belly-up, were headed to that great aquarium in the sky.
As is usually the case when it comes to antics like that, somebody who knew the culprit just couldn’t resist telling, and then that person told another, and so on, and so on. Later that day, this guilty guy was summoned to the principal’s office. After agreeing to make some specific amends, and “do some time” in detention, he was sent back to class. But before leaving the principal’s office, my now good friend told me he heard these words: “You know, you’ll never amount to anything.” As it turns out, my friend actually did amount to something; he’s become quite successful.
Eli the priest had two sons named Hophni and Phineas. They were both wicked, constantly treating “the Lord’s offering with contempt” and “sleeping with the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting” (1 Samuel 2:12,17,22). Needless to say, the behavior of Eli’s sons makes the fish-tank prank look like a Sunday picnic. Clearly, Hophni and Phineas “did not respect the Lord” (v.12). They truly would never amount to anything—at least in the eyes of God. Yet in the midst of this great evil being done among the people, “Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him, and he fulfilled everything Samuel prophesied” (1 Samuel 3:19).
The wickedness of Hophni and Phineas stands in stark contrast to Samuel’s goodness and receptivity to the voice of the Lord. On four occasions, the Lord summoned Samuel. The first three times, Samuel thought Eli was calling him. But by the fourth time, Samuel knew it was the Lord. Far from some “you’ll never amount to anything” message, the Lord told Samuel “I am about to do something in Israel that everyone who hears about it will shudder” (v.11). And they were going to hear about it by way of Samuel, the mouthpiece of God.
The young boy summoned by the Lord amounted to a great deal in the history of God’s people. “All Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a confirmed prophet of the Lord” (v.20). In God’s economy, what matters most is our ability to listen and our willingness to obey. This truth offers hope for anyone with ears to hear, even for those of us who’ve had occasion to desecrate a fish tank or two.
Written by John Blase