In our Bible study group we recently examined the books of Samuel. Of course most remember the calling of young Samuel where he hears a voice, goes to Eli, and the third time Eli realizes that it’s God talking to Samuel and Eli tells Samuel to respond “Speak Lord for thy servant heareth”. Yes, but most people don’t remember just what God told Samuel when he finally responded to God. God tells Samuel that Eli and his descendants will not be the High Priests anymore because of the corruption in his family. Well, this is not good news for the young Samuel(probably about age 10) to be sharing with Eli (his mentor). But Samuel, at request of Eli, does deliver this bad news.
One lesson here for me is that sometimes when God speaks to us it is not something good to share, not easy to share or do, but something difficult and unpleasant. You know, like work. God tells Moses to go to pharaoh and get the children of Israel out of Egypt. God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh (Assyrian capital) and reprimand them. Not easy, fun tasks.
When I was serving on the Board of our local church I once volunteered for an unpleasant duty. We were refurbishing the 50 year old Aeolian Skinner church organ, and there had been some delays in the procurement of parts, there was a lack of cooperation among the 2 parties providing the services, and now there was interference from a longstanding member who was trying to help by inserting herself into the process. When the Board became aware of this added disturbance I volunteered to confront the member. I was the young guy approaching a woman who has not only been a member for 40 years, but carries a lot of authority (official or not) in the church. And while this is not as dramatic as God speaking to Moses out of a burning bush, it did seem like this was opportunity to do harmonizing work for church. So I called Jane (not her real name) and met with her. Before doing so I prayed to get clear that the objective was to add harmony, not more discord and chaos. But also to communicate that each step must be taken with prayer so that each party is fully aware of and listening to God, and not just anxious to inject personality, intimidation, shame, manipulation, etc. to bring about some end result. I actually was not sure, yet, exactly what I would say.
But when we did meet, I was making every effort to stand on principle, not just persuasiveness of personality. It occurred to me, during our conversation, the event of Uzzah in 2 Samuel. The Ark of the Covenant was being carried and all were clearly told not to touch the ark itself. But Uzzah, trying to steady the ark, touched it and was killed (by God). Funny, as I found myself in the middle of sharing this with Jane, I wondered if it sounded like I was threatening her?? Even though that was not my intention at all. I was using the story to appeal to her sense of responsibility to not interfere with God’s work. To allow the authority already in place, and working with the interested parties, to accomplish the task without adding confusion by interfering. My motive in talking with Jane was honest, sincere, and in highest sense of what was right for the church. And Jane did, to my relief, understand. She apologized, and removed herself from the situation. Amazingly, within 1 week the parties were again talking, parts were suddenly found, repairs made, and the organ work was completed over the next 3 weeks.