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Samuel’s Words Never Fell to the Ground

“The LORD was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground.” I Samuel 3:19

I teach Sunday School at a Baptist church. Let me be a little more accurate: I alternate discussing Biblical principles with high school seniors and young adults ages 18-22 or so. These classroom sessions occur on Sunday mornings.

I don’t do much “teaching” in the sense of lecturing on Biblical truths or some kind of exegetical analysis of scripture. I  facilitate discussions on ways to apply the words from scripture in our daily lives, within the lived experience of the students in the class. I spend my time preparing to ask question that will encourage students to think about their own faiths and propose ways of reacting to scriptures. And we spend most of our time building community and building each other up, because that’s how I think about applying my understanding of scripture to myself and others.

This morning I brought up the story of Samuel to illustrate the concept of vocation, or calling. We talked about callings, about their origins and results, about how we know we’ve received a call. One of the interesting points made was that callings are about relationships: in order to be called, someone must be doing the calling. That places our vocations within the embrace of our relationship with the one calling us. We talked about God’s calling, and we also discussed whether others can call us. We didn’t answer most of our questions; my goal as a teacher is never to try to answer the questions, but to create a community in which the questions can be raised and explored in a safe and encouraging environment.

This post, however, is not about the class. It’s about a verse I encountered, the one written at the top of the post. What caught my attention was the phrase “and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground.” I figured there must be something strange in the translation, so I looked up the original Hebrew. Here’s what it says:

וַיִּגְדַּ֖ל שְׁמוּאֵ֑ל וַֽיהוָה֙ הָיָ֣ה עִמֹּ֔ו וְלֹֽא־הִפִּ֥יל מִכָּל־דְּבָרָ֖יו אָֽרְצָה׃

For those who don’t read Hebrew, I’ll transliterate to the best of my ability. I’m not a Hebrew scholar; I’m a once almost-fluent Hebrew speaker who learned the modern language while living in Israel.

“And Samuel grew and Adonai was with him and never have fallen [any] from all his sayings to the ground.”

God kept Samuel’s sayings — not just his words, but his communications, the things he said — from falling to the ground.

As a student of rhetoric and composition, this is a remarkable idea. That God can be engaged in protecting one’s sayings, one’s communications, is a remarkable thing. I assume this phrase is idiomatic in ancient Hebrew; I’ve not done the research, but I think I will. Or if you know, post a comment and let me know.

But here’s what I took away from the verse: it’s possible for one’s communication, one’s sayings, to be protected from destruction or being ignored.

I would like very much if one could say about my own sayings that they never fell to the ground. That would be a remarkable legacy.

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