Is That You Calling?
Old Testament Reading- 1 Samuel 3:1-10
New Testament Reading- John 1:43-51
By Henry J. Rafferty CLP -February 5, 2023
We have talked about people seeking for God through many different avenues, the magi and people seeking out John the Baptist were both examples of people seeking for God. This week we see some seeking, but we also see something different, God finding us.
Pick up the paper today and you will read all kinds of news, local, national, and news from all over the world. Let’s not stop there, turn on the television or go to your computer, tablet, or phone and we see and read the same things, news, news, news. It can be news overload and let’s not forget that it is not always factual, often it is laced with opinion and point of view. We can find anything from entertainment, sports, How-to, trivia, politics, current events, philosophy, and religion. Whatever you want to look at or look up, you can find, it is so easy today because of our technology, but not so in the ancient world. People then were just as curious and desirous of news and knowledge as we are now, they just didn’t have it at their fingertips like us. How might it have been back then?
A young man, in his twenties, not married yet, is trying to find his way through life. He is a fisherman on the Sea of Galilee. This sea is what we would call a lake, it is fresh water,
rather pear-shaped and is in the north of Israel. It is about 13 miles long and 8 miles wide, almost as long, but wider at one end than Chautauqua Lake. The Sea of Galilee is different though, it is 141 feet deep compared to Chautauqua Lake’s depth of 78 feet. Also, unlike Chautauqua Lake, the warm waters of the Sea of Galilee do not freeze. It is home to 27 species of fish, many of which are good to eat like tilapia, sardines, carp, and catfish. The area immediately around the lake is green and rolling, much like it is here, but there are some rocky areas in the outer lying lands heading towards the distant mountains. The area is full of cities and villages, and people can be found making a living from fishing, growing crops, tending vineyards and orchards, and raising livestock. Masons, tentmakers, carpenters, coopers, millers, and rabbis were also occupations that were present in the area during the time.
Our young man though is a fisherman, and he lives a life very much like our own. If you strip away the technology human beings are still very much like they have always been. We all still need to eat, drink, and sleep. We all still need a roof over our heads and clothes on our backs. We still need to make money to make a living and we still want and need to be social. Our young man, let’s call him Caleb, a strong Hebrew name, spends many days out in the water on a boat fishing with large nets for fish. The boat is owned by Caleb’s father Abner, and together with his father and two brothers they work for the family’s wages. They usually head out in the later part of the night so that they can take advantage of the calmer water, rowing is not much fun when it is rough and there is usually enough of a wind for the sail to do most of the work. They find the area where they want to fish and drop their nets. They continue to keep the boat moving, hoping to gather fish that are schooled together into the net. They are in luck this morning and they feel the boat starting to sway to one side because of a heavy haul of fish in the net. The crew work hard together to bring up the load, hopefully not losing any fish before they get them in the boat. Now they must take their catch to shore, offload, and place all the fish in baskets to haul to the fishmonger for sale. It was a good day and God has blessed them. They received a good price for their efforts and Caleb, after helping clean the boat, has time for some social time before coming home and getting enough rest for the next day’s work.
This past week’s Sabbath, after the meal, Caleb and some of the other men were reading from the Nevi’im, or the Prophets, specifically from the Prophet Samuel and they read about how a young Samuel was born to a woman named Hannah who could not get pregnant. She prays to God and vows that if He gives her a son, she will dedicate him to the Lord. Hannah then becomes pregnant and gives birth to Samuel who, is then dedicated to the Lord and taken in by the Priest and Judge, Eli. One night Samuel is awoken by someone calling his name. Several times Samuel asks Eli what he wants of him, to which Eli replies that it was not him who called Samuel. Eli soon understands that the Lord Almighty is the one calling on Samuel and tells him to reply, “Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears.” Samuel goes on to succeed his mentor Eli as priest and as the last of the judges of Israel. It is also Samuel who is told by God to give the impatient people what they have requested, a king. He is the first to call Saul as King of Israel and then also calls King David.
Caleb listened intently all afternoon to the older men talk about the life of Samuel the prophet and he couldn’t help but think what it must have been like to be called by God. He had often prayed to the Lord for safety and for blessings of a great catch in his daily work, but he had never felt that God called his name. Caleb always observed the Sabbath and was
always with the men when they read from the Sacred Scrolls and discussed how God had led his people to live the way they do. He always listened and spoke when asked, but he had questions. How had Israel lost its way from where God intended them to be and why were the Romans now in control of the land in which they lived? How could the Jewish nation last by living under gentile rule? Most importantly though, when will the Lord send the Messiah to save them?
As I said previously, Caleb, after a successful day of fishing, has some time left in the day that his father has let him have to himself. In those days, many people preached in the surrounding area, but lately he had heard about this man named Jesus of Nazareth that was drawing large crowds and was preaching in a way that was unusual. In fact, Caleb lived in a town called Gennesaret, which is on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee and was about the same population as our own local town of Wattsburg. Jesus had just passed through his village healing people of sickness, but he had been on the lake fishing and had not been able to see him. Lately, there have been people traveling by the droves to a town northeast of Gennesaret called Capernaum and Caleb decides to make the three mile walk to hear what this Jesus has to say.
When he arrives, there is already a massive amount of people crowding around Jesus. Jesus then walks up from the lake to the higher ground where there is a better vantage point in which He can be seen and heard. He hears Jesus talking about the blessings that will be poured out on the poor, the humble, the meek, and the peacemakers. Jesus speaks with authority on matters such as murder, adultery, and divorce and He tells the crowd of the necessity of giving to the needy and loving your enemies. This man from Nazareth tells them that He has not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, but to fulfill them. This man is shaking up the Jewish hierarchy and challenging many well-worn traditions. Later in the evening Caleb is stopped by a man named Andrew who tells him that he is a follower of Jesus and that he has been amazed at all that he has seen and learned in the amount of time he has been traveling with Him. Andrew tells Caleb that he is also a fisherman from the village of Bethsaida and that he and his brother Simon, called Peter, where both called by Jesus to follow Him.
Some weeks pass and Caleb has been fishing, but just can’t stop thinking about Jesus and the conversation that Andrew had had with him. He spends every free moment he has been trying to hear and see Jesus wherever He goes. Then one day when he sees Jesus
again, he asks Him if He is the Messiah, Jesus says, “Follow me and see.” Caleb decides to follow and becomes one of the ever-increasing followers that Jesus sends out to preach the Gospel and heal the sick. Caleb’s whole life has changed as he has come to the realization that Jesus is the Messiah that he has been reading about and waiting for his whole life.
What do we learn from Caleb’s story? We learn that he was a normal person going about his life just like us. We also learn that he has questions, he is a seeker of truth, God’s truth and he was yearning for the Messiah. Caleb took that extra step towards God, but we also see something else, God then chose him. Caleb, like the Apostles, were chosen by God for this mission, a mission that they thought would change their lives, but that changed not only their lives, but the whole world. In our Old Testament reading God calls out to Samuel and Samuel accepts the call. In our New Testament reading we find God calling the Apostles to Him. God knows us intimately and is in a unique position to choose us.
Psalm 139:1-16 says,
"You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one
of them came to be.”
Listen carefully because you never know when God is going to call on us. He can call at the most unexpected times, but no one knows us better than the Almighty, our Creator.
He chooses us, but, like Caleb, we must be ready to reply and to act when He calls, and not be afraid. God’s call might seem scary, or you might feel like you are not worthy or capable, but the Lord knows differently, for He knows we are fearfully and wonderfully made by Him. Psalm 139 concludes with these last two verses,"Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Listen for God’s call and know that He has created and blessed you with the ability to perform His will, a service that will change the world and make the impossible possible. What a glorious God we serve. Thanks be to God! Amen.