top of page
  • alisonwale

...if you lead me...

Yesterday, our Lay Worship Leader spoke to us about how pivotal the roles of Eli & Phillip were in the calls of Samuel & Nathaniel, and challenged us to consider our own responses to the searching of others.

Readings for the second Sunday after Epiphany.

It is said that men are never willing to stop the car and ask for directions if they are lost. I don’t know how true this is in general, but I know that in the days before Sat Nav, my husband Andrew seemed happier to drive round in circles, proclaiming that “We’re bound to find the place soon!” rather than stop the car and ask someone for help. I really don’t understand the logic behind this. I don’t know if it is a misplaced sense of pride, or something like that, but to me there is nothing wrong in saying, “Excuse me, but I think I need some guidance on this one”.

It seems to me that sometimes the world in general is like this. No-one seems willing to admit that they’re unsure of things, or asking questions, or searching for peace of mind. But there are many people all trying hard to find answers to deep spiritual questions such as “Who am I? Why are we here? Is this IT?”

Even as Christians in today’s world we still need help in answering questions, and guidance in knowing where we’re at; and there is nothing wrong with that. But sadly it seems that in today’s world the voice of God, the prophets who can point us to where we’re going, well, their voices are rarely heard.


It was the same in the time of Eli and Samuel. I suspect that, if you’re anything like me, you may not have listened all that carefully to the reading of the call of Samuel. It is familiar, and we know it well. In that case you may have missed one of the points that I’d like to raise today. In verse 1 it says, “In those days the word of the Lord was rare, there were not many visions”. In Eli’s time, as in ours, the spiritual guidance was missing; it seemed as though God had deserted them. All around was immorality ~ even the priests, Hophni and Phinehas, the sons of Eli, were immoral, out for what they could get, careless of God’s word. Eli was old, and near blind. Who would give guidance to the people when they most needed it?

Luckily God had heard the souls of the people crying out for spiritual guidance, and he had an answer prepared. The boy Samuel was to be the next spiritual leader of Israel, but even he needed help to hear what was being said to him. For when the Lord called him, Samuel didn’t understand who it was. He thought it was Eli calling for him. He didn’t recognise the voice of God. So he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am”. You see, he was willing, he was ready to help ~ but he just didn’t know how.

It took old Eli a couple of minutes to cotton on to what was happening, but thankfully he did, and he was able to help Samuel recognise, and respond to the call of God. Through being there, in the right place, at the right time, Eli was able to guide Samuel into answering God’s calling.

And because of this, Israel’s spiritual leader, who would help bring the word of God back to the people of Israel, was prepared for his job.


Phillip played a similar role in Nathaniel’s life. Nathaniel was sat beneath a fig tree, the shade of which, according to my study Bible, was a favourite place to study and to pray. This gives us an indication that Nathaniel was a questioning man, searching for answers, reading the scriptures, and trying to find his spiritual way in a world that was too secular. He was still searching when one day his friend Phillip was able to give him some guidance. “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote ~ Jesus of Nazareth.”

Nathaniel wasn’t sure, believing that nothing good came from Nazareth ~ but he was willing to give it a go, and he went to meet this Jesus. Having done so, he then believed also. Through his friend’s guidance, Nathaniel found the right Way, and followed it.  He was willing, and searching; like Samuel, all he needed was someone who was able to set him on the right path.


Today, I want to compare the roles of Eli and Phillip to our role in the world. Like Eli, we live in a world where there is a sad lack of strong moral and spiritual guidance ~ and I cast no aspersions on Catherine, or any other priest when I say that! But there are, I feel sure you’d agree, few well known voices standing up for Christ in the world today ~ and those who do are often mocked and derided by the popular press.

But it was from a spiritual desert similar to this that the great leader Samuel came. However he would not have done if, when the boy appeared at his bedside with questions, Eli had mumbled, “ No, no, you’re just imagining it. Stop disturbing me…” and had turned over and gone back to sleep.

And if Phillip had kept quiet, and not told his friend about Jesus, then Nathaniel might never have found his way to Christ. And, as it is fairly commonly believed that Nathaniel is in fact the same person as the Bartholomew, who appears in other gospels, who was a disciple of Christ, and who ended up spreading the gospel to Asia and beyond, well, if Phillip hadn’t shared the news with his searching friend, then perhaps there would be a different state of affairs in the Christian world today. We cannot tell, we can only guess what might have happened if Phillip had thought, “Oh well, Nathaniel’s got a strange prejudice about people from Nazareth; he’ll never believe that anything good comes from there. I’ll just keep quiet…”


If we are truly honest with ourselves, if in the same situation as Phillip how many of us wouldn’t have bothered? It’s too much hassle trying to persuade him… he’ll never listen…. He won’t believe me…

I know when I’ve been faced with a friend, asking questions about the world, and discussing their beliefs, I have always found it immensely difficult to actually mention Jesus. Yet what a grave disservice I am doing to my friend. He or she is genuinely trying to find their way, and through my own cowardice I do not guide them to the road that I know is right. “I don’t think they’ll listen”, I say to myself, or, “I don’t know what to say…” or, “God doesn’t want me to say anything yet”. I don’t know who I’m trying to fool!


Later on in this service we are going to sing the beautiful song “I, the Lord of sea and sky”, which speaks of God saying he has heard the cry of his people, that he has recognised their need, that he weeps for them, and that he speaks to them. And then he asks “Whom shall I send to bear God’s light, to take God’s word, to give God’s life?” And in the chorus we reply, “Here I am, Lord”.


 Do we mean that? Do you mean that? Only you can answer that question, but we can all take hope and courage from the lines “I will go Lord, if you lead me”.

God does not ask us to do this alone. He is always with us, and he is always leading us, and if we dedicate our lives to him once more, as Eli and Phillip did, then he will enable us to guide others to Christ. They both had a choice. Eli, to go back to sleep, or to spend time thinking about what Samuel had said, and to realise that it was God’s voice calling in the night, and that Samuel needed guidance to understand this. Phillip had the choice, to shrug his shoulders and think, “Oh, he’ll never understand”, or to go to his questioning friend and say, “Look, I think I’ve found the answer to your questions. Let’s explore this together.”  And we have a choice too: to stay in our little holy huddle, and never come out of it, or to help those people who are desperately searching for answers to deep spiritual needs, by saying, “Listen, I felt like this once, but now I know Christ, and somehow things are now different.”

I think I can say “ I will go, Lord, if you lead me”, knowing that I do depend on Jesus to help me find the words, and the courage to speak out against the world, to speak out for Christ. Do you think you can say it too?

8 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page