Posted by: Melissa Bane Sevier | January 10, 2018

Tingling ears

The story of God’s reaching out to the boy Samuel is a famous and popular tale from the Hebrew scriptures. Samuel is living at the temple (read chapter 1 to see the sad story of why he’s there), serving Eli the priest. Samuel hears a voice in the night. Thinking Eli is calling him, he goes to the priest, who says he didn’t call and tells Samuel to go back to sleep. This pattern repeats and Eli thinks Samuel may be experiencing an auditory visit from God, so he sends the boy back to his bed and tells him to listen.

People usually end the reading there, at verse 10. But this year I’m attracted to the second half of the reading, verses 11-20.

When Samuel listens, the boy hears this: “I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle.” I suppose tingling ears could be either good or bad, depending on the message and on the hearer. Samuel knows that the words are bad for Eli, and after a sleepless night he decides not to reveal what he’s heard when they encounter each other the next morning. But Samuel tells him to speak the truth, no matter how hard the truth is for Samuel to say and for Eli to hear. He does. And the text ends with this note about how Samuel’s life turns out: “all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the Lord.” He was known as a person who listened for and spoke the truth, no matter what.

In a day when so much of what we hear is factless fake news, truth has taken on new importance of a spiritual nature. It’s our job as spiritual beings to seek out the real truth and to unleash that truth on the earth, for God’s sake. Sometimes the news is bad; sometimes it’s good. It’s also true that what is bad news also reveals good news, and vice versa.

  • It’s bad news when tragedies result from natural and human-made disasters like floods, hurricanes, snowstorms, tornados, murderous rampages, war.
    • It’s good news that there are those who work for relief, and for the protection of the vulnerable.
  • It’s bad news that immigrants are threatened with being sent “home,” even though many of them have been here decades and nearly all of them contribute to the economy and well-being of our communities.
    • It’s good news that people are speaking out against this unwise and unkind threat, and are speaking up for the human rights of all concerned.
  • It’s bad news that sexual assault is rampant everywhere.
    • It’s good news that many are becoming empowered to tell their stories, and that they and others report sex crimes and misconduct and strive to make homes and public spaces safer.
  • It’s bad news that poverty and hunger and lack of access to decent housing and healthcare overwhelm so many.
    • It’s good news that there will always be people who follow Jesus’ teachings to raise up the least and make them the greatest. That is what God’s kingdom is like, and it isn’t just a metaphor.

Are your ears tingling yet? There is so much bad news out there to make the ears recoil. It’s easier to turn up the music and avoid the things that are difficult to hear. But if we stop listening we’ve silenced the part of our souls that cries out with God’s heart for justice, love and peace.

Once we listen with tingling ears, we begin to understand more deeply, and we commit to go to work.

Who knew that the ears could lead the whole body?children and truck, Miguel Colorado, LR adjusted, copyright, low


© 2018, Melissa Bane Sevier



  1. I treasure all words my ears (mind) hear (understands) from the Holy Spirit and do my best to act upon them. Thanks be to God for you and your reflections❤️.

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