The Hand on a Boy’s Shoulder

Last time, we looked at Biblical prophet Samuel’s call as he “continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the LORD and also with man” (1Sa 2:26) and we took his story (1Sa 3) as a paradigm of a boy’s growth into manhood. It does seem to be what happens, in one form or another, as every boy apprehends the call. His quest consists in confronting the doubt that he could be a man, and conquering it.


The Help WE Need

Truth be told, we boys need a lot of help in doing that. We especially need, starting out, a man’s hand on our shoulder assuring us of what we can be. Of course, we hope that hand is a father’s hand. However imperfectly, many of us fathers can do this. But if that hand fails, other hands can suffice. To take another Biblical example, the king-to-be David as a boy seemed to need no encouragement to take the reins early on (1Sa 17). Yet he still desperately needed confirmation that his life as a man was real. Key moments in his life begged for a hand on his shoulder, often supplied by his much older friend, Jonathan. Valiant Jonathan aids David to visualize his future.


The guiding hand

What does the hand on the shoulder do? The one with the hand is one who can recognize how a son’s gifts, even if different from the man’s own, are tools of manhood. The one with the hand alerts the boy to the importance of the task before him in life. When God finally gets Samuel’s attention, the first thing he does is impress the boy with the importance of the work he will be involved in: “I am about to do a thing, to make ears tingle…” (1Sa 3:11). He makes Samuel feel the consequence of the message the budding prophet must give. Samuel needed to know that he had crucial things to do: give hope to the people, defeat the Philistines, bring kingship into being. In these ways, because Samuel became a man, the culture of ancient Israel was completely transformed over a seventy-year period.


Today, we have great need for our boys to be men. When there is critical spiritual opposition, it is a wonderful time to be alive—because God has important things for them to do.


For this to be, the guide needs to speak. The one with the hand needs to break the cultural silence around masculinity. In our day, he needs to say that there is something more than just toxic masculinity. There is actual masculinity. And what is that? Real masculinity? Where can we see it?


A real Man
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

We can see real masculinity in the way of another biblical boy who also grew “in stature and in favor with God and man” (Luk 2:52). Jesus Christ became incarnate as a boy and so went through this very human quest for manhood. Even more remarkable, He lost His father while growing up. So much for the hand on the shoulder that we all crave as boys. For at least some of his development, Christ had to do without it. Yet even with this disadvantage, He became a man. He overcame the doubt, fear, and distractions to recognize the call of God. Then He took the steps of masculinity:

He stayed with the needs of his mother, even to the cross. That was masculinity.

He recognized and affirmed his sisters in ministry with Him. That was masculinity.

And He secured a bride, us, by laying down His life for us. What a man!


The voice that calls


This One that has already done it, is now the One calling you along. Christ went through it and understands your disadvantages. When His hand is on your shoulder, you need only roll over and say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” (v10). The Holy Spirit He sends will assure you that, as He was a man for us, He can lead you to be a man also.


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