Read 1 Samuel 3
Once again the book of Samuel reiterates the anointing Samuel carries even at a very young age. Chapter two ended with Eli receiving a doom and gloom message from an unknown prophet and chapter three contrasts that with Samuel still ministering before to the Lord under Eli.
What I find so interesting is it seems like Eli has learned from his parenting mistakes with his sons Hophni and Phineas where he really steps up to the plate with Samuel. It seems as though he has protected the young boy from his sons and their corruption. Eli overlooked his son’s sins by not removing them from their priestly positions and that was a sin in itself.
Anytime we learn from our mistakes it’s a good thing. Eli gained wisdom and used that wisdom by training Samuel in the ways of the Lord and running the temple. I can picture this young boy working in the temple doing whatever was necessary whatever was required wearing his little white robe that his mom, Hannah, made special for him. His brothers and sisters are at their family home growing up with typical childhood experiences, yet he is not bitter, he does not resent his parents for their decision, he doesn’t hate God for putting him in this situation. He serves the Lord with a mandate.
I also want you to take note that God placed divine protection on Samuel as he grew. The boy was placed into an environment that was a cesspool of sin under the authority of the man who basically allowed it. The odds that Samuel would grow to be a prophet of God was not in his favor. Do you realize how much of a miracle it is to have a child grow up in an ungodly house and despite that serve the Lord in a mighty way?
Hannah and Elkanah knew their son was going to be placed in the care of a man who didn’t have a good reputation of parenting well, yet they knew the call God placed on their son’s life, and they trusted the Lord in spite of what they saw happening at the tabernacle. Samuel is a fantastic example of purity and innocence, an example of what lifelong service to the Lord looks like. He did not “need” to sin in order to experience forgiveness or to turn to the Lord. He learned how to love the Lord from his parents and from Eli. Each of us can express the blessings of forgiveness, but how much more special is it that Samuel never wasted a moment of his life focusing on anything other than the Lord, now that is special. Lifelong service to the Lord is rare.
The word of the Lord was “precious” in those days (KJV), it was rare. The only message spoken was the doom and gloom one given to Eli. The word of the Lord, is the will of God that was spoken to the people of God by a prophet, seer, or man of God. God speaks or gives them a dream or vision and they share it with the people. This wasn’t happening in the way the Isrealites were used to. For the most part God was on mute. The word tells us that God would send prophets who would make known His will and purpose (Deut 18:15). Given all the corruption in the priestly leadership he was having a difficult time finding a man he could trust, until Hannah gave him Samuel.
In chapter three Samuel is 12 old and it is at this young age the Lord anointed him to be his prophet. Who else was 12 years old and found ministering in the temple? Jesus. The old testament always points to Jesus, this is another one of those examples.
A more modern way of explaining verses 2-3 would be, Eli was preparing to go to sleep in his room, his eyes became heavy, and the lamp of God had not yet gone out. The lamps are candlesticks that were located in the “holiest of holies”, the same part of the tabernacle where the Ark of God was also housed. The candles were lit in the evening and would burn all through the night until early morning when they would be extinguished. In this case the candles were still lit so we know it is early morning and it is still dark out.
Samuel looked after Eli by offering him help during the night, so hearing his name called out while he was sleeping was common. Eli and Samuel’s rooms were close enough for Samuel to hear Eli easily and get to him quickly.
Which is exactly what Samuel thought was happening, he heard his name called out in the wee hours of the morning while he was sleeping and the first thing he thought to do was to answer with “Here I am”, not in the sense of letting Eli know “where” he was, but to let him know that he was ready to serve him. You know how Chick Fil A employees answer “It’s my pleasure”, Samuel automatically answers, “Here I am”.Three separate times Samuel heard his name called out, three separate times he immediately ran to Eli and three times Eli told the boy he didn’t call him to go back to bed.
I love what verse 7 reads, “now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, neither was the word of the LORD yet revealed to him”. Samuel had not yet had a personal encounter with the Lord, He was still learning how to hear from Him, he needed to be taught what that looks like and how to handle these types of experiences and now was as good a time as any to learn.
The third time Samuel ran to Eli is when Eli realized it was the Lord speaking to the boy and he gave him some instructions on how to handle himself. Eli willingly taught Samuel how to hear from the Lord. This is significant because there are alot of spiritual leaders who are not willing to teach their replacements. They don’t want to accept that their season has changed and now God is releasing another person to fill that position. I have to say Eli handled this well. He wasn’t bitter, he didn’t purposely give him bad advice or reply with snarky comments.
What Ele taught Samuel that morning is something I think is lacking in today’s world. One of the biggest questions I’ve heard over the years is how do I know I’m hearing from God. If Samuel needed to be taught how to respond to God, then we are no different.
Ultimately, Samuel just needed to give the Lord permission to speak, not because he needed permission, but because Samuel needed to let Him know he was giving him his full attention. When the Lord is speaking to you do you give him your full attention, do you let him know you are at His service? We tend to want to put on all sorts of fleeces, we want confirmation after confirmation, we want the stars to spell it out, we test God with all this craziness all along. If we were taught how to listen and properly respond in the first place we may not be in this situation now.
Samuel learned how to hear and converse with the Lord and we see him put what he learned to practice. Again, something we should all do. When a spiritual leader gives us practical tips designed to help us grow in the Lord we need to put those tips to use immediately.
After three times of going back and forth to Eli’s room, checking in on him, Samuel was told that it is the Lord trying to speak to him and if he calls his name again to respond with I’m listening. Don’t you know, the Lord did call out Samuel’s name again, he really wanted to talk with the boy. He actually called his name twice, but the voice was coming from a different location. The first three times the Lord’s voice came from the room where the Ark was placed, the holiest of holies. However, this time the Lord stood next to Samuel.
It’s as if the Lord presented himself to Samuel. Samuel was fully awake, fully aware of what was happening, this wasn’t a dream or vision, but a full manifestation of the presence of the Lord standing next to him. Then the Lord began to give Samuel his very first prophecy and what a doozy it was, it was going to change everything.
From there the Lord begins to confirm his plans for Eli and his descendants, that what he had already shared will come to pass. That there will be no atoning for their sins, no sacrifice or offering will cleanse them for what they’ve done. This was a pretty big and probably scary prophecy to be required to handle at such a young age, but Samuel was able to handle it and he had the help of Eli, even though he didn’t want to share it with him.
In vs. 15 after Samuel’s visit with the Lord he remains in bed, thinking about this whole experience, until morning when he finally gets up and begins his day. He is out in the sanctuary of the temple preparing it for the day. He is opening the doors letting in fresh air and bright sunlight when Eli hears him and calls for him. Eli being restless with anticipation cannot wait to hear what the Lord said to Samuel.
Eli is pretty firm with Samuel, “Do not hide anything from me, I want you to tell me everything the Lord said to you.” Samuel tells Eli everything. Most of what he said Eli already knew, but this was a major confirmation for him, it is also proof that Samuel will be the next High Priestly Judge over Israel. Samuel must have expressed some concerns for his spiritual father because Eli ends this conversation by putting his life in the hands of the Lord, “He is the Lord, let him do what is good in his eyes.”
Again, anytime we are called into another season, we should accept the Lord’s will and join with him, not fight him, not become bitter. Eli accepted his fate and the fate of his family. He knew to do better, but he didn’t and this choice, the decision he made will cost him dearly. You can choose to do your own thing in life, but you need to be ok with the consequences. If you are ok with the cost then so be it. Just don’t blame anyone else for your decisions.
Reread vs. 19-21.
None of Samuel’s words fell to the ground, if you are speaking the words of God then what you say will come to pass, it will be truth. That is how a prophet is established, by what you say coming to pass. The entire land of Israel recognized Samuel as a prophet, not a single territory disagreed with this. The glory of God was in Shiloh, he continued to appear there revealing himself to Samuel through his word.
Notice it to Samuel through his “word”. Samuel learned how to hear and respond to the Lord and that gave him the ability to completely connect with God. The word is shared through the Bible, through writings from historians and prophets, it is also shared through the holy spirit. The Lord communicated with Samuel through all these avenues, not just one, all of them.