The following study is based on Hebrews 11:32, “And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets.”
Today we will be looking at the story of Samuel. Samuel’s mother, Hannah, could not bear children. This was probably the reason why Elkanah (the husband) took an extra wife. It seemed that many of the great mothers in the bible were shut up in the womb and prevented from bearing children. But Hannah learnt to bring her sorrows and griefs to the Lord. This was her prayer (she made a vow):
- 1 Samuel 1:11
And she vowed a vow, and said, O Lord of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head.
- The Lord would hear her prayer.
- 1 Samuel 1:20
Wherefore it came to pass, when the time was come about after Hannah had conceived, that she bare a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, Because I have asked him of the Lord.
- Samuel’s name means he was asked of the Lord.
- Hannah would be true to her vow. It must not have been an easy commitment to follow through with. She probably would have been tempted to keep him by her side. But she followed through with her promise.
- 1 Samuel 1:24-28
24 And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with three bullocks, and one ephah of flour, and a bottle of wine, and brought him unto the house of the Lord in Shiloh: and the child was young. 25 And they slew a bullock, and brought the child to Eli. 26 And she said, Oh my lord, as thy soul liveth, my lord, I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying unto the Lord. 27 For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him: 28 Therefore also I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord. And he worshipped the Lord there.
- How old was Samuel when he was brought to the sanctuary to serve the Lord? It says that when he was weaned. Nowadays babies are weaned after 1 year because mothers want to go back to work, or for other various reasons. But in those days, a child would be weaned at around the age of 3 or even up to 5 years old. Either way, he was a young boy serving the Lord in the temple with the high priest Eli.
This story is as much about Eli the high priest as it is about Samuel because of the passage that we are looking at.
- 1 Samuel 3:1
And the child Samuel ministered unto the Lord before Eli. And the word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no open vision.
- What does it mean that there wasn’t any open vision? God was not coming to communicate to the children of Israel. Why? Because there were some wicked things taking place in Eli’s home.
How old was Samuel at this point?
- 1 Samuel 2:20-21
20 And Eli blessed Elkanah and his wife, and said, The Lord give thee seed of this woman for the loan which is lent to the Lord. And they went unto their own home. 21 And the Lord visited Hannah, so that she conceived, and bare three sons and two daughters. And the child Samuel grew before the Lord.
- He must have been at least 10-12 years old. Possibly older.
- He certainly wasn’t 5 years old anymore. Time had passed already to the extent that Hannah had more children already. 5 in fact.
So God comes to talk with Samuel one night.
- 1 Samuel 3:4-5
4 …the Lord called Samuel: and he answered, Here am I. 5 And he ran unto Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou calledst me. And he said, I called not; lie down again. And he went and lay down.
- God calls out to Samuel and he thinks it is Eli calling him. Three times God calls, and three times he goes running to Eli. He’s mistaken in his innocence.
- 1 Samuel 3:7
Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, neither was the word of the Lord yet revealed unto him.
- It’s not that Samuel didn’t know God because he never did his devotion or spend time praying. But God had never communicated this way to Samuel before. But Samuel is now being called to the role of the prophet. God is about to speak to Samuel His word so that he can begin to tell others. He’s about to be called to a very important position.
- At the third time, look at what happened.
- 1 Samuel 3:8-9
8 And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou didst call me. And Eli perceived that the Lord had called the child. 9 Therefore Eli said unto Samuel, Go, lie down: and it shall be, if he call thee, that thou shalt say, Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth. So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
- Eli knew then that it was the Lord that was calling out to Samuel. God has bypassed the aged judge and high priest in Eli to communicate with the boy Samuel. Why? What a slap in the face it must have been to Eli. Well let’s keep reading first.
What did the Lord tell Samuel?
- 1 Samuel 3:10-14
10 And the Lord came, and stood, and called as at other times, Samuel, Samuel. Then Samuel answered, Speak; for thy servant heareth. 11 And the Lord said to Samuel, Behold, I will do a thing in Israel, at which both the ears of every one that heareth it shall tingle. 12 In that day I will perform against Eli all things which I have spoken concerning his house: when I begin, I will also make an end. 13 For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not. 14 And therefore I have sworn unto the house of Eli, that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be purged with sacrifice nor offering for ever.
- It was about the judgment of Eli. Why was Eli and his house being judged? Because of his sons.
- What was wrong with his sons? The names of his two sons was Hophni and Phinehas.
- 1 Samuel 2:12-17
12 Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the Lord. 13 And the priests’ custom with the people was, that, when any man offered sacrifice, the priest’s servant came, while the flesh was in seething, with a fleshhook of three teeth in his hand; 14 And he struck it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; all that the fleshhook brought up the priest took for himself. So they did in Shiloh unto all the Israelites that came thither. 15 Also before they burnt the fat, the priest’s servant came, and said to the man that sacrificed, Give flesh to roast for the priest; for he will not have sodden flesh of thee, but raw. 16 And if any man said unto him, Let them not fail to burn the fat presently, and then take as much as thy soul desireth; then he would answer him, Nay; but thou shalt give it me now: and if not, I will take it by force. 17 Wherefore the sin of the young men was very great before the Lord: for men abhorred the offering of the Lord.
- Eli’s sons naturally served in the sanctuary because of their dad. But they were abusing the priesthood. They were eating raw meat and the fat on the meat.
- Moreover, what else were they doing?
- 1 Samuel 2:22-24
22 Now Eli was very old, and heard all that his sons did unto all Israel; and how they lay with the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. 23 And he said unto them, Why do ye such things? for I hear of your evil dealings by all this people. 24 Nay, my sons; for it is no good report that I hear: ye make the Lord’s people to transgress.
- His sons slept were also committing fornication by sleeping with women that came to the door of the tabernacle.
- What heinous sins they were committing!
Did Eli know that his sons were committing such sins and doing such acts of wickedness? Yes, he knew it!
- 1 Samuel 3:13
For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.
- He knew about it but he didn’t do anything to correct them. He didn’t restrain them. He was a neglectful father Maybe he was afraid to talk to them. Or he was just being too lenient, thinking or assuming that they would change as they took position in the temple and served with him, or that they would grow up and grow out of those things.
- Maybe he was praying earnestly, hoping that God would just convert his sons hearts without him having to say anything to them. Eli’s sons must have been older than Samuel. They must have been if they were able to convince women to sleep with them. But Eli was being neglectful as a father and also from the standpoint of the position that he was in.
What should Eli have done though from the standpoint of the high priest? He should have sentenced them to death!
- Deuteronomy 22:22
If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel.
- People were stoned in those days for committing fornication or adultery. He should have pronounced judgment on his sons. But he didn’t.
Eli was in the position of high priest. What was the role of the high priest in the days of the Israelites? He was pretty much the judge of Israel, the highest position that one can occupy.
- 1 Samuel 4:18
…And he (Eli) had judged Israel forty years.
- He was the judge of Israel. He was the one that would pronounce judgment on people. He was like the authority in the country, people would come to him and seek counsel and judgment.
- He had the authority to pronounce the proper sentence on his sons, but didn’t!
This sounds like pretty bad parenting right? And it is true, this teaches a lot about how to be parents. When we don’t rebuke the sins of our children, their sins are placed upon our shoulders. God holds us accountable as parents. That is a very serious position to hold for parents, to train up our children in the right way.
Was Eli a religious man though? Yes he was! He loved the truth, he loved the Lord. How do we know? In 1 Samuel 4 there is war between the Philistines and the Israelites. The 2 sons of Eli go and take the ark of the covenant to war with them like a sacred charm. The Israelites lose the war and the ark is taken. Messengers come back to report to Eli what has happened.
- 1 Samuel 4:17-18
17 And the messenger answered and said, Israel is fled before the Philistines, and there hath been also a great slaughter among the people, and thy two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God is taken. 18 And it came to pass, when he made mention of the ark of God, that he fell from off the seat backward by the side of the gate, and his neck brake, and he died:for he was an old man, and heavy. And he had judged Israel forty years.
- When Eli was told the news about what happened with the ark, he cared so much and was taken back by the news that he fell back, broke his neck and died. He didn’t do that when he heard his sons were dead. Maybe when he heard about his sons that he was thinking that it was only a matter of time. But yes, Eli loved the Lord. Yet he still had this one blot of sin on his live to mar his record.
- We must train our children. It is so important!
But I want to show you that this applies to more than just parents but to everyone!
- Ezekiel 33:8-9
8 When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. 9 Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.
- What is the outcome of the wicked man in both verses? He perishes in his sins.
- But what is the outcome of his friend? In the first instance he sins because he doesn’t do anything or say anything when he sees his friend in his sin. In the second instance he delivers his own soul because he warns his friend about his sin when he sees it. Even though the outcome is the same for his friend who dies in his sin, he has delivered his own soul by speaking out against his sin.
- We don’t know the outcome of any person that we talk to. And it’s not for us to know their outcome. We just need to be faithful to what God has called us to, which is to call sin by its right now.
How is this faith though? How did Samuel show faith? He became the messenger for the word of the Lord. Was he afraid after God told him the message that he had to tell Eli? Of course he was!
- 1 Samuel 3:15
And Samuel lay until the morning, and opened the doors of the house of the Lord. And Samuel feared to shew Eli the vision.
- Anyone in that position would have been afraid. It definitely was not easy. But he stayed true to the course of duty of what God told him even though he was such a young boy and Eli was so old! Old enough probably to be his grandfather! Not only that, but Eli was basically the father figure to him.
- 1 Samuel 3:16-18
16 Then Eli called Samuel, and said, Samuel, my son. And he answered, Here am I. 17 And he said, What is the thing that the Lord hath said unto thee? I pray thee hide it not from me: God do so to thee, and more also, if thou hide any thing from me of all the things that he said unto thee. 18 And Samuel told him every whit, and hid nothing from him. And he said, It is the Lord: let him do what seemeth him good.
- How difficult it must have been for Samuel to tell all of God’s word to Eli. But this really is the role of the prophet.
- And this would be the defining mark of Samuel’s ministry as God’s mouthpiece.
1 Samuel 3:19-20
19 And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground. 20 And all Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the Lord.
- None of Samuel’s words fell to the ground. Every word that came out from Samuel’s mouth was useful, it was a blessing! What an amazing record that we have of him. Samuel was faithful in everything that God communicated to him. He was faithful in telling Eli the sins of his sons and the judgment that would come on his family. He would be faithful in communicating God’s word to King Saul when God had rejected him from being king. None of Samuel’s words fell to the ground.
- It must have been difficult. Telling people that you love and respect about God’s judgment on them. But Samuel was faithful.
- You know friends, it takes a lot of faith and courage to deliver straight and pointed messages. One of my favorite quotes is found the book Education, p 57.3
- The greatest want of the world is the want of men—men who will not be bought or sold, men who in their inmost souls are true and honest, men who do not fear to call sin by its right name, men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole, men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall.
- May God help us to be true and faithful today. To stand for the right though the heavens fall. And especially – to not fear to call sin by its right name.
May God give us the faith of Samuel today!