“Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.”(I Samuel 3:1)
This is an important fact to remember, beloved reader, that the people of God had not been listening for or hearing God’s voice. It was a time when the Israelites were searching for direction and meaning in their faith life.
“At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ and he said, ‘Here I am!’ and ran to Eli, and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ But he said, ‘I did not call; lie down again.’ So he went and lay down. The Lord called again, ‘Samuel!’ Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ But he said, ‘I did not call, my son; lie down again.’ Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ “ (I Samuel 3:2-8a)
Young Samuel had been dedicated to the temple by his mother. While the book of I Samuel does not tell us how old he was, I imagine that he was probably not older than 6 years old. Neither are we told how old Samuel is here. What we do know is that Eli was an old man, with grown sons who were a disappointment to God and contrary to the good of God’s people. This may be why the word of the Lord was hardly heard and visions from the Lord were rare. It explains very well why it took three times for Eli to realize that God was calling young Samuel. And it explains why Samuel did not know the Lord yet.
“Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, ‘Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”’ So Samuel went and lay down in his place. Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.’ “ (I Samuel 3:8b-10)
“Speak, for your servant is listening.” Pretty good for a boy who although living in the temple did not have an understanding of who God was. And pretty good for an old priest who had failed to teach his sons knowledge and respect for the Lord.
While most times the focus in on the calling of Samuel, I would like to believe that Samuel’s faith inspired Eli to renew and recommitment himself to God. In reading the first two chapter of I Samuel you will read about what God said to Eli about his sons. God also told Samuel about what was in store for Eli’s sons.
“Then the Lord said to Samuel, ‘See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle. On that day I will fulfil against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. For I have told him that I am about to punish his house for ever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering for ever.’ “ (I Samuel 3:11-14)
Samuel was learning at a relatively young age the consequences of going astray and falling away from the Lord. These will be important themes as Samuel grows into manhood and his calling as a prophet of God.
“Samuel lay there until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the Lord. Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. But Eli called Samuel and said, ‘Samuel, my son.’ He said, ‘Here I am.’ Eli said, ‘What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also, if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.’ So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. Then he said, ‘It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him.’ “ (I Samuel 3:15-18)
We need people in our lives to confront us and tell us, with love, where we have gone astray. We need to hear those people keeping in mind their love for us and God. And we need to confront others when God has called us to be the carrier of God’s words. If we do this, we will receive full blessings from God.
“As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the Lord.” (I Samuel 3:19-20)
Beloved reader, may you learn lessons from both Samuel and Eli, and use those lessons in your life. Selah!