1Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD before Eli. And word from the LORD was rare in those days, visions were infrequent.
1Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD before Eli. And word from the LORD was rare in those days, visions were infrequent.
The priesthood is under judgment. God has pronounced judgment. This opens the way to bring forward the prophet of God. In this way God prevents a void from arising in the relationship with His people. He will always give a connection between His people and Himself, no matter how great the failure of His people may be. Before the judgment on Eli and his house is carried out, God makes clear to His people the way in which he comes to them now to reveal His will, and that is through a prophet.
In those days, the Word of God has little place among God’s people. It is the same today. There is hardly any reading in the Bible anymore or it should be an easily readable translation. It is often not a question of getting to know God’s thoughts, but of satisfying the religious feelings that are characteristic to each person.
The fact that there is no vision coming into the public domain means that there are no public announcements of God’s will concerning His people. That means that there is darkness over the people. Yet even in the darkest times God has a testimony for His Name. Whoever is truly for God will not rejoice long without a message from God. Such a person is the young Samuel.
He serves the LORD, but still under Eli’s supervision. He serves the LORD, despite the corrupt way of life of the sons of Eli. Both the supervision of the weak Eli and the company of the wicked sons is determined by the LORD as the climate in which Samuel’s education must take place. In this dark environment the light of Samuel’s faithfulness to the LORD will shine all the more.
2It happened at that time as Eli was lying down in his place (now his eyesight had begun to grow dim [and] he could not see [well]), 3and 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], 4that the LORD called Samuel; and he said, “Here I am.” 5Then he 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. 6The LORD called yet again, “Samuel!” So Samuel arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he answered, “I did not call, my son, lie down again.” 7Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, nor had the word of the LORD yet been revealed to him. 8So the LORD called Samuel again for the third time. And he arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli discerned that the LORD was calling the boy. 9And Eli said to Samuel, “Go lie down, and it shall be if He calls you, that you shall say, ‘Speak, LORD, for Your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. 10Then the LORD came and stood and called as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for Your servant is listening.”
At the time appointed by Him the LORD reveals Himself to Samuel. That happens at night. Eli and Samuel went to bed. However, there is a fine distinction in the way that is said of each of them. We read of Eli that he was “was lying down in his place”, while we read of Samuel that he “had laid himself [to sleep]”, as it also can be translated. With what we know about Eli it is conceivable that he loves his bed and spends a lot of time there. In him, the sleeping high priest, we see a picture of the spiritual state of the people in those days. This idea is reinforced by the statement that he can no longer see. Eli is not only physically, but also mentally blind.
We read from Samuel that he has laid himself to sleep. This indicates an activity after a day’s work. He longs for it. When he goes to bed, God’s lamp must almost be extinguished. The lamp of God is the candlestick in the tabernacle. It is night and the lamp is still burning weakly. But just when the night is darkest, there may be hope for the dawn of the day. A new day is about to start, to give new and bright light in this young Samuel, who is almost grown up and sleeps near the ark.
When people sleep, the Holy One of Israel does not sleep . The LORD appears to Samuel, not to Eli. He cannot address Eli. When the LORD calls Samuel, he hears a voice as if Eli was calling him. It must have sounded like a human voice. Although Samuel does not know that the LORD calls him, he obeys directly. Obedience is the starting point for all spiritual growth and for all increases in service.
Eli has no idea that the LORD could have called Samuel. He is blind and deaf for that. The only thing he can say is that the boy just has to lie down again and try to sleep. We can see the picture of soothing the conscience with an eye on the condition in which we live. We don’t want to be disturbed and if there is anything that disturbs us in our rest, we don’t ask any further. We would like to rest as soon as possible.
There is always a great danger that we will get into a spiritual state of drowsiness and stay in it because we feel comfortable in it (1Thes 5:66so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.). Then we need to be shaken awake. The Lord must say to us: “Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you” (Eph 5:1414For this reason it says, “Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you.”). If we are sleepy ourselves, we will encourage others who are awake to sleepiness. Let’s be careful not to say to anyone ‘lie down again and go to sleep again’ when God speaks to him!
When Samuel is called a second time, Eli replies again that he has not called him and that Samuel should lie down again. Samuel must have done so. Yet it does not say so, but we read a kind of explanation of the fact that Samuel has laid himself down again. For he knows not yet the LORD. This does not mean that he does not believe in Him. Samuel certainly believes in the LORD, but all his contact with the LORD has so far gone through Eli. Eli did not teach Samuel to listen to the voice of the LORD. He can’t do that either, because he doesn’t know the voice of the LORD himself. Now the time has come for the LORD to make Himself known to Samuel.
As an application we can say that Samuel has so far only heard about the LORD from others, like so many young people today. Many young people know about the Lord Jesus through their parents. This may be normal for some time, but at some point there must be a personal meeting with Him. Children cannot continue to rely on the faith of their parents or elders, otherwise they will not grow up to maturity. To become spiritually mature, the spiritual eyes must begin to see the glory of the Lord Jesus.
The LORD calls patiently for the third time. He knows it is ignorance and not unwillingness. We must be patient with each other and, above all, with those whom we consider slow in understanding. When Samuel goes to Eli for the third time, Eli finally understands that the LORD has called Samuel. That must have told him something. It must have dawned on him that God did not call him, but the boy. We see here that in every new generation there are young people who have received from the Lord something that He has not given or has not been able to give to the elderly. In this case He cannot give it because Eli is spiritually unable to understand His voice.
There is no jealousy in Eli that the LORD passes him and reveals Himself to Samuel. When he realizes that the LORD calls Samuel, he gives a good advice. Samuel must, as soon as the LORD calls him again, place himself before Him as a willing listener and stand up as a servant. Samuel does the same. By mentioning his name twice, the LORD calls Samuel for the fourth time. Mentioning the name twice is special. It happens a few more times in the Scriptures that the LORD or the Lord Jesus calls someone’s name twice when He addresses Him, for example “Abraham, Abraham” (Gen 22:1111But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”) and “Saul, Saul” (Acts 9:44and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”).
In response to the voice of the LORD, Samuel does not say “speak, LORD”, as Eli has said to him. He did so not out of disobedience to Eli, but probably out of awe, because he doesn’t not feel worthy calling that Name. This is in stark contrast to the great familiarity with which the name of the Lord Jesus is often mentioned today. Many sermons and so-called worship services often lack respect for that Name. Respectless His Name – Jesus, without calling Him Lord – is called.
It is also important that we have respect for all who God has placed above us, such as parents, elders and rulers. This is prescribed by God in His Word (Eph 6:1-31Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.2Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise),3so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.; Lev 19:3232‘You shall rise up before the grayheaded and honor the aged, and you shall revere your God; I am the LORD.; Rom 13:77Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax [is due]; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.). That too is not found much anymore nowadays. When respect for God disappears, it also disappears from society.
11The LORD said to Samuel, “Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel at which both ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. 12In that day I will carry out against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. 13For I have told him that I am about to judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knew, because his sons brought a curse on themselves and he did not rebuke them. 14Therefore I have sworn to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever.”
God reveals His thoughts to those who have an obedient mind and do not think highly of themselves. He reveals them to “infants” (Mt 11:2525At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from [the] wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants.). The revelation Samuel receives comes at a time when Israel is at a low point in its history. God must let the judgment over the priesthood come. At the same time with Samuel a new period for Israel starts. Judgment not only comes over the sons, but also over Eli and his house. The judgment is final. They have sinned consciously and willingly and there is no sacrifice for that.
The message the LORD has concerning Eli and his house will deeply root and resonate for a long time. Eli is blamed for not having done anything about evil, even though he has seen it. Seeing and knowing evil and not acting against it, when the responsibility lies there, is as bad as committing it yourself. This can be applied to believers who remain part of a church where sin is not judged. One can raise the voice, but if nothing happens, one is guilty of maintaining evil if one stays there. If evil is not judged, one has to leave.
15So Samuel lay down until morning. Then he opened the doors of the house of the LORD. But Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. 16Then Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” And he said, “Here I am.” 17He said, “What is the word that He spoke to you? Please do not hide it from me. May God do so to you, and more also, if you hide anything from me of all the words that He spoke to you.” 18So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. And he said, “It is the LORD; let Him do what seems good to Him.”
In general, God does not call a prophet to preach a happy message. The first message Samuel has to deliver is one of judgment. He will no longer have slept, aware of the seriousness of the vision. His message did not make him proud. He is not happy that he has to tell Eli judgment must come. He is introduced for the first time to the burden of a prophetic message in order to pass on an unpleasant message to someone he loves, appreciates and honors.
The LORD does not command Samuel to tell the vision to Eli, but he feels that he must. Eli helps Samuel to tell what he has heard from the LORD. Although God has not spoken to him, the high priest, he wants to hear what God has said. He understands that it is about him. Now comes the moment when Samuel becomes a prophet. This is the moment when he speaks the words of God to Eli.
Prophecy service is often difficult. It is speaking of admonition at the right time. Jeremiah is also young when he is instructed to prophesy, and is encouraged by the LORD: “But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ Because everywhere I send you, you shall go, And all that I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, For I am with you to deliver you,” declares the LORD. Then the LORD stretched out His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me, “Behold, I have put My words in your mouth”” (Jer 1:7-97But the LORD said to me,
“Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’
Because everywhere I send you, you shall go,
And all that I command you, you shall speak.
8“Do not be afraid of them,
For I am with you to deliver you,” declares the LORD.
9Then the LORD stretched out His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me,
“Behold, I have put My words in your mouth.
). The weakest is like the strongest when he has the words of God on his lips.
Eli accepts the judgment of God. He doesn’t argue, but acknowledges the greatness and righteousness of the LORD. With this he also acknowledges the prophecy service of Samuel. Yet he does not come to repentance and condemnation of his sons. He bows under the judgment of God, that is all he can do.
19Thus Samuel grew and the LORD was with him and let none of his words fail. 20All Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of the LORD. 21And the LORD appeared again at Shiloh, because the LORD revealed Himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the LORD.
Samuel grows. He not only grows physically, but also spiritually. Because he lives with the LORD, the LORD is with him. The LORD rejoices that He can connect himself with Samuel. He shows to all Israel, from the extreme north, where Dan lies, to the extreme south, where Beersheba lies, that Samuel is His prophet by fulfilling all His words, which Samuel speaks.
It is as if we hear the joy of Holy Spirit when He says that the LORD continues to appear in Shiloh. The LORD rejoices that there is one to whom He can reveal himself, one who knows Him and lives for Him. Here we have the opposite of verse 77Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, nor had the word of the LORD yet been revealed to him.. Now Samuel knows the LORD, and the LORD reveals Himself to him. He does so through His Word. That is still the way in which God reveals Himself to us.
All revelations to Samuel prove to the people that there is a new connection between them and the LORD. He reveals Himself to His people through the prophet, no any longer through the high priest. Samuel has a willing ear. God can make His will known to such people, and He can use such people in His service to His people.
In a way Samuel is also a priest and king. In times of decay, God often concentrates several characteristics in one person. God calls prophets when the people are in decay. Samuel is the first of them (Acts 3:2424And likewise, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and [his] successors onward, also announced these days.). He is also the last judge, he closes as it were the period in which God was in connection with His people through judges (Acts 13:20b20After these things He gave [them] judges until Samuel the prophet.).