For some years after the prophecy recorded in the last chapter, no further communications were given to Israel. The warning contained therein remained unheeded, and the iniquities of the sons of Eli increased. But a final message was now sent, through youthful lips, to the aged high priest of the nation.
Samuel was made acquainted with the mysteries of God at a very early age. While still a child (believed to be around 12 years of age), it pleased the Lord to communicate with him, and to establish him as a prophet to His people. His entrance into this office is most touchingly described in this chapter.
It was evening at the Tabernacle in Shiloh. The daily sacrifices had been offered up. The priests had gone to their respective homes. The groups of worshipers had retired from the courts of the Tabernacle. The little town was reposing on its gentle elevation – guarded by the higher hills that surrounded it. Naturally, it was “one of the sweetest and most sequestered spots in Palestine”; but at this time, it was a dearer and sweeter spot than all the rest – for there the Ark of God had its resting-place, and the Skekinah of His presence had its abode.
Eli the high priest, who dwelt beside the sacred courts, was feeling the infirmities of age; and he had retired to bed. And Samuel, having performed his humble duties, had laid down to sleep before the lamp of God went out. He resided with the venerable priest in one of the tents near the holy place, in order to serve and assist him.
It was evening, and the home of Eli was still; but the quietness of Samuel’s chamber was broken by a voice calling the child. With alacrity, he arose and ran to Eli, with the words, “Here am I; for thou calledst me.” But the high priest had not awakened Samuel, and he urged him to lie down again. Twice more did the voice summon the boy, and twice more did he go to Eli; but still the good man protested that he had not called him. On the third occasion, Eli’s spiritual discernment recognized the source of the voice. “He perceived that the Lord had called the child,” and he instructed the boy how to respond if his name was called again. Good words should be put into children’s mouths when they are still young, so that they may be prepared to learn and regard Divine things.
Thus Samuel was prepared for the oracle from heaven; and when the voice called again – “Samuel, Samuel!” – he immediately replied, “Speak; for thy servant heareth.” A vision of glory then burst upon his soul, and lighted his little chamber! The Lord manifested Himself to Samuel with a visible appearance; for the text says that “the Lord came and stood,” and “the Lord appeared,” and “the Lord revealed himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the Lord.” In a similar way, the call which God’s grace extends to us shall be made effectual; it will be repeated until we answer the call, and our Savior reveals Himself to us!
As the Lord spoke to Samuel that night, the message of the unnamed prophet in chapter 2 was briefly repeated, and the sin of Eli’s family was declared to be beyond expiation by sacrifice. This threatening of judgment upon this priestly house was the premonition of a woe that was so dreadful, it would make the ears of Israel tingle. It deposed the family of Eli from the priestly office! He knew about the iniquities that his sons were guilty of, but he did not properly reprove them nor restrain them. Eli was a descendant of Aaron’s sacred line; yet because of his neglect of his parental duties, as well as the vile and reckless conduct of his sons, the priesthood was to be taken away from his posterity. Personally, any individual among his descendants might still find salvation in God’s grace; but officially and collectively, their doom was sealed and could not be revoked. The language of God was strong, and it is a most fearful warning to unfaithful parents who do not properly shepherd and disciple the children that God has given them. And those who do not restrain the sins of others, when it is within their power to do so, make themselves partakers of the guilt.
This prediction was communicated to the aged high priest, and it was received with passive resignation. In his remarkable answer to this awful sentence, Eli acknowledged that the Lord had a right to do as He saw good; for he was assured that He would do nothing wrong or without just reason. The meekness, patience, and humility contained in Eli’s words show that he was truly repentant of his sin regarding his children; and he accepted the just and righteous punishment of it.
As the child Samuel grew into manhood, he became the recipient of further communications from the Lord, so that the whole nation of Israel recognized his call to the prophetic office. All increase in wisdom and in grace (as in the case of Samuel) is owing to the presence of God with us! He will graciously repeat His spiritual visits to those who receive them rightly.
Early piety is the greatest honor of young people! Those who honor God, He will honor. Let all children who read or hear these words consider the piety of Samuel; and from him, may they learn to remember their Creator in the days of their youth. Samuel is a proof that children’s waiting upon the Lord will be pleasing to Him! The life of Hannah’s son is a pattern of all those amiable temperaments which are the brightest ornament of youth, and a sure source of true happiness!
Lord, we pray that parents would take an interest in their children’s well-being for eternity, as well as for their well-being on this earth! Give them the grace to consistently gather their sons and daughters around the family altar, and read to them the Word of God, and offer up earnest prayers for their spiritual growth! Amen.
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illustration by William Howse Groser, 1874