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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 2

The Church Pulpit CommentaryChurch Pulpit Commentary

Verses 12-26

‘LOOK ON THIS PICTURE AND ON THAT’

‘Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the Lord.… And the child Samuel grew on, and was in favour both with the Lord, and also with men.’

1 Samuel 2:12-26

The sacred historian dwells with evident pleasure on the beautiful, holy boyhood of the child who served before the Lord, wearing a linen ephod, and who in the visitations of the night, thrilling to the Divine voice which called him by his name, answered fearlessly, ‘Speak, Lord; for Thy servant heareth.’ Yet from the same Tabernacle, from the same tutelage, from the same influences, came forth also the sons of Eli; and ‘the sons of Eli were men of Belial; they knew not the Lord.’

I. The training the same, the product how different; the school the same, the boys whom it educated so fearfully contrasted.—Such contrasts seem strange, but they are in reality matters of daily experience. Daily from the same home we see boys go forth, some to live noble, self-denying lives, others to live lives that come to nothing, and do deeds as well undone. So too, often, from happy conditions come base characters, from degraded environments strong, sweet natures struggle into the light.

II. Our inference from this is, that the personal devotion of the heart, the personal surrender of the individual will, can alone save a man or make him holy.—A man’s life may be influenced, but it is not determined, by the circumstances. No aid, save that which comes from above to every man, can help him to climb the mountain-path of life, or enter the wicket-gate of righteousness. Nor, on the other hand, can any will or power except his own retard his ascent or forbid his ingress. On ourselves, on the conscious exercise of our own free will, depends our eternal salvation or ruin.

Dean Farrar.

Illustrations

(1) ‘Many men can only see the things which are palpable to their outward eyes. The eyes of their understanding are darkened by sin. They have no vision of God, no consciousness of another world, no sense of the Divine meaning and purpose of life. God could never speak to His people through such foul-living men as Eli’s sons. Spiritually blinded by their iniquity, they had no discernment of the things of God. It is a melancholy thing when the ministers of God are “blind leaders of the blind.” ’

(2) ‘What a contrast between the sweet God-appointed child priest, and the priest of title and descent! On the one God’s favour rested, giving him favour with man; but the others had already committed the sin concerning which it is impossible to utter the prayer of faith (v. 25 R.V., 1 John 5:16). And God did more than Hannah had asked or thought.’

(3) ‘So natural is the connection between reverence and faith that the only wonder is how any one can for a moment imagine he has faith in God, and yet allow himself to be irreverent towards Him. Hence even heathen religions have considered faith and reverence identical. Those who have separated from the Church of Christ have in this respect fallen into greater than pagan error. They have learned to be familiar and free with sacred things, as it were, on principle. They have considered awe to be superstition and reverence to be slavery.’

Verse 26

IN FAVOUR WITH GOD AND MEN

‘And the child Samuel grew on, and was in favour both with the Lord, and also with men.’

1 Samuel 2:26

These words arouse our attention, not merely on account of what they tell us about the character of Samuel, but also because they are the same words which are used to describe the character of our Lord. Samuel was, in his young days, apparently, the same sort of child as was our Lord. Each was in favour with the Lord.

I. Naturalness in children.—He was a child just of the kind that God would have him be. How often children, through their surroundings, are very much warped from their childhood. The little affectations, curious phrases, methods of raillery or contempt—these certainly do not belong to the child, but have plainly been picked up elsewhere. I am sure that there is one thing God likes to see in a child, that it should be in every sense, on its religious and all other sides, perfectly natural. Do we not, one and all, love to see a child who is natural in its religiousness, just religious in a way that our common sense teaches us that a child should be religious. You remember when our Lord came on earth how He approved of such children, how He took the little unconscious ones upon His knee, and how to His wondering disciples, His querulous disciples, He gave that wonderful declaration ‘Suffer them to come;’ and not merely that, but, ‘of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.’

II. Trustfulness in children.—Children being so quick in a simple way, if they are wisely tended and directed to recognise the Unseen, we notice next, how wonderfully they trust unless their sense of faith has been trifled with. Have we not at times, perhaps, when we have told children some little anecdote, been astonished at the way in which they accepted it as true? Samuel was a child of this kind. He had that quick, ready recognition that there was something beyond the world we see which is implanted in every child. He was ready to trust his God, he was ready to try and obey. The times were very broken and very strange ones. The Book of Samuel follows hard upon the Book of Judges, and the times of the Judges might be summed up in that phrase ‘There was no King in Israel, no distinct ruler,’ and in such a time there are continually cast up two types of character, and these are strongly marked. On the one hand at Shiloh there were the two sons of Eli, breaking the law of God in various ways, and in some of them the very worst ways, and then there, too, we have the sight of this family of Elkanah. He was a religious man, and he was accustomed to go up and worship God. We are told specially that he went up, and his household went up every year. And still more remarkable is his wife, Hannah. She is in every sense a saint of the Most High. See how she comes and pleads for the child; see how, when the child is given her, she vows it to the Lord, and how year after year she comes up to look after its well-being, having placed it where she thought it was most fitted for its spiritual good, in the courts of the Tabernacle with Eli. Are your children the children of many prayers? Do you bring their names constantly before God? Do you trouble yourself to think over their difficulties and to speak to them about their difficulties, and then pray for them, perhaps sometimes pray with them, that these difficulties may be got rid of? Samuel is a wonderful character at the beginning and all through, but remember that initial fact about him, that his parents were religious people, that especially his mother—and how much mothers influence their children!—was a woman of many prayers.

III. Children’s work for God.—Samuel was connected with useful religious work. We are told that he ministered to the Lord before Eli; we are told that on an eventful occasion, and no doubt it was like other occasions, he opened the doors of the Temple of the Lord. As a boy he would not do anything very extraordinary, but there were little, simple things which a child could do, and these his mother, through Eli, put him in the way of doing. Do we take sufficient care to teach our children that they can in their way bless men and work for God? Do our children understand that they can do some little thing for the service of His sanctuary? Do you tell them that at the collection they can give a little from their own pocket? Do you show them how they can go down and speak words of kindness to the weak and sick? Try and set these things before your children.

IV. The opportunities of children.—If we parents were quicker to recognise that we need not wait for children to come to old age, or middle age, or even maturity, but that much before that they really have a true place in God’s kingdom, and a true service to do for God, how much happier parents would be! How exhilarating it would be to say, ‘I have the child, and I can even now make it a servant of God!’ At the confirmation season how often we hear parents say, ‘Oh, he is not old enough!’ Are we amongst those who somehow or other think that children cannot come very close to the heart of God, that they cannot in any full sense carry out His will? Yet the teaching of Scripture surely is this, that God makes different calls upon different persons, and that even the little child has a special degree of holiness, has a special way of serving God, and if only he serves God in that way He will bless him perpetually, and ever more and more.

The Rev. Stephen F. Bridge.

Illustrations

(1) ‘Every child is a bundle of tremendous possibilities; and whether that child shall come forth to life, its heart attuned to the eternal harmonies, and after a life of usefulness on earth go to a life of joy in heaven, or whether across it shall jar eternal discords, is being in a great measure decided by the nursery song, the Sabbath lesson, the evening prayer, the walk, ride, look, frown, or smile.’

(2) ‘Hannah stands before us as the rewarded mother. For all the coats she made for Samuel, all the prayers she offered for him, the discipline exerted over him, she got abundant compensation in the piety, usefulness, and popularity of her son Samuel. And that is true in all ages. Every mother gets full pay for all the prayers and tears in behalf of her children. That man useful in commercial life; that man prominent in a profession; that master mechanic—why, every step he takes in life has an echo of gladness in the heart that, long ago, taught him to be a Christian, heroic and earnest.

Oh! the satisfaction of Hannah in seeing Samuel serving at the altar; of Mother Eunice, in seeing her Timothy learned in the Scriptures! That is the mother’s recompense: to see her children growing up to be useful in the world, reclaiming the lost, healing the sick, pitying the ignorant, earnest and useful in every sphere.’

Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 2". The Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cpc/1-samuel-2.html. 1876.
 
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