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Monday, June 17th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 3

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-14

First Samuel - Chapter 3

The Lord Calls Samuel, vs. 1-14

This chapter opens with an interesting statement, to the effect that the child Samuel ministered unto the Lord. It is interesting because it shows that the worship of children is pleasing to the Lord. The words, "before Eli," indicate that Samuel’s worship was under the direction of Eli. Eli had instructed and trained the child in the things of the Lord, as parents and Sunday School teachers ought to do today’s children. Then their young lives will be a service to the Lord though they are not as yet accountable to Him. Verse 7 clearly states that Samuel had not yet reached the age of conviction and did not know the Lord in salvation, nor had he yet been called to the prophetic office.

The age of Samuel at this time is unknown, but he is referred to as a child. The Hebrew word, naar, is used to describe a male infant, a boy, a youth, and sometimes a servant. The implication here is that Samuel was not of an adolescent age as yet. This is important in that it shows that properly trained children can, and do, come to the Lord often at quite young age.

The setting is in the tabernacle and the time is the developing darkness of night. It was getting too dark for Eli to see well, and his sight may have been poor with age as well, so he had taken his bed for the night. Samuel had also lain down, though it was still quite early in the evening for the lamps in the tabernacle had not yet burned themselves out. Before they had fallen asleep Samuel heard himself being called. Thinking it was Eli he ran to wait upon him, but Eli assured him he had not called and told him to return to his bed. Again Samuel heard himself plainly called and ran to Eli insisting that Eli had called him, but again Eli denied that he had called and sent Samuel back to bed. No doubt the boy was puzzled, for he knew that someone had called him. When it occurred for the third time, Samuel returned to Eli and again insisted that Eli had called him. Eli now knew that Samuel had heard a voice calling him and now perceived that it was the Lord calling the boy. He instructed him what to do to receive the Lord when He called. This is a good lesson for those who seek to lead children to the Lord today. They simply need to be guided as to what they should do when they feel the Lord calling them. Notice how very simple it was for Samuel, trained in the ways of the Lord from infancy, to accept Him. There was no callous heart to resist, but a simple readiness to believe.

Therefore, when the Lord called Samuel the fourth time, this time emphasizing the call by repeating his name, Samuel opened his heart to receive and his ears to hear the will of the Lord. It would seem that he surrendered to salvation and in the same sentence surrendered to the ministry. This raises another pertinent question for today. Does the Lord call the very young into the preaching ministry? Probably not often, but sometimes He does, and this is a clear example of it. God did not put Samuel out at once to judge and lead Israel as an adult might, but He did put His word in Samuel’s heart and mouth, giving him a message to convey.

God’s first message to Samuel was a burdensome one. It was His sentence of judgment on Eli and his family, which was now very imminent. It was burdensome because of its gravity, and burdensome to Samuel because he doubtless loved the grandfatherly old high priest, in spite of his failures. So grave was the message that the Lord told Samuel it would cause both the ears of the Israelites to tingle when they heard it, meaning that it was an eerie and spine-tingling message. The details of the judgment were not given Samuel, but he was told that the things which the prophet had foretold to Eli were about to occur, and that when God begins He will certainly end. Samuel is told that it is for the iniquity of his house, which Eli knows and the vileness of his sons

whom Eli failed to restrain. Such iniquity and sin as that of Eli’s sons cannot ever be atoned by any sacrifice or offering. They have refused the mercy of God, even scorned it, and were eternally lost.

Verses 15-21

Samuel Develops, vs. 15-21

Two statements, in verse 10 and in verse 15, indicate that Samuel actually saw the Lord standing before him and giving him the dread message against Eli’s house. The sobering and burdensome nature appears again in that Samuel spent a sleepless night, rising at daybreak to proceed to his appointed task of opening the doors of the tabernacle. He dreaded to face Eli with the grave news and might not have had not Eli insisted. Probably Eli had a premonition that it involved the judgment of the Lord on his family as had been stated by the prophet earlier.

Eli adjured Samuel, by the most binding adjuration known in Israel, "God do so to thee, and more also." A God fearing person would not hold back from such an adjuration, so Samuel proceeded to inform Eli of all the Lord had said of him and his family. It must have struck cold terror in the old priest’s heart, but he realized that the Lord is supreme and that He does only the right thing. Thus he humbly resigned himself to the will of the Lord, though it marked him as a failure.

Verse 19 shows that Samuel grew to adulthood with the increasing knowledge and wisdom of God growing in his heart as well. His surrender to the Lord made him a useful servant for Him and for Israel. Because he sought the will of the Lord, and spoke only the message of the Lord, the blessing of the Lord on him was apparent. Whatever he preached and predicted the Lord made it come to pass because it was the Word of the Lord. Samuel’s fame spread throughout Israel from north to south, so indicated in the familiar statement, "from Dan to Beer-sheba," which was used in Israel to indicate the entire country. Samuel’s conduct and his use by the Lord made it apparent to all the people that he was God’s prophet, and the people soon came to recognize this.

In the opening verse of chapter three it is said that "the word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no open vision." This means there was none in the land who was conversant with the Lord in knowing and announcing His will to the people. This may indicate that the unnamed prophet of chapter two, who had foretold the judgment of Eli’s house had passed away. Most of the people do not seem to have been greatly concerned by this lack. Now, however, the situation was changed, and the people who loved the Lord and sought His will had one to speak for them in Shiloh where the tabernacle was. The Lord was revealing His will through Samuel.

Some lessons from chapter three: 1) Small children can worship the Lord under proper guidance; 2) the Lord can, and does, use the very young Christian, according to his ability and God’s purpose; 3) faith in Christ is easy and simple when the hardness and callousness of a sinful heart is not present; 4) Christians should be saddened at the evil which brings justified condemnation on the ungodly; 5) when God judges one’s disobedience it is best to be submissive and resigned to Him.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 3". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/1-samuel-3.html. 1985.
 
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