1Sa_3:1. And the child Samuel ministered unto the LORD before Eli.
Samuel was but a child, yet he was a faithful servant of God up to the light he had received. The grown-up sons of Eli were rebelling against God, but “the child Samuel ministered unto the Lord.” It is a great aggravation of sin for ungodly men to persist in it when even little children rebuke them by their careful walk and conversation; it made the sin of Eli’s sons all the worse because “the child Samuel ministered unto the Lord before ELI”
1Sa_3:1. And the word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no open vision.
God spoke with very few, and his speech to them was private: “There was no open vision.” What was spoken was very rich and rare, but there was little of it. The Lord, in anger at the sin of Eli’s sons, took away the spirit of prophecy from the land.
1Sa_3:2. And it came to pass at that time, when Eli was laid down in his place, and his eyes began to wax dim, that he could not see;
He was a good old man, but he was almost worn out, and he had been unfaithful to God in not keeping his family right. He must have found some comfort in having such a sweet and dear companion and servant as little Samuel was.
1Sa_3:3-5. And ere the lamp of God went out in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was, and Samuel was laid down to sleep; that the LORD called Samuel: and he answered, Here am I. And he ran unto Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou calledst me. And he said, I called not; lie down again. And he went and lay down.
Servants and children are to be attentive and obedient to the calls they hear, but masters must also be gentle, and kind, and considerate to them. Eli did not call the child a fool, or speak harshly to him; he knew that Samuel had a good intention, and even if he had been mistaken, and no one had called him, yet it was a good thing on the part of the child to act as if he had been spoken to; and Eli quietly and gently said, “I called not; lie down again. And he went and lay down.”
1Sa_3:6. And the LORD called yet again, Samuel. And Samuel arose and went to Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou didst call me.
He felt sure of it, confident that he had not been mistaken.
1Sa_3:6-7. And he answered, I called not, my son; lie down again. Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord.
There was the Beginning of the work of grace in his heart, he was well-intentioned; but as yet God had not revealed himself to him: “Samuel did not yet know the Lord,” —
1Sa_3:7-8. Neither was the word of the LORD yet revealed unto him. And the LORD called Samuel again the third time.
We do not blame Samuel, for he was but a child, and spiritual understanding had not yet fully come to him; but what shall I say of some to whom God has spoken for years till their hair is gray, and yet they have not understood the voice of the Lord even to this hour? I pray God that he may call them yet again The Lord did not disdain to call Samuel four times, for when he means effectually to call, if one call is not sufficient, he will call again and again and again: “The Lord called Samuel again the third time.”
1Sa_3:8-9. And he arose and went to Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou didst call me. And Eli perceived that the LORD had called the child. Therefore Eli said unto Samuel, Go, lie down: and it shall be, if he call thee, that thou shalt say, Speak, LORD; for thy servant heareth. So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
It was a chastisement to Eli that God did not speak directly to him, but sent him a message by another; and it must have been very humiliating to the aged man of God that God should select a little child to be his messenger to him. Yet, as Eli had not been faithful, it was great mercy on God’s part to speak to him at all; and no doubt the old man did not resent the fact that God, instead of speaking to one of his sons, or to himself, spoke by this little child. Eli loved Samuel, and finding that the Lord intended to use this child, he did not grow jealous and angry, and begin to damp the child’s spirit; but he gave him wise directions how to act in case God should speak to him again.
1Sa_3:10. And the LORD came, and stood,-
From which we learn that there was some kind of appearance to Samuel such as that which was manifested to others. Some spiritual being was before him, though he could not make out the form thereof: “Jehovah came, and stood,” —
1Sa_3:10. And called as at other times, Samuel, Samuel.
This time the child’s name was spoken twice, as though God would say to him, “I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine? It was no doubt to make a deeper impression upon the child’s mind that his name was twice called by the Lord.
1Sa_3:10. Then Samuel answered, Speak; for thy servant heareth.
You observe that he did not say, “Lord;” perhaps he hardly dared to take that sacred name upon his lips. He was impressed with such solemn awe at the name of God, that he said, “Speak; for thy servant heareth.” I wish that some Christian men of my acquaintance would leave out the Lord’s name a little in their prayers, for we may take the name of the Lord in vain even in our supplications. When the heathen are addressing their gods, they are accustomed to repeat their names over and over again. “O Baal, hear us! O Baal, hear us!” or, as the Hindus do when they cry, “Ram! Ram! Ram! Ram! “repeating the name of their god; but as for us, when we think of the infinitely-glorious One, we dare not needlessly repeat his name.
1Sa_3:11-13. And the LORD said to Samuel, Behold, I will do a thing in Israel, at which both the ears of every one that heareth it shall tingle. In that day I will perform against Eli all things which I have spoken concerning his house: when I begin, I will also make an end. For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth;-
What a striking expression, “ the iniquity which he knoweth.” There is a good deal of iniquity about us which we do not know; that is a sin of ignorance. But deep down in his heart Eli knew that he had been afraid to speak to his sons about their sins, and that, when he had spoken, it had been in such lenient terms that they made light of them. Possibly, he had never chastened them when they were young, and he had not spoken to them sharply when they were older. Remember that he was a judge, and he ought not to have allowed his sons to remain priests if they were behaving themselves filthily at the door of the tabernacle. He ought to have dealt with them as he would have dealt with anybody else; he did not, so God said, “I have told him, that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth;”-
1Sa_3:13. Because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.
A man said to me, one day, “I never laid my hand upon my children;” and I answered, “Then I think it is very likely that God will lay his hand upon you.” “Oh!” he said, “I have not even spoken sharply to them.” “Then,” I replied, “it is highly probable that God will speak very sharply to you; for it is not God’s will that parents should leave their children unrestrained in their sin.”
1Sa_3:14-15. And therefore I have sworn unto the house of Eli, that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be purged with sacrifice nor offering for ever. And Samuel lay until the morning, —
I wonder whether he went to sleep; I should think not. After such visitation and revelation, it is a marvel that the child could lie still. One wonders that he did not go at once to Eli, but then the message was so heavy that he could not be in a hurry to deliver it: “And Samuel lay until the morning,” —
1Sa_3:15. And opened the doors of the house of the Lord.
Dear child! There are some of us who, if God had spoken to us as he had spoken to Samuel, would feel a deal too big to go and open doors any more. If God were to come, and speak to some who are poor, they would run away from their trade. If God were to speak to some who are young, they would give themselves mighty sirs. But Samuel meekly accepted the high honour God had conferred upon him; and when he rose in the morning, he went about his usual duties: “He opened the doors of the house of the Lord.”
1Sa_3:15. And Samuel feared to show Eli the vision.
The old man must have felt that it was nothing very pleasant; still, he wanted to know the Lord’s messages. I hope he was in such a frame of mind that he could say, “Lord, show me the worst of my case! Let me know all thy mind about it, and let me not go on with my eyes bandaged, in ignorance of thy will concerning me.”
1Sa_3:16-18. Then Eli called Samuel, and said, Samuel, my son. And he answered, Here am I. And he said, What is the thing that the LORD hath said unto thee? I pray thee hide it not from me: God do so to thee, and more also, if thou hide any thing from me of all the things that he said unto thee. And Samuel told him every whit, and hid nothing from him.
Samuel was obeying the divine command which had not then been given: “He that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully.”
1Sa_3:18. And he said, It is the LORD: let him do what seemeth him good.
This was a grand speech of old Eli. Terrible as it might be, he bowed his head to the divine sentence, and owned that it was just.
1Sa_3:19-21. And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the LORD. And the LORD appeared again in Shiloh: for the LORD revealed himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the LORD.