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1 Samuel 3:110, 154:1a comment (0)

September 11, 2008

By Doug Wilson

Related Scripture: 1 Samuel 3:110, 154:1a

Explore the Bible
Associate Professor of Christian Studies, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile

1 Samuel 3:1–10, 15–4:1a

First Samuel 2 introduces the reader to the wayward sons of Eli the priest. Phinehas and Hophni grew up as heirs to the priesthood for the nation, yet they were crooked men who had no concern for abiding by the will of God. They did not follow the Law of Moses, and they took their portions before the sacrifices were completed. As a result of this and subsequent rebellion against God, they died on the same day under the judgment of God.

By contrast, little Samuel grew, did what he was told and faithfully served at Shiloh. This study focuses upon steps to faithful service, which Samuel followed — not by the example of Eli or his sons but by God’s direction.

Be Alert for New Opportunities (3:1–6)
Chapter 3 opens with Samuel serving before the Lord, and a note of background is given that visions were rare in those days. It is one of those periods of time Solomon would later write about, stating: “Without revelation people run wild” (Prov. 29:18, HCSB). As a result of no new revelation and failure in leadership, the writer of Judges referred to the time in this manner: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did whatever he wanted” (Judg. 17:6 and 21:25).

Evidently the priests slept inside the holy place, where only the direct descendants of Aaron ministered. It seems that Samuel actually was sleeping in the holy of holies, the place where the Ark of the Covenant alone was to be kept. Here Samuel heard the voice of God, though he did not yet know who was calling. He had never received a prophetic word from the Lord.

Christians must be alert to the opportunities that divine appointments bring. As God speaks through His Word, as He directs through circumstances, as He counsels through godly advisers, we must be ready to hear and answer the call of God.

Clarify Divine Instructions (3:7–10)
What if we are unsure of the call? What do we do? First we need to be still. Second we need to listen. Third we must receive and believe the message God has for us. Finally we must act upon that message. These are the steps that Samuel took as he clarified God’s revelation.

This young man received prophecy that Eli’s entire family would face God’s judgment. Eli was fully aware of his sons’ blasphemous practices, yet he did nothing to rebuke them or remedy the problem. As a result, there was no sacrifice to cover their sins. They had treated the Lord’s atonement with contempt.

Respond Honestly (3:15–18)
Eli asked Samuel about his encounter with God during the previous night. Although the message simply confirmed what God had spoken to Eli earlier, its severity caused Samuel to hesitate in his response. Until Eli threatened Samuel with divine retribution, Samuel withheld the content of the revelation from the priest. After the threat, the young man told Eli everything. Though he was initially concerned with how Eli would respond, Samuel communicated exactly what God said.

Serve Confidently (3:19–4:1a)

One of the marks of a true prophet of God is that his pronouncements are always true (Deut. 18:21–22). Samuel’s prophecies qualified as true, and this first encounter with God was just the beginning of his ministry. As he grew so did his influence among the Israelite tribes. From the northernmost town of Dan to southernmost Beer-sheba (also Beersheba), the people of Israel knew that Samuel was an authentic prophet of God. Moreover God continued to reveal Himself to Samuel.

As we have opportunities to serve, we must recognize that authority does not emanate from us or even from our positions. We serve with confidence because of Him who calls us. We announce His judgment on sin, communicate His message of reconciliation, demonstrate His love and extend His grace. The song says: “May all who come behind us find us faithful.” Even in this, ultimately, it is God who gives us strength to be faithful.

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