“Here am I”
Throughout his childhood Samuel worked in the temple, under the guidance of Eli and the other priests. He met with his mother at least once a year, when she and the family came to the Temple to make sacrifice and to worship. Possibly, they met in between, too, though the text does not tell us.
See how different the attitude is toward children in those days? Today, young people are treated as special cases when it comes to worship and discipline. But, here, we read of Samuel who ‘ministered unto the Lord’ from his youngest days. Jewish children and young people are given responsibility early on. They are not excused their sin and bad behaviour, or their ignorance. It would do our own young people a power of good not to be placed on a pedestal!
“And the child Samuel ministered unto the Lord before Eli. And the word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no open vision.”
So, Samuel ‘ministered unto the Lord’ under the watchful eye of Eli the High Priest and ultimate ruler of the Hebrew nation. That is, he served God. This is powerful testimony as to his calibre! We are told that God’s word was ‘precious’ in those days because there was ‘no open vision’. By comparison, we can read in verse 21 that ‘the Lord appeared again in Shiloh’, and this is how we ought to understand verse 1. That is, the word of God, by vision or prophecy, was almost non-existent at this time later in Eli’s life.
We can only assume that God withdrew His active presence from the nation because of the wickedness of Eli’s sons and the way Eli did not deal properly with their sins. God will not give His blessings to those who wilfully and constantly commit evil in His sight. In this case, God withdrew His presence from the whole nation because of the sins of these three men.
“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;
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.
And the Lord called yet again, Samuel. And Samuel arose and went to Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou didst call me.
And he answered, I called not, my son, lie down again. Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, neither was the word of the Lord yet revealed unto him.”
It was late at night. Eli and Samuel finished their various duties and had gone to their respective rooms to sleep. By this time Eli was almost blind, so Samuel probably had to lead him everywhere. Then, some time during the night, Samuel was woken up by a voice. You will notice something here:
The voice was real
The voice sounded human and that of a man
It was not a vision, for Samuel was wide awake
Thinking the voice was that of Eli, Samuel obediently ran to Eli’s chamber and woke him up, saying “Here I am!”. Eli sent him back to bed, thinking the boy was mistaken or had been dreaming. So, Samuel went back to bed. It was not long before Samuel heard the voice again.
He ran back to Eli and said “Here I am!” once more, Eli sent him back to bed. The rest of this verse tells us Samuel did not yet know what it was like for God to speak to him, or for God to give him instructions, which is why he did not recognise what was happening to him. So, he returned to bed yet again, and must have felt rather perplexed. He was wide awake, yet he could definitely hear a man speaking to him!
“And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. 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.
And the Lord came, and stood, and called as at other times, Samuel, Samuel. Then Samuel answered, Speak: for thy servant heareth.
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; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.
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, and opened the doors of the house of the Lord. And Samuel feared to shew Eli the vision.”
Samuel heard the voice calling him a third time, and so he ran back to Eli. By this time Eli realised it was God talking to Samuel. So he told him what to do when God called the next time. He was to lay back on his bed and when God spoke, he was to answer “I am listening.”
We now have another very interesting fact; “the Lord came, and stood, and called...” God was actually there in the room with Samuel! We may logically deduce from this, that it was God in the form of the Christ. At times similar events occurred to others when an angel brought God’s message, but the structure of the text does not appear to lend itself to this interpretation. Christ was with Samuel, and called to him by name... this is the way God calls us all – by name. The meaning behind election is that of one called out by name, with a very loud voice. In this text we find Jesus calling Samuel audibly and clearly.
As Samuel listened, wide-eyed, God spoke and gave him news that would have a deadly meaning for Eli and his family. It would ‘tickle’ the ears of everyone in Israel! That is, they would be amazed and fearful at the news. God would do something to Eli and his family that, once begun, would not be put off. God’s prophecy is always brought to pass. God had already spoken to Eli about the behaviour of his sons. He also told him of the consequences of not complying. Now, because Eli had not done anything about the situation, God would act.
Many Christians will not use the word ‘vile’ when speaking of the sins of men, yet here God uses the word Himself to describe them and their activities. They had ‘made themselves vile’, or despicable and cursed, to be treated with contempt. Eli was now to suffer God’s wrath for his ineptitude.
God went on to say that because of Eli’s inability and the sins of his sons, they could no longer excuse themselves or make things alright by offering sacrifices. God would no longer accept such offerings. This is a warning to all Christians, too! Time and again we sin and expect God to forgive us. But, God will not listen when we sin repeatedly only to repent superficially, knowing we will sin yet again without real remorse. When this happens, God will suddenly remove His blessings from our life, and this will remain an active punishment until the day we die. There comes a time, then, when our many prayers will not suffice and God will not accept them. He will simply remove His blessings or active presence. This, to me, is the worst possible judgement anyone can have in this lifetime.
God then left the room and Samuel ‘lay until the morning’. Do you think he went back to sleep after that? I do not think so! Not only did God Himself visit him in his own room, but He spoke to him. And, the message God gave was devastating and awesome. No, Samuel could not have gone back to sleep! He lay there until dawn, then he busied himself by opening the doors of the Temple, shaking within because of the terrible news he had to give to Eli. As far as he could, he tried to avoid talking to Eli!
“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 anything from me of all the things that he said unto thee.
And Samuel told him every whit, and hid nothing from him. And he said, It is the Lord: let him do what seemeth him good.”
However, Eli got up and the first thing he wanted, was to hear what God had said to Samuel. His words suggest that he already knew it had something to do with himself: “hide it not from me”. He asked what God had said and warned the boy that God would do to him what He had promised to do to Eli, if Samuel hid anything from him. Yes, Eli knew his time had come.
With fearful heart, Samuel related everything God had told him to say. The reply, “It is the Lord” must have come from Eli, though the text does not truly say, for it is a statement of resignation to his fate “let him do what seemeth him good.” From that time forth, Eli and his sons were doomed, for God had sealed their future. In this particular text we are not told what the fate would be – this came later. Even so, Eli knew in his heart that his end was envisaged and he sadly accepted it as from God. Indeed, he could not do anything about it, for God had sealed his judgement.
“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.”
It would seem from the final verses that God again began to speak in Israel, but this time through Samuel, even when he was still very young. “The Lord was with him.” In this text we see a situation every true man of God would covet, for God “let none of his words fall to the ground.”! This either means God’s words or Samuel’s words. Really, both are equal in this text, for when a man of God speaks, he speaks what God has given him to speak. So, both are the same. The genuine preacher merely says what God has said to him. Thus, every word of Samuel counted for something.
So holy and true were Samuel’s words and life, that all of Israel came to know him as a true prophet. Once again, God was speaking to Israel, through Samuel! This is the meaning of “the Lord appeared again in Shiloh, for the Lord revealed himself to Samuel in Shiloh, by the word of the Lord.”
Eli and his two sons were doomed and they knew it. Now, Samuel, a young man, was known to be superior to them in every way. He was even receiving prophecies from God. One can only imagine how they felt and the fear they must have known... not the fear of God, but the fear of His judgement. Yet, it was too late.
Every Christian must beware of losing what they have. A fallacy exists that God will not judge His people in these days. But, He will! And He does! Two movements show this to be true right now – the Toronto Blessing and the Alpha course, the flag ships of charismatic heresy*. These both spearhead opposition to God’s word, and God has already given over people to their own devices. God is no longer speaking through men as before, in abundance. Only a very small number now hear His voice and seek to do the good of God.
(*2017 note. Both these movements are now entrenched in society and churches, and have taken on many forms. Deception they emit is now commonplace and accepted. For this reason the West is deluded and walking a sinful path, reaping the rewards of sin).
I repeat – beware of losing what you have from God. Christians can never lose their salvation, but they can certainly lose earthly blessings, knowing falsity and even misery to the end of their days, if they do not heed the warnings. Listen, friends, and obey!
© January 2011 (Updated December 2017)