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The First Book of Samuel (10)

J Riddle, Cheshunt

Chapter 3 – SAMUEL’S CALL (cont)

2) He learned to appreciate the holiness of God (vv.11-14)

God did not go behind Eli’s back. The "man of God" had already notified Eli that judgment on his family was imminent. "I have told him that I will judge his house for ever" (v.13, see 2.27-36). It is therefore significant that whilst it was a "man of God" who spoke to Eli, it was God who spoke to Samuel on the same subject. The two messages were substantially the same, but the message to Samuel was evidently part of his training. In any case, it seems unlikely that Samuel was aware that God had already passed sentence on the house of Eli. Amongst other things, Samuel learned first hand from God Himself that sin is immensely serious, and must be judged. We know that this is true for unsaved people, but we must not forget that God will judge our unconfessed sin. This does not involve loss of salvation, but it involves loss of fellowship with God. We should notice:

The certainty of coming judgment (vv.11-12)

"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." There can be no doubt that the particular calamity which would cause "the ears of every one that heareth it shall tingle", was the capture of the Ark of the Covenant. This was the crowning disaster in the battle with the Philistines (4.18).

God was preparing Samuel for the disaster that lay ahead for Israel in the same way that he prepared Abraham for the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah: "Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?" (Gen 18.17). Let us also remember that He has shown "unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass" (Rev 1.1). Samuel would not be taken by surprise when disaster fell. But more than that, he would know that everything was in the hand of God. We can remain confident that God is in absolute control of even the most disastrous events.

The reason for coming judgment (v.13)

"For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity that he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not" (v.13). God is not arbitrary in judgment. "We are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things" (Rom 2.2). This is why, at the final judgment, John saw "the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in books, according to their works" (Rev 20.12-15).

Eli was well aware that his sons were guilty of gross spiritual and moral misconduct. They had "made themselves vile", but their weak and indulgent father, who was both high priest and judge (4.18), failed to remove them from office. It is always disastrous when things go wrong and good men remain silent. Leaders amongst God’s people will have to give an account of their stewardship at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

Perhaps this part of the message prepared Samuel in another way. Years later, when "Samuel was old", he made his sons "judges over Israel", but they "walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment" (8.1-6). We know nothing more about them, and we do not know how Samuel addressed the situation. Perhaps he remembered what happened at Shiloh. Whatever the facts, we must make sure that we learn from our own mistakes, and from the mistakes of other people.

The permanence of coming judgment (v.14)

"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." As we have already seen, the priesthood ultimately passed from Abiathar (descended from Ithamar through Eli) to Zadok (descended from Eleazar), in the reign of Solomon. The millennial priests will be the "sons of Zadok". The house of Eli will never be reinstated. It will be permanently disgraced. "The iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be purged with sacrifice nor offering for ever." Let us say again that whilst we cannot lose our salvation, there is the dreadful possibility that we could "be ashamed before him at his coming" (1 Jn 2.28). Bad workmanship will incur "loss" (see 1 Cor 3.15).

3) He learned to communicate the message of God (vv.15-18)

"And Samuel lay until the morning, and opened the doors of the house of the Lord. And Samuel feared to shew Eli the vision." On a technical note, it is clear that some kind of structure must have been erected at Shiloh in connection with the Tabernacle. We have already noticed that Eli "sat upon a seat by a post of the temple of the Lord" (1.9). Now Samuel opens "the doors of the house of the Lord". We have no further information about this structure, but we do know that one of Samuel’s tasks was to act as a doorkeeper. This reminds us of Psalm 84.10, although the word "doorkeeper" there actually means "someone who stands on the threshold", and does not necessarily mean a doorkeeper. There was nothing particularly glamorous about opening "the doors of the house of the Lord", but it was a beginning, and "he that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much" (Lk 16.10). Samuel did not burst upon Israel like a meteor. He made quiet, steady progress, and worked humbly for God. That’s a good basis for promotion!

We are not at all surprised that "Samuel feared to shew Eli the vision". But Eli was insistent. "What is the thing that the Lord hath said unto thee? I pray thee hide it not from me…And Samuel told him every whit, and hid nothing from him." Notice Eli’s acceptance of God’s word. He knew that God had acted righteously, and made no protest.

So Samuel learned another lesson that was to stand him in good stead in his coming ministry. In New Testament terms, he learned to "preach the word", and to "be instant in season, out of season" (2 Tim 4.2). On occasions, his ministry would be most unpalatable, but he was a splendid example of a true prophet. "The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully" (Jer 23.28). God’s word can be most unpopular, even, sometimes, alas, amongst God’s people. Now, finally:

4) He learned to trust the word of God (vv.19-21)

Samuel’s public ministry had begun. "And Samuel [no longer "the child Samuel"] grew, and the Lord was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground." Whilst this could mean that Samuel did not let any part of God’s word fall to the ground, it is more likely that it means that God did not let any part of Samuel’s words fall to the ground. God fulfilled the prophetic witness of Samuel. This is supported by what follows. "And all Israel from Dan even to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the Lord." They knew, because Samuel met the test described in Deuteronomy 18.21-22. His word "came to pass". Note: "And what had Samuel said happened to all Israel" (4.1, JND; AV margin). It is significant that this statement follows the words, "And the Lord appeared again in Shiloh: for the Lord revealed himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the Lord" (3.21). Quite obviously, Samuel only communicated what God had told him, and it is therefore not surprising that his predictions were completely fulfilled!

The fact that God "did let none of his words fall to the ground", reminds us that God honours His word. We therefore have every encouragement to preach and teach the word of God. "I am watchful over my word to perform it" (Jer 1.12, JND). The words, "And what Samuel said happened to all Israel", bring us to the next section in the book.

To be continued.

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