I love the story of Samuel in the Old Testament. There is so much in it that I find really meaningful that I’d like to share it with you. All verses are from the New Revised Standard Version.
The story starts with Samuel’s mother, Hannah. Hannah is a woman who is unable to conceive a child, and her husband’s other wife has many children and constantly berates her for her lack of children. Hannah is deeply upset and goes to the temple to pray for a child.
I Samuel 1:9-16
“9 After they had eaten and drunk at Shiloh, Hannah rose and presented herself before the LORD. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the LORD. 10 She was deeply distressed and prayed to the LORD, and wept bitterly. 11 She made this vow:”O LORD of hosts, if only you will look on the misery of your servant, and remember me, and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a male child, then I will set him before you as a nazirite until the day of his death. He shall drink neither wine nor intoxicants, and no razor shall touch his head.” 12 As she continued praying before the LORD, Eli observed her mouth. 13Hannah was praying silently; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard; therefore Eli thought she was drunk. 14 So Eli said to her, “How long will you make a drunken spectacle of yourself? Put away your wine.” 15But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman deeply troubled; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the LORD. 16 Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation all this time.”
The priest doesn’t even know what a praying person looks like. This is really amazing to me. A priest should be acquainted with the idea of a praying people. He should know the difference between holy and crazy.
Here’s another interesting part. She is upset and pouring out her heart to the Lord. She is making a vow that if she is able to have a child, she will give him up to God. She is asking God for something that she is then going to give back to God. This is amazing. She isn’t asking for something for herself. She wants a child, but then she isn’t going to keep him.
When he was weaned, she took him back to the Temple and put him in the service of God. He was a child. She didn’t have him for very long. She kept him just long enough to wean him so that he didn’t need her any more. She honored her promise. How many of us make promises to God in a time of distress and then we go back on them or forget them when everything is fine? I know I do.
Samuel first heard the voice of God in the middle of the night.
1 Samuel 3:1-9
“Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD under Eli. The word of the LORD was rare in those days; visions were not widespread. 2 At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; 3 the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was. 4 Then the LORD called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” 5 and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. 6 The LORD called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” 7 Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, and the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him. 8 The LORD called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the LORD was calling the boy. 9 Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.”
Eli, the priest, hadn’t ever heard the voice of God.
Here is a person set aside to serve the Lord and he hasn’t heard from the Lord. Ever. He is following the rules and regulations. He is following along with tradition. But he has no real connection with God. He is doing the way they’ve always done it because they’ve always done it that way. But he’s never heard from God. He is just following along in the book.
He also is squandering the offering. He had been using the offerings for himself and for his children.
So just because someone is ordained, it doesn’t mean that they are holy. Sometimes it is just a job to them.
Be careful of who you trust. Be careful of who you follow.
The Lord told Samuel that Eli was about to get punished, along with his children, because of their iniquity.
1 Samuel 3:10-18
10 Now the LORD came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” 11 Then the LORD said to Samuel, “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle. 12 On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. 13 For I have told him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God,[b] and he did not restrain them. 14 Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever.”
15 Samuel lay there until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the LORD. Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. 16 But Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” He said, “Here I am.” 17 Eli said, “What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also, if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.” 18 So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. Then he said, “It is the LORD; let him do what seems good to him.”
I’m actually amazed that Eli listened to Samuel, that he believed that the Lord was speaking to him. But then that amazement is cancelled out with the last line “It is the LORD; let him do what seems good to him.”
As if it is some random thing the Lord is about to do to him. As if he doesn’t deserve what is about to happen to him. The Lord doesn’t strike down Eli and his sons on a whim. They intentionally didn’t do what was right. They got what was coming to them. It wasn’t random.
There is a lot that goes on in this little story, and I’m sure there is a lot more that I’m missing. Samuel grows up to be a great prophet and leader, and Samuel is the person who is lead by the Lord to find and anoint David as king.