Samuel, Samuel

Based on Series of Sermons on the Repetition of Name and Titles
preached in PCC Worship Services, Apr 2013 to Feb 2014
Part 2 of 3

Previously, we looked at 1 Samuel 3:1-10 on the call of God to Samuel. In this article, we’ll continue with God’s message to Samuel. 

The Message from God to Samuel (vv. 11-18) 

Verses 11-14 record God’s message to Samuel. In short, it was a message of judgement upon the house of Eli. In fact, so severe was this message that it would cause both the ears of every one who hears it to tingle. Verse 11 can literally be translated, “Behold, I (this is an emphatic ‘I’ to show that God Himself will do it) am doing a thing in Israel, which every hearer of it will tingle his two ears.”

This expression “tingle his ears” speaks of the great fear, horror and dismay that will come upon those who hear this message. It was also used in the days of wicked king Manasseh, where God said, “Behold I am bringing such evil upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whosoever heareth of it, both his ears shall tingle” (2 Kgs 21:12).

Verse 12 goes on to say, “In that day, I will cause to arise unto Eli all which I spoke unto his house, from beginning to end.” The phrase “in that day” refers to the day of judgement. God Himself will cause to arise or perform the word that was spoken to Eli by that unnamed prophet in chapter 2 several years ago.

But now, the time of judgement was getting nearer, and God was going to make sure that whatever He began, He would bring to an end. “When I begin, I will also make an end.” In other words, I will not delay the execution of my purpose and once I begin, nothing shall deter or prevent me from bringing all my judgments to a conclusion.

Verse 13, “For I have told him (i.e. Eli) 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.” The problem with Eli was that as a father and as a High priest and Judge in Israel, he failed to maintain discipline in his own house and in the house of the LORD.

Eli knew about the sins of his two sons – how that as priests serving at the tabernacle, they disregarded God’s laws concerning the offerings and sacrifices; and how they even committed adultery with the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle. It says, in verse 17 of chapter 2 that the sin of the young men was very great before the LORD. Eli knew about these things, but he did little to stop or restrain them. All he did was just to rebuke them gently. Surely Eli could have done much more but he chose not to. He honoured his sons more than God. He was more concerned about their honour than the honour and glory of the LORD.

Well, the LORD goes on to say in verse 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.” Here is the LORD’s concluding word about the house of Eli. He essentially confirms His judgment with an oath. There was absolutely no hope that His sentence might be reversed or that the execution of it might be stayed or mitigated. No atonement could be made for their iniquities. God was not going to accept any sacrifice or offering offered on behalf of the house of Eli.

Now understand the significance of this. God’s usual way of dealing with the sin of His people was to forgive them when the prescribed sacrifice and offering is presented. Over and over again in the Old Testament, we see this. For example, in Leviticus 4:20, “And he shall do with the bullock as he did with the bullock for a sin offering, so shall he do with this: and the priest shall make an atonement for them, and it shall be forgiven them.” And again in Lev 19:22, “And the priest shall make an atonement for him with the ram of the trespass offering before the LORD for his sin which he hath done: and the sin which he hath done shall be forgiven him.”

But here in 1 Samuel 3, we see the Lord suspending His usual way of dealing with sin when there is sacrifice and offering. Eli’s house was so wicked that God declares He is not going to deal with them in the usual way. The house of Eli can offer as many sin offerings and present as many animal sacrifices to Him as they like but their iniquity shall never ever be purged away. What a frightening message indeed of severe and irreversible judgement from the mouth of the LORD!

And imagine, God entrusted such a fearsome message to a young boy. How would you have felt if you were Samuel? Verse 15 says, “And Samuel lay until the morning…” It’s likely that he had some difficulty going back to sleep after that! He must have lain upon his bed tossing and turning and thinking about what he had just heard over and over again, and wondering how he was ever going to break the news to Eli. Remember that a deep bond of affection must have existed between the young boy and the old priest. After all, since he was weaned from his mother, probably at the age of 3, he had gone to live with Eli and was under his care and instruction ever since. Eli himself treated Samuel as his own dear son. No doubt, Samuel was more precious to him and brought greater delight to him than his two physical sons Hophni and Phinehas. And it’s never easy to have to break a piece of bad news to someone, especially when that person is a friend or loved one.

Well, day break finally came and Samuel got up to do the usual duties assigned to him, which included opening the doors of the tabernacle. Verse 15 says, “And Samuel feared to shew Eli the vision.” Perhaps even by morning, Samuel was still not sure how he was going to talk to Eli about it. But Eli saved him a great deal of trouble.

Verses 16-17, “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? God do so to thee, and more also, if thou hide any thing from me of all the things that he said unto thee.” Eli knew that the LORD had an important message, which He had entrusted to Samuel that night. And he had good reason to suspect that that message had to do with him and his family. After all, God had passed him by and gone directly to the young boy, who was clearly going to be his successor – an indication that his days as Israel’s High priest and Judge were numbered.

And so he called Samuel to himself and placed the boy under a curse if he did not fully reveal to him all that the LORD had spoken to him the night before. “God do so to thee, and more also, if thou hide any thing from me of all the things that he said unto thee.” So under that threat of judgment, Samuel told Eli everything and hid back nothing from him. Here we have an example of a true and faithful prophet – one who would declare the whole counsel of God and conceal nothing, whether it is pleasing or displeasing to the ears of man. Indeed, this is required of all who are called to preach God’s word.

Well then, how did Eli receive the message? Did he rebuke the young boy or brush off his words lightly or even charge him for being disrespectful to his elder? No, instead, he responded in a very commendable way. “It is the LORD; let him do what seemeth him good.” In other words, it is the word of the Sovereign Lord, and there is nothing to be said against it. There is no resisting or fighting against him. He is all wise and does everything well. He is holy and just in all His ways and there is no unrighteousness in Him. He is faithful to his word and will bring to pass all that He has said. Let him do what seemeth good to Him. Not what seemeth good to man, but what seemeth good to the LORD. He alone is good. He alone knows what is good and He alone does what is good. It is the LORD; let him do what seemeth him good.

And so Eli submitted to the word of the LORD even though it was delivered to him by a young boy. He did not murmur or complain but received it meekly and acquiesced in it as good. May we also learn to humbly receive and submit to God’s word each time we hear it.

Some of us may be asking the question – was Eli a true believer? I don’t know for sure but I tend to think that he was. One commentator describes Eli in this way, “Eli was memorable for the passive virtues. He could bear much, though he could dare little.” I think that’s a fair description of him.

In our next and final article on “Samuel, Samuel,” we will see the establishing of Samuel as a prophet of God.

…to be continued next issue

Linus Chua