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 3 of 3


We have been studying the fourth repetition of a person’s name in the Bible, namely, Samuel, Samuel in 1 Samuel 3. In the first article, we look at the call of God to Samuel. In the second, we considered the message from God to Samuel. In the final article, we will look at the establishing of Samuel as a prophet of God.

Samuel Established as 
a Prophet of God 
(vv. 19-21)

This section describes Samuel’s transition from childhood to manhood. Samuel continued to grow up both physically and spiritually. All the earlier hopes and aspirations of his mother, Hannah, and the promise of a life devoted to the service of the LORD from his childhood were being wonderfully fulfilled in this young man.

Hannah and Elkanah would have been glad to see their first born son becoming a very useful vessel in the Lord’s service. Verse 19 tells us that the LORD was with him. Samuel’s first encounter with the LORD that night was not to be his last. The LORD continued to be with him, giving further manifestations of himself. Verse 21 says, “And the LORD appeared again in Shiloh: for the LORD revealed himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the LORD.” Literally, the verse reads, “And the LORD added to appear at Shiloh, for the LORD was revealing himself unto Samuel at Shiloh by the Word of the LORD.”

Compare this with verse 17 which says, “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 any thing from me of all the things that he said unto thee.” Because Samuel did not hide or subtract one word from all that the LORD had said to him, the LORD added to Samuel yet more revelation of His word to him. We have here another example of how faithfulness in the little that we know of His word leads to greater revelation and knowledge from Him.

But besides graciously revealing Himself to Samuel, the LORD did something else for the young man. Verse 19 says, “the LORD did let none of his words fall to the ground.” The phrase ‘fall to the ground’ has reference either to water being spilt onto the ground and thus becoming unusable, or to a soldier’s arrow or spear falling to the ground before reaching its mark, and so being unsuccessful in its mission. But that did not happen to Samuel. The LORD prospered his ministry so that every word that proceeded from his mouth as a prophet indeed accomplished its purpose. None of his words fell to the ground. What a mighty testimony to the power and authenticity of his ministry!

No wonder verse 20 says, “And all Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was being established or confirmed to be a prophet of the LORD.” All the people from Dan to Beersheba, that is, from the northern to southern borders of Israel, recognised that Samuel was called of God to be His prophet. They recognised his gifts and honoured him as a true messenger and spokesperson from God.

Thus this chapter, which began with a famine of God’s word in verse 1, ends with the revelation of God’s word through His servant Samuel. Shiloh, which for a long time had been a place of darkness because of a corrupt priesthood, was now once more the lamp and light of Israel.

I think there is something quite symbolic and significant about verse 15 where it says that Samuel, having received the word of God the night before, now opens the doors of the house of the LORD in the morning at the dawn of a new day. The night of silence was replaced by the morning of light and truth. Samuel heard the word of the LORD, and opening the doors, “spread it abroad.”

In 1 Samuel 3:1, it says, “the word of the LORD was precious (or rare) in those days; there was no open vision,” but then in 1 Samuel 4:1, we read “the word of Samuel came to all Israel.” What a contrast! Surely the godly in those days would have rejoiced that the famine was over and that God was once again visiting His people with His precious word.

Well, what are some things we can learn from this chapter on the calling of Samuel? Let me call our attention to three lessons.

Applications

First, we see the patience and gentleness and kindness of God, and we see that in His dealings with the young boy. God called his name no less than 5 times before Samuel responded with the words, “Speak, for thy servant heareth.” But there is no mention of God being impatient with Samuel or chiding him for being so dense or slow in recognising His call. You don’t hear the LORD saying, ‘Look at this boy, he didn’t get it right the first or second or even the third time!’ No, there is no harshness or bitterness with the LORD. He was willing to give Samuel time to hear and understand Him. God always moderates His instruction to our condition.So it was with Christ when for example He said to His disciples, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.” (John 16:12) In another place it says, “A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench.” (Matt 12:20) Never do we see Christ use his power harshly or cruelly. He is supremely patient with His own people. He bears with their infirmities and pardons their many failures.

And so let us never live our lives in such a way as to give others the wrong impression that the God whom we worship and serve is a cruel, bitter, impatient and harsh Master.

Second, we see the difficulty of being a faithful preacher of God’s word. No sooner had Samuel been called to the prophetic ministry that he realizes how difficult and even at times heart-rending the work can be. Often, God’s messenger finds himself caught in a dilemma. On the one hand, he knows that he must speak the whole truth of God without altering the message one bit. Yet on the other hand, he recoils from speaking God’s judgment and from confronting men directly with their sins and with their need to repent. 

In a sense, Samuel’s task of telling Eli what the LORD told him that night was more difficult than what any gospel minister today is called to do. Why? Because Samuel’s message was one of severe and irreversible judgment. There was no element of hope or comfort in that message whatsoever. I can’t imagine having to tell someone that his sins were so great and that there was absolutely nothing that could purge them away and that he must surely face the wrath of Almighty God.

Nevertheless, it is also true that the gospel is never an easy message to preach. It is impossible to avoid the ‘offence of the cross’ when Christ is faithfully proclaimed. And so we must pray that all ministers wherever they may be would be faithful to their calling just as Samuel was and especially as Christ was for He said in John 15:15b, “
for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.” 

But third and finally, we see the importance of having the word of the Lord to give us light. As I noted earlier, the chapter starts out in darkness, both physical and spiritual. Eli’s physical and spiritual eyes were dim. It was night time, and the lamp of God in the tabernacle was flickering and almost extinguished. The word of the LORD was very rare in those days.

But the chapter ends with the prophet Samuel being established and recognized as a prophet of the Lord throughout the whole country. He received revelation from God and he made it known to the people, and the Lord was with him. He did not allow any of his words to fall to the ground, that is, to become useless and unfruitful. The LORD was now speaking to His people on a regular basis. No longer was it rare. No longer was it dark or dim in the land.

“After darkness, Light.” This was the motto of the 16th century Protestant Reformation. It can be found inscribed in Latin on the Reformation wall in Geneva. The reformers understood that without the light of the gospel and the truth of God’s word, everything was in darkness. But once the gospel of free grace, and the authority and centrality of God’s word were rediscovered, then the reformers likened it to the light rising again to dispel the darkness of ignorance.

May we today continue to treasure the light of God’s Word that we enjoy, and seek to order our lives according to it. And may it be said of all of us that none of the words of the Lord to us fall on the ground and fail to bring forth fruits.

Ps Linus Chua