In our study of 1 Samuel chapter three, we look at the fact that we have to choose to hear the call of God. We will see how many times God is speaking to us but we do not choose to listen and recognize Him.
The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.
Samuel was probably a teenager at this point as he continued to serve in the Tent of Meeting. We see that the Lord had not been speaking to the priests through visions because of the fact that they were corrupt. They had basically chosen to ignore the word of the Lord and so He stopped talking to them for a time.
One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the house of the Lord, where the ark of God was.
In the early morning, Samuel was lying down by the ark of God. The lamp of God refers to the golden lampstand which stood opposite the table of the bread of Presence. The lamp was filled in the evening and would usually die down and go out at dawn. Eli was near but his vision was getting so bad that he could not see much of what was about to happen.
Then the Lord called Samuel. Samuel answered, 'Here I am.' And he ran to Eli and said, 'Here I am; you called me.' But Eli said, 'I did not call; go back and lie down.' So he went and lay down.
When the Lord called to Samuel, the boy did not recognize that it was God. Instead, he ran to see what Eli needed. We also see that Eli did not immediately recognize that God was calling Samuel. In this we see that Samuel was not yet a child of God and Eli had gotten used to serving God without any input from Him. The same is true in much of Christianity today as the body has been made to be like a business and ran by managers instead of ministers.
Again the Lord called, 'Samuel!' And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, 'Here I am; you called me.' 'My son,' Eli said, 'I did not call; go back and lie down.' Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.
This is the second time that the Lord called to Samuel and he did not recognize the Lord. We see that Samuel did not yet know the Lord and so was being called unto salvation. This is a reminder to us that there can be people serving the Lord in the church and they can still be lost. We also see that leaders such as Eli can be blind to the working and call of God.
A third time the Lord called, 'Samuel!' And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, 'Here I am; you called me.' Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, 'Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, "Speak Lord, for your servant is listening."' So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
The third time that this happened, Eli recognized the calling of the Lord. He told Samuel how to answer and this is a picture of how we are to share the gospel. We are to recognize when God is calling someone and tell them how to answer the call.
The Lord came and stood there, calling as the other times, 'Samuel! Samuel!' Then Samuel said, 'Speak, for your servant is listening.' And the Lord said to Samuel: 'See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears about it tingle.
The last two calls of the Lord to Samuel were to bring him into his ministry as a prophet. We see that the Lord is about to reveal something to him that is going to happen in Israel. We also see that there is a difference between service and ministry. Samuel had been serving for years but now, only after answering the call to salvation, is he equipped for ministry.
'At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family - from beginning to end. For I told him that I would judge his family forever of the sin he knew about; his sons blasphemed God, and he failed to restrain them. Therefore I swore to the house of Eli, "The guilt of Eli's house will never be atoned for by sacrifice and offering."'
The Lord continues to speak to Samuel and tells him what He had already told Eli. We see that Eli's sons had committed the "unpardonable sin" which is blasphemy of God. We might wonder why God was revealing this to a young man, especially one that probably loved Eli as he had grown up with him. It is probably so that he could explain what happened to the rest of the nation of Israel. God was going to make an example of the house of Eli and needed someone to explain the why and how.
Samuel lay down until morning and then opened the doors of the house of the Lord. He was afraid to tell Eli the vision, but Eli called him and said, 'Samuel, my son.' Samuel answered, 'Here I am.' 'What was it he said to you?' Eli asked. 'Do not hide it from me. May God deal with you, be it ever so severely, if you hide from me anything he told you.'
We are reminded that God did not tell Samuel to share what he had said with Eli. Nevertheless, Eli demanded that Samuel tell him what the Lord had said. We see that he did not want to tell him and are reminded that that is a trait that was in most of the prophets that God used. A real prophet does not get joy or comfort out of sharing bad news with people. On the contrary, it usually produces deep sadness in them.
So Samuel told him everything, hiding nothing from him. Then Eli said, 'He is the Lord; let him do what is good in his eyes.'
Eli accepted the rebuke of the Lord and realized that God was justified in doing so.
The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel's words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the Lord. The Lord continues to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word.
The Lord continues to talk to Samuel and he was known as a true prophet of God. There are many so-called prophets today but, as we see here, to be a real prophet the words must come to pass.