1 Samuel 3:10 (ESV) … “And the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.”
In 1 Samuel, we see the contrast between the wickedness of Eli’s family and the faithfulness of the boy Samuel (v. 1). He ministered before the Lord under the guidance of Eli at a time when God wasn’t speaking to His people very often. The spiritual leaders were corrupt, and God’s people weren’t obeying His law anyway, so why should God say anything new to them? It was a tragic day in the nation of Israel when the living God no longer sent His people signs and prophetic messages (Ps. 74:9; Ezek. 7:26; Amos 8:11–12; Micah 3:6). The silence of God was the judgment of God.
But God was about to change the situation and speak His precious Word to a young boy who would listen and obey.
The Lord spoke to Samuel four times (1 Sam. 3:4, 6, 8, 10), and the first three times, Samuel thought it was Eli calling him. One of the marks of a faithful servant is an attentive ear and an immediate response. But Samuel had never heard God’s voice, so he didn’t know who was calling to him. Like Saul of Tarsus, Samuel’s call and conversion occurred at the same time, except that Samuel’s experience was at night while Saul saw a blazing light when he heard God’s voice (Acts 9:1–9). Eli was discerning enough to realize that God was speaking to the boy, so he told him how to respond.
In reading 1 Samuel 3:10–14 we discover that Samuel obeyed Eli, went back to his sleeping place, and waited for the voice to come again. This time God spoke the boy’s name twice, for the Shepherd calls His sheep by name and gets their attention (John 10:3, 14). Not only that, the Lord came and stood near Samuel as He spoke to him. This experience wasn’t a dream or a vision but a manifestation of the presence of the Lord. Samuel’s response was, “Speak, for your servant is listening” (1 Sam. 3:10, niv), and he left out the word, “Lord” (see v. 9). Why? Samuel didn’t yet have a personal knowledge of the Lord (v. 7), so he couldn’t know whose voice it was that had spoken to him. Perhaps he was being careful not to accept it as the voice of Jehovah when he had no way to be sure.
Because Samuel was obedient to God and to Eli, he heard the message from the Lord and learned what God planned to do. This was certainly a weighty message to give to a young boy, but in so doing, perhaps God was rebuking the spiritual lethargy of the adults, for to which of them could God give this message? When God can’t find an obedient adult, He sometimes calls a child. “And I will make mere lads their princes” (Isa. 3:4, nasb).
Samuel didn’t know the message the unknown prophet had delivered to Eli, but the message God gave him confirmed it. The Lord would judge the house of Eli because Eli’s two sons “made themselves vile [contemptible]” and Eli did nothing to restrain them. Though Eli and his sons were priests, they could offer no sacrifice that would atone for their sins! Their sins were deliberate and defiant, and for such sins no sacrifice could be offered (Num. 15:30). Not only had they defiled themselves, but they had also defiled the priesthood. The Lord had been long-suffering toward the house of Eli, but they hadn’t repented and turned from their sins; now it was too late.
Eli had his faults as we all do, and we must appreciate his positive attitude toward young Samuel, his successor as the spiritual leader in Israel. It isn’t every veteran servant who can graciously lay down his tools and let the young apprentice take over. Until the very end of his life, Eli at least had a concern for the Ark of God and the future of the nation; and the news of Israel’s defeat and the capture of the Ark caused his death. If Eli had shown some of this concern when his sons were young like Samuel, things would have been different.
A reading of (1 Sam. 3:19–21). We find for a second time we’re told that Samuel grew (2:21; 3:19), but the affirmation is added, “the Lord was with him.” This statement will also be made about youthful David (16:18; 18:12, 14). The Lord was against Eli and his sons, but His blessing was upon Samuel and his ministry. Unlike the other judges, Samuel’s words and influence would reach the entire nation. The people recognized that God had called Samuel to be a prophet and declare the Word of God and the will of God. Once again, the Lord appeared from time to time at Shiloh and revealed Himself to His prophet. Israel was about to experience a new beginning that would lead to new challenges and dangers as well as new blessings and victories.