The opening chapters of Samuel describe the birth of Samuel and the spiritual condition of Eli and his sons who served as priests for Israel. Eli had sons who selfishly abused their roles as religious leaders and completely disregarded their father’s rebuke. In contrast “the boy” Samuel ‘continued to grow in stature and in favour with the LORD and with men.’ Careful Bible readers will be reminded of Luke 2:52 where another “boy” grew likewise.
Chapter 3 picks up the account of ‘the boy’ Samuel and his early ministry. Without any formal training, with a godly mother and father who had shaped his life and had dedicated him to God, Samuel ministers before the LORD under Eli. What possible duties could he care for as a child? The text does not note specifics, but simply indicates his God-centredness.
True ministry is to be God-centred. Our reference point for speaking or serving is Jesus Christ and His glory! No applause is needed from men, no approval at a human level, simply a sold-out devotion to the LORD God. Even children may “love the LORD your God with ALL your heart and ALL your soul…...”
The author continues with a sentence of observation. “In those days the word of the LORD was rare, there were not many visions.” (1 Samuel 3:1) Why was the LORD not revealing more of His truth? Why was further instruction not being granted?
Here are some possible explanations
1) The truth revealed already was being ignored. God’s people had the LAW, they knew God’s standards, but having just concluded the time of the JUDGES, we note the blatant disregard for truth. “Every man did that which was right in his own eyes.”
2) The leaders (priests) responsible for ministering the word of the LORD were morally incapable of handling truth. Malachi, writing almost 1000 years later notes, “For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, and from his mouth men should seek instruction–because he is the messenger of the LORD Almighty.” Why would anyone seek instruction from Eli or his sons who despised the LORD?
A remarkable drama is about to unfold. An aging high priest, who has lost his way no longer hears from the LORD. A young child, too immature to hold an ‘official’ office has the LORD speak to him.
What’s the lesson? Official positions do not qualify us to receive instruction from the LORD. A willing heart, a teachable spirit and a committed will are what He is seeking. May the LORD grant us His grace and the help of His Spirit to observe clearly what His word says (not what we want it to say), correctly interpret what it means (not what we want it to mean), and what personal applications we must make as the same Spirit of God who inspired the divine authors illuminates our minds to invite the LORD to speak to us. May our daily heart’s cry be as mature as the ‘boy’ Samuel. “Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.”