1 Samuel 3: Samuel Called
Samuel was the little boy who was brought by his mother to the tabernacle at Shiloh to live there, to be the Lord's child and to help the old priest Eli in taking care of the tabernacle. Perhaps sometimes he would light the lamps in the evening in the tabernacle so that it would not be dark at night, and in the morning he would open the doors to the east so that the sunshine could come in. Samuel and Eli had their beds near the tabernacle where they slept at night. One night they were in bed and Samuel heard someone call him: "Samuel, Samuel!" He jumped up and ran to Eli, for he thought Eli called him. But Eli said, "I called not; lie down again." So he went and lay down. But soon he heard someone call again, and he jumped up and ran to Eli. He heard the call three times and ran to Eli. Then Eli knew that the Lord had called the child, and he said, "Go, lie down, and it shall be if He call thee, that thou shalt say, Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth" So Samuel went and lay down, and soon he heard the Lord call again, "Samuel, Samuel!" And he said, "Speak, for Thy servant heareth." Then the Lord spoke to Samuel and told him sad things that were coming to Eli's family because they were not good.
So Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him. And every year Samuel's mother came to the tabernacle and brought him each year a coat which she had made for him to wear. When Samuel was a man, he took care of the tabernacle instead of Eli, and the people came to Samuel to learn what the Lord would have them do. By and by we find Samuel going about the country to three or four different places, where he taught the people and settled their disputes, and he came home to Ramah to his house, the place where he had been born.
"And the child Samuel ministered unto the Lord before Eli." Who was Eli, and where was he living? In what ways may we think of Samuel helping at the tabernacle? Read 1 Sam. 2:18; 3:15. Verse 3 speaks of the lamp of God in the temple of the Lord. What do you know about the golden lamp with seven branches made for the tabernacle? The same verse speaks of the ark of God. What do you remember about the ark? Verse 15 speaks of Samuel opening the doors of the house in the morning. At first the tabernacle was closed by curtains, but perhaps it had doors now that it had a more permanent resting place. It opened to the east. Read carefully the story of the Lord's calling Samuel (verses 2-10). Then close your book and tell the story.
It was a long time since the Lord had spoken to His people in this way, but He now spoke again to Samuel in Shiloh. See verses 1 and 21. What does it mean, "All Israel from Dan even to Beer-sheba"? Where were these places? We must remember that people from all parts of the land were to come to the tabernacle to worship, as Samuel's parents did. Also, as we look on in the story, we find that Samuel went each year to several places to judge the people, coming back to his home in Ramah. Bethel and Gilgal and Mizpeh were places to which Samuel went. You know Bethel, on the hills north of Jerusalem, and Gilgal in the Jordan valley near the river. Mizpeh, which means a watch tower, was perhaps the high pointed hill north of Jerusalem, which is still called Neby Samwil, "the prophet Samuel." Some of the judges of whom we have learned gave help only in one part or another of the land, but Samuel was known through all the land. It was known that he was established to be a prophet of the Lord.
1. What was the work of Eli at the tabernacle in which Samuel helped?
2. What can you tell about the lamp mentioned in verse 3?
3. How many times did Samuel run to Eli? What obedience must we learn before we can obey the Lord?
4. What did Eli tell Samuel to answer? When we are spoken to, when can we truly answer that we hear?
We have seen in the ministry of the little Samuel at the tabernacle a suggestion of the Lord's ministry, beginning even as a child. The dim light of the Jewish Church at the Lord's coming is suggested by the words, "Ere the lamp of God went out in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was." And the bringing to the church the light of a new day, by Samuel's opening the doors of the Lord's house in the morning. (A. 2405, 9782-9787)
Note again things said of Samuel in these chapters very like things said of the Child Jesus in chapters 2 and 3 of Luke's Gospel.
If I am spoken to, what does it mean if I say, "I see"? What does it mean if I say, "I hear"? Which answer does the Lord want when He speaks to us commandments or other lessons? "Hear, O Israel," introduces the first of all commandments; "Hear, O Israel, and observe to do." (Deut. 6:3-4; A. 396) When the Lord gives us commandments, we must say, "All that the Lord our God shall speak . . . we will hear and do." (Deut. 5:27)
Often when the Lord had been teaching, He said, "Who hath ears to hear, let him hear." (Matt. 13:43) And in the Revelation the charge to each of the seven churches includes the words, "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the spirit saith unto the churches." (Rev. 2:7) It means that so far as we are able it is our duty to understand the Lord's message and obey it. We must learn to say with Samuel, "Speak, for Thy servant heareth." (A. 2542; E. 108; R. 87)
What stage of development, what element of character does Samuel represent? He stands in the Bible story at the close of the period of the judges, and he anointed the first kings. The patriarchal section of Israel's history which Samuel closes has special relation to childhood with its lessons of obedience and its trials and victories, and the kings to a more mature and rational control of life. Samuel seems to stand as a type of the best traits of childhood, especially of childhood's obedience. Samuel said, "Speak; for Thy servant heareth"; and again, "Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams." (1 Sam. 15:22) It is beautiful that Samuel is introduced to us as a child, answering the Lord with a promise of obedience. (A. 2542, 4653)