Our readings have now taken us all the way to the times of change between the era of the judges and the era of the kings. Samuel is the last of the judges and it is Samuel who will anoint Israel’s first two kings.
Samuel is a really interesting biblical character. One of the first things we need to know about him is that despite the fact that his family lived among the tribe of Ephraim (1 Samuel 1:1), he was of the tribe of Levi (see 1 Chronicles 6:22-28, 33-38) and the family of Kohath (the same family as Moses and Aaron). This is important to know, because later we will see him making sacrifices, ministering at the Tabernacle, eat from the priests’ portion, and even sleeping in the Tabernacle — things which were not lawful for a person from the tribe of Ephraim to do!
Secondly, Samuel was a Nazarite from birth. We saw an example of this previously in the story of Samson. Hannah, like Samson’s mother, was childless, but instead of God telling her to make the promised child a Nazarite, Hannah makes the offer herself to God. That’s the meaning of “a razor shall never touch his head”. Hannah, however, went even further than the usual Nazarite vow, she completely dedicated Samuel to the Lord’s service, bringing him to the Tabernacle for service as soon as he was weaned!
Thirdly, Samuel was a prophet. He was called to prophetic service in our reading today, and the last few verses of chapter 3 underscore the strength of his prophetic ministry:
“Thus Samuel grew and the LORD was with him and let none of his words fail. All Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of the LORD. And the LORD appeared again at Shiloh, because the LORD revealed Himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the LORD.” 1 Samuel 3:19-21, NAS95.
Samuel was a three-way holy man: a Levite, a Nazarite, and a prophet.
Beyond this, however, let’s make a few other observations about the content of 1 Sam. 1-3. First, did you notice Hannah’s great example of a prayer offered in faith — “She said, “Let your maidservant find favor in your sight.” So the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.” 1 Samuel 1:18, NAS95. A prayer offered in faith is not just about earnestness of the prayer, but more about how you act after you’ve prayed. Consider this explanation from Jesus, “Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.” Mark 11:24, NAS95. How would you act or behave if you believe that you have already received what you asked for? Well, that’s apparently what God is looking for, the marker of a prayer really offered in faith. Sadly, we usually wait for God to make His move first. But the prayer offered in real faith gets out of the boat to walk on the water, walks directly into the Jordan River before the waters have already dried up, sends home thousands of soldiers before going into the battle. Hannah, after her prayer, went her way, ate, and no longer looked sad — she believed.
Hannah was also a woman who kept her promises — even when they were hard (1 Sam. 1:26-28). Could there be a harder promise for a mother to keep than this one? But she followed through. Here’s a great example to everyone about keeping promises to God.
Beyond Hannah, though was the story of Eli and his wicked sons. There’s an interesting thing said about them here: “Now the sons of Eli were worthless men; they did not know the LORD” 1 Samuel 2:12, NAS95. Obviously they knew about the God of Israel — they worked at the Tabernacle in priestly service. But general familiarity with God is not the same thing as knowing Him. This word “knowing” is a relational word; it’s more than data collection. It’s the same word used in contexts like “Adam knew Eve and they had a son”. It needs to be the aim of our Bible reading, the aim of our Bible schools, the aim of our churches to do more than expand the data bank in our teaching, but to help our students to “know the Lord”.
Please also notice in 2:32 the conditional promises of God. Earlier God had promised Aaron’s family that they could have the high priestly position perpetually, but now in Eli’s day, when he had so poorly managed the priestly service (God’s anger was probably less about Eli’s poor fathering skills as much as it was about his poor management of the priesthood — not rejecting his sons as priests, who were morally unfit), God was opting to go with a plan B. In Christianity we have great security in Christ, God’s grace is generous and steadfast, but it can be as conditional as God’s promise to Aaron’s family, too: “For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES.” Hebrews 10:26, 27, NAS95.
Finally, there’s the attitude of the disciple found in the calling of Samuel to prophetic service: “Then the LORD came and stood and called as at other times, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel said, ‘Speak, for Your servant is listening.’” 1 Samuel 3:10, NAS95. May that be your response to God the rest of today and everyday.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.