3:1 Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD in the presence of Eli. And the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.
2 At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his own place. 3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was.
4 Then the LORD called Samuel, and he said, “Here I am!” 5 and ran to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down.
6 And the LORD called again, “Samuel!” and Samuel arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” 7 Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, and the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.
8 And the LORD called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the LORD was calling the boy. 9 Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant hears.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
10 And the LORD came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.” 11 Then the LORD said to Samuel, “Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel at which the two ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. 12 On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. 13 And I declare to him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. 14 Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever.”
15 Samuel lay until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the LORD. And Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. 16 But Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” And he said, “Here I am.” 17 And Eli said, “What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.” 18 So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. And he said, “It is the LORD. Let him do what seems good to him.”
19 And Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. 20 And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established as a prophet of the LORD. 21 And the LORD appeared again at Shiloh, for the LORD revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the LORD.
4:1 And the word of Samuel came to all Israel.
Now Israel went out to battle against the Philistines. They encamped at Ebenezer, and the Philistines encamped at Aphek.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright (c)2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. http://www.esv.org
Painted in this intimate encounter between God and Samuel and Eli is a larger picture of Israel’s spiritual state out of which God calls Samuel into his prophetic role. In the land, visions from God were infrequent and Israel began to only see the Lord dimly. A deafening darkness had settled on Israel like the darkness that had settled on the temple that evening. But then God’s vision came to Samuel in the dead of night.
God’s word was so unusual in that time that Samuel had never heard it before, and when he first did, it was unrecognizable. It was not until the third instance of mistaken identity that even Eli realized what was happening. The frequency of silence had dulled his sense of hearing until the moment of understanding—God was on the move. The God Who rescued His people out of Egypt, Who gathered a people through His thunderous appearance at Mount Sinai, and Who brought them into the Promised Land was revealing Himself again. Finally His vision and voice had broken through the silent darkness to sustain Israel into the future. And so, after sending Samuel back to his room, Eli waited eagerly until morning to hear this new word from God.
We serve a God Who calls into being that which was not. His very voice is a creative act. By it darkness folds back and light comes to be. His own people are called into being by His sovereign word. We who once were not God’s people are now called children of the living God. It is a deep and personal calling—like a shepherd calling out to his sheep and the sheep knowing his voice. The result of this calling is that we now have a new vision for life. A vision bursting with the good news of our risen and ascended Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It is a vision that sustains us while we move about as husbands and wives, sons and daughters, employees and employers, craftsmen and artists, as worshippers.
Eli waited not knowing what word he would receive, and when he heard it, it was tragic. But let us rejoice! For we too wait to see with our eyes and hear with our ears the vision and voice of God. But unlike Eli, we who have been called His people know what will be revealed. The darkness has been lifted, the light has come forth, and we know with confidence that one day, we will see King Jesus coming with His Kingdom to cover the earth. The darkness that we feel too often in this life will be banished by His glorious light and we will finally see our God not dimly, but with eyes bright and clear.