On Aug 20 it was the blessed Feast of the Prophet Samuel.
God answered the prayer of his lowly maidservant Hannah, and opened her womb, giving her a son who would bring deliverance to Israel. As we saw last week, the boy Samuel was taken to the tabernacle of the Lord to serve Him there all the days of his life, as God was about to remove the corrupt priesthood and the corrupt judges from his people.
Hannah prayed and said, “My heart exults in the LORD; my strength is exalted in the LORD. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation.” God was about to abase the proud, exalt the humble, and raise the poor and the needy from the dust and the ash heap.
Samuel was now growing in stature, in wisdom and favor with the Lord and men. In the last section of chapter 2 God promised that he would honor those who honored him, and that he would cut off your strength of those who despised him.
Hophni, Phinehas, and even their father Eli were about to be removed – but Samuel was preparing the way of the Lord for the light of God to shine again in Israel.
[1 Now the young man Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.]
Samuel is now living in the house of the Lord, in the Temple, and Eli has taken responsibility over him; but ultimately the boy Samuel has been adopted by the Lord to serve him in his presence. Eli was a blind spiritual father, but the Lord adopted Samuel.
Within the context of the dark times of Israel (when there was no king and everybody did whatever was right in their own eyes) we read that the Word of the Lord was rare in those days, and that there were not frequent visions in Israel.
As we have seen in the previous chapters, the circumstances of Hannah, Samuel, Eli, and his sons were historical and yet also a vivid illustration of the spiritual state of Israel.
Israel was deaf and it was blind. As it is today. The sons of Eli would not hear of it when it was complained that they were robbing the people, robbing God, and transforming the tabernacle into a pagan temple with their immoralities. As sects do today.
They stopped their ears to the truth and to the Lord, and so they became deaf.
Eli was losing his sight, and so he also failed to distinguish good from evil– thinking godly Hannah to be a worthless woman when in fact it was his sons serving in the Tabernacle who were worthless.
Israel was in darkness, blind, and deaf. It did not want to hear the Lord, and so His word was infrequent. There was deafness and blindness, and so there was silence and darkness.
[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.]
We have already seen how Eli’s loosing of his eyesight becomes also a parable and picture of his own lack of discernment, but also the lack of discernment of the nation Israel, whose eyes had become dimmer and dimmer since the death of Joshua.
Now, the writer tells us that Eli, who lived in the precincts of the temple, with dim eyes, is going to bed at night. The whole picture is one of darkness setting in.
His eyes are dim, and now he lays down at night in the darkness of the tabernacle – because Israel was in darkness.
As we read this words, we can’t help but be transported by the writer into a picture of utter darkness, physical and spiritual.
But God had not yet abandoned his people.
The lamp of God in the tabernacle had not yet gone out. The lamp of God was what we know as a Manorah, that lampstand with seven lights – 3 on each side – and from the instructions in Ex. 25 and Lev. 24 we learn that it was always to be lit in the tabernacle. It was the continuous burning of the light of God among his people – like the burning bush, ever burning but never consuming.
Here, the implication is that the light of the lampstand was about to be extinguished – but not yet. There is some light, however dim, flickering in the darkness of the house of the Lord and in the midst of his people, and by the grace of God that light will not be conquered by darkness. It’s flickering! There’s still hope.
[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.” ]
The light of the lamp of God was flickering in the darkness and in the silence of the tabernacle, but now the light of life and the word of life shatter the darkness and the silence.
The Lord, whose word had been rare, breaks through the barren and dark land and calls for his chosen prophet, the child Samuel. How many times does He call? Of course three times.
That very same Word of God who spoke “let there be light” when there was nothing but darkness and chaos, now again enters the realm of darkness and chaos, as it is spoken by the good and merciful God who cares about his own people sitting in darkness.
The Word of God comes not only to bring light out of darkness and out of blindness, but it also comes to unstop deaf ears. This is the Word of God that performs what God desires just by virtue of being spoken.
The speech is the divine act. It is that Word that calls us to hear, and heed, as expressed in the original creed of Israel, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Dt. 6:4-5).
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word now comes to bring a new beginning to Israel.
Samuel’s response? Here I am!
“Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” “Then the angel of God said to me in the dream, ‘Jacob,’ and I said, ‘Here I am.’ When the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.
”Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I, Isaiah, said, “Here am I. Send me!” Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.”
God called Adam, and he hid. But, here I am!
Is this something you and I can say to the Lord unreservedly? Like the Second Adam, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” Are we ready to answer?
God has brought his own chosen prophet, priest and judge to serve him in his temple – not a great warrior, or renowned clergyman, but a child who could not do anything except listen, and serve by and power of the Lord. His response is one of immediate obedience and alertness. Here I am!
The contrast with Eli could not be more vivid. The word of the Lord does not come to Eli, the high priest, but to the boy Samuel.
Samuel runs to Eli, thinking he was calling him, and Eli has no clue of what is going on. Neither Samuel nor Eli know that it is YHWH who calls, but the fact that it is Samuel who hears, and not Eli, already shows that God has chosen another priest to bring deliverance to Israel.
Samuel could not yet discern that it was YHWH, but this was part his learning process. He was a boy!
Eli, on the other hand, should have discerned it but he couldn’t. He sends Samuel back to bed, and the Lord calls again, Samuel goes again to Eli, and Eli sends him back one more time.
[8 And the Lord called Samuel again the third time.]
Eli should have discerned that sooner, but he was already too accustomed to the silence, hardened in his heart and slow to hear the Word of YHWH. He eventually catches on to what is going on.
[“Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant hears]
The narrative actually tells us that the Lord stands right there, surely as the preincarnate person of Christ. He can hear Him. Samuel, Samuel, the Lord calls.Shamu-El, the Lord hears, calls you, Samuel, to hear!
And the servant of the Lord says “Speak, for your servant hears.”
Samuel, the deliverer, is being called by God to bring salvation to his people, and he responds promptly and with an open ear. In the darkness of midnight in the temple, with but a flicker of the lamp of the lord dimly shining in the midst of the surrounding physical and spiritual darkness, the Lord stands before his chosen one, and speaks his name.
This is the voice of God calling for his beloved child, as he has spoken in our ears and in our hearts by the Holy Spirit when he also called us by name.
God is calling his servant Samuel by name, out of darkness into his marvelous light.
The whole picture of the lamp of the Lord, the calling of Samuel, Samuel, the presence of the Lord, and specially Samuel’s words – here I am – point directly to another deliverer who was called in the same way.
Four hundred years before Samuel, the angel of the LORD appeared to Moses in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. When Moses turned so see the sight of the bush that was burning and yet not consumed, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!”
And he said, “Here I am.”
Then the Lord said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground” (Ex. 3).
Now the dark tabernacle with the dim light at night is, by the presence of the Lord, made again into that which it should always had been – a holy ground – and Samuel is being called to be God’s instrument to bring another exodus for his people.
This is the new exodus of deliverance from their oppressors – here, the Philistines – and most importantly and exodus from their barrenness, deafness and blindness.
But before that new exodus is accomplished, there has to be judgment, and both the corrupt priesthood and the glory of the Lord will be removed for a time.
In verses 11-15 God tells Samuel that he is about to do a thing in Israel at which the two ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. The corrupt and immoral priesthood of the sons of Eli will be removed. Eli and his house will be replaced.
God delivers a message of judgment to Samuel, but it is in his mercy that he is sending his word to his young prophet, because even in judgment he has not deserted Israel to their own devices. He will cleanse his house and establish his kingdom.
[15 Samuel lay until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the Lord.]
The picture is that of Samuel pushing the doors open, as the light of the morning floods into the tabernacle that had been dark.
The light of the Word of God has come to Israel, he has opened the ears of his chosen prophet and priest, and the darkness is being dispelled. Here the narrative once again vividly combines the physical picture with the spiritual picture.
In this particular imagery, there is a sort of double meaning, since, physically, it is as Samuel opens the doors of the house of the Lord that the morning light breaks through and comes in.
Yet spiritually, it is just the opposite; Israel was in darkness, and as Samuel opens the door, it is the light of the Word of God which shines from the inside out – from the holy place of the restored presence of God – to flood the land with the morning dawn.
Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli, but as the high priest presses Samuel, he tells Eli what YHWH had revealed to him. There is nothing left for Eli other than resignation: “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.]
As a boy, Samuel is now growing both in stature and wisdom in the house of the Lord. The first sentence of verse 1 of chapter 4, which really belongs here as a closing sentence of this narrative, states that “And the word of Samuel came to all Israel.”
Samuel, whose birth was prayed for at the doorway of the tabernacle, opened that doorway to bring a new birth for Israel. Samuel has heard the Word, and now he is able to open the door and spread it.
The Lord has come into his temple, and from there the fire of his light, as with the burning bush of old, will judge and burn, but it will not consume. It will cleanse the land, beginning with the tabernacle itself, but it will bring restoration and hope to his people.
But as we know, even that deliverance would not be final until the coming of the Messiah.
In our New Testament passage we see some of the same elements of the narrative of 1 Samuel, but now with the final fulfillment of the promises of God in Christ. After Jesus was born, his family settled in Nazareth, and there’s were our narrative picks up in Luke
And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.
After telling us in the previous verses about the Annunciation to Mary, the Magnificat which parallels the prayer of Hannah, and the virgin birth, Luke now tells us that the promised child is growing in stature and wisdom and that the favor of God was upon him.
Just like the boy Samuel who was growing in stature and wisdom, and upon whom God’s favor rested, so now the boy Jesus has come to deliver his people from barrenness and darkness.
Wisdom Himself becomes incarnate as a child who now grows in wisdom – deity and humanity perfectly united.
Just like the boy Samuel, the first description of the boy Jesus’ actions take place within the temple of God.