I Samuel 3:1-21 The Call To Samuel.
Whoever the “man of God” was, mentioned at 2:27, his appearance as a prophet was rare (v. 1). “In the Old Testament this designation is often used interchangeably with “prophet” (9:8-11; 1 Kin. 13:15-18; 2Kin. 5:8; 6:10-12).” (NGSB 381) This first verse is one among many that teach that revelation from a biblical perspective is equivalent to receiving the word of God. It says there was no “widespread revelation,” but there was some, as the LORD has never not had a witness. This was a time of leadership transition. Sadly, Eli in his old age and with his passing would be known by future generations as a man who honoured his sons more than he honoured his God (v. 2; 2:29).
God intended that this transition take place “before the lamp of God went out in the tabernacle of the LORD where the ark of God was” (v. 3). Eli would sleep the sleep of death, but while Samuel slept the sleep of rest, “the LORD called Samuel” (v. 4a). Samuel answered Eli, since he thought that this was who was calling, so we know that it was the common voice of a man he knew (v. 4b). As it turns out it took four times before little Sammy knew it was the LORD speaking to him (vv. 5-9). When it says that “Samuel did not yet know the LORD,” it does not mean that he was not a regenerate believer or ‘saved’. What this phrase means is explained with the one which follows it.
“Nor was the word of the LORD yet revealed to him,” is the underlying theme here, as was stated at verse 1. Samuel was already the LORD’s servant when he asked the LORD to speak yet again, that he would hear (v. 10). A new chapter was about to open up in salvation history, and as is the biblical norm, acts of redemption and judgment would be accompanied by the revelatory word (v. 11). It would be judgment for Eli and his house (v. 12), “because his sons made themselves vile, and he did not restrain them” (v. 13). Their iniquity would not be atoned for (v. 14). It is ironic that they would not receive the atonement that the ceremonies they performed were to typify.
As was his custom, in the morning Samuel opened the doors of the house of the LORD, but he was understandably “afraid to tell Eli the vision” (v. 15). Any true minister of the word will have times when the LORD asks one to speak his word to power. Eli, in spite of the pathetic state of his spiritual life, at least recognized that he could not fight against God, and so he implored Samuel to relay all that the LORD had spoken to him (vv. 16-17). Eli knew that it was the LORD who spoke to young Samuel, and that He would do “what seems good to Him” (v. 18). This is a confession of God’s absolute sovereignty. “So Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him” (v. 19a).
It was because the LORD was with Samuel that he “let none of his words fall to the ground” (v. 19b). It is repeatedly noted that Samuel “ministered to the LORD” (v. 1; I Sam. 2:11, 18). When ministry is mentioned it usually refers to ministry to people. Here we have a reminder that all true ministers first and foremost minister to the LORD. Samuel did this before Eli, “even as a child, wearing a linen ephod” (2:18). On the ephod were two stones with the names of the 12 tribes – 6 on each, so that the priest also represented and interceded for the people (Ex. 28:4ff). The tri-colours of blue, scarlet, and purple represented the three anointed mediatorial offices.
Those three offices were that of the prophet of the word (blue), the priest offering sacrifice (red for blood), and purple for the royalty of the king.* So the ephod represented both the people and their Messiah in his threefold mediatorial offices. The transition had to be made before things got so desperate that there would no longer be any oil for the lamp that was to be kept burning (v. 3 Cf. Ex. 27:20-21). The judgment upon the house of Eli would be complete (vv. 13-14 Cf. 2:12, 17, 22-23, 25, 29-31). Eli and his sons had acted presumptuously (Cf. Nu. 15:30-31). Samuel would be the ‘man of God’ that people would be forced to do to, whether they liked what he said or not (9:6).
“From Dan to Beersheba” (v. 20a), refers to the “all the children of Israel” (Ju. 20:1), “knew that Samuel had been established as a prophet of the LORD” (v. 20b). Establishment of Samuel as a prophet and man of God was through the guidelines of the law and the prophets who preceded, in that Samuel’s predictions came to pass and he lived his life in fidelity to that same word (Cf. Dt. 13; 18:15ff.; II Sam. 3:10; 17:11; 24:25; I Kin. 4:25). “‘The word of the LORD came to all Israel’ (4:1). The episode that began with a notice of the rarity of the word of the Lord (sic) (3:1) concludes with a notice of the change brought by the selection of Samuel to be ‘a prophet of the LORD.’” (NGSB 382)