|Hannah bringing Samuel to Eli - Artist George Tinswell|
Samuel was promised to the Lord by his mother before he was even born. When he was weaned, his mother brought him to the temple, where he was mentored by Eli, the high priest. The young Samuel served the Lord by assisting Eli. Thus, from childhood he learned how to serve the Lord.. As was the custom, Samuel and Eli slept in small rooms outside the Holy Place. In one room was Eli, and in another nearby room was Samuel, the apprentice to the priests.
God needed to deliver an important message. You or I would have probably chosen the priest to speak to, but God chose the child. Eli was much older, but Samuel's faith was pure. Eli possessed the title and social position, but Samuel had the willingness to say, "Here I am; I am listening."
Yes, Eli was a high priest. But, he was also the father of two sons. Two very immoral and blasphemous sons. Eli's sons robbed and seduced people at the very entrance to the temple as they arrived to worship and to offer sacrifices for their sins. When Eli was told of this matter, he spoke to his sons about it, but did not discipline them. Furthermore, Eli failed to follow up on them and see if their behavior had changed. It did not; they continued to blaspheme the temple and the Lord. Eli put his sons' desires above the honor of God. Thus, when God spoke to Samuel, the message was something like this:
"I have warned Eli before that his sons have made themselves contemptible, but Eli failed to restrain them. The guilt of Eli's house will never be forgotten by sacrifice or offering.."
|Eli listening to Samuel Artist: John Singleton Coply|
That morning when Samuel opened the doors of the house of the Lord, he was afraid to tell Eli what the fearful message was. But Eli insisted, and Samuel finally told him in full. Eli realized his wrongdoing, and said, "He is the Lord; let Him do what is good in his eyes." Eli had spent his entire life serving God, but he had neglected his family duties. Now the :Lord planned to discipline Eli and his sons. The fearful message God gave to Samuel was that Eli and his sons would die... on the same day.
At a later date Eli's two sons were killed in battle - on the same day, as foretold by Samuel in his vision. When Eli was told of his sons' deaths, he fell backwards and broke his neck, further fulfilling the prophecy. What an inglorious ending to a long career of service! Whatever Eli's intentions may have been at the beginning of his priesthood, his lasting reputation was that of one who ignored God's word.
But Samuel grew in stature with the word of God.
Sadly, we can probably all recall instances of clergy within our lifetimes who have met inglorious ends to their careers as well. It is always a grievous thing to have turned one's back on God after committing one's life to His service.
Are you an Eli? Or a Samuel?