Children of the Bible, Part 4 by Allan McGuirl
Key Verse: I Samuel 1-3
Recently we have been talking about children of the Bible. One of the most interesting figures in the Old Testament was a star player in anointing the first two kings of Israel: King Saul and King David.
We are introduced to him as a boy growing up in a godly home, the foundation of his future prominence as the national leader of all Israel. As you read about Samuel, you know he was a man of prayer; and even before he was born, we see his mother was a great woman of prayer.
Here are a few interesting facts about this particular child of the Bible. We know the Bible speaks of many adults seeking God’s help, but only a handful of significant pregnancies are mentioned. Great detail is given in this case; perhaps there are women reading this who have been praying for years to have a child. Well, back then, this was the case with Hannah. From I Samuel 1 we see that Hannah and her husband, Elkanah, were very committed to walking with the Lord. Yearly, they went from their home in Ramah to Shiloh to worship the Lord and make a sacrificial offering. The tabernacle had been pitched there, and it was to that place that the Israelites would travel for the various feasts and sacrifices. One day Hannah got up and slipped away towards the door of the temple/tabernacle. Eli the priest saw her there and noticed how her lips were moving but no sound was coming from her mouth. He thought she was drunk. Now you might ask why he would think that, but Israel at that time was generally not following the Lord or His commandments. Sacrilege and immorality had become interwoven with the worship of God as the Israelites adopted various pagan practices of idol worship that existed around them. As Eli began to verbally chastise Hannah, he quickly realized that she had been anguishing in prayer. Recognizing her sincere petition before God, he told her to “go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of Him.”
Amazingly, Hannah left the temple rejoicing. What a demonstration of her deep-rooted faith, and within the year, God granted her petition and she had a beautiful son, Samuel, meaning “name of God”, or “God has heard.” Hannah’s prayer of thanksgiving in I Samuel 2 is rich with her knowledge of God and trust in Him, but we will not dwell on that here. Now Hannah had promised to give this special son back to God to serve Him, and when the time came for him to be dedicated to the Lord for this purpose, she travelled back with him to Shiloh and placed him in the care of Eli, the high priest. Can we even imagine, in spite of her faith in God and confidence that God would care for her son, how difficult it must have been for Hannah to say goodbye to Samuel, turn around, and walk home? God had taken Hannah seriously and given her a son, and now Hannah took God seriously and gave him back. In her heart she had been blessed with a son and the ability to nurture him for those few years. She could not, would not, back down on her promise. And God, in His gracious way, did not forget Hannah either. He gave her three more sons and two daughters.
Now many of us know the story of God speaking to Samuel. Remember, he had gone to bed, and so had Eli, when he heard his name being called. He ran to Eli to find out what he wanted. Eli was surprised and told Samuel he hadn’t called and that Samuel should go back to bed. Twice more Samuel heard the call and ran to Eli, and again Eli said he didn’t call him. By then, however, he realized that it was God who was calling Samuel. He instructed the boy, “If you hear the call again, you are to answer, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” Samuel returned and again heard the voice calling, “Samuel, Samuel”, and he replied just as Eli had told him to. God’s first message to Samuel was a very difficult one to hear. It concerned the judgment of Eli and his wicked sons. Now, we don’t know Samuel’s exact age at this time, but I think it is safe to presume he was a young teenager, maybe 12 to 14 years of age. The next morning, I picture Samuel trying somewhat to avoid Eli. He knows Eli will ask him God’s purpose in speaking to him during the night, and sure enough, Eli pumped him for the information. Samuel had to be aware by this time of the evil deeds of Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phineas, but Eli himself was a godly man. It must have been very difficult for him to face Eli with the news of God’s judgment. We may wonder that God’s very first revelation to Samuel at such a young age would be so hard to share. However, this we know, God knew what He was doing.
As we read on about Samuel’s childhood, there are several verses that really stand out. In I Samuel 2:26 we read, “And the boy Samuel continued to grow in stature and in favour with the Lord and with the people.” First we see here that Samuel was flourishing under the hand of Eli – perhaps Eli saw him, in contrast to his own sons, as a sincere follower of God and nurtured him to become what his own sons would never be.
In I Samuel 3:1 it says, “The boy, Samuel, ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.”
There was a scarcity of God’s word and intervention in the lives of His people as they turned away from Him. God’s time had come to use a young boy to change that trend and turn the people back to Himself.
Then we read in I Samuel 3:19 & 20, “The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the Lord. The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh, and there He revealed himself to Samuel through His word.” As Samuel grew in his walk with the Lord, the people around him, and, in fact, all of Israel, could see that Samuel was God’s man. Even at a young age, it was evident that God was speaking to and through him and causing him to rise on the spiritual horizon of His people. Hannah’s prayers, faith, and investment in her young son prepared him for God’s purposes many years down the road. As the days of the priests gave way to the times of the prophets, Samuel became the first major prophet-leader of God’s people. Parents, you who have young children, remember that what you feed into their lives now will be preparing them for life ahead. How important it is nurture our children and build them up in God’s word and God’s ways while they are young, preparing them to serve God wholeheartedly in adulthood.
May the Lord bless you as you pray for and support any young children in your sphere of influence.