By Luke Johnson | October 10, 2017
Take some time to see how everyone is doing, and to pray for each other.
Hannah’s prayer is like a table of contents or an ingredients list for the book of Samuel, telling us beforehand all the sorts of things we’ll see God do in the stories that follow.
Let’s use Hannah’s prayer as a pair of glasses to help us see what’s going on.
READ: 1 Samuel 2:1-10
What sorts of things happen to the “faithful servants” and “the wicked”? (2:9-10)
What is God’s place in all of this? (What does Hannah say about God?)
Keep this in mind as we read on!
READ 1 Samuel 3:1 - 4:1a (stop before the “Philistines” heading)
What stood out to you? Anything weird / surprising / cool / encouraging / hard to hear?
What do you make of the rarity of “visions” and “the word of the LORD”? (3:1)
Why might God choose to withhold his voice?
From other stories in the Bible, what happens when God begins to speak?
(Creation, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Gideon…)
Now God is speaking directly to Samuel. What is the author trying to tell us about him?
The Complicated Character of Eli
Eli is a tricky but important character. He’s a bit hard to figure out. How does the author want us to view him? (What does the author do to shape his character?)
Cast your vote: Is Eli good or bad?
3:2 - Eli’s weak eyes - notice ref. to weak vision comes right after ref. to “visions” in 3:1.
He can’t see normal things, and he can’t “see”God. He’s blind in more than one way!
3:5-6 - Eli the veteran priest doesn’t recognize God’s call.
3:8-9 - Eli finally catches on, and then is actually able to help Samuel respond to God.
3:13 - Eli has failed to restrain his sons - he knows his sons are evil, but does nothing.
3:18 - Eli has to hear God’s words from young Samuel. But Eli is the priest of Israel!
3:18 - Eli’s response to God’s words: “Let the LORD do what is good in his eyes.”
Sum it up: How would you describe Eli’s character? Good? Bad? Both? Some combo?
Just as in the scene with Hannah in chapter 1, Eli gets it wrong at first. But after he wakes up and realizes what is going on, he is able to act like a proper priest. He advises Samuel, gives him words to say in response to God. And when he hears God’s judgment, he accepts it. Much like the “lamp of God” that had nearly gone out (3:3), Eli’s ministry was nearly at its end, but God was still able to use even the little bit of light he still shed.
The Increase of Samuel
How does the story shape our view of Samuel? How is Samuel’s character built up?
3:4 - Sam hears a voice in the middle of the night. What’s his reaction?
(Runs to Eli’s side immediately - ready to serve.)
3:7 - Sam doesn’t recognize God’s voice, but what does the author say about it?
(“Give him a break, okay?! He hasn’t officially met God yet!”)
3:10 - “The LORD came and stood there” -- this is now a vision, not just a voice!
Why does this matter? (cf., 3:1)
3:10 - Sam follows Eli’s advice to the letter (even though he’s probably terrified!)
3:15 - Sam completes his temple chores, all the while afraid to talk to Eli.
Why is he afraid? Is this fear portrayed positively or negatively?
3:18 - Eli demands to hear everything the LORD said. How does Sam respond?
3:19, 21 - How does the author describe the LORD’s support of Samuel?
3:20, 4:1a - How is Samuel’s influence in Israel described?
(“Dan” = far north. “Beersheba” = far south. ALL ISRAEL!)
Sum it up: What opinion of Samuel does the author want us to have?
Think about Hannah’s prayer again: What happens to “the faithful” vs. “the wicked”? (2:9-10)
Do you notice any of this happening in the story of Samuel and Eli?
Where might we find pictures of Jesus in this story?
In the voice and vision of the LORD? (calling patiently; coming alongside Samuel)
In Samuel’s example? (innocence, gentleness, ear for God, faithful servant)
(If you have time, you might compare Samuel with the boy Jesus in Luke 2:41-52.)
Samuel didn’t transform into an amazing prophet-hero in a magical puff of smoke.
He grew up into it. God equipped him, slowly over time. His mother Hannah said, “It is not by strength that one prevails” (2:9). God doesn’t call us and then abandon us to figure it out on our own. He invites us into his own work, work that he has already completed, work that he is excited to share with you. What might God be asking of you?