And Samuel lay until the morning, and opened the doors of the house of the LORD. And Samuel feared to show Eli the vision.
The Bible is filled with remarkable contrasts between people. For example, consider Samuel and the sons of Eli. Samuel, who was not Eli's son but was nurtured in the Lord by Eli, was a young man who found favor in the eyes of God. Hophni and Phinehas, who were Eli's sons but were not nurtured in the Lord by Eli, found nothing but shame in the eyes of God.
Born in answer to prayer and dedicated at birth by his mother to the service of the Lord, Samuel was trained at Shiloh by Eli the priest. His heart was tender toward the Lord and his ears were open to hear God's voice. Eli's sons were "sons of Belial" and instead of being content with that portion of the sacrifices allotted to them by law, they devised devious means of obtaining greater portions of the sacrifice. Moreover, they profaned the Tabernacle with their licentious practices at the very door of the house of God.
1 Samuel 3:13 correctly describes the attitude which led to the downfall of Hophni and Phinehas. Speaking of Eli's sons the Bible says, "His sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not." Here is a classic case of a man so involved in his ministry that he neglected his family. Someone has said, perhaps with tongue in cheek, that if a man sees his sons going down the wrong track, probably it's because he did not switch them soon enough. Eli certainly failed to "switch" his sons and keep them on track for God.
During those days of crisis God had been strangely silent. "The word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no open vision." But God decided to speak face to face with Samuel and in the middle of the night called out to him. The young child's immediate response was, "Here am I." Samuel ran to the bedside of Eli, assuming the voice was his. The priest sent him back to bed, perhaps thinking that the young lad was only dreaming. Twice again this strange phenomenon occurred, and finally Eli recognized this to be the voice of God. His advice to Samuel was that the next time the voice called he should answer, "Speak LORD; for thy servant heareth." The boy returned to bed.
When the Lord called him again, Samuel answered as Eli had instructed, "And the LORD said to Samuel, Behold, I will do a thing in Israel, at which both the ears of every one that heareth it shall tingle." Jehovah was about to judge Eli and his family for their failure to heed His word and for the sons' unrighteousness at the temple door. Being the bearer of such information to one who had been both his mentor and friend would not be an easy task for Samuel. He lay until the morning awaiting God's courage (1 Samuel 3:15). When asked by Eli in the morning what the Lord spoke to him through the night, Samuel reluctantly imparted that information to the priest.
In the contrast between Samuel and Hophni and Phinehas it is worthy to note that while Hophni and Phinehas were born into their service, there is no evidence that they ever appreciated their position before the Lord. Samuel, on the other hand, was born outside of the service of God but was dedicated to it at birth. Had Eli "switched" his sons more often and instilled in them a reverence for the Lord, as he did with Samuel, the ears of Israel would have had no occasion to tingle at the tragic deaths of Eli and his wicked sons (see 1 Samuel 4:10-22). Fathers, take care that you don't "gain the whole world but lose your own family."
MORNING HYMN Take the world, but give me Jesus All its joys are but a name; But His love abideth ever Through eternal years the same.
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