1 Samuel 3 is an unusual story about Samuel’s calling. This is a story that reminds us that God has not forgotten His people. It is a story about an elderly, incompetent priest and a little boy trying to find his way. When Samuel Heard the Lord’s calling he seemed to be in the habit of receiving directions from Eli.
When Samuel heard the Lord calling his name, he immediately thought it was Eli and ran to him to ask what he needed. It wasn’t Eli calling so Eli sent him back to bed. The second time the voice calls Samuel, again he springs to his feet and runs to the priest again; again he is sent back to bed. The third time the voice calls Samuel, still willing and accommodating, he runs to Eli’s side but this time he is sent back with a different answer. Eli tells Samuel the next time the Lord calls out your name, say this, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
Samuel’s life unquestionably contrasted sharply with Eli’s wicked sons. While the sins of Hophni and Phinehas were increasing in scale (1 Samuel 2:17), Samuel’s importance and good standing were also increasing. As God and the Jewish people were condemning Hophni and Phinehas, Samuel was being commended. This story describes Samuel’s transformation from a boy (“naʿar,” 1 Samuel 3:1) to a prophet (“nābîʾ” 1 Samuel 3:20). Sameul had grown from being a youth ignorant of the Lord to one who functioned as the Lord’s perfect and revered spokesman.
The Lord tells Samuel he has the message to deliver. It is a message that Samuel doesn’t want to deliver. Samuel’s first act as prophet was perhaps his most difficult; though only a child, he had to announce the Lord’s fatal judgment against Israel’s most powerful family – Eli and his sons. The Lord warns Samuel, “I am about to do something in Israel that everyone who hears about it will shudder.” It is a message that confirms the curse on Eli’s family. Samuel didn’t want to tell Eli that the Lord was going to judge his family forever because “his sons are cursing God, and he has not stopped them.” In humble resignation Eli responded, “He is the Lord. Let him do what he thinks is good.”