When the Wrath of God Falls Upon His Servants (1 Samuel 1-3)

Daily reading assignment: 1 Samuel 1-3

Our “Chronological Read-thru the Bible” schedule brings us to 1 Samuel.  The history, personalities, and principles found in 1 Samuel are too rich to summarize in brief devotional commentaries, but, that is my challenge.  Please do not rush your reading or overlook the treasure trove of spiritual truths found in 1 Samuel 1-3.

1 Samuel 1 – Several historic names come to the forefront in our introductory reading.

Elkanah (1:1), whose lineage was Levite through Kohath a son of Levi.  Elkanah had two wives (1:2): Peninnah, who had given him several sons and daughters, and his favored wife Hannah, who was barren (1:2-8).

Hannah was the object of abuse from Peninnah and she grieved her barrenness (1:7-8). Every year at the time of their pilgrimage to Shiloh where the Tabernacle was located, Hannah prayed with tears asking the LORD to give her a son, promising to dedicate him to the LORD and consecrate him as a Nazarite (1:9-11).

The LORD heard and answered Hannah’s prayers (1:19), and she gave birth to a son she named Samuel, meaning “heard of God” (1:20). I am sure there are mothers reading today’s scripture whose hearts resonate with Hannah’s when she prays:

1 Samuel 1:27-28 – “For this child I prayed; and the LORD hath given me my petition which I asked of him: 28  Therefore also I have lent him to the LORD; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the LORD…”

1 Samuel 2 – From Joy to Tragedy

Hannah broke into a song of praise and thanksgiving (2:1-10) after dedicating Samuel to the LORD.  Scholars suggest he was three years old when she left him to serve in the Tabernacle at Shiloh, while she and Elkanah went home to Ramah.  There the LORD remembered Hannah’s sacrifice and honored her with “three sons and two daughters,” in addition to Samuel (2:21).

1 Samuel 2:12-17 takes on an ominous tone, and I wonder if Hannah did not struggle entrusting Samuel to Eli’s care. Eli, who was high priest and judge in Israel, had two sons serving as priests, Hophni and Phinehas. We read, they “were sons of Belial [lit. wickedness; worthless; ungodly]; they knew not the LORD” (2:12). Those sons were notoriously wicked and abused their priestly office, not only provoking the people who brought sacrifices (2:12-17), but inviting God’s judgment on their father and his lineage (2:22-36).

Old is No Excuse (2:22-36)

Don’t dismiss the mutual burden Eli shared with his sons and their wickedness as priests. Some might argue, “Eli was very old, and we should not be hard on the man” (2:22). Such was not the case in the LORD’S judgment.

Eli was aware of the sins committed by his sons (2:22-23) and his weak, emasculated rebuke of them was not only despicable, it was tragic (2:23-24). No wonder we read of his sons, they “hearkened not unto the voice of their father” (2:25). They had no fear of God and no respect for their father.

Here is a spiritual lesson leaders and board members of churches and institutions should heed before it is too late.

Eli compromised the priesthood by failing to rebuke and restrain his sons’ wickedness. Is that not the sin that is haunting ministries in our day? Might it be the spiritual decline of our churches, schools, and Bible colleges has its roots in the same failures we observe in Eli?

Warning: Spiritual leaders may be tempted to sacrifice the spiritual integrity of their institutions as an accommodation of their own children’s sins.

The LORD set Himself against Eli for his failure as a father and high priest.  He determined to slay Eli’s sons because Eli had honored his sons above the LORD (2:29). Eli was told his household would be disgraced (2:30) and his sons would die before they were old, and on the same day (2:32, 34).

1 Samuel 3“Speak, For Thy Servant Heareth” (3:10)

Never to leave His people in want, God was preparing Samuel to be His servant (2:26; 3:1a). Still in his youth, Samuel’s heart was tender, and when the LORD called him he was ready to hear and obey (3:1-10).

The first revelation to Samuel is distressing. God revealed His judgment on Eli and his sons would cause Israel to tremble (3:11).  Because he had known the wickedness committed by his sons in the priesthood and had failed to restrain them (3:12-13), Eli had been warned God’s judgment would not be satisfied until his lineage was cut off forever (3:14).

The next morning, Eli asked Samuel, “What is the thing that the LORD hath said unto thee?” (3:17) Samuel told him everything, and Eli resigned himself to God’s judgment, saying, “It is the LORD: let Him do what seemeth Him good” (3:18).

1 Samuel 3 concludes reminding us that God honors and rewards faithfulness to His Word (3:19-21).

1 Samuel 3:19 – “And Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him, and did let none of His words [words and instructions of the LORD] fall to the ground [perish or be despised].”

The LORD was once again present in Shiloh, “for the LORD revealed Himself to Samuel” (3:21).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith