1 Samuel 3 Contextual Notes:
According to John G. Butler, Samuel was
Conceived in Prayer (1 Samuel 1)
Consecrated to God (1 Samuel 2)
Called of God (1 Samuel 3)
Samuel himself was an answer to prayer for the intercessor Hannah. The prayer warrior Samuel grew into one of Israel’s greatest leaders, helping the nation transition from an old tribal confederacy of divisions and personal prejudices to a monarchy, a unified nation under the leadership of a king.
In the first three chapters, the author alternates between the boy Samuel and the sons of Eli, called “sons of Belial” in order to present a sharp contrast of how good Samuel is. Alexander Maclaren, that great 19th C Scottish expositor called Samuel “a white flower blossoming on a dunghill.” Eli’s sons acted arrogantly, in full knowledge that what they did was wrong with utter contempt for God personally and for His Law. Samuel responded with faithfulness and obedience to God’s word.
How old was Samuel? The Hebrew word means “young person” and suggests he was in his early teens when this incident took place.
Samuel was a man who walked in close fellowship with God, who lived an upright life, who was born in prayer and was a man of prayer, and who faithfully declared the message of God though his hearers did not want to hear it sometimes. Samuel was a tower of strength, steadfastly loyal to God, and a great example for every believer.
Samuel’s desire for God’s Presence
1 Samuel 3:3, 15, 19
Samuel’s Willingness to Obey
1 Samuel 3:4-6, 8-9, 17-18
He was afraid: This “was Samuel’s first experience of the prophet’s cross: having unwelcome truth to divulge to those he loved, honored, and feared.”
Samuel’s faithfulness to the Word
1 Samuel 3:7, 11-14, 18, 19-21; 1 Samuel 4:1
Samuel’s first test was this – Was he going to be honest with Eli about what God had said? There could be consequences. Eli could beat him, abuse him, starve him, or worse, for young Samuel’s saying things against his family. But Samuel was faithful to the word of God despite the potential consequences. He was afraid (3:15, but Samuel told him everything (3:18).
The OT prophets were often called to warn Israel of coming judgment for sin. They were not especially popular in their own time!
Presbyterian leader in the mid-20th century, Robert McNeill, in a small book called Prophet, Speak Now! published in 1961 writes, “The main issue of Christianity is being religiously avoided. Instead of possessing a vibrant faith, Christians are content to go to church on Sunday and refrain from the obvious sins, but we are not prepared to submit our whole lives to Christ and His Lordship. We are not prepared to obey His Word over our whole lives. “When the preacher condemns customs and practices of long standing, the people cry aloud for a pastor who will visit, pray, and condone and not disturb them from the pulpit with the ethical demands of the gospel.
First Samuel 3:20 says that all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized Samuel’s office as a prophet of the Lord. That’s like saying, “from New York to L.A.” Why? Because of Samuel’s faithfulness to the Word and person of God. But Samuel’s ministry was not well received, which is not unusual for God’s servants. Though he was the best of Israel’s judges, Israel wanted a king. Though as a prophet he warned them of the burden of a King, Israel ignored him. Samuel could not get along with Israel’s first king Saul because Saul was a man of pride and sin. Eventually, Samuel was cut off from his association with Saul because of the king’s sin, but he had a deep relationship with David, another man after God’s own heart.
No one in the Bible has as much Scripture under his name as Samuel does. Samuel was a man of the word.
Samuel’s Biblical understanding of Prayer
1 Samuel 3:10
A two-way conversation
* We must pray for our children and grandchildren to be rooted in Christ.
* We must train our children as mothers and fathers to give attention to the Lord in His Word and in Prayer.
* We must build into our children a willingness to be obedient to Christ. (Our hypocrisy shows to our children when we go play church at 11am on Sunday and then go home and rip apart everyone and everything that happened at church.)
* We must model for our children a life of prayer, a life in the Word, and a willingness to be obedient to his Lordship in our lives.
These are the days that God is cleansing us of the way of Eli – fat, lazy, spiritually out of shape, his sons sleeping with prostitutes and stealing the best meat for themselves, a way of division, of infighting, of personal agendas and back room politics.
The Lord is bringing us into the way of Samuel, to hear His Voice, to live in close relationship with Him, to speak the word of God boldly, to live a life of radical holiness, to become a prayer warrior. He is calling us to unity, to submission of our ways to His way, to laying down our own agendas to take up His agenda, to walk away from provincial ignorance and embrace the way of the King, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the head of the Church.
 John G. Butler, Samuel: A Prophet of Transition, (Clinton, IA: LBC Publications, 1997), 54.
 Butler, 7.
 Butler, 62.
 Robert B. McNeill, Prophet, Speak Now! (John Knox Press, 1961), inside front cover.
 Butler, 7.