1 Samuel 1–5: An Old Priest & A Young Prophet

Read the Bible in 2011 ◊ Week 11: Tuesday

Thus Samuel grew and the LORD was with him and let none of his words fail. All Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of the LORD.
1 Samuel 3:19–20

Tuesday’s Bible reading of 1 Samuel 1–5, begins with the record of another family during the days of the Judges: the story of Hannah and her longing for a child. God answers the prayer of her distress, and Samuel is born, and when he is weaned, Hannah brings him to the tabernacle at Shiloh (cf. Joshua 18:1), where he stays to minister to the Lord before Eli, the priest.

One evening, while he is still a boy, the Lord speaks to Samuel and tells him of the judgment that is about to come upon Eli and his house because his sons despised God with their casual wickedness.

“For I have told him that I am about to judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knew, because his sons brought a curse on themselves and he did not rebuke them.”
1 Samuel 3:13

In chapter four, the Israelites go to meet the Philistines in battle, taking the Ark of the Covenant with them. Israel is defeated, Eli’s sons are killed and the Ark is taken by the Philistines. Upon hearing of the death of his sons, Eli dies, and when his pregnant daughter-in-law hears the Ark is gone and that Eli and her husband are dead, she goes into labor and dies giving birth to a son.

When my children were growing up, the story of Eli and his sons stood as a strong reminder for me when I was tired or tempted to let things slide that I should not become weary in their training and discipline for their sake—for their future well-being. Spoiling and letting a child get his way may earn a few hours of ease, but that’s about it. Years ago I heard an early childhood professor tell a group of mothers of infants to consider what a child’s current behavior could become six months down the road. While sleep and eating were the main topics, I thought his words had broad application for child rearing in thinking about attitudes, habits and relationships.

I also want to mention that the event of God speaking to Samuel about His coming judgment on the house of Eli has erroneously been used to justify the prevalent idea, found among proponents of contemplative prayer in the mysticism sweeping the Christian church today, that God will speak to us in prayer. This is an heretical concept of prayer. Samuel was a prophet, and in fact that God chose to speak to him had to do with Samuel’s Old Testament prophetic office, and not with any doctrine or teaching on prayer. The event in 1 Samuel 3, is not even a prayer and cannot serve as an example.

Joyce Huggett mentions Samuel in The Joy of Listening to God1 and Priscilla Shirer (who strongly recommends Huggett’s book2) in He Speaks to Me: Preparing to Hear the Voice of God3 (the first chapter is about Samuel). Huggett has derived her own thinking on prayer from Catholic and Anglican mystics; some of whom bring into the mix the thinking and practices of Buddhism, Hinduism and the New Age. Both Huggett and Shirer use poor hermeneutics, as I outlined above, in their use of God speaking to Samuel to justify their concept of prayer. My former pastor, Mike Braun, writes:

“The normative venue for the voice of God is the inspired Word of God. We are to expect God to “speak” to us continually and directly through this means, both collectively and privately. I would not say that God refuses to speak audibly to others in our post-canonical age, but were he to do so, it is a safe bet that it is meant for their “ears” only. It is not to be expected as a normal experience and we will waste precious time waiting for such an event to energize our devotion and service. Everything we share or expect to enjoy in this life is to be monitored and verified by Scripture. The only credentials that verify the truth is the truth itself, the truth of God’s Word. We are to train ourselves in this, seeking God’s approval in knowing and doing what His word has revealed. Intimacy with him comes from moral obedience, prayer and pure devotion based on his Word. (Eph 4:30; 1 Thes 5:19-22) His demands for us are clear. Our “demands” on him must be Biblical and tempered by an awareness of our mortality and his holiness. In short, don’t expect to hear his voice, rather expect to know his will and do it. Any other experiences will be at God’s prerogative and not our insistence.”

At some point I want to write in more detail on this subject, but I do want to say that I think one of the reasons the idea of “hearing God’s voice” has become so popular is that the church has had far too many broken down relationships or impersonal interactions amongst the people within the church. The result has been, in my opinion, a seeking of an experience of God to make up for the lack of warm, loving experiences with one another. The problems we have in relating to one another and the lack of love we experience within the church are driving far too many to seek a mystical experience of assurance of the love and presence of God. We seek from God experiences He has meant us to have with one another.

The church has also not thoroughly taught God’s people about salvation and grace, the Holy Spirit and the doctrine of sanctification, the Holy Spirit and the doctrine of illumination, and what the Bible teaches about being Christians being united with Christ is His death, burial and Resurrection. People are buried under legalism and seek an experience as their way out rather than the truth of the Word of God.

In other words, love and truth are so needed in today’s churches as the antidote to the counterfeit spirituality that is deceiving so many.

We can learn about parenting from Eli in these chapters, and in 1 Samuel 1–5, we can learn about prayer from Hannah, but not from her son, Samuel.

Isaiah 42 Photograph: ChristianPhotos.net – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications
Hannah & Little Samuel, Zion Church: Public Domain.
1Joyce Huggett, The Joy of Listening to God, p. 85.
2http://www.goingbeyond.com/ministry-faqs retrieved June 26, 2010.
3Priscilla Shirer, He Speaks to Me: Preparing to Hear the Voice of God, p. 14.

Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter

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