1 Samuel 8 has him making his sons judges over Israel. He had two – Joel and Abijah – and they were made judges. Unfortunately “his sons did not walk in his ways but turned aside after gain….took bribes….perverted justice”. They were bad dudes and took advantage of their position to line their own pockets. God is not pleased. The elders of Israel came to Samuel and said “you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways”. They knew Samuel was not behind their greed and selfish ways, but probably wasn’t even aware at his age of what his sons were up to.
Samuel prayed to the Lord. He does the one thing all parents need to do a lot more of. We need to take our kids to the Lord in prayer. Samuel explains to God the request the people have made – to give them a king to judge them. It wasn’t that they didn ‘t want a king, it was that they wanted judges that were fair and didn’t take advantage of their power or position for their own gain. God tells Samuel “they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them”.
So God tells Samuel to give them what they want but “solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them”. God’s going to give them what they want, but He wants to show them exactly what they are going to get. Their sons will become part of the army, their daughters to be part of the working. He will take their fields and vineyards and orchards and a tenth of their flocks. There will be a significant cost to the kingly model. And Samuel works to make it very clear what will happen.
But when man gets his mind made up and set on the wrong things, they become stubborn about their sinful actions. “The people refused to obey the voice of Samuel”. In spite of the warnings, the people insist they want a king. And God informs Samuel to give them exactly that. God is already fed up with their failure to obey so He’s willing to let them have what they ask for and then suffer the consequences. That is often how God deals with us. He warns us, or the Holy Spirit whispers in our ear that we are about to make a bad decision, and yet we plow ahead only to find out we should have listened and changed direction. The people don’t do that so here it comes.
1 Samuel 7 has the ark of the Lord in Kiriath-jearim for some 20 years. The people there consecrated Eleazar to have charge of caring for the ark. Samuel challenged the people to get their lives in order. “If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods….and direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only”. The direction was clear. Get rid of everything that interferes with worshipping God and get after that with a singlemindedness and a heart that serves only Him.
Is it worth it? Samuel gives the ‘then’ part of that if/then question. “He will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines”. Yes – it is worth it. If we walk with God and worship Him alone, then He cares for us. Samuel saw their commitment to turn around and worship God, so he offers to get involved. “Gather all Israel at Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you”. If the people come together, Samuel will pray for them. And that mattered a lot. When the Philistines heard it, they decided to attack and try to stop Samuel. But it didn’t work.
Samuel cried out to God and “was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel. But the Lord thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were routed before Israel”. The enemy decided to attack and try to stop the prayer to God, but God showed up and dealt with them directly. The Israelites didn’t really have to do anything beyond clean up. They chased the enemy and struck them down. But God enabled it. He showed up and was their God.
God still shows up today. He is still the same God and in charge of all things. Just like “the Philistines were subdued and did not again enter the territory of Israel”, God is alive and active in our world today. He loves to show up and show Himself for who He is. Because of Samuel’s faith and trust, “the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel”. He moved and not only dealt with the enemy that day, but all the days of Samuel. God is our refuge and strength. We need to call out to Him!
1 Samuel 6 has the Philistines trying to figure out how to get rid of the ark of the covenant. “The ark of the Lord was in the country of the Philistines seven months”. That was seven months too long for the Philistines. They go to the priests and diviners and awk what shall we do with the ark? They want it out of their land but don’t know how to get rid of it. They are directed to “make images of your tumors and images of your mice that ravage the land, and give glory to the God of Israel. Perhaps he will lighten his hand from off you and your gods and your land”.
It starts with creating some gold gifts they can send with the ark. Then they are told to “take and prepare a new cart and two milk cows on which there has never come a yoke, and yoke the cows to the cart, but take their calves home, away from them”. They plan to load the ark on a cart and put it behind a couple of cows who will be yoked together looking for their calves which they were to take away so they would go looking. They want those cows to keep on moving out of their land.
So they “take the ark of the Lord and place it on the cart and put in a box at its side the figures of gold, which you are returning to him as a guilt offering. Then send it off and let it go its way and watch”. They had to send along the offering so they could appease God for what they had done. They followed along and kept an eye on the cows to be sure they were leaving town. “The cows went straight in the direction of Beth-shemesh along one highway, lowing as they went. They turned neither to the right nor to the left”. Their plan worked. The ark was out of their land and someone elses problem.
“The cart came into the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh and stopped there”. The problem was out of Philistine land and had stopped among the Israelites. They were ecstatic to get it back and “they split up the wood of the cart and offered the cows as a burnt offering to the Lord”. It didn’t take long for the Levites to show up and collect the ark. God still has rules about how the ark is handled and viewed, and 70 men were struck because they looked upon the ark directly. But the ark is back and now it will be moved to its rightful place.
1 Samuel 5 has the Philistines returning to their city of Ashdod with the ark of God. The put it in the house of Dagon, one of the temples that housed the idol Dagon. The ark was set up beside the idol “and when the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the Lord”. They took the idol and put him back in place, but low and behold “when they rose early on the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the Lord, and the head of Dagon and both his hands were lying cut off on the threshold”.
So things are progressing here. God is not pleased. “Only the trunk of Dagon was left to him” as God had stripped off the rest. But it didn’t stop with just destroying this false god. “The hand of the Lord was heavy against the people of Ashdod, and he terrified and afflicted them with tumors, both Ashdod and its territory”. God has their attention. They know things are not going to improve if they don’t get rid of the ark. So they decided they had to get rid of it. But they didn’t know what to do with it, they only knew “The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us, for his hand is hard against us and against Dagon our god”.
So they gathered the leaders and asked what to do with the ark. The leaders said to take it to Gath, which they gladly did. It didn’t take long before God moved against the people there, and it caused “a very great panic, and He afflicted the men of the city….so that tumors broke out on them”. The people of Gath immediately figure out having the ark there was not a good thing, and they are looking for a place to get rid of it. So it is sent to Ekron. Before anything even happened, the people of Ekron cry foul.
They knew from the word that they had heard they wanted no part of the ark in their town. They immediately get the leaders together and decided to “Send away the ark of the God of Israel, and let it return to its own place, that it may not kill us and our people”. But even with their quick efforts to get rid of the ark wasn’t fast enough. “The hand of God was very heavy there”. You don’t mess around with God, even for a moment. God may not always intervene for his people, but He will always stand on His Word!
1 Samuel 4 has the Israelites facing the Philistines. “The Philistines drew up in line against Israel, and when the battle spread, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who killed about four thousand men on the field of battle”. That didn’t go as the Israelites expected. Where was God in all this? How could He allow them to be defeated? So they decide to take another stab at it. God must have been asleep. This time they will take the ark of the covenant with them as they try again.
The Israelites give a large shout as the ark is brought into the middle of their camp. The Philistines heard it from a distance, and were afraid that God would join the battle this time. So the Philistine leaders said “Take courage, and be men, O Philistines, lest you become slaves to the Hebrews as they have been to you; be men and fight”. They were rallying the troops to get ready for round two, and not to be afraid. They meet again in battle a second time and this time they really defeat the Israelites, killing 30,000 foot soldiers.
But even worse, the Philistines captured the ark. One of the warriors ran back to the city to let everyone know that the battle had been lost. Hophni and Phinehas were dead – and the ark was captured. This messenger came to Eli, who was 98 years old, blind and well overweight. “As soon as he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell over backward from his seat by the side of the gate, and his neck was broken and he died, for the man was old and heavy”. It didn’t take long for the entire family of Eli to be dead.
He had judged Israel 40 years. His sons ended up being his downfall. But as death was having its way with the men, Phinehas’ wife was pregnant and ready to give birth. She does, and dies giving birth to her son names Ichabod. That name means “The glory has departed from Israel because the ark of God had been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband “. God has allowed the ark to be grabbed and is sitting on the sideline as the people of Israel self-destruct.
1 Samuel 3 has God coming to Samuel. It was a bit unusual because “the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision”. It seems that God had hidden His truth from them, but scripture says “the lamp of God had not yet gone out”. As Samuel was lying in bed, “the Lord called Samuel, and he said, Here I am”. Samuel awoke and quickly ran to Eli and said “here I am, for you called me”. But Eli hadn’t called, it was God Himself who was calling.
God called again, and Samuel came and found out Eli hadn’t called. It happened a third time, and “then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the young man”. Samuel hadn’t been connected with God yet. Scripture says “Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him”. But Eli gave Samuel direction on what to do. “Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant hears”. So Eli returned to bed and as you might expect, the Lord called again.
And the Lord told Samuel “Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel at which the two ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end”. You may recall that Eli’s sons were very disobedient to living according to God’s direction. They were rebels and focused on themselves rather than obedience. God did not forget. “I declare to him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them”.
Parenting obviously matters in the eyes of the Lord. Eli’s sin here was that he did not take action when his adult sons were violating God’s laws. These weren’t kids – they were grown up – yet God holds Eli accountable as the father to intercede in their behavior. Samuel knows the word from the Lord was not something Eli would like to hear, so he doesn’t run in there and tell him. “Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli” but Eli presses him for the truth and “Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him”. It was a heavy load but Eli accepts it. And now scripture tells us “Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground”. He is becoming the Lord’s voice.
1 Samuel 2 has Hannah praising the Lord. “There is none holy like the Lord; there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God”. She has seen His hand at work in her life, and glorifies Him. She reminds us of His faithfulness. “He will guard the feet of his faithful ones…. not by might shall a man prevail”. God alone is our protector and provider. Oh that we would never forget His mercies and grace. And God continues to bless Hannah and Elkanah. “Indeed the Lord visited Hannah, and she conceived and bore three sons and two daughters”.
Meanwhile, back at Shiloh where the people came to sacrifice, Eli’s sons were not following God’s rules for his priests. They were taking food before the sacrifice and holding people hostage until they got what they wanted for themselves. “Thus the sin of the young men was very great in the sight of the Lord, for the men treated the offering of the Lord with contempt “. Bad plan – as they are really setting themselves up for some real punishment. Eli gets word of what is happening and calls them out.
“Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all the people. No, my sons; it is no good report that I hear….but they would not listen to the voice of their father”. They just go on sinning and God warns Eli that they will be punished and actually killed. And to be sure there is no question that they are paying a price for their sin, God says “both of them shall die on the same day“. We’ll have to keep that in mind as we watch how God addresses their sin. There is always a price to pay for sin. And God makes it clear these two guys are going to pay dearly for their self indulgence.
Meanwhile, “the young man Samuel grew in the presence of the Lord”. He was hanging out and serving Eli and the priests and doing God’s will. Scripture tells us that “Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and also with man”. Sound familiar. It is very close to what scripture tells us about Jesus. Remember how it says He grew in wisdom and stature and favor with God and man. Samuel also grew up in the presence of God. And he walked with God and served Him and Eli well.