Introduction: In 1 Samuel 3, after Samuel spent his youth diligently serving God, God called him to be His greatest prophet since Moses. God’s first directive to Samuel was to bring judgment on the house of Eli. From Samuel’s initial calling and his response to God’s call, God reveals several lessons about hearing, understanding, and responding to His call in your life. These include: (1) diligently seeking Him; (2) responsiveness when called; (3) seeking wisdom through elders, teachers, pastors, and the Holy Spirit; (4) obedience to His Word; (5) searching for confirmation of His Word; (6) sharing His Word; and (7) continually growing in your walk.
First, before God called him, Samuel faithfully served God throughout his youth. For this, God reveals that He speaks to those who diligently seek Him. Second, even before he knew the Lord, Samuel showed his responsiveness by leaping forward when called. From this, God reveals that He wants you to be responsive to His Word, even when you do not understand. Third, although Samuel would soon become the greatest prophet since Moses, God called him at time when he did not know God’s voice. He had to seek out the counsel of Eli. From this, God reveals that He wants you to seek out wisdom to fully understand His Word. This can include the wisdom of teachers, elders, pastors, and, most importantly, the Holy Spirit. Fourth, Samuel showed his obedience in responding to God in the exact manner that Eli proscribed. He was also obedient to God’s directives. From this, God commands that you respond to His calling with obedience. Fifth, God’s first prophetic Word to Samuel was His judgment upon Samuel’s master. This was to confirm the judgment that God had already given to Eli after he and his family failed to repent. From this, God wants you to search for confirmation of His prophetic Word from at least two witnesses. Sixth, prompted by the Holy Spirit, Eli demanded that Samuel not hold back on anything that God said to him. From this, God reveals that you are to share His Word to others, even if it offends. Finally, Samuel continued to draw closer to God in his walk as he studied, prayed, and served. From this, God commands that you also continually grow in your walk with Him through the study of His Word, prayer, and service to those in need.
Samuel’s constant service at a time when God had ceased to speak to Israel. Eli and his sons abused their privileged status as ministers for God. As a result, God ceased to speak through them. Yet, Samuel faithfully served God throughout his youth: “1 Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord before Eli. And word from the Lord was rare in those days, visions were infrequent. 2 It happened at that time as Eli was lying down in his place (now his eyesight had begun to grow dim and he could not see well),” (1 Sam. 3:1-2). This was the third time the Bible described Samuel as “ministering to the LORD”, even though he was a youth (1 Sam. 2:11, 18; 3:1). The three references were meant to convey the importance of seeking after and serving God on a continual basis. According to the Jewish historian Josephus, Samuel was 12 years old at the time.
God calls all who diligently seek Him. Saul thought that he was serving God when he hunted down the followers of Christ. At that time, he could not hear God’s voice. Yet, God transformed him and allowed him to understand His voice (Acts 9). If you diligently seek Him, you will also find Him: “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jer. 29:13). “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” (Matt. 7:7-8). Are diligently seeking Jesus to develop an ongoing walk with Him?
The absence of God’s prophetic Word is a sign of His judgment. The absence of any prophetic word from God was a sign of His judgement against Israel for its wickedness: ‘“Behold, days are coming,’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘When I will send a famine on the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of the LORD.’ People will stagger from sea to sea and from the north even to the east; they will go to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, but they will not find it.” (Amos 8:11-12). “Her gates have sunk into the ground, He has destroyed and broken her bars. Her king and her princes are among the nations; the law is no more. Also, her prophets find no vision from the LORD.” (Lam. 2:9). “Disaster will come upon disaster and rumor will be added to rumor; then they will seek a vision from a prophet, but the law will be lost from the priest and counsel from the elders.” (Ezek. 7:26). “Therefore it will be night for you-- without vision, and darkness for you-- without divination. The sun will go down on the prophets, and the day will become dark over them. The seers will be ashamed and the diviners will be embarrassed. Indeed, they will all cover their mouths because there is no answer from God.” (Micah 3:6-7). “We do not see our signs; there is no longer any prophet, nor is there any among us who knows how long.” (Ps. 74:9). In the original King James Version of the Bible, God warned that the people would perish without His prophetic vision: “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” (Prov. 29:18). Modern translations of this verse warn that people will be “unrestrained” (NASB) or “cast off restraint” (NIV) without His prophetic visions.
Eli was both physically and spiritually blind. In his advanced age, Eli’s “eyesight had begun to grow dim and he could not see well.” (1 Sam. 3:2). This was a literal statement that provides context for why Samuel would later assume that Eli would call for help. Yet, without undermining the literal meaning of the text, Eli’s blindness had a spiritual meaning as well. All who walk by sight are spiritually blinded: “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Cor. 4:3-4; Matt. 13:22). “Be delayed and wait, blind yourselves and be blind; they become drunk, but not with wine, they stagger, but not with strong drink. For the LORD has poured over you a spirit of deep sleep, He has shut your eyes, the prophets; and He has covered your heads, the seers.” (Is. 29:9-10; 42:16). For example, Samson’s loss of his physical sight was the outward manifestation of what had happened to his spiritual sight on the inside (Jdgs. 16:19-24). Likewise, Saul was spiritually blind to his persecution of Jesus’ followers until Jesus removed the scales from his eyes (Acts 9:8-9, 18).
Samuel’s responsiveness to God’s calling. At a time when Eli was old and called for Samuel’s assistance, Samuel mistook God’s first calls to him as being calls for help from Eli. Yet, even before he knew the Lord, Samuel showed his responsiveness by leaping forward when called: “3 and the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord where the ark of God was, 4 that the Lord called Samuel; and he said, ‘Here I am.’ 5 Then he ran to Eli and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ But he said, ‘I did not call, lie down again.’ So he went and lay down. 6 The Lord called yet again, ‘Samuel!’ So Samuel arose and went to Eli and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ But he answered, ‘I did not call, my son, lie down again.’ 7 Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, nor had the word of the Lord yet been revealed to him.” (1 Sam. 3:3-7). The priests kept the golden lampstand lit until dawn: “In the tent of meeting, outside the veil which is before the testimony, Aaron and his sons shall keep it in order from evening to morning before the LORD; . . .” (Ex. 27:21(a); Lev. 24:3). Thus, God first spoke to Samuel just before dawn. This was symbolic of Israel’s new beginning.
Be responsive to God’s calling in your life. When God first spoke to Samuel, he leapt forth to serve even though he was mistaken as to who called him. Other great leaders in the Bible responded with the words “Here I am” when God called them. These included Abraham (Gen. 22:1), Jacob (Gen. 46:2), Moses (Ex. 3:4), Isaiah (6:8), and Ananias (Acts 9:10). Today, God’s Word is spoken to each of us through Jesus (the Word incarnate) and the Holy Spirit (Heb. 1:1-4; 2:1-4). The challenge to each believer today is twofold. First, every believer must listen to the Word. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Matt. 11:15; 13:9, 43; Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). Second, Jesus instructs every believer to immediately respond to His calling and never allow other obligations to delay your response: “But Jesus said to him, ‘Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead.’” (Matt. 8:22; Lk. 9:60). Nor should you allow the actions of others to justify your own delays. “Jesus said to him, ‘If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!’” (Matt. 21:22). Are you listening to and acting upon His Word?
All must seek out God to know Him. Although Samuel would soon become the greatest prophet since Moses, God called him at time when he did not know God’s voice: “8 So the Lord called Samuel again for the third time. And he arose and went to Eli and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ Then Eli discerned that the Lord was calling the boy. 9 And Eli said to Samuel, ‘Go lie down, and it shall be if He calls you, that you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening.’ So Samuel went and lay down in his place.” (1 Sam. 3:5-9). God’s multiple calls were a confirmation. He would also confirm His message after He spoke with Samuel. Yet, Samuel had to first diligently seek Him out. According to one commentator, “Eli gave Samuel wise counsel. Eli told Samuel to: Make himself available for God to speak (Go, lie down); Not be presumptuous about God speaking (if He calls you); Respond to the word of God (Speak, LORD); [and] Humble himself before God and His word (Your servant hears) . . . We must hear from God. The preacher may speak, our parents may speak, our friends may speak, our teachers may speak, those on the radio or television may speak. That is all fine, but their voices mean nothing for eternity unless God speaks through them.” (David Guzik on 1 Sam. 3).
Listen to God’s prophetic Word through His prophets and Christ. Moses promised that God’s people during the end times or “latter days” would return and understand His voice: “When you are in distress and all these things have come upon you, in the latter days you will return to the LORD your God and listen to His voice.” (Dt. 4:30). Jeremiah also promised that God’s prophetic Word would be clearly understood in the last days: “The anger of the LORD will not turn back until He has performed and carried out the purposes of His heart; in the last days you will clearly understand it.” (Jer. 23:20). In the Old Testament, God spoke through prophets and even non-believers (cf., Nu. 24:14; Dan. 2:28). Eli, despite failing to walk with God, is one example. In the New Testament, He spoke through Christ and His disciples: “in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.” (Heb. 1:2). Through Jesus, God has made His promises clear. You first need to listen and believe in faith. Listening to His word will build up your faith: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Ro. 10:17). Then, like Samuel, you should also seek the wisdom of teachers, pastors, and the Holy Spirit.
Samuel’s obedience in following Eli’s directions. Samuel showed his obedience in responding to God in the exact manner that Eli proscribed: “10 Then the Lord came and stood and called as at other times, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel said, ‘Speak, for Your servant is listening.’” (1 Sam. 3:10). The fact that God “stood” next to Samuel suggests that this could have been an Old Testament appearance of Jesus Christ, a Christophany. The double use of Samuel’s name connected this event with other important callings in the Bible. These include the time God called Abraham twice at Mount Moriah when he had proven himself by offering up his son Isaac as a sacrifice (Gen. 22:1, 11). Likewise, God called Moses’ name when he selected him at the burning bush (Ex. 3:4).
Jesus also calls you to obedience. God commanded Samuel to follow His directions with obedience. Jesus also commands you to follow the directions that He gives you with obedience: “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Lk. 6:46). “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” (Matt. 7:21). “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” (Jam. 1:22). “for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified.” (Ro. 2:13). Are you obediently following His Word?
God’s repetition of the Word of judgment on Eli. God’s first prophetic Word to Samuel was His judgment upon Samuel’s master: “11 The Lord said to Samuel, ‘Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel at which both ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. 12 In that day I will carry out against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. 13 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. 14 Therefore I have sworn to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever.” (1 Sam. 3:11-14). God promised that He would cause the ears of Eli’s house to tingle. This was a sign of judgment (2 Kgs. 21:12; Jer. 19:3). God previously judged the house of Eli for their refusal to repent of their sins (2 Sam. 2:27-36). To confirm His judgment, God repeated it to Samuel. Eli’s ears would do more than tingle upon hearing God’s final Word of judgment. He would instantly collapse and die (1 Sam. 4:18).
God’s Word is always confirmed by two or more witnesses. God allows the devil to have the power of deception to test your heart and your love for God: “for the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Dt. 13:3). Every person has evil desires in their heart (Jer. 17:9). Thus, any person who is not vigilant can be manipulated. Because God allows the devil to test you, you must test every spirit around you. “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 Jo. 4:1). Jesus warned that “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many.” (Matt. 24:5). During the end times, Satan will deceive even the elect (Matt. 24:24). Because you cannot trust the miracles that you may see before you, the only way to protect your heart from the counterfeit is to be obedient to the Word: “You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him.” (Dt. 13:4). It is the Word that allows you to test every spirit (2 Tim. 3:16). It was the Word that allowed the Bereans to verify Paul’s claims that Jesus was in fact the Messiah (Acts 17:11). Are you regularly reading the Word to keep the path for your feet lit? (Ps. 119:105). Are you searching the Scriptures to test what others claim? How is a believer to know if God is speaking? His Word will always be confirmed by two or more witnesses: “A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed.” (Dt. 19:15; 17:6). “Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.” (Heb. 10:28; 2 Cor. 13:1). Just as an elder like Eli in the Old Testament could only be condemned by accused by the testimony of two witnesses, the same rule applies to elders today. “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses.” (1 Tim. 5:19).
Don’t reject all prophetic utterances. Obedience in testing every spirit also requires that you not reject every Spirit. If you do this, you close the door for the Holy Spirit to speak to you “do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good;” (1 Thess. 5:20-21). “By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit;” (Eph. 3:4-5). If the Bereans had rejected all prophetic utterances, they would have never learned that Jesus was the Messiah (Acts 17:11). Likewise, if David had rejected all prophetic utterances, he would not have been convicted of sins when the prophet Nathan confronted him over sleeping with Bathsheba and killing her husband (2 Sam. 12:1-7). If you reject all prophetic utterances without testing them against the Word of God, you have limited the Holy Spirit’s ability to speak with you.
God confirmed His judgement on the house of Eli only after they refused to repent. God judged Eli and his sons because they refused to repent: “his sons brought a curse on themselves and he did not rebuke them.” (1 Sam. 3:13). Eli did rebuke his sons (1 Sam. 2:22-25). Yet, he failed to discipline them or take any further action after they ignored him. Unlike the NASB which uses the term “rebuke”, other translations translate this term as “restrain.” (KJV; NJV; RSV; NRSV). If you are in a position of authority, you must do more than rebuke sin when sinners ignore you. You must also restrain it.
Don’t be fatalistic in the face of judgment by failing to repent. Like Eli, some treat the judgment of sin as inevitable instead of using it as an opportunity to repent: “His response is one of fatalism, of resignation. At least twice God speaks to Eli through a prophet to warn him of the judgment coming upon him and his house because he does not deal with the sins of his sons. Eli does nothing beyond verbally rebuking his sons. Even now, when the death of his sons is around the corner, Eli does absolutely nothing. His response has an empty religious ring, “It is the LORD; let Him do what seems good to Him” (3:18). It is simply a pious sounding version of “what will be, will be.” When David is rebuked for his sin with Bathsheba, he is informed that the child will die (2 Sam. 12:14). This does not keep David from doing anything about it. David beseeches the Lord, prostrating himself on the ground all night, praying that God might spare the child (2 Sam. 12:16-17). Eli seems to simply shrug his shoulders and say, ‘It is God’s will.’ Sadly, this fatalism is found in Christians today. Rather than finding the sovereignty of God a motivation to strive to please God, some use it as their excuse for doing nothing. In preaching this lesson, I defined a fatalist as ‘a tired Calvinist.’ I later changed my mind and decided a fatalist is a ‘re-tired Calvinist.’ A friend and fellow-elder, Don Grimm, called my attention to the crucial difference between a true Calvinist (one who believes God is in control, and finds this a proper basis for godly effort) and a fatalist. The Chaldeans of old were fatalists. They studied the heavens, believing that the relationship of the heavenly bodies determined what would happen on earth. Fatalists do not see the ultimate cause of earthly events as a sovereign, personal God, who desires fellowship with those who trust in Him. It is one’s relationship with God personally, through faith in Jesus Christ, that causes one to find God’s sovereignty the reason to strive, rather than an excuse to sit. Eli’s faith had deteriorated to little more than the thinking of a fatalist.” “Robert L. (Bob) Deffinbaugh (4. The Rise of Samuel and the Fall of Eli and Sons (1 Samuel 3:1-4:22)). Are you ignoring God’s call to repentance?
Eli’s demand that Samuel share God’s Word with him. Presumably prompted by the Holy Spirit, Eli demanded that Samuel not hold back on anything that God said to him: “15 So Samuel lay down until morning. Then he opened the doors of the house of the Lord. But Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. 16 Then Eli called Samuel and said, ‘Samuel, my son.’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ 17 He said, ‘What is the word that He spoke to you? Please do not hide it from me. May God do so to you, and more also, if you hide anything from me of all the words that He spoke to you.’ 18 So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. And he said, ‘It is the Lord; let Him do what seems good to Him.’” (1 Sam. 3:15-18). Eli called Samuel “my son.” Samuel was not Eli’s biological son. Yet, he was an heir to the priesthood as an adopted son. Samuel’s first test was whether he would share God’s Word of judgment upon His adopted father. Like Samuel, a person has a Biblical right to privately comfort a brother, a sister, or a church leader in rebellion against God’s Word (Matt. 18:15). Jeremiah faced a similar test regarding whether he would share God’s Word of judgment upon his master. Like Samuel, Jeremiah proved faithful to God’s Word: “Now King Zedekiah sent and took him out; and in his palace the king secretly asked him and said, ‘Is there a word from the LORD?’ And Jeremiah said, ‘There is!’ Then he said, ‘You will be given into the hand of the king of Babylon!’” (Jer. 37:17). By contrast, Jonah is an example of a prophet who did not want to share God’s Word of judgment. Will you share God’s warnings?
You too can be a prophet when you share God’s Word with others. Eli said that Samuel had a responsibility to share God’s Word (1 Sam. 3:17). Many might assume that a person who “prophesies” is a person who makes claims that God has told him regarding what will happen in the future. Yet, this is only one type of prophet. The act of prophesying is much broader. It can include anyone who speaks the Word over another person, something we are all encouraged to do. To prove this, we examine how the word is used in the dictionary, the Old Testament, and in the New Testament. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the word “prophesy” has three definitions. It can mean “to speak as if divinely inspired.” It can also mean “to give instruction in religious matters.” Or, it can be the act of making a prediction. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew verb for one who prophesies is “naba” (naw-baw'). It appears 435 times in the Old Testament. It means to “to bubble up, to gush forth, to pour forth.” For example, God advises that in the end times “your sons and your daughters will “naba” or prophesy.” (Joel 2:28). In other words, the Holy Spirit will cause the Word of God will bubble up or gush forth from them. In the New Testament, the Greek verb for one who prophesies is “prof-ate-yoo'-o.” It can mean to “speak forth” as if in a divinely inspired manner. Or, it can be used for one who predicts the future. In Greek, there are two words for God’s Word. The written Word is called the “logos.” (i.e., Jo. 1:1; Lk. 8:11; Phil. 2:16; 2 Tim. 2:15; Heb. 4:12; 1 Pet. 1:23). By contrast, in Greek, the Word that a person speaks when prophesies or “speaking forth” the Word of God to another is called in Greek “the rhema.” (i.e. “If you abide in Me, and My words [my rhema] abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (Jo. 15:7). “And Peter remembered the word [the revealed word or rhema] which Jesus had said, ‘Before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly.” (Matt. 26:75; see also, Lk. 1:38; 3:2; 5:5; Acts 11:16; Rom. 10:17; Eph. 6:17; 5:25-26). Jesus spoke “the logos” when He quoted Scripture and “the rhema” when He explained or revealed the hidden meanings behind the Scriptures. A true prophet “speaks forth” the written Word or “the logos” of to others. Or, the prophet speaks for the revealed Word as interpreted by the Holy Spirit, “the rhema,” to others. The words of a true prophet are typically meant to encourage, restore or uplift another (1 Thess. 5:11; Eph. 4:29; Jude 1:20). The Holy Spirit prompts a true prophet to remember a verse and speak the Word over another person in need of God’s comfort, correction, or direction (Jo. 14:26). If the spoken “rhema” or word of a true prophet involves a matter of guidance, it is typically confirmed by two or more witnesses (2 Cor. 13:1). A true prophet is something that every believer is encouraged to be. The more Scripture that you know and memorize, the more the Holy Spirit has to work with if He intends to use you as a prophet. According to Paul, being a prophet is a greater gift than speaking in tongues: “I speak in tongues more than you all; but I would rather have you to prophesy.” (1 Cor. 14:4-5). Paul was not speaking of predicting the future. Instead, he was speaking of someone who uses God’s Word to restore, uplift, and encourage. If you learn the Word, you can fulfill this higher calling in life.
Prophesy to edify the Church. Speaking the Word of God over another to bless, correct, restore, or uplift them is one of the highest callings. It is what a real prophet does. Any member of the Church can be called to do it: “One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church.” (1 Cor. 14:4). “I wish you could all speak in tongues, but even more I wish you could all prophesy. For prophecy is greater than speaking in tongues, unless someone interprets what you are saying so that the whole church will be strengthened.” (1 Cor. 14:5). The Word can also breathe life into those who are dead to sin: “Then He said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, ‘Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they come to life.’ So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they came to life and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.”’ (Ezek. 37:9-10). Are you speaking the Word of God over others to bless, correct, restore, uplift, and breathe life into them?
Prophesy to warn sinners facing judgement. Like Samuel, you were meant to be God’s salt and His instrument against sin around you (Matt. 5:13). God judged the nations with the Flood. He judged Sodom and Gomorrah. He judged the nation of Egypt with plagues. He also judged the nation of Israel when it rebelled letting it wander for an extra 38 years in the wilderness. Hundreds of years later, they rebelled again. He then judged them again by sending them into exile. If the person fails to repent and accept Jesus, he or she will face the ultimate punishment at the Great White Hall Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:11-15). Your walk with God is more important than your family. For this reason, Jesus warned: “For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;” (Matt. 10:35; Lk. 12:53). Like Samuel, sharing God’s Word is more important than keeping the peace with your friends and family. Moses reveals that the Word will convict many and cause them to repent: “Then all Israel will hear and be afraid, and will never again do such a wicked thing among you.” (Dt. 13:11). “21 However, if you have warned the righteous man that the righteous should not sin and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; and you have delivered yourself.” (Ezek. 3:21). “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12). Yet, if you adopt the teaching of the world or tolerate sin around you so as not to offend, you have lost your saltiness (Matt. 5:13). Are you willing to speak the truth, even if you are ridiculed? (Ro. 1:16).
God warns that consequences exist when you hide His judgment from others. Eli warned that there would be consequences for Samuel if he withheld God’s Word from him (1 Sam. 3:17). God also warns of consequences if you fail to warn sinners of His judgment: “17 Son of man, I have appointed you a watchman to the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from My mouth, warn them from Me. 18 When I say to the wicked, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to warn the wicked from his wicked way that he may live, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. . . . 20 Again, when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I place an obstacle before him, he will die; since you have not warned him, he shall die in his sin, and his righteous deeds which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand.” (Ezek. 3:17-20). Are you warning the sinners around you of the consequences of their sins?
A false prophet teaches the traditions of the world over the Word. Unlike Samuel who gave a message of judgment, the false prophets of today do not teach the Word when it offends. This includes modern notions that all views are equal and that no ultimate truths exist: “And He said to them, ‘rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men,’ neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men,’” (Mk. 7:6-8). “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!” (Gal. 1:8-9). “Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you. They are leading you into futility; they speak a vision of their own imagination, not from the mouth of the LORD.’” (Jer. 23:16). Many of these false prophesies ignore sin: “Your prophets have seen for you false and foolish visions; and they have not exposed your iniquity so as to restore you from captivity, but they have seen for you false and misleading oracles.” (Lam. 2:14). “They heal the brokenness of the daughter of My people superficially, saying, ‘peace, peace,’ but there is no peace.” (Jer. 8:11; 14:13; 23:17; Is. 30:10). “Then the LORD said to me, ‘The prophets are prophesying falsehood in My name. I have neither sent them nor commanded them nor spoken to them; they are prophesying to you a false vision, divination, futility and the deception of their own minds.”’ (Jer. 14:14; 20:6; 28:15; 29:8). “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires,” (2 Tim. 4:3). “While they are saying, ‘Peace and safety!’ then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape.” (1 Thess. 5:3). The Bible has many provisions that are contrary to the traditions of men. Human traditions that are contrary to the Bible include abortion, divorce, sex outside of a Biblical marriage, materialism, lust, greed, and hedonism. Have you accepted any such worldly teachings?
If judged, respond to God’s Word with real repentance. Eli accepted God’s judgment: “And he said, ‘It is the Lord; let Him do what seems good to Him.’” (1 Sam. 3:18(b)). While it is good that Eli accepted the authority of God’s Word after his judgment was confirmed, what he should have done was repent. In preparation for Jesus, John the Baptist called all sinners to repent. ‘“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”’ (Matt. 3:2). Jesus also began His ministry with a call to repentance: “From that time Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”’ (Matt. 4:17). If you say that you are without sin the truth is not in you (1 Jo. 1:8). Yet, if you repent, He promises to forgive your sins (1 Jo. 1:9). Have you repented of your sins?
Samuel’s ongoing growth to become God’s prophet. Unlike many who see being saved as the last and final step in their walk, Samuel continued to draw closer to God in his walk as he studied, prayed, and served: “19 Thus Samuel grew and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fail. 20 All Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of the Lord. 21 And the Lord appeared again at Shiloh, because the Lord revealed Himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord.” (1 Sam. 3:19-21). As he grew and God “revealed Himself” to Samuel, he became known from the northernmost to the southernmost territories of the Promised Land. This is the meaning behind the words “from Dan even to Beersheba.” (1 Sam. 3:20).
Like Samuel, Jesus also promises to be with you. As Samuel grew in his walk “the Lord was with him.” (1 Sam. 3:19). Jesus also promises to be with you: “‘and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”’ (Matt. 28:20(b)). He is there when two or more are present: ‘“For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”’ (Matt. 18:20). When God is with you, no evil can stand against you: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” (Ro. 8:31; Heb. 13:6). “The LORD is for me; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Ps. 118:16). Do you trust God to protect you from those who seek to harm you?
Samuel confirmed himself as a prophet in many ways. The Bible records that Samuel “let none of [God’s] words fail.” (1 Sam. 3:19). This means that every prophesy given through Samuel came to pass. By this, Samuel confirmed himself as a prophet. Samuel proved that he was not a false prophet for a number of reasons. He never spoke out of the flesh. His motive in speaking was never to bring attention to his own life and ministry. He used the Word to restore, correct, and uplift. He never used it to rip down or slander another. He encouraged others to live according to the Spirit, not the flesh (Matt. 7:15; 2 Pet. 2:1-3, 13-15, 19; Jer. 23:26). A true prophet speaks also only out of love: “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” (1 Cor. 13:1). He also never incited rebellion against the Word. Finally, he never made false predictions. Moses warned that “When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.” (Dt. 18:22). “The prophet who prophesies of peace, when the word of the prophet comes to pass, then that prophet will be known as one whom the LORD has truly sent.” (Jer. 28:9; 5:30-31). “So when it comes to pass-- as surely it will-- then they will know that a prophet has been in their midst.” (Ezek. 33:33).
Let God reveal Himself to you through the Word and the Spirit. God “revealed Himself” at “Shiloh” (the ark’s location) “by the word of the Lord.” (1 Sam. 3:21). God will also reveal Himself to you through His Word. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Ps. 119:105). He will then confirm the application of the Word to your life through the Holy Spirit. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” (Jo. 14:26). Are you reading and praying for God to reveal His Word to you?
Always grow in your walk with Jesus. Like Samuel, you should always be growing in your walk. This includes constantly studying the Word, praying, sharing the Word, and serving God by helping those in need. Many sadly see being saved by Jesus as the final step in their walk. Instead, it is just the beginning. Like Samuel, you can be a prophet merely by sharing God’s Words with others. What are you doing to grow in your walk?