the man who made the difference – Part 1
Developing in mediocrity
1 Samuel 2: 12-13a, 17-18, 22, 26 – AMP – 12 The sons of Eli,
Hophni and Phinehas were worthless (dishonorable, unprincipled) men;
they did not know nor respect the LORD 13 and the custom of the priests
with the sacrifices of the people (...) 17So the sin of the two young
men Hophni and Phinehas was very great before the LORD, for the men
treated the offering of the LORD disrespectfully. 18Now Samuel was
ministering before the LORD, as a child dressed in a linen ephod (…)
22Now Eli was very old; and he heard about everything that his sons
were doing to all the people of Israel, and how they were lying with
the women who served at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting (…) 26But
the boy Samuel continued to grow in stature and in favor both with
the LORD and with men.
was the miracle child that had been expected for so long by his parents
Hannah and Elkanah. Hannah his mother was greatly distressed when
she pleaded with the Lord to give her a son to comfort her from all
the provocations of Peninnah who used to give her a hard time because
she had no children. Hannah promised to God that she would give Him
her child so that he would become a servant in the temple of the Lord,
if He would answer her prayer. God visited Hannah and she gave birth
to Samuel. Hannah was faithful to her vow and lent the only son that
she had at the time to the Lord. It was certainly not easy for her
to separate herself from the child that she had longed so much for,
but Hannah was faithful to the vow that she had made to God and gave
Him Samuel when he was still a child, as soon as she had weaned him.
As a little boy, Samuel was entrusted to the care of Eli and his two
sons Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of the Lord. He was still a
little frail and delicate boy when his mother brought him to the temple
so that he would learn to serve God. He was at the age where you can
easily be impregnated and scared for life by the people around you
and by life’s events. It’s the age of innocence and vulnerability
where you are more a victim that an actor, and where you cannot really
decide over your life. Samuel was going to grow next to corrupt servants
that the Bible calls worthless because they did not know God and because
they despised the sacrifices that were brought to God.
But Samuel was growing and was doing the service before the Lord.
The Bible says that Samuel had not been called and he did not know
the voice of God yet. He slept in the temple where the ark of the
Lord was, but he had no personal encounter with the God that he served
yet (1 Samuel 3:7). Nevertheless, he continued to serve God as he
grew up. He never complained to his mother when she brought him his
little robe once a year. He could have told her that living in the
temple is boring, that he does not know that God he has been serving
from his youth on anyway, that he has nobody to play with and that
he does not have the support that he needs to render a better service
to God because he is surrounded with corrupted priests. He could have
complained that his mentor is old and almost blind. And even if he
complained and wanted to give up, his mother and his father certainly
encouraged him to remain in the temple and continue to serve the Lord.
We can imagine that there were a lot of tears shed each time his parents
came to visit once a year and had to return home, leaving him behind.
It was not easy. Samuel’s childhood was surely completely different
from that of the children of his age: isolated, without distraction,
no mountain of toys, lack of permanent parental love and affection,
witnessing the brutality of the adults who were supposed to raise
him up in the fear and knowledge of God.
Since Hophni and Phineas used to bully the people who came to offer
their sacrifices to God, it is not impossible that Samuel also suffered
at their bullying and evil actions. Maybe they ate the meats that
they took from the people by force without sharing with Samuel and
maybe he had to go to bed hungry at times. The Bible does not tell
us but who knows all what Samuel experienced with these young men
who were depraved and debauched? But the hand of God was protecting
Samuel. Nevertheless, it was certainly not easy for him to grow up
in such an environment. He surely missed his brothers and sisters,
the good food of his mother and the protective presence of his father.
Notwithstanding, he accepted to be formed in the presence of God despite
the discomfort and the frustration that he experience. He did not
serve God out of constraint, even though his mother had introduced
him in the ministry at an age when he did not have the ability to
decide yet. But the more he grew up, the stronger his desire and his
determination to serve the God of Israel became.
God had allowed it that Samuel would grow in an environment that was
not really what you could dream of, for the training of a future minister
of the Most High God. His parents were certainly aware of the fact
that the sons of Eli did not behave properly, and they could have
given up the idea of entrusting them with their beloved son, but they
had decided to trust the God of Israel to take care of him, and it
was not a bad decision. Samuel was developing in surroundings that
were rather inappropriate and even depraved, inasmuch as his trainers
Hophni and Phinehas were good-for-nothing fellows who despised the
sacrifices brought to the Lord and slept with the women who served
at the entrance of the tent of meeting (1 Samuel 2:22). Their father
Eli tolerated their evil doings and was not rigorous enough with them.
He honored them more than he honored God and the wrath of God fell
on the three of them: Hophni, Phinehas and Eli all died the same day
and God cursed the offspring of Eli (See 1 Samuel 2:27-36; 1 Samuel
4). But the Bible says that “the boy Samuel continued to grow
in stature and in favor both with the Lord and with men” (1 Samuel
2:26). Even though he did not enjoy the best training and living conditions
that he could wish, Samuel developed and made the difference. Even
though he grew up in an immoral environment, he did not become immoral.
Even though he witnessed violence and brutality, he did not become
a violent person. Even though he was surrounded by some ministers
who had compromised their consecration and did not honor their service
to God, Samuel still preserved his integrity and was pleasing to God.