Summary: No doubt the young Samuel, like the Child Jesus, ‘became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him’ (cf. Luke 2:40).
GROWING BETTER IN BAD TIMES
The children of Israel forsook the LORD, and the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and He visited them with temporal judgments (Judges 2:13-15). ‘Nevertheless,’ (O, precious word!) the LORD raised up judges, or ‘saviours’ to deliver them (Judges 2:16). There was no king in Israel, and everyone did what was right in their own eyes (Judges 21:25) - but God was already at work in the background.
We have seen before how the child Samuel was a gift from God in answer to the prayers of a hitherto barren woman (1 Samuel 1:20), and how the boy’s mother celebrated ‘the salvation of God’ in her song (1 Samuel 2:1). In keeping with her vow (1 Samuel 1:11), Hannah dedicated her son to a life of service to the LORD (1 Samuel 1:27-28). Samuel was to become the last Judge, paving the way for King David just as surely as John the Baptist paved the way for Jesus.
An example of the evil of those days was to be found in the household of Samuel’s tutor and mentor, the priest Eli. The old man’s sons were wicked (1 Samuel 2:12-17) and would not listen to their father (1 Samuel 2:22-25). This forms the immediate context for today’s reading.
‘Where sin abounds, there grace super-abounds’ (Romans 5:20). So, in contrast to the priest’s own sons, we find young Samuel carefully and faithfully “ministering before the LORD” in the tabernacle: “a child wearing a linen ephod” (1 Samuel 2:18). This was a priestly garment, which the high priest permitted him to wear because he had been set apart for lifelong service to the LORD.
Meanwhile, the boy’s mother had not forgotten him. It is easy to picture Hannah prayerfully and carefully crafting “a little coat” for her son and bringing it to him year by year when she came up with her husband for the annual sacrifice (1 Samuel 2:19). Thus Hannah made her contribution to part of the boy’s clothing.
We are told next that, when they came up to the sanctuary, Eli would bless “Elkanah and his wife” (1 Samuel 2:20). Elkanah’s other wife, Hannah’s nemesis (cf. 1 Samuel 1:2), is no longer in the narrative.
Year by year the high priest blessed them, and year by year the LORD “visited” Hannah, and she would have children to compensate for the one whom she had given to the LORD (1 Samuel 2:21). No one is a loser by what they dedicate to the LORD!
Meanwhile, “the child Samuel grew before the LORD” (1 Samuel 2:21; cf. John the Baptist in Luke 1:80). No doubt the young Samuel, like the Child Jesus, ‘became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him’ (cf. Luke 2:40). Like Jesus, too, “he grew on and was in favour both with the LORD and also with men” (1 Samuel 2:26; cf. Luke 2:52).
In contrast to Eli’s sons, Samuel’s person and ministry were acceptable to the LORD. People respected him. The 17th century commentator Matthew Poole comments, ‘he grew better in bad times, which is remembered to his commendation.’
Growth is a wonderful thing. Growing in the Lord is better. May we ‘Grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and for ever. Amen’ (2 Peter 3:18).