Summary: Samuel’s call was timely because the priesthood of Eli’s family line had been defiled and compromised by his sons Hophni and Phineas.


Text: First Samuel 3:1-10

We have all heard of a thing called tough love. Tough love is when one confronts another with unyielding consequences. Tough love does not yield to the ones who want to bend the rules. Tough love is tough because it reminds the ones or the one who strayed that actions have consequences. Love is tough when it refuses to spare the rod because in sparing the rod, the child will not learn the lesson that he or she needed to learn (Proverbs 13:24). It is implied of Eli, that one of his problems was that he refused to practice tough love when it was needed for his two sons Hophni and Phineas (First Samuel 3:13, 1:3).

I read the story about a pastor who refused to back down to the pleas of his wayward daughter. His daughter had gotten "pregnant out of wedlock". He did not throw his daughter out of the house, but he did practice tough love. He told her that her evening curfew had strict consequences which meant "no exceptions". Then one night he was awakened to the sound of the door bell ringing. It was his daughter Cori, standing on the front porch begging, "Daddy, Daddy let me in". "He saw his grandson, Michael "bundled up in a baby carrier next to Cori". Her father, Haman, pointed at his watch, closed the curtain and went back to bed. His other daughter Sharyl also pleaded, "Daddy, let her in". Even his wife pleaded. Sharyl, Cori and his wife continued to beg for the next twenty minutes for him to reconsider. Haman replied, "No, I’m going to bed and you should all do the same". As the story goes, "Cori gave up and went to spend the night at a friend’s house. The next morning she repented, deciding to submit to the house rules and the values of the church". She was warmly welcomed back". (Craig Brian Larson ed. Choice Contemporary Stories & Illustrations For Teacher’s Preacher’s & Writer’s. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1998, [quoted and paraphrased], p. 33). Now I am sure that it must have been tough for Haman to be the Dad who practiced tough love, but it paid off because Cori learned her lesson.

Eli was not so fortunate because the Bible makes it clear that his two sons Hophni and Phineas who were greedy with animals that were to be offered as sacrifices (First Samuel 2:15-17) not to mention that their immoral conduct (First Samuel 2:22). The Bible seems to imply that Eli was not strict enough with them because of the way that they had turned out---incorrigible. Samuel, stands in contrast to both of them as genuine and sincere compared to their rebellious, blasphemous and ungodly behavior.


Samuel’s call was significant. The Bible says that Samuel did not yet know the Lord (First Samuel 3:7a). He had served the Lord and was but a child when he first heard God’s call (First Samuel 2:18). Samuel had not yet heard the word of the Lord revealed to him (First Samuel 3:7b). Samuel believed in God’s existence because his service to the Lord was genuine. Samuel found favor with both the people and the Lord (First Samuel 2:26). No one can find favor with the Lord unless he or she is right with the Lord to begin with. That is why Samuel found favor with God. He was in a right relationship with God. It was revealed to Samuel that he was being called by God when Eli explained that it was not Eli but God that Samuel heard who was calling his name.

Samuel’s call was timely. Things were not as they should have been with the priesthood. Eli was a priest and his sons Hophni and Phineas were also priests. Consider what First Samuel 2:12 says about the sons of Eli: "Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the Lord" (KJV). The name Belial means worthless, useless, wicked and was often used of ungodly men. (Wilson’s Old Testament Word Studies. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, no date, p. 35). Hophni and Phineas were nothing more than impostors. They were out for themselves while disguising themselves in their priestly roles as being in service for God. Compared to Samuel, their outward behavior and their inner nature stood in contradiction to each other. Samuel’s character was consistent with his nature which was godly. Samuel’s call was timely because the priesthood of Eli’s family line had been defiled and compromised by his sons Hophni and Phineas. It was Samuel who would later take the place of Eli as a leader in the priestly role. It was through Samuel that God would restore the dignity that was befitting to be being a priest.

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