God invited Samuel to be commissioned prophet. He sent the message through Eli, Samuel’s priest, teacher, and “parent.” However, Eli needed three alerts. He understood the message and delivered it to Samuel after the third alert. He informed Samuel that God was calling him, directed him on how to respond, and thereby granted him parental permission to respond. Samuel, on his part, received the message because he offered his attention to Eli persistently in response to what he believed was Eli calling him. He received the message because he had a habit of being attentive, respectful, and obedient to Eli.
This bible study session begins our new series on parent-child relationships. Our purpose in the series is to study events and personalities described in the bible to gain insight into God’s expectations for parent-child interactions and relationships. We hope to understand information that God expects parents to transmit to their children as they grow up and how children should relate to their parents in order to benefit from the information. Today’s study on the call of Samuel fills a dual role as the third study in the series on Samuel and the introductory study for the series on parent-child relationships. Interactions that occurred at the call of Samuel lead to an understanding that God sends messages to children through their parents and expects children to be attentive, respectful, and obedient to their parents in order to receive the message.
God wanted to speak to Samuel to start him on his career as a prophet. He alerted Samuel but did not reveal himself or provide him any information until Eli became aware of what was happening and directed Samuel on how to respond. Thereafter, God revealed himself to Samuel and spoke to him. We contrast God’s call of Samuel to his call of Moses, Isaiah, and Jeremiah and note that the call of Samuel differs from the other three because Samuel was under active parental supervision when God called him to prophecy. Therefore, interactions during the call of Samuel provide insight into God’s expectations for parent-child relationships. For example, whereas he called each of the other three directly and revealed himself to them clearly the first time, when he called Samuel, he directed Samuel to Eli and revealed to Eli that he was calling Samuel. Eli provided the message to Samuel, directed him on how to respond, and by so doing granted him parental permission to respond.
Samuel lived and worked under Eli as his priest, teacher, mentor, and parent. Although Eli was not his biological parent, he was effectively “parent” to Samuel because of being his supervising adult in every aspect of his life right from childhood. Therefore, based on the interactions between Samuel and Eli during this event, we can surmise that God used the occasion of calling Samuel to prophecy to also highlight aspects of parent-child relationship, such as respect for parents, sensitivity to parental needs, and the role of parents as a channel for God’s messages to children.