The Signs of the Times


December 15, 1881

God's Message to Samuel


While Eli's heart was filled with anxiety and remorse by the evil course of his sons, he found relief and comfort in the integrity and devotion of the youthful Samuel. His ready helpfulness and unvarying fidelity lightened the burdens of the careworn priest. Eli loved Samuel; for he saw that the grace and love of God rested upon him. It was not customary for the Levites to enter upon their peculiar services until they were twenty-five years of age. But Samuel had been an exception to this rule. Every year saw more important trusts committed to him, and, while yet a child, a linen ephod was placed upon him, as a token of his consecration to the work of the sanctuary. ST December 15, 1881, par. 1

As Samuel grew older, the anxiety of his parents in his behalf became more intense. Many were the petitions offered that he might not be contaminated by the wickedness reported concerning the sons of Eli. “And the child Samuel grew on, and was in favor both with the Lord and also with men.” ST December 15, 1881, par. 2

When but twelve years old, the son of Hannah received his special commission from the Most High. The circumstances of that call are best related in the simple and touchingly beautiful language of the sacred writer: “The word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no open vision. And it came to pass at that time, when Eli was laid down in his place, and his eyes began to wax dim, that he could not see; and ere the lamp of God went out in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was, and Samuel was laid down to sleep, that the Lord called Samuel.” Supposing the voice to be that of Eli, the child hastened to the bedside of the aged priest, saying, “Here am I, for thou calledst me.” The answer was, “I called not, my son, lie down again.” Three times Samuel was called, and thrice he responded in like manner; and then Eli was convinced that the mysterious call was the voice of God. What feelings must have stirred the heart of the high priest at that hour! God had passed by his chosen servant, the man of hoary hairs, to commune with a child. This in itself was a bitter yet deserved rebuke to Eli and his house. ST December 15, 1881, par. 3

No spirit of envy or jealousy was awakened in Eli's heart. He humbly submitted to the will of God, and directed Samuel to answer, if again called, “Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth.” Once more the child heard the mysterious voice, and answered, “Speak, for thy servant heareth.” So awed was he at the thought that the great God should speak to him, that he could not remember the exact words which Eli bade him say. ST December 15, 1881, par. 4

“And the Lord said to Samuel, Behold, I will do a thing in Israel, at which both the ears of every one that heareth it shall tingle. In that day I will perform against Eli all things which I have spoken concerning his house. When I begin, I will also make an end. For I have told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not. And therefore I have sworn unto the house of Eli, that the iniquity of Eli's house shall not be purged with sacrifice nor offering forever.” ST December 15, 1881, par. 5

The Scriptures state that before receiving this message from God, “Samuel did not yet know the Lord, neither was the word of the Lord yet revealed unto him.” He was not destitute of a knowledge of God, nor he was a stranger to the influence of divine grace; but he was not acquainted with such direct manifestations of his presence, as were granted to the prophets. It was the Lord's purpose, however, to reveal himself in an unexpected manner, that Eli might hear of it through the surprise and inquiry of the youth. ST December 15, 1881, par. 6

Samuel had not been ignorant of the wicked course pursued by the sons of Eli, but he was filled with fear and amazement that the Lord should commit to him so terrible a message. He arose in the morning and went about his duties as usual, but with a heavy burden on his young heart. How earnestly did he long for the sympathy and counsel of his parents in that trying hour! The Lord had not commanded him to reveal the fearful denunciation to the priest or to his sons; hence he remained silent, avoiding as far as possible the presence of Eli. He trembled, lest some question would compel him to declare the divine judgments against one whom he so loved and reverenced. ST December 15, 1881, par. 7

Eli was confident that the message concerned himself. He felt that some great calamity was about to fall upon him and his house. He called Samuel, and solemnly charged him to faithfully relate what the Lord had revealed. The youth obeyed, and when the venerable man heard the appalling sentence, he bowed in meek submission: ST December 15, 1881, par. 8

“It is the Lord; let him do what seemeth him good.” Eli's faith in the wisdom and justice of God was unshaken. He confessed his own guilt and the guilt of his sons; and as he looked forward to the dread result, acknowledged that he deserved it all: “It is the Lord; who shall rise up in judgment against him? I have ever found him merciful, long-suffering, holy, and just. Let him do what seemeth him good.” ST December 15, 1881, par. 9

Year after year the Lord for Eli's sake delayed his threatened judgments. How much might have been done in those years, to redeem the failures of the past! But the aged priest took no effective measures to avert the doom that hung over himself and his house. The forbearance of God caused Hophni and Phinehas to harden their hearts, and to become still bolder and more defiant in transgression. But steadily and surely the day of retribution was approaching. Every warning slighted, every day of probation squandered, made their punishment greater, their doom more certain. ST December 15, 1881, par. 10

God bears long with the perversity and stubbornness of men. By warnings and reproofs he shows them their true condition. Again and again he calls them to repentance. Though the multitudes wax bold in sin, trampling upon his mercy and defying his justice, still he pours his blessings upon them. Oh, how infinitely beyond human comprehension are the Lord's mercy and forbearance toward the children of men! Yet there is a limit, beyond which men may not go on in sin. When the fullness of iniquity is reached,—as with the Amorites, and the children of Israel who fell in the wilderness,—then the wrath of God is visited upon the transgressors of his law. ST December 15, 1881, par. 11

There are many who teach that man may violate God's law with impunity. These men seek to conceal the hideous character of sin, by clothing it with garments of righteousness. They may observe all the forms of religion, but their hearts are at enmity with God. They look upon his law as a yoke of bondage, because it forbids them to indulge their sinful desires. “Thou shalt not,” placed at every avenue of sin, is the restriction of the just and holy One. Those who, like Hophni and Phinehas, disregard the commandments of God, and lead others to transgress, are Satan's agents to destroy souls. They say to the sinner, “It shall be well with thee,” when God says, “I will punish the transgressor with my wrath, I will take him away in my hot displeasure.” ST December 15, 1881, par. 12

God may bear long with the sins of men, but in his own time he will vindicate his authority. Although the wicked may say, “My way is hid from the Lord,” yet when his interposition is needed, he will show that he beholds all the works of the children of men. In the days of Noah, the wickedness of man became so great that it was necessary for God to assert his authority and punish the transgressors of his law. A crisis had come, and the Lord declared the limits of his forbearance toward that guilty race. He sent his faithful servant with a message of warning, giving them one hundred and twenty years in which to turn from their sins. They rejected and despised God's love, and when the measure of their iniquity was full; when the boundaries of divine mercy were passed, the Lord swept that wicked race from the earth by the waters of the flood. ST December 15, 1881, par. 13

As men again increased, they departed from the Lord, and then Abraham was made the depositary of God's law. When the Israelites, through their long bondage in Egypt, had to a great degree lost the knowledge of that law, the Lord himself proclaimed it from Sinai, in the hearing of all the people. The nations of the earth were given to idolatry; it was to preserve the children of men from total apostasy, that the Lord manifested his mighty power in bringing the Israelites out of Egypt, and establishing them in the land of Canaan. ST December 15, 1881, par. 14

When God's authority had been set aside, and his worship neglected and despised, it became necessary for him to interpose, that the honor of his name might be maintained in the earth. Such a necessity existed in the days of Eli. None but a divine power could free the worship and ordinances of God from the corruption and disorder produced by the course of Hophni and Phinehas. The hand of God must be distinctly recognized; the agents of Israel's apostasy must be destroyed, yet the nation must not become extinct. The service of God must be purged from sin and sinners, and the worship itself honored and exalted. ST December 15, 1881, par. 15

God's people had been crying to him with humiliation and fasting, that the wickedness of the wicked might come to an end. And while he manifested his power as an avenger to the wicked, he would also appear as the protector of the righteous. Though their prayers might long have seemed unheard, yet in God's own time they saw that he had given ear to their supplications, and answered them by terrible things in righteousness. ST December 15, 1881, par. 16

In every age, God's judgments have been visited upon the earth because men transgressed his law. What, then, have we to expect as we behold the wickedness which prevails at the present day? An ungrateful people, forgetful of God's care, his long forbearance, and his unnumbered blessings, are showing contempt for his holy law. Many of the acknowledged leaders in the church and in the nation, break, and teach others to break that law, as sacred to God as his own throne and name. It is time for the Lord himself to assert his authority in the earth. And he is doing this, by fires, by floods, by tempests. He removes his protecting, providential care, and visits his judgments upon the children of men. ST December 15, 1881, par. 17

In these days of peril shall we show less devotion to the truth of God, and less fervent attachment to his law, than in former years? The very condition of things exists which Christ declared would be, prior to his second coming in power and glory. The prevailing ungodliness tends to paralyze and even to destroy true faith and piety. But this is the very time when the gold of Christian integrity will shine brightest, in contrast to the dross of hypocrisy and corruption. Now is the time for Christ's chosen to show their devotion to his service,—the time for all his followers to bear the noblest testimony for their Master by standing firm against the prevailing current of evil. ST December 15, 1881, par. 18

As we see the results which have followed a disregard of God's law,—dishonesty, theft, licentiousness, drunkenness, and murder—we are prepared to say with the psalmist, “I love thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold;” “in keeping of them, there is great reward.” When the divine law is set aside, the greatest misery will result, both to families and to society. Our only hope of better things is to be found in a faithful adherence to the precepts of Jehovah. Infidel France once tried the experiment of rejecting the authority of God. What scenes of horror followed! Men cast aside the divine law as a yoke of bondage, and in their boasted liberty they placed themselves under the rule of the veriest tyrant. Anarchy and bloodshed ruled that terrible day. It was then demonstrated to the world that the surest way to undermine the foundation of order and government, is to set at naught the law of God. ST December 15, 1881, par. 19

Let us remember that “by the law is the knowledge of sin.” The commandments of God convict the sinner of his guilt; but that perfect law has been obeyed by Christ in our stead, and through faith in him we are released from our great debt, and are placed where, in his strength, we can render obedience to God. Instead of feeling that we are now in the slightest degree excusable in further transgression, we shall realize as never before the justice of God's claims upon us, and the sacred character of his law, since Christ must die to maintain its authority. ST December 15, 1881, par. 20

Ere long the obedient will see the blessed results that follow the keeping of all God's commandments and the transgressors of his law will reap the reward of their doings. The Judge of all the earth will vindicate his insulted authority. Already we see his judgments in the land. And the end is not yet. He will work until sin and sinners are destroyed from the earth. ST December 15, 1881, par. 21