At the sound of a voice calling his name, young Samuel stirred in his sleep. “Here am I,” he answered sleepily, arising and going into the bedchamber of Eli, the priest of the temple where Samuel lived and served.
“I called not,” Eli said, “lie down again.”
Samuel went back to his room, but as he settled into bed, the voice called again. Once more Samuel went to Eli and said, “Here am I; for thou didst call me.”
“I called not, my son,” Eli said; “lie down again.”
The third time that it happened, Eli perceived that it must have been the Lord calling. He instructed Samuel to go back to his room and lie down, and if the voice came again, Samuel was to say, “Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth.”
Samuel obeyed, and when the voice called the fourth time, Samuel declared, “Speak; for thy servant heareth.”
Then the Lord replied, “Behold, I will do a thing in Israel, at which both the ears of every one that heareth it shall tingle.” The Lord went on to say that He was displeased with Eli because he had not kept his sons from doing wicked things.
As Samuel grew up, he learned well the duties and responsibilities of being called by the Lord. And so it was recorded that “all Israel from Dan even to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the Lord.”
Despite this knowledge, the Israelites disobeyed the Lord’s teachings—and they were defeated in their battle with the Philistines. Samuel pleaded with the Israelites to quit worshiping false gods and to turn their hearts to the one true God. He told the people that if they would serve God, then God would deliver them from their enemies.
The Israelites finally repented, and the next time the Philistines came against them to battle, the Lord helped Israel and the enemies were defeated. After that, Samuel traveled throughout the land teaching the people about God.
Years passed, and Samuel grew old. His sons, Joel and Abiah, were judges over Israel, but they had taken bribes, perverted judgments, and done many other wicked things that led the people astray. Because of their wickedness, the elders of Israel gathered together and told Samuel, “Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.”
Samuel did not think that a king would be good for Israel. When he asked the Lord what he should do, the Lord answered, “Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.”
The Lord then instructed Samuel to tell the people how it would be if a king ruled them.
Obedient, Samuel told the people that a king would take their sons and daughters to be his servants and would take one tenth of all their possessions. But the people would not change their minds. “Nay; but we will have a king over us,” they said.
Once more Samuel prayed about his concern for his people, and once more the Lord answered, “Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king.”
Shortly after this, a young man named Saul was searching with a servant for some donkeys that Saul’s father had lost. Having searched long and hard without success, the servant suggested that they ask Samuel where to find the animals. Saul agreed.
Now, the Lord had told Samuel that Saul would be coming, and when he was approaching the prophet, the Lord told Samuel, “Behold the man whom I spake to thee of! this same shall reign over my people.”
Saul went up to Samuel and said, “Tell me, I pray thee, where the seer’s house is.”
Samuel answered, “I am the seer.” After inviting Saul to eat with him, Samuel continued, “And as for thine asses that were lost three days ago, set not thy mind on them; for they are found.”
Saul must have been astonished, for he had not yet even mentioned the lost animals. He must have been even more astonished later, when Samuel had him send his servant away so that “I [Samuel] may shew thee the word of God.”
Samuel anointed Saul king of Israel, and for a time Saul ruled in righteousness. Then he turned against the Lord and became selfish and rebellious, causing the Lord to have Samuel anoint a new king. This time the chosen ruler was David, who later slew Goliath, the Philistine giant.
All his life Samuel encouraged the children of Israel to turn their hearts to God. Often they obeyed; but more often they returned to their wicked ways and forgot Him. Samuel’s sons, many of his people, and the two men he anointed as kings all had difficulty following the Lord’s ways. But Samuel never gave up. He faithfully preached the gospel until he died.