This morning the CSB gives me explicit permission to walk down a path the Spirit would seem to be prompting me to explore.
By contrast, the boy Samuel grew in stature and in favor with the Lord and with people.
(1Samuel 2:26 CSB)
By contrast. You’re not going to find those words in other translations. And so, in other translations you might miss the juxtaposition of the rebuke of Eli’s sinful sons, Hophni and Phinehas, and the Spirit’s commentary on the growth of Hannah’s set apart son, Samuel. But not in the CSB. It’s clear that all three boys are talked about in the latter part of 1Samuel 2 for the express purpose of contrast — for their comparison and for our consideration.
If I can use the term, Samuel evolved while the sons of Eli devolved. He advanced, they atrophied. He grew in consecration to the Lord; they grew in contempt for the Lord (2:17). Thus, He found favor with the Lord, while the Lord purposed to put them to death (2:25b). By contrast.
And not to overly simplify, nor to ignore other factors like Hannah’s earnest desire to dedicate her son to the Lord (1:11) while Eli was content to grow fat off the sin of his sons (2:29), but I’m chewing on a thought which points to at least one root cause for the stark contrast between the boys. It’s the connection between service and sanctification.
What caught my eye was that the Spirit records that Samuel “served in the LORD’s presence” (2:18a) before He makes sure we know that Samuel “grew up in the presence of the LORD” (2:21b). Is it too much to think that Samuel’s service was directly connected to Samuel’s sanctification? I don’t think so.
Practically speaking, the child Samuel didn’t bring a lot to the table. Not much to offer in terms of strength, skills, or scholarship. Nothing really to put on his resume when it came to work or wisdom. But what Samuel did bring however, even as child, was himself. Samuel served.
So, I want to suggest that it’s because he served in the LORD’s presence — even before he had a lot to serve with — that he grew in the LORD’s presence.
Samuel served the LORD, thus he grew in the LORD. Because he worked with what he had, to him more was given (Lk. 19:11-26). Because he was faithful with little, he would grow in the LORD’s presence much. It’s the way of the kingdom. It’s the way of the church, “for those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus” (1Tim. 3:13).
Eli’s boys, on the other hand, served themselves. They enlisted in extortion in the name of the Lord to feed their physical appetites (2:12-17). They engaged in exploitation through their position in the Lord to feed their lustful appetites (2:22). But God is not mocked, what they sowed they would reap (Gal. 6:7). And so, while Samuel served and grew in favor with the Lord, Eli’s boys sinned and fell under the Lord’s serve discipline.
Service and sanctification. I’m thinking there’s a connection.
By God’s grace. For God’s glory.