Here is, I. The message which, after all this introduction, God delivered to Samuel concerning Eli’s house. God did not come to him now to tell him how great a man he should be in his day, what a figure he should make, and what a blessing he should be in Israel. Young people have commonly a great curiosity to be told their fortune, but God came to Samuel, not to gratify his curiosity, but to employ him in his service and send him on an errand to another person, which was much better; and yet the matter of this first message, which no doubt made a very great impression upon him, might be of good use to him afterwards, when his own sons proved, though not so bad as Eli’s, yet not so good as they should have been, 1 Sam. 8:3. The message is short, not nearly so long as that which the man of God brought, 1 Sam. 2:27. For, Samuel being a child, it could not be expected that he should remember a long message, and God considered his frame. The memories of children must not be overcharged, no, not with divine things. But it is a sad message, a message of wrath, to ratify the message in the former chapter, and to bind on the sentence there pronounced, because perhaps Eli did not give so much regard to that as he ought to have done. Divine threatenings, the less they are heeded, the surer they will come and the heavier they will fall. Reference is here had to what was there said concerning both the sin and the punishment.
1. Concerning the sin: it is the iniquity that he knoweth, 1 Sam. 3:13. The man of God told him of it, and many a time his own conscience had told him of it. O what a great deal of guilt and corruption is there in us concerning which we may say, “It is the iniquity which our own heart knoweth, we are conscious to ourselves of it!” In short, the iniquity was this: His sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not. Or, as it is in the Hebrew, he frowned not upon them. If he did show his dislike of their wicked courses, yet not to that degree that he ought to have done: he did reprove them, but he did not punish them, for the mischief they did, nor deprive them of their power to do mischief, which as a father, high priest, and judge, he might have done. Note, (1.) Sinners do by their own wickedness make themselves vile. They debauch themselves (for every man is tempted when he is drawn aside of his own lusts, Jas. 1:14) and thereby they debase themselves, and make themselves not only mean, but odious to the holy God and holy men and angels. Sin is a vile thing, and degrades men more than any thing, Ps. 15:4. Eli’s sons made light of God, and made his offerings vile in the people’s eyes; but the shame returned into their own bosom: they made themselves vile. (2.) Those that do not restrain the sins of others, when it is in the power of their hand to do it, make themselves partakers of the guilt, and will be charged as accessaries: Those in authority will have a great deal to answer for if they make not the sword they bear a terror to evil workers.
2. Concerning the punishment: it is that which I have spoken concerning his house, 1 Sam. 3:12, 13. I have told him that I will judge his house for ever, that is, that a curse should be entailed upon his family from generation to generation. The particulars of this curse we had before; they are not here repeated, but it is added, (1.) That when that sentence began to be executed it would be very dreadful and amazing to all Israel (1 Sam. 3:11): Both the ears of every one that hears it shall tingle. Every Israelite would be struck with terror and astonishment to hear of the slaying of Eli’s sons, the breaking of Eli’s neck, and the dispersion of Eli’s family. Lord, how terrible art thou in thy judgments! If this be done in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry? Note, God’s judgments upon others should affect us with a holy fear, Ps. 119:120. (2.) That these direful first-fruits of the execution would be certain earnests of the progress and full accomplishment of it: When I begin I will proceed and make an end of all that I have threatened, 1 Sam. 3:12. It is intimated that it might possibly be some time before he would begin, but let them not call that forbearance an acquittance, nor that reprieve a pardon; for when at length he does begin he will make thorough work of it, and, though he stay long, he will strike home. (3.) That no room should be left for hope that this sentence might be reversed and the execution stayed or mitigated, 1 Sam. 3:14. [1.] God would not revoke the sentence, for he backed it with an oath: I have sworn to the house of Eli; and God will not go back from what he has sworn either in mercy or judgment. [2.] He would never come to a composition for the forfeiture: “The iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be purged with sacrifice nor offering for ever. No atonement shall be made for the sin, nor any abatement of the punishment.” This was the imperfection of the legal sacrifices, that there were iniquities which they did not reach, which they would not purge; but the blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin, and secures all those that by faith are interested in it from that eternal death which is the wages of sin.
II. The delivery of this message to Eli. Observe,
1. Samuel’s modest concealment of it, 1 Sam. 3:15. (1.) He lay till the morning, and we may well suppose he lay awake pondering on what he had heard, repeating it to himself, and considering what use he must make of it. After we have received the spiritual food of God’s word, it is good to compose ourselves, and give it time to digest. (2.) He opened the doors of the house of the Lord, in the morning, as he used to do, being up first in the tabernacle. That he should do so at other times was an instance of extraordinary towardliness in a child, but that he should do so this morning was an instance of great humility. God had highly honoured him above all the children of his people, yet he was not proud of the honour, nor puffed up with it, did not think himself too great and too good to be employed in these mean and servile offices, but, as cheerfully as ever, went and opened the doors of the tabernacle. Note, Those to whom God manifests himself he makes and keeps low in their own eyes, and willing to stoop to any thing by which they may be serviceable to his glory, though but as door-keepers in his house. One would have expected that Samuel would be so full of his vision as to forget his ordinary service, that he would go among his companions, as one in an ecstasy, to tell them what converse he had had with God this night; but he modestly keeps it to himself, tells the vision to no man, but silently goes on in his business. Our secret communion with God is not to be proclaimed upon the house-tops. (3.) He feared to show Eli the vision. If he was afraid Eli would be angry with him and chide him, then we have cause to suspect that Eli used to be as severe with this towardly child as he was indulgent to his own wicked sons, and this will bear hard upon him. But we will suppose it was rather because he was afraid to grieve and trouble the good old man that he was so shy. If he had run immediately with the tidings to Eli, this would have looked as if he desired the woeful day and hoped to build his own family upon the ruin of Eli’s; therefore it became him not to be forward to declare the vision. No good man can take pleasure in bringing evil tidings, especially not Samuel to Eli, the pupil to the tutor whom he loves and honours.
2. Eli’s careful enquiry into it, 1 Sam. 3:16, 17. As soon as ever he heard Samuel stirring he called for him, probably to his bed-side; and, having before perceived that God had spoken to him, he obliged him, not only by importunity (I pray thee, hide it not from me), but, finding him timorous and backward, by an adjuration likewise—God do so to thee, and more also, if thou hide any thing from me! He had reason enough to fear that the message prophesied no good concerning him, but evil; and yet, because it was a message from God, he could not contentedly be ignorant of it. A good man desires to be acquainted with all the will of God, whether it make for him or against him. His adjuration—God do so to thee, if thou hide any thing from me—may intimate the fearful doom of unfaithful watchmen; if they warn not sinners, they bring upon themselves that wrath and curse which they should have denounced, in God’s name, against those that go o 1bd5 n still in their trespasses.
3. Samuel’s faithful delivery of his message at last (1 Sam. 3:18): He told him every whit. When he saw that he must tell him he never minced the matter, nor offered to make it better than it was, to blunt that which was sharp, or to gild the bitter pill, but delivered the message as plainly and fully as he received it, not shunning to declare the whole counsel of God. Christ’s ministers must deal thus faithfully.
4. Eli’s pious acquiescence in it. He did not question Samuel’s integrity, was not cross with him, nor had he any thing to object against the equity of the sentence. He did not complain of the punishment, as Cain did, that it was greater than he either deserved or could bear, but patiently submitted, and accepted the punishment of his iniquity. It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good. He understood the sentence to intend only a temporal punishment, and the entail of disgrace and poverty upon his posterity, and not a final separation of them from the favour of God, and therefore he cheerfully submitted, did not repine, because he knew the demerits of his family; nor did he now intercede for the reversing of the sentence, because God had ratified it with a solemn oath, of which he would not repent. He therefore composes himself into a humble resignation to God’s will, as Aaron, in a case not much unlike. Lev. 10:3; He held his peace. In a few words, (1.) He lays down this satisfying truth, “It is the Lord; it is he that pronounces the judgment, from whose bar there lies no appeal and against whose sentence there lies no exception. It is he that will execute the judgment, whose power cannot be resisted, his justice arraigned, nor his sovereignty contested. It is the Lord, who will thus sanctify and glorify himself, and it is highly fit he should. It is the Lord, with whom there is no unrighteousness, who never did nor ever will do any wrong to any of his creatures, nor exact more than their iniquity deserves.” (2.) He infers from it this satisfying conclusion: “Let him do what seemeth him good. I have nothing to say against his proceedings. He is righteous in all his ways and holy in all his works, and therefore his will be done. I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him.” Thus we ought to quiet ourselves under God’s rebuke, and never to strive with our Maker.