Lamp of God

golden lampstandNow the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord before Eli. And word from the Lord was rare in those days, visions were infrequent.

It happened at that time as Eli was lying down in his place (now his eyesight had begun to grow dim and he could not see well), and the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord where the ark of God was, that the Lord called Samuel; and he said, “Here I am.” (1 Samuel 3:1-4)

Talk about a concise scene setting!  So many details briefly mentioned as though in passing…some as parenthetical footnotes.  So, let’s break it down.

Samuel was ministering to the Lord before Eli

Although we’re not told, here, exactly what Samuel was doing, the wording tells much about young Samuel’s heart.  First that he had a heart for ministering…for serving.  Second that he saw himself not as ministering to Eli, but rather as ministering to God.  Samuel’s service was unto the Lord.

And word from the Lord was rare in those days, visions were infrequent.

It’s mentioned almost in passing, yet is a crucial detail to the unfolding story of how God used Samuel.  Prophetic word from God was rare at that time…God was not making Himself and His will known to Israel with the power and clarity that He had in times past.  Although we’re not told what sort of visions were infrequent, context clues later in the account lead me to believe this is likely referring to the cloud of God’s presence no longer being visible over the tabernacle and the glory of the Lord no longer filling the sanctuary.

It happened at that time as Eli was lying down in his place

Though the time of day is not specifically stated, we readily surmise from the fact that both Eli and Samuel are lying down that this occurs at night.  The scene is being set…

(now his eyesight had begun to grow dim and he could not see well)

This seemingly minor detail informs us that Eli’s vision prevented him from doing finely detailed work.

and the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord where the ark of God was

Aha!  Here is where the unfolding scene comes into focus…where the tightly packed disjointed details come together.  When God gave Moses instructions on how to build the tabernacle, He said:

“You shall charge the sons of Israel, that they bring you clear oil of beaten olives for the light, to make a lamp burn continually. In the tent of meeting, outside the veil which is before the testimony, Aaron and his sons shall keep it in order from evening to morning before the Lord; it shall be a perpetual statute throughout their generations for the sons of Israel.” (Exodus 27:20-21)

The priests were to keep the golden lamp continually burning within the tent of meeting, outside the veil of the Holy of Holies, where the Ark of the Covenant rested.  It was to be a perpetual flame signifying worship to God, and the priests were given special instructions to monitor it all night, so it didn’t go out.

Here, in the story of young Samuel, we are told that at that time “the lamp of God had not yet gone out” and that “Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord where the ark of God was.”  There would come a later time when the lamp of God was no longer maintained and was allowed to go out.  But at that time, it was still a carefully maintained perpetual flame…with Samuel lying nearby.

As the details come together bringing the scene into focus, we see that Eli’s failing eyesight no longer permits him to attend to the lamp…to check the oil, trim the wicks, and fill the reservoir.  So the duty of attending the lamp all night has been handed over to the young acolyte, Samuel.

Now, the oil represents the Holy Spirit and the light represents God’s glory revealed through our lives.  So Samuel was spending his nights lying next to the Holy of Holies, ministering to the Lord, making sure the lamp stayed filled with oil and the flame kept burning…as he sought to glorify God through the power of the Holy Spirit.

What was the result?

And the Lord appeared again at Shiloh, because the Lord revealed Himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord. (1 Samuel 3:21)

The Lord appeared again at Shiloh…the tabernacle at Shiloh was once again covered by the cloud of God’s presence and filled with His glory.  God was once again visibly present and clearly communicable among His people…because of one young man’s faithful service.

What might happen if we each spent more time in God’s presence, ministering to Him, and being filled with His Spirit?


Your thoughts?
[Linked to Messy Marriage, Unforced Rythms, Wellspring ]


14 thoughts on “Lamp of God

  1. Very much needed today. I worry that “The word of the Lord was rare in those days and visions were infrequent”. We so need to make sure this is NOT how we live and how our children grow up. Thank you for this!

    • Yes, those words might be seen as descriptive of today, mightn’t they?

      Yes, we so need a greater fullness of God’s presence, today!

      Reading this passage in 1 Samuel, I was reminded that the path toward a greater fullness of God’s presence begins with our individually making ourselves more present to God.

      Thank you for this perspective, Cousin Helen. Love you much!

  2. What hit me as I read your post was how as Eli grew old & his eyesight failed, God was faithful. Brought to mind the verse, “I have cared for you since you were born. Yes, I carried you before you were born. I will be your God throughout your lifetime – until you hair is white with age.” (Is. 46:4, NLT). Wonderful post full of truth!

    • Oh, Joanne, thank you for pointing out this aspect!

      Yes, Eli was growing old and his eyesight was failing. His sons were wicked and could not be trusted with things of God.

      Yet, God had already made provision through the faithfulness of Hannah and her miracle baby, Samuel!

      Yes, God truly is faithful to provide for our needs!

  3. I wonder about things like that too, Joe. I wonder if I’ve missed opportunities to bring God glory and therefore missed the blessings that He wanted to give me if I’d been faithful. I love how you’ve sifted through each detail. I try to do that when I read through and study the Bible. There’s so much we miss when we rush through. Thanks for gleaning some incredible thoughts today, my friend!

    • What really stood out to me is how God’s presence becomes more significant in our lives as we spend time in His presence.

      I know that’s sort of a no-brainer…and is true of every relationship. Yet this story of how one young boy spending time in God’s presence brought the return of God’s presence to a nation…that’s powerful!

      …and inspiring…

      Thank you, Beth! Have a wonderful day!

    • See there? Dreaming…learning…wide-eyed wonder! It keeps us youthfully beautiful!

      Actually, I felt the same way, reading these verses, recently. Such an old familiar Sunday School story…yet the words “and the lamp of God had not yet gone out” jumped out at me…and set me on a path of new discovery.

      Happy Birthday, Becky! Have a wonderful day and a blessed year!

  4. Hi Joe! This is one of my favorite Old Testament stories. The writer really is concise, you’re right, I never thought about it that way. But the thought of these two asleep on the floor in days when the Lord didn’t speak frequently…yet Eli knew exactly who could be calling. His service is so faithful even when he can’t see very well.

    Eli could have let Samuel do all the work, and left the area. But he felt so connected to the Lord, and to his charge that he stayed on. And it sure was a good thing that he did! I just love that kind of faithfulness.
    Interesting post!

    • Thank you, Ceil, for this perspective.

      You’re right, we can see Eli’s faithfulness in how he raised Samuel, in how continued to ensure the lamp of God was maintained, and in how he recognized that God was speaking to Samuel.

      Eli is complex…much like most of us. We can clearly see his heart for God, yet God spoke condemnation over Eli’s house because of the wickedness of his sons. God asked Eli, “Why do you kick at My sacrifice and My offering which I have commanded in My dwelling place, and honor your sons more than Me, to make yourselves fat with the best of all the offerings of Israel My people?” (1 Samuel 2:29).

      It seems Eli’s weakness was his children…his unwillingness to kick them out or have them sentenced for their wickedness.

      Yet, despite this weakness, he clearly retained a reverence for God.

  5. I appreciate, Joe, how you illumine the details here. So much is communicated in the writer’s concise words, and yet, they are easy to rush past. It is thought provoking, indeed, to think of how far the faithfulness of one person can be spread, through the kindness of God responding.

    • Yes, the writer packs so much into a single brief paragraph it is easy to miss the details. I’ve read this numerous times, and just in my last reading the words “and the lamp of God had not yet gone out” stood out…drawing me toward deeper discovery.

      I love how you worded this:

      “It is thought provoking, indeed, to think of how far the faithfulness of one person can be spread, through the kindness of God responding.”

      Beautifully stated!

      Thank you, Amber, for sharing this perspective.

  6. Such a rich look at this story, Joe. One of my favorites. I always felt an affinity for that young Samuel–so longed for by his mother and then having to leave her so young. I am always glad that God came to Samuel this way when he was so young. Good thoughts, friend.

    • Oh, Laura, what an insightful perspective!

      I’ve posted before about what unusual circumstances Samuel was raised under with only seeing his parents once a year from the time he was weaned…and never really having a chance to get to know his younger siblings.

      Yes, what a caring and comforting God we serve to come to young Samuel at an early age. He must have really needed the comfort he found in God. And what a beautiful picture of how needful we are all of God’s comfort!

      Thank you for sharing this, my friend!

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