1 Samuel 3:18

It is the Lord: let him do what seemeth him good. The sentence which was pronounced on Eli and his house was almost as severe as can be conceived. But the manner in which it was received by him shows that, notwithstanding the defects of his character, he possessed the "spirit of faith," which shone like a spark of fire amidst the ashes and gloom of his closing days. He did not refuse to admit its Divine Author, did not question its justice, did not rebel against it and seek to reverse it, did not fret and murmur and give himself up to despair. His language expresses a spirit the exact opposite of all this. "When Samuel had told him every whit, Eli replied, It is the Lord. The highest religion could say no more. What more can there be than surrender to the will of God? In that one brave sentence you forget all Eli's vacillation. Free from envy, free from priestcraft, earnest, humbly submissive; that is the bright side of Eli's character, and the side least known or thought of" (F.W. Robertson).

I. HE RECOGNISES THE APPOINTMENT OF GOD. "It is the Lord," or "he is the Lord," who has spoken. He believed that the voice was really his, notwithstanding

(1) it came to him indirectly - through the agency of another;

(2) it came in an unexpected manner; and

(3) it announced what he naturally disliked to hear, and what was most grievous. These things sometimes dispose men to doubt "the word of the Lord," and are made excuses for rejecting it. It is not, in its mode of communication or in its contents, "according to their mind." But the spirit of faith ventures not to dictate to God how or what he shall say, and it perceives the Divine voice when those who are destitute of it perceive only what is purely natural and human.

II. HE JUSTIFIES THE RECTITUDE OF GOD. Such justification (Psalm 51:4) -

1. Is implied in the acknowledgment that it comes from Jehovah, who alone is holy (1 Samuel 2:2). "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Genesis 18:25).

2. Proceeds from the conviction that it is deserved on account of the iniquity of his sons, and his own sins of omission (Lamentations 3:39; Micah 7:9). They who have a due sense of the evil of sin are not disposed to complain of the severity of the sentence pronounced against it.

3. Is not the less real because not fully expressed, for silence itself is often the most genuine testimony to the perfect equity of the Divine procedure. "Aaron held his peace" (Leviticus 10:3; Psalm 39:9, 11).

III. HE SUBMITS TO THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD. "Let him do what seemeth him good."

1. Very reverently and humbly (1 Peter 5:6). It is vain to contend against him.

2. Freely and cheerfully; not because he cannot be effectually resisted, but because what he does is right and good; the spontaneous surrender and sacrifice of the will.

3. Entirely. "The will of the Lord be done" (Acts 21:14).

IV. HE CONFIDES IN THE GOODNESS OF GOD. "Good." "Good is the word of the Lord" (2 Kings 20:19). Eli could not have spoken as he did unless he believed that -

(1) God is merciful and gracious;

(2) in wrath remembers mercy, mitigating the force of the storm to all who seek shelter in his bosom; and

(3) "out of evil still educes good" (Romans 8:28). Let us be thankful for the surpassing motives and influences afforded to us under the gospel (2 Corinthians 4:17; Hebrews 4:15; Hebrews 12:10, 11; Revelation 21:4; Revelation 22:3). - D.

And Samuel told him every whit.
Samuel, so adjured, "told him every whit, and hid nothing from him." How interesting it is to trace, at every stage of the history, the development of this holy child's character. He had been called to be a prophet, that is, an announcer of God's word and will to His people. And what are the leading qualifications for the office of a prophet?

1. That he should speak the whole truth fully and without reserve.

2. He must speak the truth in love. tie is not to speak harshly or bitterly, as if glorying in the prospect of sentence being executed, but tenderly, and in sympathy. What a good augury of his right discharge of the prophetical office — this fidelity combined with this sympathy!

(Dean Goulburn.)

1. His submission to Eli deserves particular notice. Early grace made him anxious to do well, and to obey those over him in the Lord.

2. Samuel showed great respect to Eli's feelings. He had a regard for the feelings of the amiable old man, and had no desire to glory over him by being preferred as the channel of Divine communication, or to embitter his gray hairs by such mournful tidings. His conduct evinced great self-command and consideration for others — features of character of great worth and usefulness, and very beautiful in one so young. It is wrong even to tamper with the feelings of anyone, or to distress a heart unreasonably. There is a cruelty in annoying the aged by wantonly abusing them for the faults of other years, or reproaching them for the vices of their sons, or bearing to them the tales which irritate their souls, and make their lives unhappy, He was not forward to utter bad news, as young persons often are, but acted with becoming caution.

3. Samuel's candour was remarkable. Samuel's frank and candid statement is a model to every youth.

(R. Steel.)

I. A JUDICIOUS DISCOVERY FROM WHENCE ALL EVILS COME. "It is the Lord." He is omnipotent, and who hath withstood His power. He is just, and will bring no evil without good cause, He is wise, and whatsoever evil He bringeth He can draw it to a good end....He remaineth the same God in the fire and in the earthquake which He was in the still voice; the same when He slew the Israelites as when His light shone upon their tabernacle. His glorious attributes cross not one another. His justice taketh not from His mercy, nor His mercy from the equity of His justice; but He is just when He bindeth up, and merciful when He woundeth us....The same God that overthrew Pharaoh in the Red Sea, that "slew great and mighty kings" (Psalm 136:15, 17, 18) did deliver up His own people, did deliver up the ark to Dagon: for His justice, His wisdom, and His mercy "did endure forever."

II. A WELL-GROUNDED RESOLUTION. Let us learn with Eli to "kiss the Son, lest He be angry" (Psalm 2:12), nay, to kiss Him, and bow before Him when He is angry; to offer Him up a peace offering, our wills, of more power than a hecatomb, than all our numerous fasts and sermons, to appease His wrath....This is the truest surrendry we can make...."I do not only obey God, and do what He would have me, but I am of His mind," saith the heathen Seneca....The stubbornest knee may be made to bow, and obedience may be constrained. But the true Israelite doeth it with joy and readiness, and though he receive a blow he counteth it as a favour, for He that gave it hath taught him an art to make it so.

(Anthony Faringdon.)

So long as things went well with Eli he had given no evidence of being one of God's true children. But the sore pressure of God's judgment upon him brings out the good in his character, which lay beneath the surface. The fragrant leaf must be crushed, before it will give out the perfume that is in it. The pebble must be cut and filed and rubbed by the jeweller, before the beautiful veining which runs through the heart of it can be brought to light.

(Dean Goulburn.)Archbishop Whitgift, when he was paralysed and his speech affected, could be heard to say nothing distinctly but this: "Pro Ecclesia Dei," "Pro Ecclesia Dei," ("For the Church of God.") The Church of God was nearer to his heart than his own troubles and approaching death.

(Dean Goulburn.)

You are aware that in the Christian character there are what are called the active and the passive graces. It is not enough for us to ask what we do, but we must also ask how we suffer.


1. Submission to God does not suppose insensibility to the afflictions under which we are called to cultivate it. We are allowed to mourn, though we are not allowed to murmur. Religion does not exact stoicism of its subjects.

2. This submission, in the second place, does not suppose that we are not to employ the means which are within our power, with a view to the prevention of evil. Our employment of means, with a view to prevent evil from falling upon us, is not at all inconsistent with a feeling of submission to the will of God.

3. Nor, in the third place, is prayer to God against evil, inconsistent with submission to Him under it, if He should see fit to visit us with it. We must not, indeed, open our mouth against God, but we may open our mouth to God.But then, let us inquire what this submission actually implies.

1. Why, in the first place, it implies that we justify God in every thing that He does — that however much we may blame ourselves, we attach no blame to God. Now, this is something; and I am afraid it is more than all of us at all times experience.

2. But submission involves more than this: it involves in it, that we approve of all that God does.

3. Then, lastly, this submission supposes that we cleave to God in the midst of all.

II. Let us notice THE GROUNDS ON WHICH THIS SUBMISSION TO GOD RESTS. First, then, it rests on the sovereignty of God.

2. Then, secondly, on the ground of the righteousness and justice of God, we ought to submit to Him.

2. Then, again, the unchangeableness of God should also inspire us with a feeling of resignation and submission.

III. SOME PRACTICAL EFFECTS OR FRUITS OF THIS SUBMISSION TO GOD. Now, there are some evils which it will prevent, and there are some direct and absolute benefits which it will ensure. First, there are evils which it will prevent. It will prevent rash conclusions. Again, this submission to God will prevent immoderate sorrow. In the next place, this will prevent sinful staggerings. This is a scriptural phrase. It is said of Abraham that "he staggered not." Sometimes a sudden affliction comes upon us; and, like a flash of lightning across our path, it surprises us. Then, as to the positive benefits which this feeling — this habit — this virtue of submission will insure to us, it will give us, in the first place, inward peace. "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee." Therefore, this will also bring along with it enduring patience — a noble virtual Patience is one of the finest moral virtues! Lastly, another positive advantage is that it will excite praise and thanksgiving. The language, the spirit of the text, is not to be attained, perhaps, all at once.

(J. E. Beaumont.)

Let us see what virtue Eli manifests in the text; then, how he displayed it; and, what lessons may be drawn from the subject.


1. It was conformity to the Will of God. viewed in relation to God, this virtue is based upon the realisation of His goodness, and that therefore His will is always just and good and wise.

2. Further, that nothing happens unless it is designed or permitted by Him. Eli's instinctive expression, "It is the Lord," reveals the habit of his soul to discern God's hand in all things.

3. But the words express the entire resignation of his own will to the will of God. In this lies the virtue. It was not a mere emotion, but an act of that within him must have been a habit. Difficult occasions do not create virtues, but call them into operation.

4. Holy Scripture supplies us with many instances of conformity of will to God, which is a law which holds good throughout the spiritual sphere, as that of gravitation does in the natural sphere: e.g. the answer of the Shunamite, when her child had died, "It is well," or "Peace" (2 Kings 4:26). Again, Job's wonderful resignation, expressed by the words, "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the Name of the Lord" (Job 1:21).


1. Promptly. There was no hesitation or delay. We know how, when some great loss is broken to us, for a time we are apt to be overwhelmed, dazed, and bewildered with grief, and want a little pause before we can gather ourselves together again and attempt to cry, "Not my will, but Thine, be done." But with the aged Eli, the accents of resignation followed immediately upon the announcement of the evils which would befall him and his house. He apparently sustained the shock without perturbation, though evidently a man of deep affections.

2. Humbly. Men often disdain to be corrected by their juniors, but Eli displayed no such sensitiveness. Though judge and priest, he heard with humbleness of mind the tale of woes and denunciation from the lips of the innocent child, and expressed the justice of what God was about to bring upon him. Most painful and humiliating, and, as far as this life was concerned, irretrievable; yet no word of murmuring or self-defence escaped from his mouth.

3. Absolutely. "Let Him do what seemeth Him good." Not "what seemeth good to me." This is true liberty of spirit. So the greatness of Eli's prompt, humble, and absolute resignation is accentuated by the consideration of the time when he lived and the circumstances of the period.


1. We are warned, by the judgments upon Eli and his family, of the momentousness of the duty of rebuking sin, and especially on the part of parents, rulers, and priests.

2. The practice of conforming the will to God in all the events of life, and that with the same features of promptness, lowliness, and entirety as Eli manifested, is the chief lesson from the text.

3. Further, to remember that we can learn conformity from the self-surrender of Christ to His Father's will, especially in His Passion and death, and that we are aided in the production of this grace by the presence of the Holy Ghost; so that to say, "Not my will, but Thine, be done," is easier for us than it was for Eli.

4. The root of his conformity of will comes to view at the moment of his death. He bore up when he heard the tidings of the great slaughter of the people, and that his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were dead; but when he was told that the ark of God was taken he fell backward and died. Evidently God, and the things of God — notwithstanding his past great and culpable negligence — held the first place in his heart; hence this submission to His Will.

(Canon Hutchings, M. A.)

"A few weeks ago, in a city of Nebraska, I was holding meetings. There came to that city my dear friend, Commander Booth-Tucker. It was the city of Omaha. I shall never forget my talk with him there. I said to him, 'Commander, the passing of your beloved wife was one of the things that I freely confess I cannot understand.' He looked at me across the breakfast table, his eyes wet with tears, and yet his face radiant with that light which never shone on sea or land, and he said to me, 'Dear man, do you not know that the Cross can only be preached by tragedy?' Then he told me this incident: 'When I and my wife were last in Chicago, I was trying to lead a sceptic to Christ in a meeting. At last the sceptic said, with a cold, glittering eye and a sarcastic voice, 'It is all very well. You mean well; but I lost my faith in God when my wife was taken out of my horns. It is all very well; but if that beautiful woman at your side lay dead and cold by you, how would you believe in God?' Within one month she had been taken through the awful tragedy of a railway accident, and the Commander went back to Chicago, and, in the hearing of a vast multitude, said, 'Here in the midst of the crowd, standing by the side of my dead wife as I take her to burial, I want to say that I still believe in God, and love Him, and know Him.'"

(Campbell Morgan, D. D.)

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