1 Samuel 3:1-4:11
Samuel was truly a miracle baby. His mother Hannah was unable to have children and because of that her husbands other wife (they had multiple wives then) constantly mocked her about it. While on a pilgrimage to Shiloh Hannah stopped in the Temple and prayed for a son. She was so determined and desperate in her prayers that when the priest Eli saw her praying she just say her lips moving but no sound coming out. He went over to kick her out because he thought she was drunk. Upon finding her sober he blessed her and soon Hannah had a son whom she dedicated to God. Once Samuel was old enough she took him to the Temple and dedicated him to the service of God and so there Samuel lived with Eli.
One night Samuel hears someone calling out to him and assumes it is the now old and blind Eli. He goes to him three times asking what he wants but Eli says he didn't call him. Samuel is about 12 years old at this time and had never heard from God before but Eli recognizes that God is calling to him and so tells him what to say the next time he hears the voice. Sometimes God is calling to us and we have no idea it is Him. Being surrounded by a Christian community can help us realize that God is speaking to us as our brothers and sisters can see what God is doing in our lives sometimes more clearly than we can.
God tells Samuel that his threat against Eli will be fulfilled because of the actions of his sons. His sons were acting priests as well and as they helped people conduct their sacrifices they would break the rules. They were to take a fork of meat after it was cooked for their own portion but his sons would take it raw because they could get more meat out of it. They sinned against God through the sacrificial system that was supposed to forgive sins. They had no care for the people or for God which made God angry. So He said that Eli's family would all die young and that those who were old enough to still be serving at His temple would go blind and outlive their children. To prove this Eli's sons would die on the same day.
At this time Israel was fighting with the Philistines and they were losing. So they decided to bring the Ark of the Covenant to the battlefield so that God would fight for them. Usually this is what God wants His people to do, not rely on their own strength but to rely on Him, but God was using this to bring about his threat to Eli. Eli's sons were among those who carried the Ark out to the battleground and Israel was walloped by Philistine. Both of Eli's sons died fulfilling what God said, "I will cause your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, to die on the same day!" (1 Samuel 2:34). Israel was defeated because of the sin of the two sons. Our sins don't just effect us but can effect those around us. When Israel lost a battle it was often because a handful of people didn't obey God's command. In this case two people's sins caused 30,000 people their lives.
Philistine had captured the Ark and thus had taken God's presence from Israel. This was a mighty victory for them because they knew how powerful God was and how He had defeated so many before. They celebrated and put the Ark in the temple of Dagon, their god of fertility, and right next to a giant statue of the god that they worshipped. The next day the statue was lying face down bowing to the Ark. They put it back upright and the next day it was again bowing down to the Ark and then everyone in the city began getting tumours all over their body. So they sent it to another city and then that city broke out into tumours. So they sent it to another city and as it arrived they begged for it to bet taken away. The Lord's power was so great against them that they sent the Ark back to Israel.