The prophet Samuel was the first of his kind among the nation of Israel. He was like John the Baptist who fearlessly spoke the words of God without regard to his personal image or reputation. Samuel was a spiritually minded man with unwavering absolutes. He listened to and obeyed the voice of God alone, providing a godly example for the nation of Israel to follow.
However, Samuel did not start out as a bold prophet of God, but rather a servant. Samuel was born to Elkanah and Hannah, from the tribe of Ephraim. Hannah, who was barren, pleaded with the Lord to give her a son, vowing she would give the child back to God as a lifelong servant. The Lord answered her prayer, and she named her son Samuel. As soon as the child was weaned, Hannah took him to Jerusalem to the Temple of the Lord and left him in the care of Eli the priest. Although Samuel was not of the Levites appointed by God to serve in the temple, but God honored Hannah's sacrificial offering and watched over Samuel, allowing him to minister to the Lord alongside Eli the priest.
Even as a young boy, Samuel clearly heard the voice of God. Samuel's first prophetic message was one of judgment against the two sons of Eli, Hophne and Phinehas, who would both die on the same day as a consequence of their consistently evil ways. Eli had failed to discipline his sons as God had instructed him. As a result, his family was cut off from service to the Lord. Although Samuel was afraid, he delivered the message to Eli, knowing that obedience to God was more precious than the approval of men.
This event had a tremendous spiritual impact on Samuel's life. By watching the example of Eli and his family, Samuel learned that the unchecked disobedience of leadership can lead to the downfall of an entire nation. This is evidenced by his response to the disobedience of King Saul of Israel when God instructed Saul to completely destroy the Amalekites, a feared enemy of Israel. King Saul instead spared the king of the Amalekites, and saved the best of the sheep and cattle using the excuse that they were for sacrificing to the Lord. Because he knew God desired obedience rather than sacrifice, Samuel hacked King Agag to pieces with his sword. As boy, he had already witnessed the consequences of compromise.
Samuel's days in service to the Lord taught him God's laws and regulations in worship, along with a connection to God's heart and desire to bless his people. But Samuel knew that blessing would only come with obedience. So, in his youth, Samuel resolved to follow closely the ways of God. He grew to be an honored, powerful prophet of God.
"So Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel had been established as a prophet of the LORD." (I Samuel 3:19-20)