Posts Tagged With: Hannah

Samuel’s Legacy seen in the Lives of those that were Influenced by him

The  Master Builder who Left a United Israel.   

The anarchical mess of the sprawling godless tribes of Israel carried on in ignorance of the seismic change in history that was about to take place over the next generation, all of which was precipitated and initiated through the birth of Shmuel ben Elkanah. That blessed child born in Ramathaim Zophim passed away, some think, about a full century after the day of his birth. It was Samuel’s time. The Samuellian era. The last and highest peak of the line of characters known as the Judges. This man was also the first and, to my mind, possibly the highest peak of the prophetic office and gift that ever ministered to the whole of Israel during the period of time in which the Hebrews lived in the land. He had become a one man institution. He was the posthumous pillar that epitomised what was to be the future greatness of Israel. He was treasured and feared by all in his mature years, and sadly missed after his passing.  He was anointed and appointed by God Almighty as His representative in Israel throughout his lifetime. What he left behind him was as unified, Godly and purposeful as it was the opposite of those things at the moment he had been conceived. Even while he homed in and concentrated on the schools of the prophets after his last words with Saul, the very fact that he was alive and moving “in God,” even though it was in the background of Israel’s political and tribal cosmos, Samuel gave the nation comfort, and a brighter vision to look forward to.

There was, of course, the hope of the great charismatic leader of men, David. But he was a man that Judah and Benjamin loved beyond reason, while the northern tribes knew less about.

The ground had been prepared for the Glory of God to return, just as dramatically as it had left when the Philistines had stolen the Ark of the Covenant in the early days of Samuel’s youth. The Ark was indeed safe in Israeli hands and had been after several months of Philistine illicit ownership, but the Hebrews had never had it been returned to the Tabernacle. There is no way we can possibly imagine that it was left in the home of a certain Abinadab, by Samuel’s forgetfulness, or anybody else’s forgetfulness. It was a deliberate act of “neglect.” That is, it was deliberately left there by Samuel. It was symbolic of a new day dawning. Samuel was so busy relating to God, hearing from God and ministering to the people of Israel, as well as judging them, that to trouble himself with the symbol of the God he was relating to seemed almost irrelevant.  The substance of their faith was much more vital than the symbol of the same. Samuel was a man born out of time, with a world view, belief system and spiritual disciplines far ahead of his generation. Samuel was living in his own, “Holy Spirit church age.” All he did was relate to Him who is invisible, in as real a relationship as Peter, James and John had done in the days of Christ’s ministry. Samuel would have been considered a spiritual gargantuan giant no matter what age he had lived in. Samuel was the classic wild, giant, dangerous prophet.

Samuel’s anointing had led him in a different direction than the proscribed national slavery to what had degenerated into a deadened sacrificial system. Samuel was a man of the Spirit all the days of his life. He was worshipping the Lord with abandon before he had received that first prophetic word in his youth. By keeping the Ark of the Covenant and the Tabernacle in a low profile with the people, it meant that he could keep the person of Yahweh Himself in the highest possible highlight. For Samuel, everything was a matter of the Spirit. The input of the prophetic word, and the spread and education of aspiring prophets was changing the face of Israel then, in a way that would have a future impact on the entire planet. Samuel’s lifelong circuit ministry of judging and teaching was a generational, credible call to return to the purity and faith of a life lived in devotion to Yahweh. This, after all, was the basic reason for Israel’s existence on the planet. How great was the force of righteousness within the prophet Samuel, and how magnificent was the working of the anointing that was upon him.

Samuel’s adherence to keeping the most intimate relationship with God and obeying Him as often and as consistently as he did throughout his life meant that the schools of the prophets had time to have become engrafted into the atmosphere of Israel’s culture within his own lifetime. His withdrawal from public and political life meant he could give his whole being to the development and the solidifying of an understanding into the world of prophecy and how it was to be maintained. Who knows what treasures he passed on to influence the future prophets.  The schools blossomed and developed under him, and were to direct the people and rulers of Israel over the next 500 years or so, not that they always listened to them.  Because of the fact that the prophetic Spirit and prophetic schools in Israel ultimately gave us the writing prophets, we could actually say that Samuel is still impacting the world today through them.  The writing prophets have left us a deep rich seam of truth that has not to this day been fully fathomed.

Samuel was the original seed of which all later prophets in Israel were the flower and growth. Sacrifice of animals was never abandoned altogether of course, but the sacrificial activity was brought into subjection to the flow of the Spirit of God and the prophetic word and office.  Samuel had gone quite some distance in tying Israel to Yahweh rather than to the Mosaic system that was attached to their history. The Tabernacle and the corrupted Levitical priesthood had lost the awe and wonder of the manifest presence of God in the infrastructure of that form of worship. Samuel had brought the drifting vessel of Israel, at first floating without a sail or rudder, back into its divine haven in all its proper function, i.e. loving God and walking in the parameters of His law.  The land of Israel was and is Yahweh’s land. The people of Israel were and are God’s nation. The whole of Samuel’s life and mission was to see his beloved nation brought under the umbrella of the terms of that covenant that they had so crassly broken.

Samuel had died while David was still on the run from the demonised and demented first monarch, Saul ben Kish. Yet even with the sorrow of the prophet dying without seeing the unity of one nation happily existing under the rule of a man who was after God’s own heart, the loyalty that was brewing in support of the anointed son of Jesse might possibly have been seen and perceived by the wise old man as a truly God inspired phenomenon. This would have allowed Samuel to die in peace concerning the future of the nation after he had departed to Sheol. Yet, whether he saw the hearts of the people turning towards David or not, I feel sure he would have seen in the Spirit what kind of a giant killing king Jesse’s son was to become. The priesthood may have turned out to be wimpish and retiring, but there was a Lion out of the tribe of Judah that was moving into maturity and position.

Saul was famous for his bravery across the twelve tribes, if only infamous for his demonic illness around the southern tribe of Judah. The bible reads as if it was only the confidantes of Saul’s court and the intimates of David’s friends and family that new of all the attempts on his life made by the son of Kish. Common folk might have turned against Saul had they known of the demonically inspired murderous attempts the sovereign had made time and again.  The giant killing, sweet psalmist of Israel was on the run from Saul for many years, while Samuel was alive, and the king’s hot pursuit of his successor continued until his death at Gilboa. There was indeed a conflict of loyalties in the hearts of the people. What were the Godly population of Judah to do? Follow Saul the present king who was clearly not the man he was when he was crowned? Or, like all the other nations that surrounded them, should they rid the land of an unwanted megalomaniac, dictator of a king and put the revolutionary “new boy on the block,” on the throne? Which way was the right one?

David had undoubtedly been taught well by Samuel. God had put Saul in office. God would remove Saul from office. Whatever human means or circumstances would bring about Saul’s removal from the throne, it was not to be by the hand of any God-fearing Hebrew, especially the man who was destined to succeed him. Because of Samuel’s integrity, morality and his grasp of patience for God to resolve issues, after Samuel’s death, the nation, in particular the people of Judah, waited to see what was about to happen. It was clearly a wait for Saul to die. Nobody in Israel it seems, wanted to touch this “Ark,” this anointed of God. Saul, as it were, was a holy vessel chosen by God, no matter what the outward display of vileness revealed. The resolution of the issue was all about divine intervention and a trust in the character of the Ever Living God, and His direct interaction with the people and concerns of Israel.  The tribe of Judah would have wanted Saul’s removal to happen quickly. I often wonder if the Northern tribes had a clue about Saul’s political intrigues against his own son and the man he had long suspected wanted to, “steal,” his throne. The North–South divide in Israel, from Joshua’s time on, is plain to see. On crossing the Jordan, the major campaign in the south, under Joshua, was nothing but a thorough conquering of Judah’s territory. As the years passed the fighting spirit that was needed for the conquering of Canaan leaked away like sand in a sieve. The book of Joshua reveals an incredible campaign in Judah, then a list of all the area that was not conquered, and a much lesser campaign in the north. The mid lands of Canaan were seemingly ignored.

One cannot but own the idea that the many people of Judah, and Benjamin, if not the rest of the nation, were aware that Saul’s successor had been anointed by Samuel and was waiting “in the wings” to assume the throne. News would have spread, throughout the southern people of Israel, of David’s two opportunities to have slain Saul – opportunities he had refused to seize, explaining his actions with the now famous words; “Touch not the Lord’s anointed.” Not only would the story have spread like wild fire amongst the people of Judah, Simeon and Benjamin, but it would have inspired them to emulate their future king. “If Saul’s successor, the son of Jesse, dare not remove Saul in order to get to the throne, then it would be wrong to override his will, his intention and his Godly motive. Therefore we, his future subjects as well as being Saul’s subjects must support our present king and wait to see what will happen.”  And so the people of Judah “sat back” as it were in respect of the throne and waited for the appropriate moment to acclaim their darling tribal representative as the rightful king.

As for the other tribes, there was a kind of cultural and social chasm once a person went North of Judah and Benjamin. (I referred above also to Simeon, but the land allotted to Simeon was a kind of annexe in the midst of Judah’s land. After a generation or two had passed, it seems Simeon was totally absorbed into Judah and is hardly mentioned again in the Bible.) Probably in ignorance of the details of the heavy story of Saul’s downfall, depression and demonization, there was a kind of nominal, “God save the King!” attitude amongst those northern tribes. There was little knowledge up north to think anything else but good things about Saul. If one pedantically marks the map of Israel and the narrative’s geographical location, while reading both David’s life and Saul’s reign, very little transpired in the northern tribal areas, but when it did, it shows a king who endeared himself to the people. Saul was much loved up north.  Possibly unawares of the court politics and intrigues, some were more than nominal in their support of Saul. Some risked their lives simply to return Saul’s cadaver to the land of Israel for a proper burial and time of mourning, showing an almost religious commitment to Saul even when dead. No matter what they thought of Saul down south, the north truly honoured their first king.

The deep mindset of division between Judah and the rest of the nation, that later split the whole hegemony into two after Solomon died, was already in the psyche of the people. It started as jealousy and was simmering for centuries before Rehoboam the son of Solomon was crass enough, and silly enough, not to soften the tax regime that funded the king’s lifestyle of luxury. It was the genius of David’s ability to join the nation into one that was a major aspect of the glory of his reign. David was anointed with a Spirit of wisdom. During his reign there was a joining of all the twelve tribes. Solomon’s heavy weight of taxes, and having the nation’s young sons and daughters away from their homes during the course of each year, missing farming time and normal home life for the king’s indulgence was tolerated only because of the wisdom and the character of Solomon and the deep love that the whole united hegemony of Israel had for the demised David and his son. Once the untried and untested son of Solomon had blotted his copy book, the amputation of north from south was done deftly and quickly, without any sociological anaesthetic.

The fact that we can see in retrospect that the nation was on the cusp of greatness, has to be understood as the gift of God on Samuel and then David’s life, a gift that was perpetuated with the very different gift of Solomon. It was an anointing of the Spirit of God that was placed on David’s life simultaneous to the horn full of oil that Samuel poured on his head. It was God that directly made David great. It was Samuel that had anointed David when he was but a child. It was Samuel who had mentored David from the period they had together, near the end of Samuel’s life, leaving the future king with wisdom beyond any of his peers. David proved to his own experience that, “Better is one day in the courts of Yahweh,” that is with Samuel, “than a thousand in the schools of men and worldly wisdom.”

Therefore, conceivably with some of the northern tribes knowing far less about the character of David than the people of Judah, Saul still had a staunch following right up to and even after his death. The nation was soundly formed and stabilising, despite the character of their present king. Samuel had led them away from being a family of tribes with only the religious ties of their history to bind them together while living independent existences.  Samuel, under God, had been the human instrument that had put Saul in office, and, to a degree, as far as externals were concerned, Saul was fulfilling his role. The nation was one, with only the political astute minds of a few who could see the Spiritual and social San Andreas Fault line that ran the whole length of the border between Judah/Benjamin together, and the rest of the tribes to their north, as well as the huge fault line that divided Saul’s character and personality.

David must have been a wise and discerning man, whose company other kings and leaders loved even before he was king. During David’s fugitive years, he made both friends and enemies, however, he befriended some of those rulers that reigned in the days of his loneliness, making friendships that were sustained during the years of his kingship. Some of the kings of those nations that surrounded Israel were still his submissive friends once he had ascended to the throne of Israel.

The nation having been propelled forward by the wisdom of Samuel, a prophet who had an ear to God and the people, as well as a mouth to pray with and teach the masses, built a shrine around his burial place. A building still surrounds his tomb today. Israel has an annual celebration of the life of Samuel.

I salute the son of Hannah, and personally seek God for some slight semblance of his characteristics and Spirit.

4 Nebi Samuel

Nebi Samuel

Advertisements
Categories: SAMUEL’S LEGACY SEEN IN THE LIVES OF THOSE THAT WERE INFLUENCED BY HIM | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Samuel’s Introduction to the Prophetic

SAMUEL’S INTRODUCTION TO THE PROPHETIC.

“Thus says who?”

 (1 Samuel 3:1–15a)

9 7 YEARS OLD

Just to accentuate my point that nobody can be sure about the age of Samuel when God revealed Himself to him look at the figure of Samuel in all these works of Art. In this one he is about 3-4 years old.

When does a “child” stop being a “child”?  How old does a “lad” have to be before he stops being a “lad”?  If I had the answer to these abstract questions I would be content with this account we are about to jump into.  Books and commentaries always picture Samuel as a sweet little boy when the awesome events of First Samuel chapter three take place.  I am not sure that they are right.  The Hebrew word, Anglicised, is commonly spelt as “na’ar.”  It is translated as “babe,” “child,” “boy,” and “lad” in various places in the Old Testament.  One would think that would settle the issue.  But there are other times when it is translated, “Youth,” as well as many times being, “Young man.”  To make things even more complex, there are several occasions when it is translated, “Servant.”  Reading through the context of some of these verses of scripture, Jeremiah referred to himself as a, “na’ar,” when full grown.  And Zadok the full grown High Priest was a, “na’ar,” full of valour.  The story already referred to concerning Hophni and Phinehas’s servants who were adult and brutish enough to threaten worshippers with violence has the word, “na’ar,” in its plural state for the “servants.”  So what are we saying?   We conclude that a, “na’ar,” is therefore quite obviously any male youth from birth to late twenties, possibly even early thirties.Translators have had to use their discretion as to how to translate the word that, frankly, has no single English equivalent. Josephus tells us that Samuel was twelve years old when the story of God’s initial revelation took place. We insist that he was quoting mere tradition.

The fact that age is not mentioned means that in God’s economy it is not vital that we know how old Samuel was.  The fact that Samuel could have been, to our mode of definition, a man when this account occurred is not important. The lesson is not whether it is or isn’t, “prophecy to a child.”  The lesson is, “Introduction to prophecy.”  It is a matter of, “first revelation.”  The fact that the biblical word used is vague concerning age, suggests we can all learn and seek God on what is taught whether we be young or not so young.

We have in these pages built a picture of Samuel as faithful to scripture as we know how.  Whoever wrote the First Book of Samuel gives us only a matter of what constituted the upbringing of this character, who is, I suggest,  equal to Moses in Old Testament history. Brief as it is, it leaves  us with no misunderstanding as to the atmosphere and ethos of the lads emotional, and spiritual environment.

“The child (na’ar) Samuel ministered unto the Lord before Eli.”   Eli must have given of himself to this youthful treasure in an earthen vessel in a way that his two sons never received of him.  Perhaps Eli learned some expensive lessons at the cost of Hophni and Phinehas’s indulgence.  Who knows?  Certainly, Samuel was beautifully trained for his future life of high profile public service.  Was it Samuel’s humble reception, or Eli’s tutored giving?  Probably a bit of both I suspect.

The Infant SamuelSir Joshua Reynolds, 1776

5 or 6 years old in this one.

The difference between the raw profligacy of the priestly homes of Hophni and Phinehas, and the, “holiness seeking”  Eli and Samuel is striking.  Samuel was, more than likely, rarely out of Eli’s presence. Eli needed constant attention.  Hophni and Phinehas, the grown men, prostituted the work of God to their own ends;  “The child ministered before the Lord,” amid the silence and the awful mystery of the Divine protection which seems to have ever surrounded the physical and social environment of wherever the ark was placed.  It was amidst this silent, sacred mystery, apart from the disorders of his priestly sons, that rotund and sightless Eli taught the boy the story of his ancestors, with only the dark curtains of the sanctuary hanging between master, pupil and the mystic golden throne of God on which his visible Shekinah glory was sometimes pleased to rest.

The word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no open vision”.  In this instance we are talking of a Rhema word, i.e. a personal word form a personal God.  It seems that between the days of Deborah and the word spoken by Eli to Hannah, no inspired voice spoke to the chosen people apart from the prophetic visitor referred to at the end of First Samuel chapter two.  This is linked to the account of the dirty oil of awful debauchery that trickled from the priest-head, down to the social hem of Israel’s national adornment.

“No open vision”, seems to suggest that there was a veritable cessation of prophetic theophanies, dreams and visions.  “Open vision” perhaps as opposed to “closed vision” means that God spoke to individuals but did not reveal himself to families or tribes or nations with words similar to what Moses or Deborah delivered. “Open vision” as opposed to –“narrow vision” perhaps. Words applicable to smaller judgements, directives and predictions were possibly still a normal thing, as per Eli to Hannah.

Picture the scene. The day is ended. No traffic passing as there is commonly in this century.  No ghetto blasters to pierce the hush. No TV’s or radio’s turned up to intolerable levels. Just pure, calm, silence and peace.

“Eli was laid down in his place.”  We are not told where “his place” was, but it was obviously in earshot of Samuel. Lights were out with Eli in more ways than one. “He could not see”  Was this darkness of the night, his physical blindness that scripture refers to, or his spiritual ineptitude. “Ere the lamp of God went out”  The lamp of Eli was not quite put out ere the lamp of Samuel was lit.

6 15 YEARSOLD

10-12 years old Samuel in this one.

It was a long night in the sanctuary.  Samuel actually slept in the tabernacle.  In the centre, on the left of the entrance, stood the seven branched candlestick, now mentioned for the last time in the Old Testament, superseded in Solomon’s day by the ten branched candle stick, revived however, after the exile in the smaller Temple.  It was the only light of the first room of the tent, night or day. It was solemnly lit each evening, and, according to rabbinical tradition, it was then extinguished just before morning.  Moses’ words, however, in the Pentateuch, suggest that it was lit in perpetuity. I do not understand.

In the deep silence of that early morning, before the sun had risen, while the sacred lamp was still burning, there came to the ears of an innocent Samuel, the doom of the house of Ithamar. “The Lord called to Samuel.”  The voice came from the visible glory, the Shekinah, which on that solemn night of the calling of the young prophet, no doubt rested on its chosen earthy throne – the mercy seat of God – which formed the top of the ark, and which was overshadowed by the wings of the golden cherubim. But we have reason to believe that Christ Himself stood in the presence of Samuel and called him.

The Lord called. “Samuel!”. God knows everybody’s name.

Note that God’s voice must have sounded fatherly for Samuel’s response to be such as it was. The boy (or youth, or young man) heard in the voice, Eli’s tones. Typical of so many, “He knew not the Lord”.  He was Godly, he was moral, he was upright. Still he did not know God.

The story is told in such a natural manner that the supernatural and the natural do not jar. The common life of the sanctuary is so wonderfully and consciously in view while the Almighty bears his heart. “Will Jehovah do anything with revealing it first to his prophets?”  asked the prophet Amos rhetorically, three hundred years after this nights Divine revelation.  At this stage of Israel’s progress, or rather their lack of it, it seems that there was only one that God perceived as a prophet.

8 14 samuel hears the voice of god

13-15 year old Samuel by this artist.

“Samuel!”  The boy hears.  Would it have been audible to you and I had we been there?  Modern day prophets testify to both audible words as well as strong impressions which seem audible. The sweet humility of the boy that arises so quickly to see what it was that Eli wanted, was one of those characteristics that gave Samuel so much favour in Jehovah’s sight. This willingness to serve; this openness to leave his comfort zone (and what could be more comfortable than a warm bed just prior to sun rise) gave God so much pleasure.  This trait is an insight into the recesses of what made Samuel tick. He shouted, “Here I am!” and then got up and ran.

Eli was awoken by Samuel.  Was his slumber so deep that He could not have heard the call of the Almighty?  The High  Priest was not required on this occasion of revelation. God operates on the basis of heart condition, not external position. God moves towards the open in heart, not necessarily the mature.  Samuel’s heart was clean, and ready to serve.

“I called not!”  Eli insisted in a puzzled tone. “Just a dream!”  “Just a whim or fancy!  “Lie down again my boy!”  He was not interested even in checking, in case there were intruders around the sacred tent.  The lamps creation of long shadows did not put fear in Samuel, with the thought of somebody calling him who was yet unseen. The lad returns to bed.

The call is repeated. The response of Samuel is repeated. The reply of Eli is repeated. Eli is not aware of what is happening. Or is he?  Perhaps he was sharper than what we credit him with being, and thought that if Samuel was slow enough on the uptake, God would refer the word to him.  After all he was the High Priest.  But we think not! God looks on the heart, not the external position.

The narrator then explains to us that, “the Word of the Lord” had not yet been revealed to Samuel. This was, therefore, his first revelation.  Jehovah was reaching out to him.  Samuel was not aware of who or what it was.

The third time the whole thing is repeated, and the proverbial “penny finally drops” with Eli.  I think it remarkable, and yet another token of Samuel’s character that he had, even for a third time gone running to Eli without the fear of being told off.  It is the epitome of the very definition of the servant spirit. He heard his name called and so instinctively ran to him who called him most.

Eli speaks, at last, with a spiritual perception of what is happening. “Go and lie down; and it shall be, if He call you, that you shall say, “Speak Lord , for your servant hears”  Practical instruction on how to hear from God!  We all need it!  I wish I could have sat down with Eli and “asked for more” on this subject.

2 CIRCA 19-20

Young man Samuel, perhaps touching 20 in this dramatic work. There is passion in Samuel’s expression while Eli sleeps. One can almost hear his snoring.

Samuel obeyed to the letter. In the silence, Jehovah had manifested Himself audibly to this youth.

He was about to manifest His presence a fourth time and make known what was to be probably His most significant act since the crossing of the Red Sea. The Shekinah was beaming again after all these years?  God was visiting his people?

Then, before the very eyes of Samuel, as he lay and waited for the voice to call again, came something – Someone – that stood before him.  The scripture starkly states:  “The LORD came, and stood, and called as at other times.” A Question naturally rises.  What form did this manifestation of the Almighty take?  The Bible usually reveals such things.  Abraham received a travelling man.  Moses talked to the burning bush.  Joshua interviewed an armed warrior. Manoah saw an angel. In this way God met with them all.  Was it just the glory of God that came near to Samuel?  Was it the same glory upon which Moses gazed up on Sinai?  Was it indeed the same glory that hovered over the ark of the Covenant in the days of Moses and Aaron?  Was it the bright glory of God that filled Samuel’s sleeping chamber, the chamber that was also an integral part of God’s tabernacle? Or was it Christ in a pre-incarnate Theophany? We are deliberately not told. But we are told that Yahweh came and stood, and called.

God calls Samuel’s name twice this time, as if He took a particular delight in the sound of it. Samuel responds with a, “Speak for your servant hears.”  Some seem to infer that he did not repeat exactly what Eli said, because he was not sure that it was indeed Jehovah speaking to him. One or two translations actually include the name, “Jehovah” in Samuel’s response, suggesting that it depends which of the thousands of pieces of manuscript one receives as the ultimate authority. The scene was set for dialogue with the divine.

Then the revelation!  The prophecy!  The Word!  Whatever descriptive noun one wishes to use, God now imparts to Samuel a message.

1 CIRCA 25

In this graphic Samuel the grown man runs to tell Eli what he has heard.

The very nature of the statement made by Jehovah to Samuel reveals a conversational style that is exhilarating to observe. Amos was correct. It is as if the Almighty, All-sufficient, Omnipotent, Omniscient, everlasting God just wants somebody to unburden his heart on.  Not by shaking universes and moving galaxies and causing the earth to tremble, but by having a quiet chat in somebody’s ear about what He is about to do. God loves fellowship. He will not do anything without revealing Himself to His prophets. But the one He chooses as His prophet has to have a heart that is trained to carry the impartation of the Divine heartbeat. He wants a man to feel as He feels, see as He sees, and speak with the ethos and direction with which He speaks.  That is why He chose Samuel.

God was bearing His heart to Samuel, regardless of his age.  He may have been a young lad, or a mature man, the age is irrelevant.  The academic stature is irrelevant. The state of heart is all.  Young or old is not an issue. Eli was not bypassed because of his age, but because of his heart. It was the whole man – everything that when heaped together comprised the human being that was Samuel ben Elkanah, that made Him God’s delight. God loved what He saw, and chose him as his particular friend on whom He could unburden His heart. God spoke intimately to Samuel.

“Behold, I will do a thing in Israel, at which both the ears of every one that hears it shall tingle.”  With our privileged perspective on history we can see that the Almighty refers to the most unspeakable tragedy of the capture of the Ark of the Covenant by the Philistines. The fact that Eli was about to die was not an ear tingler. The news that his two  sons would die together on the same days as their father, was a shocker, but still not an ear tingler. The Divinely foreseen routing of the Israeli troops by the Philistines with the thousands upon thousands of Israel’s precious sons dying simultaneous to all this misfortune, was sickeningly horrid, but still not an ear tingler. The capture of the ark, and that alone would reduce the majority of Israel’s people to a stunned case of chronic tinitus.  If the British NHS was in existence in Israel, there would have been thousands of Israelis pouring in for tablets, counselling with debilities grounded in the shock of the news.  The ark was to be actually out of the hands of Israel, and in the hands of the uncircumcised Philistines. It isn’t totally spelled out to Samuel, for it is doubtful that he or anybody else could have swallowed a prediction of what was shortly to take place.

7 -yeh

My favourite. Although I do not want my readers to think that my favourite picture vouches for the age of the Samuel figure.

“In that day,” God continued, “I will perform against Eli all things which I have spoken concerning his house: when I begin, I will also make an end.” In modern parlance: “Everything I have said to Eli and his family shall occur on the same day“. We know, sadly, that in this instance the day was a literal twenty four hour day.

The predicted occurrence seemed to suggest that God had indeed forsaken Israel.  Samuel however, as the story unfolds, did not perceive it as such.  He saw deeper, and knew better. This judgment was indeed awful. To be comprehended as compatible with the weight of Eli’s crime, it must be understood that the misconduct of his undisciplined offspring, was either emulated by the masses, or caused Jehovah’s offerings to be abhorred. The effect on the faith, spirituality and conscience of Israel was incalculable.  And all for the sake of authoritative paternal discipline in their childhood. Such is the price of a father that reneges on his responsibility. In one day the judgment would be complete.  Awesome! How awful!  How utterly dreadful!

Jehovah does not even hide the shame of the old man from the youthful Samuel.  God is not into cynicism, nor fanciful hero worship that is lacking in honesty. God is not into building legends for their own sake.  God wants truth. The prophet shall hear all He has to say.

“I have told him (Eli) that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity that he knows; because his sons made themselves vile and he did not frown on them.”  Eli’s shame is made plain to the old man’s servant boy, and delight of his heart. “And therefore I have sworn unto the house of Eli, that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be purged with sacrifice nor offering forever”.  

Samuel’s insight is clarified on the limits of the Mosaic sacrificial system.  This particular sin of Eli’s had, literally left Samuel’s own father figure, and his dreadful sons outside the pale of God’s forgiveness. They had gone too far even for the grace of the Almighty. Surely it led Eli to the place of crying for mercy from the source of another altar.  Surely he cried to God with his mind searching for the idea of a sacrifice and atonement that would cover even his sins.

We have here the mind challenging concept of a genuine man of God being judged in the same way as his totally godless sons. A righteous, how be it faulted, old man, with his ungodly, faithless sons being without any revealed redeeming features.

3 CIRCA 12-13

.

Samuel’s understanding of God’s judgement was honed and sharpened by witnessing such a catastrophe in his own life.  His creed, the tenets of his faith, the doctrine upon which his faith was spread, was erected into a building of such solid material that his grasp of God’s purpose would leave the nation totally obeying and submitting to what he said in years to come.  His revelations were so far ahead of the masses, as to leave them sometimes in a daze as to his words and actions. His clarity of insight into the purposes of God would later lead him to sharp confrontations with all sorts of figures and personalities who struggled to see and understand as he saw and understood.

Salvation is of the Lord! God unburdened Himself on Samuel and we are informed that the young man lay there until the morning. See the character of the down to earth nature of this youth.  At day break he arose to open the doors of the tabernacle. God had spoken. The Almighty had chosen him of all those on planet earth to receive the data of his forthcoming actions in the midst of His covenant people.  And the lad arises as normal to get on with his chores. No delusions of grandeur. No transference into a world of non reality and superiority.  He is still on planet earth, in time and space, and answerable to his elders for the chores that are normally his. Prophet or no prophet, chosen or not, his tasks have to be done. The spirit of Samuel is one that I yearn for. Would that all Christians that experience the supernatural dealing of God had such a frame of heart. Samuel was happy to be a doorkeeper. “It is better to be a doorkeeper in the House of the Lord than to dwell in the tents of the wicked,” said the Psalmist. Perhaps David sensed the heart of Samuel when he wrote those words. Samuel was a prophet and a doorkeeper. Prophets are doorkeepers to God Himself.

Rather than suffer from delusions of grandeur we are told that,“Samuel feared to show Eli the vision.”  Oh how heavy is the prophet’s cross!  He actually wanted to spare the old man any more pain than that which he had obviously seen already on Eli’s creased countenance. Creases that were not simply the results of old age and withering. He wanted to spare Eli, and yet he had to carry the pain himself.  This is the first intimation of the prophet’s affliction on Samuel. The impartation of unwelcome, though divinely urgent truths, to the one he feared, love and respected with honour, was painful to Samuel’s spirit.  Jeremiah, centuries later, felt this particular complaint of prophetic impartations as a peculiarly hard one to bear.

The perception of an intimate, revelatory God that still leaves a human recipient of his word in such a sound and solid sensibility of normal life and all its values is a priceless gem of an observation that the Christian world needs to emulate. Samuel had received a word from God.  A prophetic word.  A word that affected his emotions, the people around him, and the nation of which he was part. The prophetic within him was brought to the threshold. That which was seeded in him was beginning to show itself above the soil of youth.  The embryonic prophetic character was now a birthed voice.  The early years of disciplined humility, were now to bear the fruit of distilled holiness.  The spirit of years of tranquil preparation, was now to exude trustworthy pronouncements.

10

.

What an awe inspiring item the mature prophet and man of God is!

Categories: 1 Samuel 3 verses 1 – 15a, Samuel's first prophetic word. | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Self Denial

SELF – DENIAL

0000000000000000000000001

.

Whether or not she was aware of it, and I rather fancy she did not, Hannah was a giant of the faith. She penetrated heaven, touched God and aligned herself with the Almighty’s eternal plan. God had Samuel in mind and was about to bring him into this time space world. Hannah just wanted a baby. Her legitimate God given maternal instincts that wanted to embrace and love her own offspring and embrace the fruit of her womb, was sharpened and heightened by the animosity and insults of Penninah. The sharper her pain, the more cutting her prayers. The deeper the despair, the greater Hannah’s reach into heaven. The more she was buried in her circumstance, the higher she arose as a woman of the Spirit.  She finally touched the heavenly throne and received the answer via an elderly man who “happened” to be watching her.

Hannah had obviously made her vow before Eli had spoken. She was driven by a higher power than simple human desire for motherhood. Motives make things clean or dirty, holy or unholy. Hannah’s motivation could not have been purer. In her desire for a son, it is as if she stripped herself of any ulterior motive that would disgrace God and righteousness. As much as Peninnah had stabbed her a thousand times with jibes about her barrenness and twisted the knife in the wound incessantly, Hannah did not just want a child to shut her up. If that was all she wanted she would never have given Samuel to God’s service. She could not have wanted a child just to prove to Elkanah that she was not a “cursed” woman, or to let him know that she was a normal lady. She did not need to make any vows concerning any child that she might have conceived; the whole world was full of mothers who had never made any such vow. The desperation in her heart for motherhood somehow aligned herself with God, that even if she had ten children, they were all primarily God’s gift, and so the principle of the first fruits took hold of her. If God was to give her several children (or even if He was not to do so), she believed it was the right thing to do to give her son back to God.

0000000000000000000000002

.

Her vow was a very Godly and holy act of self-denial. She wilfully decided that for the sake of God’s own eternal purpose, and the worship of Israel as a nation, she would deny herself the heart filling joy of having her own son to embrace each day and kiss good-night every evening. She denied herself all the outward bounty of being seen by friends and neighbours as a mother with her child. She denied herself the vengeance of being with Peninnah for the rest of her life being able to simply point at Samuel every time she made any snide remarks about her.

I do not believe it is right to see Hannah’s self denial as an isolated character trait that had nothing to do with her prayer-life. It was Hannah’s rationale behind her motivation that desired motherhood that designates her of one of the greatest ladies in the Bible.

In the first part of Luke 9:23, Jesus said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself …” Even though Hannah gave birth to Samuel something a little over a millennium before Jesus spoke those words, self- denial has always been part of Godly living. Hannah was, in this respect a woman ahead of her time. It seems to me that she immersed herself in a lifestyle of self-denial. I have no doubt at all that her character, philosophy and general attitude to the subject of denying one’s self was such that impacted Samuel’s world view greatly.

0000000000000000000000003

.

This term, “self denial,” means a whole range of things to different people. It is my aim in this slot to define not only what Self-denial is, but what it is not, and to see it in the life of both Hannah and her offspring son.

As Charles Grandison Finney would say, self-denial is not giving up one’s favourite form of selfishness for a less liked form of selfishness. To give up selfishly indulging one’s self in, say, over eating, is not helpful if one adopts selfishly starving one’s self. Such things have nothing to do with the kingdom of God or His righteousness. It is not the victory over lying giving way to silent deception. Self-denial is nothing to do with stopping a certain sin because one fears one may be discovered and found out. Anything that indulges self, or seeks self protection by unrighteous and secretive motives cannot be self-denial as Jesus Christ defined it. To be sure, externally, one may be complemented for self-denial when people hear of what one has given up or denied themselves of. People in general hear of a person denying some pleasures and they measure it by their own internal yard-stick of what is righteous and what is not. They would be utterly unaware of the motivation behind such self-denying – if indeed it was self-denial. Self- denial is not stopping one thing because other people are doing such a thing and one wants to be one of the main stream of people in a certain fellowship. And needless to say Self-denial simply cannot be the cessation of some action or deed for the sake of being congratulated for so doing. By its very nature such an action is in no way self denial, but very much self indulgence.

We need to add that cessation of any form of self-indulgence because the doctor has said that a practice is ruining one’s health, or shortening one’s life, cannot, in the context of the words of Christ, be termed as self-denial. It is in its primary motivation, self-protection, and therefore a form of common sense and healthy self-indulgence.

0000000000000000000000004

.

If in any action, or the cessation of any action, there is the slightest motivation for self indulgence, self-interest of self-promotion, it must be crossed off the list as being in the process of self-denial. Quoting Finney again, he said, “It is impossible to deny self for selfish reasons.”  Could it be plainer? One cannot deny self for the benefit of self. One cannot reject self for the promotion of self.

We are born selfishly crying. “Feed me!” “Hold me!” “Indulge me!” I am not being silly when I say this. I am very much aware that a child fresh out of the womb has no concept of self-denial, nor selfishness, but simply does what comes natural on the arrival into a strange new world. However, crying out in the same way when one is an adult, asking to be noticed, fed, indulged, and/or loved is exactly the same motive.

Common sense tells us not to do things, say things, or use things that will harm or hurt us. That is common sense, not self-denial. If I give you a book that I have owned for forty years, yet never read more than the Preface because I dislike it so much – I am not denying self as I hand it to you. The constituent parts that comprise self-denial simply cannot be soiled with anything that is done with self indulgence as part of the motive. Even giving oneself as a sacrifice can be done as a selfishly motivated act.  If Paul says that one can give oneself to be burned without love, and that if one was burned without love that action it would be worthless toward God and/or man, we have to examine the biblical definition of self-denial and work at it. Christ’s own definition of self-denial has love towards God and man as its primary constituent. Love and self-denial were what built His entire life. One cannot love as Jesus loved without self-denial. One cannot deny one’s self as Jesus did without love. They are conjoined twins. They are two separate bodies of truth with the same heart, the same backbone and they walk on the same legs.

0000000000000000000000005

.

Hannah’s act of returning Samuel to God, by placing him in the hands of a feeble old man who could not parent his own sons properly, noting that she did so without pressure or prejudice towards any other reason of gain in any way, apart from doing it wilfully for the glory of God, gives us an incredible glimpse of true Christ-like self-denial. She gained nothing in the action. In the end of it all she gained the satisfaction that she had seeded her son for the elevation of the nation of Israel and God’s people.

Notice also, that living a life of self denial could not possibly be anything to do with forsaking sin or pernicious habits and ways. Why do I say this? I declare it, simply because Jesus Christ lived a life of total self-denial. He had no sin to forsake. Having said that, we have to also see that sin, by its very nature is self indulgence. We commit sin because we have pleasure in doing so. That is self surfacing. Self-denial must by its very nature be the act of choosing to deny one’s self the pleasure of sinning.

True self-denial is to do something for God and to other people, with absolutely no motivation for self gratification, other than the satisfaction of having done something that was right to do. Self-denial is to commit an act, that is utterly free of self-interest, self-indulgence, self-glorification.

True self-denial loves God for His own beauty and magnificence. Make no mistake that when Jesus talked of denying self, supremely selfless surrender to God was the primary presupposition in the words of the Master. If we love God in such a way that we do things to exalt Him and please Him, and that we do these things whether we like it or not, such an action is solidly founded on the rock of self-denial. When we deny ourselves of some quite legitimate blessing in order to bless other people, and that act of denial is done happily, and contentedly because it is making somebody else more content or to know that they are appreciated, we have touched the heart of Christ. This is exactly what Hannah did in her surrender of her beloved son Samuel. It needs to be seen in its Old Testament context, and to be noted as one of the greatest characteristics of an incredibly great woman – Hannah. Jesus said, “It is better to give than receive.” Long before Jesus said such a thing, Hannah gave the most precious thing she had.

0000000000000000000000006jpg

.

From Hannah’s example we can see that true self-denial could commonly mean giving up something that is both useful and precious to us.  We see from Hannah, also, that there was no pressure upon the giving of the child, other than her own heart wanting to do that which she considered to be right and good. Hannah gave Samuel freely. If it had been done under pressure or moral blackmail of any kind, the heavenly ingredient of self-denial would not have been in the soup of her gift at all.

By reading the text of the presentation of her son, and her annual visits, we are made to be keenly aware of her acute joy in the gift. That in itself is a vital ingredient in the recipe of Christ-like self-denial.

The end of Luke 9:23 is the call of Jesus to take up our cross daily, and follow Him. In this we see the ultimate statement in the defining of biblical self-denial. It comprises the merciless death of selfishness. Self-denial and selfishness are like oil and water, they are incapable of mixing or living together.

Hannah’s self denial was an act of the purest selflessness. But this spirit of self-denial ruled Hannah’s life before Samuel was even conceived. Her self-denial in the face of her enemy and rival was also a remarkable example of a human spirit submitting to God and the circumstances He had created, and not responding to the fallacy of Penninah’s interpretation of the situation. The appetite of selfish justification must have been staunched at the root as Penninah taunted Hannah about her womanhood in being childless. Selfishness as a general trait was what dominated Hannah’s rival. Self-lessness was Hannah’s prime characteristic.

0000000000000000000000007

.

The selflessness Hannah shows us, and manner in which she was discovered praying by the elderly Eli gives us the knowledge that her beauty of character was rooted in a firm faith and confidence in Yahweh. The gift of the son to God’s service was, by the very life and impact of Samuel’s life, vindicated as a thing of the Spirit.

She now was without a son at home for a while, yet had silenced the other woman who could taunt her no more. Hannah had taken the higher ground. In giving up the privilege of bringing up Samuel, Hannah selflessly gave up the most precious thing in the entire world. Elderly Eli announced another blessing on Elkanah’s erstwhile barren wife, and she conceived 3 more sons and 2 daughters, making six in total (1 Samuel 2:20-21). As already mentioned in our notes, Jewish tradition has it that Peninnah lost all her children. That is Jewish tradition for you, not the scriptures.

Self- denial is one of the basic graces of proof of following Christ. It was basic to Abraham, even though he was not always consistent with the principle. It is the overriding grace that determined the character and motivation of the apostle Paul. And no matter how out of synch’ the biblical teaching of self denial is with the spirit of the world, we need to take note of its importance to us in determining our Christian life-style. Christ’s crucifiction and death was the greatest act of self-denial ever. We all need to take up our cross and follow Him with a life of self-denial.

Categories: Self-Denial | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

No Greater Love Than a Mother Laying Down Her Son

NO GREATER LOVE THAN A MOTHER LAYING DOWN HER SON.

Where the Rubber Hits the Road on the Issue of Sacrifice.

(1 Samuel 1:24 – 2:11)

Samuel Dedicated by Hannah at the Temple by Frank W.W. Topham

Paintings of the moment Hannah presented Samuel to Eli are rife on the net. I find this one, especially when it is enlarged particularly beautiful and touching. As with most of them, it is a very sanitised perspective of the scene.

Sham! Fake! Double standards!  Most religions, Christianity included, are bound to have some double standards in their adherents.  Why?  Because they believe in perfection; and “poifict day ain’t!”  Christians believe in living like Christ.  But the deeper in Christ most people get, the more they realise they fall short- to put ot mildly.

I am not in position to make sweeping statements about “religion.”  I do not consider myself religious.  I am a Christian.  Christianity demands we love Christ.  I passionately believe in the teaching of the Bible.  But I’m not “there” yet.  Is that shameful?  I suppose it is by the worlds standards. The language used by the New Testament is the application of being, “crucified with Christ,” and reckoning myself, “dead to sin.”

We are talking of Christlike living that puts God first; others after Him, and very definitely yourself as last on the list.  I see it.  I strive for it.  But I don’t live as I see it!  Fake? I feel it sometimes! But I had rather call myself a fighter. I am fighting to reach a place in God that is utterly consistent with what Christian mystics refer to as, “The Surrendered Life.” If we had a mere hundred people who were living up to that sort of principle it would be a case of, “Watch out world, here comes the kingdom of God?”  But, without patronising my readers, you don’t need me tell you that the sort of living we are talking about is an ongoing process of change. It is a process that painfully few have made a mark on the world with.  This means that while “the Process” is still “in progress” our shortcomings become very much more acutely painful.

The syndrome runs like this:  I start life, “happy” being selfish.  Then somebody points me to Christ, the life of faith and the crucifixion of self.  I see it to some degree and commit myself to the change and a life of faith.  The more I trust, the more I see.  But what I see is always a little ahead of where I am, like a torch pointed along the foot path.  So I am constantly improving, yet constantly seeing so plainly how un-Christlike I am.  Painful, Eh? I glimpsed ten feet ahead of my position yesterday, but having progressed ten feet forward today, I realize that I am so short of my goal that there is 30 more feet in my vision today. Any rate of progress is satisfying. And consciousness of falling short is so dastardly unsatisfying. So, as I follow Christ as faithfully as I know, I am constantly filled with an unsatisfiable satisfaction. I mean by this that I am totally satisfied in having a living relationship with Jesus Christ, yet unsatisfied with my shortcomings and failures, especially those that I know about and nobody else has a clue about.

So when we see somebody who is miles further along the path of obedience than most, it dazzles the eyes. We are saying all this to point an envious finger at “Hannah.”  I am glad she is not in my church.  I would feel so unholy all the time. So, in the safety of being three thousand years distant from her, come with me and examine what is going on in her mind and spirit and the impact it had on her first born son at the very point of sacrifice.  Yes!  To study her at the very moment of loss.  What we are here examining is the whites of Hannah’s eyes, and the tone of voice, together with the expression on her face at the dot of time where the transaction’s cost is made, and she crosses God’s palm (as it were) with the coinage of heaven.  That will tell us so much more about this woman.

We move forward to the juncture of time where we have a beautiful God loving little lad of three years of age, or thereabouts.  We see a picture of a woman in relationship with God.  In her bosom is a concept of “religion” that beggars the thoughts of a lot of people in the twenty-first century.  “Religion is all right in it’s place,” say some.  They don’t understand that God fills every place.  “Religion and politics must stay apart, “say others.  They cannot perceive that over fifty percent of the Old Testament consists of prophets speaking to kings, dethroning them, crowning them and telling some of them what they should do next, and then they even define Government policy. “Religion must not interfere with my own family.”  The people that say this are those who are painfully confronted here with a concept that ridicules modern rationalisation of the claims of Christ on our lives and all that we have.  The entire substance of Christianity was birthed through a series of historical events that encapsulated the quintessence of sacrifice.  Those series of events are the Christian’s creed.  God Almighty was born of a virgin.  That’s sacrifice.  He willfully gave up His life in the most painful fashion on our behalf.  That’s sacrifice.  Because of that depth and purity of His sacrifice, He descended into hell on our behalf; He was raised from the dead; He ascended on high.  He is now seated at the right hand of the Father.  All this is the sacrifice, and the fruits of that sacrifice, made by the Lord Jesus Himself   Should Christians be any less moved to sacrifice?

2

.

Long before the Son of God was incarnate, He moved upon Hannah with concepts of sacrifice that tear at our heart strings.  She had promised to give up her only son before a son was conceived.  Note how the bible delights in domestic scenes.  Christianity is kitchen and living room stuff; none of your fine religious Cathedral ambience. The deal had been “closed,” as it were, the day she had prayed like a, “drunken woman,” in the sight of Eli.  She had settled the issue in her heart.  Sacrifice must start in the heart and the will.  Once it is settled there, the case is closed.  There will be performance of what has been promised and committed, and that performance may be moments or even years later.  The issue however is settled in the will first.  But that does not mean that like some robotic machine she hands over her offspring with an automatic button without any emotion – in fact quite the opposite is true. The transaction is done best when the loss, no matter how great that loss is, ceases to be a loss.  In fact the loss needs to be seen as a gain. Only when one sees the, “loss,” as a, “gain,” has one truly sacrificed as Christ sacrificed Himself.

The bible text displays how this truly became so with Hannah. (Just jumping ahead a little bit, if you keep your eyes open you will see that a piece of this attitude rubbed off onto little Sammy. Just watch what he does as his mother presents him to Eli.) Samuel is now weaned and happily running around on his two feet. Whether or not Hannah waited for the annual fulfillment of her husband’s vow, or whether she went as soon as she had finished the weaning, we are not told.  Breastfeeding having ceased, she took the little lad along with her to Shiloh.  There was an entourage of three bullocks (one for each year?), a sack of flour, and a bottle of wine. Elkanah too!  We know that she travelled with Elkanah, for at the end of the dedication – where Elkanah is strangely silent – he escorts his wife home.

Because of the nature of the mother’s vow, her free volition acted on, and the song of delight recorded for us in First Samuel chapter two, we can only believe Hannah was contented.  There must have been, at the very least, a slight trepidation on her part for the future of her little treasure, but deep joy in obedience to her faith, her conscience and her promise. The scripture says that “the child was young.”  The word translated “child”, is the same word translated “young”.  We would say “the child was a child”.  In other words with all the serious environment of prayer, vows and offering to God, the lads childlike – indeed childish –nature, was in no way impaired. In modern parlance: Samuel was not a lone religious “weirdo”. Think of how you would have presented the case to such a little lad. He was there because she asked God for him. That would have been her explanation for his name.  He was to be a Nazarite that was her explanation for no cutting of the hair, and no attendance at funerals. “You really are God’s child, Sammy!”  That was the case as to why she was going to take him to Shiloh very soon.  In the midst of all this, the “child was still a child”.

E06GIM63AHR

.

Perhaps it also means that Samuel was full of childlike and childish graces.  No cultish stuff here. Children can receive the stuff that makes men and women of God and still stay sweet and innocent.  God is the most exciting Persona in the universe.  It is He who invented the concept of excitement and thrill. Samuel knew lots about God and His call, and being special in His sight. He knew especially what it was to be loved and wanted, and to love and to want other people’s love. He had drunk the language and spirit of such concepts from his mother’s breast.

As Mozart was ahead of the world in his capacity to make music, Samuel, it seems, was ahead of  the world in his willful determination to love, serve and worship Yahweh. Although it is light years away from modern educational concepts of, “comparative religions,” and, “environmental responsibility,” together with, “good citizenship,” Samuel turned out, “Very nicely, thank you!”

With probably the most fundamental biblical education anybody has ever received, they (assuming Elkanah was not absent from the scene) sacrificed a bullock and brought the lovely and loving child to Eli. There is no Mrs Eli mentioned in the entire volume. Did anybody assist him in the rearing of Samuel?

Obviously Eli was married at some point of time; he had two sons. And more obviously, there must have been others working around the tent in Shiloh. There would have been other priests besides the infamous Hophni and Phinehas, for we are told that their “servants” were ordered by them to take the meat unlawfully from the sacrifices that people made.  We know there were women that attended the tent, for we are told the Eli’s two sons slept with some of them.

Shiloh is labelled in scripture as a city.  Even if there were only a few hundred living there, it meant that there were families. In the face of all these facts, however, we are not told of anybody else having dealings with Samuel apart from Eli. Eli, like any minister of religion, must have met many thousands of people, throughout the years, who spoke to him perhaps once, and who at a second meeting expected him to recall all that had transpired betwixt them.  Hannah however, doubtless aware of the man’s failing faculties, reminds his aged “forgettery” of the circumstances of the one and only meeting thus far between the two of them. There is the suggestion, of course, that when she says, “I am the woman who stood by you here, praying to the Lord,” that she rationally expects him to remember. Perhaps the nation was so backslidden that praying before the Lord’s Tabernacle was not commonly seen. Perhaps it was the praying of women that was rare. I find that hard to swallow however, inasmuch as, my experience, and the reported experience of many men of God that I know from around the world, is that women are usually in the majority of participators when it comes to intercession and devotional prayer.

4

.

It must have been a pleasant shock to Eli’s system if he did recall the occurrence. At the time it happened, some four years earlier, he had not been told what the woman was praying for, and she had prayed silently. She had prayed; he had blessed her. He had pronounced the fulfillment of her prayer. He had spoken the heart of God, consciously or not. And what he had pronounced had occurred. “Therefore I have lent him to the Lord.” Eli now had a helper. But how long for? “As long as he lives he shall be lent to the Lord.” Eli had a helper for the rest of his natural. “Lent” is not the best translation. “I have, “given,” him back to Him who,“gave” him to me”, is better.

Now we have the first outline of the sketch that the bible gives us of Samuel’s nature and character.  The book states simply: “ and he worshipped the Lord there.” I suppose it is vaguely possible that the phrase could be referring to Eli, but in the wider context of the thrust of what is being said, it seems much plainer to perceive that the, “he,” is referring  to, “little Sammy.” So; picture the scene!  We have at least three people in a group together before the Tabernacle. Eli, Hannah, and Samuel. Elkanah is not mentioned. Hannah having presented him, Eli having accepted him; Samuel starts to worship. The little boy must have been happy at the thought of his new home. There is not the slightest hint as to the nature of his worship.  Did he sing?  Did he dance? Did he fall on his knees in prayer?

We should remember he was three years old plus – that may restrain our imagination a little in the secular twenty-first century world. But we should also take note that the concepts of God and worship put into this lad, as with most children of Godly homes in Old Testament times, would have meant that he had a greater understanding of the essence of worship in his childhood and youth, than most people have, these days, in adulthood. This should give much more free rein to the picture in our mind’s eye of the worshipping little boy, Samuel.  Whether Samuel’s worship was in a way familiar to us or not, the scriptures, in stating, “he worshipped,” acknowledges it as true and pure worship.

Hannah bringing Samuel to Eli

.

The chapter breaks in the Bible are an artificial separation created in the eleventh century by a French priest in an attempt to make referencing scripture much easier. I think we should be thankful for what he did. Too often, however, when reading the bible, chapter breaks are made where the text actually suggests there should be none. The commencement of First Samuel chapter two is surely one of those such unwarranted breaks.

While Hannah was giving her most precious possession, in fear and trembling, to God, via old Eli, and while Eli was undoubtedly standing there, eyes agog at the worshipping new ward that was being put into his care, his mother broke out into praise. The chapter break could hide this. Considering the brevity of the life story of Samuel, and especially his upbringing, and the economy of words used in scripture, the length of the prayer as recorded in those first ten verses of chapter two are remarkable.  It is a song of delight.  A song of freedom!  A song of prosperity after suffering hardship; rainfall after a drought. Hannah was joyful to put it mildly.

The words of this prayer are to some degree repeated when Mary became pregnant with Christ. Those facts suggest most strongly that we are standing on holy ground when we read Hannah’s song.  We cannot but be touched by the grounds of deep thankfulness toward God. She suffered, she prayed, she received, she returned the gift back to God. This is a song from her experience. From the depths of despair, she arose to the heights.

The substance of Hannah’s song came to her from long hours of staring at Samuel, loving him, treasuring him, delighting in his company; and then giving him a way to the source of all Life. There is no theoretical theology in her lyric, rather heavy eulogy heaped towards God from the most practical empirical discovery of Yahweh, a discovery made in the enduring of a whole set of negatives thrown at Hannah by the very circumstances of life which were utterly random and totally out of her control. The Spirit of God had somehow revealed much that was to do with His economy, and she made a melodious prayer from it. The wildness of the circumstances that had enmeshed her had given way to a wildness of worship that glorified God in a spiritual “Top C”. It is often referred to as a song. Whether or not Hannah sung it, I cannot comment, but in most English translations it surely reads like a poetic song.  It is as if, at the point of release, and the carrying out of a vow that elevated God to the highest place her heart had to offer, the Spirit of God released her into this peon of praise.

She thanks God for enlarging her and granting her salvation.  She perceives how Holy God really is, through what had happened. She sees His rock like immovableness. She sees the folly of pride. She sees that, “actions are weighed” by God, not just watched.  People see the outside, but God looks on the heart. She sees how God sets people in high places or low. And having set them, He can bring down the mighty, and raise the lowly.  She remarks on the changeableness of life and how it is all overseen by the Almighty hand. Motherhood and the end results of chosen lifestyle are seen and beheld so clearly.  Life and death are in His hands. He can even raise the dead, says she, seeing herself as one that was dead and is now in fullness of life. He makes poverty. He makes wealth.  Inheritances come from him.  He keeps the feet of the righteous from falling.  He is the ultimate judge of everything and everybody.  Heaven was obviously moved to have her song recorded for us.

Hannah Brings Samuel to Eli

.

The last line lets the reader know that she was flowing in the same Spirit of prophecy that was, later, to pervade her son to such an awesome degree. She actually says – and remember that Hannah lived about a thousand years before Christ was born- “He shall give strength to His king, and exalt the Horn of His anointed.”  It became true of Samuel towards King Saul, and after, toward King David.  It was prophetically true as he helped prepare the way for the Davidic line, to bring into the world King David’s greater Son.

Something tells me that we only have a much abbreviated prayer, and that the three of them together, Hannah, Eli and Samuel, entered into a longer and more protracted period of worship. What the Bible tells us, however, is enough for us to get a clear picture. “And Elkanah went to Ramah to his house.” So he was definitely in Shiloh while Samuel was being presented. Happy husband? Maybe! Maybe not! But Hannah was deliriously so. She went home, “childless,” again, yet deeply fulfilled. She went home lonely, but satisfied with her own actions. Now she could look Peninnah in the eye if she as much as dared to snipe at this chosen mother in Israel.

This section closes with phrase number two that leads us into Samuel’s heart. It said earlier, “he worshipped”; now it says “and the child ministered unto the Lord before Eli the priest.” What does this mean?  It means he did the running around with the sacrifices and the serving in the Tabernacle and it’s sacrificial system.  He did Eli’s errands for him.  Whatever Eli in his old, rotund, obese, decrepit body could not do, Samuel did, and  in so doing, he delighted the public worshippers by his running and getting, “down and dirty,” for his adoptive father. “He ministered”, meaning he gave of himself to the Lord. “Before Eli,” means he was tutored taught and mentored by the elderly gent who assumed fatherly and elevated status to Samuel.  Eli, amazingly, was Samuel’s Alpha male. Whatever Samuel’s concept was of Eli is warmly coloured in by the fact that when the voice of the Almighty called him four times in a night, some years later, it came with the authority and warmth that suggested to Samuel that it was Eli that was doing the calling. So Eli must have done something right. Or was it just the purity of Samuel’s acceptance of people?

Hannah at home in Ramah. Samuel, “at home,” in Shiloh. Only fourteen miles apart.  That’s Derby to Nottingham in the UK! It’s  Birmingham to Warwick in the English Midlands. It doesn’t sound far does it when we talk of fourteen miles? But six to eight hours? Now, it is London to Rome;  Delhi to Brisbane; Tokyo to San Francisco. It was half way around the world.

Great events have often been initiated by trivial causes. Great men have developed in the most unlikely ways. In Israel at that time, a married woman praying for children might have been more common than we would see today. However, that moment of Hannah’s prayer, and that catching of Eli’s eye, was the very moment of time in which there was a commencement of a great awakening in the history of Israel.  The little lad that was away from his Mum, worshipping and ministering to the Lord, was to prove to be the foundational pivot – the key ingredient of Israel’s return to greatness and glory. The Halcyon days of Israel may be commonly referred to as, “The days of David and Solomon,” but those days could not have happened if it was not for the days of Samuel.  And here was the mighty Samuel of supernatural favour and stature – as a three year old. Everything big starts little.

7 -yeh

For myself, you might have already guessed my feelings about this painting. I think it is a phenomenon. It is by John Singleton Copley, produced in 1780.

Categories: 1 Samuel 1:24 - 2:11, No greater love has any mother than this | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

I Will Not Let Him Go Until I Wean Him.

I WILL NOT LET HIM GO UNTIL I WEAN HIM

Three years to make a man of God.

 (1 Samuel 1:21 -23)  

3

.

One year after that amazing day in Shiloh, and Elkanah is getting ready and encouraging his family to hurry in preparing to go with him on his annual trek. He’s off  to Shiloh again. This time, however, we have a slightly different scene than the one we encountered twelve months earlier.

So what is similar? What is different? Whether or not Peninnah had yet another child, we are not told. Jewish rabbinical tradition states that Peninnah lost all her children one by one to illness, accident, and pillaging lions, rampant along Jordan’s banks at the time. There is no conclusive source evidence for accepting this. It is not stated in scripture. Always remember that the Talmud oozes the spirit of Judaism from Rabbinical minds. The scriptures come from the Spirit of God. That is two opposite sources. Frankly,  God Could not remove children for the sake of their mother’s awkwardness and lack of grace; millions in the world would be reduced to childlessness if that were the case. We shall assume that Peninnah is the same selfish person, though now looking for further reasons with which to taunt her “enemy”, as her previous plank of attack had been divinely removed.

Hannah is beaming. She is the very picture of contented womanhood. She dotes on, but definitely does not spoil little Samuel. Elkanah encourages her to bring the, “little fellah,” with her, to Shiloh. She answers her husband in a startling manner. She declares her plan to finish weaning him, before taking him to Shiloh to present him to the Lord, “that he may appear before the Lord, and there abide forever.”

It is an easy thing to make a vow. It is another thing to faithfully keep that vow, especially when the vow that was made was so costly and, according to what we read, not known by any other human being at that particular moment. She openly explains the vow to her husband, and so stays at home.

0

.

It was an explanation that came out of sheer love for God. Why not keep the child? God would not be so unreasonable as to ask for something that no one else had ever been asked for. Isn’t it quite natural and normal for a mother to keep her child close until adulthood?  She could hold little Samuel to her bosom all her days, even when he had become, “big,” Samuel, and nobody would guess she had said anything to God that had not been fulfilled.  Why should she, “give him away”? But that would not be the way of integrity. Hannah had vowed. She had made a statement to God that if He were gracious enough to grant her a son she would give him back to the Lord, “all the days of his life.”   The son had been given, the child had arrived; and how she loved him.  She had determined to keep him as long as weaning was necessary.  As soon as he was free of his mother’s milk, Shiloh would see him given back to God and His service.

Honesty towards God and herself forbade her to keep him any longer. The selfless dedication of Hannah to God first, even before her children, is a principle simply taught throughout scripture and assumed as the Godly and biblical norm.  It is still a marvelous thing to behold.  Not that mothers are expected to have their sons take board and lodging elsewhere, as Hannah had imposed on herself and her firstborn.  But loving God before all people is the normal Christian life.  Children should be dedicated to God, simply because God comes first.

In many ways what Hannah did was utterly unique.  In another manner at looking at this account, it is a universal application of a Biblical injunction that addresses us all.  Our children are God’s before they are ours. In the days of the book of Maccabees, from the apocryphal inter-testamental period, it seems that Hebrew women suckled their children for the first three years of life.  If this evidence is indicative of conduct in Samuel’s day it infers that Hannah had three years to influence and teach her little toddler all she could toward the Nazarite vow and the special nature of the circumstances of his conception and birth.  That is, three years to put into him the sort of spirit and attitude that would bind his will and heart to the Lord all the days of his life.  That is thirty six months or so to teach him that he was special; he was chosen; he was to be God’s person; that Yahweh Himself would be a father and a mother to him when he was to be placed with God and Eli at the tabernacle in Shiloh.  That is one thousand and eighty days to produce the incipient Man of God.  What an amazing job she did.  Hannah trained her little Samuel to recognise himself as utterly dedicated to God; and as we shall soon see, she did not have long to wait for the child’s personal, wilful and responsible ratification of her vow. All this because of a vow made in the context of earnest prayer and intercession.  She surely could have pleaded that she was a little, “out of her normal presence of mind,” to have made such a promise when she was praying that prayer, even the High Priest considered her drunk.

11

.

If such a case was put to Hannah, I feel sure she would reason that she had never been in such total control of her volition and frame of mind as she was at that moment of “drunken” prayer in Eli’s full vision.  She would undoubtedly consider that the particular prayer made that day with Eli thinking her drunk, and the vow made whilst saying that prayer, was one of the sanest moments of her entire life.

With all the years of reading and soaking in this story I am left with only one problematic area of thought which I find difficult to come to grips with.  If Hannah was the down to earth intelligent mother I believe that she was; and if she was aware of life around the Tabernacle and its priests, and I believe she was; and if she was aware of the misconduct and godlessness of Hophni and Phinehas, and I believe she was; how on earth could she trust Eli the man so undisciplined in the role of father, to bring up her first and highly treasured son?  He couldn’t even discern whether she was praying or just rambling in a drunken oblivion. Was there no other legitimate way to fulfil her vow? We obviously have here some aspect of faith that transcends her own sense of motherly responsibility.  The vow overrode even her most primal maternal instincts.  Samuel was, in her purpose, to be reared by an elderly, rotund, nearly blind old man, with two wayward adult sons that would not listen to him, and by inference, never had!  How could she do such a thing?  Surely such a step was catastrophic for Samuel’s future and irresponsible on the side of Hannah. Even if we could imagine that Hannah did not know of the wickedness’s that went on at the Tabernacle, her husband, a man of the world, and of the priestly group would surely have known.

According to Moses instructions, if on the day that Elkanah discovered the nature of the vow that his wife had made he, as husband, had disapproved of that vow, he was in a position to cancel the vow utterly and have it annulled.  Then Hannah would have been honestly, and with integrity,  free of her vow. We take it that the account given in verses 21-23 of the first chapter of the first book of Samuel is the first time Elkanah had heard of the vow.  However, he rescinded it not at all.  In fact he even blessed the words of Hannah and her commitment to God. Samuel’s future was set.

10

.

To Elkanah and indeed to the normal significance of language, God had accepted the covenantal vow made by him and his wife.  This acceptance of the, “business contract,” inferred God Almighty had accepted the fact that Samuel the treasured son of Hannah, was to serve Him and stand before Him all his life.  For this reason, Elkanah pronounces: “The Lord establish His word.”  With that paternal response, the last chance saloon had been passed for Samuels’s possible escape from a parental rearing by an elderly man that had, thus far, not exactly achieved a track record of successful parenting. Oh dear!

Faith can  turn human logic on its head.  If an example of such is needed, here is probably the best.  We are talking of long time rearing of a young child by a man who is not a member of the family, excepting by distant joining of forefathers many generations previous.  What was Samuel going to turn out like with such a jumbled mixture of primary adult relationships?

Take very special note: God’s purpose overrides all human decisions, wise, unwise, thoughtful or thoughtless. And Samuel was proven, in the long term, to be God’s man for his generation.

None of the characters in this drama had a clue of the blessing that was being unleashed by Hannah’s strong and willful choice. Not Hannah! Not Eli! Not Elkanah! Samuel himself could not possibly be aware of what was ahead, apart from the fact that he obviously loved God with everything he had, as we will see in later pages.

Oh!The awesome wisdom and ways of God in people’s lives! In one woman’s heart and faith was seeded something – somebody – that would bring to order the entire future of Israel into a new vision and a new understanding . Sh’muel ben Elkanah had arrived on planet earth. Jewish tradition tells us that he was here amongst  us for one hundred years. It was not the length of the material of his life that really mattered. It was the deep lush spiritual quality of his life in the Spirit that really mattered. Watch out world, Samuel is on the way to your confusion. Stand up and be respectful. Samuel is passing by.

7

.

Categories: 1 Samuel 1:21-23, I will not let him go until I wean him, three years to make a man of God | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Give me Children or I Die.

If God can’t improve my life … I give up!

(1 Samuel 1 :9-20)

 

1

.

So here you are, in Hannah’s position. Imagine a moment in your experience; a major crisis; a time that you perceive to be one of the most traumatic and oppressive of your life. You are left alone for an hour away from the source and presence of your regular routine and people. It may be family, it may be colleagues at work, but you have escaped from them briefly. You are alone and feeling your very worst. If you do not get some relief, you feel you will die in your heaviness. It is making you seriously ill. The issue is affecting your composure, your ability to relate – your sanity even. What do you do? Where do you go?

Hannah’s trial, like a wound into which cruel hands rub salt, or some other smarting substance, turning excruciating pain into intolerable torture, was even more aggravated by the happier fortune and insolent, adversarial reproaches of her rival. The other wife – a rude, coarse, proud and vulgar woman – turned the scenario into an occasion for triumphing over her, and embittering the springs of her very life source. Strikingly, no response to her foe is recorded. Life asked of Hannah one of the most difficult questions. Giving a reply to Peninnah would genuinely have been casting her pearls before swine.  It was not Peninnah who was asking Hannah this huge question. Neither did Hannah see it as an impersonal, “life” ,that was begging her for a response.  The issue was between her and the Source of all Life.

However, this woman did have an answer. And I do not mean the trite religious encouragement to, “pray.” I do mean that of course – but with a sledgehammer. I am talking about a heavy-duty cry of the heart. A scream of the soul. The equivalent of a desperate step backwards into suicide – but in the opposite direction; a figurative jump off the cliff, with a huge bungee jump – without the bungee elastic – with a huge elongated free fall into the hands of God. A fleeing into life and reality. No matter what you or I think of the action of a suicide bomber – what I want you to imagine is the awesome, moving, heaving mountain of emotion, heart and spirit that carries a human being to actually walk with a huge bomb strapped to their torso, ready and willing to detonate the thing. Once you can  conceive of that sort of logic; that kind of imagination, feeling and  commitment to something so deep in the realm of the demonic and evil, and then see the same tsunami  placed in the arena of Godliness, goodness and purity, put that into Hannah’s context at the very moment we are talking about, and “Yes!” We are talking about prayer.

We are talking of the stuff that raises the dead, brings floods – or droughts – and/or changes the course of nations, if not the world.  We are talking about prayer that goes so far beyond prayer books and,“saying prayers,” as a real Formula One racing car goes beyond a little lad’s “Dinky Toy” version of the same. The word, “prayer,” does not seem to do justice to the concept of what we are talking about here.  We can analyse and dissect all that took place in these moments of Hannah’s life.  I think that it is a healthy thing to do so. But there is no way we can work out the ingredients of what went on to the degree that we can systematise the process of what happened to her, so that it could happen to me. Notwithstanding, rest assured – of course it can happen to you. There are many things going on as Hannah literally shook heaven loose of the blessing she sought.

2

.

Those who like glass case logic and theology can have a field day with what happened outside the tabernacle in Shiloh that day. A study in faith. Lessons in persistency. A model in humility. A classic case of studies for the prophetic, “speaking things into being” (i.e. would Hannah have become pregnant if obese old Eli had not prophesied so, as he was about to do so in the text). The hidden significance, and possibly the lost truth of making inspired vows to God are in the text. Secret closet praying is also in the spirit of what we read. It seems obvious that Hannah believed she was alone. All these issues – and much more are present in the narrative for Bible school test tube analysis.

After exhausting all these juicy bits of theology, there are, for the academic wordsmith a few more choice phrases with which one can build a rationale of “How to Get Your Prayers Answered”. “She was in bitterness of soul.” She, “wept sore.” “She continued praying.” “She spoke in her heart.” “Her lips moved, but her voice was not heard.” All these phrases are right here in Holy Writ as it explains Hannah’s interview with God. Each remark oozes power, truth, grace and insight.

The picture is further embellished by the concept gained by the only pair of human eyes that saw her in her anguish and pathos. Eli was watching. She actually seemed to him to be, “a drunken woman.” Her body language was such that the undiscerning old man told her off in the most defamatory manner for coming to the ancient tent of such holiness, in an inebriated state. The mind boggles!  Just imagine what abandonment to her cause Hannah must have thrown into her, “quiet time with God.” She was so lost in what she was doing, and so determined to see the invisible, that she was actually blind to the physical, rotund and aged priest that was sat nearby watching her in prayer. She must have seemed to be a demented woman.

3

.

We must beware what and how we learn. Evangelical Christians (one of which I claim to be) are infamous for legalistic lesson learning from the Bible, to the degree that the exercise becomes a detrimental faith killer rather than a glorious release of truth and trust in the heart. This account is not just a tale for convenient three point sermons. This is an in depth account of one human being’s struggle to come to terms with cosmic injustice in her own life, and the desperate longing to fulfil the Edenic command, as well as the Divine promise, to, “be fruitful and multiply.”

A black and white single item rarely sorts out life’s problems. We live in a macro circumstantial world. In plainer English, there are usually multiplicities of reasons that bring issues and problems upon us, and a multiplicity of answers to those problems, where any one or two, or more of them, may bring relief of some sort, in differing degrees. The biggest and most singular lesson to absorb from this woman is, “attitude.”  In this twenty-first century we talk of somebody, “with an attitude,” when we mean a negative and cynical frame of outlook. Whatever the opposite of cynicism and pessimism is, take it to the furthest extreme you can conceive of, and that is where Hannah’s pain drove her. She oozed her case, like some courtroom lawyer and spilled her liquefied invisible inners before God Himself. She herself explained that she had, “poured out her soul before the Lord.” She reasoned and she argued; She pleaded and she bargained. She would break before she lost the momentum of putting her situation clearly before the Almighty. She argued against her lot in life with the One who created her, her lot and her life.

5

.

Get hold of where this woman was in her emotional and spiritual desolation. There was Peninnah’s animosity against her. There was the fact that she was one wife in a polygamous household. She lived in a society where childlessness was perceived as some kind of Divine curse, a community where people would whisper things like, “She must have done something pretty nasty to finish up like this.” There was within herself, despite all the man made cultural pressures, her normal maternal instinct that was put there by Almighty Yahweh Himself as an inducement for women to take up that most essential  and wonderful profession and vocation, namely motherhood. Think of the time she had held her husband in tight embrace with the prayer that she would be, “with child,” as a result of their union. The years had come and gone. Peninnah was pregnant time after time while she remained barren. Hannah had just had enough. She could not feel the pain of childlessness more acutely.

Yet, we notice again that she had not voiced her complaint to her husband, or the other wife. She had an attitude that  took the injustices and pains of life to the very Source of Life Himself, and nobody else. Atheism or Agnosticism did not have as much as a sniff in the cosmos of Israel a thousand years before Christ. Neither did religious platitudes or clichés cut any ice with Hannah.

Whatever the stuff of faith, godliness and spiritual power is, this woman had it in abundance. And like some multifaceted diamond it had various colours and angles that shone from it, but neither the colours nor the shapes of the angles make up the substance of the diamond itself. So we can see her patience and meekness; we can glimpse her faith and freedom in the realm of the Spirit; we can stand in awe of her sense of the reality and glory of God as the source of life, but that is not the thing we are looking for, that is simply the outward expression and manifestation of her attitude.

She had incredible strength of character and a determination of spirit that would not let go. In reading the Bible over and over again for over forty years, I suggest that if one takes the scriptures at face value, one cannot but conclude that from Genesis to Revelation, God Himself finds this kind of attitude of determination in faith, irresistible to refuse. I have a conviction that He prefers it when people have this same frame of heart and mind  towards him as Hannah did. For that reason, I cannot believe that what Hannah was thinking and believing were concepts and ideas especially created by God to move biblical characters only. A pox on the very idea of such a thing.

6

.

This was an attitude arrived at by a process of intuition and deduction. The character of God; the state of man in general; the injustices of life; the very God given sacrificial system of which she was an adherent ; all of these subjects as taught by the books of Moses were extremely powerful, “potters wheels,” trowels and scrapers at work in the shaping of the clay of a worldview that could not abide with injustice or unrighteousness, whether personal, familial, national or universal. These things alligned her attitude to the way God thinks, and her understanding of what God wants, and the possibilities of what she could ask Him for. Her entire being was aligned with God’s entire will and being.

Hannah had an amazing lack of self interest in her expectancy. Her prayer for a child was distinct from any consideration of her own comfort and want. Hannah had learned that the heart’s truest joy is not in children, nor even in the mercies given in answer to prayer, but in relationship with Almighty God Himself. There was a true sacrifice of her more basic and natural inclinations here. It was total self denial, really.  What do we mean? I mean that Hannah, in her anguish made two vows. Making vows is, “unwestern,” but biblically, especially around this period of history, quite common.

The first vow was to give the man child that she was asking for back to God, literally, once he had arrived. The second vow was to ensure that this man child would be a, “Nazirite.” A Nazarite was a person of particular separation to God and His service. This child would be what the Talmud describes as a “perpetual Nazarite.” No drink, ever. No haircut, ever. And no touching dead bodies of any kind, ever. An example of this sort of dedication of children would be Samson. Samson was intended by his parents to be a Nazirite. (I hasten to add that Samson the Danite was not a particularly obedient Nazirite.)

???????

.

Hannah had no idea of the Divinely planned dream she was birthing on earth with her prayer. Peninnah could not possibly have foreseen what her adversarial attitude could have driven Hannah to.  Elkanah would have had no insight at all to the pillar of Israelite history and culture that the fruit of his connubial joy with Hannah would bring into being. Eli had no concept of the blessing he was unleashing upon Israel through the prophetic word he was about to speak; for speak he did.

This sublime moment, the results of which were to reshape a nation, and the surrounding nations for the next century or so, was, potentially, shattered in a moment of crass error and bluntness. From the most sublime issue of the sight of Hannah, soberly praying like a drunken woman, we plunge headlong into the utter ridiculous. Picture, If you can, the scene of opposites. You have, a couple of hundred yards away, the sound of partying, singing and dancing. The noise is somewhat faded through the distance, but it is there as the static in the background.  Huge numbers of people indulging in a religious feast. But cocooned in a silent space in front  of the Tabernacle-cum-Temple are two people. There is elderly rotund Eli, in his nineties, sat calmly, and with only the sound of his breathing, watching Hannah. Hannah is beside herself. She is praying like no one has prayed before. She is writhing. She seems to be either mentally ill or stupefyingly  inebriated with wine. It must have been a common sight to Eli to see drunken libertines, as his sons would bring women home to sleep with.

7

.

Too much accustomed, in those evil days, to seeing women abandoned to godlessness and debauchery, Eli the High Priest, the head of the nation’s spiritual heritage, concludes Hannah is drunk. People praying, as if it was a life or death issue, was not commonly seen in Eli’s day.  Come to think of it: It’s not common in our day either.

“How long will you be drunk?” It would seem that Eli was more ready to reprove Hannah than he is his own sons. In poor old Eli’s favour, the scripture does tell us (but at a later point in the narrative) that he was going blind. In his old age he seems kindly, if somewhat strict, to a degree that his physical demeanour and charisma (or rather the lack of it) were inadequate to impose his convictions on his own sons. He was not, intellectually a strong man, but in his own parochial limited way, he was righteous and faithful.

Surely Hannah would have been justified in rebuking the aged priest for his contempt of factual observation. But when somebody is reaching with faith’s warm finger into the gentle springs of infinite love, it is understandable when they do not respond vituperatively. The woman is touching God, and something of His grace is  permeating her responses at that very moment.

Hannah’s reflex action to even further pain is consistent with what we have already seen of her. The meekness of Moses was indeed legendary, but did he, or any other, ever show a milder, gentler, lovelier spirit, a more magnanimous example of how to suffer wrong  than Hannah? She did not answer anything but modestly to Eli’s coarse insult. She utters no bitter complaint against her accuser. She does not bind him to look at home and upbraid him with the conduct of his own household. She does not tell him how ill and unbecoming it was for a person in his position to interrupt prayer and abuse a poor disconsolate woman at the footstool of Divine mercy. She does not throw at him a loud note calling him a false accuser. She does not twit him in the teeth and bid him look better at those drunken whoremongers who were his own sons, infamous throughout all Israel, and thereafter throughout all time.

2

………………………………………………

It is easy to think evil of all men. There is sure to be some fault about each one of us, which even the least discerning will ultimately discover upon examination. But prior to Christ’s birth, and the vision of His example,  Hannah responds in a way  to which we can append no adequate description, apart from saying, she was “Christlike.”

This abrupt introduction tells us nothing of the history of the elderly gent, father to the villainous Hophni and Phinehas. Eli was the son of Ithamar, the last son of Aaron and therefore the office of priest and spiritual judge must have been earned. To put it bluntly, Eli had no right to be High Priest, or even acting High Priest. For this reason it seems Eli must have been an august and vigorous character in his youth, for his post was not inherited, but won in some way. The fact that Eli retained his office to the end of his days suggests that the nation was so backslidden it had no Godly figures to fill the gap, as opposed to me suggesting  exceptional Godliness on Eli’s part. Frankly, neither scholars, nor archaeologists know why Eli was in the position of High Priest. It’s a mystery.

Hannah gently explains to him what she is doing. Eli sees his gross error and thus compensates; another plus to the character of the senior priest. He then speaks the most assuring words it was humanly possible for him to utter. Whether he was aware of the power and the depth of his own utterance is irrelevant. The Bible actually has several examples of people who prophesied not understanding the power, or the full picture of what God gave them to say. Some of these characters were not even aware that they were prophesying things into being. Eli had not so much as a clue as to any single word that Hannah had uttered in her prayer.

Give me childre or I die

Give me Children or I die??? More like, give me food or my baby dies!

She gently whispered to him, in the face of accusation of being debauched, “No, my Lord, I am a woman of sorrowful spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor any intoxicating drink, but have poured my soul before the Lord. Please! Do not consider your maidservant a wicked woman, for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief I have spoken until now.” This all suggest she had been writhing in her prayer for some considerable time.

What Eli spoke was received in Her spirit as solidly as her steamroller of a prayer had echoed in God’s ears and was received in heaven. What Eli spoke was heard, and mixed with faith in Hannah’s heart.

In a moment of time her anguish was dissipated. I do not mean suppressed, or repressed. I mean completely dissolved. It was not pent up to surface another day, but diluted and removed totally and utterly. Hannah had in a flash seen the invisible and received the answer to her spiritual scream. I do not mean she had seen God, although she had definitely touched Him, somehow. I mean, she had seen her son. Yes! Before Samuel was even conceived she had held him. Before the egg had been released from her ovary; before the single tadpole of her husband’s millions of human seeds had invaded that egg, the mother had seen her son. She held fast to the substance of what she was hoping for. She had the solid evidence of what her eyes had not seen. And this is the absolute biblical definition of what faith is, i.e. the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.

She stood up and left. Nobody could argue Hannah back into her grief. Peninnah could not taunt her back into tears and sadness. Hannah had received a Word from God. She had heard God when Eli had spoken to her. “Go in peace, and the God of Israel will give you your petition.”

Peace came with that Word. This was the truly prophetic. Dreamed up by God, who put the dream into the heart of Hannah, prayed over, wept over, and prophesied into – the foreordained plan was about to be  released into physical actuality on planet earth in the time/space world.  See the grace that Hannah received concerning the offspring we know as Samuel. Peace permeated her mind, and her anguish was annihilated.

6e330-a8a8a8jewish-man

.

“Let your handmaiden find grace in your sight,” is all she responded with. She got up and went back to her tent with a spring in her feet.  Her appetite returned. Her smile was renewed.

Whenever you are in a similar cul-de–sac of an impossible situation, always remember Hannah’s attitude and world view in the midst of the fog. All things are possible to those that believe.

No remark is made of the response returned by Elkanah or Peninnah, but the following morning they arose early and worshipped together. Elkanah still had his blind spots. Peninnah still possessed her animosity. The children of Peninnah, just by their presence still shouted at Hannah’s soul that she was childless.

Next, in one short phrase, the scripture wraps up the entire issue by simply stating, “Elkanah knew his wife; and the Lord remembered her.”

She called him “Sh’muel.” It does not actually mean, “Asked of God.” Strictly translated, it reads, “Heard of God.” “Because I asked the Lord,” gives the reason why she called him Sh’muel. The very name perpetuates the memory of Mercy. “Samuel” is merely the Anglicisation of “Sh’muel,” just as,”Jesus,” is of the Hebrew “Jeshua,” or the Greek “Yesus”.

The long distance historical background that we have here traced, and the more localised family context to Samuel’s birth, explains to us how this man stirred the emotions, and attracted the love of those around him. What his mother had promised to God, and the manner in which she purposed to fulfil her vow, filled his home environment  with talk of spiritual issues and attitudes of faith, integrity and the primary issue of intimacy with God as the top priority of life.

From the moment of his conception, Samuel was in a cosmos that was to fill him with characteristics and outlooks that would be the backbone for millions,  before his body would return to dust, and his spirit to the creator of all.

Categories: 1 Samuel 1:9-20, Give me children or I die, If God cannot improve my life . . . I give up | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ramah to Shiloh. Across the world in 6 hours.

RAMAH TO SHILOH

Across the world in six hours. 

(1 Samuel 1 verses 1 – 9)

1 4 Rachels'tomb as one leaves Ramah

Rachel’s tomb ahead. The view as one has just left Ramah on the way to Shiloh.

In the twenty first century with unleaded petrol as the norm, power steering, and all mod cons in even the average car, and with speedometers that suggest to the driver that the normal car could cruise at 80 kilometres per hour, a fourteen mile trip on a modern motorway cut through a few hills and with flyovers in the valleys is neither here nor there. A fifteen-minute comfort cruise in an air-conditioned modern saloon. Quite a pleasant thought really. I have a friend who used to take his baby son for just such a drive 2 or 3 times a day just in order to help the child sleep in his comfortable baby seat in the back of his vehicle. Not a problem.

In the biblical days we are about to negotiate, the fastest travel available to the masses was a well-fed donkey with an attitude. The “sports model” of the donkey was an animal called the “horse” (No Israelite owned a horse until Solomon’s time, and that was about 120 years later than the time we are thinking of).  It is true that some of the upper classes, or the wealthy, may have had camels, but asses and donkeys were the normal, “family saloon model,” notwithstanding the more commonly used, “Shank’s pony.”

Roads were definitely not cut through hills in the days we are travelling to. In fact, most journeys had no roads at all. It was simply a matter of pointing one’s donkey in the direction of the required destination, then keeping him moving toward the same compass point, until one arrived where one was expected. The Bible does indeed talk about, “Highways,” at the time, but each occasion one reads of such a phenomena, more often than not, especially in preDavidic times, such terminology simply refers to a well-worn track that was just easy to follow.

Stargazing camels..

So, imagine yourself on a sweltering day in the footsteps of our man of the moment: Elkanah, Samuel’s “father to be.” Travelling fourteen miles accompanied by two women and at least four children, would have made such a six to eight hour trip a little pressured for any husband. Food, personal hygiene, diapers and travel sickness, as well as toileting needs, would have creased the brow of the hardiest family man. Landau Forte had not started their chain of hotels yet. Refreshment oases, apart from stopping at other towns and cities, were just not in existence, and one could not depend upon a warm welcome, even from an Israeli town, for another Israeli.

This is the scene where our inquiry commences. Time wise we are somewhere between 1080 and 1050 B.C. Biblically, we are at the opening verses of the ninth book of the Old Testament. Geographically we are in the depths of the Ephraim hills, in the territory of Benjamin, about five miles north of the city we now know as Jerusalem, in those days, known as Jebus. We see this man and his family leaving a place called Ramathaim–Zophim, it is called Ramah for short. ( Modern Ramallah?).  It is swelteringly hot. The journey raises dust that sticks on the face and in the throat.

We suggest that there were at least two donkeys for the wives to mount, and possibly others, depending on the age and maturity of the children. This was the full count of the family of Elkanah as at this moment. The full-blown opening statement of First Samuel’s opening two verses tells us all this – and more.

The family detailed situation is best theorised in this way: Having married early for love of a woman named Hannah, Elkanah discovered through the passing of time that no children were forthcoming. His wife just would not become pregnant. It was inconceivable, pardon the pun, for him to think that it was his male incapability that prevented issue. As heirs were all essential for the sake of property and future wealth, and as the years were passing, Elkanah took for himself a second wife, probably chosen from a particularly fertile familial tree, or even the widow of a relative that had died. His end was achieved. Voile! Children again and again, via wife number two.

1 1

A far distant view of Shiloh today

On this family outing, a journey he had vowed to take annually, there were both sons and daughters of this second wife. Peninnah was her name. (This Hebrew word carries a similar meaning to the English word “Margaret”) We are not told of the names of her offspring.

The tension between the brace of spouses was a bitter thing. Peninnah is specifically listed as Hannah’s, “adversary.” The journey must have been a silent one for the ladies; apart from interaction with the children of course. To put it mildly, these two women were not the best of friends.

There were other social issues, ripened fruits contributing to the stew of contemporary circumstances that would have deterred many from a trip such as Elkanah was taking. Foreign and volatile powers occupied the land. For one, Canaan was not rid of wild beasts, for another Wolves and Hyenas prowled about at night.  Even Lions had their lairs in the forest cum jungle, which lined part of the course of the Jordan. There was also the omnipresent danger of robbers and thieves in the fastnesses of the hills.

1 2 Shiloh

Shiloh

To encourage them on their way, there would have been other families making the same pilgrimage. Numbers? Think of any! We can all but guess.

Then there was the main driving force that would carry some through thick or thin to get to the place called Shiloh, namely faith in God, and the desire to worship at the annual feasts as commanded by the Law of Moses.

In the days of the Judges, there were several neighbouring societies and cultures with religious beliefs and practices that made the average God fearing Israelite cringe with horror. The weak in mind among the children of Israel actually joined their heathen neighbours. Idolatry, human sacrifice, rampant hedonism and a love of war, together with raping, pillaging and general sacking of enemy nations was the absolute norm for national self-esteem.  The Canaanites, Hivites, Amorites and all the other “ites,” as well as the Philistines were a godless lot by modern perspectives. From another viewpoint, one could say that the problem was that they all had too many gods.

Jehovah simply wanted Israel to settle in the land that he had given them, and to live happily ever after on a true worshipful lifestyle. The previous inhabitants were not on the Divine agenda for longevity. He had promised to help Israel chase out the seven evil inspired cultures, and demonically ravaged nations. They could have had the Land all to themselves, but they would not. God rescinded the commitment to drive out the Canaanites before them because of their unbelief (see Judges 2:1-6). They were, therefore, through lack of faith and character, forced to be like the other nations, if not worse. These were definitely days when, “Every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” And that attitude was the very rot of the nation.

Ramah and Rachel's Tomb 1836 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

Ramah and Rachel’s Tomb 1836 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

This is the cosmos into which Samuel first became a proverbial, “Twinkle in his mother’s eye.” The picture we are etching while Elkanah rambles up to Shiloh was probably similar to the very moment when the first “twinkling” of Hannah’s eyes began.

Hannah wanted children with a longing and a yearning that is reserved for those “mother like hearts” in like circumstances to hers. Our story will explain how the “first wife’s” most sensitive and agonising deprivation became the seed of her own, as well as the nation of Israel’s greatest asset since Moses.

She was chosen. Abraham and Sarah at one elongated point of time had no children. Isaac and Rebekah new the same deprivation over a twenty-year period. Manoah likewise. So with the Shunamite woman, and not omitting Zacharias and Elizabeth in the New Testament. And here also, we read that Hannah had no children. In this light, it comes to nothing short of a mark of special election and high calling. In fact, it seems to my mind to be a very special calling of servanthood for God, to have no legitimate children at a certain point of prolonged married life. The Divine choice, of course, for this process is beyond human manipulation or bias.

Hannah’s determination to overcome sadness and emotional devastation, and how she achieved to climb such a sheer rock face of character challenge, is the very fulcrum of our observations concerning Samuel’s family roots. Hannah’s deep, “gut- ache,” is where this story truly begins. Samuel was longed for by his mother, before he was even conceived. I seriously doubt that Elkanah ever understood Hannah. As character goes, she was priceless. Her deprivation made her better, as opposed to bitter. Hannah’s husband came from stock that one would have thought had the insight to see her pain. Unfortunately it was not so with him.

1 11

.

Elkanah Was a Levite derived from a branch of the Levitical family known as the clan of Kohath. The Kohathites were scattered all across Judah, Benjamin, Simeon, Ephraim, Dan and Manasseh. In the opening stanza of First Samuel, Elkanah is referred to as an “Ephrathite,” which, amongst other things, meant that he was born in Ephraim, somewhere near to Bethlehem. According to the family tree offered to us in 1 Chronicles 6:22 – 33, Elkanah was the nineteenth direct descendant from the Patriarch Jacob, via Levi. Levites were the priestly clan. All Levites were intended by God to run the entire worship system that revolved around the Tabernacle. That was a system that was outlined in considerable detail in the books of Moses. In times of spiritual decline, of course, there was never enough work to go around, and so Levites had to take up other professions. It would seem that secular employment was Elkanah’s lot in life. More than likely, he was probably a farmer.

Though the people of Israel as a whole were tainted with unbelief and/or idolatry, including the priestly ranks, with all those vices most hateful to the prescribed  law of God, there must have been many, like Elkanah, who were God fearing  and held family life in strict reverence. The vast majority of religious and political guides of the time were weakly fragmented in purpose, and godless in heart. At least, by the account we have, we are assured of committed spirituality of this particular husband and his first wife.

Because of the contemporary dangers of travelling as explained from above, a lot of families only chose to go to one feast a year. They did not have a choice to go elsewhere. Elkanah lived nearer than most. Fourteen miles and six hours still seemed like the other side of the world to a man with two wives and a quiver full of offspring.

In the Bible, there are many names given to God, and the book of Samuel here in the first chapter, 3rd verse uses a certain name here for the first time. It is a name that was quite commonly used in later generations. It says that Elkanah went to worship, “The Lord of hosts.”  “Yahweh Sabaoth. For the uninitiated it simply means that God had (and certainly still has) an army. Some are human, yes, but he also has a few battalions and divisions, if not quite a few full armies that are not human. We are talking about Angels.

1 9 shiloh

Historical site as it is today. Shioloh.

The Ark of the Covenant that was kept in the now ever-darkened room at Shiloh, was only ever lit up when God chose to appear there. When He did appear, it was over the top of the lid of this Ark, between a golden effigy of two cherubim (Cherubim is plural for Cherub).  We do not mean the cuddly little naked baby type, “cherub,” that western culture caricatures on valentine cards every year. We mean the real thing. Six wings, four faces, hands of a man and feet of an animal. We are talking awe-inspiring splendour and glory. They surround His throne in heaven. Ezekiel saw four of them. Isaiah and John saw the same four also. Here, on the ark, was the likeness of two of them carved in gold.

To say that I would like to know exactly what the Ark of the Covenant and its “Mercy Seat” looked like is a gross understatement. Does a human being desire to breathe? This Ark was the very crux of worship for Israel and the Israelite. It was never seen by any but the High Priest, but was so famously treasured, that God was actually known and referred to as “The Lord that dwells between the cherubim.”  Jehovah actually appeared there, at that very spot. The entire concept is truly breathtaking. In moses day it would have been the brightest spot on the face of the earth. These days it was merely a box kept in the darkness, providing a form of godliness and somehow, because of the people, it was denying the power of Yahweh and their faith in Him.

1 12 the sad Hannah

Sad Sad Hannah

There are twin stories told throughout the early chapters of First Samuel. If it was filmed the same as the story reads, the scene would keep flitting from Elkanah and his wife Hannah, to two of the most unsavoury fellows in the whole of Israelite history. These two men were so evil, and so influential in their evil, that we are actually told that God had made up his mind to kill them.

Hophni and Phinehas were the two sons of the acting High Priest.  They were the equivalent of both the atheistic, sensual lager louts of the late twenty first century, and the disaffected, delinquent “Hooray Henry’s” of the privileged classes. In the context of the spiritual heritage of Israel, they were a “dreadful Armageddon type judgement” just waiting to happen.  And how they would “happen!”

As the story progresses over the years, one realises how impossible it is to fully tell Samuel’s story without bringing in these two apostle’s of evil. Hophni and Phinehas were so evil and so bad that God just had to kill them. To take the drama and tension away from their death, God arranged for the sacred Ark to be stolen on the very day they died. The acting High Priest Eli also passed away to his reward when he heard the news. Shortly afterwards (I think, on the same day as the Israeli army retreated from battle) Shiloh was razed to the ground. The theft of the Ark, and its later return to the outer perimeter of Israeli life, caused the maturing Samuel to ask God about how future worship was to be arranged. That is the very issue, which caused the genius of the man to arouse itself from latent and dormant purposes.

In another line of dominoes, it was the evil of these two real sons that, I believe, made Eli determine to make an excellent job of parenting Samuel. Their continued evangelical godlessness was being perpetrated simultaneously to the growth of the lovely little lad, being brought up with Eli in “the nurture of the Lord”. The Godly Samuel developed in the environment of the wicked.

That is just how it works folks! Environment may oppress and depress. But environment is only one issue in a macro of things that causes people to stand or fall. Adam and Eve fell in a perfect environment. Samuel grows and stands in Godliness and purity in an environment that no parent of today would dream of subjecting their child to, especially in their absence. Modern Social Services policy would undoubtedly have forbidden Hannah from leaving Samuel with Eli. How great and marvelous is God’s grace.

The fact that only these two priests are mentioned is not to lead us to think that the Tabernacle needed only Eli and his two sons to function. Far from it. The congregation would have undoubtedly been considerable in size, yet only a small percentage of the thirteen tribes would have utilised the old tent of worship. These were Godless days after all.

1 13 Peninah taunts Hannah

Penninah taunts Hannah. Wicked Woman.

We picture the people dancing and merrymaking, though not in, or near the Tabernacle. They used to dance in the Vineyards around Shiloh away from the sacred tent. Dance means music, gaiety, laughter. We know also that there was lots of eating and drinking. In part of the ceremony of offering  one’s sacrifice, some of the cooked sacrificial meat was returned to the offerer for eating, and was passed from the husband as the family priest, on to the family. Whatever the measure of meat to feed his wives and children, Elkanah did something here that was, sociologically speaking, a catastrophe. Elkanah had two wives. That is bad enough. But fasten your seat belts as I tell you something much much worse. Elkanah had favourites. Actually, only one favourite wife. One is all that is needed to bring catastrophe. In whatever way the husband sliced up the joint for feasting, he gave “one” slice to Peninnah, and one to all her children. He probably had just one slice for himself. Then, in open view of all, he gave “double” to Hannah. I read it, and I read it, over and over again, and I find it so hard to believe. Was Elkanah in his right mind? How on earth could he vex Peninnah so?

Annually Elkanah came. Annually Hannah was abused by Peninnah. Annually he gave his “favourite wife” the double portion. In the vicinity of the Tabernacle, just near to the spot where Joshua had thrown the Lots for the tribal inheritance, Peninnah chose this moment and place of dedication to taunt Hannah “adversarially.” Was Elkanah simple? Was he deranged? Was he so ignorant of human nature? Was he so crass as to not know anything about the two human beings he had married? There you have one woman who would make the perfect mother. A woman with character and piety, yet utterly distraught through her childlessness. And then we have the woman who had the children (four in fact), yet, as the story will reveal as we proceed, no character. The point is that people too often home in on what they don’t have rather than what they do have. So we have Hannah longing for children, and, oh, dreadful picture that it is, we have Peninnah craving the love and primary place in her husband’s heart that Hannah obviously had. “I have given him 4 children!  She has given him none! Why doesn’t he love me?” Was ever a domestic earthquake easier to foretell than this?

Things happen to us in life, good bad and ugly. We respond. Our response trains us, and sets us up as to the way we handle blessings, curses and tragedies later on in life. Those with character handle the bad and still grow into greatness. Those with deepset negative responses find it difficult to count even their blessings, but to be sure they will list the details of what they consider to be curses. These two ladies, in the same household, epitomise the two polarised extremes of these trained responses.

What happens while Elkanah plays the fool in handing out the meat? Any five year old could write the script. Hannah says, “Thank you!” for the extra food, while the hunger for the food of motherhood keeps her pale and wan. Peninnah acts happily, “normal,” while simple, undiscerning Elkanah is watching. But the moment the man of the house leaves to go to the bathroom, the lovely doctor Jekyll of Peninnah, turns into the monstrous Mrs Hyde and taunts Hannah where the pain is at its worst possible threshold. “At least I have the children! You can’t even satisfy your husband with heirs! He only gives you extra food because he feels sorry for you!”

fe9ec-0009-3

The stairs at Samuel’s tomb.

She no doubt taunted Hannah that she was under God’s curse, Gods anger and even God’s punishment. What on earth could Peninnah be thinking of, approaching the altar of God with a temper full of malice and envy, as well as a tongue, “set on fire of hell.” In her heart of hearts, Hannah perceived the extra portion of food as for the child, as yet unborn – as yet not conceived. To her it was as if Elkanah was saying, “You are as precious to me as if you had a child. Here is an extra portion of  meat for the son you desire.”

After reading the story over and over again there are certain images in my mind that I feel compelled to hold on to, and the more I read, the clearer these images become.

The first image is that Elkanah genuinely and honestly treasured Hannah for who and what she was. Hannah WAS a charactered, Godly woman. I think she was probably a Hebrew beauty too, but to be factual, nothing at all is mentioned of her outward appearance, as per the biblical norm – generally. It was his outright preference of love for Hannah that drove her enemy so strongly against her. I don’t think Elkanah could hide it. The look of his eyes, the tone of his voice, his gentle manner when he addressed Hannah. Peninnah would have seen it and ached for it, as much as Hannah ached for a child. Peninnah wanted those looks and gentle words so much, she ached with the knife twisting realisation that those expressions were just not there when he approached her. Character is not always displayed by trials, but it very much results from them. Both prosperity and adversity are states of acknowledged temptation. Peninnah fell here on this hard rock. Hannah stepped upward to heaven with her trial.

Oh, the anomalies of present and perceived providence. We  talk of people being blessed or cursed. But here – which is which? First a woman eminently fitted to bring up children, yet having none. On the other hand we have a woman whose temper and ways are fitted to ruin children, entrusted with the rearing of a quiver full of offspring.  Surely, such unsettled and unresolved anomalies of life point to a future judgement, where the God of absolute and perfect justice will reconcile all issues of this world.

Some anomalies, however, are reconciled  here in this life in our time/space world.

3b2fa-0007

.

The  second image I see is a video of the very moment that Elkanah says to Hannah, “Am I not worth ten sons to you?” If I was writing the screenplay to the film, I would have Elkanah whispering the words gently to his childless lover, whilst in the blurred background, out of focus, but in colours striking enough for the audience not to miss, Peninnah  is standing in the doorway of their tent hearing every word. I believe this, because only an educationally sub normal man would speak such words to one wife knowing that he was being overheard by his other spouse. No one could really be that crass . . . could they? Nevertheless Peninnah overheard his words.

Hannah’s adversary was peculiarly unprincipled and ill-disposed. There is a considerable difference between the feeling and the expression of partiality. The one is much more under our power and control than the other. The display of it in human relationships is often prejudicial to the object.

The third image, I cannot help but fasten on to, is one of the, “male chauvinist pig,” mentality of Elkanah. Why did he ask such a question? Was he genuinely not aware that a woman’s desire for children could assert itself to be  the most consuming passion of most wives?  Was he not perceptive enough to understand the basic bottom line of his first wife’s needs? Could he not comprehend that no matter how many times he made love to Hannah, for her the aim of being impregnated was the principle of her goals, rather than his arms around her in physical union?  Sadly, I believe the answer to all these questions is an emphatic, “No!” I see in Elkanah, a clear “no!” written on Elkanah’s forehead concerning all these fundamental marital understandings. I believe that the strongly impressed culture that demanded that the women bare children, and “stay in the kitchen,” robbed Elkanah, along with the vast majority of his contemporary male clones, of insight into basic human understanding and male-female relationships.

The same cultural demand also heightened Hannah’s grief. Their, “culture implanted mind sets,” screamed that Hannah was, “not a proper wife,” that she had, “let her husband down.” She felt herself as a, “woman without respect.” She could not party and dance, and lose herself in trivial chit chat as the rest of the crowd were doing here at Shiloh. She felt herself almost as a social non-entity.

The emotional pressure was too much. She could take it no longer. Leaving the party, and the celebratory cries of dancing and “whooping it up”, unnoticed by husband, wifely rival and brood, Hannah retires. The fact that she was unnoticed in her discreet departure only served as proof to her of her uselessness. She must get away.

The crux of life to anybody who has the slightest parallel to Hannah’s agony is the answer to this question: What do you do when you get away from them all? The woman is at her most vulnerable. She hurts to the point where she is not acting “normally.” She is beside herself with grief. She is fearful of her future. She is afraid of her present predicament. She despises her home life. She feels utterly trapped in her woeful misery. What on earth will she do? Suicide? Seek Counselling? Run away? Take a lover? Seek Divorce? Slit her wrists for attention? What does this woman escape to?

Her answer to these questions changed her life, and truly secured Israel’s prosperity and future at the time when the tribes, as a single national unit, were hanging on by their fingernails to their existence and destiny.

This woman’s self discovery, and God discovery, is a monumental appeal for others to follow the footprints Hannah laid in the sand of her life. We shall in these pages tread in the heat and depressed sand of that same footprint.

Categories: 1 Samuel 1:1-9, Across the world in six hours, Ramah to Shiloh | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.

theministersmrs

New Adventures as a master of my own ship.

TB Joshua Watch

A comprehensive resource on TB Joshua and SCOAN

I WAS THE FUTURE ONCE blasts from my past

Notes, notes and more notes. Words I still believe could change the world

The Bible Through the Seasons

A Three-Year Journey with the Bible

Conforming To The Truth

Letting the text of God's Word teach us

AAAJ watchman

And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth.

Apologetically, Yours....

Life as a Jesus loving, husband adoring, homeschooling, full time apologetics student

Prema Sunder Raj's Blog

Tamil Christian Family Bible Study Devotions

Break Away

Lifestyle | Food | Art | Faith | Music

God Running

There's only one place in the bible where we see God running.

Kingdom EMC

Info about Kingdom Evangelical Methodist Church in WV.

Knowing God through His Word ... Day by Day

Read the Bible through in a year....

Blake Williams

Broadcast Meteorology Student at Mississippi State University | East Limestone High School Alumni | Athens, AL & Starkville, MS |

Raining Truth Bible Trivia

BIBLE TRIVIA FROM THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENT

Daba

cos family is where it all begins!

Narrow is The Way Ministries

"Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." Matthew 7:14 (KJV)

Craig T. Owens

"Oh! that the power of God would set my heart and pen at liberty while writing, and fill your hearts while reading, that we may rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory." (John Newton)

Center for Evangelists

SOS Events - a life saving ministry

hocuspocus13

Magickal Arts