1 Samuel is where we start our reading for this year. It is the beginning of the History section in the Bible. These first few chapters are filled with so many historical and spiritual implications. With Samuel, the prophet, priest and last Judge of Israel; we have an ending of a tumultuous period in Israel’s history. Primarily because they would not repent and follow God. So the cycle of crisis continued for some 400 years. The book of Judges shows the stiff-necked disposition of the Israeli people. The only time it seems that they will follow God is when they are in trouble – that they created for themselves.
The book opens with the barren Hannah, praying for a child that she would in-turn return to the LORD. I wondered as Hannah prayed the prayer [with Eli watching and condemning her] if Hannah’s oath about Samuel was wrongfully motivated/ The second chapter clearly indicates the love of the LORD Hannah had. Even though there was great reproach with Hannah being barren and Peninnah fruitful [similar story as Rachel and Leah]; Hannah seems to be genuinely dedicated to the LORD Yahweh.
I cannot imagine what it would be like to give up your only child, without any idea of whether you will have another – as it is Hannah has five children later. I guess we could look at the Father in Heaven giving up His only Son Jesus with similar light. The Song Hannah sings in chapter Two reminded me of Mary’s song in Luke 2. The song is done in a poetic fashion. Hannah bestows upon God the great power and authority of creation and daily life. How that the LORD is for the poor and outcast in their need, rather than the self-sufficient person with no need of God. The latter part of chapter two is so filled with metaphors about ministry and the minister. Eli now an old man priest has two boys, who do not know the LORD. Looking forward, Samuel did not know the LORD yet either in his encounter with God calling him in the night – yet all of them were serving before the LORD at Shiloh. I have to ask the question, how many pastors and ministry leaders today are “serving the LORD” yet do not even know Him? Compounded is the behavior of Hophni and Phineas, the reproach they bring on the sacrificial system – yes the priests were to take a portion of the sacrifices that were brought, but they didn’t want the boiled meat, but the fat laden select meat meant for God. Something I have learned – the smell of a great BBQ is a result of the fat on the meat – it give such a sweet-smelling aroma. The Fat belongs to God! The also had relations with the women that would come and minister at the Tabernacle. The Priests didn’t KNOW the LORD. The ministered for what they could get out of it! John Piper wrote s book called””Brethren we are not professionals.” In the book Piper illustrates that clergy are not professionals – they are the CALLED of God. If someone is doing “ministry” for what they can get out of it – well they very well could end up like Hophni and Phineas.
Young Samuel was of a different character all together – repeatedly we read “and he grew in stature and favor with the LORD and Men” a similar statement made about Joseph, John the Baptist and Jesus. In Samuel’s late night encounter with God; there is a message revealed to him about the future of his mentor Eli and his sons. Eli was old, blind and fat. One could surmise that he had outlived His effectiveness. This is a serious issue that every pastor and minister must answer – When to go and How long to stay. I know of some pastors that stayed too long and caused great obstacles for the Church to move forward. The Pastor was “holding down a job, not pastoring.” Anyway Eli the priest obviously is well past his effectiveness time. His sons brought reproach on the Name of the Lord and ministry. God removes all three in one day. As a side note – this young Samuel was given the message about Eli, is was fearful to speak the message to Eli. When a pastor gets to the point were he will refrain from “speaking the Word of the LORD, he is done! Pastors must preach in season and out – our audience is the LORD God.
There in chapter four we find the Philistines battling Israel. The people put their hope in the Tabernacle not in the God of the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle is taken, Eli and sons die and Phinehas’ wife has a child and named him “Ichabod” the Glory of God has departed. Such a terrible start for a New Beginning! Long before the Tabernacle was taken, the Glory had departed from Israel. But God was doing a new thing in Samuel!