The King Maker

 

1 Samuel 1:4-20

1 Samuel 2:1-10

Hebrews 10:11-25

Mark 13:1-8

The period from about 1200 to 900 BC is known as the Ancient Dark Ages. Many events conspired to cause all the great powers of the Mediterranean to collapse, some never to be seen again. That history is only significant to the passages in Samuel to explain why Israel was able to establish a kingdom. Before that time, God’s Chosen lived mostly in the mountains and tried to avoid the mighty powers.

With no one telling them what to do and how much to pay in taxes, they wanted to form a proper nation. With that in mind, God provided a leader to make it possible: Samuel.

Samuel was the go-between. God spoke to him, and he relayed the messages to the kings. He had to tell Saul that he was sinning and that he was going to lose his throne. He relayed the news to David that he would soon replace King Saul, and he advised David in his early years.

Samuel, like Abraham, Moses, David, and so many others, was a forerunner of Jesus. He performed some of the roles that the Messiah would copy and improve on a millennium later.

Like Samuel, Jesus is our go-between. Unlike Samuel, Jesus is Prophet, King, High Priest, and much more.

At first glance, Samuel and Jesus were born to this world in different circumstances, but we must not overlook the role of God in each. While Hannah was unable to conceive, Mary conceived a bit early according to the moral code. We do not know how long Elkanah and Hannah were married except that it was “years,” but no child arrived. Only after Eli intervened did she finally give birth to Samuel.

Or was it Eli? He was clearly out of the loop when we read 1:9-18, though Eli did trust God and told Hannah to do the same. Likewise, Mary trusted God, but in her case, that trust covered becoming pregnant without the presence of a man. The Biblical texts do make it clear that God was the power behind both births.

Why is that important? We know God can tap anyone for any job. Why go to the trouble of causing Hannah to remain barren and suffer the humiliation heaped on her by Peninnah? Why not allow her to birth several children before Samuel’s birth as happened in the case of King David? Put that on your list of questions to ask God in the next life. God does not work in the ways of humans, and He does not have to explain everything to us, or anything for that matter. What we should learn from Hannah is that God does His work in His way. We should not second-guess Him, and we should stay out of His way.

Notice Eli. He did not know what was going on and he did not try to get God to do what Eli thought He should do. He quickly realized that a woman wanted a baby and there was nothing within his powers to take care of the problem, so he turned it over to God.

Think about this in the modern setting. A church leader discovers a woman weeping in a dark corner of the church. She tells him/her that she wants a baby but can’t conceive. We know that some women can’t conceive for all kinds of reasons. The leader could try to reconcile the distraught woman with her condition. “You just have to forget it and be strong.”

The leader could call a committee to counsel the woman in her medical options. There’s always a test tube option.

Or the leader could pray with the woman to allow God to have his way. Even in the Bible, Samuels are born only once and to only one woman. The rest of us must “be strong.”

There are only a few people who are not common or average. We know that, but still strive to be one of the few. It has become a national obsession. We want to be stronger, more intelligent, more beautiful, etc., but we forget that the only exceptional people are those chosen by God and we have no control over His choices.

Hannah could not bear a child, so God chose her to produce a son. Moses could not speak clearly, so God chose him to speak for the nation. Mary had not had sexual relations with any man, so God chose her to be the mother of the Son of God.

No matter where we are or what we do, we need to be happy to have God in our lives. I may be common, but I’m God’s common.

 

Read my earlier comments on this theme here.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

God the Parent, Part 1

 

1 Samuel 3:1-10(11-20)
Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17
2 Corinthians 4:5-12
Mark 2:23-3:6

 

Eli, a faithful servant of God, failed to be a proper father to his sons. If we look at chapter 2 we will read, Now Eli’s sons were scoundrels; they paid no heed to the LordJSB The Tabernacle was set up in Shiloh, and Eli’s sons took a portion of the sacrifices every day for their use. Then they began to demand raw meat before the sacrifices were made.

In contrast, Samuel was engaged in the service of the Lord as an attendant….Young Samuel meanwhile grew up in the service of the LordJSB

In chapter 2:22, Eli tried to get his sons to stop. He failed, and we are told, the Lord was resolved that they should die. Young Samuel, meanwhile, grew in esteem and favor both with God and with menJSB

It is important to understand this story in the whole. Eli’s sons ignored God while Samuel loved and served God. The key to understanding is the importance of remaining faithful to God, not the notion that God decided he did not like Eli’s sons.

Why did God resolve that the boys should die? They turned away from God. There can be no life apart from God. We are born into a dying world. We are under attack mentally, emotionally, and physically from conception to death. We have no chance—zero—of not dying. The only question is: will we die with God or without Him? The boys chose the latter way.

In today’s reading, Samuel has grown to teen years, if not adulthood. Eli has Samuel sleep with him in the Tabernacle. (The Bible calls it the Temple, but it was the tent.) We are told, In those days the word of the Lord was rare; prophecy was not widespreadJSB Even Eli took some time to figure out that God was speaking.

Why three times? It is a number of perfection, often found in the scriptures. It is important to note two things about the calls. Only Samuel heard the voice, and he responded at once. The first two times, never having heard God before, he assumed it was Eli. Please don’t imagine that God was upset by that. It was just part of the process. There was certainly no blame on Samuel. It was Eli who was a little slow.

Notice something else. Eli responded to God even though he did not hear the call. God’s only problem with Eli was how he treated his sons. In fact, when Eli forced Samuel to tell him the message from God, Eli said, He is the Lord; He will do what He deems rightJSB

Moving into the next chapter, we read that the Philistines defeated Israel in battle and Eli’s two sons took the Ark of the Covenant to the battlefield. That filled the hearts of Israel and put fear into the hearts of the Philistines. The next battle left 10,000 Israelites dead, and the army routed.

Why?

Two reasons. God did not order the Ark to be moved; Eli’s sons moved it anyway. The Philistines killed the sons and captured the Ark. Israel without God cannot win.

One more point. The message God gave Samuel came to pass. I declare to him that I sentence his house to endless punishment for the iniquity he knew aboutJSB The endless punishment did not take long; both sons died. The curse appears to have ended, for the wife of Phinehas gave birth to a son, Ichabod, when hearing of the defeat. She then died as well, but Phinehas seems to have lived, though he is not mentioned again.

The language of the Old Testament often seems harsh, but it is simply stating God’s position in the harshest language possible. Eli lived a short time suffering the loss of sons he might have saved.

What does that say about how we should do our parenting? Some would say we must be hard on kids, beat them senseless if need be. But look at how God disciplined Eli, who was the child in this case. The two sons were incidental to the whole story. They chose to live without God and received the reward for that choice.

The story is about Eli. God did not kill him, beat him, throw him out, write him out of the will. God still spoke to Eli, still reminded him of his duties, and punished him for his failure.

Most importantly, He did not give up on Eli.

As long as a child has breath, don’t give up. Stay close. Continue to show love, even as you enforce harsh penalties.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence