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By: Larry Shaffer
A monumental story of promise and fulfillment
I Samuel has three main characters; Samuel, Saul and David. These men, with all their various flaws (especially Saul and David), provide leadership to the nation of Israel as it goes from a loosely knit group of tribes to a United nation under a centralized monarchy. The key themes that will emerge are the formation of the Davidic covenant; the Sovereignty of God in fulfilling His plan for nations and individuals; the work of the Holy Spirit in empowering men for divinely appointed duties; the personal and nation effects of sin.
I love you but…
Chapter 1 provides the backdrop of Samuels birth. His mother, Hannah was greatly loved by her husband, Elkanah. But God closed her womb so Elkanah married another. Seems like a boneheaded decision but we probably shouldn’t judge. Having sons was very, very important in this cultural and at this time, although God never endorsed it, He hadn’t forbidden it. Nevertheless, the new wife was not nice and she becomes bitter and jealous. The fact that Elkanah only married her for her body (to have baby sons) didn’t endear him to her. She had many children and that pleased her husband, but she could tell that Elkanah was utterly head over heels for Hannah. He loved Hannah greatly. So, wife #2 would ridicule Hannah for being barren. Not exactly the Cleaver household (Leave it to Beaver-check it out on Netflix if you’re too young to remember). This was terribly painful to Hannah but the text states clearly that God had closed Hannah’s womb. God was behind it all and He had a plan. As is often the case, His plan involves causing His servant certain pain and distress while He teaches and develops His servant into fuller servants of Him (and His plan). Some say that God only brings about blessings and Satan or the natural circumstances of this world causes pain and distress. We will see in this book that God is clearly the architect of all that happens and he uses both pain and the blessings to accomplish His purposes and develop the character of His servants.
Hannah is a rock star
In that light, we can learn much from Hannah about prayer and petition. She went into the temple and wept and poured out her heart to the Lord with her request for a son. In her prayers, she committed to dedicating her son to the Lord. She was so demonstrative in her prayer that the priest, Eli thought she was drunk. She assured Eli she wasn’t drunk and told him of her plight and her petition to God. Eli blessed her and prayed for her. Shortly thereafter, Hannah become pregnant with Samuel, meaning “heard by God”. Samuel was born under God’s sovereign circumstances whereby Hannah’s faith was fortified through her pain. Hannah was now prepared to give her son fully back to God. This may be what many mothers aspire to (dedicate their children to God) but is not at all easy. This level of dedication on Hannah’s part would not have been there if she had easily conceived early in her marriage. When Hannah was barren it seemed that God was far from her, but really the opposite was true. God was forging her character and preparing her for a blessing of great magnitude. If only we believe that God is doing the same in our lives when it seems that He has abandoned us. Jesus said, I will never leave you nor forsake you. There’s much to learn from Hannah about trust and faith in a sovereign God, even when He seems far away. Teach me Lord! Amen