I find Hannah’s story incredibly touching. Not only because it speaks of her love and devotion to her family, and to God. Enduring the taunts of her cruel rival, year in, year out. (What makes a person be so nasty?) Bearing the burden and stigma of infertility. But also because of her husband’s love and devotion towards Hannah. “On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb.” (1:4-5) [ESV] He gave her a double portion. Those words move me to tears. Such a small, but very public act before the entire clan. Elkanah singles out Hannah, and his relationship with her, as special. Very special. Just as Joseph did with Benjamin. (Genesis 43:34) Just as God does with us. (Matthew 7:9-11) (Maybe that’s not the best verse, but it’s the first one that sprang to mind.) The Lord provides for us abundantly. He gives us more than a double portion, both materially and spiritually. He is rich in mercy. (Ephesians 2:4) He loves us lavishly. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! “(1 John 3:1) [NIV] That’s how it was for Hannah. God heard her prayer and blessed her with not only Samuel, but another three sons and two daughters. And what did Hannah do? She could have broken her vow and kept Samuel with her – she didn’t know she would have more children – but instead Hannah honoured her promise, devoting her son to God’s service, and in doing so God’s initial blessing was increased as Samuel “grew in stature and in favour with the Lord and with men.” (2:26) There is a lot more – a lot more! – in these first five chapters, but it was Hannah’s story that stayed with me throughout the day. [11-03-2008]
Saul, the reluctant king, hiding amongst the baggage, (10:22) but God transforms him – giving him another heart (10:9), and empowers him with the Spirit of God rushing upon Saul on two separate occasions. (10:10, 11:6). Very powerful imagery. Interesting that on hearing Saul prophesy, the people who knew him well expressed a similar disbelief to that experienced by Jesus when he began his ministry. (10:11-12) Why did the people desire a king so much when they had seen God deliver them? (10:19)
Samuel’s instructions for living: “… fear the Lord and serve and obey him and do not rebel against his commands” (12:14) and “do not turn away from the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. ” (12:20) And God’s promise to us: “For the sake of his great name the Lord will not reject his people, because the Lord was pleased to make you his own.” (12:22) I know in this context, this verse refers specifically to the Israelites, but does it also hint at predestination and the extension of God’s covenant to the gentiles? I like to think so.
Saul’s disobedience (13:9) seems to stem from arrogance and impatience – attempting to take control of a situation, and take on a role that wasn’t his to take. I find verses 19-22 odd – why would you take your weapons to the enemy – even if they had cornered the market on sword sharpening – especially when a battle with them is near? Very, very strange. “Withdraw your hand.” (14:19b) Is this a similar concept to the account of the battle where for as long as Moses (?) held both his hands up, God’s favour was on the Israelites? Some of these verses seem odd, almost fable-like, with talk of seers, and forests dripping honey.
Poor Jonathan. It doesn’t seem fair that he should be bound by an oath that he hadn’t even heard. (14:24) I think it is interesting that the people recognised putting Jonanthan to death would be unjust, and ransomed him [ESV]. (14:45) But it doesn’t say with what, or how. And poor Saul, how far the mighty can fall. His disobedience in not following God’s instructions, keeping the spoils (15:9), building a monument to himself (15:12), and then lying about it (15:13). Why? Because he “feared the people and obeyed their voice.” (15:24) How often do we do the same? Failing to stand up or speak out about what we know to be true and right, for fear of what people might think of us? Hard to do when you’re the minority. Samuel’s words in v.22 are similar to those of the prophet Micah (6:6-8), which are also referenced by Jesus when he condemns the Pharisees (Matthew 24:23). [27-03-2008]
Reading this again, and it still strikes me as odd that the people go to the Philistines to pay them to sharpen what “weapons” they have remaining – basically agricultural instruments. I guess they are doing what they need to do in order to have a chance of defending themselves. [17-10-2011]
The witch of Endor [NIV] smacks of Lord of the Rings. But I really feel for Saul – you can sense his desperation. Is his death an honourable one? (31:5) What sprung out most strongly are David’s words in 30:24 when he speaks to his soldiers who don’t want to share the spoils with the men who stayed behind. He rebukes them, saying that “For as his share is who goes down into the battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage. They shall share alike.” [ESV] “They shall share alike.” These words remind me of Jesus’ parable about the labourers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16), where each worker is rewarded equally, regardless of their length of service. Salvation and eternal life are our “reward” for believing in Jesus. A person can’t be more saved, be more forgiven, or be more loved by God than another in His kingdom. That’s hard for us pecking-order obsessed humans to hear. I for one will be grateful to just be in the Great Hall, somewhere way, way up the back will be fine, and to kneel with everyone else in His awesome presence. [15-04-2008]