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Category Archives: 1 Samuel

Fathers of the Bible — Saul (Part 2)

Saul now urged his servants and his son Jonathan to assassinate David. But Jonathan, because of his strong affection for David, told him what his father was planning. “Tomorrow morning,” he warned him, “you must find a hiding place out in the fields. I’ll ask my father to go out there with me, and I’ll talk to him about you. Then I’ll tell you everything I can find out.” The next morning Jonathan spoke with his father about David, saying many good things about him. “The king must not sin against his servant David,” Jonathan said. “He’s never done anything to harm you. He has always helped you in any way he could. Have you forgotten about the time he risked his life to kill the Philistine giant and how the Lord brought a great victory to all Israel as a result? You were certainly happy about it then. Why should you murder an innocent man like David? There is no reason for it at all!” So Saul listened to Jonathan and vowed, “As surely as the Lord lives, David will not be killed.” Afterward Jonathan called David and told him what had happened. Then he brought David to Saul, and David served in the court as before. Then Saul sent troops to watch David’s house. They were told to kill David when he came out the next morning. But Michal, David’s wife, warned him, “If you don’t escape tonight, you will be dead by morning.” So she helped him climb out through a window, and he fled and escaped. Then she took an idol and put it in his bed, covered it with blankets, and put a cushion of goat’s hair at its head. When the troops came to arrest David, she told them he was sick and couldn’t get out of bed. But Saul sent the troops back to get David. He ordered, “Bring him to me in his bed so I can kill him!” But when they came to carry David out, they discovered that it was only an idol in the bed with a cushion of goat’s hair at its head. “Why have you betrayed me like this and let my enemy escape?” Saul demanded of Michal. “I had to,” Michal replied. “He threatened to kill me if I didn’t help him.” David now fled from Naioth in Ramah and found Jonathan. “What have I done?” he exclaimed. “What is my crime? How have I offended your father that he is so determined to kill me?” “That’s not true!” Jonathan protested. “You’re not going to die. He always tells me everything he’s going to do, even the little things. I know my father wouldn’t hide something like this from me. It just isn’t so!” Then David took an oath before Jonathan and said, “Your father knows perfectly well about our friendship, so he has said to himself, ‘I won’t tell Jonathan—why should I hurt him?’ But I swear to you that I am only a step away from death! I swear it by the Lord and by your own soul!” “Tell me what I can do to help you,” Jonathan exclaimed. David replied, “Tomorrow we celebrate the new moon festival. I’ve always eaten with the king on this occasion, but tomorrow I’ll hide in the field and stay there until the evening of the third day. If your father asks where I am, tell him I asked permission to go home to Bethlehem for an annual family sacrifice. If he says, ‘Fine!’ you will know all is well. But if he is angry and loses his temper, you will know he is determined to kill me. Show me this loyalty as my sworn friend—for we made a solemn pact before the Lord —or kill me yourself if I have sinned against your father. But please don’t betray me to him!” “Never!” Jonathan exclaimed. “You know that if I had the slightest notion my father was planning to kill you, I would tell you at once.” Then David asked, “How will I know whether or not your father is angry?” “Come out to the field with me,” Jonathan replied. And they went out there together. Then Jonathan told David, “I promise by the Lord, the God of Israel, that by this time tomorrow, or the next day at the latest, I will talk to my father and let you know at once how he feels about you. If he speaks favorably about you, I will let you know. But if he is angry and wants you killed, may the Lord strike me and even kill me if I don’t warn you so you can escape and live. May the Lord be with you as he used to be with my father. And may you treat me with the faithful love of the Lord as long as I live. But if I die, treat my family with this faithful love, even when the Lord destroys all your enemies from the face of the earth.” So Jonathan made a solemn pact with David, saying, “May the Lord destroy all your enemies!” And Jonathan made David reaffirm his vow of friendship again, for Jonathan loved David as he loved himself. Then Jonathan said, “Tomorrow we celebrate the new moon festival. You will be missed when your place at the table is empty. The day after tomorrow, toward evening, go to the place where you hid before, and wait there by the stone pile. I will come out and shoot three arrows to the side of the stone pile as though I were shooting at a target. Then I will send a boy to bring the arrows back. If you hear me tell him, ‘They’re on this side,’ then you will know, as surely as the Lord lives, that all is well, and there is no trouble. But if I tell him, ‘Go farther—the arrows are still ahead of you,’ then it will mean that you must leave immediately, for the Lord is sending you away. And may the Lord make us keep our promises to each other, for he has witnessed them.” So David hid himself in the field, and when the new moon festival began, the king sat down to eat. He sat at his usual place against the wall, with Jonathan sitting opposite him and Abner beside him. But David’s place was empty. Saul didn’t say anything about it that day, for he said to himself, “Something must have made David ceremonially unclean.” But when David’s place was empty again the next day, Saul asked Jonathan, “Why hasn’t the son of Jesse been here for the meal either yesterday or today?” Jonathan replied, “David earnestly asked me if he could go to Bethlehem. He said, ‘Please let me go, for we are having a family sacrifice. My brother demanded that I be there. So please let me get away to see my brothers.’ That’s why he isn’t here at the king’s table.” Saul boiled with rage at Jonathan. “You stupid son of a whore!” he swore at him. “Do you think I don’t know that you want him to be king in your place, shaming yourself and your mother? As long as that son of Jesse is alive, you’ll never be king. Now go and get him so I can kill him!” “But why should he be put to death?” Jonathan asked his father. “What has he done?” Then Saul hurled his spear at Jonathan, intending to kill him. So at last Jonathan realized that his father was really determined to kill David. Jonathan left the table in fierce anger and refused to eat on that second day of the festival, for he was crushed by his father’s shameful behavior toward David. The next morning, as agreed, Jonathan went out into the field and took a young boy with him to gather his arrows. “Start running,” he told the boy, “so you can find the arrows as I shoot them.” So the boy ran, and Jonathan shot an arrow beyond him. When the boy had almost reached the arrow, Jonathan shouted, “The arrow is still ahead of you. Hurry, hurry, don’t wait.” So the boy quickly gathered up the arrows and ran back to his master. He, of course, suspected nothing; only Jonathan and David understood the signal. Then Jonathan gave his bow and arrows to the boy and told him to take them back to town. As soon as the boy was gone, David came out from where he had been hiding near the stone pile. Then David bowed three times to Jonathan with his face to the ground. Both of them were in tears as they embraced each other and said good-bye, especially David. At last Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for we have sworn loyalty to each other in the Lord’s name. The Lord is the witness of a bond between us and our children forever.” Then David left, and Jonathan returned to the town.
1 Samuel 19:1-7,11-17,20:1-42

Dear God, I don’t know if these stories are as much about Saul’s parenting as they are about a deranged king, but Jonathan and Michal has to deal with him as a dad so I guess they are fair game for this little series.

I guess the thing I’ve always admired about Jonathan is that he wasn’t threatened by David. He was okay with not being king. Saul, on the other hand, was consumed with the thought of David replacing his family as king.

I’m sure that at some point after Samuel’s anointing and David’s arrival Saul had dreams of his lineage being the king of Israel forever. He probably looked at his boys and their boys and already had their succession order figured out. It’s part of our vanity. Part of our sinful nature seems to be to want to be known from a fake and power standpoint. If we live a quiet faithful life, we consider it a waste. We must leave our mark!!

I suppose Saul could have responded differently to Samuel’s speech about you taking the kingdom from him (1 Samuel 15:28). He could have submitted to it. He could have asked Samuel, okay, what do I do now? But there’s no way he could voluntarily let go of that power and it poisoned him from then on. Outside of Lyndon Johnson, no president of the United States has ever not run for a second term, and I’m sure some of them considered it.

Then there is how his children were forced to respond to him. They had to lie. They had to hide and scheme. How would their lives have been different, or even better, if they had been able to yield to David’s throne. If David had not been on the run from Saul and living in exile, would Jonathan have lived longer? Would Saul?

Father, as I parent my children, help me to do it in the moment. As I express love and support for them, help me to detach my ego from it. I don’t want anything to get in the way of what you need me to do for them. And I know I’ve failed at this in the past. I’ve felt sorry for myself more times than I can count. I’ve even had bouts of it this weekend. But that does them no good. It does me no good. And it brings you no glory. I am very sorry for the ways in which I am like Saul and look to my children to feed my ego.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2020 in 1 Samuel, Fathers of the Bible

 

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Fathers of the Bible – Saul

Now the men of Israel were hard-pressed on that day, for Saul had put the people under oath, saying, “Cursed be the man who eats food before evening, and until I have avenged myself on my enemies.” So none of the people tasted food. All the people of the land entered the forest, and there was honey on the ground. When the people entered the forest, behold, there was a flow of honey; but no man put his hand to his mouth, for the people feared the oath. But Jonathan had not heard when his father put the people under oath; therefore, he put out the end of the staff that was in his hand and dipped it in the honeycomb, and put his hand to his mouth, and his eyes brightened. Then one of the people said, “Your father strictly put the people under oath, saying, ‘Cursed be the man who eats food today.’” And the people were weary. Then Jonathan said, “ My father has troubled the land. See now, how my eyes have brightened because I tasted a little of this honey. How much more, if only the people had eaten freely today of the spoil of their enemies which they found! For now the slaughter among the Philistines has not been great.” They struck among the Philistines that day from Michmash to Aijalon. And the people were very weary. The people rushed greedily upon the spoil, and took sheep and oxen and calves, and slew them on the ground; and the people ate them with the blood. Then they told Saul, saying, “Behold, the people are sinning against the Lord by eating with the blood.” And he said, “You have acted treacherously; roll a great stone to me today.” Saul said, “Disperse yourselves among the people and say to them, ‘Each one of you bring me his ox or his sheep, and slaughter it here and eat; and do not sin against the Lord by eating with the blood.’” So all the people that night brought each one his ox with him and slaughtered it there. And Saul built an altar to the Lord; it was the first altar that he built to the Lord . Then Saul said, “Let us go down after the Philistines by night and take spoil among them until the morning light, and let us not leave a man of them.” And they said, “Do whatever seems good to you.” So the priest said, “Let us draw near to God here.” Saul inquired of God, “Shall I go down after the Philistines? Will You give them into the hand of Israel?” But He did not answer him on that day. Saul said, “ Draw near here, all you chiefs of the people, and investigate and see how this sin has happened today. For as the Lord lives, who delivers Israel, though it is in Jonathan my son, he shall surely die.” But not one of all the people answered him. Then he said to all Israel, “You shall be on one side and I and Jonathan my son will be on the other side.” And the people said to Saul, “Do what seems good to you.” Therefore, Saul said to the Lord, the God of Israel, “ Give a perfect lot .” And Jonathan and Saul were taken, but the people escaped. Saul said, “Cast lots between me and Jonathan my son.” And Jonathan was taken. Then Saul said to Jonathan, “ Tell me what you have done.” So Jonathan told him and said, “ I indeed tasted a little honey with the end of the staff that was in my hand. Here I am, I must die!” Saul said, “ May God do this to me and more also, for you shall surely die, Jonathan.” But the people said to Saul, “Must Jonathan die, who has brought about this great deliverance in Israel? Far from it! As the Lord lives, not one hair of his head shall fall to the ground, for he has worked with God this day.” So the people rescued Jonathan and he did not die. Then Saul went up from pursuing the Philistines, and the Philistines went to their own place.
1 Samuel 14:24-46

Dear God, Saul’s relationship with Jonathan will come up several times in the rest of 1 Samuel. I will admit to you that I’ve always had a little bit of a soft spot for Saul. I know he grieved you by doing a pre-battle sacrifice and ceremony before Samuel had arrived, but at least he was trying to keep worshipping you. In this case, he was just stupid to make this curse in the first place. As the text says, everyone was weak from hunger. That’s not a great way to fight an enemy. And then Jonathan’s sin was revealed so Saul felt compelled to fulfill his oath. I’m still not sure where you stood on that whole thing. Did you want him to kill Jonathan? I don’t think you did, but this story intimates that you were upset about the broken oath and expected some sort of punishment.

Is there room for stupid people in your kingdom? Does the new covenant allow for a well-intentioned idiot? When the people asked Samuel for a king, did you really just pick Saul as a placeholder until David was old enough to be king. And what about Jonathan? Why take the kingdom away from him? He seemed to be pretty good and faithful. He was certainly faithful to David.

In the next stories, we will see Jonathan trying to deal with his dad as a tyrant, and Saul getting exasperated with Jonathan. It’s one of the more complicated set of stories for me, and I’m not sure I’ll know any more about what to make of them after talk with you about them than I do now.

Father, speak to me as a dad. Help me to, first and foremost, love you well. Help me to give you all of the glory for every good thing, and to point people to you when they are both celebrating and afraid. To paraphrase a Rich Mullins song, “If I Stand,” if I am in a good place, let me be there knowing that you brought me there. If I am in a bad place, let me fall on the grace that brought me to you in the first place. If I celebrate, let me celebrate all that you do for me and this world. And if I ever weep, let it be simply as someone that longs to be with you.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2020 in 1 Samuel, Fathers of the Bible

 

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Fathers of the Bible — Samuel

[1 Samuel 3:1-14] Meanwhile, the boy Samuel served the Lord by assisting Eli. Now in those days messages from the Lord were very rare, and visions were quite uncommon. One night Eli, who was almost blind by now, had gone to bed. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was sleeping in the Tabernacle near the Ark of God. Suddenly the Lord called out, “Samuel!” “Yes?” Samuel replied. “What is it?” He got up and ran to Eli. “Here I am. Did you call me?” “I didn’t call you,” Eli replied. “Go back to bed.” So he did. Then the Lord called out again, “Samuel!” Again Samuel got up and went to Eli. “Here I am. Did you call me?” “I didn’t call you, my son,” Eli said. “Go back to bed.” Samuel did not yet know the Lord because he had never had a message from the Lord before. So the Lord called a third time, and once more Samuel got up and went to Eli. “Here I am. Did you call me?” Then Eli realized it was the Lord who was calling the boy. So he said to Samuel, “Go and lie down again, and if someone calls again, say, ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went back to bed. And the Lord came and called as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel replied, “Speak, your servant is listening.” Then the Lord said to Samuel, “I am about to do a shocking thing in Israel. I am going to carry out all my threats against Eli and his family, from beginning to end. I have warned him that judgment is coming upon his family forever, because his sons are blaspheming God and he hasn’t disciplined them. So I have vowed that the sins of Eli and his sons will never be forgiven by sacrifices or offerings.”

[1 Samuel 8:1-9] As Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons to be judges over Israel. Joel and Abijah, his oldest sons, held court in Beersheba. But they were not like their father, for they were greedy for money. They accepted bribes and perverted justice. Finally, all the elders of Israel met at Ramah to discuss the matter with Samuel. “Look,” they told him, “you are now old, and your sons are not like you. Give us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.” Samuel was displeased with their request and went to the Lord for guidance. “Do everything they say to you,” the Lord replied, “for they are rejecting me, not you. They don’t want me to be their king any longer. Ever since I brought them from Egypt they have continually abandoned me and followed other gods. And now they are giving you the same treatment. Do as they ask, but solemnly warn them about the way a king will reign over them.”
1 Samuel 3:1-14,8:1-9

 

Dear God, Samuel is such a complicated figure. Sure, at first glance he look all noble, but this story reveals a pretty critical flaw. He allowed his sons to do exactly what he saw Eli allow his sons to do. Yet, for some reason, you seem to have given Samuel a pass that you didn’t give to Eli. In fact, when Samuel comes to you, you told him that they had rejected you and not Samuel. That’s interesting because in my reading of this story it looks like they were rejecting Samuel.

Once again, we come across a flawed man in the Bible. Thank you for preserving these stories in this way because it is a reminder that we are all flawed! I am hugely flawed. And now that my children are grown and making their way in the world my relationship has materially changed. The big difference between my life and Samuel’s is (and his culture probably dictated that it would happen this way) that he chose to bring his two oldest sons in to the family business. I will likely end up avoiding a lot of these pitfalls with my children because I am 99.9% certain that we will never be in business together. We certainly won’t be in a position of judging others and settling disputes. I won’t be in a position of having to defend their professional behavior. I can just be a dad who loves them. Even if they were to do something that I disapprove of, I can still love them and give of myself to them. Hmm. Thinking about it in that way, isn’t that what you do with us?

Father, again, thank you for these stories. Thank you that we actually get vignettes like this that make Samuel, Eli, Naomi, Jacob, Abraham, etc. relatable. Next, I’m going to be looking at kings as fathers. We are going to see Saul and David and see what they were like as dads. True to form, we will see a lot of flaws. What in interesting God you are to build your plan this way. I don’t understand you. I don’t understand your ways. But I am grateful for your grace and mercy. I am grateful that you will love and hold me, even after I’ve done something that disappoints you. Thank you.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2020 in 1 Samuel, Fathers of the Bible

 

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Fathers of the Bible — Eli

Then Elkanah returned home to Ramah without Samuel. And the boy served the Lord by assisting Eli the priest. Now the sons of Eli were scoundrels who had no respect for the Lord or for their duties as priests. Whenever anyone offered a sacrifice, Eli’s sons would send over a servant with a three-pronged fork. While the meat of the sacrificed animal was still boiling, the servant would stick the fork into the pot and demand that whatever it brought up be given to Eli’s sons. All the Israelites who came to worship at Shiloh were treated this way. Sometimes the servant would come even before the animal’s fat had been burned on the altar. He would demand raw meat before it had been boiled so that it could be used for roasting. The man offering the sacrifice might reply, “Take as much as you want, but the fat must be burned first.” Then the servant would demand, “No, give it to me now, or I’ll take it by force.” So the sin of these young men was very serious in the Lord’s sight, for they treated the Lord ’s offerings with contempt. But Samuel, though he was only a boy, served the Lord. He wore a linen garment like that of a priest. Now Eli was very old, but he was aware of what his sons were doing to the people of Israel. He knew, for instance, that his sons were seducing the young women who assisted at the entrance of the Tabernacle. Eli said to them, “I have been hearing reports from all the people about the wicked things you are doing. Why do you keep sinning? You must stop, my sons! The reports I hear among the Lord’s people are not good. If someone sins against another person, God can mediate for the guilty party. But if someone sins against the Lord, who can intercede?” But Eli’s sons wouldn’t listen to their father, for the Lord was already planning to put them to death. Meanwhile, the boy Samuel grew taller and grew in favor with the Lord and with the people. One day a man of God came to Eli and gave him this message from the Lord: “I revealed myself to your ancestors when they were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. I chose your ancestor Aaron from among all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to offer sacrifices on my altar, to burn incense, and to wear the priestly vest as he served me. And I assigned the sacrificial offerings to you priests. So why do you scorn my sacrifices and offerings? Why do you give your sons more honor than you give me—for you and they have become fat from the best offerings of my people Israel! “Therefore, the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I promised that your branch of the tribe of Levi would always be my priests. But I will honor those who honor me, and I will despise those who think lightly of me. The time is coming when I will put an end to your family, so it will no longer serve as my priests. All the members of your family will die before their time. None will reach old age. You will watch with envy as I pour out prosperity on the people of Israel. But no members of your family will ever live out their days. The few not cut off from serving at my altar will survive, but only so their eyes can go blind and their hearts break, and their children will die a violent death. And to prove that what I have said will come true, I will cause your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, to die on the same day! “Then I will raise up a faithful priest who will serve me and do what I desire. I will establish his family, and they will be priests to my anointed kings forever. Then all of your surviving family will bow before him, begging for money and food. ‘Please,’ they will say, ‘give us jobs among the priests so we will have enough to eat.’”
1 Samuel 2:11-18,22-36

Dear God, Eli is one of those complicated people we come across in the Bible. He seems to genuinely love you, and he seems to be willing to admonish others he thinks are being inappropriate (see 1 Samuel 1:12-14 when he rebukes Hannah), but he is weak when it comes to leading his sons as his successors in the temple.

I wonder how much of this was the problem of nepotism and how much of it was Eli just not being strong with his sons. He does rebuke them at one point, but he doesn’t do anything about it. And apparently this weakness played out not only in his life and the lives of his two sons, but throughout his lineage.

One of the problems of nepotism is the respect that you lose from others around you. How did the people feel about going to the temple when they saw what Eli was allowing his sons to do? I’m sure they grumbled and gossiped about it. It was obviously a poor witness to everyone else involved, including young Samuel. I believe that’s why, in chapter 3, you showed up to warn Samuel that you saw what Eli and the boys were doing and you weren’t going to tolerate it. I think you were warning Samuel to not follow their example.

Father, give me the strength to stand up for you, care for those you have put around me for whom you need me to care, and not take the easier path for my own sake. Guide me in shrewdness and wisdom. Help me to be strong and yet as gentle as possible so that I might be a reflection of you and how you deal with us. And in the one situation that is particularly on my mind this morning, I ask that you will make my path straight and prepare the way for me. I could really use some divine intervention.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2020 in 1 Samuel, Fathers of the Bible

 

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Mothers of the Bible — Hannah

Once after a sacrificial meal at Shiloh, Hannah got up and went to pray. Eli the priest was sitting at his customary place beside the entrance of the Tabernacle. Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord. And she made this vow: “O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, if you will look upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a son, then I will give him back to you. He will be yours for his entire lifetime, and as a sign that he has been dedicated to the Lord, his hair will never be cut. ” As she was praying to the Lord, Eli watched her. Seeing her lips moving but hearing no sound, he thought she had been drinking. “Must you come here drunk?” he demanded. “Throw away your wine!” “Oh no, sir!” she replied. “I haven’t been drinking wine or anything stronger. But I am very discouraged, and I was pouring out my heart to the Lord. Don’t think I am a wicked woman! For I have been praying out of great anguish and sorrow.” “In that case,” Eli said, “go in peace! May the God of Israel grant the request you have asked of him.” “Oh, thank you, sir!” she exclaimed. Then she went back and began to eat again, and she was no longer sad. The entire family got up early the next morning and went to worship the Lord once more. Then they returned home to Ramah. When Elkanah slept with Hannah, the Lord remembered her plea, and in due time she gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, “I asked the Lord for him.” The next year Elkanah and his family went on their annual trip to offer a sacrifice to the Lord and to keep his vow. But Hannah did not go. She told her husband, “Wait until the boy is weaned. Then I will take him to the Tabernacle and leave him there with the Lord permanently. ” “Whatever you think is best,” Elkanah agreed. “Stay here for now, and may the Lord help you keep your promise. ” So she stayed home and nursed the boy until he was weaned. When the child was weaned, Hannah took him to the Tabernacle in Shiloh. They brought along a three-year-old bull for the sacrifice and a basket of flour and some wine. After sacrificing the bull, they brought the boy to Eli. “Sir, do you remember me?” Hannah asked. “I am the very woman who stood here several years ago praying to the Lord. I asked the Lord to give me this boy, and he has granted my request. Now I am giving him to the Lord, and he will belong to the Lord his whole life.” And they worshiped the Lord there. Then Hannah prayed: “My heart rejoices in the Lord! The Lord has made me strong. Now I have an answer for my enemies; I rejoice because you rescued me. No one is holy like the Lord! There is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. “Stop acting so proud and haughty! Don’t speak with such arrogance! For the Lord is a God who knows what you have done; he will judge your actions. The bow of the mighty is now broken, and those who stumbled are now strong. Those who were well fed are now starving, and those who were starving are now full. The childless woman now has seven children, and the woman with many children wastes away. The Lord gives both death and life; he brings some down to the grave but raises others up. The Lord makes some poor and others rich; he brings some down and lifts others up. He lifts the poor from the dust and the needy from the garbage dump. He sets them among princes, placing them in seats of honor. For all the earth is the Lord’s, and he has set the world in order. “He will protect his faithful ones, but the wicked will disappear in darkness. No one will succeed by strength alone. Those who fight against the Lord will be shattered. He thunders against them from heaven; the Lord judges throughout the earth. He gives power to his king; he increases the strength of his anointed one.” Then Elkanah returned home to Ramah without Samuel. And the boy served the Lord by assisting Eli the priest.
1 Samuel 1:9-2:11

Dear God, Hannah is a fascinating woman. She really wanted a child, she got her child, she lived up to her end of the bargain with you, and then she prayed a prayer of vindication pretty much directed at Peninnah. We will learn later that you blessed her with more children, but I can’t imagine how much she must have lived Samuel.

Life is so different for women than men, and, frankly, I’m probably foolish to even try to put myself in Hannah’s place. She had endured a lot of hurt and sorrow. She was childless. I remember the stress my wife and I went through when it took us a few months to get pregnant the first time we started trying. I can’t imagine the strain of years and years. I also can’t even begin to understand the complication of having another woman in the home who is having children with your husband. I know it was the culture, but that’s just messed up, although it seems to be a repeated theme for those you use (Isaac, Joseph, Samuel, etc.).

I really like the picture that the author paints later in 1 Samuel 2:18-21:

But Samuel was ministering before the Lord–a boy wearing a linen ephod. Each year his mother made him a little robe and took it to him when she went up with her husband to offer the annual sacrifice. Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, saying, “May the Lord give you children by this woman to take the place of the one she prayed for and gave to the Lord.” Then they would go home. And the Lord was gracious to Hannah; she conceived and gave birth to three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile, the boy SAmuel grew up in the presence of the Lord.

I love the image of Hannah working on Samuel’s robes. I don’t know how ornate they were allowed to be, but I’ll bet she made them as beautiful as possible. And I’ll bet Samuel loved getting a new one each year–at least until he was older and was probably embarrassed by it. I picture her running to him and hugging him. I picture his stoic father looking at him with pride. I picture her bringing the five new babies over the years. Maybe Samuel was a little jealous of the first one or two, but, like all older children, learned to deal with it and love his younger siblings.

Father, once again, Hannah wasn’t a perfect person and she wasn’t a perfect parent. It’s obvious she was still bitter towards Peninnah, and I’m sure Peninnah didn’t care much for her either. Their children. Probably didn’t get along much better than did Isaac and Ishmael. But that’s what you use. You use imperfect people, parents, and children to enter the world. You work through us all. As we saw with Samson, you sometimes work through us even when we have no relationship or regard for you. So I offer my life to you. It’s broken. It can be messy. It is most certainly flawed and even sometimes sinful. But it’s what I have to bring to your cross–to the altar. I give it to you and ask that you use it as you will.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2020 in 1 Samuel, Mothers of the Bible

 

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Fathers of the Bible — Elkanah

There was a man named Elkanah who lived in Ramah in the region of Zuph in the hill country of Ephraim. He was the son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, of Ephraim. Elkanah had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah did not. Each year Elkanah would travel to Shiloh to worship and sacrifice to the Lord of Heaven’s Armies at the Tabernacle. The priests of the Lord at that time were the two sons of Eli—Hophni and Phinehas. On the days Elkanah presented his sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to Peninnah and each of her children. And though he loved Hannah, he would give her only one choice portion because the Lord had given her no children. So Peninnah would taunt Hannah and make fun of her because the Lord had kept her from having children. Year after year it was the same—Peninnah would taunt Hannah as they went to the Tabernacle. Each time, Hannah would be reduced to tears and would not even eat. “Why are you crying, Hannah?” Elkanah would ask. “Why aren’t you eating? Why be downhearted just because you have no children? You have me—isn’t that better than having ten sons?”
1 Samuel 1:1-8

Dear God, before I talk about Hannah I think it’s important to not forget that Elkanah was part of Samuel’s life as well. He was apparently a loving, if not very perceptive, husband to Hannah, and fairly insensitive to Peninnah. It seems that his empathy was a bit lacking. Yes, he could tell that Hannah was suffering so he would do nice things for her (hurting Peninnah in the process), but his last line in this story illustrates his obtuseness: “You have me—isn’t that better than having ten sons?” Yeah…no, it’s not.

I think one of the great things about parenthood is how it helps us to grow. I’ll get to a nice exchange between Hannah and Elkanah tomorrow that will demonstrate some good sensitivity on Elkanah’s part. It is so great that these stories are captured in this way. No one is painted with a perfect brush. Everyone is flawed. We don’t know who wrote this story, but it’s obvious they wanted us to not only know something about Samuel’s origin story of why he grew up in the temple, but also that his parents were real people with real emotions.

Father, I know I’m still on this journey. You are shaping me every day. You are teaching me where I am insensitive and thoughtless. You humble me through my children, wife, and others. You are slowly filtering out the chaff and bringing me into alignment with your Holy Spirit. Maybe by the time I die I will be halfway there. Wouldn’t that be great?

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2020 in 1 Samuel, Fathers of the Bible

 

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Solomon — 1 Kings 11:41-12:4

The rest of the events in Solomon’s reign, including all his deeds and his wisdom, are recorded in The Book of the Acts of Solomon. Solomon ruled in Jerusalem over all Israel for forty years. When he died, he was buried in the City of David, named for his father. Then his son Rehoboam became the next king. Rehoboam went to Shechem, where all Israel had gathered to make him king. When Jeroboam son of Nebat heard of this, he returned from Egypt, for he had fled to Egypt to escape from King Solomon. The leaders of Israel summoned him, and Jeroboam and the whole assembly of Israel went to speak with Rehoboam. “Your father was a hard master,” they said. “Lighten the harsh labor demands and heavy taxes that your father imposed on us. Then we will be your loyal subjects.”
1 Kings 11:41-12:4

Dear God, I’m going to wrap up the 1 Kings telling of Solomon’s story by looking again at this initial exchange between Israel’s leaders and Rehoboam. Apparently, by the end of Solomon’s reign we know there were two pretty distinctly negative things about him:

  1. He worshiped other gods because of his many, many wives.
    He was a harsh king that gave people harsh labor and high taxes.

It takes me back to 1 Samuel 8 when Samuel warned the people who were then the leaders of Israel:

“This is how a king will reign over you,” Samuel said. “The king will draft your sons and assign them to his chariots and his charioteers, making them run before his chariots. Some will be generals and captains in his army, some will be forced to plow in his fields and harvest his crops, and some will make his weapons and chariot equipment. The king will take your daughters from you and force them to cook and bake and make perfumes for him. He will take away the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his own officials. He will take a tenth of your grain and your grape harvest and distribute it among his officers and attendants. He will take your male and female slaves and demand the finest of your cattle and donkeys for his own use. He will demand a tenth of your flocks, and you will be his slaves. When that day comes, you will beg for relief from this king you are demanding, but then the Lord will not help you.”
1 Samuel 8:11-18

I’ve mused in these journals what Israel (and David) would have looked like if David had been a judge and not a king. I think David’s life would have played out completely differently. Even if he had been more of a warrior judge like Joshua instead of a spiritual leader judge, he still would have lived a much different life. But I suppose that any of us that make ourselves king, whether it be in reality or figuratively in our own minds or families, will end up needing people to rule over. That can include a spouse or children. But if we can keep thinking of ourselves as your servants and the servants of those whom you called us to love, them we have a chance at being more useful to you and getting more done in the long run.

Father, help me to be exactly who you need me to be for those around me. Use my life to draw others’ hearts to you. Increase through me and help me to decrease. Do it all for your glory and so that you are worshipped.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2019 in 1 Kings, 1 Samuel, Solomon

 

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Hannah and Peninnah (and Elkanah) – 1 Samuel 1:1-8

[Photo from Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups By Ned Bustard. The artist is Erin Cross]

1 Samuel 1:1-8 NIV
[1] There was a certain man from Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. [2] He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none. [3] Year after year this man went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the Lord Almighty at Shiloh, where Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were priests of the Lord. [4] Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters. [5] But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the Lord had closed her womb. [6] Because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. [7] This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. [8] Her husband Elkanah would say to her, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”

Dear God, the first time I journaled on this story, I remember journaling about Elkanah’s ignorance of how women feel and how important things like this are. His question, “Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?” is absolutely foolish, but he really just didn’t know any better.

But the artist for this story is giving me something else. There is a focus on the meanness and vindictiveness of Peninnah that I’ve never spent much time with. And it’s interesting that I just used the word “vindictiveness.” Why did I use that word? Why does that word fit this story?

It is easy to make Peninnah the villain in this story, but in a lot of ways, as I sit here and think about it, she was really set up for failure. Was her attitude towards Hannah really that different than Sarah’s towards Hagar? Or probably Hagar towards Sarah for that matter. Marriage to multiple wives must have created some terrible dynamics. In this case:

  • Elkanah felt bad for Hannah so he gave her extra portions. Hannah was also probably more available to him because she didn’t have any kids impeding her life, so that might have helped her to be a favorite to Elkanah as well. Then there is Elkanah’s obvious need to be appreciated, as is evidenced by his last question.
  • Peninnah had the children, but she didn’t have Elkanah’s favor. And he apparently made that clear. The artist shows this with Peninnah holding the children while Elkanah holds a despondent Hannah.
  • Then there is Hannah. In a time when worth for women was measured by an ability to have children, she had no worth in society’s eyes (but she still had at least one thing in Peninnah’s eyes that Peninnah didn’t have), and Peninnah used Hannah’s weakness to get a little revenge for the pain she felt. Elkanah could not be everything Hannah needed.
  • In my own life, I see rivalries among coworkers, children, siblings…in fact, they are all around me. We all look for some sort of validation that affirms our place in the world, but rarely do we just look to you for that.
  • I used to think I could be everything my wife needed and I thought that she could be everything that I needed. I entered marriage in a very needy way, and it was oppressive to my wife. She could never meet all of my insecure needs. Then I started to figure out (I’m still learning) how to tap into you and derive my peace and joy from you. What would it have looked like if Peninnah and Hannah had been able to do the same? How much better will I be when I have completely learned to dive into you?
  • Father, help me to be sensitive to the motivations of others. When I see someone acting like Peninnah, help be to see the reason for their vindictiveness and not just assume they are evil and mean. Show me how I might take that knowledge and use it to be your minister to them and heal the hurts that are down deep. And help me to also examine my own heart when I find myself wanting to lash out. Show me the hurt that needs addressed and then help me to take that hurt, give it to you for your complete healing, and then strike back in love.
  • In Jesus’ name I pray,
  • Amen
  •  

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    Psalm 119:1-8

    Joyful are people of integrity, who follow the instructions of the Lord. Joyful are those who obey his laws and search for him with all their hearts. They do not compromise with evil, and they walk only in his paths. You have charged us to keep your commandments carefully. Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect your decrees! Then I will not be ashamed when I compare my life with your commands. As I learn your righteous regulations, I will thank you by living as I should! I will obey your decrees. Please don’t give up on me!

    Psalm 119:1-8

    Dear God, when I read this passage this morning it made me think of the verse that says to obey is better than to sacrifice. I looked it up and it turns out that those words are the ones Samuel spoke to Saul when God rejected Saul as king for doing a sacrifice at the wrong time without Samuel. All of these things are said under the “old covenant,” before Jesus earthly life, but it doesn’t make their words and message any less true now.

    I just did a little search because it seems like Jesus references this passage somewhere in the Gospels, but I didn’t find it. I did find Proverbs 21:3. It’s a pretty common message, and it makes sense.

    Father, thank you for Jesus’ sacrifice. It makes it possible for me to even be here this morning, talking to you. But help me to simply obey. It is for my own good anyway. Help me to obey you. Help me to glorify you. Help me to decrease as you increase through me. I love you and need you.

    In Jesus’ name I pray,

    Amen

     
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    Posted by on July 18, 2018 in 1 Samuel, Proverbs, Psalms

     

    Psalm 19:1-4 & 1 Samuel 8

    The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world. God has made a home in the heavens for the sun.

    Psalm 19:1-4

    Dear God, if the Israelites has done it right back in 1 Samuel 8, who would David have become? I know it doesn’t matter because that’s not what happened, but I’ve recently wondered if he might have been the next Judge after Samuel. Everything about his relationship with you, his prophetic ability, and his concern for others suggests he might have been.

    And if he had been Judge instead of King, what would his life have been like? He would probably have had a different married life and different children. His life would have been simpler and probably better in a lot of ways. To some extent, I think the power did corrupt David. It certainly corrupted his lineage.

    The thing we all strive for—power and wealth—really is a false idol. Instead of peace it offers paranoia. It’s like giving a cola to a thirsty person at first or tastes great, but it only leaves you thirstier. What percentage of Americans are on antidepressants as opposed to those who live in South America? Shouldn’t one of the wealthiest countries in the world have the happiest people?

    Father, I think of David writing the worshipful psalm and I can’t help but wonder what might have been. I’ve never wondered that before the last few days, but the more I think about it the more I’d love to know. You warned the Israelites about what a king would do to them, but you left out the part about what being king would do to the person. Help me to take my eyes off of worldly idols and simply embrace the beauty of the sky and all that you have made above and below it.

    In Jesus’ name I pray,

    Amen

     
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    Posted by on June 12, 2018 in 1 Samuel, Psalms