A gift to God; a Gift from God

1 Samuel 1:12-20 SCC 9/21/14


The Historical and Theological background of the book

1. First Samuel records Israel's transition from rule by judges to rule by kings. Two statements from chapter 8 are especially significant. (1). The human desire that produced the transition expressed itself in verse 5: "Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations." God had brought Israel into existence as a nation to be unlike all the nations (Exod. 19:5-6; Eze 16). (2). The real meaning of the people's request comes out in verse 7: "they have rejected Me from being king over them." During the period of the judges, religious apostasy spread and characterized Israel. The people refused to obey their King. Every idol is a witness to man's need of God. When people reject the true God, they must put something in His place.


2. First Samuel begins by contrasting Israel's last two judges (Eli: a failure; and Samuel: a success) and then Israel's first two kings (Saul: a failure; and David: a success). Eli was a man who failed with his sons and was removed by God.  But his failure with the sons was part of a much larger picture. There were serious spiritual problems in the land, and Eli did not have the spiritual discernment or courage to deal with them.  The story of Eli is not told for its own purpose; it is reported as the background for the birth and rise to power of Samuel. 


3. Problems for Eli were multiplied by the difficult times in which he lived.  The context is near the end of the time of the judges, near the time of Samuel who would anoint Saul and then David. Those were dark days in Israel, witnessed by acts of idolatry and depravity.  But the major spiritual difficulty of the times was that the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision (1 Sam. 3:2).  Without much divine guidance there would be little priestly instruction, so that every man did that which was right in his own eyes.  It was in the midst of this chaos that Eli served for a generation (1 Sam. 4:19 40 years). It was in this chaos that he lost his family and his ministry.


4. The nation plummeted in the time of Eli, both spiritually and politically, the political problems being the result of spiritual ones.  In his lifetime the nation would be defeated at the battle of Aphek capturing The Ark of the Covenant by the enemies and stored in their temples. The times were reflected in the naming of Eli’s grandson, Ichabod, the glory has departed 1 Sam 4:21. It was time for a change in the spiritual leadership of the country.  But the spiritual leadership needed more than a strong military leader or a righteous priest.  It needed a prophet to restore the religious order and ensure that the word of the LORD was heard throughout the land.  Samuel was that man.


5. Everything we learn about Eli we learn from seeing him in contrast with other people.  God was replacing the corrupt order with a faithful order. Eli was caught in the middle as the last of the old order.  There are four contrasting episodes: Eli and Hannah, Eli and his sons, Eli and the man of God, and Eli and Samuel.


Godly People will still be faithful even when apostasy’s influences spreads all around 1:1-17

1. We see this reflected in the deep piety of Hannah.  It is often the case that spiritual leaders will have some folks who have a much deeper piety and devotion to the LORD than they do.  That is expected and that can be a tremendous blessing for those in his care.  But when a spiritual leader does not even have the spiritual understanding to recognize it that is a disaster.


2. There was a man name Elkanah who had two wives, Peninah, who had children, and Hannah who did not v 1-2.  In this family, though, during their pilgrimages to the Tabernacle, the one wife would mock Hannah and provoke her, causing much grief and sorrow v 6-7.  On such occasions after they celebrated the sacrificial meal at Shiloh, Hannah would rise up and go to pray to the LORD.  She was in bitterness of soul, and wept as she prayed.  She continued for some time in prayer; she poured out her heart to the LORD, the giver of life v 9-12.


NB: As believers, when we find ourselves in difficult situations, we should commit our desires to God in prayer. In prayer we seek what is best for God primarily because the purpose of prayer is to enable us to accomplish God's will, not to get Him to do our will. When we feel a need greatly, we should also pray earnestly. When we pray this way, God will enable us to feel peace in our problem.


A couple of observations are in order here. 

First: Hannah was a Godly woman who recognized that the solution to her dilemma was in God.  Second: the horrible times did not deter her in her faithfulness to God--none can blame the lack of spirituality or unfaithfulness in their lives on the times in which they live.  

Third: Samuel would be an answer to prayer v 20.  That would mark him out as a Godsend.  In the Bible the births of the great servants of the LORD are often the results of prayerful waiting on the LORD, so that everyone would know the birth was a provision from him. 


A Spiritual Leaders lack of Spiritual Perception is a contributing factor to the presence of apostasy

1. For a high priest, Eli responded to Hannah’s praying rather badly v 13-14.  While she was praying Eli marked her lips, which must have been actively involved in the praying.  He concluded that she was drunk, like one of the worthless women who hung around the tabernacle 2:22.  Their presence there, which in itself was a major problem, had so distorted his perception that he concluded Hannah was one of them.  His remarks to Hannah were base and unspiritual. He was looking on the outward appearance alone and could not perceive her spiritual burden and fervent prayer.  


2. Here, Hannah was thought to be drunk, but in fact she was fervent in prayer. One cannot help but think of the events on the Day of Pentecost when the disciples, filled with the Spirit, preached and prayed in different languages.  The leaders of the people who observed this thought they were drunk as well Acts 2:5-13.  Eli is in bad company in the Bible for his lack of perception of spirituality.


3. If something was lacking in the perception of Eli, it certainly surfaces in his stinging rebuke that must have cut her deeply v15.  It was harsh. He said to her, how long will you be drunken (a drunken spectacle)?  Put away your wine (go away and sleep it off). This came from the priest, the one who should have understood.  Peninah’s rebuke had driven her to deeper prayer. Eli’s rebuke could have driven her away from prayer, if she had been less devout.  Eli was rude and profane.


4. The background of Eli and his comments yells us he was a heavy man and that his sons were gluttons (2:12; 16-17; 22, 29, 4:18).  There were a lot of worthless women who stayed around the Tabernacle, which indicates the depth of their promiscuousness.  It was a corrupt group, so corrupt that they did not recognize true piety when they saw it. 

NB: Even though mocked by her rival and maligned by her priest, she did not pray for relief but for glory to the lord—that a child may bring praise to his name.


The Faithful will forcefully expose lack of spiritual perception of spiritual leaders

1. There is nothing that violates a forceful exposure of unspiritual spiritual leadership. We are not to respect the position. We must respect the truth. Politely, but forcefully, Hannah quickly denied the priest’s charge.  No my Lord.  Her actions were due to her being in deep sorrow (hard of spirit) v 15.  The strong denial comes in the form of a request; Count not your handmaid to be a daughter of worthlessness.


2. The words of a righteous person rebuking a spiritually ignorant priest might hit their mark, but they might not if he is too far-gone.  Too often today people in ministry are just that dull in their spiritual senses.  Here Hannah saw the reference to her by Eli as a terrible degradation that had to be challenged.  What kind of ministry could this man have had if he cannot even recognize true spirituality? Eli, spiritually dull and slow to discern truth, had a hard time distinguishing good from evil.  It is only after she protested and rebuked him that he pronounced a blessing on her: Go in peace v 17.  But what value would that have had now, coming from him? 


NB: It is when spiritual leaders lose touch with spiritual things themselves that they begin to confuse spirituality and wickedness, failing to rebuke the wickedness and falsely accusing the righteous.  We live in such a time.  We have far too many Elis in spiritual leadership today.  For it is by reason of use that the mature in the faith have their senses exercised to discern good and evil (Heb. 5:14).  When spiritual leaders no longer have that, the people they shepherd will be deprived of the truth.


So What?

1.   Spiritual Leaders must guard against becoming spiritually insensitive.  The word of God was rare in those days, so there was no regular revelation from God 3:1.  But what the priest had he was supposed to use regularly, so that the skill of discerning right from wrong would never be lost. 

2. When a person and spiritual leaders are living apart from the word of God, they become tolerant of sin, especially in those they love, mistaking that permission with love 2:29.  When tolerant of sin, he becomes dull of perception with regard to true spirituality.

3. Our text reveals the godliness of both Hannah and Elkanah as a backdrop against the poor parenting of Eli and the worthlessness of his sons, Hophni and Phinehas. Elkanah is a godly husband who is sensitive to his wife’s agony of soul. God is pleased that wives are loved well by their husbands.

4. Hannah is an example of a godly woman and wife. She endures years of silent suffering because of her barrenness and cruel harassment at the hand of her rival, Peninnah. But she takes her grief to the Lord recognizing that God is in charge of the situation and he alone can provide what she desires.

5. Hannah’s worship provides great insight into the role of women in worship in the Old Testament times. Her role is not a public or official one, yet she demonstrates how the devout, no matter who they are, have access to the Lord.

6. Knowing God is in charge of our circumstances, can you praise him, worship him, adore him, even when those same circumstances are the source of your greatest personal pain, fear, anxiety, loss, or hopelessness? It was the Lord who closed her womb.