Monday, February 22, 2010

1 Samuel 1-7: Samuel

I have to say, this book starts off on a way better note than Judges ended.  We find out, thankfully, that there are still some people in Israel who follow God.  One of them is a man named Elkanah, and he has two wives: Hannah and Peninnah.  Peninnah has children and Hannah doesn't, which in that culture was a HUGE disgrace.  Peninnah is also a bit of a witch to Hannah because she always ridicules her for not having kids - and this is why polygamy is a bad idea, by the way - although Elkanah loves Hannah more than he loves Peninnah - which is also why polygamy is a bad idea.

Remember the last time this happened?  Rachel, the beloved wife, didn't have any kids and Leah, the unloved wife, had a ton, so Rachel and Leah got in this war and Rachel tried everything from verbally abusing her husband to trying fertility drugs in order to get even.  Fortunately, Hannah is a way better person than Rachel. Check this out.  When the family goes to Shiloh (which is where the center of the priesthood was at the time), she goes to the temple and prays so long and so hard that the priest, Eli, sees her and thinks she's drunk.  Can you say intense?

I like Hannah.  All she wants is one kid, and she even promises to give her child back to God if He answers her prayer.  Even though Peninnah (I don't know what the technical term is . . .  co-wife?) constantly pesters and belittles her, she doesn't want to get even or to get revenge, she just wants one little kid, and she's even willing to give him up.  And instead of whining to her husband or digging up roots or doing anything else stupid, she goes straight to God, and only to God.

So God answers her prayer and gives her a son.  Remember what Rachel named her son Joseph? "I want another one."  Hannah names her son "I asked God for him."  Isn't that beautiful?  I have a friend who prayed and prayed for a kid for several years with her husband, and finally they had a son, and she named him Samuel, just like Hannah did.  And Hannah is true to her word and gives Samuel to the temple, and she worships God and sings a long song of thanksgiving because she is so happy to have a son, even though she's only going to see him once a year.  I don't know if I could do that.  But it's so cute that the text goes through the trouble of saying that each year when they go to Shiloh, Hannah makes him a new outfit and brings it to him.  She's a good mommy.  I would like to be like Hannah, although I hope I don't have to give my son away.

But guess what!  After Samuel is born, God gives Hannah five more children, three sons and two daughters.  And it's not because she asked and pleaded and went to drastic measures or made any more deals.  She was perfectly happy with Samuel, and I believe God blessed her for her thankfulness.

But I titled this blog entry "Samuel," and I am going to try to write about 7 chapters, so I should move on.  The priest at this time is a man named Eli.  Now he seems like an okay guy, but his sons are awful - which, by this point in the game, is no surprise to me.  Just about every good adult has rotten kids in Israel.  Except Hannah.  Samuel is not a rotten kid.  In fact, God tells Eli that since his own sons are so rotten, he's going to raise up a faithful priest instead of them.

So that's what happens.  God calls Samuel when he's still a little boy, and Samuel grows up knowing, obeying, and listening to the Lord.  And everybody in Israel knows it, too.

Next what happens is that Israel is at war with the Philistines again, and they're getting pretty badly, so they have a great idea: let's take the ark of the covenant into battle with us!  This strikes me as a form of manipulation, or maybe idol worship.  The presence of God dwells in the ark, so they're thinking, if we bring God to the battle, He'll have to make us win.  God doesn't have to do anything, ever.  Sometimes we assume that we know how God will act if we make the circumstances right, as if He's a chemical formula.  God is a person, not a formula.  We can't always assume we know what he's going to do.

So God doesn't let the Israelites win, and the Philistines take the ark with them.  But God's not about to be manipulated by them either; all sorts of havoc starts to break out as soon as the ark gets to one of their towns.  But I have to say, may favorite thing that happens is when they put the ark in the temple of their god Dagon, and the next day when they go inside the idol of Dagon has fallen on its face in front of the ark.  Ha!  Even false gods which cannot see or hear or speak bow before the Living God.

Anyway, the Philistines get all kinds of plagues, so they keep moving the ark from city to city, and eventually they've had enough and they decide to send it back to Israel along with a bunch of offerings, which is kind of a nice thought in the morning.  But when Israel gets it back they don't put it in Shiloh again, they leave it at Kiriath-jearim at this guy's house, and it stays there for 20 years.

So then Samuel, who is a grown-up now, tells Israel that what they need to defeat the Philistines is not to bring the ark of the covenant with them into battle but to serve God wholeheartedly - duh.  So they get rid of all the idols and serve God, and guess what?  They beat the Philistines.

So I think this passage clearly illustrates the importance of being straight with God.  If you have a request, just ask Him.  Don't be like the stupid Israelites who thought they could manipulate God into doing what they wanted, when they weren't even serving Him at the time.  Be like Hannah who prayed diligently, sacrificed, and was thankful.  I believe God honors wholehearted devotion and sincere worship.

1 comment:

Michelle said...

***goosebumps*** I love Hannah! I can't wait to get to this chapter. What a woman!