David’s reflection on 1 Samuel chapters 1 to 3 for Sunday 17th January 2021

 

David’s reflection on 1 Samuel chapters 1 to 3

 

 

SUNDAY 17 January 2021  

 

1 Samuel 3.1-10

1 Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread. 2 At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; 3the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was.4Then the Lord called, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ and he said, ‘Here I am!’ 5and ran to Eli, and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ But he said, ‘I did not call; lie down again.’ So he went and lay down. 6The Lord called again, ‘Samuel!’ Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ But he said, ‘I did not call, my son; lie down again.’ 7Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. 8The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy.9Therefore Eli said to Samuel, ‘Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” ’ So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

10 Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.’

 

REFLECTION

 

Family relationships 1 Samuel 1-3

If there is one thing this interminable lockdown has driven home it is the saying absence makes the heart grow fonder.

There is much the characters in the first 3 Chapters from 1 Samuel can teach us about our relationships with the loved ones we miss so much at present.

Most importantly, unless we have healthy relations with those we love, our relationship with God will be marred and vice-versa.

 

Elkanah (Faithful)

Elkanah is a wealthy man who loves God and is eager to do the right thing. He loves his wife Hannah but this love is not strong enough to face the public humiliation of childlessness. So he takes a second wife Peninnah who bears him sons and daughters.

Elkanah now walks tall in the eyes of the world but Hannah is left in to face the shame alone. At the time her infertility would be seen as a mark of sinfulness.

Elkanah has not learned from the conflicts between the wives of Abraham and of Jacob

His understanding of family tensions is limited by his macho mindset

‘Don’t I mean more to you than 10 sons’ he says

When the family make their annual thanks offering in the temple, he thinks giving Hannah

a special portion will make things better. But to Hannah this is a public rubbing of salt into the wound rather than a mark of love.

As for Peninnah, this sign of favouritism to Hannah reduces her to the status of broodmare.

In Elkanah’s defence when God ultimately answers Hannah’s prayers for a son, he recognizes the hand of God and consents to her pledge to give Samuel to the service of the Lord.

Are there lesson for us to learn from Elkanah’s story?

 

Hannah (favour/grace)

Poor Hannah. How conscious she was of the gossiping tongues.

“If you ask me that Hannah has only herself to blame, goodness knows what she has been up to. No wonder Elkanah has taken a second wife; I feel sorry for him, such a Godly man”.  

The constant taunts of Peninnah add to her distress.

Wracked with self-doubt she had been praying to God constantly but to no avail

Just why is it that God has turned his back on me?

At her lowest ebb in the House of God the dam burst, and she cried out: -‘Lord Almighty, if only you will look on your servant’s misery and give her a son then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life’

Passionate prayers poured out in despair seem to be the most effective.

How bittersweet was that moment she first held the tiny Samuel her arms knowing she must soon give him up.

How treasured were the moments when Hannah was left her at home to nurse Samuel.

Once Samuel had been weaned Hannah may secretly have wished that Elkanah would object to her honouring the pledge she had made to God.

When it came to the heart-breaking moment of parting Hannah’s faith remains sufficiently strong to commit her son to God’s love and care

Hannah is so overcome in the moment that she is moved to utter the words of her song 1 Sam ch 2 v1-11.

My heart rejoices in the Lord:

In the Lord my horn is lifted High

My mouth boasts over my enemies for I delight in your deliverance…

 

From this time Hannah must console herself as she lovingly crafts the little robe she makes and presents to Samuel each year with the thanks offering.

Then she can marvel at the fine boy he is growing into and at the presence of God within him which only a mother can discern.

 

Let us offer a prayer for all mothers and indeed fathers who, for whatever reason have to give up their beloved child

 

Eli (Ascent, my God)

The character of Eli is puzzling, and something is broken in his family relationships. He has struggled to bring up his sons Hophni and Phinnehas without the nurture of their mother

They seem to resent being expected to serve him as priests in the House of God.

The boys have no respect for their father and abuse the privileges of their office in a shameful manner.

Perhaps Eli lacks the willingness to rein in his sons due to his shortcomings as father.

If only Eli had learned from Hannah to pour out his soul in prayer to God to heal his family.

The day Elkanah’s family make their thanks offering Eli seems unengaged sitting by the door.

As Hannah silently pours out her soul, he seems unmoved but is quick to rebuke her when he thinks she is drunk. But as Hannah forcefully asserts her sobriety, he recognizes God’s hand on her and tells her ‘Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him’

When the time comes for Hannah to present Samuel to the temple he readily takes Samuel under his wing. It seems as though Eli has learned from his mistakes bringing up his own sons.

Under Eli’s care Samuel grows up into a fine boy and dutiful servant.

Eli also gives Hannah and Elkanah God’s blessing upon their subsequent children.

And when the time came for God to speak to the conscious Samuel, it is Eli who third time round says ‘Go and lie down, and if he calls you say, Speak for your servant is listening’

And the next morning Eli asks Samuel what God has said to him and takes careful note even though he knows the end of his priestly line and the death of his sons is imminent.

Eli may have sinned to the point where he has forfeited his spiritual inheritance but he still has the faith to accept God’s will with grace.

He can take comfort from the part he has played in nurturing Samuel to the point where he will inherit the spiritual mantle which once was his.

May we each be blessed with equivalent grace.

 

 

 

Samuel (heard by God)

Try to imagine the terror and confusion felt by Samuel as amidst great commotion the mother who has been his world abandons him and passes him over to Eli an old man and a stranger.

Today we understand that the wound of such a trauma would be buried deep in his sub-conscious.

Today such an event would have warranted an immediate call to Social Services

But by God’s grace, scripture paints Samuel as a delightful, well balanced child.

We cannot help being touched by the gentle and enchanting companionship between the frail, half blind Eli and his little helper scampering around the temple clad in his linen ephod and meeting Eli’s every need.

And each year Samuel’s heart is stirred as a lovely strange lady visits the house of God and gives him a beautiful robe.

As their eyes meet Samuel feels a magical connection between him and this lady.

 

Samuel’s interior life as a child remains sacred to him and God but we can reflect:

  • In the quietness and tranquillity of the temple he must have found solace in his interior world.
  • This is fertile territory for a child to experience the presence of the divine within their world of dreams and in their imagination.
  • Is this not also true for of all people, including loved ones, who cannot access human language or thought?
  • God would surely nurture and console this his child of Hannah’s promise to Him
  • How much closer to God would we each be if we could approach God as a child?

 

God’s call to Samuel represents the moment the mantle passes from the aged Eli to the young Samuel.

 

It falls to Samuel to tell Eli what God had told him which simply confirms what Eli already knew

 

From that time on the word of the Lord was heard again throughout Israel

 

And all the people recognized they had a young prophet and priest in Shiloh

 

Samuel was the child of Hannah’s promise to God who marks the age of the kings of Israel leading to David and beyond

 

And it is Samuel who also points towards that other child born not of a human promise to God but of God’s promise to the Virgin Mary and all humankind, Jesus Christ.


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