Episode 1. A Boy Called Sam
It never ceases to amaze me at how good we are at deluding ourselves into thinking that our actions don’t have consequences. We’re really quite good at this you know. Truly. Last week on the program we spent some time talking about the fact that when the storms of life hit, as they inevitably do, […]
It never ceases to amaze me at how good we are at deluding ourselves into thinking that our actions don’t have consequences. We’re really quite good at this you know. Truly.
Last week on the program we spent some time talking about the fact that when the storms of life hit, as they inevitably do, what we need is some solid ground beneath our feet. It’s a scary place to be at, on a stormy ocean, we’re not made for that, we’re made to be on solid ground and we began looking at a story of some people, a woman called Hannah and her son Samuel and some priests, Eli, his sons Hophni and Phinehas.
Now Hannah, here was a woman who honoured God and God honoured her in return. These priests on the other hand, though they should have known better, they didn’t honour God and as we’ll see on the program today and the rest of this week, those guys reaped their just reward. And the reason we’re looking at this story of these people is that when we’re in the midst of a storm we so often lose our bearings, we so often lose sight of those things that really matter.
And for me, as I’ve spent some time in that story, it’s well, its helped clarify some things, brought them into sharp focus and my hunch is, as we spend some time, during the course of this week, you might find the same too.
Now let’s just briefly recap on this story. Hannah is a woman, she’s married to Elkanah. Elkanah has two wives; Peninnah who has children and Hannah who doesn’t and Peninnah constantly taunts Hannah about not having children, an incredibly painful thing. So Hannah goes and pours her heart out to God and you can read all about this in the first few chapters of 1 Samuel in the Old Testament.
Hannah goes and pours her heart out to God in the temple and she discovers peace It’s what always happens when we do that, and ultimately God blesses her and gives her a son. But Eli is the priest at the temple, he’s the chief priest at the time and he mistakes what Hannah’s doing, he thinks she’s drunk and Eli and his sons, Hophni and Phinehas, well they’re bad dudes. They’d been plundering sacrifices, they’ve been not honouring God, there’s a real contrast between the two, between Hannah and her family on the one hand and Eli and his family on the other. Hannah the “nobody”: Eli the chief priest.
See, that’s the thing we so often miss in life. God is hidden, Gods invisible, we forget about Him, we go on living our lives and wondering why things are going from bad to worse and in the middle of this story, last week we stumbled across this verse, the verse when God was pronouncing His judgement on Eli and his sons. 1 Samuel chapter 2, verse 30, God said:
Those who honour me I will honour and those who despise me will be treated with contempt.
See this is the kind of pivot on which this whole story turns and this week on the program we’re going to look at how things turn out for Hannah and for Eli and there’s a sharp contrast in their approach to God and I’ve got to tell you, there is a sharp contrast in how things turn out for both of them. It tells us a lot about God, it clarifies the confusion that we might have in the midst of our storm and you see when you get that clarity, when we finally see it from Gods perspective, we get our feet back on solid ground.
Well lets start today with Hannah, this woman with the pain of not having children and the taunts from the other wife and childless couples all over the world know how painful this is. So she goes to God, she pours out her heart, lets have a look at it again, 1 Samuel chapter 1, beginning at verse 9:
Once they’d finished eating and drinking at Shiloh, Hannah stood up. Now Eli the priest was sitting on a chair by the doorpost of the Lords temple. In the bitterness of her soul, Hannah wept much and prayed to the Lord and she made a vow saying, ‘O Lord Almighty, if you would only look upon your servants misery and remember me and don’t forget your servant but give her a son. Then I will give him back to the Lord for all the days of his life and no razor will ever be used on his head. Then she went away and ate something and her face was no longer downcast.
So she pours out her heart and have a look at the thing that happens straight after that, beginning at verse 19:
Early the next morning they arose and they worshipped before the Lord and then they went back to their home at Ramah. Elkanah lay with his wife Hannah and the Lord remembered her so in the course of time Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel saying, ‘because I asked the Lord for him’. When the man Elkanah went up with his family to offer the annual sacrifices to the Lord to fulfil his vow, Hannah didn’t go, she said to her husband, “After the boy is weaned I’ll take him up and I’ll present him before the Lord and he’ll live there always.” “Well do what seems best to you” Elkanah, her husband told her, “Stay here until you’ve weaned him. Only may the Lord make good his word.”
So the woman stayed at home and nursed her son until she weaned him. After he was weaned she took the boy with her, young as he was, along with a 3 year old bull and a ephah of flour and a skin of wine and brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. When they’d slaughtered the bull they brought the boy to Eli and she said to him, “As surely as you live my Lord, I’m the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord. I prayed for this child and the Lord has granted me what I asked of Him. So now I give him to the Lord for the whole of his life, he will be given over to the Lord.” And she worshipped the Lord there.
See Hannah had this impossible problem, this impossible prayer, it was a humble, heartfelt prayer and God honours that, we so under-estimate the power of humble prayer, a prayer from the heart. A prayer that just lays it out before God, the way we see it and the way we feel it, God honours that. And when he honours her with the impossible, she honours God back and gives her son over to God for the rest of his life.
Easy to gloss over that story but can you imagine, what motivates her? Her incredible heart to honour God. So she does. She honours Him by giving up the one thing she desired most, her son. And what’s more, she gives her most precious to be under the wicked Eli and his sons, figure that out! Not exactly a great strategic choice, this young impressionable kid but God honours those who honour Him and the more we honour God the more He honours us. Look at this, 1 Samuel chapter 3, verse 19:
The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up and let none of his words fall to the ground and all of Israel, from Dan to Beersheba recognised that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the Lord. The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh and there He revealed Himself to Samuel through His word and the word of Samuel came to all of Israel.
See God honoured her in her storm because she honoured Him. Young Samuel went on to become the chief priest, the prophet, the judge over all of Israel, why? Because this nobody, this woman Hannah honoured God, so simply, just by going to Him in her grief. Not by acting badly, not by shaking her fists, not by throwing a tantrum but by pouring her heart out to God and by trusting Him.
It must have seemed such an insignificant thing to do, such a powerless thing to do; “I can’t fall pregnant, I can’t have a child, all I can do is weep before God”, so she does that. In the face of this big, ugly, impossible storm, the pain of being childless, the taunts of Peninnah, the impossibility but for God, nothing is impossible.
God honours those who honour Him. She honoured God in her naivety; she gave young Sam over to Eli and even there, in that impossible situation, God honoured her and He honoured the young boy called Samuel.
God honours those who honour Him and those who despise Him will be treated with contempt. It’s so simple, it’s so powerful. You know, we ignore this at our peril, God is a good God, He honours those who honour Him.