Okay, so where has this week gone? I didn’t want the week to go without taking a look at a key figure in the Bible, his calling, apprenticeship, and ministry. Today I want to return to the Old Testament, because I’d like to start looking at David. However, in order to get there, I felt it necessary to start with Samuel the Prophet of God.
We’ve seen how God called, trained and sent out Gideon in the time of the Judges of Israel. In moving toward the time of the kings of Israel I’m excited about getting to the Throne of David, on whose throne Jesus is promised to reign forever (Gospel!). But I don’t want to skip straight there, because a key figure throughout this time period is Samuel. Now Samuel was called by God before birth, and his calling from God comes as an answer to prayer. So today’s story will be the first we look at that might be misconstrued a bit by some as prescription for obtaining the call of God on your life. Let us start by reading the setup directly from the Bible.
1 Samuel 1 (ESV)
1 There was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim of the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephrathite. 2 He had two wives. The name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other, Peninnah. And Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.
3 Now this man used to go up year by year from his city to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts at Shiloh, where the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests of the Lord. 4 On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters. 5 But to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb. 6 And her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb. 7 So it went on year by year. As often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat. 8 And Elkanah, her husband, said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? And why do you not eat? And why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?”
9 After they had eaten and drunk in Shiloh, Hannah rose. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. 10 She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. 11 And she vowed a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.”
12 As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman. 14 And Eli said to her, “How long will you go on being drunk? Put your wine away from you.” 15 But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. 16 Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.” 17 Then Eli answered, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.” 18 And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.
19 They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord; then they went back to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her. 20 And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, “I have asked for him from the Lord.”
Praise the Lord, for He is worthy to be praised. We serve a God who hears the prayers of our hearts, sees our distress, and answers our prayers. Now, I would like to caution you, to be very cautious in your vows. Making a vow to God is no small thing, and should not be engaged flippantly. While I do intend to present this story as an example of the Greatness, Love, Mercy, and Kindness of the Living God we serve, I’m not saying we should copy all of her steps; rather, that we pay attention to God’s response. She takes a dangerous road here in vowing a vow to God, but she remains faithful to her vow, so it works out here. Why the cautionary statement? Lets look at the strong warning in Ecclesiastes:
Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 (ESV) 1 Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. 2 Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. 3 For a dream comes with much business, and a fool’s voice with many words. 4 When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow. 5 It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. 6 Let not your mouth lead you into sin, and do not say before the messenger that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry at your voice and destroy the work of your hands? 7 For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear.
Aside from the vow, let’s look at what the Scriptures tell us about Hannah. She has endured a great amount of ridicule from the Peninnah, the other wife of Elkanah, their husband. Because she had no children, and was barren (the Lord closed up her womb). Her husband, is aware of her sadness and predicament, and it manifests itself in their worship (observing of the sacrifices/offerings). He tries to encourage her by saying, “Am I not more to you than ten sons?” Well, Elkanah cannot do anything more for her, and cannot provide children. So she takes her supplication to the Lord God. She prayed and wept bitterly. As she termed it, she poured out her soul to the Lord, that He would grant her a son. In asking the Lord for a son, she commits the gift of God (a son) back to God for the rest of his life. The comments she makes to Eli about not having had any wine or strong drink, and to the Lord God about no razor touching his head leads me to think she was committing him to a life-long Nazarite Vow similar to that of the calling of Samson (Judges 13). I don’t think Hannah is expecting to give birth to the next judge over Israel, she is dedicating a gift of thanksgiving to God in keeping with what is already in Scripture. She is asking that God would show mercy on her, and bless her with a son, and in return (thanksgiving) she will give back to the Lord what He has given her. What starts this blessing? What reaches the Lord’s heart? Her faith. She walks away from the Temple that day, assured that the Lord had heard her prayer, and that He will provide, “Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad“.
Hebrews 11:1-2 (ESV) 1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation.
If we are to emulate the people of old who received their commendation… we need to look to their faith, and the object of their faith, the Lord God of Israel. God gives her a son, and she is quick to complete her vow (please… don’t start making vows, especially vows you are not able to keep. Do not give the devil an opportunity to enslave you by the words of your own mouths). Make your requests known to God, and pray as Jesus taught us to pray (Matt 6; Luke 11)… and put your faith in Him. Will all of your prayers come true? No. God’s Sovereignty remains fully intact. We do not dictate to God anything. We make our requests known to Him through prayer, and we have the right by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. But God’s Will supersedes ours. Not every woman who prayed for a son received one. The Old Testament has a purpose, and that purpose is in the Promise of the Messiah. Let us continue with Samuel.
1 Samuel 1:21-28 (ESV) 21 The man Elkanah and all his house went up to offer to the Lord the yearly sacrifice and to pay his vow. 22 But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, “As soon as the child is weaned, I will bring him, so that he may appear in the presence of the Lord and dwell there forever.” 23 Elkanah her husband said to her, “Do what seems best to you; wait until you have weaned him; only, may the Lord establish his word.” So the woman remained and nursed her son until she weaned him. 24 And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine, and she brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. And the child was young. 25 Then they slaughtered the bull, and they brought the child to Eli. 26 And she said, “Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the Lord. 27 For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him. 28 Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord.” And he worshiped the Lord there.
Good, she was faithful to her vow to God, and now Eli (who has 2 sons already serving as priests) has an apprentice. She has been dedicated to the House of the Lord, but is this his calling? Before we get to that, let us look at Hannah’s prayer of Thanksgiving and Prayer… because it’s awesome…
1 Samuel 2 (ESV) | Hannah’s Prayer
1 And Hannah prayed and said,
“My heart exults in the Lord;
my horn is exalted in the Lord.
My mouth derides my enemies,
because I rejoice in your salvation.
2 “There is none holy like the Lord:
for there is none besides you;
there is no rock like our God.
3 Talk no more so very proudly,
let not arrogance come from your mouth;
for the Lord is a God of knowledge,
and by him actions are weighed.
4 The bows of the mighty are broken,
but the feeble bind on strength.
5 Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,
but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger.
The barren has borne seven,
but she who has many children is forlorn.
6 The Lord kills and brings to life;
he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
7 The Lord makes poor and makes rich;
he brings low and he exalts.
8 He raises up the poor from the dust;
he lifts the needy from the ash heap
to make them sit with princes
and inherit a seat of honor.
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s,
and on them he has set the world.
9 “He will guard the feet of his faithful ones,
but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness,
for not by might shall a man prevail.
10 The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces;
against them he will thunder in heaven.
The Lord will judge the ends of the earth;
he will give strength to his king
and exalt the horn of his anointed.”
11 Then Elkanah went home to Ramah. And the boy was ministering to the Lord in the presence of Eli the priest.
Here we have an apprenticeship beginning with only a partial calling. Hannah’s vow to the Lord committed Samuel to the service of the Lord as a Nazarite. God would soon Call on Samuel. Notice here that Eli isn’t exactly the most qualified (by human standards) to be Samuel’s mentor as evidenced by the next verse, “12 Now the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the Lord.” Not good. Nevertheless, we see in v26, Now the boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and also with man.
Now, 1 Samuel 3 starts off with an interesting statement, “1 Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord in the presence of Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.” The Lord was about to change all of that, and He was about to make His Will known to Israel. Now, let’s look at what the Word of the Lord is to Samuel, when He finally Calls Samuel
1 Samuel 3:10-18 (ESV) 10 And the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.” 11 Then the Lord said to Samuel, “Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel at which the two ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. 12 On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. 13 And I declare to him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. 14 Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever.” 15 Samuel lay until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the Lord. And Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. 16 But Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” And he said, “Here I am.” 17 And Eli said, “What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.” 18 So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. And he said, “It is the Lord. Let him do what seems good to him.”
Woah… that’s rough. So here, we have the Word of the Lord coming to Samuel, at the end of his apprenticeship and his first task is to speak God’s judgement on the house of Eli. In obeying the Word of the Lord, the calling on Samuel’s life propels him into ministry as the Prophet of the Lord.
1 Samuel 3:19-20 (ESV) 19 And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. 20 And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established as a prophet of the Lord.
Amen. We haven’t seen the last of Samuel. As I said at the beginning, we will see God use Samuel in mighty ways. But as we move through the first kings of Israel, I hope you remember that Samuel was a gift given to a woman, who placed her faith in God, and out of her blessing (from God) she returned to Him what she had promised. And she praised God and gave thanks to God. There is nothing here for Hannah, nor for Samuel to boast in, except the Grace and Mercy of a God who hears our prayers and commends faith (Hebrews 11) in His Word and in His Promise.
I pray you have a wonderful weekend, and may the Lord bless and keep you always,