Praise, Rebellion And Judgement Chapter 2v1-36 Presentation 002
Introduction Israel was in a moral, political and spiritual decline. God's answer was a child, Samuel, who had been conceived in response to the anguished prayer of Hannah. Hannah had been unbearably crushed and bruised by a sore domestic crisis. She had sought relief from God and promised that if he permitted her to have a child, he would be handed back to God to serve him in the tabernacle at Shiloh. In this way God has his man in place in order to address the spiritual needs of the nation. Presentation 002
Introduction In chapter 2 we are presented with three quite different pictures. 1. In v1-11 we are taken up to the gates of heaven on the wings of unquenchable praise as Hannah addresses God. 2. In v12-26 we are exposed to depths of religious indifference as we confront the depravity of the High Priest’s sons. 3. In v27-36 we discover the breadth of God's judgement against the house of Eli, the High Priest. Presentation 002
Hannah’s Praise In contrast to her previous prayer, which displayed great agony of spirit, we have a wonderful piece of jubilant praise from Hannah. In a sense it constitutes her offering to God for the gift of her first born son. Clearly, this praise forms the fruit of a long period of meditation and reflection upon her sore past and upon the way in which God had broken into her life. Presentation 002
Hannah’s Praise Many have suggested that it is possible to see in Hannah's song of exultation a prelude to Mary's magnificat which is recorded in Luke 2. There are a number of similarities which can repay careful personal study. Hannah’s prayer was not a piece of unfeeling rote that rattled from her lips. Consider some of the ways in which Hannah's worship was enriched by the lessons she had learned through personal suffering and God's gracious alleviation of that suffering. Presentation 002
Hannah’s Praise 1. She recognised that she was not an object of cruel circumstance but of wise providence. God had placed Hannah in an unenviable situation. Clearly, she had experienced great distress of heart but she had also experienced glorious deliverance cf. v1. You cannot fail to recognise that the death/life principle or, the suffering/ blessing principle which characterises so much of the N.T. teaching is also in operation here. Cf. 2 Cor. 1v6-10. God is a God who brings blessing out of hardship v5. Presentation 002
Hannah’s Praise Presentation 002 2. Hannah is overwhelmed by God's sovereign control of his world. God knows what is going on in his world and he weighs the actions of men v3. He is a God who humbles and exalts men v7, 8. God acts against the wicked, their bows are broken v4, they will be silenced in darkness v9, they will be shattered. In all of this there is a clear recognition of God's intervention in his world to arrest wickedness. An example of which we find later in the chapter. We find that God removes people who get in his way of the fulfilment of his glorious purposes. It is neither luck nor fate that controls human affairs but the eternal God!
Hannah’s Praise Presentation 002 3. Hannah is thrilled by the fact that God does indeed answer prayer. It is an incredible discovery. We can easily affirm Christian Orthodoxy when we say we believe in prayer. However, our prayers are often so general that we are not aware that we miss out on God’s specific answer to prayer. But here Hannah thrills to the fact that God has answered a very specific prayer. It causes her to cry out ‘In the Lord my horn is lifted high’ v1. And is it not the case that not only do we learn to value those things which in prayer we wrestle with God for, but also more importantly we raise God up in our hearts as the Gracious Answerer.
Hannah’s Praise Presentation 002 4. Hannah had seen God's righteousness operating in two directions: God preserves and vindicates his saints and he silences the wicked. cf v9. What confidence Hannah has in God. It is this confidence that can sustain us in the greatest trials of life. In John Bunyan’s Pilgrim's Progress, when Pilgrim was near the end of his journey and passing through the cold dark river, his faith began to fail him and he thought he would sink. But his companion spoke to him and said, ‘I feel the bottom and it is good’. When the bottom on which you stand is the rock of God's unchanging character you have nothing to fear, ‘It is not by strength that one prevails’, says Hannah in v9. No, it is by faith!
Hannah’s Praise Presentation 002 Notice as a final point, the focus of this prayer was not her child but the God who has given her, her heart’s desire. There is an important lesson to be learned here for once our petition is heard and our hearts’ desire granted we can be so taken up with the answer that we forget the God who has answered us. cf. the ten lepers in Lk. 17.12
Samuel's Training Presentation 002 Are we surprised that God should allow Samuel, his chosen servant, to be brought up in the ungodly worship environment that is described in 2.11f. It may surprise many to learn that God's plan was not to establish yet another denomination, church movement or, religious centre but for Samuel to be involved in his plans to purify the existing one.
Samuel's Training Samuel's simple ministrations before the Lord [v 11] shine and stand in sharp contrast to the way in which Eli's sons abused their office. They were concerned to satisfy their own lust and greed even if that meant stealing from God [Lev.2v2-3 and 3v16, Num. 18v8]. They lorded their authority over the worshippers. They introduced immorality and idolatrous practices to Israel's religious life cf. v22. What an environment for Samuel to be brought up in! Presentation 002
Samuel's Training Presentation 002 Samuel, through observing Eli's failure, learns the value of placing God first in every human relationship and of the need to exercise responsible discipline. Eli simply spoke to his sons when he should have acted 2:23ff. Was staying in his sons’ favour more important than God's honour? Cf. Jn.2v13-17 where Jesus drove the moneychangers out of the temple. Do we see here a doting parent taking the line of least resistance or a man who subscribes to the optimistic philosophy that believes "everything will work out O.K. in the end"? When a person is spiritually backslidden there is a loss of spiritual dynamism to stir oneself into action. Eli did too little too late!
Samuel's Training Presentation 002 In v25b we read that Eli's sons did not listen to him for it was the Lord's will to put them to death. In other words they had crossed the line of divine patience [Gen.6v3], they had, by their behaviour, put themselves outside of the protection of God's grace [Is.6v9-10], they were judicially hardened [Ex.11v10]. Their death was the consequence of their own rebellion [Gal.6v7-8]. The behaviour of Eli's sons had no influence upon Samuel, because he was in the place God wanted him to be and 'kept by the power of God through faith‘ 1Pet.1.5. God kept him and you can be sure Hannah played her part by praying for her boy! Israel was increasingly becoming aware that Samuel was different. He was someone they could respect, and follow cf. v26
The Judgement Of God Presentation 002 The sobering passage in v27ff points out the inevitability of judgement. Did Eli need this prophetic word because he was out of tune with God? He is reminded of his privileged position in v27-28 but he had allowed privilege to encourage a spirit of laziness. God had been demoted from a place of honour v29. Eli had become a moral coward with regard to his sons' behaviour. Sometimes we are required to take a stand which requires exceptional moral courage and surely v30 should provide the necessary encouragement, "those who honour me I will honour".
The Judgement Of God Radical surgery was necessary in Eli's house because the priestly line had become corrupt and degenerate and their continued existence would have had a devastating consequence upon Israel. We are reminded of Jesus’ words, 'if your eye is the cause of offence pluck it out‘ Matt.5.29. For Israel's sake, yes and for his own work’s sake God was going to deal quite radically with Eli's family. Cf. also the radical response of God to Ananias and Sapphira’s deceit in Acts 5. Presentation 002
The Judgement Of God Presentation 002 Why is Eli told that the death of his two sons would be a "sign"v34? Did he believe that God shared his own indifference towards the behaviour of his boys? Was the need for a sign a further evidence of his spiritual declension? Signs in the Bible are not generally given to the spiritually mature but the spiritually weak and insensitive. One of the most disturbing aspects about this message of coming judgment is that there is no record of repentance, no suing God for mercy. The priesthood was to be transferred from Eli's line to a faithful priest v35, a reference not to Samuel but to Zadok, 2 Sam. 8v17, whose family would hold the Jerusalem high priesthood for eight centuries.
The Judgement Of God Presentation 002 Jump ahead to v36 which falls into the theme of "rejection" which we find in 1 Samuel. For the fulfilment of this prophecy see 4:11 and 1 Kings.2v26-27. When men betray their trust God will raise up others who will be true to it. Eli's family would not die out completely but they would never again have the same priestly status. Their attitude to the priesthood is at worst mercenary and at best professional. Was this the kind of servant God had in mind in Is. 52v11 when he said 'be pure you who carry the vessels of the Lord'?
Conclusion We have noticed that the pain of Hannah's sore domestic situation produced remarkable spiritual growth and maturity. She reached a new depth of consecration where she was able to recognise that God was more important than what had been the deepest desire of her heart. Hers was the type of pain which only after a period of mature reflection enables us to look back upon and say, "thank you God for that of for all that it has produced in me!" Presentation 02
Conclusion Presentation 02 In contrast, Eli refused to respond to a different domestic trial. If Hannah acted in the courage of faith and was prepared to put God before her son as yet unborn, setting him a part for God, then Eli's behaviour was motivated by fearful unbelief. He failed to take action when his sons began to abuse the sacrificial system and bring religious worship into ridicule. As suggested previously, perhaps he thought that he could preserve his sons’ love and respect by indulging them and by refusing to discipline them. If so he was putting them before God. We cannot treat God with that kind of contempt without reaping the consequences outlined here in v27ff.