Today marks the beginning of a new sermon series called ‘Collision’ where we’ll go verse by verse through the book of 1 Samuel. 1 Samuel is largely about 3 people, Samuel, Saul, and David. The beginning of 1 Samuel (1-7) is about the prophet and last judge of Israel, Samuel. The middle of the book (8-15) is about Israel’s first king, Saul. And the last half (16-31) of the book is about king David.
I could say many things about 1 Samuel as we enter into it. I could talk about the nature of the book, it’s authors, it’s themes, it’s layout, or it’s significance for us in 2016. But rather than point out those things here at the beginning I’d prefer to point them out as these things naturally come up in the text as we work our way though it. But if I were to say one thing about 1 Samuel here at the beginning I’d say this: ‘1 Samuel is about kings, but more importantly it’s about the great King, God Himself. In these stories we catch glimpses of who God is, what He does, what life is like with Him and without Him, and what life can become by the power His grace and the power of His Spirit. These stories are part of our family history as believers, they’re meant to instruct us, encourage us, and give us hope. These stories are gospel-filled stories, honest about sin and society, saturated with the hope of heaven.’ (Gospel Transformation Study Bible, page 341)
This series is called ‘Collision’ because that’s what we find in book, a collision of kings and kingdoms. In one corner we have King Saul: handsome, tall, and rugged, Israel’s very first king. In the other corner we have young David: a brave little boy with a faith on fire. Throughout the whole 31 chapters these two men live the whole gamut of relational experience with one another. Starting as acquaintances, than being master and servant, moving into a tense political friendship, and ending the story as enemies. We have much to learn from these two men, we have much to learn from Samuel as well, the prophet who instructs these men. As a whole, 1 Samuel will teach us much about the nature of the fallen world and the nature of God’s kingdom.
So prepare yourselves to see a Collision you cannot turn away from, the collision between Saul and David.
1 Samuel 1 is laid out in 3 sections, let’s first turn our attention to…
a) 1:1-8 – A Broken Woman
In a book that recounts perhaps the most significant political shift in Israel’s history, it may seem curious that it begins with a broken woman. Here we’re introduced to Hannah, who in one sense had everything an 1100 BC woman could want. She was the wife of Elkanah, a worthy man of notable reputation whose detailed lineage in 1:1 implies his importance, she had wealth to some degree because a husband could only have two wives if he was wealthy, and even though he had two wives v5 and v8 show that Elkanah loved her truly and affectionately. But in another sense Hannah had deep pain. The pain Hannah faced centered around her inability to bear children, she was barren. We learn in v2 and v5 that she is barren, and we learn in v6 that though she has a husband, she shares her husband with Peninnah, an overly fertile, cruel, and jealous woman who would ridicule Hannah for not being able to have children. Polygamy was not God’s intention for His people, and though tolerated, it was never officially endorsed by God in the Old Testament. Hannah’s barrenness is probably the reason Elkanah married Peninnah also. This is the source of Hannah’s pain. v7 paints this picture for us saying Peninnah would ridicule or provoke Hannah ‘year by year, as often as they went up to the house of the Lord to worship and offer sacrifices.’ But when they went up this time the mocking had grown to be too much, so Hannah refused to join in. In typical man-like fashion Elkanah tries to fix the situation by saying in v8, ‘Why do you weep? Why don’t you eat? Why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?’ Well intended, but not very comforting.
It is at this point in 1 Samuel we need to remind ourselves that Hannah isn’t the first woman in Biblical history to be barren. Abraham’s wife Sarah was barren, Isaac’s wife Rebekah was barren, Jacob’s wife Rachel was barren, Manoah’s wife was barren before God gave her Samson, even Elizabeth was barren before God opened her womb and gave her John the Baptist. In each of these barren women we see a commonality. All of them were used by God to raise up key figures in the history of redemption. We can conclude then that God is fond of using barren women to make much of His work and His purposes. This is a principle that moves beyond barren women to all of us. New chapters and new beginnings throughout history and in throughout our lives often begin when we’re aware that we have nothing in our hands to bring. God will often make us aware of our own inability, hopelessness, and helplessness, He will bring us low; and in that low, weak, and frail position God begins His great work. Some believe it is only great men and women that God uses for His glory but that’s not what I’ve found in the Bible, I find it’s the weak and ordinary people that He uses the most. And the Bible tells us why God does this. Again and again we see God doing this to show that glory belongs to Him and no one else. So take heart friends, knowing this is often where God begins His great work should encourage you when you find yourself in a similar broken/weak position.
Hannah faced the mocking from Peninnah year after year, and it broke her, it drove her to God. See the first thing we learn from Hannah: suffering, distress, and barrenness may only be the preface to a magnificent work of the grace of God in us and through us. This leads to the next point.
b) 1:9-18 – A Pleading Woman
After everyone else was finished eating Hannah got up and walked out of the room and sat outside the temple. v10 says she began to pray, weeping bitterly. Year after year, hearing the mocking voice of Peninnah, reminding her of her barrenness has gotten to be unbearable, and Hannah couldn’t take it any longer. Have any of you ever been in a spot like this? Where there really was no one else to turn to? When you tried to pray but nothing comes out except sobbing and tears? If you have, you’ll love Psalm 6:8 where David says, ‘…the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.’ Sometimes, when the pain is so great and we can only cry, God hears our hearts through our weeping. Hannah did eventually get some words out, and asked God for a son in v11 vowing that if God gave her a son she would give him back to Him, making him a Nazirite. This is a serious vow, one that only a handful of other people make in the Bible. It was intended to be only for a time, and for that time the Nazirite would be fully set apart to God. Hannah vows that her son, if God gives her one, will be a Nazirite all his life.
She was so distraught about her circumstances and in such deep despair that she didn’t notice Eli the priest sitting outside the temple near her. Eli sees Hannah, and assumes she’s drunk because he couldn’t hear her voice but could only see her lips moving. He rashly says in v14 ‘How long will you go on being drunk? Put your wine away from you.’ Eli’s response shows his own foolishness. He’s not wrong about drunkenness, drunkenness was rampant and forbidden in the temple. Eli is wrong about Hannah. She’s not drunk, and what he mistook for drunkenness is fervent prayer. His response shows that he is unfamiliar with what fervent/desperate prayer looks like. As we progress through these next few chapters we’ll see Eli’s lack of character comes through clearly, but it starts here.
But back to Hannah. She doesn’t seem to mind being misunderstood by Eli here, but gives an honest confession of how dismal she feels, saying in v15-16 that her great emotion isn’t drunkenness but genuine prayer out of deep anxiety and vexation. Eli corrects his mistake and blesses her in v17 asking God to give Hannah what she has asked, and Hannah who wouldn’t eat before now does eat because she knows God has heard her prayer.
Hannah’s brokenness is deep, but notice where that brokenness led to? It didn’t lead to punching Peninnah in the face or planning revenge in another way. It didn’t lead to her repressing her pain either. It led to pleading in prayer. v15 ends with a phrase we would do well to pay attention to, ‘…I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord.’ Her brokenness led her to pour out her soul to God. This is perhaps the most outstanding mark of Hannah on display here. She has a heavy spirit, and in her bitterness, with tears, she goes where? To God! Hannah must know something about God we don’t. Or Hannah must know something about God that we usually forget. Hannah seems to understand that the throne of God is a throne of grace, where the God draws close to the destitute and brokenhearted.
We learn our second lesson from Hannah here. See in Hannah’s suffering instruction for us in our suffering; that when we suffer, when we despair, when we weep with many tears we should pour out our sorrows at the throne of grace. Have you ever thought that God allows and even invites His people to do that? 1 Peter 5:7 says, ‘Cast your cares on Me, for I care for you.’ In Psalm 50:15 God says, ‘Call upon Me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.’ Hannah did this, God heard her, and God strengthened her. Jesus did this throughout the entire course of His ministry, always casting His cares onto His Father. Be reminded friends, God can handle our mess, our tears, and our sins and sorrows. When we travel through a hard and weary land, He invites us to pour out our hearts and be steadied by His hand. Hannah knew that, do you?
c) 1:19-28 – A Different Woman
After morning worship the whole family goes home. You can probably imagine that Peninnah is still mocking her for being barren at this point, but when they get home the Lord remembered Hannah, she conceived, and had a son. She named him Samuel saying, ‘I have asked for him from the Lord.’ When it came time to go to the temple again as was their custom, Hannah, for the first time in a long time, didn’t go with them but waited and would bring Samuel up with her once he was weaned. So when she weaned Samuel she brought both him and the appropriate sacrifices (and more so!) up to the temple to fulfill the vow she made to God in v11. You can imagine Eli’s surprise to see her again. The last time Eli had seen her she was broken and pleading before God and he had mistook her for being a drunk. Eli probably felt the fear of an embarrassing past meeting him again in the present. Hannah reminded Eli who she was in v26-28, and after hearing such a devoted and godly woman, Eli was surely amazed with the contrast between this version of Hannah with the weeping Hannah of the past. She was different, God had not only provided for her, God had changed her.
And then we see it, Hannah fulfilling her vow and giving her son to the Lord. Can you imagine the feeling of joyful obedience mixed with sadness over handing your very own child over to be raised and cared for by someone else? Hannah had no idea if Eli would train him up properly to know God and serve God. Eli has two sons of his own, but they were both wicked men. Though she knew this, she knew something greater that calmed her fears. She knew that Samuel really wasn’t in Eli’s hands, Samuel was in God’s hand’s. So as hard as it had to be, she trusted God and let go of her boy.
We learn our third lesson from Hannah here: what she did with Samuel is what every parent ought to do with their children. Hannah’s son was hers, but to Hannah it was more important that her son be God’s. The son Hannah asked for God had given, and then she gives this gift back to the Giver. This is the calling of every Christian parent. This is very similar to Jesus’ mother Mary. Whereas Hannah couldn’t have children, Mary shouldn’t have had children because she was so young. Yet, in both cases trust in God with their baby boys was absolutely necessary. These mothers knew their own sons were God’s before they were theirs. God would lead them. In the former case through Samuel, God would use him to bring a king to the throne of Israel, a king of God’s own choosing, king David. In the latter case with Jesus we see a similar but greater event. God would also use Him to bring a king to the throne, but not just one king for Israel, God would bring the eternal king to a throne that reigns over all, Christ. And through Jesus God would provide everything needed for the redemption for His people through His life, death, resurrection, and ascension. Both of them, Samuel and Jesus, began in weakness, but God did something marvelous.
Parent’s do you feel this way about your children? Sure you may have all sorts of aspirations for your children to grow up and be this, or do that, to marry someone like this, or have a job like that.
But our biggest aspiration for our children and our goal in raising them must not firstly be to raise young men and women who contribute to society, no. Our first and primary focus for our children is that they know and glorify God. If we don’t desire that they know the Lord, even if we desire hundreds or thousands of good aspirations for them, we desire too little for them.
And this is hard isn’t it? Upon birth our children enter a big world, a big fallen world that is full of brokenness and sin. This world may be in a big mess but we have a big Savior who can handle anything. We can’t hold our children forever or guard them from this world as helicopter parents. So what are we to do? The trust in God we find in Hannah, the trust in God we find in Mary, is the trust in God we must find in ourselves.
So as we end we see Samuel before the Lord, worshipping. God is taking care of young Samuel, God will care for us, God will care for our kids.
He is faithful forever, perfect in love, God is sovereign over us.