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Samuel and a disastrous military and religious situation
By assuming that Samuel was born in 1100 B.C. we know that he would be five years old in the year 1095 B.C. and we know that in this year the Philistines occupied the land, for Judges 13:14 informs us: Now the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord, so that the Lord gave them into the hands of the Philistines forty years. So we know that Hannah lived in a dangerous situation with the country occupied by an opposing military force, perhaps equivalent to living in France during World War II, when it was occupied by Nazi Germany. Understandably, families stayed close together at such a time out of fear that if they became separated they might never see each other again. Hannah might have rationalized that, since the land had been at peace when she made her vow, God would surely not expect her to leave her son elsewhere during a time of military turmoil. There was also another factor that might have given Hannah a reason for delay, for she had personally experienced Eli's "abilities" as a priest when he accused her of being under the influence of alcohol, but she would also have learnt, as did the rest of Israel, that Eli was an ungodly man and his two sons who served as priests were even worse. She certainly would have some idea of the decadent and ungodly situation that existed at Shiloh and in the tabernacle of God, for gossip quickly spreads about that kind of activity. She might also have rationalized that she had been unaware earlier of the sinful environment at the tabernacle and could have reasoned that Samuel should not grow up in so ungodly an atmosphere. But Hannah was not trying to rationalise her way out of the vow because she was not putting her trust in Eli, Hophni, or Phinehas, but in God who had accepted her vow and I Samuel, Chapter 1, ends with the dedication of Samuel. We learn much of her confidence that her God would take care of Samuel regardless of the ungodly environment because chapter 2:1-104 records Hannah's song of rejoicing:
1 Then Hannah prayed and said, "My heart exults in the Lord; My horn is exalted in the Lord, My mouth speaks boldly against my enemies, Because I rejoice in Thy salvation. 2 "There is no one holy like the Lord, Indeed, there is no one besides Thee, Nor is there any rock like our God. 3 "Boast no more so very proudly, Do not let arrogance come out of your mouth; For the Lord is a God of knowledge, And with Him actions are weighed. 4 "The bows of the mighty are shattered, But the feeble gird on strength. 5 "Those who were full hire themselves out for bread, But those who were hungry cease to hunger. Even the barren gives birth to seven, But she who has many children languishes. 6 "The Lord kills and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol and raises up. 7 "The Lord makes poor and rich; He brings low, He also exalts. 8 "He raises the poor from the dust, He lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with nobles, And inherit a seat of honour; For the pillars of the earth are the Lord'S, And He set the world on them. 9 "He keeps the feet of His godly ones, But the wicked ones are silenced in darkness; For not by might shall a man prevail. 10 "Those who contend with the Lord will be shattered; Against them He will thunder in the heavens, The Lord will judge the ends of the earth; And He will give strength to His king, And will exalt the horn of His anointed."
We learn from verses 20-21 that God blessed Hannah further, even as foolish Eli's prayer requested when he blessed Elkanah and Hannah (v204): "May the Lord give you children from this woman in place of the one she dedicated to the Lord." We learn that "they went to their own home and the Lord visited Hannah; and she conceived and gave birth to three sons and two daughters. And the boy Samuel grew before the Lord."
Again we learn that even a dishonourable man may pray for a blessing that God will honour, not because of the nature of the sinner, but because God's will and desire to bless His faithful servants transcends the evil of man.
We read in I Samuel 2:264:
"Now the boy Samuel was growing in stature and in favour both with the Lord and with men."
The priesthood had become desperately sinful and godly saints like Elkanah and Hannah must have gritted their teeth as they went to worship God at Shiloh. Things seemed to go from bad to worse with Eli nearing death and worshippers aware of the fact that his God-dishonouring sons were next in line. The righteous must have shuddered at the thought as they do in our day as one heretical bishop or archbishop follows another, and another un-Scriptural "Defender of Faiths" waits in the wings ready to don his kingly garb and blunder about the world further embarrassing the church and making mockery of the Lord of born again Christians. And yet, in this dark day for Israel, a little boy is growing up. Eli's sons are doomed in God's sight for He has purposed to put them to death (verse 25). They are not highly esteemed by the godly - but there is Samuel. This young lad finds favour with both God and man and, once again, in some of the darkest hours in Israel's history and when everything seems to be falling apart, God raises up the one whom He purposes to use to serve Him faithfully. Eli's sons will be removed and God has raised up Samuel to restore integrity to the Theocracy.
Verse 26 sounds strangely familiar and we recognise that Luke uses very similar words in reference to Jesus of Nazareth, as He is growing up (Luke 2:524):
52 And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men
We might ask why such similar words are used? Why would Luke choose to employ virtually the same description as the author of I Samuel to speak of Samuel's development as a child? The answer may lie in the fact that the days in which our Lord was born were also very dark days in Israel's history. The religious system had departed from the Word of God, just as in Samuel's day. And yet, while things looked very bleak for Israel, a young Lad was growing up, virtually unknown and unnoticed by the nation. This Child was the Messiah who would save His people from their sins. He would someday sit on the throne of His father, David, and, like Samuel His prototype, would exercise the priesthood in a way that would deliver the people of God from their sins.
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