The First Book of Samuel comprises the transitional history of the nation of Israel between the close of the period of the Judges and the rise of the monarchy, and it also details the establishment of the long line of Godly prophets in the land. Samuel is the central figure in the earlier part of the narrative. His life was mighty and eloquent; and when he rested from his labors, his works continued to “follow him” for a long time. Within this Book, we find illustrations of the principles of God’s moral government of mankind, and the great purpose of all His dealings with them. And the thoughtful and teachable reader is thereby led onward to Him of Whom every righteous king, true prophet, and holy priest was a picture or foreshadowing – namely, the Lord’s Anointed, the Son of David, and Christ the King!
The opening chapter of this Book gives us a glimpse into the home-life of one particular family in Israel. Elkanah, the father of the family, was a Levite; and there is only one aspect in which the common spiritual degeneracy of the times appears to have affected them. Elkanah had more than one wife, and this was the cause of much grief and wrangling in his home.
We should note that at this time, Eli combined in his own person the two offices of Judge and high priest. His 40-year-long Judgeship began in 1162 BC, 10 years before Jephthah delivered Israel from the oppressive Ammonites; and his Judgeship terminated upon his death in 1122 BC, when he heard the bad news that the Ark of the Covenant had been captured by the Philistines, during their 40-year-long period of tyranny over Israel. We do not know exactly where the events of this chapter fit into that window, but they probably transpired close to the same time as the birth of Samson – around 1140 BC.
Once every year, Elkanah and his family left their home in Ramathaim-zophim (also known as Ramah), which lay among the central highlands of the tribe of Benjamin; and the whole family went up to worship the Lord at His Tabernacle in Shiloh. On such occasions, which were of a festive character, the heart of Elkanah’s childless wife Hannah was unfeelingly wounded by the exultation and taunts of her rival, Peninnah. Her husband tried to comfort her by loving words and by a double portion from the sacrificial feasts which the whole family were allowed to share. But the wounds were not thus to be healed, and the childless wife betook herself to silent prayer.
In the fullness of the sorrow of her heart, Hannah made a solemn vow that if God would bless her with a son, she would dedicate him for life to the service of the Lord’s sanctuary. She mingled tears with her prayers; and she considered the mercy of our God, Who knows and understands the troubled soul. Hannah availed herself of the permission which God gives us, in prayer, to not only ask good things in general; but also to mention that one special good thing which we most need and desire!
Hannah spoke the words of her prayer in her heart; none could hear her. But as Eli sat at the door of the Tabernacle courtyard and watched the throng of worshipers, he unknowingly added to the affliction of the weeping Hannah; for he mistook her silent wrestlings with God for the effects of drunkenness, and he sharply rebuked her. It is a bad thing for us to be rash and hasty in our censures of others. Thankfully, however, when Eli discovered his error, he was willing to acknowledge his mistake; and he dismissed the poor sorrowful woman with a blessing. So Hannah went away with great satisfaction of mind. By prayer, she herself had committed her case to God; and Eli had also prayed that her petition would be granted. Prayer is heart’s ease to a gracious soul. No one will remain miserable for very long if they rightly use the privilege of going to the mercy-seat of our reconciled God in Christ Jesus!
The Lord mercifully heard and answered Hannah’s prayer! In due time, a son was born to her; and the rejoicing mother named him Samuel – meaning, “asked of God.” Although Hannah felt a warm regard for the Tabernacle, she begged her husband to let her stay at home with her child until he was of sufficient age to enter God’s service without ceasing. And it was at a very early age, probably not more than three years old, that Samuel was brought to the sanctuary. Fathers and mothers must teach even their littlest children to worship and love Jesus. Hannah presented her child to the Lord with a grateful acknowledgment of His goodness in answer to her prayer. Whatever we give to God, we are only giving back to Him what we have first asked and received from Him.
This family-scene speaks a message to all Christian parents. Let your children be as Samuel was – the subjects of many prayers, and dedicated to the Lord! “The promise is unto you, and to your children” (Acts 2:39). Pray for them – and look for the answer to your supplications! Let it be your highest ambition for them that they may receive saving grace, and become heirs of everlasting life! This is worth more than any success, wealth, or power in this world. In the end, it will do more to gladden your parental hearts when you see them among them the followers of the Redeemer, rather than to behold them in an exalted and powerful position where all people on earth look up to them. Like Hannah, wrestle with the Lord in prayer for your sons and daughters; and refuse to let Him go, unless He pronounces a blessing upon them!
Lord, we pray for our children and grandchildren, and for the children of all Christian parents; and we beseech You that they may receive saving grace and become heirs of everlasting life, instead of merely being successful or wealthy in this world. Amen.
Join other families all around the globe! Receive the full-color, freely downloadable format of these thoughts in your email every day, and enjoy a FREE copy of my e-book A Call to Family Worship! It’s my prayer that you and your family will be equipped to receive abundant blessings from the hand of the Lord as you study His Word and worship in His presence together.
illustration by Frank William Warwick Topham (1838-1924) | Wikimedia Commons