Eli’s sons, who served as priests with their father in the tent of meeting, were wicked men. They slept with the women who served at the entrance of the tent and treated the Lord’s offerings with contempt (1 Sam. 2:12-26). Interspersed throughout the description of their actions and Eli’s attempts to correct them are three references to the boy, Samuel. Even as the men made a mockery of peoples’ offerings, Samuel ministered before the Lord (1 Sam. 2:18). Eli’s sons refused to listen to their father’s rebuke, but “Samuel continued to grow in stature and in favor with the Lord and with men” (1 Sam. 2:26). Samuel managed to stay pure even in the midst of great evil. The story doesn’t give many details as to how this was possible. However, we do know that Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord (1 Sam. 2:21). The implication: It’s pretty hard to sin when we’re close to God.
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I appreciate Hannah’s prayer of thanksgiving after God provides a son. One of the themes in her prayer is that it is not by human strength that one prevails (1 Samuel 2:9-10). She saw it firsthand when God answered her heartfelt prayer for a child. Yet, Hannah extends her application of the lesson to more universal matters. We need to do our part, but ultimately, it’s God’s strength, often working through His people, that will make a lasting difference.
This theme reminds me of one of my favorite passages in Zechariah 4:6-9. Zerubbabel had already laid the foundation of the temple. However, the daunting task of actually building the structure itself lay before him. As leaders, we regularly face significant challenges as we seek to follow God’s truth and His leading in our lives. God’s word to us is: “You can’t do it in the way I desire in your own strength, but with the help of My Spirit, you can.”
Hannah knew what it was like to have someone hassle her (1 Samuel 1:1-8). The source of the ridicule was her husband’s other wife, Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none, so Penninah bugged her about it. In fact, whenever they went up to the house of the Lord, Hannah’s rival provoked her until she wept and would not eat. We know that Hannah’s husband, Elkanah, loved Hannah. Yet, I wonder why he didn’t step in and confront Penninah’s inappropriate behavior (Elkanah’s inaction is a good reminder that we need to support those who are being treated unfairly and to even attempt to make the situation better). Perhaps, you are in a work or school situation where someone is provoking you. Hannah ultimately took the matter to God in prayer and God responded. Obviously, we may need to take other steps, but prayer is always the best place to start and proceed.