Monday, March 23, 2009

In the Silence...

Torn Between Two Lovers stands out to me as one of my all time most hated songs from the 70's. It came out the year I graduated from High School if I recall correctly, and it prompted a swift switch of the radio station each time I heard the first two or three notes. To compare it to nails on a chalkboard is inadequate, it was nauseating to me.

In 1 Samuel chapters 1 through 3, we meet Elkanah and his two wives, Peninnah and Hannah. Every year their family went to Shiloh to present offerings at the tabernacle, and along the way Peninnah (who had children) taunted and ridiculed Hannah who was childless.

I mentioned earlier in our scripture journey that God never ordained polygamy, and here is yet another example of its peril. Elkanah loved Hannah according to scripture and could not understand her grief over being barren. Peninnah may have realized that she was less loved than Hannah and possibly that is why she was cruel to her, but whatever the reason, there was obviously hostility between the two and Hannah was wounded to the core of her being that she was unable to conceive.

As the story unfolds, Hannah prays after the sacrificial meal as she cries in bitter anguish. According to the passage, her mouth was moving but nothing audible was heard by the priest, so he mistakenly thought she was drunk. In her prayer, she promised that if God would give her a son, she would dedicate his life to God's service.

We learn in these chapters that God heard her prayer and granted her request--she conceived and delivered a baby boy named Samuel. Hannah kept her promise to God and when Samuel was weaned, she delivered him to the priest to begin his life of service to The Lord.

There are many little lessons from these verses and some big ones, too. Some of them are funny in an ironic sort of way, others are sad in a tragic sort of way, and a few are just that--lessons--that we can all stand to remember as we deal with life's difficulties.

I've decided to depart from my usual format to mention a few of my observations rather than honing in on just one, so I hope you'll bear with me for not sticking to one primary point. Here are my thoughts:

1. Men don't get women, and women don't get men. Elkanah had no clue what was going on in Hannah's heart, and even though he loved her, he had no idea how deeply she was hurting. The Lesson? Accept that men and women really are extremely opposite "animals," so invest some time and effort in to understanding rather than criticizing our differences.

2. Women are sometimes catty--and jealous--and competitive. Penninah was blessed with children, but didn't resist the temptation to rub in her good fortune to her "rival" Hannah. The Lesson? Do not be Penninah-ish because you might go down in history for the wrong reasons.

3. Sometimes we think we are cursed because of unrealized dreams and hopes. The Lesson? It's possible that God's timing may not align with ours. He is seldom early, but never late, and when he says no, there is a very good reason that we may not discover in this lifetime.

4. Calling on "The Lord of Hosts" is the same as calling on "The Lord of Heaven's Armies," and that is exactly who Hannah cried out to in her desperation. The Lesson? "Lord of Hosts" is used about 260 times in the Old Testament and is a very good description of Our God who Protects and Defends. If you're feeling beaten up on, just call His name--He is the God who hears. I would be remiss not to qualify this "lesson" with a reminder that he hears those who are his.

5. You don't have to pray aloud to be heard by God. Hannah was praying silently, yet God heard her prayer and gave His answer to what was known only to them. The Lesson? Pray at all times, pray without ceasing and then pray some more. God hears even our silent prayers and that seems to indicate to me that he hears all sorts of other things, too. The admonition to take every thought captive is a good one to remember as you consider God's ability to hear our hearts.

6. Keep your promises. Hannah made a very costly vow to God, but she kept her word. God used Samuel in amazing ways all because Hannah was willing to surrender her right to renege on her promise. The Lesson? If you don't mean it, don't say it. God is serious about vows and vow-makers.

These and many other lessons can be gleaned from the first three chapters of 1 Samuel. God's Word is as relevant today as when it was written and I am so thrilled to get the privilege of searching his truth with you!

Dear Father, thank you for the lessons of scripture and the love of my Savior. You alone are the God who hears even in the silence and I am grateful and blessed. In Jesus' Name. Amen.

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