The Lord Decides

1 Samuel 1:1-8

1There was a certain man from Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. 2He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none.

3Year after year this man went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the Lord Almighty at Shiloh, where Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were priests of the Lord. 4Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters. 5But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the Lord had closed her womb. 6Because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. 7This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. 8Her husband Elkanah would say to her, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”

Introduction

If you evaluate your devotion to God, what is the intensity of your zealousness? Devotion to the Lord can reflect the level of faith in Him but it can be misinterpreted as zealousness of belief but not faith in Christ. Apostle Paul testified in Philippians 3:6, 6as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.          

Before Paul put his faith in Christ, he assumed that his faultless righteousness based on the law was faith in God but actually he was confident not to God but in his ability. In his zealousness to prove his faith, he persecuted the church. When involved in the ministry, genuine devotion to God is faithfulness produced by Christ’s Spirit.

Don’t be misled by zealousness just to present one’s self as devoted Christian.

The books of Samuel present King David’s obedience prompted by faith in God. In contrast, King Saul was misled by zeal for Israel. 2 Samuel 21:2 states, 2The Gibeonites were not a part of Israel but were survivors of the Amorites; the Israelites had sworn to spare them, but Saul in his zeal for Israel and Judah had tried to annihilate them.

Saul was the first anointed king of Israel but the Lord raised David as successor. David was very zealous to obey what God orders. It says in Acts 13:22, 22After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’

When the next generation discusses about our lifestyle, would you wish to be compared to King Saul’s zeal for Israel or King David’s obedience to God? Our lifestyle and activities can practically reflect our devotion to the Lord.

1.Devotion

1There was a certain man from Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. 2He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none. 3Year after year this man went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the Lord Almighty at Shiloh, where Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were priests of the Lord.

Elkanah may not dream that his name will be mentioned among the great men in Israel. He was just a regular devotee who practiced his faith regularly. It seems like he was contented with his life. The term ‘year after year’ implies regularity of his devotion to thank and worship God. He lived in Ramathaim located in western part of Ephraim.

The tabernacle (Tent of Meeting) was in Shiloh. Shiloh was located in northeast of Ephraim’s territory which was more or less 50 kilometers from Ramathaim.  To worship the Lord in Shiloh, Elkanah and his family must have been devoted to the Lord.

The devoted lifestyle of Elkanah was highlighted and compared to the lifestyle of the two sons of Priest Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, who were also priests of the Lord. In the succeeding chapters, their wickedness and prophecy against them were recounted.

Why did the Lord let the story of the devotion of Elkanah and the wickedness of Hophni and Phinehas be told or compared next to each other? Did the Lord want to teach us that religious title or non-title does not define the person acceptable to Him?

Serving the Lord as religious leaders is a privilege but does not automatically assure that the person practices faith in the Lord. Actually, it warns us in 2 Peter 2:1-3,

1But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.

We are not instructed by the Lord to point fingers at who is who. If we sense some individuals who may have been deceived to believe that their zealousness is act of faith, we’ve got to pray for them to realize their need to sincerely depend upon the Lord instead of their instinct or expertise. Doubts or presumptions could God’s prompter for us also to be more focused upon Him instead of scrutinizing the mistakes of others.

Most often, harmony in the church collapsed because of “I am better than you,” dominant attitude. The devotion of Elkanah may have been disturbed because his wife Peninnah had a dominant attitude toward Hannah. Elkanah loved Hannah more than Peninnah. And it was obvious. Instead of harmony, there was division in his household.

2. Division

4Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters. 5But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the Lord had closed her womb.

Peninnah may have been expecting that Elkanah should love her more because he had children with her. Elkanah may not intentionally display favoritism when he gave double portion to Hannah. He may have tried to comfort Hannah for being barren. His favoritism was very obvious, and the Lord did not allow Hannah to get pregnant.

The Israelites interpreted pregnancy as blessing from the Lord. Psalm 127:3 says, 3Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.

Do you feel comfortable when children run around or make noise when adults are gathered or having discussion? While it is great to have children behave quietly around adults, parents are encouraged to train children how to behave accordingly.

It commands parents in Ephesians 6:4, 4Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Truly, many parents try but find it hard to train their children, why? They may use teaching methods suggested at parenting seminars. Parenting seminars suggestions are generics and surely, not applicable to each child. Each child is unique, and should be trained or taught uniquely. Moreover, the command to train a child is godly. So, to whom should we seek wisdom for parenting method best for each child if not the Lord?

 6Because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. 7This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. 8Her husband Elkanah would say to her, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”

The Lord closed Hannah’s womb may have been an object lesson for Elkanah not to have favoritism but instead, give fair share of love to all his family members. Elkanah expected Hannah to sense his love because of the double portion he gave her. Hannah understood Elkanah’s intention but Peninnah’s provocation was really tough for her.

Regardless of Elkanah’s favoritism, she wept before the Lord. She didn’t retaliate despite of Peninnah’s provocation which only proved that she was more focused on seeking the Lord’s favor rather than fighting for her right to be respected.

Someone said that prayer is the best defense against character assassination.

When people try to destroy your reputation, they want to destroy you as a person.  The temptation when we face such problem is to follow our instinct.

The night before Christ was crucified, He prayed while the disciples slept. He said in Matthew 26:38-41, 38“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” 39Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” 40Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Christ clearly instructed the disciples to keep watch. They did the opposite. They slept because human instinct was pleasing. Jesus exemplified that prayer is best option for believers when facing problems. The Lord decides which answer is best for us.

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