Friday

12 December 2014

“Samuel was ministering before the Lord.” (v. 18)

Psalm: Psalm 67


Background

In the verses before this passage we are told about the sinful acts of the sons of Eli and the theme continues in verses 22-25. Eli had heard how his sons were sleeping with the women who served at the site in Shiloh, an activity that is reminiscent of temple prostitution found in the fertility rites of many of the surrounding nations. Deuteronomy 23:17-18 explicitly bans this and Eli warned his sons about their behaviour. Eli suggested that if someone sins against God, there is nobody to intercede for them and we are told that the Lord had decided that they should be killed.

We are faced here with issues of free will, predestination and the opportunity to repent. But the emphasis of this passage and in Hannah's song is on a God who is free to act, rather than human freedom. This is the God who kills and brings to life (1 Samuel 2:6).

Turning to this God who brings life, we find this very evident in the contrasting story of Samuel. Unlike the sons of Eli, he is ministering before the Lord. We read too the touching story of his mother bringing him a new robe every year as the boy grows bigger. Samuel's family are blessed as well, with the cost of offering Samuel to serve God being repaid with three more sons and two daughters for Hannah. God is bringing life into their family.

Samuel is growing physically, but in verse 26 we are told that he not only grows in stature but also in favour with the people and with God. The whole passage reminds us of Luke's Gospel once again. In Luke 2:41-52 we find that Jesus has made himself at home in the temple as a young boy, just as Samuel did; whilst verse 52 tells us that rather like Samuel, Jesus "increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favour".


To Ponder

  • God has willed that Eli's sons should be killed. It seems that God has given up on them. How do you feel about this?
  • Hannah is repaid with more children for her offering to God. How do you respond to this understanding of the world based on payment and favour?
  • Samuel grew in stature and favour. What does it mean to you to grow in stature in a spiritual and moral sense?

 
Bible notes author:  The Revd Jonathan Mead   

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