Monday 21 December 2020

Bible Book:
1 Samuel

‘… I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord.' (1 Samuel 1:15b)

1 Samuel 1:1-20 Monday 21 December 2020

Psalm 126


This is a passage close to my heart. As I write the notes for this week’s Word in Time, on passages that cover not one, not two, but three miraculous conceptions, I am six months' pregnant (and empathising with Elizabeth in yesterday’s passage, who was presumably starting to struggle to put on her own shoes). However, this joy was preceded by over two years of tests, appointments and fretful uncertainty. During those two years, hearing Hannah’s story would leave me struggling for composure. I found myself wondering whether Peninnah really did seek to ‘provoke’ Hannah (1:6), or whether the mere presence of a woman with children was enough to make Hannah’s heart break. If, this week, the stories of Mary, Elizabeth and Hannah touch a nerve, please be gentle with yourself as you read and reflect.

There are clear echoes of Hannah’s story in the passages we read this week from Luke’s Gospel. Her song in 1 Samuel 2 becomes the pattern for Mary’s (Luke 1:46-55) – both describe the reversals of power and fortune that God will bring about. Hannah promises that if God grants her a son, he will be set apart as a nazarite, taking the vow in Numbers 6:1-21 and (among other things) abstaining from alcohol. Gabriel insists that the same must be true for John the Baptist (Luke 1:15).

God ‘remembering’ Hannah in her distress can be read as a promise that God will ‘remember’ Israel in its distress and intervene miraculously. Israel’s distress has not yet been described, but is hinted at in the naming of Eli’s two sons in 1 Samuel 1:3, who will come to represent the corruption of Israel’s religious life. Hannah’s son, by contrast, will be set apart to live a ‘holy’ life, will hear directly from God at a time when "the word of the Lord was rare" (1 Samuel 3:1), and will play a vital role in the life of Saul, Israel’s first king. Like the sons promised to Elizabeth and Mary, Samuel's conception points towards the dawning of a new hope for God’s people.

To Ponder:

  • Hannah wanted a son desperately. Why would she offer to set him apart as a nazarite, and give him up as soon as he was weaned (1:22)?
  • Samuel lived an unusual life, ‘set apart’ as a nazarite and living in the Temple. Yet he played a vital role in the establishment of Israel’s first king. Does living a ‘holy’ life mean distancing ourselves from worldly affairs, or getting stuck in? Can you think of examples where either one is more appropriate?



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