Archive for April, 2011


God Not Yet Revealed

A popular children’s Bible story is that of the boy Samuel being called four times by the Lord.  Each time, he was confused and thought it was the priest Eli who was calling him.  And each time Eli sent him back to bed.  I wondered when I read this, “How did Samuel not know that this voice was different and that the speaker was the Lord?”

The answer is given in 1 Samuel chapter 3, where we read:

“Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD: The word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.”  — 1 Samuel 3:7

This seems strange to me – that Samuel could be living in the Lord’s house, under the care of a priest – and yet not know the Lord?  Is this a reflection of more of Eli’s parenting skills?  (see the previous post).  Perhaps it is, but we are also made aware of the culture of the times earlier in the chapter:

“The boy Samuel ministered before the LORD under Eli. In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions.”  — 1 Samuel 3:1

Though Samuel was performing the act of ministry, it seems to have been disconnected from God Himself – it was just a job or just an activity to do according to a set of rules.  Perhaps there an analogy there to the approach that some will take to church attendance today – that is, turning it into a “good action”, rather than a time of worship to the Lord?


A Father’s Failure

The boyhood upbringing of Samuel is in stark contrast to that of the sons of Eli the priest.  Though Eli was a priest before God, his sons were evil and wicked.  The Bible says:

This sin of the young men was very great in the LORD’s sight, for they were treating the LORD’s offering with contempt.” 1 Samuel 2:17


“Now Eli, who was very old, heard about everything his sons were doing to all Israel and how they slept with the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting.  So he said to them, “Why do you do such things? I hear from all the people about these wicked deeds of yours.  No, my sons; the report I hear spreading among the LORD’s people is not good.  If one person sins against another, God may mediate for the offender; but if anyone sins against the LORD, who will intercede for them?”  His sons, however, did not listen to their father’s rebuke, for it was the LORD’s will to put them to death.”  — 1 Samuel 2:22-25

One has to wonder how Eli could let this continue, being an influential priest.  God took notice of this evil and laid down a prophecy curse against Eli’s household in chapter 2.  And a father’s failure led to this:

And the LORD said to Samuel: “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle.  At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family—from beginning to end.  For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons made themselves contemptible, and he failed to restrain them.  Therefore, I swore to the house of Eli, ‘The guilt of Eli’s house will never be atoned for by sacrifice or offering.’”   — 1 Samuel 3:11-14

“And he failed to restrain them” – a good lesson.


Hannah’s True Motivation

The book of 1 Samuel opens with the story of a woman named Hannah, whose chief goal appears to be that she give birth to a son.  Though she appears to be godly, the Bible says that “the Lord had closed her womb” (1:5).  After much weeping and “bitterness of soul”, Hannah is finally blessed with the son that she desired.

So, it is somewhat surprising that after receiving this gift, she would immediately turn around and give up the boy to live in the temple with the priest Eli, where it appears he was raised from a very young age.  What does this say about Hannah?

First, she keeps her word.  At least part of the reason that she was able to have a son was because she had promised God to dedicate him to the Lord’s service (1:11).  But even more importantly, we see Hannah’s true God-honoring spirit evident in chapter 2:

 Then Hannah prayed and said:

   “My heart rejoices in the LORD;
   in the LORD my horn is lifted high.
My mouth boasts over my enemies,
   for I delight in your deliverance.

 “There is no one holy like the LORD;
   there is no one besides you;
   there is no Rock like our God.”  — 1 Samuel 2:1-2

Further reading of Hannah’s prayer reveals the depth of spirit that this woman had.  And God blessed her for it.  May we have the same attitude of dedication to the Lord.


An Unlikely Leader

When I think of the judges who led Israel after they have settled in the Promised Land, I think of great men, influential and full of leadership qualities.

So I am confused by their leader in the middle of the book of Judges – Samson.  The Bible is clear:

“Samson led Israel for twenty years in the days of the Philistines.”  — Judges 15:20

And yet we see Samson take a Philistine wife (14:1-2), kill thirty men in anger after losing a bet (14:19), separate from his Philistine wife (14:20), burn up the grain, vineyards and olive groves of the Philistines (15:3-5), kill another thousand men in anger (15:15), visit a prostitute (16:1), and fall in love with yet another evil woman named Delilah (16:4).

So what is God trying to tell us?  Is it that earthly leaders of this world don’t matter as much as we think?  That what really matters is that His people put their trust in Him alone?  I wonder…..


God’s Unlikely Plans

I had forgotten that Samson was married to another woman before he met Delilah.  But Judges chapter 14 tells us about his first wife, a Philistine woman.  My first reaction was that Samson made an unwise decision, having known about God’s prior warnings to not fraternize with the women of the surrounding nations.

Samson went down to Timnah and saw there a young Philistine woman.  When he returned, he said to his father and mother, “I have seen a Philistine woman in Timnah; now get her for me as my wife.”

His father and mother replied, “Isn’t there an acceptable woman among your relatives or among all our people? Must you go to the uncircumcised Philistines to get a wife?”

But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me. She’s the right one for me.”  (His parents did not know that this was from the LORD, who was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines; for at that time they were ruling over Israel.)Judges 14:1-4

What struck me was that this marriage – though seemingly done unwisely – was actually part of God’s plan to pit Samson against the Philistines at a later time.  God’s plans are always at work and sometimes take the most unlikely form – at least to us.


The Most Tragic Story In The Bible

One of the most difficult stories in the Bible to read and understand:

Then the Spirit of the LORD came on Jephthah. He crossed Gilead and Manasseh, passed through Mizpah of Gilead, and from there he advanced against the Ammonites.  And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD: “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the LORD’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.”

Then Jephthah went over to fight the Ammonites, and the LORD gave them into his hands.  He devastated twenty towns from Aroer to the vicinity of Minnith, as far as Abel Keramim. Thus Israel subdued Ammon.

When Jephthah returned to his home in Mizpah, who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing to the sound of timbrels! She was an only child. Except for her he had neither son nor daughter.  When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, “Oh no, my daughter! You have brought me down and I am devastated. I have made a vow to the LORD that I cannot break.”Judges 11:29-35

If the Old Testament stories are meant to tell us about the character of God, what is the lesson here?  It is hard for me to accept that God would hold Jephthah to his promise and allow him to sacrifice his daughter – but there it is.  What is the purpose of this story?  That we should not make rash vows?  That a commitment to God cannot be undone?  Why this ending to this story?


Getting Rid of Idols

Each time that the Israelites got into more trouble than they could handle, they come running back to God.  We see one instance here:

The LORD replied, “When the Egyptians, the Amorites, the Ammonites, the Philistines, the Sidonians, the Amalekites and the Maonites oppressed you and you cried to me for help, did I not save you from their hands?  But you have forsaken me and served other gods, so I will no longer save you.  Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen. Let them save you when you are in trouble!”

But the Israelites said to the LORD, “We have sinned. Do with us whatever you think best, but please rescue us now.”  Then they got rid of the foreign gods among them and served the LORD.  And he could bear Israel’s misery no longer.Judges 10:11-16

Notice how God did NOT choose to return to them until they had purposefully rid themselves of their foreign gods.  Just asking for his blessing and oversight was not enough.

How about us?  If I come to the conclusion that watching television is not good for my thought life, is it enough to just turn off the set and tell God that I want to change?  Perhaps He would bless that decision in a greater way if we actually took the step of getting rid of the television?

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