The Life And Times Of Samuel The Prophet
(1 Sam. 1: 19-28)
THE night of Hannah's mourning is ended, the word had gone forth, "The God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of Him," and though as yet without sign or token, she rested in the spoken word. It could be said of her, as was said of her New Testament antitype: "Blessed is she that believeth: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord " (Luke 1 45). So we read:
"And they rose up in the morning early, and worshiped before the Lord, and returned, and came to their house, to Ramah: and Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her. Wherefore it came to pass, when the time was come about after Hannah had conceived, that she bare a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, Because I have asked him of the Lord.
"And the man Elkanah and all his house went up to offer unto the Lord the yearly sacrifice, and his vow. But Hannah went not up; for she said unto her husband, I will not go up until the child be weaned, and then will I bring him, that he may appear before the Lord, and there abide forever. And Elkanah her husband said unto her, Do what seemeth thee good - tarry until thou have weaned him; only the Lord establish his word. So the woman abode and gave her son suck until she weaned him.
"And when she had weaned him she took him up with her; with three bullocks, and one ephah of flour, and a bottle of wine, and brought him unto the house of the Lord in Shiloh: and the child was young. And they slew a bullock, and brought the child to Eli. And she said, O my lord, as thy soul liveth, my lord, I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying unto the Lord. For this child I prayed, and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of Him: therefore also have I lent him to the Lord; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord. And he worshiped the Lord there."
Like Sarah, the wife of Elkanah "through faith received strength to conceive seed," and the happy mother at last held in her arms "the son of her vows." Elkanah himself, though of less energy of faith than his wife, says, "The Lord establish His word;" it would indicate that he shared with his wife, in some measure, at least, an expectation of blessing coming to Israel through the child of Hannah's prevailing prayer. The words imply the hope of some special mission to be committed to Samuel, and in common with his noble wife, some expectation that better days would come to God's people through the birth of this son.
The glad and grateful mother embodies in her son's name God's great goodness to her in answer to her petition for a son. She calls him Samuel - heard, or asked, of God. And the name was not only intended to be commemorative of the fact that God hears and answers the earnest prayer of the righteous, but seems as a prophecy of the place that prayer was to have in the afterlife of this God - given child. (See 1 Sam. 7:5 ; 8:6 ; 12:19, 23; 15:11).
And, dear fellow believer, shall not these examples of prayer, both of this mother and her son, stir us up in the same ? We excuse ourselves by lack of time, a busy age, so many things requiring attention, so many duties and obligations resting upon us; how shall we find the time to pray as Scripture exhorts us to do ? If we were people of leisure, or dwelling in solitude, we might be men and women of prayer, too. So we think, and so most suppose. But it is not so; we can pray best right in the circumstances where God has placed us; there we see and feel and realize the world's, and the church's, and our own individual need, as we could not know them in some secluded monastery or hermitage. It is the sense of need and what we have to meet with in daily life that drives unto the Lord, or draws us to the mercy-seat.
As for the necessary time to pray, what time is better employed than in prayer? And it does not always mean to be on our knees, or in our Closets, or in the prayer-meeting. Hannah prayed, though "only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard; "yet what saint prayed more earnestly or really? "I have poured out my soul before the Lord," she says. It is prayer such as this that brings down blessing from above, rather than the stated, formal prayers, read or said on regular occasions. May God give us more Hannah's for supplication, and more Samuels for intercession
Some of God's servants, like Elijah the Tishbite, come into view suddenly and unannounced, and like stars of first magnitude continue in our field of vision for a considerable time; others, like Samson and John the Baptist, have their coming fore-announced, like those heavenly luminaries whose appearance have been foretold; they come into view gradually, by easy stages, as it were. So with Samuel; we may say, his birth and infancy augur something more than common. He is in some things a type of that great Deliverer, our Lord Jesus Christ, whose early life was in quiet retirement until presented to Israel.
Hannah's words to Eli on the presentation of her child are in marked keeping with her lovely disposition of meekness and unresentment. She does not say, I am the woman you so rashly misjudged at the tabernacle entrance, and this is the child for which I was praying when you charged me with drunkenness. No, there is nothing of this. Her triumph is in God, as one that knows Him as the bountiful Giver of all good. "I am the woman," she says, "that stood by thee here, praying unto the Lord. For this child I prayed, and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of Him."
Christian reader, how much like Hannah are we in forgetting wrongs received at the hands of others? How prone we all are to resent and remember an insult or a misinterpretation of our actions by others - we who offend so much, and have need to be ourselves forgiven wrongs done to others, which we have forgotten, perhaps. May we earnestly seek and cultivate a like spirit of non-resentment, and forget injuries, even when the insult was unmerited, as it was with her. Alas, how often we do wrong, and then indignantly resent and hardly forgive those whose duty it maybe to rebuke or correct us. May we learn more of Him who was "meek and lowly in heart," and then shall we indeed "find rest unto our souls."
"Therefore also I have lent him to the Lord," she adds: "as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord." "Lent," should be, rather, "given." She did not selfishly cling to him, nor make a scene at her parting with the loved and lovable" son of her vows" (Prov. 31: 2). She gives him up freely, gladly, for was it not for this very purpose that she waited long and prayed earnestly? She was not of those who vow and afterwards repent (Eccl. 5:4,5). Like David, of the following generation, she vowed "unto the mighty God of Jacob," and would perform it promptly.
Three years of age is said to have been the time of weaning with Hebrews; if this was Samuel's age when left with Eli, it exhibits to a marked degree the devotion of Hannah to the interests of Jehovah and His worship, to leave her child at the tabernacle so young. But "all things are possible to him that believeth," and faith rises above nature; she gave him gladly, and doubtless with assurance that the Lord had need of him, and would use him to the honor of His great and glorious name in Israel.
"And he worshiped the Lord there," we read. If this refers to Samuel, it would argue that he was considerably more than three years old. The Revised Version says in a footnote, that several ancient authorities read they for he, which, if correct, would present the beautiful picture of the company - Eli, Hannah, her husband, and others - all together in worshipful praise of the God of Israel for this gift of His love to the nation.
It takes us in thought to that lovely scene in the temple more than a thousand years later, when another group of godly souls, who also "looked for redemption in Israel," gathered round an Infant, to hold in their arms the Redeemer Himself, when aged Simeon adoringly said, "Lord, now lettest Thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation" (Luke 2:29).
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