Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Dark Days in Israel

"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" (1 Samuel 2:22).

The two books of Samuel are actually one book. It opens at the temple in Shiloh and closes with God’s selection for the site of the temple of Solomon (2 Samuel 24:16; see 2 Chronicles 3:1). At the beginning of Samuel, the nation of Israel had sunk deep into corruption. They were dominated by the Philistines and for the most part didn’t mind. The tabernacle at Shiloh, called a temple because permanent buildings had grown around it, was largely ignored.

Old Eli was high priest and judge. Though he was not an unrighteous man, he refused to deal with his sons. They had made it a practice to steal the best part of the sacrifices from God, ruining the acts of worship performed by the faithful remnant in Israel. They also laid with the deaconesses who assisted women at the tabernacle.

There were still some people who made a point to attend the annual feasts: Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. A few came to worship the Lord, but many came for less noble reasons. One year a woman named Hannah came with her husband to one of the feasts. She went near the tabernacle to pray. Her lips moved as she prayed silently, and old Eli assumed she was just one more drunkard. He rebuked her for being drunk in God’s house, but she told him she was in misery. She was barren and the other wife of her husband constantly ridiculed her for it. Eli blessed Hannah and asked God to grant her a son.

In due course, a son was born, and Hannah named him Samuel. She had made a vow to dedicate her son to the Lord, and when Samuel was weaned she brought him to Eli. Each year she visited him and brought a new handmade robe.

A comparison of Judges 13:1 and 15:20 with 1 Samuel 7:2 and 7–13 reveals that Samuel may have been born about the same time as Samson. Both men were dedicated to the Lord before birth and both were Nazirites (1 Samuel 1:11). The battle of Mizpah, where Samuel defeated the Philistine army, probably happened right after Samson had killed the Philistine leadership. In the births of Samson and Samuel, we can see that God was raising up salvation for His people.

Even before the spiritual leadership in Israel cried out for God’s help, God had taken the initiative to redeem His people. Samuel is but one of many examples. The divine initiative always precedes our human response. Recount the many times and places you have experienced God’s unrequested but necessary intervention.