There are many that look to the Lord as if He is a sort of genie in a bottle that exists in order to appease people with the things that they want. Many people despise God or turn from Him simply because they don’t get what they want from Him or they don’t like the things that He does. The Bible NEVER suggests or implies that God works in this sort of manner. While the Bible does explain that God will bless people with the desires of their heart, the context explains that God will do so when His people’s hearts are in line with His. Thus, if one expects God to fulfill the desires of one’s heart, one’s heart must be centered on God’s will being done instead of one’s own. God is not a respecter of persons. God does not submit to people. God alone is almighty and sovereign over all things and is in no need to relent in His will in order to meet the “wants” of others. Since the Lord God is Almighty, one must die to one’s self and one’s personal affections in order submit to God’s will and purposes that are ultimately good. When one expects that God will just jump down from His throne in order to give what one wants, one will be sorely disappointed in the end.
The history of the children of Israel proves this point to be true. The Book of Judges explained that, before Israel had kings governing the people, Israel was in a severe state of spiritual confusion and infirmity. The regional judges that were appointed throughout Israel were not sufficient to lead Israel in a spiritual capacity. As a result, the children of Israel departed from the Lord in order to seek their own affections and desires. They soon were worshiping false gods and idols to appease the desires of their flesh. They forsook the Lord God in order to do so. The Bible explains that “everyone did what seemed right in their own eyes.” They did not follow the standards of God’s righteousness according to the Law. Therefore, the scriptures explain that God stopped speaking to the people because they did not desire to seek Him.
During this time in Israel’s history, God used surrounding nations to oppress the children of Israel in order to drive His people back to Himself. God allowed surrounding enemy nations to have various victories against the children of Israel so that in their suffering, the children of Israel would turn their attention and focus back on the Lord of Hosts that saves, delivers, and exalts the humble. God used these enemy nations to bring Israel to humility in order that He could receive them according to His patient mercy and grace, thereby working towards the fulfillment of His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. One of the people groups that God used to discipline and correct the children of Israel was the Philistines. The testimony of Israel documented in1 Samuel 4:1-10 explains that the Philistines were attacking the children of Israel and oppressing them during the time of Eli, Hophni, Phinehas and Samuel as well.
The Bible explains that in 1 Samuel 4:1-10 the word of the Lord was going out to the children of Israel through Samuel. The Lord was drawing Samuel close to Himself through the Word and Samuel grew in the Lord as a result. The Word of God was powerful in Samuel so that the people all over recognized Samuel as a legit prophet of God and respected him as such. Therefore, it was not as if the Word of the Lord had completely departed from Israel. It was not as if God was too distant from Israel for them to seek Him. It was not as if the Lord was so angry and frustrated with Israel that He was inaccessible. While the Lord was not speaking through Eli, Hophni, and Phinehas, the Bible clearly explains that God was still making Himself know to His people, but through His chosen vessels that would humbly respond to His holy and righteous nature as servants. Samuel was that man, created for that purpose, and was submissive to that purpose so that all of Israel was able to benefit from it.
During this time the Bible explains that the Philistines often attacked the children of Israel. During the time of 1 Samuel 4:1-10 the Bible explains that Israel and the Philistines were in battle formation against them. In one day, the Philistines killed about four thousand men of the children of Israel, causing them to flee. When this happened, the people began to blame God. Though they had not been seeking God, they wondered why God did not provide victory as He had in the past with Joshua and some of the other judges. Though Israel did not humble themselves before God, they expected Him to sit by their side to serve their various needs and desires according to their selfish ambitions. Israel wondered how they were defeated. Israel wondered why God didn’t perform to their expectations. Israel wondered why God would allow the children of Israel to experience difficulty.
Since they wanted God to exercise His power as the Lord of Hosts and bring them victory, the people suggested getting the Ark of the Covenant and bringing it out to the battlefield. They figured that God’s presence that resided above the Ark, over the Mercy Seat, between the cherubim, would be sufficient to ward off the Philistines and bring them victory. They figured the Ark of God to be like a magic trinket, that if flashed around, could bring supernatural power to do what they wanted. They figured the Ark of the Covenant to be of their own possession to treat in whatever manner they wanted without considering the righteousness, holiness, and glory of God. Hence, as the children of Israel brought the Ark out amongst the people, the people shouted for joy in the battlefield, figuring that they were indestructible on behalf of God.
The scriptures explain that when the Philistines heard the shouts of the children of Israel, they were terrified. They wondered where Israel suddenly received encouragement? Israel once resembled a defeated foe, but suddenly was empowered by something. The Philistines speculated that the Lord has visited Israel. They figured they were doomed because the Lord was going to fight for Israel as He had in the past for the Egyptians. However, the Bible shows that the Philistines were equally as ignorant about the temperament and holiness of the Lord as the children of Israel. The Philistines referred to the Lord God Almighty as one of many gods that the children of Israel worshiped. This explains two things. First, that the children of Israel were worshiping other gods besides the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who’s name is Yahweh. Secondly, it shows that the Philistines mistook the Lord God Almighty, the Lord of Hosts, as One equal in power or stature to the false gods of the region. They were wrong on this account, but God would prove that later.
The Philistines trembled in fear about the idea of God siding with the children of Israel, even though they figured Him to be equal to false gods. The Philistine commanders then went through the ranks of their armies to straighten their men out. They commanded them to get into battle formation, get a hold of themselves and prepare to advance. The commanders of the Philistine armies did not fear the children of Israel and prepared their men to advance. As they advanced, the scriptures explain that the Philistines succeeded against the children of Israel so that thirty thousand men of Israel died! The presence of the Ark of the Covenant made no difference. In fact, one could make the argument that the presence of the Ark made things much worse. The people could not fake their affection for the Lord to sway Him to give them favor. The people did not seek the Lord, desire the Lord, or humbly honor the Lord. Therefore, the Lord let natural consequence play out. When one does not desire the Lord, one does not receive the benefits that come when one is humbly pursuing the will of the Lord, including protection. When one worships false gods and idols and denies the One True Living God, one makes one’s self susceptible to such dangers. The testimony of the children of Israel thereby proves that one cannot chase after the desires of one’s flesh and then look to the Lord as a bail out plan when things don’t work out. The Bible says that in order to receive the benefits that God desires to give, one must deny one’s self, pick up one’s cross in the manner of Jesus Christ, and follow Him in the same manner of a humble servant that Jesus exemplified.
The Word of God is the means by which God connects to His people, establishes His people, equips His people, and empowers His people. There are many ideas that circulate around that God does His work is more mystical or magical ways, but the Bible is clear about the manner in which God desires to get things done. The Bible makes simple claims about the method of God’s work and the power of His Word, and then documents history to verify that God indeed works according to the Bible’s claims. The Bible teaches that universe was formed by the power of God’s Word. All of God’s creations is held together and sustained by the power of God’s Word. All life and functionality come from this power of God’s Word. God proclaims His judgments concerning righteousness and unrighteousness by the power of His Word. The Word of God became flesh and dwelt amongst us, full of grace and truth, so that forgiveness of sins according to the mercy and love of God is revealed and received by the power of God’s Word. Eternal life comes by the power of God’s Word. Understanding these truths, one must believe in the truth of God’s Word if one expects to hear God, know God, be with God, and be used by God.
The testimony of Samuel is one of the many historical examples that proves this to be true. In 1 Samuel 3:10-21 the Bible explains that God called out to Samuel. Previously, the Lord had called out to Samuel three times by name. However, never having received revelation from the Lord before, Samuel didn’t know what he was hearing, and by extension, did not know how to respond. After inquiring of Eli the high priest several times, Eli perceived that Samuel might have been hearing the voice of the Living God, and so instructed Samuel how to appropriately respond. The testimony of 1 Samuel 3:10-21 explains that the Lord continued to call out to Samuel, and eventually, Samuel was equipped with understanding in how to respond. In that the Lord continued to call out to Samuel, one must see that the Lord is persistent and patient with His people. Knowing that sin separates His people from His righteousness and glory, thereby causing confusion and unfamiliarity to Him, the Lord does the work that needs to be done as often as it needs to be done in order for His people to hear and understand Him. The connection one has to the Lord is based on the constant provocation of the Lord, not His people.
The scriptures reveal that God ensured Samuel’s recognition of the Lord the fourth time God called out to him since the Lord did something unique to the other times He called Samuel. The Bible explains that God “came and stood” next to Samuel. When the Lord is determined to draw people unto Himself, the Bible shows that He will do whatever it takes to ensure His will and desire is done. The Lord took a form that allowed Him to dwell next to Samuel, standing beside him! Additionally, while the scriptures show that the previous three times God called Samuel, God called him once by name, the Bible explains that the Lord called out to Samuel twice while standing next to him. The Lord was clearly persistent and diligent to reveal Himself to Samuel. The testimony of Samuel explains that God had great purpose for him and was involved in his life and the life of his family, even before Samuel’s birth. God would not let the ignorance of His people keep His will from getting done and His purpose being accomplished. God would not let the sin that separates His people from Himself overcome His desire to engage and use His people. Thus, God got closer to Samuel by standing next to him, and calling out to him more frequently.
The Bible shows that Samuel was responsive this time. Samuel followed the advice of Eli by responding back to the Lord in the manner that Eli suggested. Samuel acknowledged hearing the voice of God and humbled himself before God by offering himself as a servant of the Lord awaiting command. God immediately equipped Samuel with purpose. God told Samuel that He was about to execute the judgment He had previously declared against Eli and his sons. God explained that He would, “Do something in Israel at which both ears of everyone who hears it will tingle.” God would do a powerful work to get the attention of the children of Israel. God would cause the children of Israel to perk up to the work God would do in a way that had never been done before. God would cause the children of Israel to do a “double-take” in response to the work He was about to accomplish; and He was motivated to accomplish this work through Samuel. Thus, as God revealed Himself to Samuel, God first equipped Samuel as His servant that was tasked with communicating God’s coming judgment.
The Lord declared to Samuel that the time of Eli and his sons had come to an end. God would no longer tolerate the sins of Eli’s sons and the indifference of Eli. The Lord explained that Eli and his sons could not be forgiven by sacrifices or offerings anymore since their conduct showed they had no affection for the Word and commands of God, especially concerning the sacrifices and offerings. The Law could not help Eli and his sons since their conduct showed that they had no consideration or affection for God’s righteousness according to the Law. God swore to fulfill the words of the prophet that previously declared judgment against Eli and his sons. God would address the sin in Israel by dealing with its spiritual leadership, thereby purging the tabernacle in a manner that had never been seen before in Israel’s history. God’s coming judgment would be swift and startling, but was coming nonetheless. God explained the work He would do to Samuel so that Samuel would serve as a prophet of God, warning Israel of the righteous works of God. God spoke to Samuel concerning His work expecting Samuel to communicate His Word to others. Upon proclaiming the righteous judgments of God, Samuel would prove God’s Word to be true when God later fulfilled His Word by executing those judgments.
After the Lord communicated these things to Samuel, he went to the tabernacle the next day to take care of his priestly duties. Eli approached Samuel later that day and asked Samuel if the Lord had called out to him again, and demanded to know what the Lord said if He had. Eli approached Samuel with determined purpose and threats in his inquiry. Eli demanded to know what God had said and explained to Samuel that if he withheld any information, Samuel would suffer the consequence of the information withheld. Eli’s statement doesn’t necessarily reflect God’s will, but certainly reflects Eli’s heart. Eli was determined to know what God was saying from others because the Lord was not speaking to Eli on account of his sin and indifference to His Word. Therefore, Eli was forced to receive the Word of God second hand despite his position as high priest. Also, while Eli appears to be intensely interested in God’s proclamations, one must consider that Eli never repented of his sin and indifference in order to connect to God himself. Eli simply wanted to know of visions and prophecies. He did not care to know the God who authored them.
Samuel responded to Eli with candor. He told Eli everything that God said and boldly communicated the judgments that God spoke against Eli and his household. Though Samuel was an understudy of Eli, Samuel was courageous to truthfully communicate the harsh things that God spoke against Eli. When Eli heard Samuel’s words, he confessed that it was indeed the Word of God since Samuel’s words matched up with the words of the prophet that first declared God’s word of judgment against Eli. Yet still, Eli did not seek repentance, but accepted the declaration of God’s judgment and waited for the fulfillment of God’s Word. Thus, even in sin, Eli knew that the Word of God was valid and would be fulfilled. The testimony of 1 Samuel 3:10-21 concludes by explaining that Samuel grew in the Lord since the Lord was with him. Israel began to recognize Samuel as a true prophet of God – one that receives the truth of God’s revelation and the command to declare it. The Bible explains that God began to reveal Himself again in Shiloh through Samuel, but did so through His Word. This means that the presence of the Lord was connected to Samuel through the Word. The people recognized the authority of Samuel as a servant of the Lord through the Word. The revelation of the Lord came through the Word. God established Samuel with purpose and Samuel grew within that purpose through the hearing, understanding, and proclamation of God’s Word. The people saw God and the work He desired to do through Samuel according to the Word.
The Bible teaches that the Lord God is sovereign over all things. He exercises His power and control to accomplish good for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes. Since God is sovereign He is able to ensure that His will and purpose is always done, no matter how people might spite Him, His plans, or His people. The Bible also teaches that God exercises His sovereignty in order to reach out to His people, engaging them and equipping them to serve Him. While God is almighty and sovereign, the scriptures show that God desires to use His people as instruments of righteousness that are tools used to fulfill His desires. Therefore, God will often exercise His sovereign control to reach out to His people and call them into service. God will then exercise His control to instruct His people of His will and then encourage them through the difficult work that God’s people endure while doing that which God has commanded. Therefore, the Bible shows that the people of God are privileged as God utilizes His sovereign control to allow His people to participate in His good work, even being used as conduits of His power!
The testimony of Samuel is a prime example of God doing this very thing. The testimony of Samuel shows that God was intimately involved in the life of Samuel even before he was born. God exercised His control to ensure that people recognized Him as the Author of Samuel’s birth. Since Samuel’s mother Hannah was barren at first, but gave birth to Samuel, it was well understood that God worked a miracle to give Samuel life. As a result of that miracle, Hannah desired to give her son unto the service of the Lord, and so sent him to live with Eli the high priest, to learn the service of the tabernacle in Shiloh. While there, Samuel learned the functioning of the tabernacle, how the offerings and sacrifices worked, and found himself in position to assume more responsibility and opportunity in the Lord. It was there that the Lord further engaged in the life of Samuel, equipping him for great service that would benefit the entire nation of Israel according to the righteous and gracious promises of God!
In 1 Samuel 3:1-9 the Bible explains that God always had special purpose for Samuel. The Bible first explained that God was not speaking widespread in Israel at that time. The Book of Judges testifies that the children of Israel were doing what seemed right in their own eyes at that time. They were not following the righteous commands of God. The people were not seeking the righteousness of the Lord according to His Word. The people were simply seeking ways to appease the desires of their flesh on a regular basis as was exemplified by the conduct of Eli’s sons – the priests Hophni and Phinehas. Therefore, God was not speaking much to people in Israel. There scriptures plainly state, “There was no widespread revelation.” This means that God was very selective in the people He revealed Himself to. He was not revealing His holiness, righteousness and goodness to everyone as He desired. This truth shows that when one aspires to satisfy the desires of the flesh rather than seek the righteousness of God, one should not expect to receive word or revelation from God. The Bible is clear that the Lord is glorious in nature, and it is a privilege based on mercy and grace to see the Lord’s glory. While God makes His mercy and grace freely available, one must seek Him in order to receive it. Thus, one cannot see the goodness of God’s glory while seeking to fulfill one’s selfish pursuits as one’s selfish pursuits don’t line up with the mercy and grace of God.
The sins of Israel caused God to be selective regarding the people He communicated to. The testimony of Samuel shows that God selected Samuel very early on. In 1 Samuel 3:1-9 the Bible explains that God called out to Samuel three times in order to engage him in ministry as His servant called to a historically amazing purpose. However, the scriptures show that, even though God is gracious to reveal Himself to His people, it takes time for the people of God to recognize the revelation of God. Since all people are conceived in sin (Psalm 51:5) then all people are born spiritually blind and deaf. The natural person does not recognize the voice of God and cannot see His glory. The natural person doesn’t speak the language of God and so cannot discern His voice and instruction. This means that one’s ability to hear, recognize, acknowledge, and respond to the voice of God is a matter that God must supernaturally address Himself.
The testimony of Samuel explains that even though Samuel was given life for the purpose to serve the Lord, he had a hard time knowing the voice of God at first. In 1 Samuel 3:1-9 the Bible explains that when God audibly called out to Samuel the first two times, Samuel was confused, thinking that Eli was calling out to him. The Bible explains that Samuel was lying down, God called out to Samuel by name, but Samuel thought it was Eli and so inquired of him. When Samuel inquired of Eli, the Bible explains that Eli was confused having not called to Samuel, and so just sent Samuel back to bed. This happened twice. After the second time, the Bible explains that Samuel did not yet know the Lord because the Word of the Lord was not yet revealed to him. This means that, even though Samuel heard a voice call his name (twice), he didn’t understand the nature of the voice. He didn’t know God yet in a manner that would have caused him to respond to the Living God. Even though Samuel was working as a servant of the Lord in the tabernacle, he did not yet know the God he served because God had not yet revealed Himself to Samuel. Thus, the Bible shows that one’s understanding and familiarity with the Lord is not based on one’s service, but God’s revelation. One’s ability to hear the Lord has nothing to do with what one knows or what one does – it is purely based on the revelation of God, which happens in His time and is gradual in nature. The only way Samuel was going to recognize the voice of God in order to respond in obedience was by the will and revelation of God Himself. God exercises His sovereign control for this purpose.
The Bible explains that God called out to Samuel yet a third time. Still not knowing the source of the calling, Samuel went to Eli a third time. The Bible explains that Eli was old to the point that his vision was failing so he was unable to discern the circumstances at the time as well. One must also consider that as the Bible explained that God’s revelation was sparse in that time, Eli was also restricted from God’s revelation on account of his indifference to the sins of his sons. However, as Samuel kept hearing voices, Eli realized that the Lord might have been calling out to Samuel. Therefore, Eli instructed Samuel to respond back to the voice if the voice should call out to Samuel again. One must consider the manner in which Eli command Samuel to respond to the call of the Living God. Eli said, “Go, lie down; and it shall be, if He calls you, that you must say, ‘Speak Lord, for Your servant hears.’” Examine the manner of response that Eli commanded. First, Samuel must desire to hear the Lord and permit the Lord to speak. God does not reveal Himself to those that despise Him and rebel against Him. Thus, as Samuel was commanded to address the Lord first by saying, “Speak Lord,” he was commanded to acknowledge the voice of the Lord, and express His desire to hear the Lord. To hear the genuine voice of the Living God, one must confess that He speaks and desire to hear His Word.
Secondly, one must consider that Samuel was commanded to engage with the Lord from the position of a humble and attentive servant. The Living God is the Lord God Almighty. He is sovereign. Therefore, all people are His subjects and are far beneath Him. God is holy and people are not. God is righteous and people are not. It is a privilege to hear the voice of God; to be selected by Him to receive His revelation. Thus, one must respond to the calling of the Lord in humility, considering and acknowledging the incredible mercy and grace that is expressed from God just to acknowledge sinners in the manner that He does. The people of God are in favored position, but as servants. Samuel was privileged to hear the voice of God, but was able to do so from the position as a servant. Eli commanded Samuel to confess this truth in humility and present himself to the Lord as a servant. Samuel was to receive the Word of God with anticipation and desire, but tempered in humility from the position of a servant. While God desires to reveal Himself to all people, only those who humble themselves before Him, submitting to His purposes while confessing His Word as supreme from the position of a servant, are able to discern, understand, respond to, and benefit from God’s revelation.
The sovereignty of the Lord is a hard dynamic to harmonize as human beings that are supposed to have the freedom of choice. While the Bible teaches that each human being has the freedom to decide whether one will follow God in faith or not, there are certain portions of scripture that show God exercising His almighty control over circumstances to ensure a certain result is achieved. This is often the case concerning God’s judgment. The Lord God is often referred to as “the Lord of Hosts” in the context of His judgment, showing that God’s sovereign control is often exercised to discipline His people or set things in order according to His righteousness. God seems to be able to intercede in the lives of people at any time He desires in order to orchestrate circumstances that result in His will and purpose that is in line with His promises. While some might be offended that God would “intrude” on people’s lives in such a manner, one must consider that God does so in order to ultimately produce a good result according to the fulfillment of His promises even though others may have to suffer severe consequences.
This concept is proven to be true in the testimony of God’s judgment against Hophni and Phinehas, the sons of Eli. In 1 Samuel 2:22-36 the Bible explains the full extent of the sins and wickedness of Eli’s sons. The scriptures state that Hophni and Phinehas were not just desecrating the sacrifices of the children of Israel, taking the Lord’s portion and treating the offerings with irreverence, but they were also having sexual relationships with women at the gate of the tabernacle. The scriptures declare that the sons of Eli were lying with the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle. The scriptures declare that the sons of Eli were causing the rest of Israel to transgress in the way they were doing their priestly duty. So it wasn’t just that the sons of Eli did a poor job by profaning the sacrifices and offerings of the Lord, but that their conduct caused others in Israel to transgress the Lord as well. The sons of Eli were largely responsible for the spiritual infirmity in Israel, and since God revealed Himself uniquely in 1 Samuel as “the Lord of Hosts,” the scriptures show that God would wage war against such conduct to restore His people to proper spiritual health.
The Bible teaches that God sent a prophet to speak to Eli. Since Eli would not discipline his sons, God took it upon Himself to deal with the issue. The Bible explains that Eli was old in age, and perhaps because of His age, was unwilling to take a stand concerning the righteous and holy commands of God. Eli heard about the sins of his sons through the complaints of the people, so their sins were well known by all. However, Eli would not do his fatherly duty to discipline his sons, which in turn, caused all of Israel to sin. Thus, God addressed Eli through a prophet to proclaim judgment against Eli and his sons. God explained that He would cause the descendants of Eli to die at young ages on account of their sin. Since the old age of Eli caused him to be indifferent to discipline and God’s righteousness, God promised to ensure his future descendants died in their physical prime. Additionally, God swore to Eli that Hophni and Phinehas would die in the same day as a sign to confirm that He is still engaged in the lives of His people and in charge of the sacrifices and worship.
There are several key statements that God made to Eli through His prophet. First, the Bible explains that Eli’s sons did not heed the voice of the Lord or their father because the Lord desired to kill them. Many take statements like this in the Bible out of context to accuse God of being hypocritical or hateful. One must recall that the purpose of the Book of 1 Samuel is to reveal God’s sovereign control as the Lord of Hosts. It is not that God desired to kill the sons of Eli simply because they were bad. God desired to kill the sons of Eli in the same way a doctor would desire to kill a harmful bacterial infection in the body of his patient. God desired to kill Hophni and Phinehas in the same way that a loving parent would want the cancer in their child to die. Since Hophni and Phinehas were cancerous to the spiritual condition of Israel, God sought to exercise His almighty control to address the situation. Thus, He prophesied their deaths, and ensured they died in such a manner that was glorifying to Himself.
The Bible also states that He would kill Hophni and Phinehas in one day as a sign. God wanted Eli and the rest of Israel to know that He was responsible for the deaths of those two men. This is because God wanted His people to know that, while He is patient, He is not indifferent to sin – especially concerning the sacrifices and offerings. When God proclaimed these judgments, He reminded Eli that the priestly duties were a privilege. God reminded Eli and He is the Lord God Almighty that took the children of Israel out of bondage from Egypt and that He revealed His glory and power of Mount Sinai. Thus, the opportunity to serve the Lord as a priest would have been the absolute greatest privilege, and such responsibilities should have been treated in such a manner. God would let all of Israel know that He called the Levites to serve Him in a particular manner, and they were privileged to do so. Thus, God was communicating His desire for the priests to serve with reverence, honor, fear, righteousness, and holiness according to the commands of the Law. God would not let proud and self-righteous people continue to serve Him in wickedness and carnality. God was letting His people know that those who serve the Lord must do so according to the righteous and holy standards He communicated in His Word.
God wanted the children of Israel to know that He is in charge. God wanted the people to know that, no matter if people think they will get away with wickedness, God will judge. However God’s judgment is not without purpose. God does not judge simply to be violent against the wicked. God’s judgment is always with the purpose of removing infirmity to restore proper spiritual health according to His perfect will and goodness. Therefore, the scriptures explain that, while God would judge Eli’s household and destroy Hophni and Phinehas, God would raise up another servant to restore the Levitical priesthood to an honorable and righteous form. The Lord promised to raise up a faithful priest to spite the conduct of Eli’s sons. The Lord would cause this priest to do according to God’s will, His heart, and His mind. God promised to establish this priest in a sure house, walking as the Lord’s anointed forever. While the prophet that addressed Eli was primarily referring to Samuel as the Lord’s anointed, this prophecy also speaks of Jesus as the Messiah – the great High Priest from the order of Melchizedek! Hence, while God does exercise His sovereign control to judge and destroy, it is only to remove harmful impurities from the congregation of His people, thereby allowing for the restorative work of the Lord to produce good outcomes for God’s faithful! God would use Samuel to do this work during the time that he lived, but will ultimately use Jesus Christ to restore all things according the Father’s eternally unconditional promises!
The culture of non-believers today would be classified in the Bible by a simple phrase. The culture of non-believers today could be classified as “sons and daughters of Belial.” The original Hebrew language uses the word “Belial” to describe something that is “unyoked.” In 2 Corinthians 6:14 the Apostle Paul wrote that the church should not be “unequally yoked,” and then listed several areas of life in which that phrase applies. The mention of a “yoke” refers to the Law of Moses and is a specific quote of Leviticus 19:19. There the Lord commanded the children of Israel to keep their livestock from breeding with other “kinds.” They were not supposed to sow their fields by mixing seeds, and not mix garments. Understanding these laws, one can see that God wanted one substance to remain separate from others. God did not want goats being made one with cows in breeding. God did not want grape vines being made one with orange trees. Therefore, when Paul explained that believers should not be “unequally yoked,” he was teaching that the children of God should not be one with lawless unbelievers that are children of darkness.
Understanding this truth, one can better understand the “unyoked” phrase that is translated “Belial.” Jesus commanded that His people be yoked to Him. Paul then explained that while yoked to Jesus, one should not also be yoked to unbelieving lawlessness in darkness. It is impossible to be one with Jesus as Light and one with darkness in the world at the same time. By nature of one’s new nature in Christ as a “new creation” one is made a child of light in which one should not be one with darkness. Thus, one should be “yoked,” but to the light of Christ through the Word of God. One that is “unyoked” or a child of Belial, is one that is not connected to anything. This describes one that desires to live free from any standards, rules, governing concepts, and only desires to do what feels good and right according to one’s selfish fleshly desires. One that lives as a child of Belial is one that does not take into consideration the effects of one’s conduct towards others or consequence that will result from living set apart from standards and rules.
The Bible describes that the world has always lived this way. The world has always sought to separate from the righteous standards of God, living according to self-righteousness rather than God’s holy standards. However, the Bible is also helpful to show that God’s people have always lived contrary to this type of living. Though Paul wrote that a child of God should not be unequally yoked, God had been communicating this truth long before Paul was born. The teaching that Paul mentioned to the Corinthian church is illustrated through the testimonies of Eli’s sons contrasted against Samuel. In 1 Samuel 2:12-21 the Bible describes the testimonies of Eli’s sons, who were operating as priests for the children of Israel in Shiloh. The Bible explains that these men were very wicked men, specifically because of their attitudes and conduct towards the sacrifices of the children of Israel.
The Bible explains that the sons of Eli used to desecrate the sacrifices of the people. The sons of Eli used to do exactly the opposite of the commands of God concerning the sacrifices. The scriptures explain that when the people used to take their offerings to the sons of Eli, they would treat the offerings as if it were their own meat. While the Law did entitle the priests to a portion of some of the offerings, the Levitical law was very specific to explain which portions the priests could eat from which sacrifices. God was very specific about the portions of meat that were to be given unto Him. The Lord considered those portions to be His own portions so that one taking from those portions would have been equal to robbing God. The sons of Eli were doing this very thing. 1 Samuel 2:12-21 explains that if the two sons of Eli saw a piece of meat they wanted, they would simply take a fork and eat it while it was boiling, being prepared to offer. The scriptures explain that they would also eat the meat raw, which was also specifically prohibited in the law. However, the sons of Eli did not care. They only cared about the affections of their flesh so that they took what they wanted, when they wanted it, and had no regard for the commands of God.
When the children of Israel would try to discourage the sons of Eli from ruining the sacrifices, the Bible explains that they would threaten the people to take what the wanted by force. The sons of Eli were motivated and governed by the selfish desires of their flesh, not the righteous commands of God. The sons of Eli didn’t want to be told what to do by others, nor by their father Eli, nor by the One True Living God. Thus, the scriptures describe the sons of Eli as “sons of Belial” in the KJV of the Bible. The Bible also expresses how God looked at the attitudes and conduct of these two men in extra disgust since their actions and attitudes discouraged the children of Israel from worshiping Him. Though some of the people of Israel tried to discourage the sons of Eli from committing abominations with the sacrifices, they were unsuccessful. Thus, the people became bitter with the priests and were disgruntled over the sacrifices. They figured that the sons of Eli would ruin their offerings and so many stopped giving offerings. The selfish actions of Eli’s sons caused the people of God to despise the offerings and sacrifices of the Lord, which obviously affected the worship and spiritual condition of Israel.
After describing these miserable circumstances, the testimony of Samuel begins by saying, “But Samuel ministered before the Lord.” This phrase stands in direct contrast and opposition to the conduct of Eli’s sons. While Hophni and Phinehas were focused on selfishly feeding their flesh in opposition to God’s commands, Samuel was committed to serving the Lord according to God’s standards of righteousness. He lived with Eli, which means that he also lived with Eli’s sons. However, the contrast presented explains that Samuel did not make his conduct and attitude one with the conduct of Hophni and Phinehas. Samuel was around wickedness but did not make it a habit to practice wickedness. Samuel dwelt in the midst of darkness but was focused on doing his job to serve the Lord according to the righteous standards of God’s Word.
The Bible states that Samuel, though a child, wore a linen ephod and little robes that his mother used to make and take to him every year when she would travel to Shiloh to give her offerings. Samuel looked the part and acted the part. He was truly God’s anointed servant and was willing to live according to the standards of God’s servants in direct contrast of those who sought to live for self. Samuel sought to be identified as the Lord’s servant so that his conduct matched his uniform, unlike the sons of Eli. Thus, the scriptures say that Samuel grew before the Lord. Samuel grew, not only in his stature as a man, but in his faith as a servant of the Lord. It was the faithful commitment to follow God’s commands, abstaining from the wicked examples of corrupted men, that caused Samuel to grow in the Lord, eventually hearing the voice of the Lord and being used by Him!
Samuel was not the only one that live in contrast to the “sons of Belial.” While many in Israel were following the pagan traditions of idolatry, and many others were discouraged from offering sacrifices unto the Lord, the Bible testifies that Hannah and Elkanah continued in steadfast faith. They did not let the actions of some affect their dedication to the Lord. While they might have also been frustrated and disgruntled to a certain degree, they continued to do what God’s Word commanded. The Bible explains that Elkanah and Hannah continued to go up to Shiloh every year to offer sacrifices and also to see their son Samuel. In response, God also continued to visit Hannah so that she conceived five more times, having three more sons and two daughters. The woman that was bitter within her soul, feeling unable to accomplish that which she felt was her purpose in the Lord, ended up having six children by the miraculous and gracious touch of the Lord! Those who endure in steadfastness according to the righteous commands of God, denying the affections of the flesh, and separating from the wicked influences of darkness, can expect the personal and intimately helpful connection to God! Such is what it is to be properly yoked to the Lord and not unequally yoked to unbelieving lawless darkness.
The world might not agree with this truth, but the Lord God Almighty is sovereignly in charge of all things. He is holy. He is righteous. He is more powerful than any individual or corporate group of people. The Bible teaches that the earth responds to His commands. The clouds give rain and withhold it when He says. The boarders of the waters were defined by the power of His Word. The Lord is eternally self-existing in this condition so nothing can change His sovereign position. Whether one likes Him being in charge or not, it is as the Bible says. Knowing this, the people of God should understand how to appropriately respond to the Lord concerning His sovereignty. The people of God should learn to see how God exercises His sovereignty in order to know His plans and purposes, thereby receiving the benefits of His work. While God is almighty and sovereign, He is omnibenevolent – all goodness comes from Him. Therefore, when the people of God learn to recognize the sovereign work of the Lord and submit to it, seeking His good will to be done, the people of God will get to enjoy the benefits of His work, and no one can change that!
The Bible shows that there were often people in history that understood these truths, and filled by the Holy Spirit, made great proclamations about God that are documented in scripture. The testimony of 1 Samuel 2:1-11 shows that Hannah was one of those individuals. The testimony of Hannah began by describing a young woman in a pitiful position. She was one of two wives of a Levite, and while she was the favored of the two, she was unable to have children. She was mocked by her rival (the other wife), and lived a good deal of time in depression. Hannah felt that her purpose was to have a son in order to give him unto the Lord for His purposes. While the culture taught that it was the duty of the woman to provide her husband a son, Hannah’s aspirations were greater than the cultural expectations. Nevertheless, she was unfulfilled and felt useless in her barrenness.
Though Hannah was a weak and pitiful woman, the scriptures testify that she did not stay in her depression for long. She faithfully sought the Lord and His will. Hannah trusted in the faithful grace of God and acknowledge His sovereign position. She worshiped God because of His sovereignty – not to get her way. Hannah sought to make her ways God’s ways and was eventually comforted with the peace of the Lord even though the Lord had not fully responded to her desire for a son. Eventually, God used the faith of Hannah to bring her a son that He would use to address the spiritual infirmity of Israel. Hannah dedicated her son Samuel to the Lord by taking him to the tabernacle to learn how to serve the Lord as a Levite, and her plan was to leave him there to be the Lord’s son. Even though Hannah was giving up the son she desired and would only see him once a year, she rejoiced for the Lord and His work.
1 Samuel 2:1-11 documents Hannah’s prayer of praise unto the Lord for the work He had done, and the manner in which He did it. Hannah recognized the patterns of the Lord’s work, and while her position as a barren woman was pitiable, she knew the temperament and character of the Lord to rejoice in hope. Thus, her prayer was simply reflective of the things she knew of God that were made physically manifest through her testimony leading up to the birth of Samuel. First, Hannah rejoiced in the Lord. She confessed that her strength was in the Lord. While she desired to have a child before, she could not and was unable to muster up the ability to satisfy her craving on her own. Hannah was ultimately fulfilled with a son on account of the Lord and she knew it! Thus, while Hannah had enemies (the other wife of her husband), she was able to rejoice in the eternal nature of God and His promises. Hannah took refuge in the salvation of the Lord so that as her enemies mocked and cast her down, she endured.
Hannah explained that she was able to persevere because of the identity of the Lord. She confessed that the Lord is uniquely holy. God is uniquely set apart form darkness, sin, and the corruption and weakness that comes with it. Thus, God is uniquely qualified to address the weaknesses of humanity that result from the sins of God’s people. Though the Bible does not teach that Hannah sinned and the consequence of her sin was barrenness, the Bible does teach that the presence of sin and the corruption that comes with it causes God’s creation to be dysfunctional in these types of ways. Hannah was as much of a sinner as the next person and so was susceptible to the affects of a corrupted environment. God does not have these issues or weaknesses and so is uniquely qualified to address these matters. Hannah recognized that God exercised His sovereign control to do so, benefiting His people according to His goodness.
Hannah confessed that the Lord God is “the Rock.” This is a Messianic reference repeatedly used throughout the scriptures. This means that God is the foundation of life. As “the Rock,” God is a solid establishment that cannot be moved, and is the platform of righteousness and holiness; the support and strength of His people according to His eternally unconditional promises to overcome darkness as Light. Hannah experienced this first hand, proving the previous Biblical claims of Him to be true. Hannah was weak in her condition and required strength greater than her own to endure the mocking of her family and the dissatisfaction of her barrenness. However, she sought the Lord, His will, and called upon Him to exercise His power as the sovereign Lord and the birth of Samuel was proof that God strengthens those who are weak.
1 Samuel 2:1-11 then goes on to explain God’s overall purpose and motives for working in the life of Hannah in the way that He did. The Apostle Paul wrote that God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty (1 Corinthians 1:27-28). Hannah explained that the bows of mighty men are broken, and those who are full of life in this world will be stripped bare and humbled before God. Since the Lord God is the one that kills and makes alive, determining life and the quality of it, God exercises His sovereign control to establish that which the world considers weak in order to show that His strength is superior over those who boast in their strength in this life. Hannah explained that it is wise to consider these truths of God and approach Him in humility in order to receive His strength through meekness rather than pursue that which will be brought low in this world. Since God has knowledge of every thought and action and weighs each one in holy and righteous judgment, those who are proud, seeking to exalt self rather than the sovereign Lord, will be brought down in shame before Him. While Hannah was weak in her position as barren, she accepted her circumstances with peace, trusting in the sovereign will of God rather than trying to make up for her emptiness through vanity.
The scriptures plainly teach that those who are full in this life by the things of the world will be empty in the next life, having rejected the grace of God. Those who are hungry on the other hand, but seek the Lord and His righteousness, will be eternally filled. Hannah put it this way: the barren will bear seven. This means that those despised in this life as not fulfilling worldly expectations will be filled on account of the Lord’s work in the lives of those people. Hannah explained that the Lord will make those poor in spirit to be rich in faith (James 2:5). Hannah explained in her prayer that God raises the poor/humble from the dust of the earth and will set them amongst princes, speaking to God’s promises through Messiah (Matthew 5:5). Hannah explained that those who trust in the Lord, accepting the condition of “poor” in humility in this life will share in the inheritance of God’s glory in salvation! Consider that this is a woman that lived long before the incarnation of Jesus, long before the ministry of Paul, and long before the testimony of the Revelation of Jesus Christ documented through the Apostle John; yet she prophetically spoke these things on account of God’s work in her life as a witness to these truths.
Hannah confessed that the Lord is able to do these things because, as the sovereign Lord of Hosts, the earth belongs to the Lord. He is the means by which it exists in its form and rests in its place. Thus, Hannah explained that no person will prevail by the strength that comes from human beings. Since God’s strength and purposes transcend the strength of humans (as evidenced in the testimony of Hannah), one should trust in His strength rather than the futility of self-will and determination. Self-will and determination was insufficient to satisfy the craving and desire of Hannah. The mercy, grace, and goodness of God brought Hannah peace and fulfillment. Hannah stated that, since the Lord will judge those who seek to strengthen themselves and reject the mercy and grace of God, she finds rest in her Savior.
The adversaries of the Lord – those who deny His sovereignty and rely on self – will not prevail. The work that God did to bring her a son to satisfy her spiritual desire proved these things as true to Hannah. When Hannah prayed to the Lord to praise Him, she spoke of the sovereign authority of God as the Lord of Hosts in response to the birth of Samuel and in response to the opportunity she had to give her son unto the Lord for His good purposes. Hannah proclaimed that God’s work was centered on preparing strength for “His King” and exalting the strength of “His Anointed” referring to the Messiah. The work that God would do through Samuel would represent significant steps to progress towards the fulfillment of those prophetic claims. Therefore, when one examines the prayer of Hannah in context with her circumstances, the spiritual condition of Israel, and God’s eternally unconditional promises, one can see that God exercises His sovereignty to manipulate the lives of “the weak” in order to destroy the works of darkness that boast in their strength, proving God to be most excellent!
Generally speaking, people have a hard time waiting. Modern culture is a prime example of such a truth. Most things are available “on demand.” Retailers have built self-serve registers so that one does not have to wait as long in a check out line. Fast food is a booming industry. Coffee retailers are adapting by providing a drive thru option. Mobile devices allow people to get information much more quickly, and when those devices slow down for any reason, people complain. Unfortunately, this impatient human trait is not one that meshes well with the work pace of the Lord. The Lord is very slow and deliberate in His work. The Lord is patient in His work. This means that the Lord takes time. In fact, as the Author of time, the Lord often uses time as His tool to ensure that His people recognize His hand during the course of His work. It is often in the swiftness or the slowness of God’s work that His attributes are revealed. Therefore, the people of God must learn to die to the impatient self in order to submit to the patience of God.
In 1 Samuel 1:19-28 the Bible explains that God was willing to answer the prayers of His people, but did so in a time that seemed good and right to Him. This means that, while the people of God had to wait, their waiting was for good reason. The Bible explains that after Hannah prayed to the Lord for a son and was assured by Eli the high priest that God had heard her petition, Hannah returned to her husband refreshed. Though her prayer had not yet been answered, the Bible explains that Hannah’s countenance no longer resembled depression. Hannah began eating again and had peace with the reality that God had heard her prayer even though she did not yet have a son. Hannah’s joy and peace was not dependent on the fulfillment of her desire, even though her desire was in line with the Lord’s will. The scriptures testify that Hannah’s joy and peace came from the truth that God heard her prayer. Hannah was satisfied in that truth alone, and so on the next day, the Bible says that Hannah and Elkanah worshiped the Lord. Hannah did not wait for the fulfillment of her desire to worship the Lord. Hannah did not request proof that God heard her prayer in order to worship the Lord. Hannah simply trusted in the faithful grace of God and was content within that to worship the Lord. She worshiped before God produced. Such is faith.
The Bible testifies that after Elkanah and Hannah worshiped God they returned home and eventually Elkanah “knew his wife” Hannah. The Bible teaches that at that time, “the Lord remembered” Hannah’s petition. This means that the Lord was aware of Hannah’s circumstances. The Lord was engaged in the life of Hannah. The Lord was attentive to Hannah. Though God transcends all things as the Creator, He was deeply focused on the life of Hannah, and the desires of her heart; especially since her desires were in line with His desires. Therefore, God ensured that Hannah conceived. God exercised His power as Creator to plant life inside of Hannah in order to fulfill her desire for a son to be used for the Lord’s purpose, and also to fulfill His desire to address the spiritual infirmity in Israel. As God was first referred to as “the Lord of Hosts” in 1 Samuel Chapter 1, God exercised His sovereign control as Creator to give Hannah a son, being mindful of her faithful desire, in order to wage war against the sin of Israel through Hannah’s son.
It is important to recognize that the scriptures use an important phrase to describe the work God did to ensure Hannah’s conception. The Bible explains that, “It came to pass in the process of time that Hannah conceived.” This means that Hannah did not immediately conceive. She did not return home from Shiloh and conceive that night. The scriptures explain that God did not respond to Hannah’s prayer immediately. While He could have given her a child at any time as evidenced through the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, the Lord patiently waited and ensured that she conceived at a time that was appropriate to His purposes. As natural conception takes time anyway, God allowed for the natural course of time to elapse. Though Hannah expressed desperation in her prayer for a son, God was not in any rush to do things, even though He planned on using Samuel as His vessel of righteousness to combat the spiritual depravity of Israel. One might think that God would want to hurry up and deal with the sins of His people in an expedited manner. However, the scriptures reveal that God is not slack as some would count slackness, but is longsuffering, not willing that any should perish, but that all would come to repentance.
Hannah had to wait, but her waiting was for good reason. After time elapsed, she eventually did conceive. It is important to notice that the peace Hannah received in Shiloh was not an emotional response to an encouraging word from Eli. Her peace was from the Lord and was genuine since it was tried by time. The scriptures do not state anywhere that Hannah reverted back into her depression or complained at all as she waited to conceive. The absence of those details is important to recognize. She patiently dealt with the Lord’s will AND timing in a manner of silence, having quiet peace in her heart. She truly trusted the faithful grace of the Lord and knowing that her desire for a son was genuinely pure, she quietly went about her business. Even when she finally conceived, she maintained peace. The Bible explains that she gave birth to her son and made preparations to give her son unto the Lord as she desired and previously swore in her prayer.
When Hannah gave birth to her son, she named him Samuel. This name in Hebrew is Shem uw’el, which translates in English into “His name is El.” The Bible testifies that Hannah gave her son this name because she asked for a son from the Lord, and He responded. Thus, the name of Samuel was dedicated to the name of God. Hannah recognized that her son was a gift from God, and according to her own desire to serve the Lord, Hannah understood that Samuel was indeed God’s child, let to her stewardship for a time. These details show that Hannah’s desire for a son was not motivated by her flesh on account of jealousy with Elkanah’s other wife. Hannah was sincere in wanting to give her son unto the Lord as His servant. This shows that, when God’s people sincerely desire the things of the Lord, they are supernaturally able to patiently withstand the time God takes to do His work with joy and peace, trusting not only in the goodness of the desire, but the goodness of the Author.
As the next year came about and it was time for Elkanah to take his family back to Shiloh to give their yearly offerings, Hannah request to stay behind at home and wean her child. She asked her husband if it would be okay for her to nurse Samuel at home and keep from going to Shiloh for the feast days until Samuel was old enough at which point she would just leave Samuel in Shiloh to serve the Lord forever. Elkanah respected Hannah’s desire and left her at home. The Bible explains that Hannah raised Samuel at home in the region of Ephraim until he was old enough to serve in the tabernacle. When Samuel was old enough, 1 Samuel 1:19-28 explains that Hannah took Samuel to Shiloh and gave him over to Eli the high priest, to learn the service of the tabernacle. Hannah was faithful to her oath to the Lord and gave her son over to the service of the Lord. When she went to Eli, she explained to him who she was, and Eli received Samuel.
The scriptures state that Hannah gave her normal offering, and then gave her son. While it would be considered a great sacrifice to give one’s son unto service of the Lord in the manner that Hannah was, she was not content to give her son as substitution for the sacrifices that the Law normally called for. Hannah gave three bulls, and ephah of flour, a skin of wine, AND her only son as an offering unto the Lord. The offering of Samuel for the service to the Lord was in addition to the offerings she would have normally gave. This gift shows the extent of Hannah’s gratitude to the Lord and appreciate she had for the Lord to give unto Him. She clearly took joy in giving unto the Lord. She clearly was satisfied in giving unto the Lord. Her worship was genuine in that she acknowledged her position in humility and the sovereignty of God as the Lord of Hosts. Therefore, she gave unto His purposes to exalt His sovereign name, and took joy and satisfaction in doing so. Those who genuinely desire for God’s will to be done and sincerely give unto Him for His purposes are those who find lasting joy and satisfaction.
The Bible teaches that God is sovereign over all things. The testimony of the book of 1 Samuel explains that God exercises His sovereign control to engage in the lives of His people in order to use them as His instruments of righteousness, thereby fulfilling His eternally unconditional promises. This means that God’s will reigns supreme. Additionally, this means that God’s people must learn to submit to the ways of the Lord since His purposes will inevitably be accomplished despite one’s personal affections. When it comes to God’s purposes and mankind’s desires, God’s purposes always rule. It is for this reason that the Bible implores the people of God to surrender their will over to the Lord and learn to desire the things of God rather than the things of the flesh. While this might seem offensive to some people, it is important to consider that God’s purposes are intended to benefit the people of God that submit to Him. It is not a bad thing for the people of God to submit to His will when His will is to eternally bless His children. Therefore, it is important to examine the scriptures in such a manner so as to understand how God engages with His people that submit to Him, seeing how He ultimately desires to benefit them in the midst of difficulties by fulfilling His glorious purposes founded on mercy and grace.
In 1 Samuel 1:8-18 the Bible explains that Hannah, the wife of a Levite named Elkanah, was emotionally distraught, nearly to the point of depression. The scriptures explain that Elkanah had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah; and while he favored Hannah, she was barren and could not have children. Peninnah understood that Hannah was the more favored wife, and so took opportunity to mock and ridicule Hannah on account of her barrenness. This made Hannah increasingly sad to the point where the scriptures explain that she would not eat. 1 Samuel 1:8-18 explains that Elkanah was not pleased with the attitude of Hannah. Noticing the extent of her depression, Elkanah inquired about Hannah’s grief. He questioned Hannah’s focus and her gratitude for the circumstances that she did have. Though Hannah was favored over Peninnah, Elkanah was displeased with Hannah’s discontentment. He did not appreciate that he took extra strides to express his love and favor for her, especially during the feast days concerning the offerings, and Hannah still expressed discontentment.
The Bible describes that Hannah had “bitterness of soul.” The original language explains that Hannah was bitter concerning her circumstances in the form of discontentment. The original language uses the Hebrew word for “bitterness” to describe that which is impure and not sweet, ultimately being undesirable. While Hannah’s heart was distraught and sorrowful, it was on account that she felt unfulfilled not having a son to provide for her husband. She did not take into consideration her favorable position. Her desire for a son was so great that she overlooked any other privileges she might have had. The scriptures do not necessarily state this to be a bad thing, though one can get a sense of the intensity of Hannah’s emotional state. She felt that her duty as a wife and purpose in life was to have a son, and her circumstances were not fulfilling as she remained barren.
It is important to remember that Hannah’s womb was closed because the Lord had closed it. This is an indication that the Lord was deeply involved in the life of Hannah. He had great purpose for her, and especially the son He would ultimately provide. Thus, when one examines the emotional state of Hannah, one must consider that Hannah’s desire for a son was on account of the desire that the Lord planted Himself. While it might seem cruel to implant such a desire and then withhold the fulfillment of such a desire, God’s intent was ultimately to fulfill her desire in a manner that would exalt His name on account of His involvement. Hannah’s response to the criticism of her husband lends evidence to the possibility of God implanting such an intense desire for a son, to the extent that Hannah felt she could not accomplish her life’s purpose without one.
The Bible explains that after speaking with her husband, Hannah went to the tabernacle to give her offering at Shiloh. Being in “bitterness of soul” she poured out her heart unto the Lord in prayer. She begged the Lord for a son and swore unto the Lord to give her son unto His purposes if He would be willing to give her a child. She acknowledged God as “the Lord of Hosts.” Thus, the Bible shows that Hannah understood God’s sovereign power. She understood God’s identity as the Lord of Armies, trusting that if God was sovereign over armies and people groups, He was powerful enough to provide a son. She attributed God’s sovereign power as equal to God’s power as Creator and the Author of life. She recognized that the Creator of all things could only address her barrenness and so she humbly approached Him. However, she did not seek to gratify herself in her request. Hannah swore to give the child unto the Lord according to His purposes, and swore that he would take on the Nazarite vow for the entirety of his life. Hannah did not desire to keep the son as her own to gratify herself according to a fleshly desire. Her desire to have a child was not to spite Peninnah for her mocking. The scriptures show that Hannah desired to have a child in order to fulfill her purpose, but desired for her purpose to be helpful to God’s purpose. She wanted to give a child to the Lord more than her husband. She wanted her life to have purpose and fulfillment according to the work of the Lord.
As Hannah prayed to the Lord, the scriptures are detailed to explain that she prayed quietly. She prayed in silence, but grieved in her heart. Her mouth moved, but no words came out. The Bible explains that Eli, the high priest, sat by the gate where Hannah prayed and looked at Hannah from a distance. Seeing her pray emphatically, but not hearing words come from her mouth, Eli figured Hannah to be drunk. Therefore, Eli approached Hannah and rebuked her for being drunk in the tabernacle that was intended for worship, sacrifice, and offerings. Hannah explained to Eli that she was not drunk, but instead was a woman in sorrowful grief. She explained her circumstances to Eli and then explained that she was pouring out her soul unto the Lord in desperation.
She begged Eli consider her a “wicked woman.” The KJV states that she begged Eli not to consider her “a daughter of Belial.” Belial is a Hebrew word that refers to a type of pagan worship, but is a word that fundamentally deals with one that desires to be unyoked – one that desires to be free from rules, regulations, guidelines, and standards. She did not want Eli to think that she was a sort of liberal free-spirited woman that had no regard for the Law of God and His commandments. The manner of Hannah’s prayer actually expresses that deeply desired to be yoked to the Lord and His purposes, and wanted the same for her future son. She was not a woman that desired to be free from the commands of God’s righteousness. She was a woman that sought the Lord and His righteousness as the Lord of Hosts. While she was discontent in her soul, it was not on account for fleshly ambitions based on selfish desires according to worldly standards that contrasted the Lord’s holiness. Instead, Hannah’s discontentment was on account of her desire to serve the Lord by giving Him a man to work through, and her barrenness was not permitting such a thing. Hannah was not a wicked woman and as she pleaded her case to Eli, he quickly understood this to be true.
The Bible explain that Eli comforted Hannah and told her to go in peace. He assured Hannah that God had heard her plea and would grant her petition. Here the Bible teaches that God indeed hears the cries of His people when they desire to serve Him. Though Hannah was discontented and bitter in her soul, it was only because she wanted to be used by the Lord as a mother of God’s servant. She felt her purpose was to give birth to a man that God would use as His instrument of righteousness. She desired what God desired; and when God’s people humbly seek Him this way, the scriptures assure the people of God that He hears. Thus, Hannah received the encouragement from Eli and departed in peace. The Bible testifies that Hannah ate with her family again and the countenance of her face was changed as well. Though God had not yet provided her son, she was comforted by the assurance that Eli provided. She trusted God. She trusted that her desire for God’s will would ultimately pan out in some way, and so she was able to find the contentment that eluded her before. Though Hannah’s circumstances had not yet changed, she had peace, trusting in the goodness and faithfulness of God. This is not to say that those who cry long enough for the things that are wanted that God will ultimately relent and provide peace concerning selfish desires. Instead, the scriptures show that those who genuinely desire the will of the Lord can find peace in the Lord, trusting in the fulfillment of His purposes, understanding His faithfulness and goodness. One can rest assured that while one might have to wait for one’s purpose in the Lord to be fulfilled, God will indeed use His people for His purpose, which brings satisfaction and joy to those who submit to such a position!
The Bible shows that God is called by many names. This is not because God has many names necessarily. This is because God has many attributes that are unique and extraordinary. The various names that God has resemble the various attempts of mankind to classify God and His attributes. For example, the scriptures show that Abraham first called the Lord, “the Most High God” (El Elyon in Hebrew) because Abraham recognized God’s sovereignty. So there are places where people have a powerful experience with God and attribute a name to Him to describe the attributes of God. There are other instances in which God calls Himself by another name or refers to Himself in a way to describe His own attribute. Either way, when one examines the circumstances in which the Lord is called by a specific name and title, one can learn a lot about God and the work that He sets out to do exercising that specific attribute.
The book of 1 Samuel is the first place that God is called “the Lord of Hosts.” The English phrase “Lord of Hosts” is used 235 times in the Old Testament. The Hebrew phrase “Jehovah Sabaoth” is used many more times to refer to God’s sovereign characteristics. This particular name of God refers to the power and control God has over armies – spiritual and physical alike. Some of the modern Bible translations actually translate the Hebrew “Jehovah Sabaoth” into the English phrase “Lord of Armies,” since a “host” is a reference to an army. This is the name that God most often refers to Himself by aside from the English phrase “Lord God” (Yahweh Elohim in Hebrew). One can especially find the mention of God as “the Lord of Hosts” in the writings of the prophets since God refers to His power to control foreign armies and use them as His rods of correction and discipline.
The first mention of God as the Lord of Hosts in 1 Samuel can be difficult to understand. One must consider that 1 Samuel was written during the time in which Israel was still under the rule of judges. The books of Judges, Ruth, and 1 Samuel are historical narratives that all relate closely to each other concerning the time in which they took place. Hence, one must consider the following realities about the narrative of 1 Samuel. Though the Lord is first called “the Lord of Hosts” in 1 Samuel, the book doesn’t make any specific mention of a war taking place in Israel. The Book of Judges explains that many skirmishes were taking place. The Philistines, the Amorites, and others often oppressed the children of Israel, but there was no major war taking place at any one given time that consumed all of Israel’s resources. The only major war that the Book of Judges referred to was the civil war that took place between the tribe of Benjamin and the rest of Israel on account of the murder of the wife of the Levitical priest in Judges Chapter 19.
There is one critical detail that one must examine concerning the time in which 1 Samuel took place and the mention of God as the Lord of Hosts. One must recall that the Book of Judges explained why foreigners oppressed the children of Israel, and why they experienced a civil war. The scriptures said that, “everyone did what seemed right in their own eyes.” There were very few people following the commands of God. Many of the people within Israel were worshiping false gods and idols and were mixing pagan practices with the laws and commands that God gave. While the Book of Ruth is helpful to show the mercy of God through the testimony of Boaz, Ruth, and Naomi, the extent of God’s mercy is magnified when one understands the spiritual and cultural climate of Israel at the time in which the testimony took place. Thus, while the history of Israel does not reveal a single major war or skirmish that God wanted to respond to in His sovereignty, the Bible does explain that there were intense spiritual discrepancies that God promised to respond to according to His righteousness. Therefore, one can conclude that the mention of God as “the Lord of Hosts” has less to do with His control over physical armies in the testimony of 1 Samuel, but more closely deals with God’s control over spiritual warfare and the spiritual well being of His people.
In 1 Samuel 1:1-7 the Bible describes the lives of certain people in Israel. The description of these people help explain the reason that God revealed Himself as the Lord of Hosts during this time in Israel, and also explains how God will exercise His power as the Lord of Hosts. The scriptures first make mention of a man named Elkanah. Elkanah was a Levite that was serving in the region of Ephraim since one of the cities of refuge was located in the region of Ephraim. The scriptures describe that Elkanah was a faithful man for the most part. He was obedient to remain in his post, and also was obedient to worship God according to the commands of the Law. While he lived in the region of Ephraim, the Bible testifies that Elkanah took his family down to Shiloh every year to offer sacrifices and offerings to the Lord during the required feast days. Thus, Elkanah was diligent in his duty as a priest and as a worshiper of God.
The scriptures also explain that Elkanah compromised concerning the righteousness of God. Elkanah had two wives, which was not a practice that God ordained. Polygamy was a pagan practice. While the Law had certain points speak to polygamy, it was only to help the children of Israel respond according to God’s righteousness, and did not condone such a practice. Since Elkanah had two wives, the Bible shows that there was some element of confusion about the righteousness of God, even amongst the Levitical priests. The scriptures explain that, “everyone did what seemed right in their own eyes.” While Elkanah served in his duty as a Levitical priest at the city of refuge, and honored the feast days, it seemed right to him to have two wives instead of one.
As one might imagine, there was unrest and friction in the household of Elkanah. Elkanah’s wives were named Peninnah and Hannah. The Bible explains that there was a rivalry between Peninnah and Hannah since Peninnah had children but Hannah could not have children. Hannah was jealous of Peninnah, but Elkanah made Peninnah jealous of Hannah. The scriptures state that Elkanah favored Hannah even though she could not have children. When he would take his family to Shiloh to worship the Lord, he would give a larger portion to Hannah to give as an offering unto the Lord. Peninnah did not like this and so she teased Hannah about her barrenness. This rivalry intensified over time and caused Hannah to respond in depression. The scriptures state that Hannah was saddened to the point to where she would not eat.
The Bible testifies that 1 Samuel 1:1-7 took place during the time that Eli was the high priest. Eli had two sons that served with him in Shiloh whose names were Hophni and Phinehas. The Bible gives a miserable testimony of these two sons. They were very wicked in nature and their evil practices caused the children of Israel to stray from the righteousness of God especially concerning the sacrifices. The evil of Eli and his sons discouraged the children of Israel from offering sacrifices with the right attitudes, and so Israel was in a spiritual rut at the time that Hannah dealt with her issues stemming from Peninnah. Yet it is in this context that God revealed Himself as the Lord of Hosts. The scriptures are specific to mention exactly how God exercised His sovereign control over the situation. The Bible states that Hannah was barren because God had closed her womb. The scriptures mention this truth twice in these seven verses. Thus, while God is the sovereign Lord of Armies, He exercised His sovereign control to shut the womb of a woman married to a priest.
One must recognize why God did such a thing. The Bible teaches that Hannah would ultimately give birth to a son named Samuel. The history of Israel and the Bible shows that Samuel would become a great hero in Israel. Samuel would help lead Israel back to the Lord, restoring their spiritual integrity. The testimony of Samuel shows that, while Samuel would lead Israel to great victories, he would do so through his spiritual focus unto the Lord. Samuel would anoint David as king, and drive Israel into a direction that would ultimately lead to the revelation of Jesus as the Messiah. The testimony of Samuel shows that he was a powerful tool that God used to refocus the spiritual perspective of the children of Israel. God would address the spiritual warfare issues in Israel through Samuel. Thus, God manufactured circumstances concerning Samuel’s birth to show that Samuel was truly God’s anointed vessel of righteousness.
When Jesus was born, the Bible explains that His birth circumstances were miraculous. God even spoke through the prophet Isaiah that the birth of the Messiah would serve as a sign, thus identifying and validating the Messiah for the children of Israel. The circumstances of His birth would prove that the child was indeed the Son of God and fulfillment of His promises. In the same way that God manipulated the birth circumstances of Jesus to point to Himself as the Author and validate Jesus as the Messiah, God controlled the circumstances of Samuel’s birth as well. God closed the womb of Hannah for a time in order that He would be recognized as the Author of Samuel’s birth later. Being recognized as the Provider of the life of Samuel, Hannah would dedicate Samuel to the Lord for His purposes, and God’s sovereignty would be displayed. Therefore, while Hannah’s circumstances might have seemed difficult to the point of depression, one can see that God was doing a marvelous work that would lead to the spiritual revival of Israel! It is true that God is “the Lord of Hosts,” but it is truer that God’s focus is on spiritual matters. So while the people of God might suffer circumstantially, one must always consider the spiritual circumstances that God is seeking to address in ways that transcend one’s own ability, according to the revelation of God’s righteousness through Christ!
The overall plan of God is easy to identify. The Bible plainly teaches that all of God’s work leads to the revelation of Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Messiah in order to fulfill the eternally unconditional of the Father that deal with His judgment against darkness, and fulfillment of eternal life. The Bible teaches that “all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose” because all things lead to the revelation of Jesus Christ; at which point every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Christ is Lord to the glory of the Father. The big picture is easy to see. The parts that become confusing is all of the detailed work that God orchestrates to lead to the fulfillment of this plan. With all of the people that have ever lived, the Bible proves that there are many moving parts to God’s plan. The Lord has purposes for each and every individual in terms of how they fit into the revelation of Christ – either as Savior or Judge (He is both). Thus, it is a treat to see the places in scripture where the Lord unveils the purpose of some of His works within the lives of people in such a way that one can see how their time on this earth directly connects to the revelation of the Son of God!
The testimony of Ruth and Boaz is a historical narrative that provides insights into the details of God’s sovereign work. The scriptures explain that, while Ruth was an undesirable woman as a poor young widow dwelling in the depths of Israel as a Moabite, God showed mercy upon her on account of her faithfulness towards her mother-in-law Naomi. The scriptures explain that Boaz was a godly man, willing to demonstrate the righteousness of God according to the Law by exercising the mercy of God in redeeming Naomi’s land in order to marry Ruth. Thus, the actions of Boaz were sufficient to restore the life of Naomi from a financial perspective, and also give new hope and purpose to Ruth as she was able to fulfill her duty as a wife and a mother. Boaz was submissive to the commands of the Law of Moses and did his duty as a kinsman redeemer in order that God would be glorified by the display of His righteousness as illustrated by the Law.
Ruth 4:13-22 explains that Boaz and Ruth had a son. According to the Hebrew tradition, this would have been a great honor, in which the people believed that it was a sign of favor from God. The scriptures are detailed to explain God’s involvement in the birth circumstances of their child. The Bible testifies that “the Lord gave her conception and she bore a son.” It is important to note that the child that came from Ruth and Boaz was not an accident. The circumstances of the relationship between Ruth and Boaz are not a feel-good love story meant to encourage relationships. Rather, the testimony of Ruth and Boaz is an illustration of God using His sovereign power to arrange circumstances to lead to the outcome that He desires, ultimately leading to the revelation of Jesus. God Himself ensured that Ruth and Boaz were together. Upon being married, God Himself ensured that Ruth conceived, and ensured that her child was a son. God had a plan and the scriptures show that the lives of Naomi, Boaz, and Ruth were critical parts of His plan. These individuals did not know this at the time, but the benefit of hindsight according to the full counsel of scripture shows this to be true.
The Bible explains that the child of Ruth and Boaz was named Obed. According to Ruth 4:13-22 Obed later became the father of a man named Jesse, who later became the father of a man named David. This shows that Ruth and Boaz were the grand parents of King David! When Ruth gave birth to her son, the women of her town blessed the Lord for the work of redemption that had taken place amongst Naomi’s family. They marveled at the work of restoration that had taken place amongst Naomi AND Ruth. Ruth was restored in her life and was blessed to have a son. Naomi was blessed in her life as she became the nurse of Obed, thereby being fulfilled as a grandmother. This would have been a great blessing as Naomi previously lost her husband and both of her sons. The birth of Obed provided restoration to Naomi’s family by the righteous commands of the Law. The women of the city even blessed the name of the Lord by making prophetic proclamations concerning the name of Boaz. They said that the name of Boaz would be famous in all of Israel, which turned out to be true on account of his offspring leading to King David, and ultimately Jesus Christ. The name of Boaz was renown on account of his eventual genealogy.
When one examines the genealogy of Boaz in the Gospel of Matthew, one will find that Obed was the father of Jesse, who was the father of David, who ultimately led to Jesus, the Messiah King of Israel. Thus, God used the relationship between Boaz and Ruth to lead to the revelation of Jesus as the Messiah King of Israel. Though it might have seemed tragic at the time that Naomi’s husband and sons died, examining her testimony with hindsight, one can see that such circumstances allowed for Ruth to be taken to Boaz. Though the circumstances of Ruth loosing her husband as a young woman without children might have seemed pitiful and sad, one can see that such circumstances led Ruth to Boaz, the birth of Obed, and eventually King David and Jesus Christ! Though Boaz was blessed to have great possessions, one can see that his position of influence and wealth was not for the purpose of gratifying himself. The testimony of Boaz shows that God provided his increase in order that he would be able to redeem Naomi in order to redeem Ruth, again, leading to the birth of Obed, Jesse, David, and ultimately Jesus Christ.
The circumstances of life are never an accident or coincidental. When one considers the sovereignty of God, one must understand that each and every event in life is somehow leading to the revelation of Jesus as the Son of God and Messiah. The history of Israel AND the individuals within Israel proves this to be true. While it is nearly impossible to know how God will use each circumstance in life to reveal His Son, the people of God can rest assured that even when things look bleak, God is working towards the revelation of mercy, grace, and life. One can either be on the favorable side of this revelation like Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz, who were all faithful and submissive to the will of God; or one can be on the unfavorable side of His revelation as many others in the scriptures that were unfaithful and rebellious of God’s will. Since one can see that God’s intentions are good concerning the revelation of His Son, then one’s trust in such revelation will ensure that one’s position is favorable, no matter how tragic things might appear at the time. In other words, trust the Lord and His righteousness in order to be used as an instrument of His righteousness, privileged to be part of the revelation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Messiah King of Israel!