I & II Samuel - Four lives dominate I & II Samuel: Hannah, Samuel, Saul and David....Reading and praying our way through these pages, we get it; gradually but most emphatically we recognize that what it means to be a woman, a man, mostly has to do with God. These four stories do not show us how we should live but how in fact we do live, authenticating the reality of our daily experience as the stuff that God uses to work out his purposes of salvation in us and in the world....as the narrative develops, we realize that God is the commanding and accompanying presence that provides both plot and texture to every sentence...if we want a life other than mere biology, we must deal with God. There is no alternate way...
The biblical way is to tell a story and invite us, “love into this. This is what it looks like to be human; this is what is involved in entering and maturing as human beings.” We do violence to biblical revelation when we “use” it for what we can get out of it or what we think will provide color and spice to our otherwise bland lives....God is the larger context and plot in which our stories find themselves.
I Samuel 1-2 - There once was a man who...descended from the old Zuph family in the Ephraim hills. His name was Elkanah....He had two wives. The first was Hannah; the second was Peninnah. Peninnah had children; Hannah did not. Every year this man went from his hometown up to Shiloh to worship and offer a sacrifice to God-of-the-Angel-Armies.
Eli and his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, served as the priests of God there. When Elkanah sacrificed, he passed helpings from the sacrificial meal around to his wife Peninnah and all her children, but he always gave an especially generous helping to Hannah because he loved her so much, and because God had not given her children. But her rival wife taunted her cruelly, rubbing it in and never letting her forget that God had not given her children. This went on year after year. Every time she went to the sanctuary of God she could expect to be taunted. Hannah was reduced to tears and had no appetite...
Hannah prayed to God and cried and cried—inconsolably. Then she made a vow:
Oh, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, if you’ll take a good, hard look at my pain, if you’ll quit neglecting me and go into action for me by giving me a son, I’ll give him completely, unreservedly to you. I’ll set him apart for a life of holy discipline.
It so happened that as she continued in prayer before God, Eli was watching her closely. Hannah was praying in her heart, silently. Her lips moved, but no sound was heard. Eli jumped to the conclusion that she was drunk...Hannah said, “Oh no, sir—please! I’m a woman hard used. I haven’t been drinking...The only thing I’ve been pouring out is my heart, pouring it out to God... Eli answered her, “Go in peace. And may the God of Israel give you what you have asked of him.” Think well of me—and pray for me!” she said, and went her way. Then she ate heartily, her face radiant.
Before the year was out, Hannah had conceived and given birth to a son. She named him Samuel, explaining, “I asked God for him.”...When Elkanah next took his family on their annual trip to Shiloh to worship God.. she told her husband, “After the child is weaned, I’ll bring him myself and present him before God—and that’s where he’ll stay, for good.”...
then brought the child to Eli. Hannah said, “Excuse me, sir. Would you believe that I’m the very woman who was standing before you at this very spot, praying to God? I prayed for this child, and God gave me what I asked for. And now I have dedicated him to God. He’s dedicated to God for life.”
Hannah prayed: I’m bursting with God-news! I’m walking on air. I’m laughing at my rivals. I’m dancing my salvation.
Nothing and no one is holy like God, no rock mountain like our God. Don’t dare talk pretentiously— not a word of boasting, ever. For God knows what’s going on. He takes the measure of everything that happens. The weapons of the strong are smashed to pieces, while the weak are infused with fresh strength. The well-fed are out begging in the streets for crusts, while the hungry are getting second helpings. The barren woman has a houseful of children, while the mother of many is bereft.
God brings death and God brings life, brings down to the grave and raises up. God brings poverty and God brings wealth; he lowers, he also lifts up. He puts poor people on their feet again; he rekindles burned-out lives with fresh hope Restoring dignity and respect to their lives— a place in the sun! For the very structures of earth are God’s; he has laid out his operations on a firm foundation. He protectively cares for his faithful friends, step by step, but leaves the wicked to stumble in the dark. No one makes it in this life by sheer muscle! God’s enemies will be blasted out of the sky, crashed in a heap and burned. God will set things right all over the earth, he’ll give strength to his king, he’ll set his anointed on top of the world!
The boy stayed and served God in the company of Eli the priest.
Eli’s own sons were a bad lot. They didn’t know God and could not have cared less about the customs of priests among the people....In the midst of all this, Samuel, a boy dressed in a priestly linen tunic, served God. Additionally, every year his mother would make him a little robe cut to his size and bring it to him when she and her husband came for the annual sacrifice. Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, saying, “God give you children to replace this child you have dedicated to God.” ... God was most especially kind to Hannah. She had three more sons and two daughters! The boy Samuel stayed at the sanctuary and grew up with God.
By this time Eli was very old. He kept getting reports on how his sons were ripping off the people and sleeping with the women who helped out at the sanctuary. Eli took them to task...”If you sin against another person, there’s help—God’s help. But if you sin against God, who is around to help?” But they were far gone in disobedience and refused to listen to a thing their father said. So God, who was fed up with them, decreed their death. But the boy Samuel was very much alive, growing up, blessed by God and popular with the people.
27-30 A holy man came to Eli and said:... “Why do you treat your sons better than me, turning them loose to get fat on these offerings, and ignoring me? Therefore—this is God’s word, the God of Israel speaking—I once said that you and your ancestral family would be my priests indefinitely, but now—God’s word, remember!—there is no way this can continue. I honor those who honor me; those who scorn me I demean.
“Be well warned: It won’t be long before I wipe out both your family and your future family. No one in your family will make it to old age!... no one in your family will live to enjoy it. I will leave one person to serve at my Altar, but it will be a hard life, with many tears.... Then I’ll establish for myself a true priest. He’ll do what I want him to do, be what I want him to be. I’ll make his position secure and he’ll do his work freely in the service of my anointed one....
Mark 13 - ....Later, as Jesus was sitting on Mount Olives in full view of the Temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew got him off by himself and asked, “Tell us, when is this going to happen? What sign will we get that things are coming to a head?” Jesus began, “Watch out for doomsday deceivers. Many leaders are going to show up with forged identities claiming, ‘I’m the One.’ ...They will deceive a lot of people. When you hear of wars and rumored wars, keep your head and don’t panic...Nation will fight nation and ruler fight ruler, over and over. Earthquakes will occur in various places. There will be famines. But these things are nothing compared to what’s coming...
“When they bring you, betrayed, into court, don’t worry about what you’ll say. When the time comes, say what’s on your heart—the Holy Spirit will make his witness in and through you...“Stay with it—that’s what is required. Stay with it to the end. You won’t be sorry; you’ll be saved.
“But be ready to run for it when you see the monster of desecration set up where it should never be... “These are going to be hard days—nothing like it from the time God made the world right up to the present. And there’ll be nothing like it again...
“If anyone tries to flag you down, calling out, ‘Here’s the Messiah!’ or points, ‘There he is!’ don’t fall for it. Fake Messiahs and lying preachers are going to pop up everywhere. Their impressive credentials and dazzling performances will pull the wool over the eyes of even those who ought to know better. So watch out. I’ve given you fair warning. “Following those hard times,..
“Take a lesson from the fig tree. From the moment you notice its buds form, the merest hint of green, you know summer’s just around the corner. And so it is with you. When you see all these things, you know he is at the door....“But the exact day and hour? No one knows that, not even heaven’s angels, not even the Son. Only the Father... I say it to you, and I’m saying it to all: Stay at your post. Keep watch.”