In so many ways, the beginning of 1 Samuel marks a transition for us in our journey through the Old Testament, the beginning of a new chapter. We are moving away from the story Israel’s birth as a nation and entering into the story of its maturation. Essentially, Samuel 1 & 2 are dominated by three figures: Samuel, Saul and David. All of the accounts, the secondary persons, the significant teaching comes in relation to these three people.
As we being this part of our journey together, let me begin by reminding you that these are not made-up characters or stories. These are historical accounts of people, who lived, breathed and died. We must be very careful not to fall into the mindset that these are “stories” in the fictional sense. I try to be very careful to use the word character or story in relation to Biblical accounts because we need to remember the reality of these people and their lives. I will instead strive to talk about accounts, figures, personalities or persons.
In particular to today’s reading, let me point out the way vows play into the account. Vows are quite a ways outside of our cultural context. We may talk about contracts or agreements, but “vow” is outside of our vocabulary. You will vows a lot in these books. Vows made from one person to another, vows made to God, even vows made in such a way as to ensure the truthfulness of a statement (may the Lord deal with me, be it every so severely if…)
A vow was made as a way of asserting the truthfulness of your claim and your intent to follow through on what you have said. So Hannah makes a vow before God, promising to dedicate her child to his service if he will bless her with a child. This is a vow she keeps. In truth, that is one of the main points in dealing with vows in scripture: are they fulfilled and what are the consequences if they are not. God takes vows very seriously, and so should we. While we don’t deal in the currency of vows very often now-a-days, we do make them from time-to-time. We make vows in our minds and our hearts (I will never be like my father/mother; I would be happy if this place burnt down, etc.)
Vows are binding on us, and can have spiritual ramifications. One spiritual exercise that I have participated in is asking God to reveal any vows that I had made, consciously or unconsciously and show me how they were affecting me. It is surprising what comes out of such a venture.
The other thing to notice is how God honours those who seek after him. Hannah approaches God as Lord Sabaoth (God of hosts/armies). This title for God acknowledges the infinite resources and power that are at God’s disposal as he works on behalf of his people. But Hannah believes that “the power of the Lord of Hosts was not confined to military exploits; she believed he knew all about her and could give her a son.” (Joyce Baldwin, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries: 1 and 2 Samuel, pg 17). Her faith led her to pray, believing that it was well within God’s power and ability to give her a son.
Cultivating such faith is something we should all strive for.
- What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
- What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
- Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
- How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
- What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?
Tomorrow’s Reading: 1 Samuel 4-8