Today, I swam through the rest of Judges (what a weird book!) and through Ruth. Then, I entered I Samuel.
I’ve always liked the Samuel books. Having God raise up a righteous judge and prophet from his conception (read I Samuel 1) all the way to adulthood is pretty cool. You don’t get that kind of history with many Biblical figures. Samuel’s mother, Hannah, was barren. She prayed fervently for a son to end her disgrace. Any baby, really, would help her not to be tortured mercilessly by her husband Elkanah’s other wife, Peninnah. She went to the house of God one day and said, in Susan-paraphrase, “Lord, help! If you will only give me a son, I will dedicate him to serve in the temple all his life. ”
Eli, high priest, was there serving before the Lord. He had seen her desperate vow to God. He even accused her of drunkenness because she prayed with lips moving and no sound coming out. Sometimes, there are no real words necessary. She told Eli then that she was in dire straits and was not inebriated. Eli, moved by her sincerity, pronounced a blessing on her.
God heard that prayer. She had a son whom she named Samuel. She kept him until he was weaned, which in that culture was somewhere between 2 and 3 years old. How she must have been so encouraged by God’s hearing her prayer! Samuel became a tangible reminder of God’s goodness to her, now and forever. Then, she took him to the temple as promised. She told Eli of her prayer, now some 3 years past, and showed him the little boy that resulted from that request. She dedicated Samuel to God. She left him there.
As I read this passage, my eyes filled with tears. We don’t dedicate children to God in our culture, at least not in a sense of leaving them at the altar to be raised by a group of priests and Levites. How hard it must’ve been for Hannah! The scripture doesn’t say she wept, but as a mom myself, I can only imagine she did anyway. She also prayed a prayer of joy and exultation to God, who helped her triumph over the taunting Peninnah. The Scripture also says the Lord visited her again, giving her other children. The implication seems to be that without the Lord’s intervention, Hannah would have continued to be barren. Every year, she made Samuel a little robe and brought it up to him, keeping a limited but conssistent contact with her miracle child. Amazing.
As my son prepares to travel to Portland for a youth conference, I think about the fact that I only get to hold him, talk to him, feed him and love him directly for a short time. He is truly on loan to me from God. I will miss him while he’s away. Soon enough, he will be driving, then graduating high school and on to college and living on his own. I can relate to Hannah a little since it took us so long to get pregnant. Zac, and Ruby for that matter, remain to me a testament of the goodness of God in my life, now and always.
Just don’t tell Zac I cried.