“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” —2 Timothy 2:15 KJV
By Scott Cassell
One key to understanding any section of the Bible is to clearly grasp how our Lord related to His people in the particular passage. In 1 Samuel 1:3, God’s title is given as “The LORD of hosts in Shiloh.” “Hosts” means “armies of heaven.” As the LORD of Hosts, God seeks to bless His own – us – with portions from Himself. He delights to use heavenly resources to bring us into practical possession of spiritual things. The Lord desires that we conquer spiritual ground and occupy it by what we do – and He will use the entire complement of His hosts that we might be blessed in this way.
Our enemies seek to occupy that heavenly ground, but it is intended for the saints. When Elisha’s servant was distressed by the surrounding army from Syria, the prophet prayed that his servant’s eyes would be opened to see the Lord’s hosts standing nearby (2 Ki. 6:15-19). Elisha’s prayer was answered, and the servant then saw “the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about.”
A Few Points From Joshua
The whole book of Joshua is very encouraging. In chapter 18 we read of the children of Israel assembling at Shiloh. Shiloh means “peaceful tranquility.” It was the proper place for His people, having journeyed out of Egypt, to begin their battles; and it was the place to return for solace later. There, Israel set up the tent of meeting, and we read the land of Canaan “was subdued before them” (v.1).
At this juncture in Israel’s journey, seven of the twelve tribes had yet to have their inheritance allocated. The New Testament book of Colossians was written to saints in much the same position. The passage in Joshua pictures believers who have been delivered from the world and placed in the presence of God’s victories. Yet, there was still more land to occupy than what had been already gained. It may be well to recognize that we are always in such a position of having more spiritual ground yet to be occupied than what has been already gained.
Lessons From Scripture
First and Second Samuel encourage us by telling about the Lord’s people’s passing through deep exercise while He, the Lord of Hosts, blessed them richly. The blessings are from the Lord’s own hand, matching the specific needs of the individual. Hannah, for example, initially was sorely troubled and deeply vexed, but then she gave birth to the prophet Samuel, who would be a blessing for God’s people. She described herself as “a woman of sorrowful spirit … [that] out of the abundance of my grief and provocation have I spoken hitherto” (1 Sam. 1:15-16 JND). Hannah was deeply hurt and richly blessed. We still read these many years later of her faith and the godly grace that our God worked in her life. Let’s consider a few Old Testament individuals with a little more detail.
Elkanah: During the time in which these saints lived it would seem obvious that many considered it a reproach, or point of shame, for a married couple to be childless. Perhaps it was regarded as a sign that God was not blessing them. Elkanah, Hannah’s husband, seemed to do several things correctly, including taking his entire family each year to the proper location to worship and sacrifice. However, his family was divided by strife. Hannah’s response to this conflict was prayer. Elkanah, by taking a second wife so he could have children, missed the rich blessing that Hannah experienced later.
It is not God’s plan for a man to have more than one wife, yet Elkanah used natural means to remove a reproach and solve his perceived problem. By contrast, Isaac prayed for his wife, Rebekah, and God gave them children (see Gen. 25:21). Ephesians 5:25 says, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it” (KJV). It is clearly stated that Elkanah loved Hannah, but it would appear that he fell short in the daily giving of himself for her benefit. This is where the rich and honest feelings of being a husband are experienced.
In 1 Samuel 1:8 Elkanah asked Hannah, “Am not I better to thee than ten sons?” Perhaps he believed, just like many men today, that the love he felt for his wife was the solution to her problems. It is clear in this chapter that such was not the case, as Hannah continued to suffer. This married couple should have passed together through the deep exercise of not having children. Such a trial would have drawn the two closer to one another. If they had acted in unity regarding Hannah’s being childless, then today we would see the prophet Samuel as the son of this godly couple rather than the son for which Hannah alone prayed. Elkanah’s actions, however, in taking a second wife greatly contributed to Hannah’s suffering. This is a sobering message to all married men. How good it is to keep the great example of our Lord and how much He gave for His bride always before us.
Eli the priest: This man is set before us as the complete anti-type to the grace that the Lord of Hosts worked in Hannah. Eli lacked discernment, as his eyes were dim. We may recall others from Scripture who were blind, Samson (Jud. 16:21) physically, and Hezekiah (Isa. 38:14) and the church at Laodicea (Rev. 3:17) spiritually.
In 1 Samuel 2, a man of God came to Eli and told him that he, Eli, honored his sons more than he did the LORD. Eli wanted to enjoy the things of this world through his two young sons. They were sinfully taking food from those who came to sacrifice and using it to enrich themselves. Eli took part in the same and became fat – heavy, sitting on a stool. Sadly, it appears this father simply saw his children as ones through whom he could benefit for his own pleasure.
By the contrasts presented, a lesson the Lord teaches us in these early verses of 1 Samuel 1-2 is how He would have us to view our dear children. After the Lord had worked deeply in Hannah’s soul, she came to see her child as a “vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work” (2 Tim. 2:21). This is the crux, the best way to view having offspring.
Eve: Perhaps an often-overlooked teaching on parenting and the home is the topic of the wife ruling the house. Let me first introduce a measure of background truth. The man Adam was placed into the garden of Eden, and “thus the heavens and the earth … were finished” (Gen. 2:1). All the animals of the air, sea and land had already been created. But unlike the animals, man initially had no mate. Adam must have known he was the only human on earth and that this whole creation was new. Then we read what the LORD God said: “It is not good that the man should be alone” (v.18). God was preparing Adam for what he was about to receive. Remember Adam was in innocence. The LORD God made Eve from a rib of Adam, having said, “I will make him an help meet for him” (v.18). The “help” is the answer to the problem of his being alone – a provision of greater worth than simply what is sufficient. The next phrase is what I am seeking to bring before us and consider: “meet for him.” It means his equal.
God had created an entire universe. Of the creatures he had made for earth, Adam was at the top. Eve occupied that same place in the order of creation. It is a pleasant thing to accept the simplicity of what God has established. The wife was God’s answer to man’s loneliness, and this required that she be like him. Keep in mind that, as students of Scripture, we know that the order of the home and the public place taken by men and by women is very specific, placing men as the head of the wife (1 Cor. 11:3). Yet they both take their role so as to exhibit God’s order, that their lives will say, “We believe God is right.”
Now consider 1 Timothy 5:14: “So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households …” (ESV). In the Darby translation the phrase “manage their households” is translated as “rule the house.” This is not rule over her husband, but over the children and the everyday tasks of keeping things in order. Managing a household takes much work, especially one including children. It is a grand task and the stakes are enormous. Therefore, it is folly for a man to expect his wife to have a job outside the home and still effectively manage their household. The society we live in may not value the role of a young married woman staying home to manage the house and its many associated tasks, but in God’s eyes it is of utmost importance.
Hannah: The persecution that Hannah suffered was most intense at the time of going to Shiloh to offer sacrifice. It was then that her adversary provoked her year after year. Likewise, Satan certainly reserves his most subtle wiles, or tricks, for when we plan to attend a Bible study or prayer meeting.
Hannah needed a change in her perspective. Initially she simply wanted children, but the Lord had shut up her womb – yes, this was the Lord’s doing. The LORD performed a deep work in her life, such that she came to see the needs of God’s people. Hannah saw the circumstances in Israel as personified by Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas. She then asked the LORD for a man child – not just a baby, but a prophet who could turn the hearts of His people toward God. His children need to be in submission and obedience – the great healing principle of humanity.
As to her son, Hannah initially said that she would “give him unto the LORD all the days of his life” (1 Sam. 1:11 KJV). Later she changed this to “as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the LORD” (v.28). In both statements it was for his entire life. Once her son was born to her, she came to understand that you always have your children; and when they hurt, you hurt. For grandchildren, you hurt double: first for your grandchild and second for your son or daughter. It never ends. She came to realize that she would always be attached to him.
This believing mother expected her son to grow in the Lord. She made him a little coat each year (2:19), bigger than the year before. Looking at Hannah I am reminded: What would we do without our mothers?
“And Jehovah appeared again at Shiloh; for Jehovah revealed Himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of Jehovah … And what Samuel had said happened to all Israel” (1 Sam. 3:21, 4:1 JND). It appears from these two verses that Hannah’s suffering was greatly rewarded. Once the Lord had Samuel walking before Him, then the Lord of Hosts could support his growth with all of His heavenly resources.
Consider one other example. When David was fleeing from King Saul he could count on these same resources. A large number of miraculous things happened along the way as David acted in faith. On the other hand, when he greatly sinned, everything worked against him (2 Sam. 24); and his own attempt to bless Mephibosheth ran into confusion thanks to the lies and trickery of Ziba (16:1-4, 19:24-29).
May we learn to live in full dependence on our Lord and Savior – the LORD of Hosts! We will rest in a peaceful tranquility as we trust Him and lean on His grace.