“ Amazing Grace, my chains fell off”; “My Shepherd and my king yet my friend”; “the Lord is by my side – when I look back I will see my lord who died for me, the Lord is by my side”. Encouraging and challenging words in these beautiful songs, a wonderful reminder that my time here in the early morning is taken up expressing my relationship with the living God – what a privilege!
“It is good that you see all these relationship concepts in the light of the first one. My Grace is amazing and should continue to amaze you every day. You should never get tired of being overawed that I, the king of the universe have reached out to you and billions like you of finite expressions of My creation. Yet to Me each one of you is totally precious in your own unique way and my joy is filled when you respond and enjoy Me, wandering between awe and the sense of calm assurance of My love for you. True joy is only experienced as you take that in and make it part of your moment by moment default thinking.”
1Samuel; There was an opinion column in Die Burger this week, written by a well-known Christian philosopher and theologian, one of the lecturers at the seminary in Stellenbosch. The theme of his message was that, looking back in history there have been a number of what could be described as amazing coincidences. He mentions several on which history pivoted from time to time. His suggestion, not expressed too boldly was that there was a Higher Hand” guiding these moments. However at the end of his column he makes a very strong statement that he refuses to believe we are all marionettes being driven to behave in a certain way.
This view of the enigma of God’s guidance, which many people struggle with shows a huge underestimation of God’s ability to create people for a purpose, to give them a “free will” to make decisions and act as they would like and yet to use all the different building blocks of society and history to accomplish His precise purposes. Even those, acting under their own free will and behaving contrary to the greater plan, are fully used by God to continue accomplishing His purpose. It is way beyond our normal ability to grasp and understand how He uses umpteen factors and people to fulfil His amazing, unfolding plan. Yet we can observe it and be hugely encouraged as we see how all the people and events unfold and interact to achieve exactly what He wants.
This is no more apparent than in this book of 1 Samuel. Up to now the Israelites have been led by leaders who acted under the guidance of God. Moses, Joshua etc. His bigger plan was for there to be a king, who would foreshadow the future Messiah. Yet the people wanted a king, not of His choosing, but like the other nations around them. This results in a whole chapter of God’s story deviating via Saul who God then gives them, before David, God’s truly chosen king comes on the scene. Many times it would appear that God’s plan had failed, yet there was never any doubt of the ultimate outcome. This should not puzzle us or lead us to doubt, but rather fill us with awe as we realize how much greater God’s wisdom and power is than we could ever imagine.
As we come now to the first chapter, a few thoughts. Eli, the priest is unknown with a low profile. He had two sons who we find to be wicked disgrace later. As you read this first chapter, what story does it remind you of? Another girl who was a virgin and has a miraculous conception and writes a similar poem to the one in Ch 2? There are several instances where God uses this type of scenario to herald a supernatural turn of events. Think of Sarah and Rebekah.
Although it was allowed, it is clear that the presence of two wives was really not ideal. The emphasis of the story though is on the miraculous birth of the young boy Samuel (meaning “heard of God”.) We read in Psalm 73 of David “fulfilling his vows” and here we have an intense example of that. Hard to imagine after all the prayers and the response to that with a lovely boy, that Hannah would go through with her vow, giving this precious answer to her prayers back to God. The stage is set for the next move of God.
What has really struck me as this passage unfolds is the way that God is using these various people and events to push His plan forward. I had several messages on my birthday reaffirming the fact that God has a plan for each one of us and that He is not finished with me yet.
I also questioned myself as to how I interact with God in my prayers. How serious am I? What can I learn from Hannah’s prayer and her later response to God’s answer?
Next week we will unpack some of Hannah’s song. One commentator has suggested that it is ta table of contents for 1 and 2 Samuel. In the mean time, God bless you all.