Thursday, 24 May 2012

Reflections on Old Testament Law and History #4

As I read 1 Samuel I noticed several antithetical stories juxtaposed in the text: the book begins with the birth of the last judge and ends with the death of the first king, for example. The first chapters of 1 Samuel consider the story of two families, that of Elkanah and Eli. As a mother, I had previously overlooked Elkanah's story and focussed on Hannah's prayer and its results. But when compared with the sons of Eli, Elkanah’s positive attributes are magnified. Elkanah went up to worship and sacrifice ‘year after year’ (1 Sam. 1:3), generously granting portions of the sacrifice to his family with extra for his beloved, yet barren wife (1 Sam. 1:4-5). He was even willing to give up his own son to the LORD (1 Sam. 1:21-23). This diligence in worship and generosity with sacrifice is a stark contrast to Hophni and Phinehas, who regard the LORD and his offerings with contempt (1 Sam. 2:12-17).

I reflected upon these contrasts, asking myself: am I selfish in my worship of God? Sometimes I am unwilling to share what I see as “my worship time” (early morning Bible study, or a church service) with my often noisy or restless kids, so I need to learn from Elkanah’s example. I can be impatient with other people’s worship, wishing the church would do things the way I like; seeking only my benefit, not that of the church. So I must heed the warning of Eli’s sons’ fate. And although I was not willing to give up my children to the service of the LORD at the tender age of three as Elkanah gave up his son, it is my abiding hope that they will all serve him in their adult careers and indeed with their whole lives.

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