Introduction: Over time, the location and the title of the book of Samuel in the Bible has changed. But its importance has not.
Before the development of the printing press, the Jews wrote the book of Samuel on scrolls. With the development of the printing press and books centuries later, Christians and Jews disagree regarding where to place these scrolls within the Old Testament and what to call them. Christians placed them chronologically after the book of Ruth as the ninth book of the Bible. By contrast, for thematic reasons, the Jews moved the book of Ruth out of its chronological order. They placed the book of Samuel after Judges as the eighth Bible book.
Christians assert that the book of Ruth had to appear before the book of Samuel because it traced the ancestry of Israel’s future king David. Jews, however, assert that the books of Joshua through 2 Kings formed one continuous block of teachings, called the “Former Prophets”. From the moment the Jews entered Israel under Joshua until the time they were deported at the time of Zedekiah, God showed His faithfulness to uphold the teachings of the first five books of the Bible, called the “Torah” by the Jews and the “Septuagint” by the Greeks. These five books showed that God was faithful to bless the Jews when their faith led to the fruit of obedience. By contrast, He removed certain blessings when they walked in either disbelief or rebellion.
The current division in the Bible between first and second Samuel also did not appear in the original Hebrew schools. The original scrolls also did not contain an official title or author. Thus, at one point in the past, the books of Samuel and Kings were all called the book of Kings.
The author of these books has also been debated over time. The Jews considered Samuel to be the author of most of the first book. Until Jesus, he was the fulfillment of a prophesy of a prophet like Moses (Dt. 18:15-18). But the book records his death. Thus, others had to contribute. The Jews believed that the other authors included the prophets Gad and Nathan.
With so many disagreements about where to place this book, what to call it, and who wrote it, some might question the value of reading this book. But skipping this book would be a mistake. For several reasons, the book of Samuel is important to the growth of any believer in Christ.
This book is important for every believer to realize that there is no substitute for living under the authority of Jesus as both your Savior and your Lord. The books of the Judges, Samuel, and Kings all show that every human system of government is compromised by sin. Throughout the book of Judges, the Jews rebelled against His Word by adopting the pagan practices of the Canaanites. Each time they rebelled, God removed His hedge of protection. The Jews then fell under the yoke of either a Canaanite or foreign oppressor. The Jews would then call out for help. Out of mercy and grace, God would send a judge to deliver His people and restore their walk with Him. “Then the LORD raised up judges who delivered them from the hands of those who plundered them.” (Jdgs. 2:16; Acts 13:20). Representing God’s divinely inspired human governance, He raised up 12 judges. These included: (1) Othniel (Jdgs. 3:9-11); (2) Ehud (3:15-30); (3) Shamgar (3:31); (4) Deborah and Barak jointly (4:4-5:31); (5) Gideon (6:11-9:32); (6) Tola (10:1-2); (7) Jair (10:3-5); (8) Jephthah (11:1-12:7); (9) Ibzan (12:8-9); (10) Elon (12:11-12); (11) Abdon (12:13-15); and (12) Samson (15:1-16:31). But these judges or deliverers could not keep the people free from sin. Once God freed the people from their oppression, their sinful nature caused them to drift back into an endless cycle of sin. Eventually, society became so corrupt that even the judges or delivers became yoked in sin. Samson was the most notorious example of this. The Jews eventually concluded that their problem was that they lacked a king like the nations around them. “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.” (Jdgs. 17:6; 21:25). Despite Samuel’s warnings not to adopt foreign ways, they demanded that God give them a king like the nations around them. “Nevertheless, the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel, and they said, ‘No, but there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.”’ (1 Sam. 8:19-20). God then gave the Jews the king that the Jews wanted, Saul. Yet, like the judges before them, Saul, David, and the kings after them would all struggle with obedience. Just as a judge or deliver would not solve the people’s problems of obedience, a king would not solve these problems either. But the establishment of the monarchy still served a divine purpose. It paved the way for the future righteous rule of Jesus, the King of Kings. God would eventually establish His unconditional and eternal covenant through David (2 Sam. 7:8; 1 Chr. 7:14; Ps. 45:6; 89:36-37; Heb. 1:8). Jesus was born into David’s line (Matt. 1:1; Ro. 1:3). But He would be more than just a king. He became the King of Kings (Rev. 19:16; 1 Tim. 6:15). “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David;” (Lk. 1:32). His reign will begin during the Millennial Reign and last forever (Ps. 10:16; 146:10). He will rule the world with divide justice and righteousness: ‘“Behold, the days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; and He will reign as king and act wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land.” (Jer. 23:5). Yet, for Jesus to be as both your Lord and Savior, you must submit to Him. If not, you will likely drift into sin and rebellion, just like the Jews did.
2) Trust in God and not in government for your deliverance. Through the book of Samuel, Jews were also warned to trust in God and not in human leaders for their deliverance. “Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.” (Ps. 146:3). “It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.” (Ps. 118:9). “O give us help against the adversary, for deliverance by man is in vain.” (Ps. 60:11). Even when the Jews did not deserve His blessings, He raised up leaders, provided for their needs, and protected them as His Covenant people. “But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.” (2 Thess. 3:3). When the Jews were faithful, He expanded their lands and poured out His blessings. In the four books of the Law, God reveals at least 21 specific blessings for those who are faithful and obedient to Him. These blessings are unrelated to Jesus’ blessings of eternal salvation. In Exodus, God revealed at least three conditional blessings that come from faithful obedience. These include: (1) protection from diseases (Ex. 15:26); a prolonged life (Ex. 20:12; Dt. 5:16, 32-33; 4:40; 6:1-2; 12:28; 22:6-7; 25:13-16; Lev. 18:5; Eph. 6:2-3); and (3) God’s holy presence (Ex. 40:34-35). In Leviticus, God revealed seven other conditional blessings that He may use to bless a person or a nation for obedience. These include: (1) provision (Lev. 26:3-5); (2) peace (Lev. 26:6); (3) protection (Lev. 26:7-8; Ex. 23:22); (4) fertility (Lev. 26:9); (5) abundance from giving (Lev. 26:10; Ps. 92:12-14; Mal. 3:10-12); (6) guidance (Lev. 26:11-12; Ps. 32:8); and (7) freedom (Lev. 26:13; Ex. 20:2). In Deuteronomy, He revealed 10 other conditional blessings. These include: (1) exaltation for the nation (Dt. 28:1-2); (2) exaltation for the individual within the nation (Dt. 28:1-3); (3) growth (Dt. 28:4); (4) food (Dt. 28:5); (5) success (Dt. 28:6); (6) the defeat of your enemies (Dt. 28:7); (7) prosperity (Dt. 28:8); (8) holiness (Dt. 28:9); (9) respect (Dt. 28:10); and (10) the fullness of God’s blessings (Dt. 28:11-14). In books of the Law from Exodus through Deuteronomy, He also revealed the blessing of forgiveness from the blood sacrifices (Lev. 17:11; Heb. 9:22). Jesus became the final one-time sacrifice to fulfill the Old Testament sacrificial laws (Heb. 10:12). The only act of obedience required to receive this blessing today is to believe that He died for your sins and that He is both your Lord and Savior (Ro. 10:13; Acts 2:21; Jo. 3:16; 1 Jo. 1:9). Yet, separate and apart from your salvation, God revealed in the books from Judges to 2 Kings that He will also keep His promises to remove His hedge of protection when His people turned from Him. In Leviticus 26, He lists 14 curses that can happen to either an individual or a nation when they stand outside the protections of His Covenant in the face of the enemy’s attacks. These include: (1) fear; (2) defeat; (3) brokenness; (4) failure; (5) torment; (6) dissatisfaction; (7) self-destruction; (8) desperation; (9) isolation; (10) barrenness; (11) exile; (12) hopeless; (13) destruction; and (14) atrophy. Yet, even when He disciplined them, He continued to love them and keep His Covenant with them. In Deuteronomy chapter 28, God also identifies 40 additional progressively severe curses. These include: (1) resistance / opposition (Dt. 28:16); (2) scarcity (Dt. 28:17); (3) infertility (Dt. 28:18); (4) failure (Dt. 28:19); (5) rebuke (Dt. 28:20); (6) hardships (Dt. 28:21); (7) illness (Dt. 28:22); (8) drought (Dt. 28:23-24); (9) defeat (Dt. 28:25); (10) fear (Dt. 28:26-27); (11) disease (Dt. 28:28); (12) confusion (Dt. 28:28-29); (13) stolen spouses (Dt. 28:30(a)); (14) stolen property (Dt. 28:30(b)-31, 33(a)); (15) stolen children (Dt. 28:32); (16) oppression (Dt. 28:33(b)); (17) mental illness (Dt. 28:34.); (18) sores and lost beauty (Dt. 28:35); (19) idolatry (Dt. 28:36); (20) being vilified (Dt. 28:37); (21) insect plagues (Dt. 28:38-39); (22) a seared conscience (Dt. 28:40); (23) enslaved youth (the second curse against children) (Dt. 28:41); (24) barren lands (Dt. 28:42); (25) indebtedness (Dt. 28:43-44); (26) destruction (Dt. 28:45-6); (27) captivity (Dt. 28:47(a)); (28) suffering (Dt. 28:47(b)); (29) invasion (Dt. 28:49-50); (30) pillaging (Dt. 28:51); (31) being besieged (Dt. 28:52); (32) self-destruction (Dt. 28:53); (33) husbands turning on their wives (Dt. 28:54-55); (34) wives turning on their husbands (Dt. 28:56-57); (35) unending plagues (Dt. 28:58-59(a)); (36) unending diseases (Dt. 28:59(b)-60); (37) other calamities (Dt. 28:61); (38) population collapse (Dt. 28:62-63); (39) exile (Dt. 28:64); and (40) despair (Dt. 28:65-68). Only after the Jews ignored His measured and progressive discipline was He forced to deport them. Yet, even then, He never gave up on His promises to the Jews. He is faithful even when we are not. “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Tim. 2:13). Like the Jews, God also wants you to trust in His faithfulness. He wants you to trust in His faithfulness not to question your salvation as a saved believer in Christ when you sin. When you repent, He is faithful to forgive your sins (1 Jo. 1:9). But He wants you to remember that He also promises consequences to you when you rebel and step outside His hedge of protection.
3) God values Spirit-led obedience over sacrifice. Throughout the books of Judges, Samuel, and Kings, the Jews failed to break the cycle sin because they lacked Spirit-led obedience. In the book of Samuel, the first high priest, Eli, and the first king, Saul, offered acts of sacrifice. But they failed to offer their acts of sacrifice with Spirit-led obedience. As a result their sacrifices were worthless in God’s eyes. Samuel exhorted the people that obedience was better than sacrifice. “Samuel said, ‘Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.” (1 Sam. 15:22). “To do righteousness and justice is desired by the LORD more than sacrifice.” (Prov. 21:3). Obedience was a common Old Testament theme (e.g., Dt. 6:3-4; 9:1; 20:3; Josh. 1:7). But obedience still had to be done with the right motives for God. Thus, Samuel also called the people to obedience by first purifying their hearts of their wickedness. “Then Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, ‘If you return to the LORD with all your heart, remove the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your hearts to the LORD and serve Him alone; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines.”’ (1 Sam. 7:3; 12:20, 24-25). Christians should never be misled into believing that obedience will lead to salvation (Gal. 2:21). The New Testament is clear that Christians are not “under the Law” in the sense that they must comply with it to be saved (Gal. 5:18; Ro. 7:6; 8:3; Matt. 5:17). Even when you try, you cannot be righteous before God without Jesus (Ps. 143:2; Ro. 3:10, 20; 4:15). But Jesus also said that, if you love Him, we will keep His Commandments: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (Jo. 14:15, 21; 15:10; 1 Jo. 5:3; 2 Jo. 1:6). The “commandments that He referred to were the Ten Commandments. He is the “I AM” who gave these commandments at Mount Horeb to Moses (Ex. 3:14; Jo. 8:58). His “disciples” were the “disciplined ones” in keeping His Ten Commandments. Whether you follow the Law out of love is also a test for whether you really know God: “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.” (1 Jo. 2:3). “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God.” (1 Cor. 7:19). If you follow the Word and the direction of the Holy Spirit out of love and not obligation, you are a witness to His light. Conversely, you dishonor God when you break it (Ro. 2:23). Likewise, when the Church ceases to preach God’s standards of morality, it ceases to be His “salt and light.” (Matt. 5:13-16). Today, things that were once called evil are now called good. God warns against this: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Is. 5:20). Thus, neither you nor the Church should adopt the world’s system of morality.
4) Restoration comes through humility. Through the examples of both the priesthood and the monarchy, God reveals that restoration cannot happen without humble submission to Him. He restored the priesthood through the son of the humble, barren women, Hannah (1 Sam. 1). He also restored the monarchy through the offspring of a humble, foreign gentile, Ruth (Ruth 4:13-22). He further picked the youngest and least important from Jesse’s family to restore the monarchy after Saul corrupted it (1 Sam. 16:11-13). If you submit to God in humility, He can also bless and restore you: “But the humble will inherit the land and will delight themselves in abundant prosperity.” (Ps. 37:11; Matt. 5:5). “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Matt. 23:12). “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time,” (1 Pet. 5:6). “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” (Jam. 4:10).
5) To obtain spiritual restoration, identify and reject the counterfeit and then turn back to God. The book of Samuel helps to answer how to obtain spiritual restoration, both for the individual and for the country. First, you must identify and reject the counterfeit that Satan offers through the flesh. To illustrate this, the book of Samuel provides a contrast between the false priesthood and monarchy of the flesh and the true priesthood and monarchy of the Spirit. In each case, the counterfeit preceded the genuine. This followed a familiar pattern in the Bible. The counterfeit line of Cain preceded the righteous line of Seth. The counterfeit line of Ishmael preceded the righteous line of Isaac. The counterfeit line of Esau also preceded the righteous line of Jacob / Israel. The false messiah will also one day precede the true Messiah. The book also shows how spiritual restoration will always precede physical restoration. During the time of the judges, the priesthood fell into sin, and the nation fell into civil war (Jdgs. 17:1-18:31; 21:15-24; 19:29-20:48). Thus, the book of Samuel starts with the problem of the corrupt priesthood under the priest Eli and his sons. God had to transform the priesthood before He could restore the people and their civil leaders. Thus, a spiritual restoration must also precede any physical restoration. This is true both for the individual and the country. Second, after identifying and rejecting the counterfeit, you must turn to God in humility before He can restore you. “and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chron. 7:14). In life, there will be many corrupt church and civil leaders that will appear righteous by their outward acts. You must learn to test all things through the Word and the Spirit to avoid being led astray (1 Thess. 5:21; 1 Jo. 4:1). God’s righteousness will appear foolish to the world (1 Cor. 1:18; 2:14). Thus, a sinful nation or people first needs the Church to be restored before God will restore the nation.
6) Be in a shepherd-like accountability relationship to both Jesus and others. Many of the righteous leaders in the Bible were shepherds. This includes Abel (Gen. 4:2); Abraham (Gen. 12:6); Isaac (Gen. 26:14); Jacob / Israel (Gen. 30:29-31); Judah (Gen. 38:13); Moses (Ex. 3:1); David (1 Sam. 17:34); and Jesus, the Good Shepherd (Jo. 10:11). The book of Samuel also stresses the importance of Spirit-led accountability relationships through the analogy of foolish and wise shepherd leaders. As one commentary observes: “Saul is first portrayed as a bad shepherd; Saul is king such as the nations have; David is a king after Yahweh’s heart; Saul disobeys the Lord repeatedly throughout his career; David, only once. When confronted, Saul confesses his sin only begrudgingly; David, without hesitation.” (Robert Bergen, 1, 2 Samuel, The New American Commentary, Vol. 7, B&H Publishing Group (1996) p. 34). Yet, before presenting David as the true shepherd, the Bible demonstrates how Saul was a false shepherd: “The first Saul narrative depicts him as an incompetent shepherd – symbolic in Israelite culture of an unfit ruler – one so inept that over a period of days he cannot find a pack of donkeys that temporarily strayed from home (1 Sam 9:3ff.).” (Id. at 35). Like Saul, David was in sinner. What made him different from Saul was that he submitted himself in a spiritual accountability relationship to Yahweh as his ultimate shepherd. “A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.” (Ps. 23:1). Saul did not head Yahweh’s counsel through the prophet Samuel. By contrast, David repented when Yahweh’s representative, the prophet Nathan, confronted him (2 Sam. 12). A leader must always be in submission to the Holy Spirit and another Spirit-led authority (Jo. 16:12-14). This lesson applies to families, civil leaders, and Church leaders. Like David, a Spirit-led leader must also be a shepherd to the flock that God has entrusted to him or her. “[Jesus] said to him again a second time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love Me?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’ He said to him, ‘Shepherd My sheep.”” (Jo. 21:16). For leaders at all levels, this includes protecting His flock, providing for His flock, and guiding His flock (Jo. 21:17). “For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.” (1 Pet. 2:25).
7) Give thanks for God’s mercy and grace. Throughout the book of Samuel, God extended blessings and removed curses out of His mercy and grace. “But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared.” (Ps. 130:4). “For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You.” (Ps. 86:5; Dan. 9:9). Yet, the Jews had to be thankful and never misuse His mercy and grace as a license to sin more (Ro. 6:1-2; Gal. 6:7-8). Like the Jews, believers should always give thanks for His mercy and grace. Out of love and devotion, believers should live their lives as a “living sacrifice” to Jesus (Ro. 12:2).
1 Samuel 1: Lessons From Hannah on Living a Holy Life for God
Introduction: In the book of Ruth, God revealed that David’s dynasty had its roots in a barren Moabite who placed her trust in God. In the book of Samuel, God revealed that Samuel’s transformation of the priesthood in Israel also had its roots in a barren woman who placed her trust in God. Hannah trusted in God in the midst of her suffering, and God transformed her. From her holy example, God reveals seven lessons for living a holy life. These include: (1) purity; (2) trust; (3) dependence; (4) self-sacrifice; (5) faith; (6) obedience; and (7) thankfulness.
First, a Levite named Elkanah compromised in his walk by marrying two women. Although he loved God, he adopted worldly practices in his walk with God. From his mistakes, God reveals that he wants you to be pure in your walk with Him. Second, while one wife named Peninnah engaged in jealous attacks against Hannah, God kept Hannah’s womb closed as part of His greater plan to bring forth the prophet Samuel. Through her humility, He would later exalt her and bless all of Israel. From this, God reveals that He wants you to trust in Him when you are under attack. Third, as a result of his compromised walk, Elkanah was blind to Hannah’s sorrow. He advised her that he was worth more than ten sons. If he were walking with God, he would have encouraged Hannah to find her fulfillment through dependence upon God alone. Fourth, in her pain, Hannah promised to dedicate any son that God might provide as a life-long Nazarite. From this, God reveals that He wants you to sacrifice for Him so that He can transform you. Fifth, God showed His faithfulness to Hannah by granting her a son who would become one of the greatest prophets of Israel, Samuel. Although God may not always provide the same blessings, He wants you to have faith in Him to provide for you. Sixth, in response to God’s faithfulness, Hannah was obedient to keep her vows by dedicating Samuel. From this, God reveals that He also wants you to be obedient to keep your promises to Him. Finally, Hannah gave thanks for God’s blessings. God also wants you to give thanks for His blessings.
Elkanah the Levite’s sin of polygamy. The story of 1 Samuel begins with a Levite with confused moral integrity. Elkanah loved God. Yet, he chose to worship God as he saw fit by taking two wives: “1 Now there was a certain man from Ramathaim-zophim from the hill country of Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. 2 He had two wives: the name of one was Hannah and the name of the other Peninnah; and Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.” (1 Sam. 1:1-1). Although Elkanah lived within the territory of Ephraim, he was a Levite (1 Chr. 6:33-38). This meant that he was supposed to be both a priest and a light to the Jews and gentiles around him. Yet, his personal life choices by taking two wives set a poor example for what it meant to be a follower of Yahweh.
The sin of polygamy. Like divorce, polygamy was something that God tolerated out of the hardness of the people’s hearts (Matt. 19:8; Mk. 10:5). It was not something that He condoned. To discourage polygamy, He gave multiple warnings in the Bible. Abraham’s marriage suffered after he had his son Ishmael with Sarai’s servant Hagar (Gen 16:3-5). He also had to wait 13 years before God spoke with him again. More importantly, the world is also still struggling today from this union through the Arab Israeli conflict (Hos. 8:7; Gal. 4:22-24). Polygamy also caused conflict within Jacob’s marriage. It was against God’s Law for Jacob to marry both Leah and her sister Rachel (Lev. 18:18). Yet, he did so anyway because of his lust for Rachel. Jealousy was one of the fruits of this unholy union. While Leah had children, Rachel’s jealousy drove her to feel that she would die unless she had a child (Gen. 30:1). Jealousy eventually drove her to have Jacob sleep with her servant Bilhah (Gen. 30:1-6). Jealousy in turn drove Leah to have Jacob sleep with her servant Zilphah to increase the number of her kids. She did this even though she already had four sons, and she had only had one year after their marriage without a pregnancy (Gen. 30:9-10). Leah’s children’s jealousy over Jacob’s love for Rachel’s children later drove Reuben to defile Rachel’s maid servant Bilhah (Gen. 35:22). Reuben was Jacob’s oldest son (Gen. 29:30-31). He was entitled to a double blessing as the firstborn (Dt. 21:15-17). Yet, Reuben’s actions caused him and his future tribe to lose their firstborn status (Gen. 49:3-4; 1 Chron. 5:1-2). Some of his bitter descendants, including Dathan, Abiram, and On, from the tribe of Reuben, “took action” in a rebellion led by Korah the worship leader against Moses (Nu. 16:1). They joined in Korah’s rebellion against Moses in an attempt to regain power. Jealousy also drove ten of Jacob’s sons to sell Joseph into slavery because Joseph was one of two sons of Rachel whom Jacob loved more than them (Gen. 37:18-36). In the book of Judges, a priest’s attempt to retrieve his unhappy second wife and her subsequent brutal gang rape set off a civil war in Israel the nearly destroyed in the tribe of Benjamin. Centuries later, David also suffered endless conflict after he took another man’s wife out of lust. The many wives of Solomon also turned his heart from God. All of these Old Testament accounts establish that there can be no family peace when a man has two wives or a wife and a mistress (Dt. 21:15-17). Since He created Adam and Eve, His plan has been for marriage to be a union between one man and one woman for life. In reference to God’s leaders, the Bible warns that the leaders “must be husbands of only one wife, . . .” (1 Tim. 3:12). A married man and woman further become “one flesh.” (Mk. 10:8). Jesus’ standards of morality did not change between the Old and New Testaments (Heb. 13:8). Are you living by His standard?
Don’t adopt worldly values in your walk with God. Although a polygamist, Elkanah loved God. He followed God’s requirement that every Jew travel three times a year to the location of the ark to worship Him (Ex. 23:14; 34:23; Dt. 16:16). During the time of the judges while the city of Jerusalem was contested, Joshua placed the ark in the city of Shiloh, 20 miles north of Jerusalem (Josh. 18:1). As a devout believer, Elkanah went at least once a year, if not more frequently, to worship God with his family at Shiloh (1 Sam. 1:3). Thus, he was not an evil man. He was instead misguided in his belief that he could worship God however he wanted. Unlike Elkanah, you should never let your walk with God be compromised by the things of the world. Is there any area where you have adopted worldly ways and compromised your walk with God?
Peninnah’s jealous attacks against Hannah. Even though Elkanah tried to lead a holy household with yearly sacrifices, his unholy household arrangement predictably led to conflict and jealousy: “3 Now this man would go up from his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts in Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests to the Lord there. 4 When the day came that Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and her daughters; 5 but to Hannah he would give a double portion, for he loved Hannah, but the Lord had closed her womb. 6 Her rival, however, would provoke her bitterly to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb. 7 It happened year after year, as often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she would provoke her; so she wept and would not eat.” (1 Sam. 1:3-7). Elkanah had his family eat before the Lord. This established that he made a fellowship sacrifice, the one kind of voluntary sacrifice where the person shared in eating part of the sacrifice with God. This symbolized fellowship with God (Lev. 3; Dt. 12:17-18). Yet, there was no godly fellowship within Elkanah’s family. As the wife with children, Peninnah’s firstborn son was entitled to a double portion of Elkanah’s future estate. “17 But he shall acknowledge the firstborn, the son of the unloved, by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the beginning of his strength; to him belongs the right of the firstborn.” (Dt. 21:17). This would guarantee that Peninnah and her future heirs would have financial supremacy over Hannah and her future heirs. Although one might expect this financial supremacy to cause Peninnah to feel secure, Elkanah’s apparent greater love for Hannah and his extra gifts to her caused Peninnah to feel insecure. Under similar circumstances, Leah also felt insecure after Jacob rejected her and showed a greater love for her barren sister Rachel. Leah thought that she could win Jacob’s affections with sons. After bearing her sixth son Zebulun, she deluded herself into thinking that Jacob would finally show affection for her by dwelling with her: “Then Leah said, ‘God has endowed me with a good gift; now my husband will dwell with me, because I have borne him six sons.’ So she named him Zebulun.”’ (Gen. 30:20). Just as Jacob made Leah jealous by favoring Rachel, Elkanah made Peninnah jealous by favoring Hannah. His family reaped the fruit of his unholy marital arrangement.
Peninnah becomes jealous of Hannah and attacks her2
The flesh is at war with the Spirit. Peninnah symbolized the flesh, and Hannah symbolized the Spirit. Just as Peninnah attacked Hannah, your flesh is at war with the Spirit. “And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also.” (Gal. 4:28-29). Satan is the one who seeks to put your flesh at war with the Spirit: “[T]he mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God . . .” (Rom. 8:7). “and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Rom. 8:8). “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.” (Gal. 5:17). If you give in to your flesh, the devil will ultimately enslave you: “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?” (Ro. 6:16; Gal. 4:7-9). If you then fail to ask for Christ to deliver you from your bondage, He may turn you over to your addiction or desires of the flesh until you repent: “Therefore, God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, . . .” (Ro. 1:24-33; Ps. 81:12). Thus, you must pick who you will serve: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.” (Matt. 6:24). You therefore cannot lead a dual life. Which master do you serve?
Obedience to God’s Word is better than self-guided sacrifice. Paul warns that “one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption . . .” (Gal. 6:8). “They have sown wheat and have reaped thorns, they have strained themselves to no profit.” (Jer. 12:13(a)). “For they sow the wind and they reap the whirlwind . . .” (Hos. 8:7(a)). Paul also warns “outbursts of anger, disputes [and] dissensions,” like the ones that Peninnah and Hannah experienced, are the results of walking by “the deeds of the flesh” (Gal. 5:19-21). Elkanah again reaped what he sowed within his family. His pious sacrifices could not undo the harm he created. The prophet Samuel would therefore later rightly proclaim: ‘“Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice . . ..”’ (1 Sam. 15:22). If you are living by the flesh, your sacrifice is no better than Elkanah’s sacrifice.
Don’t give into the sin of jealousy. If Elkanah sinned by sowing the seeds of jealousy, Peninnah sinned by giving into her jealousy of Hannah. Jealousy is a deadly sin. It is prohibited under the Tenth Commandment against coveting (Ex. 20:17; Dt. 5:21). It is also one of “the deeds of the flesh” (Gal. 5:19-21). It is an anger that comes from someone else having something that you want or feel entitled to. Cain’s jealousy of Abel led him to kill him in an act of rage (Gen. 4:8). Solomon warns: “For jealousy enrages a man, and he will not spare in the day of vengeance.” (Prov. 6:34). It is a more deadly emotion than wrath: “Wrath is fierce and anger is a flood, but who can stand before jealousy?” (Prov. 27:4). “For jealousy enrages a man, and he will not spare in the day of vengeance.” (Prov. 6:34). James also warns: “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.” (Jam. 3:16). Paul further warns that jealousy is the sign of someone walking according to the flesh and not the Spirit: “for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?” (1 Cor. 3:3; Ro. 13:13). At work, in family, or in social settings, are you jealous of the things that other people have?
Don’t be cruel to others. Peninnah’s cruelty toward Hannah was another sign of her walk according to the flesh. Paul also warns that “enmity, strife, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, and factions” are all “the deeds of the flesh” (Gal. 5:19-21). “For I am afraid that perhaps when I come I may find you to be not what I wish and may be found by you to be not what you wish; that perhaps there will be strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slanders, gossip, arrogance, disturbances;” (2 Cor. 12:20). “but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation.” (Ro. 2:8; Gal. 5:20). When you oppress others, you also taunt Jesus, who is tasked with protecting them: “He who oppresses the poor taunts his Maker, but he who is gracious to the needy honors Him.” (Prov. 14:31). “You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your countrymen or one of your aliens who is in your land in your towns.” (Dt. 24:14). Have you been cruel to others? If so, repent and restore with love the ones who you have harmed (Ps. 51:4; Matt. 3:2).
Show love to those who hurt you. Instead of being cruel to Hannah, Peninnah should have showed her love. Jesus gives every believer a golden rule of conduct to summarize the last five of His Ten Commandments: ‘“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.’” (Matt. 7:12; Lk. 6:31). This can also be translated as a command to love your neighbor, even when, like Peninnah, you think someone has taken advantage of you: “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Ro. 13:10; Matt. 22:39; Jo. 13:34; Gal. 5:14; Jam. 2:8). Do you show love to those who have caused you harm?
Trust that God is sovereign and in control. God confirmed that He was in control by twice confirming that He had made Hannah infertile: “5 . . . but the Lord had closed her womb. 6 . . ., because the Lord had closed her womb.” (1 Sam. 1:5-6). Hannah could not have understood the reason for God’s actions and her suffering at the time. Yet, as a result of her suffering, she dedicated Samuel to God. If she had not suffered, she might never have dedicated Samuel to God, and mankind might not have benefited from his restoration of the priesthood in Israel. When you suffer, you must also trust that God is in control (Ro. 8:28). Do find joy in your trials, knowing that He is molding you?
Elkanah’s insensitivity to Hannah’s plight. Although Elkanah loved Hannah, she showed that he was spiritually blind to the source of her suffering: “8 Then Elkanah her husband said to her, ‘Hannah, why do you weep and why do you not eat and why is your heart sad? Am I not better to you than ten sons?’” (1 Sam. 1:8). Elkanah was the head of his household. There were things that he could have done to comfort Hannah. First, he could have rebuked Peninnah for tormenting Hannah. Second, like Isaac did for Rebekah, he could have prayed with her for God to restore her womb. Third, he could have encouraged her to find her fulfillment in God, not in him. He did none of these things. Instead, he thought only of himself as he sought to comfort Hannah.
Let God provide you with fulfillment. Instead of boasting about himself, Elkanah should have offered a prayer of encouragement similar to the prayer of restoration that was offered to Naomi after she turned back to God: “Then the women said to Naomi, ‘Blessed is the LORD who has not left you without a redeemer today, and may his name become famous in Israel. May he also be to you a restorer of life and a sustainer of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.’” (Ruth 4:14-15). Are you encouraging others who are in despair?
Don’t become spiritually blind to the suffering of others. God also warns believers not to exchange your God-given love for others with cold indifference when others suffer misfortune: “Thus has the LORD of hosts said, ‘Dispense true justice and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother; and do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.’ But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears from hearing.” (Zech. 7:9-11). Jesus spoke of these people as having “calloused” hearts (Matt. 13:15). Have you become calloused to the suffering around you? Do you help those who suffer around you?
Hannah’s vow to give any future son to God as a Nazarite. In her distress, Hannah vowed to God that she would dedicate any son that He might give her as a Nazarite for his entire life. By contrast, the priest Eli showed that he was a spiritually blind through his failure to recognize Hannah’s tears of distress: “9 Then Hannah rose after eating and drinking in Shiloh. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. 10 She, greatly distressed, prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. 11 She made a vow and said, ‘O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head.’ 12 Now it came about, as she continued praying before the Lord, that Eli was watching her mouth. 13 As for Hannah, she was speaking in her heart, only her lips were moving, but her voice was not heard. So Eli thought she was drunk. 14 Then Eli said to her, ‘How long will you make yourself drunk? Put away your wine from you.’ 15 But Hannah replied, ‘No, my lord, I am a woman oppressed in spirit; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have poured out my soul before the Lord. 16 Do not consider your maidservant as a worthless woman, for I have spoken until now out of my great concern and provocation.’ 17 Then Eli answered and said, ‘Go in peace; and may the God of Israel grant your petition that you have asked of Him.” 18 She said, ‘Let your maidservant find favor in your sight.’ So the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.” (1 Sam. 1:9-18). For Eli to assume that Hannah was drunk, he would have likely seen many other drunk worshipers at the Temple. This suggests that he was blind as a priest to the immoral practices around him. If he were a true shepherd, he would have disciplined his immoral sheep. Because he was spiritually blind to evil, he also was unable to recognize Hannah’s pure heart before him. As one commentator notes: “She begs him not to condemn her as a worthless woman (1:16). Ironically, the word Hannah uses (“worthless”) is the very term the author uses in chapter 2 (verse 12) to describe the two sons of Eli.” (Robert L. (Bob) Deffinbaugh, 2. The Son and the Psalm of Hannah (1 Samuel 1:1-2:10)). When the early Church spoke in tongues, some also believed that they were drunk (Acts 2:13). Like Eli, they were spiritually blind to the spiritual revival before them. If you are spiritually blind, God’s holy righteousness will also appear like foolishness to you. By contrast, if you are spiritually in tune with God, you will rebuke what is evil and encourage the broken hearted.
God heard Hannah’s prayers3
God also hears your cries for help. God hears the cries of affliction of His people. He heard the cries of His people in Egypt (Ex. 2:23-24; 3:7-9). Here, He heard Hannah’s cries. He can also hear your cries for help: “O LORD, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will strengthen their heart, You will incline Your ear.” (Ps. 10:17). “The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and His ears are open to their cry.” (Ps. 34:15). If you are in despair, have you cried out for His help?
God hears prayers that are made in faith. Sarah, Rebekah, and Hannah all struggled with infertility. Sarah turned to her own resources to solve her problem. She had Abraham sleep with Hagar to make her a surrogate mother, and she suffered from her foolish decision. By contrast, Rebekah and Isaac learned from her mistakes and turned to God in prayer. Only through their righteous prayers for 20 years did God heal Rebekah’s womb and grant them children (Gen. 25:21). Hannah learned from Rebekah’s example and also trusted God in faith. God can do all things. Yet, He waited until Sarah and Abraham believed before He transformed her 90-year-old womb. Sarah and Abraham lived in the Promised Land 25 years before they finally believed: “By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised.” (Heb. 11:11; Ro. 4:19). If you are praying with doubt, don’t expect your prayers to be answered any time soon. “But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.” (Jam. 1:6). One commentator observes that Hannah showed her faith through her name for God: “Hannah began her prayer by calling on the LORD of hosts. This title is used some 260 times in the Old Testament, and has the idea ‘LORD of the Mighty Armies.’ Hannah felt attacked by her rival, so she called on the LORD of Mighty Armies to be her protector.” (David Guzik on 1 Samuel 1).4 Are your prayers filled with conviction or doubt?
God also requires your patience in waiting on His timing. Isaac was 40 years old when he married (Gen. 25:20). He was 60 years old before God gave him children (Gen. 25:26). Thus, Isaac and Rebekah still had to pray for 20 years before God fulfilled His promise. Abraham had to wait until he was 100 years old to see God’s promise of a son with his wife fulfilled (Gen. 21:5). Hannah also had to wait on God’s timing. Many give up on praying for God’s intervention. Do you wait for Him to answer your prayers?
Only God can transform you. Like the dead wombs in Sarah, Rebekah, and Hannah, you were also once dead to sin. “ . . . you were dead in your trespasses and sins,” (Eph. 2:1). Like their restored wombs, you must also be born again of the Spirit through faith in Christ: “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”’ (Jo. 3:3). After each woman sacrificed by placing their trust in Him, He transformed them. Are you sacrificing for Jesus so that He can transform you? If He has transformed you, are you sharing this message?
Pour out your heart to God when you are in distress. Hannah poured out her heart to God in her distress (1 Sam. 1:10-15). When you are in distress, the Bible urges you to do the same: “Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah.” (Ps. 62:8). “These things I remember and I pour out my soul within me. . ..” (Ps. 42:4). “Arise, cry aloud in the night at the beginning of the night watches; pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord; . . .” (Lam. 2:19). If you are in distress, have you poured out your heart the way that Hannah did?
With faith, God can heal and restore you. Just as He did for Hannah, Jesus can also heal you when you believe in faith: “But Jesus turning and seeing her said, ‘Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well.’ At once the woman was made well.”’ (Matt. 9:22; Mk. 5:34). If you have any health needs, have you given it to Jesus?
Sacrifice your desires for God. As a member of the tribe of Levi, Samuel would have already been dedicated to God. That special dedication, however, would have only lasted from ages 30 to 50 (Nu. 4:2-3). Hannah could have claimed that Samuel was already dedicated. By offering to dedicate him as a Nazarite for life, she offered in faith more than she had to offer. As a Nazarite, Samuel could not drink alcohol, touch dead things, or cut his hair during his time of separation, his entire life (Nu. 6:5). The priests had a similar rule for cutting their hair, which prohibited them from shaving their heads while mourning (Lev. 21:5). In the Old Testament, long hair on a man indicated shame: “Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him.” (1 Cor. 11:14). For a woman, long hair is a covering (1 Cor. 11:15). Someone who willingly takes upon himself or herself that which causes shame has conquered his or her pride. A disciple of Christ must be willing to take upon himself that which causes the world to scorn and laugh at him. Today, a believer is to be dressed moderately and to also be emptied of vanity (1 Tim. 2:9). The things that bring vanity are fleeting: “For, ‘all flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off.”’ (1 Pet. 1:24). Will you purge the things that bring out your vanity?
Be subject to God. Long hair also symbolized submission to God. Nazarites gave over control to God of the most intimate things in his or her life, including their hair. A Nazarite realized that his or her strength came from submission to God. It was only when Samson lost his hair that he lost his strength (Jdgs. 16:11-20). He also lost that strength only after he broke his vows with alcohol and lusting after the flesh. God gives you strength today when you are meek and humble (Ps. 10:17; Prov. 15:25; Isa. 2:11-12). Are you submitting to Him so that He can strengthen you?
God’s faithfulness in granting Hannah a son. After Hannah prayed in faith and made a vow to raise Samuel as a Nazarite, God was faithful to restore her womb: “19 Then they arose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord, and returned again to their house in Ramah. And Elkanah had relations with Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her. 20 It came about in due time, after Hannah had conceived, that she gave birth to a son; and she named him Samuel, saying, ‘Because I have asked him of the Lord.’” (1 Sam. 1:19-20). The Bible states that God “remembered” Hannah (1 Sam. 1:19). The Hebrew word “zakar” or “remembered” does not mean that He is forgetful. Instead, the term signifies His faithfulness. For example, after He destroyed Noah’s world, He remained faithful to His covenant with Noah: “1 But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the cattle that were with him in the ark; …” (Gen. 8:1(a)). As another example, He used this term to signify His faithfulness to His covenant with Abraham (Gen. 19:29(b)). He used the same term to show His faithfulness to the barren Rachel (Gen. 30:22). He also later used this term to signify His faithfulness when the Jews were not (Ex. 2:24; Ps. 105:42). Here, He closed Hannah’s womb as part of His greater plan to draw her closer so that she would raise Samuel as a Nazarite. When she made her vow, He was then faithful to restore her so that Samuel would be conceived. When you are suffering affliction, do you trust in His faithfulness to deliver you?
Remember His covenant and avail yourself of it through repentance. The term “zakar” also signifies the faithfulness that God expected from His people: “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.” (Ex. 20:8). Part of staying faithful is repenting of sin. When the Jews did this, God promised to “remember” His covenant with them: “then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and I will remember also My covenant with Isaac, and My covenant with Abraham as well, and I will remember the land.” (Lev. 26:42, 45). Do you repent daily of your sins to avail yourself of His full blessings?
Pray as an intercessor for His “remembrance”. God also invites you to call upon His covenant when praying for others by asking for His “remembrance.” For example, Moses prayed for God’s people by invoking His covenant with the Jews: “Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants to whom You swore by Yourself, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’” (Ex. 32:13). His covenant is always available to you or others when you pray for them: “He has remembered His covenant forever, the word which He commanded to a thousand generations,” (Ps. 105:8). Do you ask God to remember His Covenant with His people?
Hannah’s obedience in keeping her vows to God. In response to God’s faithfulness, Hannah showed that she was faithful to her vows by dedicating Samuel as a Nazarite: “21 Then the man Elkanah went up with all his household to offer to the Lord the yearly sacrifice and pay his vow. 22 But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, ‘I will not go up until the child is weaned; then I will bring him, that he may appear before the Lord and stay there forever.’ 23 Elkanah her husband said to her, ‘Do what seems best to you. Remain until you have weaned him; only may the Lord confirm His word.’ So the woman remained and nursed her son until she weaned him. 24 Now when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with a three-year-old bull and one ephah of flour and a jug of wine, and brought him to the house of the Lord in Shiloh, although the child was young.” (1 Sam. 1:21-24). Elkanah showed integrity by allowing her to keep her vow. When others make vows to God, you should also encourage them to keep them.
Hannah gave up her only begotten child to serve God5
Keep your vows to God. Jesus commanded that your “yes” should be a “yes” and a “no” should be a “no.” (Matt 5:37; Jam. 5:12). If a Nazarite broke his or her vow – even if unintentionally – the person needed to pay for this with a sacrifice (Nu. 6:9-11). Jesus was your sacrifice for your sins. Now that you no longer need to pay for breaking a vow, have you become casual about breaking your vows? The high rate of divorce in the Church tells us that we have failed to take our vows seriously.
Jesus’ desire that you carefully consider your vows before you make them. A vow is in fact a beautiful thing to God. It is a voluntary act of devotion or worship. Jesus, however, asked that you count the cost before making a vow to Him (Lk. 14:28-33). For example, He wants you to take your wedding vows seriously. Divorce is not something that He takes lightly. Likewise, if you are going to ask someone to make a vow for Jesus to be their Lord and Savior, He wants you to help them count the costs and benefits of such a decision. If you can’t explain what the Biblical costs and benefits are for following Jesus, should you be expecting God to send people your way?
Samson’s casual defilement of his Nazarite vow. Unlike Hannah, Samson failed to take his vows seriously. As a Nazarite and as a Jew, he was prohibited from going near or touching any dead body or animal carcass (Nu. 6:6; 19:11; Lev. 5:2; 11:8). He violated this vow when he ate the honey that had miraculously appeared inside a lion that he had killed (Jdgs. 14:5-9). He again violated the vow when he grabbed a dead donkey’s jawbone to fight others (Jdgs. 15:14-17). He again violated this vow by inviting the Philistines to tie him up with the intestines of an animal carcass (Jdgs. 16:7). He also violated his vow not to drink alcohol by participating in a Philistine bachelor party for seven days (Jdgs. 14:10). One by one, Samson compromised each thing that made him distinct. When he finally lost all the symbols that made him unique (the last one being his hair), he lost his power. He would eventually become salt that had lost its saltiness (Matt. 5:13). Christ has made you clean through His suffering on the cross. Yet, Satan is constantly seeking to entice you to give up the things that make you clean and distinctive through Christ. Are you dirtying yourself with the sinful things of the world?
Hannah’s thanksgiving and worship for God’s faithfulness. Instead of showing sorrow for losing her only son, Hannah gave thanks and made sacrifices to God. “25 Then they slaughtered the bull, and brought the boy to Eli. 26 She said, ‘Oh, my lord! As your soul lives, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you, praying to the Lord. 27 For this boy I prayed, and the Lord has given me my petition which I asked of Him. 28 So I have also dedicated him to the Lord; as long as he lives he is dedicated to the Lord.’ And he worshiped the Lord there.” (1 Sam. 1:25-28). In some ways, Hannah suffered a greater test than Abraham. Abraham was tested to see if he would give up his only son for God. Ultimately, he did not have to give up Isaac. He was allowed to live with Isaac for his entire life. By contrast, Hannah gave up Samuel for her entire life with joy.
Give your testimony of thanks to others. Like Hannah, God calls upon you to offer a “sacrifice of praise” to God when He answers your prayers (Heb. 13:15). “I was crying to the LORD with my voice, and He answered me from His holy mountain. Selah.” (Ps. 3:4). “The LORD has heard my supplication, the LORD receives my prayer.” (Ps. 6:9). “In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried to my God for help; He heard my voice out of His temple, and my cry for help before Him came into His ears.” (Ps. 18:6). “But certainly God has heard; He has given heed to the voice of my prayer.” (Ps. 66:19). Giving thanks for your blessings is the best way to defeat depression and sorrow. It also helps to fulfill Jesus’ Great Commission to spread His hope to lost (Matt. 28:16-20). If God has answered your prayers, are you singing His praises as a testimony to others?
The discipleship vow is open to all. Only the Levites could be priests (Lev. 3:11-12). But the Nazarite vow of separation was not limited to any one group. It also was not restricted to men (Nu. 6:1; 30:3). God raised up the Nazarites, like the prophets, to serve Him (Amos 2:11). All believers are part of God’s holy priesthood (1 Pet. 2:5, 9; Rev. 1:6). But not all believers are set apart for God. Many live in the flesh. Jesus spelled out the cost of discipleship for a disciple as opposed to a mere follower, just like the Nazarite vow (Lk. 9:57-62). The Nazarite vow was for someone to “dedicate” themselves to God (Nu. 6:1). The discipleship vow was also a vow to serve Him. Many today would view a vow of separation as complete isolation from the world, like a monk or a nun living in a monastery. But the Nazarite vow did not prohibit a person from engaging in all worldly pleasures, just alcohol. They also spent time studying the Law, engaging in acts of service, and teaching others. Three examples include Samson (1 Sam. 1:11; Jdgs. 13:5), Samuel, and John the Baptist (Lk. 1:15). John the Baptist preached the baptism of repentance (Matt. 3:11; Mk. 1:4). Today, God defines true religion as: (1) helping those in need (i.e., widows and orphans); and (2) remaining unstained by the world (Jam. 1:27). Are you willing to devote yourself to Jesus by studying the Word, helping those in need, and staying unstained from the unclean things within the world?