1 Samuel 1-3
When we first see Eli we know only that he was the high priest (implied in the text, although not stated outright) and that his sons were serving with him at the temple in Shiloh. Poor Hannah came yearly to the temple with her husband and his family to sacrifice before the Lord and she endured much torment from her rival in marriage, Peninnah, over her barren state. She, in great distress one day, went to the temple to pray. Her anguish of heart left her speechless, praying before the Lord with only her lips moving, more than likely without a lot of coherence. I know her heart and her grief before the Lord; I’ve been in that place of speechless prayer that gripped her heart that day.
We see Eli’s slowness in his spiritual leadership…and this will not be the last time we see this. He is so dull spiritually he cannot even tell that her heart is broken. He is so out of touch with the Lord he can’t discern between a woman in anguish and a woman drunk. This dullness of spirit will lead to his downfall and ruin. For now, it is just one more slap in the face of poor Hannah who has come to pour out her heart before God.
Interestingly, her heart is so open and vulnerable that she very readily takes his words of shallow comfort (“Go in peace; and may the God of Israel grant your petition that you have asked of Him.”) to be the very word of God. And, more than likely unbeknownst to Eli, they were. She arises, greatly comforted and in the normal course of a love-filled marriage, she conceives.
I love the way God uses us, those around us, circumstances and even crazy random happenstances to bring about His will and plan! I love that He used the spiritual dullness of Eli to reveal a depth to Hannah that we didn’t see before. I love that in Eli’s off-the-cuff spiritual platitudes, God brought His plan; comfort to Hannah and renewed hope for the fulfillment of her prayer for a son. I love that God used this one seemingly insignificant event to change all of history through the fruit of that prayer, the last judge of Israel.
Now we can contrast Eli’s slow spiritual senses with that of Samuel, the son Hannah prayed for. Here is a young boy, taken from his mother’s house to live at the temple with Eli (not a great father figure by the looks of his two wicked sons). His mother comes each year to bring him a new robe as he ministered faithfully before the Lord and Eli at the temple.
We see the several times one night when the Lord called to Samuel. I LOVE the fact that Samuel QUICKLY runs to Eli saying, “Here I am for you called me.” Eli doesn’t even THINK this could be God until the 3rd time this happens. And even then, he doesn’t tell Samuel to simply talk to God and tell Him, “I’m here Lord, speak for I’m listening.” No, he tells him to go lie down AGAIN. Poor Eli, no wonder his sons didn’t listen to him when he reproved them. His heart and spirit were so dull and slow to respond to God that they took nothing he said seriously. It took a young boy’s open eager heart and speedy attentiveness to the voice of God (that he had never heard) to open Eli’s heart to the possibility of the Father’s voice. And this was even after a prophet of God had come to him and prophesied against his own sons and line in the priesthood.
There is SOOO much for us to learn from these 2 individuals! Lord, make me like Samuel who was so quick to hear and SPEEDY to respond to Your voice. Let me RUN to You when You call and speak to me. Give me ready ears to hear Your voice and wisdom to recognize it when there are so many other voices calling all around me. Keep me from dullness of heart and spirit that characterized Eli’s last days and ministry.