In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
She was barren. Her rival was not. (1 Sam. 1:2) What folk remedies, what old wives tales, what positions had she tried with her husband? Barrenness hurts when you want kids. You ask yourself, why is my body rebelling? It hurts even more when you believed the Lord’s promise to your family that through a son of your family He will bless all families of the earth. (Gen. 12:3) He will save the world crushing the power of sin, Satan, and death. (Gen. 3:15) For in this family sons were a heritage from Lord. (Ps. 127:3) They were a sign of the Lord’s salvation for every family of earth. She believed. So, why did the Lord seem to be against her? Why did she have no children? And then there was her rival: Peninnah. (1 Sam. 1:6-8)
Lord’s priest having spoken she was glad. For she knew the Lord heard her. And when her child was born she named him Shamu-el—the Lord heard me. (1 Sam. 1:20)
But faithful Eli was not faithful in one small area: he would not bring his sons to heal. (1 Sam. 2:12, [13-17], 22-25, [27-36]) He would not stop their abuses. They were conduits through which the Lord’s holiness poured forth forgiving sinners, making them a holy nation, and their sin was stopping up the flow of forgiveness!
For when Elkanah took his lamb up year by year to sacrifice to the Lord (1 Sam. 1:3-4) he didn’t do it to buy the Lord’s favour. He did it because he believed the Lord was favourable, gracious to those who listen to Him and believe His word. For when a family brought a lamb, like Elkanah did, the father of the family placed his hands on the head of it transferring all the family’s sin onto it. (Lev. 3:6-8) The priest took the sacrifices for sin—the lamb. Slew it. Took it’s blood. Poured out the blood on the side of the altar, atoning for the family’s sin. (Lev. 3:8) The altar was made holy morning and night (Lam. 3:22-23) by a priest going into Tabernacle with incense and the flour offering. (Lev. 4:6-7) He would burn the incense in front of the holy of holies, where the Lord resided in His cloud that hid His glory, and intercede for the people. (Luke 1:8-11; Lev. 16:12-13) Then the sweet smelling flour made holy His presence became holy was offered on the altar where the lamb was about to be cooked, making the altar and everything on the altar holy. Then the portions of the lamb cooked on the altar were given back to family to eat. (Lev. 3:5, 11, 17) Making the family holy. This looks like a sacrifice where you have to give up something to get something from the Lord. But, they are bringing their lamb which would have eaten anyway, and by God’s grace and favour, the Lord uses their meal to make them holy! To forgive them their sins. That’s what Hannah was receiving: a double portion of forgiveness of sins. (1 Sam. 1:4-5)
Thus, he was unfaithful. His whole purpose, like a pastor, was to be the Lord’s conduit for the forgiveness of people’s sins. To enact the saving sacraments by which the Lord’s salvation comes to you. By which His Spirit is poured out into you, slaying your sin, and the old sinner in you, and raising a new you, pouring His Holy Spirit into you, so that you are new, you are different. You are holy.
This holy calling was being utterly profaned by these priests. On top of that, the word of the Lord was rare. (1 Sam. 3:1) There was a lack of prophets, speakers of God’s word. The Church was in dire straits. There were no preachers. The sacraments of the Lord’s house were being blocked so that forgiveness often was not getting to the people who so desperately needed it. Things were bad.
Well she lends him to the Lord to serve the Lord in His tabernacle. (1 Sam. 1:28) For they were of tribe of Levi. They were able to serve there. (Num. 8:14, 19, etc.) And what does the Lord do? “The Lord heard me” hears the Lord Himself. (1 Sam. 3:4) For the word of the Lord was rare, but He was called to preach it. To increase salvation. To clean up the tabernacle so that the grace of the Lord could flow in His Church. And who was in that called Samuel? Called him 3 times (1 Sam. 3:8) before faithful Eli realized who was calling? (Just as Saul was blind for 3 days after he asked, “Who are you Lord?” Acts 9:5, 9) It was the Lord God, coming in human form. Standing there calling out to Samuel. (1 Sam. 3:10) Jesus before taking on our flesh came to call Samu-el, so that “The Lord heard me” could hear from Jesus, know Jesus, know his salvation, and through “the Lord heard me” the rest of Israel heard from the Lord of His salvation, His promise to come and bless all families of the earth. To save from sin. And so the Church was renewed, as the Lord’s promises were proclaimed and heard in Israel again.
And all Israel knew it. From one end to the other they all knew Samuel was a prophet, a preacher of the Lord and His salvation. (1 Sam. 3:20) He grew and none of his words fell to the ground (1 Sam. 3:19) for Samuel was the mouthpiece of Jesus. Just as Jesus grew in wisdom, and years, and favour with God and man, so the word of the Lord grew. It was no longer rare. Salvation went out. For Jesus, the Lord, the word of God, was heard from one end of Israel to the other. And faith comes by hearing, hearing the word of Jesus. (Rom. 10:17)
Oh Lord, let it be so in our day! Let that word about Jesus, which is life and salvation, be heard in our day, in our land. Set our country, our nation free from its bondage to sin and decay, that all families might know your salvation and in faith like Hannah have peace and salvation.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Habestock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON