category: Advent

Advent Devotion: Day 23

Monday, December 19

1 Samuel 2:1-10; Genesis 17:15-22; Galatians 4:8-2

First Samuel 2:1-10 is known as Hannah’s Song. The passage is poetic; it has verses, and it is uplifting. It has a good beat; you can dance to it. Hannah extols God’s power and God’s justice. Yet, 2:1 does not say that she sang as if for a human audience, but that she prayed, which makes these words to God. In her prayer, Hannah rejoiced in the Lord.

Given the circumstances, one might think that Hannah had much to complain to God about or much to ask God for. She has given her son Samuel, her only child at this point, in service to God at the Lord’s house in Shiloh. It is as if Samuel were going off to college, or boarding school given his age, boarding pre-school at that. After all the love that she had given her child, she now releases him. Yet Hannah rejoiced in the Lord.

Not only does she leave her son in service to the Lord, but she entrusts him to the priest Eli. He is the same priest who did not realize that she prayed there at Shiloh once before. He thought she was drunk and scolded her to “get with it.” Not only did he, the priest, misrecognize prayer, but according to 1 Samuel 3, it took him three times to imagine that God could be calling Samuel. One has to admit that Eli is a bit slow in spiritual matters for a priest. Still, Hannah rejoiced in the Lord.

Then, she is left with her husband Elkanah, the very man who according to 1 Samuel 1 had another wife whom he favored. As for that other wife Peninnah, she does not seem to be company to look forward to either. Peninnah had once made fun of her for being childless, “just to bother her,” says the Common English Bible at 1:6. Actually, such a bother was not just once, but “year after year” (1:7). Returning home from Shiloh without Samuel to the company of Elkanah and Peninnah does not sound comforting. Yet, Hannah rejoiced in the Lord (1 Sam 1:5 CEB).

Yes, given the circumstances, one might think that Hannah had much to complain to God about or much to ask God for. We do not know what she said to Eli, Elkanah, and Peninnah, but we do know what she said to God. She prayed words of thanksgiving and praise. She rejoiced. She said, “My strength rises up in the Lord! . . . There is no rock like our God!” She is right about that, of course. Folk let us down, but God raises us up. At risk of being the one now to suggest to folk under great stress to “get with it,” it seems that the passage suggests that whatever our circumstances, “It is good to give thanks to the Lord” (Psalm 92:1).

Cal Robertson
Professor of Biblical Studies

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Advent Devotion: Day 24

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