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Pray like Hannah or Wait it out like Eli?

Updated: Feb 14, 2022

Emily and I have been doing a reading plan that will take us through the Bible in a year and we recently came to 1 Samuel. This is where God raises up Samuel to lead the people of Israel. In the first couple of chapters we are introduced to two characters named Hannah and Eli. In the story, Hannah is barren and her life is defined by the fact that she cannot have children. In this same story Eli, the high priest, is also faced with a problem in that his two sons are wicked and stealing from the offerings that people present to God.

Both of these people faced a huge challenge and yet the way they approached them could not be any more different.

Hannah – a regular Israelite woman, in her time of need turned to God. In 1 Samuel 1:4 it says that in her deep anguish she prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. She continued in prayer and when Eli noticed her he assumed she was drunk. She vowed that she would dedicate her son to the Lord if God would grant her one. When God heard her prayers and gave her a son she followed through with her commitment.

On the flip side – when confronted with the wickedness of his sons and the way that they were making a mockery of the sacrifices offered to the Lord, Eli didn’t worry much. It is almost as if he gave up. It was too big of a problem and if he just ignored it, maybe he wouldn’t have to deal with it.

In the end, God used Hannah’s son Samuel to lead the nation of Israel. Meanwhile, both of Eli’s sons were killed on the same day. Upon hearing the news Eli fell back, hit his head and died. God brought judgement on the wickedness.

When I read stories like this in the Bible, I often read myself into the place of the faithful one or the Hero. I’m honest enough with myself that I admit my shortcomings, but I think with a little work I could get there. The reality is that more often than not, in my flesh - I am closer to the one on the verge of failure. Reading stories like this shouldn’t be a reminder that I need to pray a little harder – rather they should stand as a warning, a reminder that on my own I am a scoundrel headed for destruction.

How do I deal with sin? How do I deal with problems?

Do I shrug them off and hope no one notices and that they will just fade away?

Or do I earnestly seek the help of the lord like Hannah did?

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