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HANNAH'S SONG OF PRAISE (1 Samuel 2:1-10).
1 Samuel 2:1
And Hannah prayed and said. Like the Magnificat, Hannah's hymn of thanksgiving begins with the temporal mercies accorded to herself, but rises immediately into the realms of prophecy, foretelling Christ's kingdom and the triumphs of the Church. From this prophetic element, common more or less to all the hymns of the Bible, most of them have been used in Christian worship, and still merit a place in it, though we in the liturgy of the Church of England now use only two, taken both from the New Testament. In 1 Samuel 2:1, in four strophes of equal length, Hannah declares how, first, her heart, the centre with the Hebrews, not merely of the physical, but also of the moral and intellectual life, rejoices in Jehovah; while the exaltation of her horn, the symbol of strength and vigour, signifies that this inward joy is accompanied, or even occasioned, by the changed circumstances of her outward lot. Her mouth, therefore, is opened wide over her enemies, yet not for cursing and in bitterness, but for joyful praise of the God who has answered her prayers. It is his salvation, the being delivered by him, that makes her thus burst forth into thanksgiving. It is a proof too of her faith and spirituality that she thus refers all to Jehovah.
In 1 Samuel 2:2 she gives her reasons for this holy joy. The first is God's absolute holiness; the second his absolute existence, in which she finds the proof of his holiness. Hannah may have meant to express only the language of piety, but she also stated a primary philosophical truth, which was early grasped by the deeply religious instinct of the Hebrews, that outside of God is no existence. Many necessary deductions follow from this fundamental truth, that God alone absolutely exists, and that all other existence is secondary and derived; but no deduction is more certain than Hannah's own, that such a Being must be absolutely holy. In calling him a rock she assigns to him strength, calm, immovable, enduring, but a strength which avails for the safety of his people (comp. Deuteronomy 32:4, Deuteronomy 32:15; Psalms 18:2). For rocks, as being capable of easy defence, formed the nucleus of most ancient towns, and continued to serve as their citadels.
In 1 Samuel 2:3 she appeals to God's omniscience, "for Jehovah is a God of knowledges," the pl. being intensive, and signifying every kind of knowledge. As too he weighs and judges human actions, how can men venture to talk so arrogantly before him, lit. so proudly, proudly. The last clause is one of those numerous places in which there is a doubt whether the Hebrew word lo means not, or by him. If the negative sense be taken, which the Hebrew spelling favours, the rendering will be "though actions be not weighed." Though wicked actions be not immediately punished, yet Jehovah is cognisant of them, and in due time will requite.
In 1 Samuel 2:4-8 Hannah illustrates the working of this attribute of the Deity by enumerating the vicissitudes of human events, which are not the result of chance, but of that omniscience combined with holiness which she has claimed for Jehovah in 1 Samuel 2:2, 1 Samuel 2:3. She begins with the vicissitudes of war; but these are not more remarkable than those of peace, by which the full, the rich and wealthy, have to descend to the position of a hireling; while those previously hungry have ceased, i.e. from labour, and keep holiday. In a nation of small proprietors, where the land was tilled by the owner and those "born in his house," the position of the hireling, the "mean white" of the southern States of America, was lower than that of the slave, especially in Judaea, where the slave was more in the position of a vassal than of a serf or forced labourer. In the next clause the translation may either be, "She that was long barren hath borne seven," or, "Until the barren" etc.; i.e. these vicissitudes may even reach so far as to make a barren woman the mother of seven, i.e. of a perfect number of children, happily generalised in Psalms 113:9 into "a joyful mother of children." But see Ruth 4:15; Jeremiah 15:9. In this there is also a typical reference to the long barrenness of the Gentile world, to be followed by a fruitfulness far exceeding that of the Jewish Church, while it, prolific once in patriarchs, and prophets, and saints, is now comparatively sterile. In Jeremiah 15:6 "the grave, Hebrews Sheol, is "the pit," the hollow vault underground, which is the dwelling of the dead. Lit; therefore, Hannah's words might seem to imply a belief in the resurrection; but her meaning rather was that God brings a man to the very brink of the grave, and then, when all hope seems past, raises him up again. In verse 8 beggar is simply needy, but the expressions dust and dunghill add dishonour to his poverty. To set might more correctly be translated to make them sit; sitting, especially on a raised seat, being a mark of honour among Orientals, who generally squat on mats on the ground. In the next clause the A.V. particularises what in the Hebrews is quite general. "He will make them possess (or enjoy) a glorious throne." Their seat among the princes is not inherited, but acquired; and though promoted thus to a place among men of hereditary rank, and given an honourable position among them, yet it was not necessarily "the throne of glory," the highest seat. Still even this was quite possible; for while the tribal chiefs and heads of fathers' houses obtained their rank by inheritance, nevertheless, in early days the judges, and among them Eli and Samuel, acquired rank and power for themselves. Subsequently, under the kings, the great officers of state took their place along with the hereditary princes, but were dependent upon royal favour. In the last clause the word rendered pillars is rare, being found only here and in 1 Samuel 14:4. In both places the ancient versions are uncertain as to its signification, but in the latter it can only mean a crag, or mass of rock. If then the rock masses of the earth are Jehovah's, and he can lift up and poise upon them the inhabited world (Hebrews rebel), how much more easily can he raise up a man!
1 Samuel 2:9
The feet of his saints. The Hebrews written text (ch'tib) has his saint, sing.; but the word really means not saint, i.e. one sanctified and holy, but pious, i.e. one lovingly disposed towards God. The sense, therefore, is not affected by the number, but the sing. is more forcible "He will guard the steps, the earthly course, of each one that loveth him;" while over against this watchful providence, ever exerted for the safe keeping of all who love the light, stands God's punitive justice, whereby the wicked are finally brought down to the dark silence of the grave. For they had only human strength and prowess upon which to depend, and no man can sustain himself in the manifold conflict of life without help from above.
1 Samuel 2:10
The adversaries. In the Hebrews the nouns are again sing; though the verb is pl; showing that they are to be taken collectively. Lit. the translation is, "Jehovah they shall be broken in pieces, whoever it be that contendeth with him;" the word having reference to contentions in a court of law, and the whole verse keeping the administration of justice in view. It proceeds, "Upon him he shall thunder in heaven;" i.e. Jehovah, seated on his throne in heaven, shall, as the supreme Judge, utter the sentence; and thunder was to the Hebrew God's voice. He shall judge the ends of the earth, i.e. the whole earth up to its remotest quarters. The last distich is remarkable. It is a distinct prophecy of David's kingdom, and of the king as the anointed one, but looking onwards to the Messiah, David's greater Son. So distinct a reference to a king before a king existed has made Ewald and others regard the whole hymn as an interpolation of later times. But already Hannah's thoughts had risen to a higher level than the fortunes of the literal Israel. In claiming for Jehovah, her covenant God, the righteous government of the whole world, she prepares our minds for the corresponding thought of Jehovah being the universal Saviour. Very probably the whole national mind was set upon having a king to enable them to make head against the Philistines long before, under Samuel, the desire became so strong as to be irresistible. The thought of a king was in no respect alien from the Jewish commonwealth (Deuteronomy 17:14). They had wished Gideon to hold this office (Judges 8:22); Jotham's parable in Judges 9:1-57. described the nation as eager to be thus governed, but the better minds as bent on declining so dangerous a preeminence. There is very much to prove that the nation had come to regard the appointment of a king as an eventual necessity, however long delayed. But not here only, but everywhere, the Jewish mind was constantly brooding upon the future. Hannah does no more than every patriarch and saint and prophet of the old dispensation. Prophecies such as that in Genesis 49:10 filled the hearts of all alike. And though the present longings of the nation for a king make Hannah's words not unnatural even in their lower sense, yet the truer exposition is that which acknowledges in Israel a people raised up for a special purpose, and the bestowal by God upon its seers for the carrying out of this purpose of the gift of prophecy. And it was this extraordinary gift which bent and shaped the mind of the nation, and filled it with future aspirations; and not a causeless state of the national mind which, excited by vague hopes, made men from time to time give utterance to anticipations which by some strange coincidence always came true.
1 Samuel 2:1-10
The facts implied and indicated in the song are—
1. Hannah's deliverance from grief and realisation of desire are perfected.
2. God is recognised as the author of the great salvation.
3. Under Divine inspiration Hannah sees in her own personal experience a type of various triumphs which God achieves for his people.
4. She is conscious of an overwhelming joy in her own deliverance, and in the prevision of future triumphs of the Church.
5. A clear and joyous recognition of Christ's final triumph as the climax of all. The burden of this glorious song is the salvation wrought by God, and this may be considered as—
I. TYPICAL. The term "salvation" is very common in the Old Testament, and its application is "exceeding broad," being inclusive of deliverance from evils and a realisation of positive good. It may be applied to an episode in personal experience, as in the case of Hannah, David, and others; a soul's restoration to God through Christ; a nation's rescue from calamity and elevation to relative influence, as when Israel was delivered from the waters of the Red Sea, and later, from the Assyrian hosts; the deliverance of the Church from persecution, as in apostolic days and subsequently; and especially the completion of Christ's triumph over all enemies and the gathering into one of the redeemed children of God (Titus 2:13; Hebrews 9:28; Revelation 7:9-17). The episode in the life of Hannah was typical of all other salvations to be wrought by the same merciful God. As in the physical world the trained eye can detect what are called "typical forms," so in the records of God's dealings with the saints the spiritually enlightened can see in the personal experience of individuals a foreshadowing of numerous instances yet to occur in human experience. Omnia in Uno will hold true here. The elements of all salvations are found in the blessing vouchsafed to the "woman of sorrowful spirit." For there is in her case, as in all, a deep human need, arising from a pressure of a heavy burden, and the non-realisation of the very end for which life was supposed to be given; utter despair of human resources for the removal of the evil and the acquisition of the good; Divine energy graciously acting directly on the hidden forces by which sorrow or joy are governed and produced; Divine patience in working out the processes by which the want and sorrow shall be made to pass away; completeness of result in the bestowment of the very boon so long desired and waited for; connection of the result attained with some ulterior issue of still wider blessing; and employment throughout of visible and invisible second causes in working out the purposes of mercy. Each item found reality in Hannah's experience, and has its counterpart in our deliverance from trouble; in the restoration of the lost soul; in the rescue of a nation or Church from destruction; and in the completion of the desire of him who from the travail of his soul looked on through the ages, saw, and was satisfied. Every deliverance of every saint now is a shadowing forth and a prediction sure and certain of the great salvation, in the bliss of which Christ, and angels, and men shall share.
II. OCCASION OF JOY. Naturally salvation in every form brings joy. It is the great event of the life. It means freedom, rest, enrichment, full, sunny favour of God. Hannah could not but sing. Moses led the joy of Israel on the shores of the Red Sea. When Saul became Paul the Churches enjoyed "comfort of the Holy Ghost." The fatted calf and dance awaited the restored prodigal son. The very advent of the one true Saviour awoke the chorus of the skies, and heaven will resound with the joyous acclaim of innumerable hosts when the woes of earth are past, and all power submits to Christ (Revelation 19:1). It is noteworthy that the joy awakened by accomplished salvation is not a mere selfish delight in one's own happiness. It is joy in God. In "thy salvation" do I rejoice. "In the Lord" is my "horn exalted." "The heart" is not set on the bliss of a Samuel's love, it "rejoiceth in the Lord." Again, it is joy in God saving through his Anointed. The "promised seed," the foreordained Messiah, was the spring of all inspired Hebrew expectation of blessing. The birth of a son called forth Hannah's song. It is curiously sweet to notice how like the echo of some distant melody is this song, reminding us of a Child more holy than even Samuel. Surely in the invisible spheres angels recognised here the substance of that hymn they on a later day sang over the plains of Bethlehem. In that severe but blessed discipline of years the spirit of Hannah had been trained to pass over in vision to a salvation more perfect than what Samuel would effect for Israel, and by a Child more truly given of God. The songs of faith and of fulfilment find alike their inspiration in "his King" and "my Saviour." But the relationship to his chosen One grows closer and dearer as the ages roll on. What shall it be at last! And what joy will it awaken! Also, the condition of sharing in this joy is twofold, being personally a saved one, and cherishing full sympathy with "his King." Hannah, blessed with a great deliverance from sorrow and desolation, could sing and, laying all at the feet of God in holy sympathy with the coming kingdom, she found inspiration for song beyond the range of her own experience. A "new song" is learnt on earth, in so far as its first notes, by all who have known in their personal experience the salvation of God; and it becomes sweeter and more inspired as the freed spirit sees by faith the blessed day when the ends of the earth shall also see the King in his beauty.
III. REVELATION OF DIVINE PERFECTIONS. In some sense all God's acts are revelations. Nature, as we call the beautiful system around us, is but the shadow of the Eternal Presence. The Eternal Power and Godhead are clearly seen through the visible creation. In the Incarnation of God in Christ we have, therefore, a higher expression of a general truth; so that in one respect the most stupendous and mysterious of all supernatural facts is in keeping with Nature. Especially is every instance of salvation, whether typical or antitypical, individual or national, a revelation to the universe of the ever blessed One. From Hannah's deliverance from sorrow and desolation, on through the ages of mercy, to Christ's final victory over death and sin, the same attributes are revealed in the deeds and processes by which the salvation in each instance is effected.
1. Mercy, as seen in compassion shown to the sorrowful and helpless.
2. Holiness, inasmuch as the salvation is wrought out against evil powers and persons, for only good and pure issues, by exacting and nourishing into maturity holy, unselfish motives, and ordaining suffering and deferred good only for pure and blissful ends.
3. Power, demonstrating that "beside'' him "there is none," as seen in complete control over the hidden forces of Nature, and full realisation of all that is promised.
4. Wisdom, counteracting the devices of the proud, and causing the bitterest grief and protracted suffering to contribute at last to depth and fulness of joy.
5. Faithfulness, unshaken and firm as a "rock," insuring that all the strength and wisdom of the Divine nature shall be exercised for the final bestowment of the covenanted blessings. The retrospect of a personal history was to Hannah the means of reading the outlines of the manifestation of the Divine glory, especially in the salvation of the Church. She, like us, saw only the beginnings of things. The remote glory shone through a glass darkly. It was for St. Paul and St. John to declare the same truth in fuller and more precise terms, as the one tells of the "manifold wisdom of God" being made known "by the Church" unto "principalities and powers in heavenly places," and the other, of him who by virtue of what he has wrought out for his redeemed is "worthy" of all that is due to the only Lord of glory. Men are now intent on studying the material framework of the universe; the day will come when the best minds will study with unbounded delight the perfections of God as seen in the restoration of spiritual order, beauty, and joy out of the chaos of sin and sorrow.
IV. INSTRUCTIVE TO THE WICKED. There was a time when the jealous and cruel Peninnah was proud in her strength and abundance. Also Pharaoh, and other oppressors of Israel, could boast of their power and resources. The infant Church in primitive times was as nothing in comparison with the numerical and social power of her enemy. The exceeding proud talk and arrogancy of men who proclaim their vast superiority in secular knowledge to the mass of Christians, is in keeping with the conduct of the kings and princes who "take counsel against the Lord and against his Anointed." But as Hannah's fear and trembling yielded to confidence and joy, consequent on the casting down of her proud enemy and the lifting up of the sorrowful spirit, so the same ever recurring triumphs of the Redeemer, awakening in his people the song of salvation, reads out in clear and forcible terms the instructive lesson to the proud to "talk" no more, and to the arrogant to "shut their mouth," and to the seemingly prosperous that all "actions are weighed" by him who is a "God of knowledge." It is ever true that no weapon formed against God's children can prosper. In what God has effected for the lowly pious in time past, the proud, the wise, the strong may find instruction; and, if they will, learn both how vain it is to curse in heart or mouth whom God has blessed, and how important for themselves that they "kiss the Son," lest they perish, "while his wrath is kindled but a little."
V. INVOLVING GREAT REVERSIONS. Providence vindicated itself for former apparently unequal and undesirable distributions of favour by breaking the bows of the strong and giving strength to the feeble; by causing the self-satisfied Peninnah to feel the lack of a satisfaction not to be obtained by the cruel, and the yearning Hannah to want for nothing more. The once proud mother of many children, from causes in the home life, fails in her joys, while the unfruitful attains to the perfection of earthly bliss. In the one case hopes and joys are smitten; in the other, created. The rich in home delights becomes poor, by possibly erring sons, or enfeebled health; the poor and sorrowful is enriched with a treasure for the use of all ages. Thus does Hannah see in outline the reversions ever occurring in the working out of God's salvation in the individual, the nation, or the Church.
1. In the human soul saved by Christ, forces of evil once strong and self-satisfied, lacking nothing, and usurping authority, are brought low, enfeebled, made conscious of their impotence, and finally killed; while the poor, faint, struggling spirit of love and faith is, when once "made alive," girded with strength, satisfied with good, and made finally dominant over the entire nature. Doubts, fears, and mighty temptations are laid low. Hopes, joys, and victories of faith are called forth; and, as a final issue, the once outcast, unhappy soul is enriched with the full bliss of a child of God.
2. In national affairs. The strength of Egypt sinks in the sea; the helplessness of Israel puts on the strength of God. The boastful nations that in pride of their resources set aside the practice of righteousness, one by one are brought low by the corruption concealed beneath their material splendour; while the feeble people who live in the fear of God go from strength to strength, and "delight themselves in the abundance of peace."
3. In the Church. The wealth, power, and wisdom of Rome and Greece fell before the rising power and spiritual know]edge of poor fishermen. The mighty evils of an age are at length brought down, and the despised "things that are not" are caused to be the most potent and blessed of all agencies.
VI. TRACEABLE TO GOD. Well did Hannah know that her deliverance was of God, and not of man. In all the second causes cooperating towards the completion of her desire she, with true spiritual instinct, saw the work of the First Cause. "The Lord" it was who "killed and made alive." "The Lord" "brought low" the proud rival, and "lifted up" "the woman of sorrowful spirit." He it is who "keeps the feet of his saints," and causes the wicked at length "to be silent." So through the unfolding ages it is "the Lord" who works to destroy the evils of the soul, and to create and nourish the good. All the triumphs of the Church over political scheming, pseudo-learning, violent persecution, and satanic opposition are by the might and power of him who raiseth up the wise and good, checks the rage of man, and in the invisible sphere frustrates the "gates of hell." All things are of God, who worketh all and in all. It is not crude anthropomorphism that refers all the processes of individual, national, and Church salvation to the energy of God. It is the most penetrating philosophy, born of the inspiring Spirit of God. There are "pillars"' or foundations, or bases, of all terrestrial things. We may call this a cause, and that an effect. We may clothe matter with qualities, and point out their uniform and necessary interaction. But still they are all traceable down to some original constitution inherent in the elemental forces and materials; and that constitution, that firm and grand arrangement of invisible "pillars" or bases, is what it is because God made it so, and for no other reason. Wisely and beautifully, therefore, does the prophetess anticipate the philosophies of the coming ages by referring all the agencies and powers involved in the accomplishing of salvation for men to "the Lord." Not unto us, but to thy name be the glory.
VII. CULMINATING IN CHRIST'S PERFECT REIGN. The prophetic eye looks on through the material disorder of Eli's day to a typical King in Zion. The order and prosperity of a David's reign are but the temporal shadow of the enduring order and unfading prosperity of the "Anointed," who is in the highest spiritual sense to "exalt" his "horn," and "judge the ends of the earth." What though, meanwhile, "adversaries" may combine, and the occasional "strength" of the wicked threaten to cast down "the saints;" he that sitteth in the heavens has in reserve his swift and awe inspiring forces (Psalms 2:1-12) to shatter all opposition, and ultimately insure a peaceful reign over mankind. It was some years before Peninnah s ground of annoyance to Hannah was removed, and the lowly one was raised to joy and full satisfaction; so, proportionately to the vaster deliverance to be wrought out for mankind, it may require many centuries to cast down all foes and create and perfect the bliss of the redeemed. But the" strength" of the "King" will bring it to pass by a combination of invisible and visible forces more subtle and intricate, but not less obedient to his will, than those which brought a mother's joy to Hannah. Here we see the beautiful unity of all Scripture reference to the final triumph of Messiah. The "serpent's head" is to be "bruised" was consolation to our weeping ancestors, bereft of Eden. In him "all nations shall be blessed" was the grand assurance that made Abraham's life one of large sympathy with the future. "To him shall the gathering of the people be" was the solace of Jacob's dying hour. And thus, aided by Hannah's joyous song of victory, as though already real, the holy, blessed succession ran on, telling of the "kingdom" that "shall have no end," and the day when to the Name that is "above every name" every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that he is Lord and Christ.
From this survey of truth concerning "salvation" note a few important Practical truths:—
1. See here a beautiful instance of how a single life's experience, when under the holy discipline of God, may be rich in instruction and inspiration for men in all ages. This is brought about not by mere natural genius, but by a woman's pure and full consecration to Christ, and passionate desire to accelerate the advent of his kingdom. Happy they who can live so as to inspire and help posterity! Let our life become a song of thanksgiving to our successors. This is possible to all in some degree.
2. An underlying current of faith in Christ's complete triumph runs through the ancient Church, and this should embolden us. True saints live much in the future, while not careless of present duties. There may be much inspiration for work from the prospect of what is to be.
3. The effect of true faith is to enlarge the vision and broaden the sympathies. Hannah's faith in a coming Christ caused her spirit to be open to those inspirations which carried the vision over the weary ages to the true golden age, and she felt with all the saints in all time. Religion of this kind becomes an expansive power in whatever nature it dwells.
4. The proper unity of the Church lies in the one faith which holds the life to Christ, whether to come, or having come; and this will insure sympathy with his kingdom and with purity of life, as well as consecration of what is most precious to its realisation.
HOMILIES BY B. DALE
1 Samuel 2:1-10. (SHILOH)
Rejoicing in the Lord.
"My heart rejoiceth in the Lord." The song of Hannah, "the Magnificat of the Old Testament Church," was the outburst of her deep and holy joy in the Lord. Whilst watching over the infant Samuel at Ramah, she had silently pondered the ways of God, and the condition and prospects of his people and kingdom. After several years of absence from the central sanctuary at Shiloh, she appears once more at its entrance; and, standing on the well remembered spot where she had prayed in her distress, she fulfils her vow, and gives back to God the sacred treasure intrusted to her care. The trouble of former years recalled, provocations and inward conflicts ended, the sunshine of Divine favour experienced, cause her full heart to "bubble up like a fountain," and pour itself out in lofty poetic strains (1 Samuel 2:1). What a contrast does this language indicate between her condition at the time of the previous visit and her condition now!
1. Then her heart was full of grief; now it "rejoiceth in the Lord."
2. Then her "horn" (strength, a figure taken from animals whose strength is in their horns, and here first employed. 2 Samuel 22:3; Luke 1:69) was trampled in the dust; now it is "exalted," and she is endued with strength and honour "by the Lord."
3. Then her mouth was shut, in silent endurance, beneath the provocation of her adversary (1 Samuel 1:6); now it is "enlarged," or opened in holy exultation, "above her enemies."
4. Then she was petitioning for the help of the Lord now she "rejoices in his salvation," or the deliverance which he has wrought on her behalf; and it is "because" of this that she utters aloud her thanksgiving and praise. Her soul with all its powers, like a harp of many strings, touched by the Divine Spirit, gives forth exquisite music. "The Divinely inspired song of Hannah is like a golden key for the interpretation of the whole book" (Wordsworth's 'Com.'). Compare this song with the song of Miriam and of Deborah. "Those compositions are grand, indeed, and elevated, and worthy of that inspiration which produced them; but they have not that tenderness of spirit, that personality of devotion, and that eucharistic anticipation of good things to come which characterise the hymn of Hannah". It is the model after which the song of the Virgin Mary was formed, though there are notable points of difference between them. Considered in relation to the circumstances, and in its general nature, her song was a song of—
1. Gratitude. Her prayer had been answered in the gift of a son; and, unlike those who look no further than the blessings bestowed upon them, she looked from the gift to the Giver, and praised him with joyful lips. Her heart rejoiced not in Samuel, but in the Lord.
2. Dedication. She had given back her child to God, and with him herself afresh. The more we give to God, the more our heart is enlarged, by the shedding abroad of his love therein, and filled with exceeding joy.
3. Triumph; remembering how she had been delivered from her adversaries in the past.
4. Faith in his continued help.
5. Patriotism. She sympathised with her people in their oppression by the Philistines; and, identifying herself with them, she almost lost sight of what God had done for her in the contemplation of what he would do for them. "From this particular mercy she had received from God she takes occasion, with an elevated and enlarged heart, to speak of the glorious things of God, and of his government of the world for the good of the Church." "She discerned in her own individual experience the general laws of the Divine economy, and its signification in relation to the whole history of the kingdom of God" (Anberlen).
6. Prophetic hope. She beheld the dawn of a new day, and was glad. In all and above all—
7. Joy in the Lord. "My heart rejoiceth in the Lord;" not merely before him (Deuteronomy 12:12); but in him, as the Object and Source of its joy; in communion with and contemplation of him, and in the admiration, affection, and delight thereby excited. "My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the Lord" (Psalms 104:34). "When I think of God," said Haydn (on being asked the reason why the style of his music was so cheerful), "my soul is so full of joy that the notes come leaping and dancing from my pen." More especially observe that Hannah rejoiced in—
I. THE PERFECTIONS OF HIS CHARACTER (1 Samuel 2:2, 1 Samuel 2:3). Such perfections must not, indeed, be thought of as existing in God separate and distinct from each other; they are essential attributes of his living personality, and are all really present in his every purpose and act. What is here declared of God is, that—
1. He alone is "holy."
(1) Supremely excellent; whatever excellence exists in any other being falls infinitely short of his (Isaiah 6:3).
(2) Morally perfect; invariably willing what is right and good; transcendently glorious in the view of conscience (Leviticus 11:44).
(3) Absolutely existent, which is the ground of his excellence and perfection. "For there is none except thee." "God is the most perfect Being, and the cause of all other beings." His moral perfection is a peculiar distinction of the revelation which he made to his chosen people, needs to be specially magnified in times of corruption, and can only be rejoiced in by his saints. The conception which men form of God is an evidence of their own character, and exerts a powerful influence upon it (Luke 1:49).
2. He alone is strong. "A Rock."
(1) Firm, unchanging, enduring; a sure foundation for confidence.
(2) None can be compared unto him. They may not be trusted in, and they need not be feared.
(3) Happy are those who can say, He is "our God." That which is a terror to others is a consolation to them. "The children of a king do not fear what their father has in his arsenal." "Let the inhabitant of the rock sing." But men often speak proudly and arrogantly (1 Samuel 2:3), as if they were independent of him, and could do whatever they pleased. Let them not boast any more; for—
3. He is the All-wise; a "God of knowledge" (lit; knowledges) of all knowledge. "The Lord knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity" (Psalms 94:11; Psalms 138:6). His knowledge is
(2) perfect, and
(3) universal. And,
4. He is the Judge of human actions. He determines how far they may go before they are effectually checked by the manifestation of his power and wisdom (Thenius). "By strength shall no man prevail." He also forms a just estimate of their moral worth, and gives to every man his due reward. His righteousness and justice, as well as his strength and wisdom, when contemplated by the good, fill them with great joy.
II. THE OPERATIONS OF HIS PROVIDENCE (1 Samuel 2:4-8). The operations of Providence are the operations of God in the natural world, the laws of which are the uniform methods of his activity, and more especially in human affairs; wherein, whilst there is room for human freedom and prudence, and the use of means, his will encircles and overrules all things, and his hand moves in and through those events which are commonly attributed to chance or accident, and directs and controls them for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). In and by these operations—
1. He manifests the perfections of his character: his holiness, power, wisdom, and justice. "The Lord is righteous in all his ways (Psalms 97:2 Psalms 145:17).
2. He apportions the different conditions of men, and accomplishes the varied changes of their condition.
(1) Makes the strong weak and the weak strong (1 Samuel 2:4).
(2) The full empty and the empty full (1 Samuel 2:5).
(3) Increases the lonely and diminishes the numerous family.
(4) Brings into great distress, even to the verge of the grave, and again restores to health and prosperity (1 Samuel 2:6).
(5) Makes poor and makes rich.
(6) Brings low and raises up. Prosperity and adversity alike, when received from the hand of God and used aright, become occasions of joy; and the changes of life are morally beneficial (Psalms 55:19; Jeremiah 48:11; James 1:9, James 1:10).
3. He does great things, especially for the lowly (1 Samuel 2:8). Stooping to them in their utmost need and shame (Psalms 113:7, Psalms 113:8), and raising them to the highest honour and glory. "God does nothing else," said an ancient philosopher, "but humble the proud and exalt the lowly." "Set thyself in the lowest place, and the highest shall be given thee; for the more elevated the building is designed to be, the deeper must the foundations be laid. The greatest saints in the sight of God are the least in their own esteem; and the height of their glory is always in proportion to the depth of their humility" (Thomas a Kempis).
4. He supports the earth and all that is upon it. His dominion is supreme; and he has therefore the power, as he has the right, to do whatever may please him. An unfaltering trust in Providence is a cure of undue anxiety and a cause of abounding peace and joy. "Certainly it is heaven on earth to have a man's mind move in charity, rest in Providence, and turn upon the poles of truth" (Bacon). "The prophets of the Old Testament inculcate with a remarkable perspicuity and decision the overruling agency of God's providence in the affairs of the world. Their whole prophecy is more or less a commentary on this doctrine What a basis is laid by it of peace and tranquillity to every thoughtful and most feeling mind; and how different the aspect of the world becomes when we have reason to know that all things in it, and every combination of them, whether in the fortunes of kingdoms or in a more private state, are under the control of an intelligent and gracious Ruler. Were we in the chains of chance, how gloomy would our case be. Were we in the hands of men, too often how fearful, how humiliating, how conflicting. But the impression of the scene is changed when we admit into it the direction of an all-wise and perfect Being, in whose rectitude and goodness we may acquiesce through the whole course of his providential dispensation".
"One adequate support
For the calamities of mortal life
Exists, one only;—an assured belief
That the procession of our fate, howe'er
Sad or disturb'd, is order'd by a Being
Of infinite benevolence and power,
Whose everlasting purposes embrace
All accidents, converting them to good"
III. THE ESTABLISHMENT OF HIS KINGDOM (1 Samuel 2:9, 1 Samuel 2:10). God is a moral governor, and directs his providential operations with a view to the setting up of a kingdom of righteousness upon earth. This kingdom existed from the first, was more fully exhibited in the theocracy of Israel, and culminated in the rule of Christ, who "must reign until he hath put all enemies under his feet." In every stage of development it involves conflict. But—
1. He will protect, its subjects; his saints (lit; pious, those who love God), against whom the wicked will contend in vain (1 Samuel 2:9).
2. He will overthrow its adversaries (1 Samuel 2:10); their overthrow being
(3) complete—"broken to pieces,"—and
(4) signally indicative of the interposition of heaven (1 Samuel 7:10).
3. He will extend its borders to the ends of the earth.
4. And he will clothe with strength, honour, and majesty the king whom he appoints and anoints for the accomplishment of his purposes. Hannah commenced her song with rejoicing on account of the strength and honour conferred upon herself, and she closes it with rejoicing on account of the strength and honour which would be conferred on him who should be "higher than the kings of the earth." "Let the children of Zion be joyful in their king." "The anointed of the Lord, of whom Hannah prophesies in the spirit, is not one single king in Israel, either David or Christ, but an ideal king, though not a mere personification of the throne about to be established, but the actual king whom Israel received in David and the race, which culminated in the Messiah. The exaltation of the horn of the anointed of Jehovah commenced with the victorious and splendid expansion of the power of David, was repeated with every victory over the enemies of God and his kingdom gained by the successive kings of David's house, goes on in the advancing spread of the kingdom of Christ, and will eventually attain to its eternal consummation in the judgment of the last day, through which all the enemies of Christ will be made his footstool" (Keil).—D.
HOMILIES BY D. FRASER
1 Samuel 2:1-10
The prayer song of Hannah.
In her prayer of asking Hannah was intent not merely on having a child, but on giving to the service of God a priest, and to the government of Israel a judge, very different from the sons of Eli—a Nazarite, a second and a better Samson. No wonder, then, that when she brought her son to the sanctuary, her prayer of thanksgiving took a large scope, and revealed even a prophetic fervour. What religious poetess has made such an impression as Hannah with one ode? Reproduced in Psalms 113:1-9; and yet again in the song of the blessed Virgin Mary, commonly called the Magnificat, it may be said to have continued in devout minds, Hebrew and Gentile, for about 3000 years. The first verse is the introduction, and strikes the key in which all that follows is pitched—a tone of warm and grateful confidence in God. Then follow the praises of the Lord, with some anticipation of better days to come.
I. PRAISE OF JEHOVAH (Psalms 113:2-8).
1. Because of his sublime attributes (Psalms 113:2, Psalms 113:3). "There is none holy as Jehovah." The root idea of holiness is always that of separateness from what is evil or profane. The God of Israel was the Holy One, absolutely unique, immaculate, inviolate, and inviolable. None among the gods of the nations might be likened to him. So he called and required Israel to be a holy nation, i.e. separate from the nations of the world, who are idolatrous and unclean. So under the New Testament the saints are the separated ones who touch not the unclean thing. "Neither any rock like our God." His protection cannot be invaded. His purpose does not vacillate. His power does not fail. He is the Rock of Ages. This was what made Israel unconquerable so long as faithful to God. The "rocks" of the nations, i.e. the gods in whom they trusted, were not as Israel's Rock. "Jehovah is a God of knowledge." Let not the wicked boast proudly. No word of scorn cast at the humble, no haughty glance of the eye, is unobserved by the Lord; and nothing is more certain than that, sooner or later, he will abase the proud. "And by him actions are weighed." In his estimate of human conduct he holds the balances of a perfect equity.
2. Because of his mighty works (Psalms 113:4-8). Ruling in holy sovereignty, God often reverses the conditions of men, lowering the exalted and exalting the lowly. He even kills and makes alive, leads down into Hades, and leads up from it again. Sheol or Hades was no mere pit of extinction from which there could be no uprising. God was able to raise even the dead. Such being his power, what could the boastful effect against Jehovah? What might not the humble hope from him? This is the central thought of Hannah's song, and it is still more finely expressed in that of the blessed Virgin. "He hath showed strength," etc. (Luke 1:51-53). Of the elevation of the despised, celebrated here and in Psalms 113:1-9; how many illustrations in sacred story! Joseph, Moses, Gideon, before the time of Hannah; and afterwards, David, and the great Son of David, the Man Christ Jesus, and his Galilean apostles. This fact is not to encourage contempt of, or impatience under, earthly dignities; but it is to cheer those who are or may be depressed by worldly disadvantage of poverty or obscurity. God's grace is no appanage of the rich or powerful. Was not Martin Luther a poor miner's son? David Brainerd a small farmer's son? John Bunyan a tinker's son, brought up to follow the same craft? Were not the good missionaries Carey and Knibb apprentices, the one bound to a cobbler, the other to a printer? And are not such men among the princes of God's people? The house of Elkanah was of no eminence in Israel; but thence God was raising up this child Samuel, whom Hannah brought to his courts, to be, if not king, king maker, and to stand at the head of a line of prophets who should be the guides of the kings and the people so long as the kingdom stood.
II. ANTICIPATION Of BETTER THINGS TO COME. The end of this prayer song has a prophetic strain (verses 9, 10). Hannah was confident of God's preservation of his saints, and of the correlative truth of the perdition of ungodly men. Not that he has any pleasure in their death; but that if men will fight against eternal order and righteousness, they must fail in the struggle, they must perish. "As for Jehovah, those who contend against him are broken." The prophetic element shows itself in the closing expressions of the song. The government of Israel at the time may be described as that of a commonwealth, so far as concerns human administration. It was a theocracy, as it had been from the time of the exodus; but the actual administration was carried on through leaders, or judges. The eye of Hannah opened on a new epoch, foresaw a king to whom Jehovah would give strength as his Anointed. It is the first mention of a Messiah in Holy Writ. No doubt Hannah's words are a prediction of David, whose horn of power the Lord was to exalt, giving him a career of victory over all his enemies. But whether or not it was clear to Hannah's mind, the Spirit who rested on her signified a King greater than David, and a more illustrious kingdom. It is he of whom the angel said to Mary, "He shall be great," etc. (Luke 1:32, Luke 1:33). We see not yet his kingdom. We see not all things put under him. But we see Jesus crowned with glory and honour; and we wait for his appearing and his kingdom. The longings of many generations, the hopes of many Hannahs, the visions of many seers and prophets, O may they come to pass speedily!—F.
HOMILIES BY B. DALE
1 Samuel 2:2. (SHILOH.)
The Rock of Israel.
"Neither is there any rock like our God." The figurative representations of God which are given in his word enable us to attain exalted, varied, and most impressive views of his character. They are derived from objects with which the lands of the Bible abounded; and no other lands on earth were equally adapted to be the theatre of a Divine revelation for men universally. Of these representations, this is one of the most common. It was first employed by Jacob (Genesis 49:24—stone, eben, or rock), with allusion, perhaps, to Genesis 28:11, Genesis 28:22; afterwards by Moses (Deuteronomy 32:4, Deuteronomy 32:18, etc.—rock, tzur = what is solid, firm, enduring; a support, foundation, as in the text), who was so familiar with the rocks and mountains of Sinai; frequently by David (2 Samuel 22:3—rock, sela = height, cliff or crag, resorted to as a refuge) and the prophets. Notice—
I. HIS CHARACTER IS ITSELF.
1. His power. "To know thy power is the root of immortality."
2. His unchangeableness and faithfulness. "I change not" (Malachi 3:6), with reference to his merciful covenant.
3. His eternity. "From everlasting to everlasting." These attributes are ascribed to Christ: "all power" (Matthew 28:18); "the same yesterday, and today, and forever" (Hebrews 1:8-12; Hebrews 13:8). "That Rock was Christ" (1 Corinthians 10:4). He is the highest and the only perfect manifestation of God. "Jesus is that Divine Being to whom we can draw near without pride, and before whom we can be abased without despair" (Pascal).
II. HIS SUPERIORITY TO OTHERS. They are—
1. Weak. Their very strength is weakness compared with His infinite power.
2. Changeable. "All men are liars," false, unworthy, and disappointing objects of trust.
3. Transitory. They and their works pass away, whilst the rock endures forever (see Swinnock,—"the incomparableness of God,—'Works,' vol. 4.). Expect not true or lasting satisfaction from any created object. "Cease ye from man" (Isaiah 2:22). Fear him not (Isaiah 51:12, Isaiah 51:13).
III. HIS RELATION TO HIS PEOPLE. "Our God." His people are those who live in direct fellowship with him, and show the reality of their fellowship by walking in the light and keeping his commandments. To them he has promised to be all that their true welfare requires.
1. A support; "the immovable foundation on which they may stand firm, impregnable, secure."
2. A defence, protecting them against their enemies; "a shadow from the heat, a refuge from the storm;" bearing on himself the tempest that would have fallen on them. "He that believeth shall not make haste," or be terrified.
3. A source of strength, of peace, and of consolation. "Rabbi Maimon has observed that the word tzur, which we translate rock, signifies, when applied to Jehovah, fountain, source, spring. There is no source whence continual help and salvation can arise but our God" (A. Clarke).
IV. HIS CLAIMS UPON ALL.
1. To trust in him.
2. Abide in him; not merely fleeing to him in a time of trouble and danger, but making him our habitation and home.
3. To make him our portion and "exceeding joy." "Trust ye in the Lord forever; for the Lord Jehovah is the Rock of Ages" (Isaiah 26:4).
"Rock of Ages, cleft for me;
Let me hide myself in thee."—D.
1 Samuel 2:3
The Divine judgment of human actions.
"By him actions are weighed." It is customary to determine the worth of many things by weighing them. For this purpose a fixed standard is used, and a comparison is made with it by means of a balance and scales or other instrument. Nothing can be more natural than to speak of determining the moral worth of actions in the same manner, and Justice is commonly represented as a woman holding in her hand a pair of scales in which "actions are weighed." In this sense the above expression is employed; not, however, of men, whose judgment is often mistaken or unjust; but of "God, the Judge of all." His judgment is—
I. A PRESENT JUDGMENT. They are (now) weighed. According to the ancient Egyptians, there was erected at the entrance of the unseen world a balance or scales, over which the Judge of the dead presided, and by it the character of every man was tested as soon as he died. In one of the scales the figure or emblem of truth was placed, and in the other the heart of the deceased; and the result determined his destiny. This is not an unworthy conception of the judgment to come. But their religion pertained chiefly to what would be in the future, rather than to what exists in the present. And there are many at the present day who never think that they have anything to do with God or his judgment except when they come to die. They forget that the living and all-seeing God "pondereth their goings" (Proverbs 5:21), "judgeth according to every man's work" (1 Peter 1:17), and that to him they stand responsible (Hebrews 4:13—"with whom is the account").
II. ACCORDING TO A PERFECT STANDARD. The estimate which men form of themselves and others is often false, because it is not formed by means of such a standard. As "weights and measures" need to be examined and to be rectified by an imperial standard, so the human judgment and conscience need to be examined and to be rectified by the righteousness of God as declared in the Law and the Prophets and the Gospel of Christ. What is our relation to this standard?
III. ACCORDING TO MOTIVES. The moral worth of actions does not depend upon their "outward appearance," but upon the heart. In the sight of God, who sees hearts as we see faces, the inward motives, principles, and intentions are in reality the actions which are weighed (Proverbs 16:2; Proverbs 21:2; Proverbs 24:11, Proverbs 24:12; Isaiah 26:7). Our ignorance of these necessarily makes our judgment imperfect, even in relation to ourselves. But "he is a God of knowledge," "searches the heart," and perceives the motives which underlie all actions, and which are often so different from what they are thought to be (Psa 139:1-24 :33).
IV. UNIVERSAL. "The Judge of all the earth." It pertains to all actions that have in them a moral element; to the actions of every individual soul; and to every one of its actions, however apparently insignificant, though it cannot be really such because of its relation to God, and its bearing upon character and destiny.
V. EXERCISED WITH A VIEW TO REWARDING EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS WORKS. It is not useless and ineffective; but is attended with important consequences (Jeremiah 17:10). This life is not simply one of probation; it is also, in part, one of retribution. The approbation or disapprobation of God is always followed by corresponding effects in the mind and heart and conscience of men, and often by startling providential occurrences; as when it was said, "Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting" (Daniel 5:27, Daniel 5:30); "The world's history is the world's judgment;" and, "We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ" (Romans 14:12; 2 Corinthians 5:10). Application:—
1. "Let a man examine himself."
2. Seek forgiveness of the sins that are past.
3. "Walk before me, and be thou perfect."—D.
1 Samuel 2:9. (SHILOH.)
God's guardianship of his saints.
"He will keep the feet of his saints." Who are his saints?
1. The term is sometimes used as one of reproach, by persons who are destitute of religious life, concerning those who bear the Christian name. Pointing to the inconsistency of some of the latter, they would thereby fain persuade themselves and others that there is no such thing as true godliness to be found in the world. There are, doubtless, many who "profess to know God, but in works deny him." But there would be no counterfeit money unless there were some genuine coin
2. The word is also used to designate those who have been "canonised;" and who, having gone into heaven, are supposed to have influence with God in the granting of petitions presented on earth. But such a use of it is unscriptural, and the doctrine is false and injurious.
3. The saints of God are those who have been accepted by him through faith in Christ, who do his will and walk in the way to heaven. Their way, indeed, is often difficult and painful, like the uneven, intricate, and stony paths of Palestine, and beset by numerous dangers. But, for their consolation and encouragement, it is promised that "he that keepeth Israel" will "keep their feet" firm and safe, so that they may not fall and perish. The promise is directly of preservation from temporal calamity, but it may be regarded as including also preservation from spiritual failure and destruction. Consider—
I. THE DANGER FROM WHICH HE WILL KEEP THEM.
1. From wandering out of the way. Obscurity may gather over it. Other ways may appear plainer, easier, and more pleasant, and tempt them to leave it. Or they may seem more direct and shorter than the circuitous and wearisome path they have to pursue. But kept by him they will not go astray.
2. From stumbling in the way. "It must needs be that offences (or occasions of stumbling) come." Some of them consist of
(1) The difficulties of Divine revelation: "things hard to be understood."
(2) The mysteries of Divine providence, which have led many to say, "As for me," etc. (Psalms 73:2).
(3) Direct solicitations to evil.
(4) "Afflictions and persecutions that arise for the word, whereby many are offended." But "great peace have they that love thy law, and nothing shall cause them to stumble" (Psalms 119:165)
3. From failing to reach the end of the way. Some start with bright hopes which are not afterwards altogether fulfilled in their experience: storms gather, enemies threaten, severe conflict must be waged; and they become weary and desponding, and ready to halt. "But the righteous shall hold on his way" (Job 17:1-16 :19; Isaiah 40:31).
II. THE MANNER IN WHICH HE WILL KEEP THEM. By—
1. Providing means of help for them: the word, which is an instrument of guidance, refreshment, and defence; prayer; the fellowship of those who are travelling in the same way; the ministration of angels (Psalms 91:11; Hebrews 1:14).
2. Watching over them at every step. They are not alone; but he is with them; and they are kept by the power of God" (1 Peter 1:5).
3. Imparting grace and strength to them according to their need. "As thy day," etc. It matters not how great the need if "the supply of the Spirit" (Philippians 1:19) be equal to it. And, "My grace," he says, "is sufficient for thee."
III. THE CERTAINTY WITH WHICH HE WILL KEEP THEM.
1. He has a special interest in them, for they are "his saints," "the portion of his inheritance."
2. He has already done much for them, which is an earnest of continued preservation.
3. He has high purposes to accomplish in them and through them. And,
4. He has solemnly promised "never to leave them" (Hebrews 13:5),
and "he is faithful that promised (Hebrews 10:23).
1. Rely upon the promise.
2. Presume not upon your security, nor think that without fulfilling his commandments you can receive his promises.
3. Use the appointed means of grace with all diligence.—D.
1 Samuel 2:10. (SHILOH.)
The King Messiah.
The last word of the song of Hannah is the first mention of the Lord's Anointed, Messiah, Christ.
1. Her language was a direct prediction of the appointment of a theocratic king, for which Samuel prepared the way, and which, under Divine direction, he was the chief agent in effecting.
2. It was an indirect prediction of One who had been long expected (Genesis 3:14, Genesis 3:15; Genesis 12:1-3; Genesis 22:17, Genesis 22:18; Genesis 49:10; Numbers 24:17-19; Deuteronomy 18:15-19), and in whom the idea of such a king would be completely realised.
3. It marks the dawn of a splendid series of prophecies founded on the reign of David, and ever brightening to the perfect day. Consider—
I. HIS REGAL OFFICE. Its general purpose was—
1. To unite a divided people (Genesis 49:10). Nothing was more needed in the days of the judges.
2. To save them from their enemies. "Thy salvation" (1 Samuel 2:1; Psalms 18:50; Psalms 95:1; Matthew 1:21).
3. To rule over them, judge them in righteousness, and establish among them order peace, and happiness. "The regal office of our Saviour consisteth partly in the ruling, protecting, and rewarding of his people; partly in the coercing, condemning, and destroying of his enemies" (Pearson 'on the Creed,' Art. 2.). It was the fatal mistake of Israel in all ages to look for an outward, worldly, and imposing, rather than an inward, moral, and spiritual fulfilment of this purpose. The same mistake has, to some extent, pervaded Christendom. "My kingdom is not of this world." "The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." "Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself have founded empires. But upon what did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ alone founded his empire upon love; and at this moment millions would die for him" ('Table Talk and Opinions of Napoleon Buonaparte').
II. HIS DIVINE APPOINTMENT. "His King." "His Anointed" (Psalms 2:6; Psalms 18:50).
1. The choice was of God. "Chosen out of the people" (Psalms 89:19). Even Saul, a man after the people's heart rather than after God's heart, was selected and appointed by him. The invisible King of Israel did not relinquish his authority.
2. Founded on personal eminence. David. The ancient Persians believed that their ruler was an incarnation of the eternal light, the object of their worship, and therefore rendered him Divine honour. This was a reality in Christ.
3. Confirmed and manifested by the anointing of his Spirit (1 Samuel 10:1; 1 Samuel 16:13; 2 Samuel 2:4); the outward act being a symbol of the inward endowment (Matthew 3:16; Luke 4:18). "God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him" (John 3:34; Hebrews 1:9).
III. HIS GLORIOUS EXALTATION.
1. After a state of humiliation; implied in the language here used; also indicated in 1 Samuel 2:8; and typified by the lowly origin of David and his course to the throne.
2. By the right hand of God. "He will give strength;" "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth" (Matthew 28:18); exhibited in his resurrection, ascension, and possession of supreme honour, authority, and power.
3. To a kingdom universal and eternal. "The Lord shall judge the ends of the earth" (Psalms 2:8; Psalms 72:2-5; Psalms 132:18; Luke 1:31-33, Luke 1:69). Whilst Jesus lives and reigns in heaven, he also lives and reigns on earth. He does so by the continued and ever increasing power of his example and teachings, his wondrous life, and still more wondrous death. The truths and principles which he declared and embodied are, at this moment, accepted by the loftiest intellects, the purest consciences, and the tenderest hearts amongst men. Who now reverses a single judgment which he pronounced upon men or things? Who can conceive any character more worthy of reverence and affection than his? The lapse of time has only served to invest his words and character with fresh interest and power. Other kings and conquerors are fading away amidst the shadows of the past; but he is ever rising before the view of mankind more distinctly, and living in their thoughts, their consciences, and their hearts more mightily. Yea, more, he lives and reigns on earth by his Divine presence, his providential working, and the power of his Spirit. Just as the sun, shining in mid-heaven, sheds down his rays upon the earth; so Christ, the Sun of righteousness (though no longer seen by mortal eye), pours down the beams of his influence upon us continually, and rules over all things for the complete establishment of his kingdom.—D.
SAMUEL'S MINISTRATIONS AT SHILOH (1 Samuel 2:11-21).
1 Samuel 2:11
The child did minister. Left by his parents at Shiloh, Samuel ministered unto the Lord; that is, certain duties were allotted him to perform suited to his age; but few at first, when he was but three years old, but increasing in importance as time went on; for the words refer to the whole period of his service, until Eli's death. At first Samuel would be but a scholar, for, as we have mentioned on 1 Samuel 1:21, there were, no doubt, regulations for the training of children devoted to the service of the sanctuary. The peculiarity about Samuel was that he was devoted for life, for possibly it was a not uncommon practice for young persons to receive some training at Shiloh; just as we find that Samuel himself subsequently gathered youths round him at Naioth in Ramah for educational purposes. Learning practically was confined to the priesthood, and we can scarcely imagine that the knowledge which Phinehas and the family of Aaron brought with them out of Egypt would be allowed to perish. Samuel certainly had himself received careful instruction (see on 1 Samuel 10:25), and this could scarcely have happened if the training of young persons had not been part of the priests' duties at Shiloh. This then explains why Samuel was brought to Eli at so tender an age, and why the charge of so young a child was undertaken without a murmur. Before Eli means under his general superintendence. Everything done at Shiloh was done before Eli, as being the chief ruler there.
1 Samuel 2:12
Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial, i.e. worthless men (see on 1 Samuel 1:16). They knew not Jehovah. He had never been revealed to their consciences, and so his fear had no influence upon their lives. The next words, in 1 Samuel 2:13, are difficult, but lit. mean, "The legal right of the priests, towards, or as respects, the people." On this account the Vulgate and several commentators couple the sentence with what precedes: "they knew neither Jehovah, nor their own legal rights." But the word also in 1 Samuel 2:15 is incompatible with this rendering; for if what is mentioned there be illegal, so must also the practice be which is recorded here. But neither does custom give the sense; for the Hebrews has not priest's (sing.) as the A.V; but of the priests, of all priests generally, and not of Eli merely and his sons. The right translation is that given by the Sept; Syriac, and Chaldee, namely, "the due of the priests from the people," on which see Leviticus 7:31-35. In the original this is put absolutely "And as to the priests' due from the people, when," etc; but our language requires some insertion to make it read more smoothly. "And as to the due of the priests from the people, the manner of its exaction was as follows: When," etc. But besides the due and legal portion, which, nevertheless, they took in an illegal way, they demanded a part of the flesh reserved for the feast of the offerer, and to which they had absolutely no right (see Leviticus 8:31; 2 Chronicles 35:13).
The legal due of the priest was the right shoulder and the wave breast; but before he took them they were to be consecrated to God by the burning of the fat upon the altar (Le 1 Samuel 3:5; 1 Samuel 7:1-31, 34). It is worth observing that the people seem well acquainted with the words of the Law, and are indignant because the priests, its proper guardians, do not abide literally by them. This contempt of the Law distressed their religious susceptibilites, while the cupidity of Eli's sons offended their moral nature. And so men abhorred the offering of Jehovah. Lit. it is the minchah, the unbloody sacrifice, or meat offering, but it is put here forevery kind of sacrificial offering.
1 Samuel 2:18
But Samuel ministered. While the misconduct of Eli's sons was thus bringing religion into contempt, and sapping the nation's morals, Samuel was advancing in years and piety, and was gaining that education which made him fit to retrieve the evil of their doings. He is still styled na'ar, a boy; for the word, according to the Rabbins, may be used up to fifteen years (1 Samuel 1:24). In the sense of servant there is no limit of age; and as it is the word translated "young men" in 1 Samuel 2:17, it probably means there not Eli's sons, but the servants by whose instrumentality their orders were actually carried out. Samuel's dress, an ephod of white linen, was probably that worn by the Levites in their ordinary ministrations; for the ephod of the priests was richer both in material and colour (Exodus 28:6-8). As being thus the simplest ministerial garment, it was apparently worn also by laymen when taking part in any religious service, as by David when he danced before the ark (2 Samuel 6:14).
1 Samuel 2:19
His mother made him a little coat. The coat, meil, was worn by priests (Le 1 Samuel 8:7), by kings and their sons (1 Samuel 18:4), by prophets (ibid. 1 Samuel 28:14), and even by women (2 Samuel 13:18). It was an under garment of wool, woven throughout without seam, with holes for the head and arms, and reaching nearly to the ground: when used by women it had sleeves (ibid.). Under it they had a tunic or shirt fitting so closely that a man simply so clad was considered naked (1 Samuel 19:24), and over it priests and Levites wore the ephod, and so also David on the occasion mentioned above (1 Chronicles 15:27). The meil seems, moreover, to have often been a handsome dress, as that of the priests was of purple blue, with embroidery of pomegranates in three colours, and golden bells (Exodus 28:31-34); and when made of delicate materials for the use of the rich, it and the tunic are the soft luxurious clothing spoken of in Matthew 11:8. As the meal was the ordinary dress of all classes of people, it was made for Samuel at home, and can have no special meaning; but the ephod shows that he was brought up in the daffy practice of holy duties. This annual present, however, of clothing made by the mother's hands proves that the dedication of her son to God was not allowed to interfere with home affections, and both parents and child must have looked forward with joy to happy meetings at each recurrence of the family visit to the sanctuary.
1 Samuel 2:20, 1 Samuel 2:21
The Lord give thee seed, etc. The manner in which Eli blesses Elkanah shows that this surrender of a very young child to religious service was not looked upon as imposing a burden upon the sanctuary, but as the bestowal of a valued gift. Loan and lent by no means give the whole sense, which is in fact beyond the power of our language to express; for the Hebrew is remarkable for its manner of saying a great deal in a few words, by using them indefinitely. Besides the sense, then, of lending the child to God, the Hebrews also conveys the idea of Samuel having been obtained by prayer, but by prayer for Jehovah. Hannah had not asked simply for a son, but for a son whom she might dedicate to God. And now Eli prays that Jehovah will give her children to be her own (see on 1 Samuel 1:28).
ELI'S COMPLICITY IN THE SINS OF HIS SONS (1 Samuel 2:22-26).
1 Samuel 2:22
Eli … heard all that his sons did. To the profanity and greed described in 1 Samuel 2:12-17 the sons of Eli added unchastity; and their sin was the greater because the women whom they corrupted were those dedicated to religious service (see Exodus 38:8). The order of ministering women instituted by Moses probably lasted down to the destruction of the temple, and Anna may have belonged to it (Luke 2:37); afterwards it appeared again in a more spiritual form in the widows and deaconesses of the Christian Church. The word rendered assembled means "arranged in bands," and shows not merely that they were numerous, but that they had regular duties assigned them, and each one her proper place and office. The frequent sacrifices, with the feasts which followed, must have provided occupation for a large number of hands in the cleaning of the utensils and the cooking of the food. But though Eli heard of the depraved conduct of his sons in thus defiling those who ministered in the tabernacle, he gives them but the faintest rebuke, and that apparently only because their misdeeds were in everybody's mouth; for the last clause of 1 Samuel 2:23 really is, "For I hear of your evil doings from all this people." Eli's old age may have increased his indifference, but his religious character could never have had much depth or earnestness, to allow him to regard such heinous sins so lightly. It seems even as if he chiefly felt the annoyance occasioned to himself by the expostulations urged upon him "from all this people." Still all that he says is wise and thoughtful. The sins of men in high station do not end with themselves; they make others also to transgress. And as Eli's sons were Jehovah's ministers, and they had led into wickedness those who also were bound to holy service, their misconduct was a sin against Jehovah himself.
1 Samuel 2:24, 1 Samuel 2:25
Ye make, etc. Eli's words are very obscure, but "Ye make Jehovah's people to transgress" is upon the whole the best rendering of the clause. Both the Sept. and Syriac have a different reading: "Ye make Jehovah's people cease to worship him" In the next verse there is no sufficient reason for supposing that Elohim, God, here means a judge. Elohim was the head of the theocracy, the ruler of Israel in all things, and he would set to rights these delinquencies of "one man against another" by the ordinary exercise of his judicial functions. So far all is easy, and we must translate, "If one man sin against another, God shall judge him." But in the last clause there is one of those plays upon words to which the Hebrew language, with its numerous conjugations, so readily lends itself (see on 1 Samuel 1:28); and it is rarely possible to transfer to another language the force of passages in which the sense depends upon the terms in the original having a double meaning. The verb rendered shall judge in the first clause is used again by Eli in the second, but in a different conjugation, in which its usual meaning is to pray. According to the lexicon, therefore, we must translate: "If a man sin against Jehovah, who shall pray for him?" But surely it was just the occasion in which the only remedy left was intercessory prayer. Bearing then in remembrance the use made by Eli of the verb in the first clause, we must translate: "Who shall act as judge for him?" "Who shall interpose as arbitrator between him and Jehovah to settle the quarrel?" The verb itself, moreover, is a rare and old-fashioned one, and apparently means to settle a dispute. So it is used of Phinehas, who by his righteous zeal put an end to the rebellion against God's laws; and accordingly in Psalms 106:30, where our version renders "executed judgment," the, Vulgate has placavit, appeased Jehovah's anger.
The sense then is, In case of wrong done between man and man, God as the supreme Arbitrator settles the dispute; but where the two parties are God and man, what third power is there which can interfere? The quarrel must go on to the bitter end, and God, who is your opponent, will also punish you. The same idea is found in Job 9:33. Naturally to so mild a remonstrance, and founded upon so low a view of the Divine nature, the sons of Eli paid but slight attention, and by thus hardening themselves in sin they made their punishment inevitable, "because it pleased Jehovah to slay them." Man can bring upon himself neither good nor evil except by the working of God's will, and the punishment of sin is as thoroughly a part of God's will as the rewarding of righteousness. An intense conviction of the personality of God was the very foundation of the religious life of the Israelites, and lies at the root of the words of Eli here and of those of Job; and it was this which made them ascribe to God that hardening of the wicked in sin which is the sure means of their punishment. We ascribe it to the working of natural laws, which after all is but saying the same thing in a round about way; for the laws of nature, in things moral as well as in the physical world, are the laws of God. In verse 26, in contrast with Eli's sons ripening for punishment, and daily more abhorred to God and man, we have Samuel set before us advancing in age and "in favour with Jehovah and also with men," like him of whom in so many respects he was a type (Luke 2:52), our blessed Lord.
1 Samuel 2:11-19
The facts given are—
1. Eli's sons manifest their extreme wickedness by profaning the worship of God.
2. As a consequence, a grievous scandal is caused, and Divine worship comes into disrepute.
3. In spite of many evil surroundings, Samuel grows up in the blameless discharge of religious duties.
4. Hannah continues to visit and take a deep interest in her son's spiritual life. The sorrowful experience of Eli in old age is sometimes repeated in modern times. Many a good man is bowed down even to the grave by the irreligion of sons of whom better things had been expected. No more painful condition can a father be in than when he scarcely dare name his children to those who ask after their welfare. The world and the Church look on with wonder and pain at the spectacle of vile children issuing from a pious home. The feeling of surprise with which men read of the family of the high priest of Israel becoming so utterly wicked is attended with the conviction that desperately bad youths ought never to issue from Christian homes. Such an event is contrary to all just expectations. The presumption that the offspring of pious parents would be holy is based on various considerations, which for the most part apply to the case of Eli.
1. There are various promises and statements to encourage the belief that the children of the pious will share in special mercies (e. g. Deuteronomy 30:2, Deuteronomy 30:6; Proverbs 22:6; Isaiah 44:7; Malachi 2:15; 1 Corinthians 7:14).
2. In so far as susceptibility to religious impressions is affected by inherited qualities, they have an advantage over others.
3. The means of grace, instruction, example, and prayer are more employed for them than for the majority.
4. The power of early habit, which plays so important a part in the formation of character, is likely to be on the side of godliness where religious influences early operate. The causes which account for the ungodliness of the children of the pious are diverse, intricate, and partly inscrutable. A broad margin must be left for the mysterious action of a free being, even under the most favourable conditions. It is not possible to trace the lines and say where parental responsibility ends and the responsibility of the child begins. The two factors are to be recognised. Moreover, anterior physical causes, operating perniciously through ancestors, may act detrimentally on the mental and moral condition. But allowing for these and other untraceable elements of the case, there are causes of this sad feature of domestic life—
I. IN THE CHILDREN. The natural depravity of the heart is a grave fact. It is the first foe to be encountered in seeking a child's salvation. Its subtle power is beyond all knowledge. There may not be the complications of wickedness which exist in the full-grown nature of the adult after years of developed sin, but the power is persistent and insinuating. Eli's children shared this tendency in common with others. The special propensities inherited are sometimes very strong, and seem to partake of the force of the old habits of the ancestors from whom they were derived. It is also a fact that where a malformation, or unequal development of the physical system, supervenes on the inheritance of special evil propensities, these latter gain immensely in force. A line of pious ancestors, as a rule, would guarantee freedom from such abnormal developments, because continuous piety tends to the symmetrical development of the entire man; but occasionally there are backward leaps in nature, and old elements reappear. Possibly some of Eli's blood relatives were not so good as they ought to have been. No doubt grace can subdue even the worst natures, but the elements referred to must be considered in connection with other causes.
II. IN THE TRAINING. It cannot be supposed that Eli was perfect in this respect. Few persons consider how much of care, of wisdom, of forethought, of yearning sympathy, of specific, well adapted guidance, and of prayer is involved in the "nurture and admonition" required in training children for God. There may be a fatal lack of faith in the very possibility of infant piety; an expectation that, as a matter of course, a child will grow up in sin till an age for conversion arrives; a cold, cruel casting of the spiritual welfare of a child on teachers, attendants, official aids—the parent, under pressure of business, declining to bear his offspring ever on his heart before God; or a lack of discretion in dealing with each soul according to its temperament. Absence of a mother's deep and tender interest tells most prejudicially. An unwise method of instilling religious truth; an assertion of mere authority in severe tones; a lack of discipline to check wrong tendencies; a constant appeal to a sense of fear; an avoidance of the essential truths of the gospel, or a low, grovelling representation of them, may create aversion, awake silent resistance, and finally set the entire nature against what is falsely supposed to be religion. Perhaps there is no department of religious obligation so little studied as this. The tender, susceptible nature of children cannot be safely treated without much thought and prayer. No wonder if the promise which hangs on a faithful discharge of most delicate and solemn duties carried on year by year should sometimes not be fulfilled. Parents have need to pray, "Search me and try me."
III. IN EXAMPLE. This is part of training, but, as exercising a perpetual and unconscious influence, it may be regarded as distinct from direct efforts. Children learn more of religion from what they observe in parents than by any other means. The life they see lived is their daily book of lessons. If it is selfish, hard, formal, worldly, no amount of verbal teaching or professed interest will avail. There is no surer encouragement for a child to despise all religion than a discovery of insincerity in the professions of a parent. Real character comes into clear view in the home, and those who, under influence of public considerations, restrain themselves in the world, but give freedom to unhallowed feelings in private, cannot wonder if children do not covet the piety they witness.
IV. IN ASSOCIATIONS. Associations out of the home circle, both in youth and early manhood, exercise much influence over character. It is not every youth that is solely formative on others. Most young people receive more from companions than they impart. The good of home may be largely neutralised by the tone of society outside the home. Eli's sons were not strong enough to counteract the evil tendencies of the age, and their father erred in not taking precautions adequate to the occasion. Probably one reason why the sons of good and eminent men sometimes become notoriously godless is, that the utter absorption of the parent in public affairs, albeit religious, gradually issues in alienation of sons from home interests and committal to friendships evil in tendency. The charm of novelty is powerful where home life is rendered dull through inattention to the tastes and enjoyments of the young, and hence consent is given to enticing sinners. If, in any instance, there are in operation causes, either singly or combined, of the nature referred to, it is inevitable that a home, though in some degree pious, should be distressed by the presence of ungodly sons. So far as man's conduct determines religion or irreligion in offspring, it would be contrary to the action of natural laws for pious sons to be the product of efforts inadequate to the end in view. If sons are godly in spite of errors and bad influence at home, it is because God in his mercy has brought other and more blessed influences to bear. Even defective training may be ultimately remedied by a more true use of prayer for mercy.
The sons of Eli were the greatest sinners of their degenerate age. From the most favoured home the worst men came forth. All sin is a great evil. It is the curse of man, the abomination of God. In its essence it is rebellion against the All-wise and Holy One. For all lack of conformity to his will implies a will supposed to be a more desirable guide than his, which is insult and insubordination. But the Bible represents some sins as of deeper dye than others. There are beings deserving to be "beaten with many stripes." The tests by which the enormity of sins is estimated are, after reference of all to the perfect purity of God—
I. THE CHARACTER OF THE DEEDS. The deeds perpetrated by the sons of Eli were of the vilest kind. In themselves they were calculated to awaken the intensest disgust and abhorrence of every pure and reverent mind. It is hard to conceive how men blessed with early privileges could sink so low, were it not that modern Christian times have produced the darkest sins in the professedly religious. The sins of open profanation of the sanctuary, of despite to the solemn sacrifice, of pollution in guiltiest lust, were but the outward expression of a state of soul foul, reckless, defiant beyond all description. So, generally, the dark, horrid deeds on which men look are but the indicators of a very hell of iniquity deep down in the soul. There are—
II. THE PRIVILEGES ENJOYED. It added guilt to the sin of the young men that they were the sons of the priest of God. It is a grave responsibility to be born of parents endued with any degree of piety. Especially are they under strong obligation to avoid sin who are, by virtue of their connection with the ordinances of worship, taught out of the law of the Lord, and surrounded by the hallowed influences of the sanctuary. Every wise book read, every kind influence exercised, every prayer offered in public, or by parents at home, gives additional light and power wherewith to avoid the paths of sin. It requires a long and hard inward struggle to keep down conscience so as to become a desperate sinner. Men do not sink to lowest depths of vice suddenly. Every successive step is taken against clear light and restraining powers, and when the final surrender to guilty deeds is made, the whole privileges of the past speak out the greatness of the evil. The poor idolater ignorantly causing his sons to pass through the fire to Moloch is less' guilty than the sons of Israel's high priest, when, crushing every sacred feeling, they turn from all the light of years to profane the sanctuary by violence and lust. Sodom was vile, but decorous Capernaum viler. The sin of despising a holier Sacrifice than of bulls and lambs is often committed by men blessed with faithful teaching.
III. THE POSITION OCCUPIED. To the eye of the Hebrew the office of priest was most sacred. The reverence cherished for the office was transferred in some degree to the person who filled it. Hence, perhaps, the patience and submission with which the worshippers endured the greed and violence of the guilty sons of Eli. In itself, being a consecration of life to the holiest of employments, and considered, also, as a type of the one perfect Priesthood, there was solid reason for the common sentiment. No position is morally higher than that of him who stands between man and God for the performance of most solemn duties. Hence in all ages it has been recognised that the ministers of the sanctuary, whether priests, as anciently, or pastors and teachers, do exercise an influence which, while increasing the force of goodness, also aggravates their guilt when sin is committed. Power, when used sinfully, means magnified sin. A professed Christian sinks relatively very low when he does what other men do. A pastor by one act may come under a condemnation from which on earth he will never recover. A judge who sells justice is the most despised of men. A statesman who barters truth and peace for personal greed is worse than a common forger. Holiness is to be loved and sought for its own sake, yet it is helpful to ask, "What manner of persons ought we to be," who stand out in society as rulers, magistrates, pastors, teachers, parents? If the ordinary sinner cannot escape the swift judgment of God, where shall they appear who by virtue of exalted position become intensely and grievously sinful when they sin?
IV. THE NATURE OF THE EFFECTS. Some sins, like the falling of heavy bodies in still water, produce wider and more violent effects than do others. The effect is always pernicious, but when prominent men and professed servants of God sin, the consequences are painfully and conspicuously injurious. The sons of Eli by their crimes not only debased their own nature and fell to lower depths of shame, but they brought the holiest services into disrepute, alienated from the sanctuary the feelings of the people, caused intense anguish in the minds of the pious Jews, gave encouragement to wicked men more freely to transgress, and thus did more than others could do to exterminate morality and religion from the land. It is a serious question forevery one, and especially ministers and all persons in positions of influence, how far the neglect of religion by multitudes is the natural effect of their own short comings. It is a mark of a great sinner when, by reason of his conduct, the "wicked blaspheme.'' Also, our Lord has branded those as great sinners who wantonly cause offence to "one" of his "little ones." If scepticism and antagonism to Christianity are most lamentable evils, it is a matter of grave consideration how far the presence of these evils is due to the formality, the greed, the gross inconsistencies of those professing to exhibit and love the religion of Christ. It behoves all to see to it that they lift up "holy hands," and speak a "pure language." Otherwise the terrible woes pronounced by the Saviour over would be religious men may find an application to modern great sinners. Arising from this subject we may notice certain
1. The extreme importance of every one forming, by the aid of Scripture and of conscience, a proper estimate of the responsibility of his position as a professed Christian, a parent, a minister of the gospel, a teacher, or civil ruler.
2. The possibility of undergoing a process of spiritual decay by which the finer sensibilities of earlier days shall become almost annihilated, and deeds be done with impunity which once were most abhorrent.
3. The need of frequent self-examination, to ascertain whether the elements of religious degeneracy may be unconsciously at work in the soul; the more so as it is characteristic of spiritual declension to make us blind to the fact of declension.
4. The necessity of much prayer, lest, trusting to early privileges and official services, the elements of decay should enter the spiritual life, and, consequently, the duties of self-scrutiny and watchfulness be shunned.
It is not without significance that the sacred historian breaks the thread of his ordinary narrative by frequent references to the child Samuel (1 Samuel 2:11, 1Sa 2:18, 1 Samuel 2:21, 1 Samuel 2:26; cf. 1 Samuel 3:1, 1 Samuel 3:18). The contrast with ungodly priests is striking. "But Samuel ministered before the Lord, being a child." "The child was young." "The child grew before the Lord." Beautiful progression! "Following on" to "know the Lord." "The path of the just" grows brighter. Here in face of evil is the "perseverance of the saints." The case of Samuel may be regarded as a typical instance of youthful piety. The frequent allusions to him, combined with the tenor of his subsequent life, go to prove that he was a religious child from earliest days. Humanly his piety was the product of his mother's intense earnestness. Hannah had faith to believe that a child may be God's from the very dawn of life. In essential features his piety was the same as that of all God's people. There were special reasons for its assuming the form it did in that entire and early separation from home.
1. A mother's prevision had respect to a new and higher office to be created and duly authenticated.
2. Extraordinary preparation was needful for the great work to be finally entered on, and such as separation to the hallowed service of the sanctuary would secure.
3. The mother could thus evince her freedom from mere selfish gratification in seeking a child from the Lord, and at the same time do all within her power to advance the coming kingdom.
4. There was a secret providence in this preparing the way for the first great step in the reformation of the people, namely, the authoritative announcement of national disaster (1 Samuel 3:11, 1 Samuel 3:20). Taking, then, Samuel's as an instance of typical youthful piety, we may notice—
I. That YOUTHFUL PIETY IS A POSSIBILITY. Evidently it was in Samuel's case. Since all children are psychologically alike; are born under the same covenanted mercies; and are, therefore, open to the same Divine regenerating influence, the position might be considered as established. But the Church has been slow to believe the truth; and much of the nurture of families seems to proceed on the supposition that, as a rule, at least early manhood must be reached ere piety be regarded as trustworthy. The causes of this unfortunate distrust of child piety are varied. They may be indicated as—
1. The habit of estimating all piety by the forms and manifestations appropriate to adult life, which habit is based on—
2. A misconception of what constitutes the essence of all true religion.
3. The long continued neglect of the Church, as a consequence of this misconception, issuing in a scarcity of youthful piety.
But the possibility of it is seen in—
1. The nature of a child being capable of the essentials of true piety. In Samuel, and so in every child, there was a capability of recognising the Great Unseen and Holy One; of cherishing pure love for the living, ever present Friend; of trusting on Almighty care with an unusual absoluteness; of learning the truth concerning the works and ways of God, both by witnessing and sharing in acts of worship, and listening to special instruction; and of obedience to a sovereign Will. Indeed, in some respects the nature of a child, being free from the carking cares of life and the unhappy suspicions of mature years, is much more susceptible of holy, elevating influences than is that of men.
2. The remarkable welcome to children given by Christ. The child Samuel was welcome in the house of Jehowth. He "grew up before the Lord," and was in "favour with God." Thus in his case we see a beautiful congruity with, and may we not say prophetic of, the loving welcome given later on by the blessed Saviour himself, in terms never to be forgotten. Possibly some officious priests might deem the presence of the child clad in sacred ephod an innovation and a nuisance in the tabernacle, just as some in excessive but erring zeal would not have Christ troubled with little ones who could not be supposed to understand his profound teaching. The only recorded instance of Christ being "much displeased" is when it was supposed that he was indifferent to the spiritual condition of little children.
3. The harmony of Hannah's conduct and Samuel's piety with the general tone of Scripture. Hannah both consecrated and nurtured her son for the Lord, thus exemplifying the precepts, "Train up a child in the way he should go," "Bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord," and also illustrating the just expectation of the apostle, who seemed to take for granted that pious parents rightly conforming to all their covenanted duties and privileges would have "holy" children (1 Corinthians 7:14).
II. That YOUTHFUL PIETY IS VERY DEPENDENT ON CAREFUL NURTURE. All religion needs culture. It is the most delicate as also the most precious of our treasures. The production of piety in children, though of God, as the Source of all grace, is intimately connected with the prayers and faith of parents. Hannah travailed in spirit for a holy child long before Samuel was born, and the succeeding nurture was only an expression of the same earnestness. There is no warrant to think that the world would have been blessed with a pious Samuel apart from the deep piety of a Hannah; and so the presence and growth of piety in our children rests with the Church of God. The very condition of children in a sinful world suggests a care on their behalf most wise, tender, and constant. The elements of true nurture are seen in Hannah's care of Samuel. There was—
1. The one and perpetual devotement of the child to the Lord—the absolute giving up to the grace of God with a faith that would take no denial. This act was repeated in spirit day by day for years. When leaving him in Shiloh; when silently bowing before God at home; when engaged in making the little ephod; when refitting it, as year by year he grew: when with joyous heart visiting Shiloh at the annual festivals—the mother carried Samuel on her heart before God, and gave him up to be blessed. This is what mothers can ever do for their loved ones, and they sorely need such care in this sinful world.
2. The impressive teaching imparted. Surely Samuel was not placed in the house of the Lord without much teaching suited to his capacity as to the holy life he was to live. It is something to make a child believe that he is the Lord's, to see the beauty and joy of being given up to his service. With exquisite delicacy did Hannah teach her son that he must forever be holy. The girding with the ephod meant to him, "Thou art a servant of God, a child of the sanctuary, thou canst not do any unworthy deeds or speak unholy words. Remember thou belongest to the Lord, my son." Happy they who know the art of showing their sons the beauty of holiness, and the manner of persons they ought ever to be.
3. Association with the sanctuary. The hallowed associations of the house of God exercised power over the tender child; and so the principle is set forth that in our nurture of youthful piety we must seek to encourage a love for the worship of the Lord and of all pertaining to his service. It is a great gain when our youth can rejoice in the Sabbath services, feel that in the sanctuary they have a much loved spiritual home.
4. Engagement in useful religious work. It was a wise choice of this mother to divert the child's attention from the evil habits of the age by absorption in works suited to his little powers, and under the immediate eye of a venerable man of God. Whatever love to God may dwell in the heart of a child is strengthened and guarded by being exercised in deeds pertaining to his service. And the service of God is very wide and varied. There are many ways in which youthful piety may be exercised. Let children be caused to feel that they by life, by simple prayers, and by sympathy can bless the sorrowing world, and their piety will grow and the world will be enriched. The momentous interests involved in the presence or absence of youthful piety should awaken deep concern on several
1. To what extent does it prevail in Church and home?
2. How far the lack of early piety is due to parental neglect, erroneous views, defective Church organisations, or unhealthy literature?
3. In what form can the existing piety of children be more utilised for their own benefit and for the good of the world?
4. How is it possible to render the services of the sanctuary more interesting and helpful to the young?
5. How can the missing link between the youthful and more mature piety of the Church be restored?
6. By what means can Christian parents be led to manifest an all-absorbing concern for the development of piety in their offspring?
7. What would be the effect on the ultimate conversion of the world if the Church could be so wrought upon to exercise faith in the possibility of early piety as to save the need of employing agencies to convert in adult age any who have passed through its hands?
Judged by the customs of the age, it was a daring thing for Hannah to clothe her child with the ephod, the every day robe of the priest, seeing that her son was only a Levite (1Ch 6:19, 1 Chronicles 6:23; cf. Exodus 39:27; 1 Samuel 22:18). She clearly intended him to be invested with the prerogatives of the priest. The holy daring went further in her making for him the "little coat," which properly was part of the dress of the high priest, and sometimes of princes and nobles. The act is in perfect keeping with the first deed of consecration, and with the tenor of the inspired song. To her prophetic vision this child was from birth ordained to be an extraordinary servant of God, for the reformation of that age and the advancement of that kingdom the glories of which she saw afar. It is not likely that a woman of such strong and exalted hope would be ready to speak out in detail what was in her heart, and yet the force of her faith would demand adequate expression. Some natures are not demonstrative by words, but prefer silent acts to both indicate their thoughts and to nourish their faith and hope. Therefore the clothing of Samuel with the pure "ephod" and the "little coat" was the creation of permanent symbols of faith for his instruction and impressment, and her own satisfaction and support. It is not for mere notice of casual incident that the sacred writer refers to the event, but evidently to set forth valuable truth.
I. FAITH SEES GERMS OF FUTURE GOOD WHERE UNBELIEF WOULD SEE NOTHING. It is probable that neighbours reflected on the eccentric conduct of the mother who so unnecessarily parted with her child. To them he was as other children. The spiritual travail of his birth was hidden from them. But Hannah, being in sympathy with God's merciful purposes to mankind, saw in her son the man of the future, the defender of the faith, the restorer of pure worship, the consecrated spirit which has spiritual right to do priestly work, and it was rest to her soul to express this faith not by words which might be contradicted, but by a solemn act full of instruction to the child, and a permanent record of what she knew would be. So is it ever. The eye of faith sees in the infant Church of God the promise of a "glorious Church." Simeon saw in a babe the "Salvation" of God. A few poor men saw in the "Man of sorrows" the coming "King of glory." The true believer now sees in the occasional triumphs of the gospel the earnest of a world's subjugation to Christ.
II. FAITH HOLDS MORE THAN CAN BE PUT INTO WORDS. There was no one to whom Hannah could unfold in words all that was grasped by her faith. To her the presence of this holy child in the house of God, serving him in the minor details of daily routine, was virtually the realisation of the prophet's office, and the enhancement of Messiah's glory. "Faith is the substance of things hoped for." The essential reality of the remote is already in the heart. The future is as though it were present. Prevision and accomplishment become subjectively one. This holy mysticism of the highest spiritual life is foolishness to the unspiritual, but, is a profound and blessed fact in the experience of the true children of God. God s word given is as good as fulfilled, and the soul finds more in the consciousness of this truth than can ever be indicated in language. There is always a vast reserve of religious feeling that can never find expression. Life is more than the forms of life. The "ephod" and "little robe," and the annual visits to the child, were outward signs—symbolical forms—of a something which was too great for utterance. They were the shadows of a great reality too sacred, too rich, too varied in its issues to be set forth in ordinary terms. So likewise our faith holds a Christ more glorious and precious than any terms can utter. He is "formed in the heart." He is the "unspeakable gift." Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor heart conceived what is grasped by the Christian's faith as an ever present treasure. Human speech, in prose or song, falls below the soul's sense of blessedness in Christ.
III. FAITH IS VENTURESOME IN ADOPTING FORMS OF EXPRESSING ITSELF. Holding converse with realities which lie beyond the ordinary mind, it deviates from routine, and carves out new and rare modes of indicating its existence. Hannah could not rest content with telling Elkanah, Eli, and Samuel, in casual conversation and fleeting words, what she knew this ministering child was to be in days to come, and what she knew of the coming kingdom. Jacob made a coat of many colours to gratify a questionable feeling of partiality. Jochebed made a covering of bulrushes to save a precious life, possibly with a trust in a wise Providence. But Hannah had a faith in God, in the revival of religion, in the Messiah's glory, which not only sought vent for itself, but dared to create new and, to the eye of man, questionable forms of expression. Persistently, year by year, as the sacred ephod required readjustment to varying stature, did the faith reassert itself in every stitch and every trial of approval. Innovation it might be, but it was true to faith, and faith loves reality, and seeks congruity between itself and its outward forms. The apostle writing to the Hebrews on the triumphs of faith recognises its heroism, its superiority to conventional forms, its intense energy in asserting itself (Hebrews 11:1-40.). There are modern instances of the same holy daring. Symbolism may, like other things, sometimes be the resort of weak minds and superstitious tendencies, yet it may be a legitimate outgrowth of strong faith. The stately sanctuary; the hushed feeling in listening to the word of God; the surrender of fortune to the propagation of the gospel; the adoption of righteous usages against the current of opinion and custom, are only some of the symbols of a faith that longs and dares to indicate its presence. As feelings grow in power when exercised, so faith nourishes itself by fit permanent expressions, especially when in some bold and truthful deed.
1. How far the faith of these times is a reality as distinguished from a formal consent to what is commonly believed.
2. Whether the Church of Christ sufficiently lays hold of the fruition of all future toil in the acquired results of present toil. 3 To what extent the individuality of a powerful religious life proves itself by deeds of daring devotion.
4. The distinction to be drawn between a safe or unsafe symbolism in stated forms of worship, and the natural spontaneous symbolism of an energetic personal faith.
5. The possibility of a masterful faith in degenerate times, rightfully deviating from established practices, and being used by God as preliminary to great reformations.
1 Samuel 2:20, 1 Samuel 2:21
The facts are—
1. Eli forms a favourable estimate of the conduct and character of Elkanah and Hannah.
2. God enriches them with several children.
3. Samuel advances in years and gains in repute.
4. The sons of Eli, becoming more dissolute, are rebuked by their father. Time had gradually brought out to the view of Eli the solid character of Elkanah and his wife. Their regular attendance on worship at the appointed seasons, and their reverent spirit, were in striking contrast with the degenerate habits with which Eli was too familiar. Their quiet, unassuming conduct harmonised with Hannah's early professions of piety, and the child which they had presented to assist Eli in his ministrations had fully answered his expectations. Here, then, we have solid character:—
I. APPRECIATED BY MAN. The opportunities given through a succession of years had enabled Eli to form a favourable estimate of these obscure dwellers on Mount Ephraim. He was the more glad to give them his priestly benediction because of the rash words with which he once (1 Samuel 1:13, 1 Samuel 1:14) wounded a "sorrowful spirit." It is a blessed thing to enjoy the approval of the good. A good name is a precious treasure. There is a sweet reward for years of toil, and possibly under misapprehension and neglect, in being at last fairly appreciated for what one is and has done. Although there are proud ungodly men who will despise the godly poor, yet the conditions of character being appreciated by the better sections of society are within the reach of the most lowly. These conditions are—
1. Constancy in the discharge of religious duties. Observance year by year of public worship and of all the ordinances of God is a good sign of a religious spirit. Eli was not wrong in supposing that there must be solid worth in a family that kept to the ways of the Lord when so many neglected religious duties. A man cannot claim a reputation by asking for it. The testimony of faithfulness in religious worship is admitted by all. Fluctuations in religious zeal always awaken distrust. Constancy is an element always honoured.
2. Manifestation of an unostentatious spirit. This must have impressed Eli very strongly. The quiet, unpretending spirit of the Levite and his wife gained on the venerable man year by year. And so always the quiet, even tenor of life tells an irresistible story. All sensible men shrink from the egotism and ostentation which sometimes assume the garb of religion. The proper thing for all is an earnest, lowly mind, more concerned with quietly doing what is right and pleasing to God than with making an impression on man. Those who think much of what men will say and think, and make corresponding demonstrations of zeal, are sure to fall into the snare of "eye service." Like the steady influence of light and dew, quiet goodness at home and in the Church and world is a real power. There are thousands of such lives in Christian homes.
3. Self-denial in God's service. Though Hannah's joy in giving her heart to God took off the edge of self-denial, yet Eli could not but be deeply impressed with the unusual self-sacrifice of both husband and wife. The true religious spirit of a man comes out in spontaneous offerings to the efficiency of the services of the sanctuary and the advancement of Christ's kingdom. Character expressed in free, unconstrained surrender of money, or time, or sons for religious purposes cannot but be appreciated. It is in the power of all to perform some acts of self-denial for God, and apart from such acts, no professions will establish a reputation in the true Church of God. The intrinsic value of self-denial lies much in its freeness, its timeliness, its form. The surrender of a Samuel at such a time, in such a spirit, is an example to all ages. Are there no other Hannahs? Is all the "precious ointment" of the Christian Church exhausted?
II. HONOURED BY GOD. God does not save by virtue of human merit, but through Christ; yet he honours fidelity by his special favour and greater blessing. Hannah had been honoured variously; e.g. in being heard, in having a son according to promise, in being permitted to consecrate him to the special service of God, in receiving grace to part with him from home if not from heart, and in being enabled to enjoy a blessed vision of One greater and more holy than Samuel. But the fidelity wherewith she and her husband had, during the period covered, served God in home and in public life, as also by the general tenor of their lives, was crowned with a great increase of domestic joy. The home of Hannah emptied for God became full The surrendered child was returned in fivefold form. The long, pining years of early life were followed by old age of blessed satisfaction. Thus do all ages show that "there is that scattereth and yet increaseth." "I sent you forth;" "lacked ye anything'?" There is a promise of a "hundredfold" for all that has been forsaken for Christ. In one way or another God will prove that he is not unrighteous to forget the work of faith and labour of love. "Them that honour me I will honour."
1. Let the lowly be patient in their endeavour to follow out the light they enjoy in worship and in service.
2. Many individuals and families can win for themselves the precious treasure of human and Divine favour, even though the wealth and fame coveted in the world fall not to their lot.
3. The multiplication of quiet, unostentatious religious characters is an end earnestly to be sought, as adding in every sense to the welfare of the world.
4. The severity of our trials in the cause of Christ, if entered into rightly, is sure to be crowned with blessing.
1 Samuel 2:22-26
The facts are—
1. Eli in advancing years hears of the abominable deeds of his sons.
2. He remonstrates with them, pointing out the con sequences of their conduct.
3. Heedless of the warning, they persist in sin, being abandoned by God. The narrative of the sacred historian seems to take in two extremes—two elements working on in moral antagonism till the one passes away and the other becomes ascendant. The abominations and profanations of Eli's sons, and Samuel's purity and entire devotion to God, are placed in striking contrast. The history of the former is sketched as explaining the course of Providence in the deliverance wrought by Samuel's subsequent conduct. The stage in the course of the dissolute priests here indicated brings into view—
I. FEARFUL PROGRESSION IN SIN. The iniquity of years culminates in the most abominable crimes men could commit. The descent to shamelessness and utter corruption becomes very rapid. One can hardly imagine these vile sons of Belial as once having been gentle youths taught to revere Jehovah's name, and to tread his courts with awe. The momentum gained by evil desires when once let loose is among the most fearful features of human experience. It is the same sad story as often told now to the hearts of wailing parents:—disobedience,. aversion to holy things, formal observances, secret associations of evil, seared conscience, loss of self-respect, profanation of sacred places, contempt for religion, self-abandonment to lust, defiance of God. What tears fall to earth nightly over erring ones! What blasted hopes lie on life's pathway! What cruel triumphs of sin over all that is fair and strong in human nature! Holy Saviour, many of thy followers share in thy tears once shed over sin finished in righteous doom! (James 1:15). When, when shall the mighty power come in answer to the cry of try Church to turn back the tide of woe, and drive the curse from the heart and home of man? "How long, O Lord, how long?"
II. DEFECTIVE DISCIPLINE. No doubt Eli, as a good man, deplored the vices of the age, and above all the crimes of his sons, and he performed a father's part in remonstrating with them on account of their deeds, warning them of the dangers to which they were exposed at the hand of the invisible Judge. But the day for warning and remonstrance was past, and the day for swift, unsparing punishment had come. As judge in civil capacity, and as high priest in spiritual capacity, the course of Eli was clear—immediate banishment from office and capital punishment (Le 1 Samuel 18:6, 1 Samuel 18:20, 1Sa 18:29; 1 Samuel 20:10; 1 Samuel 21:6, 1 Samuel 21:7, 17, 23). We see how a man good in many respects, may recognise duty and not perform it. Eli knew that the sin of contempt for the ordinance of sacrifice, utter disregard of the honour due to God, prostitution of the holiest office to the vilest uses, was past condoning, past covering even by sacrifice. For God, as Eli puts it, makes no provision to pardon and save those who wantonly scorn the means of pardon and salvation. No sacrifice l no intercessor! Yet the appointed judge in Israel is content with a bare declaration of truth, refraining from an exercise of the powers wherewith he is invested for the vindication of justice and the maintenance of order. Moral weakness was the sin of Eli. The imperious claims of God, of public welfare, of religious purity, appealed to the sense of duty in vain, because of some personal sentiment or lack of resolution. Cases often arise in national affairs, Church discipline, home life, where duty comes into collision with private sentiments and personal affection. Sometimes, as with Nathan in accusing David, and Ambrose in placing Theodosius under the ban, moral strength is conspicuous. Often, as with Eli, Jonah, and David in one instance, sense of duty yields to inferior impulses. True moral courage is a quality of high order. It confers great honour on those in whom it appears, and is a most important element in securing the welfare of the individual, the home, and the public. Its presence in most perfect Christian form may be ascribed to the combination of various elements.
(a) A natural sense of justice—a psychological condition in which moral perceptions have more prompt influence than transitory emotions.
(b) A careful culture of the conscience through early years, and in relation to the minutiae of life.
(c) Intelligent faith in the inviolability of moral law.
(d) Formation of the habit of immediate submission to moral dictates, on the general principle that in morals first thoughts are truest.
(e) Strength of will to endure present suffering, as not being the worst of evils.
(f) A nature brought fully under the quickening influence of practical Christianity, as consisting in radical renewal, obedience to the precepts of Christ, fellowship with a holy God, and perpetual aspiration after holiness. There are instances still in which failure in moral courage is the one great blot on an otherwise excellent life. Where such occur sin flourishes, and the righteous mourn. The severe hand of justice is frequently the hand of true kindness. Favouritism and subordination of righteousness to personal ends, in public and domestic life, cause iniquity to abound, and sooner or later these will be visited by the judgment of God.
III. DIVINE ABANDONMENT. The sons of Eli were given up by God to their deserved doom. They heeded not remonstrance, for they had gone so far into sin as to be left destitute of that gracious influence from God, without which the soul is held fast in the cords of its iniquity. The outward fact of despising the father's warning was evidence to the historian that God had judicially abandoned them. "They hearkened not, because the Lord would slay. them." The solemn truth is clear that men may persist in sin so utterly as to be given up by God without mercy to all its consequences.
1. The evidence of this is full.
(a) Men are sometimes smitten with death as a consequence of persistent sin, as in case of Sodom, and the rebellion of Korah, all means of repentance being judicially cut off.
(b) The New Testament references to the sin against the Holy Ghost, and the apostasy of counting the blood of Christ an "unclean thing."
(c) The fact that at the end of life the impenitent are given over to look for "tribulation and anguish."
2. The rationale of this is partly discoverable. It is not mere arbitrariness, nor is it the effect of imperfect benevolence.
(a) It is consonant with the working of natural law. Physiology and psychology prove that there is a tendency to permanence of character in all. This is especially true of those who persist in strong unhallowed desires.
(b) There are transgressions even in society which admit of no restoration to society.
(c) In a wise and endlessly ramified moral government which rests on an eternal right, there can be no proof that a moral Ruler, whose existence is bound up with right and order, is obliged to cover the past of free beings who have deliberately persisted in evil, by giving them a new power which shall make them different from what they prefer to be.
(d) The judicial abandonment of the intensely sinful acts as a wholesome deterrent on the moral universe, by vindicating the holiness of God, and the claim of universal society on the pure, loving life of each of its constituents, and this too while giving to free beings only what they prefer.
1. The importance of guarding against first tendencies to deviate from the path of purity and truth.
2. The value of early habits of devotion, regard for right and purity, as a preventive of habits of a reverse character.
3. The extreme danger to the Church of a professional religion in alliance with a tendency to sensual indulgence, and the need of watching closely against such a possible combination.
4. The value of an early training of. the moral sense, and its constant culture, as against the inferior elements of our life.
5. The use of the lessons of history, as illustrating the terrible power of sin, and the damage done to society and the Church by defective discipline.
HOMILIES BY B. DALE
1 Samuel 2:11. (SHILOH.)
Samuel's childhood and. growth.
"And the child did minister unto the Lord before Eli the priest." "And the child Samuel grew on, and was in favour both with the Lord, and also with men" (1 Samuel 2:26). (1 Samuel 1:24; 1 Samuel 2:18, 1Sa 2:19, 1 Samuel 2:21; 1 Samuel 3:1.) "Great is the reverence due to children." It is said of an eccentric schoolmaster in Germany, who lived about 300 years ago, John Trebonius, that he never appeared before his boys without taking off his hat and bowing very humbly before them. "Who can tell," said he, "what may not rise up amid these youths? There may be among them those who shall be learned doctors, sage legislators, nay, princes of the empire." Even then there was among them "the solitary monk that shook the world." But a much greater than Luther (with whom he has been compared—Ewald) was the little Nazarite, who with unshorn locks ministered in the tabernacle at Shiloh; and at a very early age he gave signs of his future eminence. "Even a child is known by his doings" (Proverbs 20:11). "The child is father to the man." But what he will be depends greatly on his early training; for "the new vessel takes a lasting tincture from the liquor which is first poured in" (Horace); "the soft clay is easily fashioned into what form you please" (Persius); and "the young plant may be bent with a gentle hand, and the characters engraved on the tender bark grow deeper with the advancing tree" (Quinctilian). Consider—
I. HIS EDUCATION, or the influences to which he was subject, consisting of—
1. Impressions under the parental roof. He did not leave his home at an age too early to prevent his receiving deep and permanent impressions from the example, prayers, and instructions of his parents. His destination would be explained to him by his mother, and made attractive and desirable; so that when the time came for the fulfilment of her vow he might readily make it his own. The memory of those early days must have been always pleasant to him; and the sacred bond of filial affection would be renewed and strengthened by the annual visit of his parents, and by the yearly present which his mother brought to him (verse 19). The making of the "little coat" was a work of love, and served to keep her absent boy in mind, whilst the possession of it was to him a constant memorial of her pure affection. The first impressions which he thus received were a powerful means of preserving him from evil, and inciting him to good. "Every first thing continues forever with the child; the first colour, the first music, the first flower paint the foreground of life; every new educator affects less than its predecessor, until at last, if we regard all life as an educational institution, the circumnavigator of the world is less influenced by all nations he has seen than by his nurse" (Locke).
2. Association with holy things. Everything in the tabernacle was to his childish view beautiful and repressive, and overshadowed by the mysterious presence of the Lord of hosts. "Heaven lies about us in our infancy." And the veil which separates the invisible from the visible is then very attenuated. When he afterwards saw how much beneath the outward form was hollow and corrupt, he was strong enough to endure the shock, and distinguished between "the precious and the vile." Association with sacred things either makes men better than others, or else very much worse.
3. Occupation in lowly services. Even when very young he could perform many little services in such a place as the tabernacle, and in personal attendance on Eli, who was very old and partially blind. A part of his occupation we know was to open the doors (1 Samuel 3:15). By means of such things he was trained for a higher ministry.
4. Instruction in sacred truth, given by his kind hearted guardian in explanation of the various objects and services in the tabernacle, and, still more, gained by the perusal of the religious records stored up therein (1 Samuel 10:25).
5. Familiarity with public life. "There at the centre of government, he must early have become conversant with the weightiest concerns of the people."
6. Observation of the odious practices of many, especially Hophni and Phinehas. For this also must be mentioned among the influences that went to form his character. It as impossible to keep a child altogether from the sight of vice. External safeguards are no protection without internal purity. On the other hand, outward circumstances which are naturally perilous have often no effect on internal purity, except to make it more decided and robust. "The jarring contrast which he had before his eyes in the evil example of Eli's children could but force more strongly upon his mind the conviction of the great necessity of the age, and impel to still more unflinching rigour to act up to this conviction" (Ewald). But this could only take place by—
7. The power of Divine grace, which is the greatest and only effectual teacher (Titus 2:11, Titus 2:12). The atmosphere of prayer which he breathed from earliest life was the atmosphere of grace. The Holy Spirit rested upon him in an eminent degree, and he grew up under his influence, "like a tree planted by the rivers of water," gradually and surely to perfection.
II. HIS CHARACTER, or the dispositions which he developed under these influences. He "grew on" not only physically and intellectually, but also morally and spiritually, manifesting the dispositions which properly belong to a child, and make him a pattern to men (Matthew 18:3).
1. Humble submission.
2. Great docility, or readiness to learn what he was taught.
3. Ready obedience to what he was told to do. How promptly did he respond to the voice of Eli, who, as he thought, called him from his slumber (1 Samuel 3:5). The watchword of childhood and youth should be "Obey." And it is only those that learn to obey who will be fit to command.
4. Profound reverence. For "he ministered before the Lord," as if under his eye, and with a growing sense of his presence. "He was to receive his training at the sanctuary, that at the very earliest waking up of his spiritual susceptibilities he might receive the impression of the sacred presence of God" (Keil).
5. Transparent truthfulness and guilelessness.
6. Purity and self-control (1 Timothy 4:12; 2 Timothy 2:22).
7. Sincere devotion to the purpose of his dedication to the Lord. In this manner he gradually grew into the possession of a holy character, and needed not, like many others, any sudden or conscious "conversion" from the ways of sin to the ways of God. Like John the Baptist, "he grew and waxed strong in spirit" (Luke 1:80); and his childhood is described in the very words employed to describe the childhood of our Lord:. "And Jesus increased in favour with God and man" (Luke 2:40, Luke 2:51, Luke 2:52).
III. HIS ACCEPTANCE, or the favour he obtained (Proverbs 3:4).
1. With God, who looked down upon him with delight, beholding in him the effect of his grace, and a reflection of his light and love. For "the Lord taketh pleasure in his people" (Psalms 149:4).
2. With men. The gratification which Eli felt in his presence and service appears in the benediction he uttered on his parents when they visited the tabernacle, and in accordance with which they were compensated with three sons and two daughters for "the gift which they gave unto the Lord" (1 Samuel 2:20, 1 Samuel 2:21). Even Hophni and Phinehas must have regarded the young Nazarite with respect. And the people who brought their offerings to the tabernacle looked upon him with admiration and hope. So he was prepared for the work that lay before him.—D.
1 Samuel 2:12-17. (SHILOH.)
A degenerate priesthood.
"The best things when corrupted become the worst." It is thus with official positions such as were held by the priests of old. Their positions were an hereditary right, and their duties consisted largely of a prescribed routine of services. It was required, however, that their personal character should accord with their sacred work (Malachi 2:7); and their influence was great for good or evil. Whilst they reflected in their character and conduct the moral condition of the times, they a]so contributed in no small degree to produce it. The sons of Eli employed their high office not for the welfare of men and the glory of God, but. for their own selfish and corrupt purposes, and afford an example of "great and instructive wickedness." Concerning them the following things are recorded:—
I. CULPABLE IGNORANCE OF GOD (1 Samuel 2:12). They had no proper conception of him as holy and just, and they did not consider that he observed and hated sin by whomsoever it was committed, and would surely punish it. They had no communion with him, no sympathy with his purposes, and no sense of their own obligations to him. They were unspiritual men, and practically infidel. And they were such notwithstanding the instructions they received, the opportunities they possessed, and the services they rendered. Although the servants of God, "they knew not God," and were "without excuse." Amidst a blaze of light men may be dark within. "And if the light within thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!"
II. OFFICIAL ROBBERY OF MEN (1 Samuel 2:13, 1 Samuel 2:14). Not satisfied with the liberal portions of the peace offerings which were legally assigned to them (the breast and shoulder), they claimed other and larger portions, to which they were not entitled, and robbed the people for the gratification of their own appetites. What they would have fiercely denounced in others they deemed venial offences in privileged men like themselves. How often do official positions and selfish indulgences blind men to the injustice of their conduct, and harden them in iniquity.
III. WILFUL VIOLATION OF THE LAW (1 Samuel 2:15). It was required by the Levitical law that the fat should be burnt on the altar before the offering was divided between the priest and the offerer; but instead of doing this, the priest sent his servant beforehand to demand his portion with the fat, that it might be better fitted for roasting than boiling, which was not to his taste. He thus appropriated to his private use what belonged to the Lord, and "robbed God" of his due. It was a gross act of disobedience, sacrilege, and profanity, prompted by the same pampered appetite as his dishonesty toward men; and, in addition, it hindered the people from fulfilling their religious purposes, and made his own servant a partner in his sin.
IV. DESPOTIC EXERCISE OF AUTHORITY (1 Samuel 2:16). When the people gently remonstrated, and promised to give up their own portion if the fat were first burnt on the altar, it was said to them, "Nay, but thou shalt give it me now, or else I will come and take it by force." Reason as well as right was overridden. Instead of regarding himself as a servant of God for the good of men, the priest made himself a "lord over God's heritage" (1 Peter 5:3). Having cast aside the authority of God, he made his own arbitrary dictum the law of others, and urged obedience to it by the threatening of force. By the same means, backed by spiritual terrors, he has often sought to accomplish his wishes in every age.
V. INJURIOUS INFLUENCE ON RELIGION (1 Samuel 2:17, 1 Samuel 2:24). Men abstained from presenting as many offerings as they would have given, or even from presenting them at all, being repelled from the service of God by the evil conduct of his ministers. "Ye make the Lord's people to transgress" (1 Samuel 2:24). One unworthy priest has often made many unbelievers. Instead of strengthening what is noblest and best in men, he has destroyed it, and made its restoration impossible. And, generally, ungodly conduct on the part of professed servants of God is a great hindrance to the spread of truth and righteousness, and a powerful influence in extending error and evil in the world. "One sinner destroyeth much good." To complete the picture, two other things must be added, viz.—
VI. SHAMELESS INDULGENCE IN VICE (1 Samuel 2:22). They knew nothing of self-control, gave the rein to their lusts, and indulged in vices which the heathen commonly associated with their idol worship, and which made that worship so terrible a temptation to Israel. The idol feasts at Shiloh were doubtless scenes of gross sensuality; and the sons of Eli scarcely cared to disguise their participation in similar indulgences, and made the tabernacle of the Lord like a heathen temple.
VII. SUPERSTITIOUS USE OF SACRED THINGS (1 Samuel 4:11). Having become insensible to the presence of the invisible King, they treated his services as a mere outward ritual, which may be performed without any felt inconsistency between it and any amount of immorality. Why should they observe it at all? From self-interest and from superstition. They still supposed that there was some mysterious benefit inseparably connected with the ark, and enjoyed by those who possessed it, apart from their moral and spiritual state. Their religion had become a superstition, like that of the heathen. And hence they took the ark into the battle field, in sure confidence of their safety, and were deprived of it by the heathen, and they themselves destroyed.
1. It is possible for men to possess the highest privileges, and yet sink into the deepest degradation.
2. The patience of Heaven toward sinners, is wonderful, and designed to lead them to repentance.
3. When men despise the goodness of God, and persist in transgression, they are certain to meet with signal punishment.—D
1 Samuel 2:22-25. (SHILOH.)
A man may possess many amiable qualities, and be, on the whole, a good man, and yet be marked by some defect which mars his character, prevents his usefulness, and makes him the unintentional cause of much mischief. Such a man was Eli. Of his early life nothing is recorded. He was a descendant of Ithamar, the youngest son of Aaron, and held the office of high priest, which formerly belonged to the elder branch of the Aaronic family, that of Eleazar (Numbers 20:26), but which was now transferred to the younger, from some unknown cause, and which continued therein until the time of Solomon. At the age of fiftyeight he became judge, and "judged Israel forty years" (1 Samuel 4:18). When first mentioned he must have been at least seventy years old. His sons were children of his old age; for some time afterwards they were spoken of as young men (1 Samuel 2:17), and, as is not uncommon in such cases, he treated them with undue indulgence. He was hasty and severe in reproving Hannah, but slow and mild in reproving them. The inefficiency of his REPROOF appears in that—
I. IT WAS NOT ADMINISTERED IN PROPER TIME. The tendency to go wrong generally appears at an early age; and it must have been seen by him in his sons long before the rumour of their flagrant transgressions reached him, if he had not been blind to their faults. But he had no adequate sense of his parental responsibility, was old and weak, of a gentle and easy going temperament, and omitted to reprove them (1 Kings 1:6) until they had become too strongly devoted to their evil ways to be amenable to expostulation. A little plant may be easily rooted up, but when it has grown into a tree it can only be removed by extraordinary efforts. If some children are "discouraged" (Colossians 3:21) by too much strictness, far more are spoiled by too much indulgence. "Indulgence never produces gratitude or love in the heart of a child."
II. IT WAS NOT GIVEN WITH SUFFICIENT EARNESTNESS (1 Samuel 2:23, 1 Samuel 2:24). Gentle reproof may sometimes be most effective, but here it was out of place.
1. It was not sufficiently pointed in its application; being given to them collectively rather than individually, in indefinite terms, by way of question, and concerning things which he had heard, but into the certainty of which he had not troubled himself to inquire.
2. It exhibited no sufficient sense of the evil of sin (1 Samuel 2:25). He spoke of the consequences rather than of the nature, the "exceeding sinfulness" of sin, and spoke of them in a way which indicated little deep personal conviction.
3. It showed no sufficient determination to correct it. He did not say that he would judge them for their injustice toward men; and with reference to their sin against the Lord, which was their chief offence, he simply confessed that he could do nothing but leave them to the judgment of a higher tribunal. "In the case where the rebuke should have descended like a bolt from heaven we hear nothing but low and feeble murmurings, coming, as it were, out of the dust. Cruel indeed are the tenderest mercies of parental weakness and indulgence. And the fate of Eli shows that by such tender mercies the father may become the minister of vengeance unto his whole house" (Le Bas).
III. IT WAS NOT FOLLOWED BY ADEQUATE CHASTISEMENT. The law of Moses in the case of disobedient children was very severe (Deuteronomy 21:18-21). But Eli neither observed this law "when they hearkened not to his voice" (1 Samuel 2:25), nor took any further steps to prevent the continuance of the evil which he reproved. He had none of the zeal for which Phinehas the son of Eleazar was approved (Numbers 25:11-13); but as a father, a high priest, and a judge he was guilty of culpable infirmity and wilful disobedience (1 Samuel 3:13). "Osiers," says an old writer, "can never be pillars in the State or in the Church."
IV. IT DID NOT RESULT IN ANY IMPROVEMENT (1 Samuel 2:25). Their contempt of reproof showed that they were already infatuated, hardened, and abandoned to destruction; or (reading for—therefore), it filled up the measure of their iniquities, and exposed them to inevitable judgment. "He that hateth reproof shall die" (Proverbs 15:10).
1. Reproof is often a solemn obligation.
2. It should be given in an effective manner.
3. When not so given it does more harm than good.
4. When justly given it should be humbly and obediently received.—D.
THE DIVINE JUDGMENT UPON ELI AND HIS HOUSE (1 Samuel 2:27-36).
1 Samuel 2:27
There came a man of God. The title man of God is the usual appellation of a prophet in the books of Judges, Samuel, and Kings, and as such is applied by Manoah to the angel who appeared to him (Judges 13:6, Judges 13:8). Though the recorded interpositions of the Deity in those times were generally by angels, still the readiness with which Manoah gave his visitant this title makes it probable that prophets did appear from time to time; and the mission of one, though, as here, without a name, is recorded in Judges 6:8. As regards the date of this visitation of the man of God, we find that Eli was ninety-eight years of age when the ark was captured (1 Samuel 4:15). At that time Samuel was not merely a man, hut one whose reputation was established throughout the whole land, and who was probably regarded not merely as a prophet, but as Eli's successor in the office of judge (1 Samuel 3:19, 1 Samuel 3:20). But Eli was "very old" (1 Samuel 2:22) when he rebuked his sons, probably between seventy and eighty, for Samuel is then called a child (Judges 6:26); whereas he can scarcely have been much less than thirty years of age when the Philistines destroyed Shiloh. In 1 Samuel 8:1-3, when the misconduct of Samuel's own sons led to the revival of the agitation for a king, he is himself described as already "old;" but as he lived on till nearly the end of Saul s reign, he could not at that time have been much more than sixty. Even when God spake by him to Eli he is still described as a boy, na'ar (1 Samuel 3:1), though the higher position to which he had attained, as is proved by his duties, would lead to the conclusion that he was then verging on manhood. As some time would naturally elapse between two such solemn warnings, we may feel sure that the visit of the man of God occurred shortly after Samuel s dedication. Then, as Eli neglected the warning, and the wickedness of his sons grew more inveterate, some eight or ten years afterwards the warning was repeated in sharper tones by the voice of his own youthful attendant. Meanwhile Eli seems himself to have grown in personal piety, but he could do nothing now for his sons. Past eighty years of age, the time of activity had gone by, and resignation was the sole virtue that was left for him to practise. And so the warning given by the mouth of Samuel is stern and final. Ten or fifteen more years must elapse before the ruin came. But the gloom was deepening; the Philistines were increasing in power, and the valour of Israel was decaying as its morality declined; then there was a short violent crash, and the house of Eli met its doom.
The prophet begins by enumerating Jehovah's mercies to "the house of thy father," that is, the whole family of Aaron, in selecting them for the priesthood (on the choice of the house of Aaron, see Exodus 28:1-43; Exodus 29:1-46.), and in richly endowing the office with so large a portion of every sacrifice. These portions are termed literally firings, or fire sacrifices, but the term soon became general, and in Le 1 Samuel 24:7, 1 Samuel 24:9 is applied even to the shew bread. Added then to the tithes, and to the cities with their suburbs given them to inhabit, this share of every sacrifice gave the house of Aaron great wealth, and with it they had also high rank. There was no one above them in Israel except the kings. In Sparta we find that one of the endowments of the kings was the skins of animals offered in sacrifice (Herod; 6:56). Why then do Eli and his sons, who benefit so greatly by them, "kick at Jehovah's sacrifices and offerings?" The word is taken from Deuteronomy 32:15, and refers to the efforts of a pampered steer violently to shake off the yoke. Eli's sons treat the ordinances which have raised them to rank, and given them wealth and power, as if they were an injury and wrong. And Eli, instead of removing them from the office which they disgraced, preferred the ties of relationship to his duty to God and the moral welfare of the people.
1 Samuel 2:30
I said indeed. By thus acting Eli became an accomplice in the irreligion of his sons, and God therefore revokes his grant of a perpetual priesthood. The promise had been made to Aaron's family as a whole (Exodus 29:9), and had then been renewed to the house of Eleazar (Numbers 25:13). But the house of Ithamar was now in the ascendant, probably owing to Eli's own ability, who during the anarchical times of the Judges had won for himself, first, the civil power, and then, upon some fitting opportunity, the high priesthood also, though I suppose the heads of the houses of Eleazar and Ithamar were always persons of great importance, and high priests in a certain sense. Eli had now the priority, and had he and his family proved worthy, the possession of this high station might have been confirmed to them. Like Saul in the kingdom, they proved unworthy of it, and so they lost it forever. Their names, as we have seen above, do not even occur in the genealogies.
I said .... but now Jehovah saith. Can then a promise of God be withdrawn? Yes, assuredly. Not from mankind as a whole, nor from the Church as a whole, but from each particular nation, or Church, or individual. To each separate person God's promises are conditional, and human action everywhere is a coworker with the Divine volition, though only within a limited sphere, and so as that the Divine purposes must finally be accomplished. Eli then and his sons may suffer forfeit of the promise by not fulfilling the obligations which, whether expressed or implied, are an essential condition of every promise made by God to man. But the high priesthood will continue, and will perform its allotted task of preparing for the priesthood of Christ. "Them that honour me I will honour," states one of these conditions essential on man's part to secure the fulfilment of God's promises.
1 Samuel 2:31
I will cut off thine arm. The arm is the usual metaphor for strength. As Eli had preferred the exaltation of his sons to God's honour, he is condemned to see the strength of his house broken. Nay, more; there is not to be an "old man in his house." The young men full of energy and vigour perish by the sword; the Survivors fade away by disease. The Jews say that the house of Ithamar was peculiarly short-lived, but the prophecy was amply fulfilled in the slaughter of Eli's house, first at Shiloh, and then at Nob by Doeg the Edomite at the command of Saul. There is nothing to warrant an abiding curse upon his family. The third or fourth generation is the limit of the visitation of the sins of the fathers upon the children.
1 Samuel 2:32
Thou shalt see an enemy. The translation of 1 Samuel 2:32 is very difficult, but is probably as follows: "And thou shalt behold, i.e. see with wonder and astonishment, narrowness of habitation in all the wealth which shall be given unto Israel." The word translated narrowness often means an "enemy," but as that for habitation is the most general term in the Hebrews language for a dwelling, being used even of the dens of wild beasts (Jeremiah 9:10; Nahum 2:12), the rendering an "enemy of dwelling" gives no sense. Hence the violent insertion of the pronoun my, for which no valid excuse can be given. But narrowness of dwelling, means distress, especially in a man's domestic relations, and this is the sense required. In the growing public and national prosperity which was to be Israel's lot under Samuel, Saul, David, and Solomon, Eli was to see, not in person, but prophetically, calamity attaching itself to his own family. His house was to decay in the midst of the progress of all the rest. Upon this denunciation of private distress naturally follows the repetition of the threat that the house of Ithamar should be left without an old man to guide its course onward to renewed prosperity.
1 Samuel 2:33
The man of thine, etc. The meaning of the Hebrews is here again changed by the insertion of words not in the original. Translated literally the sense is good, but merciful, and this the A.V. has so rendered as to make it the most bitter of all denunciations. The Hebrews is, "Yet I will not cut off every one of thine from my altar, to consume thine eyes and to grieve thy soul;" that is, thy punishment shall not be so utter as to leave thee with no consolation; for thy descendants, though diminished in numbers, and deprived of the highest rank, shall still minister as priests at mine altar. "But the majority of try house—lit, the multitude of thy house—shall die as men." This is very well rendered in the A.V. "in the flower of theft age," only we must not explain this of dying of disease. They were to die in their vigour, not, like children and old men, in theft beds, but by violent deaths, such as actually befell them at Shiloh and at Nob.
1 Samuel 2:34
With this the sign here given exactly agrees. Hophni and Phinehas died fighting valiantly in battle, and then came the sacking of Shiloh, and the slaughter of the ministering priests (Psalms 78:64). Upon this followed a long delay. For first Eli's grandson, Ahitub, the son of Phinehas, was high priest, and then his two sons, Ahiah and Ahimelech, and then Abiathar, the son of Ahimelech. It was in Ahimelech's days that the slaughter took place at Nob, from which the house of Ithamar seems never to have fully recovered.
1 Samuel 2:35
I will raise me up a faithful priest. This prophecy is explained in three several ways, of Samuel, of Zadok, and of Christ. St. Augustine, who considers the whole passage at length in his 'De Civ. Dei,' 1 Samuel 17:5, argues that it cannot be reasonably said that a change in the priesthood foretold with so great circumstance was fulfilled in Samuel. But while we grant that it was an essential characteristic of Jewish prophecy to be ever larger than the immediate fulfilment, yet its primary meaning must never be slurred over, as if it were a question of slight importance. By the largeness of its terms, the grandeur of the hopes it inspired, and the incompleteness of their immediate accomplishment, the Jews were taught to look ever onward, and so became a Messianic people. Granting then that Christ and his Church are the object and end of this and of all prophecy, the question narrows itself to this—In whom was this prediction of a faithful priest primarily fulfilled? We answer, Not in Zadok, but in Samuel. Zadok was a commonplace personage, of whom little or nothing is said after the time that he joined David with a powerful contingent (1 Chronicles 12:28). Samuel is the one person in Jewish history who approaches the high rank of Moses, Israel's founder (Jeremiah 15:1). The argument that he was a Levite, and not a priest, takes too narrow and technical a view of the matter; for the essence of the priesthood lies not in the offering of sacrifice, but in mediation. Sacrifice is but an accident, being the appointed method by which the priest was to mediate between God and man. As a matter of fact, Samuel often did discharge priestly functions (1 Samuel 7:9, 1Sa 7:17; 1 Samuel 13:8, where we find Saul reproved for invading Samuel's office; 1 Samuel 16:2), and it is a point to be kept in mind that the regular priests disappear from Jewish history for about fifty years after the slaughter of themselves, their wives, and families at Shiloh; for it is not until Saul's time that Ahiah, the great-grandson of Eli, appears, as once again ministering at the altar (1 Samuel 14:3). The calamity that overtook the nation at the end of Eli's reign was so terrible that all ordinary ministrations seem to have been in abeyance. We are even expressly told that after the recovery of the ark it was placed in the house of Abinadab at Kirjath-jearim in Judaea, and that for twenty years his son Eleazar, though a Levite only, ministered there before it by no regular consecration, but by the appointment of the men of that town. During this time, though Ahitub, Ahiah's father, was probably high priest nominally, yet nothing is said of him, and all the higher functions of the office were exercised by Samuel. Instead of the Urim and Thummim, he as prophet was the direct representative of the theocratic king. Subsequently this great duty was once again discharged by Abiathar as priest, and then a mighty change was made, and the prophets with the living voice of inspiration took the place of the priest with the ephod. For this is a far more important matter than even the fact that Samuel performed the higher functions of the priesthood. With him a new order of things began. Prophecy, from being spasmodic and irregular, became an established institution, and took its place side by side with the priesthood in preparing for Christ's advent, and in forming the Jewish nation to be the evangelisers of the world. The prediction of this organic change followed the rule of all prophecy in taking its verbal form and expression from what was then existent. Just as the gospel dispensation is always described under figures taken from the Jewish Church and commonwealth, so Samuel, as the founder of the prophetic schools, and of the new order of things which resulted from them, is described to Eli under terms taken from his priestly office. He was a "faithful priest," and much more, just as our Lord was a "prophet like unto Moses" (Deuteronomy 18:15), and a "King set upon the holy hill of Zion" (Psalms 2:6), but in a far higher sense than any would have supposed at the time when these prophecies were spoken.
As regards the specific terms of the prophecy, "the building of a sure house" (1 Samuel 25:28; 2 Samuel 7:11; 1Ki 2:1-46 :94, 1 Kings 11:38; Isaiah 32:18) is a metaphor expressive of assured prosperity. The mass of the Israelites dwelt in tents (2Sa 11:11; 2 Samuel 20:1, etc.; 1 Kings 12:16), and to have a fixed and permanent dwelling was a mark of greatness. From such passages as 1 Kings 2:24; 1 Kings 11:38, it is plain that the idea of founding a family is not contained in the expression. As a matter of fact, Samuel's family was prosperous, and his grandson Heman had high rank in David's court and numerous issue (1 Chronicles 25:5). Probably too the men of Ramah, who with the men of the Levite town of Gaba made up a total of 621 persons (Nehemiah 7:30), represented the descendants of Samuel at the return from Babylon. Nevertheless, the contrast is between the migratory, life in tents and the ease and security of a solid and firm abode, and the terms of the promise are abundantly fulfilled in Samuel's personal greatness.
In the promise, "he shall walk before mine anointed forever," there is the same outlook upon the office of king, as if already in existence, which we observed in Hannah's hymn (1 Samuel 2:10). Apparently the expectation that Jehovah was about to anoint, i.e. consecrate, for them some one to represent him in civil matters and war, as the high priest represented him in things spiritual, had taken possession of the minds of the people. It had been clearly promised them, and regulations for the office made (Deuteronomy 17:14-20); and it was to be Samuel's office to fulfil this wish, and all his life through he held a post of high dignity in the kingdom.
But the promise has also a definite meaning as regards the prophets, in whom Samuel lived on. For St. Augnstine's error was in taking Samuel simply in his personal relations, whereas he is the representative of the whole prophetic order (Acts 3:24). They were his successors in his work, and continued to be the recognised mediators to declare to king and people the will of Jehovah, who was the supreme authority in both Church and state; and in political matters they were the appointed check upon the otherwise absolute power of the kings, with whose appointment their own formal organisation exactly coincided. From Samuel's time prophet and king walked together till the waiting period began which immediately preceded the nativity of Christ.
1 Samuel 2:36
Piece of silver is lit. a small silver coin got by begging and the word marks the extreme penury into which the race of Eli fell Gathered round the sanctuary at Shiloh, they were the chief sufferers by its ruin, and we have noticed how for a time they fall entirely out of view. During the miserable period of Philistine domination which followed, Samuel became to the oppressed nation a centre of hope, and by wise government he first reformed the people internally, and then gave them freedom from foreign rule. During this period we may be sure that he did much to raise from their misery the descendants of Eli, and finally Ahiah, Eli's grandson, ministers as high priest before Saul. Though his grandson, Abiathar, was deposed from the office by Solomon, there is no reason for imagining that the family ever again fell into distress, nor do the terms of the prophecy warrant such a supposition.
1 Samuel 2:27-36
The facts in this section are—
1. A Divine message declares to Eli the coming doom of his house.
2. The justice of the judgment is brought home to him by a reference to past privileges enjoyed and sins committed.
3. A painful sign of the certainty of the whole prediction being ultimately fulfilled is given in a reference to the sudden death of his two sons, in due time to be realised.
4. Another faithful servant of God is to be raised up to vindicate the honour which has been despised. The patience of God in allowing men free scope to develope what is in them has its limits. Eli and his sons, though differing in kind and degree of sin, alike are amenable to a law which must be maintained. Although the sons were in the ordinary sense the most guilty, it is significant that the weight of the doom here indicated is intended to fall on the aged parent, thus showing to all ages the solemn responsibility attached to public conduct, and the certainty of terrible chastisement of official transgressors, even though they be not cut off from the covenant mercies that cover sin and save the soul.
I. DUTY NEGLECTED AND TROUBLE EVADED ARE SURE TO REASSERT THEMSELVES. Eli got rid of the pressing duty of punishing his sons by substituting a paternal remonstrance, and thus for the time evaded the pain of suppressing the urgency of personal affection and the distress of a family exposure. But "duty" never dies; and the trouble it entails, always passing away when duty is done, continues in aggravated form when duty is neglected. No safer rule in life than to do duty when it is due. The demands of justice will be asserted sooner or later, and they gather in force the more they are shunned. The whole visible and invisible forces of nature, the undeveloped resources that lie in the womb of the future, are on the side of right, and will converge some day on its maintenance. The first trouble in the path of duty is the least. Embarrassments are born of procrastination; for the rule applicable to imperfect knowledge in the midst of difficult circumstances does not apply to the clear decisions of conscience. No time should ever be lost in vindicating the honour of God, the purity of the sanctuary, and the claims of national righteousness. If we do not execute God's will because of the personal inconvenience and pain it may cause, he will execute it by other means, and nameless griefs shall follow us. History shows how true this is in national, Church, domestic, and private life.
II. Clear INDICATIONS OF COMING RETRIBUTION are sometimes given, and THEY BECOME in their immediate effects PART OF THE RETRIBUTION. Many are the "servants" of God that come visibly or invisibly to the disobedient with intimations of what is in store for them. The "man of God" who came to Eli is representative of the forms of the Divine voice which comes to the guilty to disturb the ease they had hoped for in neglecting onerous duties. To the fraudulent, the sensual, the unrighteous ruler, the unfaithful parent and pastor, conscience, leading events, and converging circumstances tell the sad tale of coming woe. The lines of justice are straight, and the wicked are compelled to look along them far ahead. Two important elements enter into the forebodings of coming retribution.
1. A revived power of conscience. The privileges and favours conferred on the house of Eli are brought home to the dormant conscience in contrast with his personal and official conduct. So likewise, by the interaction of the laws of thought, or by converging of painful events, or by some strong passage of Scripture, or by a faithful friend, or by the silent, reflected light of some holy Christian life, the privileges and favours of bygone years are flashed before the spirit, to the sudden terror and quickened action of conscience. Past mercies cannot be thought of in isolation; by a well known mental law they raise up the ghosts of former sins committed in the face of mercies. As the aged Eli saw the truth of the words of the "man of God," so do others see their former selves, and feet their inward condemnation.
2. A conviction of the fixed character of coming events. "Behold, the days COME." The guilty man sees the dismal train of events, and knows, on highest authority, that the decree is fixed. To the prophetic eye the future is as the present; events that are to be are recorded on the spirit as done, with all their natural effects realised by the discerning mind. Nature, with her usual quiet certainty, was at work elaborating events out of the sins perpetrated by father and sons; and therefore to the Hebrew mind that recognises nature only as the dumb instrument of the Eternal, the coming disasters are recognised properly as the fixed elements of the deserved retribution. There is the same conviction in others who have sinned. The human mind, in spite of its sins, answers to the course of nature. It mirrors in its conviction of certain punishment the regularity and fixity with which the laws of nature are at work. In the instance of many a man, powers have been set at work by his sins in virtue of the operation of which family reputation will fade and perish; premature decay will fall to the lot of descendants; sorrow and trouble will cast shadows over their pathway; and life generally will be marred. Yes; and he knows it now. The committal of sin is as the unloosing of forces of ill which enter of necessity into all the ramifications of subsequent life. The sorrow and pain consequent on this certain knowledge is no slight element in the retribution experienced.
III. RETRIBUTION AFFECTS THE LIVING THROUGH THE UNBORN, AND THE UNBORN THROUGH THE LIVING. Sin injures and degrades the sinner, but does not end in himself. Every being is related to every other being. Interactions are as real and constant in the moral sphere as in the sphere of physics. An act of sin is an act of will, and therefore the production of a wave of influence which moves on and modifies the totality of life. Wisely and beautifully, then, does the Bible teach truth in harmony with the usual order of things when it represents Eli's sin as cutting off the arm (strength) of his father's house, shortening the clays of his children, lowering their position in the world, and causing them to bear the sorrow of seeing a culmination of their ancestor's sin in the "presence of an enemy" to mar the wealth of blessing properly enjoyed by Israel.
1. A general law is exemplified in Eli's punishment. The Bible teaches that the sins of the fathers bring woe on children. The course of nature establishes the fact. No man can give out from himself any influence above what his real constitution and character are fitted to produce. A defective moral courage works detrimentally on descendants by example as truly as do imperfect manners. Social laws insure that a lost reputation modifies the relative position of offspring. The degenerate habits of a Hophni and a Phinehas cannot but lessen the years and enfeeble the moral and physical vigour of several generations. God's laws are uniform in all ages and climes. The experience of Eli's family is repeated in the home of the drunkard, the sensual, the educationally neglected, the morally weak, and in the effects of wicked statesmanship. But the law has two aspects. The living affect the unborn, but also the known future condition of the unborn affects the condition of the living. Wisely men are constituted so as to be deeply affected by what may happen to their future reputation and their descendants. That the good fame of his house should perish; that his descendants should be reduced in social position, and variously injured in consequence of the guilt of himself and sons, was a bitter element in Eli's punishment. Nor is this a rare case, for as a rule men are more influenced by what comes to their children than by what personal pain they themselves suffer. In his descendants man sees himself repeated in multiplied form.
2. The general law is subject to limitations. The evil that comes to posterity through sin of ancestors does not shut out from the mercy that saves the soul. Disgrace, loss of health, early death, poverty may be part of the curse of a father's sin; but through the mercy of God in Christ these sufferers may find renewal of spirit, pardon, and eternal life. "By one man's disobedience" we all have suffered physically and spiritually; but by one Redeemer we may find power to become the true children of God. It is true Eli's descendants, if renewed, would not become so good and physically perfect men as though the ancestors had not sinned; and we on earth, though saved in Christ, cannot be so physically perfect as though the curse had never fallen on us; yet the spirit will at length be set free from the bondage of corruption, and be perfect before God.
3. This law is a great and beneficent power in life. Those who rail against these Biblical announcements of retribution, because they affect descendants, are profoundly ignorant or perverse. The Bible tells only what is in nature, with the additional information that God vindicates his holiness by what occurs in nature. Any objection to the Biblical doctrine is therefore, this fact being admitted, the result of a perverse spirit. Human experience testifies how beneficially the law of retribution works in ordinary affairs. No arithmetic can calculate the amount of woe escaped by the restraining action of a knowledge of this law on human tendencies. On the other hand, the reverse side of the law—the reward of goodness in the happiness of a posterity—is one of the most healthful stimulants and guides of human exertion. It is only the morally indisposed that do not like law. Did we but know the whole intricate relationships of a moral universe stretching through all time, even the severest laws would then be seen to be an expression of broadest benevolence.
IV. RETRIBUTION ON THE INSTRUMENTS OF ACCOMPLISHING AN ULTIMATE PURPOSE IS COMPATIBLE WITH THE REALISATION OF THAT PURPOSE. As factors in the development of the Jewish economy, both Eli and his sons were instruments in preparing the way for the coming Messiah and the final supremacy of his kingdom. The house of Ithamar inherited, in common with others, the promise made to the Aaronic house. As long as there was need for an earthly high priest to shadow forth the enduring high priesthood of Christ, the promise (1 Samuel 2:30) to Aaron would hold good. But the completion of that purpose was not frustrated by the disgrace and displacement of the section of the house represented by Eli in consequence of unfaithfulness. God has, in his foreknowledge of what will be required, as also in his resources to provide for the erratic action of human wills according to that foreknowledge, legions awaiting his creative call to come forth and prepare the way for the Christ. He who could "of these stones raise up children to Abraham" was at no loss to dispense with the leadership in his ancient Church of a degenerate family. If the old injured instruments are judicially confined to lower forms of service, as in the case of Ahiah, grandson of Phinehas (1 Samuel 14:3), a holy Samuel is raised up for the emergency till a Zadok assumes the orderly high priestly functions; thus teaching us that in spite of all sins and their punishment the kingdom of God must advance. Men may rise and fall, dark seasons of priestly corruption may afflict the Church, apostates may spread consternation; but, foreseeing all, the Eternal has in reserve, and is quietly sending forth, men like Samuel and David and Paul and Luther, men who shall not cease to be employed in the high service of the "Anointed" even when they cease to speak by words.
1. It is worth considering how much is lost to the world of mental and physical power by the indwelling of sin, and what a valuable contribution to the sum total of a nation's welfare is a righteous life, by conserving and improving and making the most of all the powers of body and mind.
2. The essential folly of all sin is capable of being illustrated in what it entails, fails to avoid, and also takes away from the elements of individual and public well being.
3. There is a philosophical argument in support of the claims of Christianity in the fact that, as it seeks, and is proved by numerous facts to have the power of perfecting, the moral life, it thereby contains the solution of all our physical and economical difficulties, and needs only to become actual in individual life to constitute a real millennium.
4. There is ample ground in history for confidence in the vindication of right, even though rulers may for a season avoid disaster.
5. In the lives of most men there must be seasons when they are visited by a messenger from God; and it is a question whether, if that messenger be disregarded, another may not come bringing tidings of more terrible things.
6. In any case, where by former sins physical and social evils have come on others, it is an encouragement to know that we may labour to bring those so suffering to the great Physician for spiritual healing, and that the spiritual health will in some measure counteract the inherited evils.
7. The comforting aspect of retribution lies in that forevery one who suffers from it, possibly thousands and millions indirectly gain permanent good in the influence it exerts on existing evils and on otherwise forthcoming evils; and also that the same purpose which thus works out deserved judgment insures the fulfilment of all the promises.
HOMILIES BY B. DALE
1 Samuel 2:27-36. (SHILOH.)
A message of approaching judgment
1. This message came from God, who observed, as he ever does, the sins of his people, and especially his ministers, with much displeasure, and after long forbearance resolved to punish them (Amos 3:2; 1 Peter 4:17).
2. It came through a man whose name has not been recorded, and who was probably unknown to him to whom he was sent. When God sends a message it matters little by whom it is brought. He often makes his most important communications in a way the world does not expect, and by men who are unknown to fame. The authority of the Lord invests his messengers with dignity and power. And their best credentials are that they "commend themselves to the conscience" (2 Corinthians 4:2).
3. It came through a "man of God," a seer, a prophet, and not directly from God to Eli, the high priest. He chooses for special service men who live near to him, and are in sympathy with his purposes, in preference to those who occupy official positions, but are possessed of little personal worth. For a long season no prophet had spoken (Judges 4:4; Judges 6:8; Judges 13:6); and when the silence of heaven is suddenly broken, it is an intimation that great changes are impending.
4. It came some time before the events which it announced actually transpired. "The Lord is slow to anger" (Nahum 1:3), and executes judgment only after repeated warnings. Predictions which are absolute in form must often be understood as in their fulfilment conditioned by the moral state of those whom they concern (Jeremiah 18:7; Jonah 3:4, Jonah 3:9, Jonah 3:10). The purpose for which this message was sent was to lead to repentance, and it was not until all hope of it had disappeared that the blow fell. In substance the message contains—
I. A REMINDER OF SPECIAL PRIVILEGES bestowed by the favour of God, and shown—
1. By the revelation of himself to those who were in a condition of abject servitude (1 Samuel 2:27).
2. By his selection of some, in preference to others, for exalted and honourable service (1 Samuel 2:28).
3. By his liberal provision for them out of the offerings made by the people to himself. Religious privileges always involve responsibilities, and should be faithfully used out of gratitude for their bestowment.
II. A CHARGE OF GROSS UNFAITHFULNESS (1 Samuel 2:29). The purpose for which the priests were endowed with these privileges was not the promotion of their own honour and interest, but the honour of God and the welfare of his people. But they acted in opposition to that purpose.
1. By irreverence and self-will in his service. "Wherefore do ye trample under foot my sacrifice?"
2. By disobedience to his will. "Which I have commanded."
3. By pleasing others in preference to him. "And honourest thy sons above me." Eli's toleration of the conduct of his sons, from regard to their interest and his own ease, involved him in their guilt.
4. By self-enrichment out of the religious offerings of the people. "The idol which man in sin sets up in the place of God can be none other than himself. He makes self and self-satisfaction the highest aim of life. To self his efforts ultimately tend, however the modes and directions of sin may vary. The innermost essence of sin, the ruling and penetrating principle, in all its forms, is selfishness" (Muller, 'Christian Doctrine of Sin'). When men use the gifts of God for selfish ends they render themselves liable to be deprived of those gifts, and to be punished for their misuse.
III. A STATEMENT OF AN EQUITABLE PRINCIPLE, according to which God acts in his procedure with men (1 Samuel 2:30). They have been apt to suppose that privileges bestowed upon themselves or inherited from their ancestors were absolutely their own, and would be certainly continued. But it is far otherwise; for—
1. The fulfilment of the promises of God and the continuance of religious privileges depend on the ethical relation in which men stand toward him. His covenant with Levi was "for the fear with which he feared me" (Malachi 2:6, Malachi 2:7); but when his descendants lost that fear they "corrupted the covenant," and ceased to have any claim upon its promised blessings. It was the same with the Jews who in after ages vainly boasted that they were "the children of Abraham." In the sight of the Holy One righteousness is everything, hereditary descent nothing, except in so far as it is promotive of righteousness.
2. Faithful service is rewarded. HONOUR FOR HONOUR. "Them that honour me I will honour." Consider—
(1) The ground: not merely his relationship as moral Governor, but his beneficence in bestowing the gifts of nature, providence, and grace.
(2) The method: in thought, word, and deed.
(3) The reward: his approbation, continued service, extended usefulness, etc.
3. Unfaithful conduct is punished. "Promises and threatenings are made to individuals because they are in a particular state of character; but they belong to all who are in that state, for 'God is no respecter of persons'" (Robertson). "He will give to every man according to his works."
IV. A PROCLAMATION OF SEVERE RETRIBUTION upon the house of Eli (1 Samuel 2:31-34). Consisting of—
1. The deprivation of strength, which had been abused. Their power would be broken (Zechariah 11:17).
2. The shortening of life, the prolonging of which in the case of Eli had been an occasion of evil rather than of good. "There shall not be an old man in thine house forever;" the result of weakness; repeated in 1 Samuel 2:32.
3. The loss of prosperity; the temporal benefits that would otherwise have been received. "Thou shalt see distress of dwelling in all that brings prosperity to Israel" (Ed. of Erdmann).
4. The infliction of misery on those who continue, for a while, to minister at the altar, and of violent death (1 Samuel 2:33; 1 Samuel 22:18).
5. Although these things would not take place at once, their commencement, as a sign of what would follow, would be witnessed by Eli himself in the sudden death of the two chief offenders "in one day" (1 Samuel 4:11). If anything could rouse the house of Eli to "flee from the wrath to come," surely such a fearful message as this was adapted to do so. Fear of coming wrath, although it never makes men truly religious, may, and often does, arouse and restrain them, and bring them under the influence of other and higher motives. The closing sentences contain—
V. A PREDICTION OF A FAITHFUL PRIESTHOOD in the place of that which had proved faithless (1 Samuel 2:35, 1 Samuel 2:36). "I will raise up a faithful priest," etc; i.e. a line of faithful men to accomplish the work for which the priesthood has been appointed, and to enjoy the privileges which the house of Eli has forfeited. In contrast with that house, it will do my will, and I will cause it to endure; and it will continue to live in intimate fellowship and cooperation with the anointed kings of Israel. It will also be so exalted, that the surviving members of the fallen house will be entirely dependent upon it for a "piece of bread." The prediction was first of all fulfilled in Samuel, who by express commission from God acted habitually as a priest; and afterwards in Zadok, in whom the line of Eleazar was restored; but the true underlying idea of a priest, like that of a king, has its full realisation in Jesus Christ alone. The gloomiest of prophetic messages generally conclude with words of promise and hope.—D.
1 Samuel 2:30
Honour and dishonour.
Concerning the moral attitude assumed by men toward God, which is here described, observe—
I. THAT IT IS PLAINLY OF THE UTMOST IMPORTANCE. "Me." Our relation to others is a light thing compared with what it is to him. This is everything; and knowledge, power, riches, reputation, etc. nothing.
1. Because of his nature ("There is none holy as the Lord"), his government (moral, supreme, universal), and his claims.
2. It is the effectual test of our character, what we are really and essentially.
3. It is the principal means of forming and strengthening it. What are we in his sight? What does he think of me?
II. THAT IT IS NECESSARILY ONE OR OTHER OF TWO KINDS. "Honour me." "Despise me."
1. Honour; by reverence (the fundamental principle of the religious life), trust, prayer, obedience, fidelity, living to his glory.
2. Despise; by forgetfulnesss, unbelief, self-will, pride, selfishness, disobedience, sin of every kind.
3. There is no other alternative. "For me or against me" (Exodus 32:26; Jeremiah 8:1; Matthew 6:24; Matthew 7:13, Matthew 7:14; Matthew 12:30).
III. THAT IT IS ALWAYS FOLLOWED BY CORRESPONDING CONSEQUENCES. "I will honour." "Shall be lightly esteemed."
1. Honour; by his friendship, appointment to honourable service, giving success therein, open acknowledgment before men here and hereafter. "Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."
2. Lightly esteemed; by himself, men, angels, despised even by themselves, and cast away among the vile. "He that sayeth his life shall lose it."
3. There is a strict correspondence between character and consequences, both generally and particularly, in kind and measure. And the joy and misery of the future will be the consummation and the ripened fruit of what now exists (Galatians 6:7).
IV. THAT ITS CONNECTION WITH ITS CONSEQUENCES IS ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN. Men often think otherwise. But "be not deceived." Consider—
1. The natural constitution and tendencies of things, as ordained by him who is "above all, and in all, and through all."
2. The recorded and observed facts of life.
3. The express declarations of him "who cannot lie." "I will honour." "They shall be lightly esteemed."—D.
HOMILIES BY D. FRASER
1 Samuel 2:30
Office nothing without character.
The worthlessness of rank or hereditary position without corresponding wisdom or virtue is a commonplace of moral reflection. But it is startling to find how strongly it is affirmed in Holy Writ of those who hold high office in the house of God. The priesthood in Israel was hereditary, though in point of fact the regularity of the succession was often broken; but such hereditary office was never meant to protect unworthy men like the sons of Eli. Their position was forfeited by their misconduct, and their priestly functions were transferred to other hands. The principle is for all time, and for general application. Does one reach and occupy a high station in the Church? No matter what his line of "holy orders" may be, or who laid hands of ordination on his head, or what functions he is held competent to perform, he must be judged by this test—Does he honour God in his office, or honour and serve himself? Does he so live and act as to commend and glorify Christ? And the same test must be applied to the man professing himself a Christian who occupies a throne on the earth, or who holds high dignity in the state, or who has power as a writer or an orator over the minds of men, or who as a capitalist has great means and opportunities of usefulness. Does he in his station glorify God? If not, his rank, or office, or grand position avails him nothing.
I. THE PIOUS DIVINELY HONOURED. To honour God; think what this implies. To know him truly, to reverence and love him. In vain any verbal or formal homage without the honour rendered by the heart (see Matthew 15:8). He whose heart cleaves to God will show it in his daily conduct. He will be careful to consult God's word for direction, and observe his statutes. He will openly respect God's ordinances, and give cheerfully for their maintenance, and for the furtherance of righteous and charitable objects. He will honour the Lord with his substance, and with the first fruits of all his increase. He will worship God with his family, and teach his children "the fear of the Lord." In his place or station he will make it his aim, and hold it his chief end, to glorify God. And, without any vaunting or ostentation, he will show his colours—avow his faith and hope openly. The boy king, Edward VI; showed his colours when he sat—alas I for how short a time—on the English throne. So did Sir Matthew Hale on the bench, and Robert Boyle in the Royal Society, and William Wilberforce in the highest circles of political life. So did Dr. Arnold among the boys at Rugby, and Dr. Abercrombie and Sir James Simpson among their patients in Edinburgh; Samuel Budgett in his counting house at Bristol, and General Havelock among his troops in India. These men were not in what are called religious offices; but, in such offices or positions as Providence assigned to them, they bore themselves as religious, God fearing men. And others there are in places and callings more obscure who are quite as worthy of esteem; those who, in houses of business among scoffing companions, in servants' halls, in workshops, in barrack rooms, in ships' forecastles, meekly but firmly honour the Lord, and ennoble a lowly calling by fidelity to conscience and to God. The Lord sees and remembers all who honour him. Nay, he honours them; but after his own manner, not after the fashion of the world. He honours faithful servants in this world by giving them more work to do. He honours true witnesses by extending the range for their testimony. Sometimes he honours those with whom he is well pleased by appointing them to suffer for his cause. St. Paul evidently deemed this a high honour. Witness his words to the Philippians: "Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe in his name, but also to suffer for his sake." Some he calls away in early years out of the world, but they leave behind a fragrant honoured name, and they go to "glory, honour, and immortality" in a better land. It is right to value the good opinion of our fellow men; but there are always drawbacks and dangers in connection with honour which comes from man. In seeking it one is tempted to tarnish his simplicity of character, and weaken his self-respect. There is a risk of envying more successful, or exulting over less successful competitors for distinction. But it need never be so in seeking "the honour which comes from God only." We seek it best not when we push ourselves forward, but when we deny ourselves, honour him, and by love serve the brethren. And then in our utmost success we have no ground of self-glorying, for all is of grace. Nor is there room for grudging or envying. With the Lord there is grace enough to help all who would serve him, and glory enough to reward all who serve him faithfully.
II. THE IMPIOUS DESPISED. "And they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed." Despise the Lord God Almighty! Amazing insolence of the human heart, yet not infrequent. The sons of Eli openly slighted Jehovah by their rapacity in the priest's office, and their profaning the precincts of his house with their debauchery. Long after this, priests of Judah are reproved by the prophet Malachi for despising the name of the Lord of hosts, making his table contemptible by laying on it polluted bread, and dishonouring his altar by offering maimed animals in sacrifice. The warning then, in the first instance, is to those who bear themselves profanely or carelessly in sacred offices, and in familiar contact with religious service. But the sin is one which soon spreads among the people Ezekiel charged the people of Jerusalem with having "despised God's holy things, and profaned his sabbaths" (1 Samuel 22:8). This sin is a common thing in Christendom. Men do not in terms deny God's existence, but make light of him; never read his word with any seriousness; never pray unless they are ill or afraid; count Church service and instruction a weariness. The base gods of the heathen receive more respect and consideration from their votaries. Allah has far more reverence from the Moslem than the great God of heaven and earth obtains from multitudes who pass as Christians. They live as if he had no right to command them, and no power to judge them. They lift their own will and pleasure to the throne, and despise the Lord of hosts. With what result? They shall be lightly esteemed. Even in this world, and this life, the ungodly miss the best distinctions. They are not the men who gather about them the highest confidence or most lasting influence and esteem. After they leave the world, a few are remembered who had rare force of character or an unusually eventful career; but how the rest are forgotten! A few natural tears from their nearest kindred, a few inquiries among friends about the amount and disposal of their property, a decorous silence about themselves on the principle that nothing but what is good should be said of the dead, and so their memory perishes. But all is not over. A terrible hereafter awaits the despisers of the Lord. "As a dream when one awaketh; so, O Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image." The clear alternative in this text is one that cannot be evaded. One may try to assume a negative attitude, and allege that he remains in a state of suspense, and does not find the recognition of a Divine Being to be an imperative necessity; but this is practically to despise the Lord—making light of his word, and pronouncing his very existence to be a matter of doubtful truth and of secondary importance. Reject not wisdom's counsel; despise not her reproof. "Today, if ye will hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts."—F.
HOMILIES BY B. DALE
1 Samuel 2:35
A faithful priest.
In the strictest sense Christ alone is now a Priest. In himself assuming the office, he has forever abolished it in others. Hence none are called priests in the New Testament, except in the modified sense in which all who believe in him are so called (1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6). But taking the expression as equivalent to "a faithful ministry," consisting of men appointed by Christ to a special service for him (Malachi 2:6, Malachi 2:7; Acts 6:4; Ephesians 4:11; Colossians 1:7; 2 Timothy 2:2), and faithfully fulfilling the purpose of their appointment, it leads us to notice—
I. WHENCE IT IS DERIVED. "I will raise up."
1. He alone can do it. From him come natural gifts and, still more, spiritual graces, eminent faith and patience, humility, courage, meekness, tender compassion "on the ignorant and on them that are out of the way," etc.
2. He has promised and made provision for it (Jeremiah 3:15). "I will build him a sure (enduring) house." "The death of Christ hath a great influence unto this gift of the ministry. It is a branch that grew out of the grave of Christ; let it be esteemed as lightly as men please, had not Christ died for it we had not had a ministry in the world". He "will be inquired of" for it. If Churches would have "good ministers of Jesus Christ," they must seek them from God (Matthew 9:38).
II. WHEREIN IT APPEARS. "Shall do according to that which is in my heart and in my mind."
1. Supreme regard to his will as the rule of character and labour.
2. Clear insight into his mind in relation to the special requirements of the time, place, and circumstances.
3. Practical, earnest, and constant devotion to it in all things, the least as well as the greatest. Even as "Christ himself." "I have given you an example."
III. WHEREBY IT IS HONOURED. "And he shall walk before mine anointed forever."
1. Enjoyment of the King's favour (Proverbs 16:15).
2. Employment in the King's service; in continued, honourable, beneficent, and increasing cooperation with him.
3. Participation in the King's glory forever. "Be thou faithful," etc. (Revelation 2:10). "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne" (Revelation 3:21).—D.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 2". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19